Caravan Sonnet: December 2015

12/31/15

goodbye 2015, hello two thousand sixteen

I have been somewhat "absent" from the blog and social media for the last couple of weeks. I have spent time catching up, creating new items for the shop, and staying connected through instagram and a few posts here on the blog, but I have purposefully been taking a little time away to rest, spend extra time with the Lord in prayer and in His word, and with dear family and friends (near and far).
But if I am honest, I have mostly been unplugged. Life throughout the end of November and December was a whirlwind of activity. From starting a new and intense treatment protocol, finishing the wonderful blessing of lots of orders for the shop to the release of my third book, it seemed non-stop for a while and a little retreat was absolutely necessary. 
And I have been spending a lot of time thinking and praying.
And marveling again at how God works in our lives in unique ways that we could never have imagined. 
This gal who has never liked to be the center of attention and whose voice used to shake anytime she had to speak in front of a large crowd has been sharing her life publicly and voluntarily (at that) on this blog for almost three years now.
And... sharing personal stories and lessons in magazine articles & a second book that will be published soon along with thoroughly enjoying the opportunities when the Lord opens the door for me to speak (and not even getting nervous at all).
Honestly, it leaves me speechless. If you would have told me four years ago that this is what my life would look like I would have stared at you in disbelief and thought that you were a little insane. Honestly, I probably would have been scared out of my mind. There would have been NO way I could have imagined all that has transpired.
Put me in front of a classroom full of students who I can live life with any day but other ways of living life "publicly"- absolutely no way. I have said this often-I love people, but I am a "private person" in many ways. 
But then... slowly and surely the Lord started moving me completely out of my comfort zone,  stripped my life to "ashes", and has given me the strength to face each day to fight several  serious diseases, and His goodness overwhelms me in the pain. And my heart longs to give Him glory for all He is doing. 
And there is absolutely nothing private about that.
And I am in awe of Him.
As we move forward into a new year I am reminded of all of these things in light of what an incredibly difficult year 2015 was. I felt that the Lord had given me the word "mettle" for the year 2015, and it was perfect. In many ways it was so full of hard times that outweighed the "happy times".  2015 was filled with incredible pain, deep and aching loneliness at points, and countless tears. I don't think that if I had the choice I would want to repeat most of 2015 but in other ways the deep adversity brought about a rich depth of my relationship with the Lord, deepened true friendships, and has taught me in new ways to appreciate the simple things that surround us each day. 
In other ways I have never been so grateful for 2015. The Lord blessed me with an amazing miracle of a lovely cruise, the release of two new books (Prayers for the Single Journey and When Light Dawns), presented some speaking opportunities, was a year of growing in creativity and thinking about where I am heading with my shop, found courage to say goodbye to something that was not my calling and hello to a new adventure that was with Grace Engaged, learning contentment and peace in this season of life and becoming an advocate for those for Lyme Disease, and mostly falling in love with the Lord in new ways. In many ways this year was about learning to show up in hope in the ordinary.
And the biggest answer to prayer and the most amazing gift... moving forward in treatment to help beat Lyme Disease. Thinking about where I was a year ago and approaching 2015... knowing I couldn't even handle any type of antibiotics ... this past year with starting an intense shot protocol to "nic the picc" finishing 8 intense weeks of treatment this week is utterly amazing... and only because of the Lord. 
As I look back on the incredibly painful and difficult times of 2015 and remember with gratitude the miracles that have happened. I look to the future year in wonder of what God is going to do next.
In many ways I know that this is journey that the Lord has me on is something that I would have kept very private if it was up to me. Things that I would have recorded in my journal for my little heart alone. (*smiles* Let's be honest- all of you that know me know that if I had known I was going to not only be diagnosed with Lyme Disease, but Cancer too within six months of starting this blog there is no way that I would have even started writing! *giggles*) 
But when I remove life being all about "me" I see in new and great ways that God is faithful.  He provides light for each day and tells us to leave the future in His hands.  And His word and scripture show us how to be obeying Him in the daily- even when it is scary or uncomfortable. I am reminded of the truth of scripture that states that "obedience brings blessing"... and I see that in so many ways through this growth and stretch of sharing this journey with you sweet friends. 
Sharing the pain of illness, the heart-wrenching grief of certain circumstances, and the beautifully answered prayers of ordinary days has changed me in a thousand different ways. 
My heart has never known the beautiful love of Jesus so tenderly and personally as this year. This blog has helped challenge me, encourage me, and grow me. This blog forces me to come to the cross anew as I examine what I am learning and sharing with y'all. This little blog gives me one more opportunity to be reminded that Hope is ever present in our lives.
So as we approach not only a new year, but each new day with the wonderment and expectation I accept with gratitude that if we allow the Lord to use everything in our lives for his glory we can't help but be changed by Him. 

By His mercy. 

By His love. 

By His faithfulness. 

By His goodness.

As I expectantly look to the Lord (Micah 7:7) for 2016, I see the Lord's gentle nudging and love reminding me that He has created me and will lead  me on the path that I take. Truly, Yahweh charts the course. And as we look to the new year I am joyfully content to recognize that the Lord has given me an "artsy old soul". A soul that God created to live out the verse that He truly makes beauty from ashes. I can't wait to live fearlessly ("sine-timore") and expectantly with you this year friends, stepping out in even more faith. I can't wait to share with y'all some this next steps of this caravan and cheer you on on yours! Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing this journey with me!
As we say "goodbye" to 2015 I pray the Lord's greatest blessings on you sweet friends. Happy New Year! I can't wait to live life with you in this coming year!

With Lots of Love,

12/29/15

a health update

Dear friends, I so appreciate y'alls patience and kindness as I have taken some time away from updating about my health in these last couple of months. I do not take it lightly that there are so many of you that have prayed numerous prayers, spent hours upon hours laboring on your knees for me, or that you daily are begging the Lord for complete healing. You are SUCH a blessing in this long journey. Words cannot adequately express how much I am humbled by your generous financial support, your compassionate letters and text messages, and the ways that you uniquely and courageously love this little heart of mine. 

 I appreciate more than words can express your kind patience as I have tried to start adjusting to this intense treatment round and have definitely struggled more these past weeks then ever behind the scenes. Several of you have commented that this has probably been one of the most stressful and difficult parts of this journey for me and I admit that it has been filled with many tears and pain and so I appreciate your kindness in the midst of this difficult time. Thank you for your gracious love in this journey.

I know specifically so many of you are curious to know how things are going with this treatment round. I will be honest... it is intense, it is trying, I am weary, and it is definitely a "one minute at a time" season. For four days out of the week (Mondays through Thursdays) I am in intense IV treatments, doctors appointments, antibiotic regimes, supplement schedules, and "nic the picc" appointments. My days start at about 5am and end around 8-9pm and every single minute is pretty much scheduled. On the other three days (Friday through Sundays) my schedule varies with different appointments, a focus on detoxing, IV treatment (that is different then the Monday through Thursdays), supplement regimes, alternative therapy appointments (i.e. reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractor appointments, therapeutic massage, etc.) etc. These days I start at around 6-7am and end around 7-8pm. It is intense, and sometimes it seems like there is a rhythm and other times it seems like it falls apart and then I have a ton of tears. *smiles* We try to find the laughter in each day (like when my dear friend Katie offering to "bedazzle" a medical mask when I mentioned that there was a cute doctor at one of my doctors offices *smiles*) and take each minute as it comes.

As I shared on instagram we have had some encouraging reports that show that my treatment protocol is definitely helping me heal from Lyme, that my digestive system (that I was told three years ago was "beyond repair") is now able to handle a nutritious diet, and that only one organ compared to several is in failure. Each of these things is a COMPLETE answer to prayer and a beautiful blessing. At the same time though I struggle as I know we still have a very very long road ahead. 

 I am reminded that we are gently and lovingly carried by the Lord and met with grace for each day (Psalm 68:19). So today there is a mixture of hard and good. Tears and rejoicing. Struggling and trusting. And knowing that my pain and discouragement will be preciously and tenderly met by the God of love that bids me to trust Him in new ways. 

As I head forward we have several prayer requests: 

(1) For strength and grace to meet each day of treatment.


(2) For a removal of extreme vertigo/dizziness that is a side effect to some of my antibiotic regimen. This particular side effect is extremely difficult to handle (even laying flat on my back it is awful) and is something I ask for specific prayers for. 


(3) For "Nic the PICC" to have no issues. We have been praising the Lord that we have heard from numerous doctors and nurses how amazing this placement was and how healthy it is. We do not take that lightly or for granted and we covet your prayers for this to continue. 


(4) For my one organ that is in failure to be supernaturally healed. 


(5) For the Lord to meet me right where I am at and for encouragement and mercy for each day before me. 


(6) For the financial resources for this upcoming year. Many of you have graciously asked how you can continue to financially support me and I am truly humbled. It is such a humbling thing to speak of financial need and I have handled the "go fund me" page different over the years. Typically in the past I would do a few different "go fund me" pages for costs over the year, but this year I decided to lump everything together for the upcoming year and you can see the breakdown of costs (for the entire year) below:


Doctors Appointments: approx. $5000
Antibiotics/IV Antibiotics: $12000
IV Nutritional Therapy: $5980
Supplements, Herbs, Oils, Etc.: $5400
Alternative Therapies (Acupuncture, Relfexology, additional therapies):$1320
Travel to Lyme Doctor (across the country) & Other Appointments (in and out of state) (includes tolls, ferry costs, plane trips, gas, etc.) : approx. $10000

TOTAL: $39700 
(This total does not include medical bills, insurance costs, daily life expenses, food, etc.)


I have set the "go fund me page" for the entire upcoming year of 2016 and I am prayerfully hoping for $10000 to help offset these costs. As many of you are aware all of the proceeds from my Etsy shop (that re-opens tomorrow!) goes to helping me pay for treatment. In addition my books and any speaking engagements also go to help offset these costs. Thank you for joining me in this prayer for this specific need! If you are interested in giving you can click on the link on the left of this page or HERE to go to my "go fund me" page. 

Words can't express how grateful I am for all of your kind support and love during this time. Thank you again for all of your support, love, and prayers. You are a blessing!

With Love, 

12/23/15

Merry Christmas!

“The Light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has NEVER extinguished it.”
- John 1: five-

Merry Christmas family & friends!

As we approach this beautiful season of celebrating the birth of our precious Savior, I am truly in awe of God’s sweet mercy to meet us each new day. While this past year has been incredibly difficult, I see everyday the truth of Psalm 27: “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”.

It is impossible for me not to get choked up with tears when I think of your precious faithfulness of walking this incredibly long journey with me. Some of you have been walking this journey with me for the past seven and half years and have courageously loved me each day. After the diagnosis’ of Lyme and Cancer came you were the first to rally and say that I would beat this. While I understand that have I have a huge fight and a very LONG road in front of me I feel confident that after so many years of going downhill we have not only laid a foundation to truly start the healing process, but am starting to move forward. 
This is simply because YOU have faithfully walked this road with me, blessed me with emotional support, given of yourselves, given abundant financial gifts that humble me, and for all of your countless support in hundreds of different ways. I am honored to call you friends. You have never claimed to be so but you truly are my heroes. To those of you that have contributed money specifically for treatment I can't begin to express my humble gratitude. You truly provided the means to help me obtain treatment and fight for my life. Without you this would not be possible! Your sacrificial gifts have reminded me that the Lord provides everyday and are a beautiful reminder that He will continue to provide each day in the upcoming year. To those of you that have listened as I have expressed so many feelings in the past and have been incredibly kind with your words and encouragement I am so grateful. Your conversations and your words have truly touched my heart. What a BLESSING you are! To my precious blog readers and those who have connected with me through my books, your words have truly been a beautiful encouragement as I share my heart here on the blog and in my books. You have been a beautiful blessing this past year and I look forward to connecting with you more in the upcoming year!
Through tears I have questioned the Lord as to why this journey is so long. Truthfully, I have not heard an answer to my many questions. Instead the Lord beautifully wipes my tears away and promises that He would never leave me and He has faithfully kept that promise. Truly, "wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And HOPE. And LIGHT. And... even beauty." (Joni Erickson Tada) I read a phrase recently that has truly spoken to me: “no matter the circumstance we are still under the same auspice”. How beautifully true. Even in the times that we think that the Lord has forsaken or forgotten us we can rest assured that our precious Lord has NOT and He has us engraved on the palms of His hands! (Is. 49:14-16). As I close out this letter I want you to know that no matter the circumstances sweet friends we are still under the same auspice. Hold fast to Him. Rest in His Him. May you be abundantly blessed by His love, His Joy, His Comfort, & HIS peace this season & in the year to come! 

With lots of love, 

12/20/15

Happy Birthday Nic!

"Nic the PICC" celebrated his 8 week "birthday" this week, and I celebrated 8 weeks closer to healing!


 "I have no fear! What is in store for me shall find me self-reliant, undismayed. God grant my only cowardice may be: Afraid to be afraid!"

12/17/15

A Response to that RHOBH Episode

I received so many messages yesterday regarding what aired on Real Housewives with one of Yolanda Foster's co-stars questioning "how sick" she is and if Lyme Disease is real and went as far as to say that "it seems strange that she's like "happy selfie, sick selfie, happy selfie, sick selfie..." (in regards to her Instagram feed). I was told by people that they couldn't believe that this happened & surely this is an exaggeration made for reality TV. Maybe it was but what bothers me is that this is a part of the battle for those fighting Lyme Disease: the questions regarding this disease & the questions on the length of time to get better. 


As some of you know & are aware I saw more than 273 doctors before I was correctly & accurately diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease. I have had numerous doctors (including some of the "top specialists" in the country) tell me that Lyme Disease "doesn't exist". And after I received a correct diagnosis the journey didn't end... it had just begun. 


I have had Instagram & blog followers question my decision to share "happy times" along with the struggle of fighting a serious & deadly illness. I have had people who I thought were my closest and best friends walk away because the journey was "too long". I have had people say insensitive and rude comments including: "Well at least its not Cancer" (which I am also fighting), and "I wish that I could stay in bed all day and didn't have to work", and "Wow... you have gained a lot of weight for someone who is supposedly so sick" (thank you certain medications!) and "You aren't better yet? Are you sure you have the right diagnosis?" and "what is the disease that you are fighting again? Lame Disease?". 


Here is the thing: Lyme patients are fighting for their health, their lives, and for their future. The road to healing is a long and winding journey that takes everything you have to get better (physically, emotionally, financially, etc) and everyday is different and a battle. This doesn't change the fact that Lyme Disease is real, but instead makes me pray for a world that will stop with the judgments & spend that energy to find a cure.


Questioning a disease because you don't understand it doesn't fix or help anyone, it just spreads ignorance. Questioning a disease because your medical training doesn't know how to treat it doesn't help a patient, it simply means we need better training. Questioning a disease because we don't have a cure doesn't make it go away, it just prolongs the suffering of those who are fighting it.


I want to say a special "thank you" to Bravo TV for airing this part of your episode. While I personally have never watched RHOBH before your willingness to share this might have been only for good TV, but you have shed light on a bigger issue in the United States. I hope that this brings about a greater discussion for not only patients, but for the medical community at large. Yolanda, thank you for sharing your story with all of us & being a voice for so many. To those co-stars who support Yolanda Foster you are a welcome blessing for each Lyme Warrior. And to those who choose to spend time questioning I urge you to use your energy & influence to change the course of history by helping us find a cure. 


"In the fullness of time, the mainstream handling of Chronic Lyme Disease will be viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of medicine because elements of academic medicine, elements of government and virtually the entire insurance industry have colluded to deny a disease." 

-Dr. Kenneth Liegner-


Lyme Warriors- you are heard, you are not alone, and we will never give up.

12/15/15

ST. MARTIN (BAY OF FUNDY), NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA

On our 5th full day of cruising we arrived in St. John and had a delightful time exploring the city which I shared about HERE. After exploring the quaint city of St. John in the morning we boarded a bus for one of the excursions that Carnival Cruise offered entitled, "St.Martin and the Bay of Fundy". 
Our drive out to St. Martin's was a bit of a drive that allowed us plenty of time to see the beautiful Canadian countryside.
The Canadian land against the grey skies was truly a beautiful site to behold.
The drive to St.Martin's took about an hour and 20 minutes to get to from our cruise ship.
The drive into St. Martin's allowed us some close up views of some of the homes that have been in existence for many decades and allowed us closer views of the sea.
As we drove into the quiet fishing village of St. Martin's our tour guide shared with us how the tide changes radically throughout the day.
One of the things that St.Martin's "boasts" as a tourist attraction is that this is the only place in the world where you can take a photograph with two covered bridges in one picture. Our tour guide built this up so much that there was a big group of us that wanted to take this picture. As a photographer I love having a little bit of time to capture a memory of what I am seeing but that is definitely not what happened here! Before our tour guide let us off the bus she made the announcement that we had exactly 15 minutes in St. Martin's and then she would ring her cow bell and if we weren't on the bus she was leaving us. I am giggling as I am writing this remembering how a whole group of us was running around like crazy people trying to snap this "important" picture and then all looking at each other like "wait, is this all that it is?" and sure enough the cow bell started to ring so we all ran back as fast our legs would carry us! hahaha!
After our quick stop in St. Martin's we drove out to the St. Martin's Sea Caves.
The Sea Caves were beautiful to see!
I had a lovely time picking up rocks along the coast collecting them for us and some friends and family members. As we collected I suggested that we spend some time praying for each of the people we were collecting them for and for our trip that was such a lovely adventure!
I know that some of you reading this many be curious if I would recommend this particular excursion. This excursion was approximately 3 and a half hours and since we purchased it ahead of time it cost us $65. Honestly, I think that there is a reason for the mixed reviews that you will find on the website. While I loved seeing parts of Canada that I might not have seen otherwise, I really don't feel that I could recommend this excursion as much as the one from Portland that I talked about HERE. In the other excursion we had a fantastic tour guide, felt that we were able to see a lot of Maine and learn a lot along the way and have some adequate time at each of the spots that we stopped in. Unfortunately this was not the case with this excursion. Our tour guide unfortunately portrayed a very strange attitude as she talked down to those of us on the tour, wouldn't speak loudly enough for some of the people in the back of the bus to hear her (or would literally scream when someone asked her to talk loudly) and seemed to pride herself  on sharing about her house (which she pointed out to us and kept talking about) and about her daughter's book (which she kept mentioning as the thing to purchase at the small gift shop). Neither of these things are bad but combined with our other experiences with her it definitely gave a strange vibe as it made it seem like she was more interested in sharing her life instead of the tour information. Unlike other tour guides that I have had in my travels this one was definitely the exception and it definitely affected my review. Most of the excursion was spent riding in the bus to St. Martin's and the time at both St. Martin's and the Sea Caves totaled approximately 35 minutes. After we left the Sea Caves (where the tour guide threatened to leave Michelle behind and I was literally standing in the doorway to prevent this from happening as she kept ringing her cow bell in my ear!!hahaha!) we drove back to our cruise ship. The definite positive part was seeing some of the Canadian countryside but the negative was that there was such little time where we were at and the tour guide. 
At the end of the day though I truly believe every experience is what you make of it and my favorite part of any trip is having the opportunity to spend it with friends and loved ones! I had so much fun laughing through this tour and had a blast because we chose to make it fun! 

Have y'all visited the Bay of Fundy before? I would love to hear your suggestions of places to see if you have!