Caravan Sonnet: December 2016


goodbye 2016, hello two thousand seventeen

I have been staring at this little computer screen for a long time... my mind racing with all of what I want to say as I say goodbye to 2016 and hello to a brand new year. I know that for many, like myself, 2016 seemed like a unique year that was extremely brutal and difficult in some ways with some very dark valleys and in other ways this year held some wonderful and exciting things that took place that created once-in-a-lifetime memories that will be treasured forever.
I have been thinking about how symbolic that is of life. There is always the good and the bad and sometimes it seems like the hard and the difficult outweigh everything, but most of all I find that this year gently and not-so-gently reminded me of my deep need for God's grace to meet me every single day.
And in many ways, I am ready to begin a new year and start fresh. Not to set a bunch of resolutions that are standards that are impossible to keep, because in many ways I don't have the strength to create a "new life" that will ensure that 2017 will be better than the difficult and hard moments of 2016.
I don't have the resources to do that but what I do long to do is fall more in love with God's grace and love for this upcoming year and to commit the broken and hurtful and weary past to Him, and look forward to his promise of redemption that everyday brings new mercies and that His strength will meet me in each new day that comes.
As I say goodbye to 2016 I am also challenged to know the truth of scripture of I Thessalonians 5:16 that encourages me to "Rejoice Always". To rejoice that despite living in a very broken world that is full of pain and suffering, God has blessed abundantly.
For 2016 the word that I picked for the year was "anew". As I shared last year, unlike in previous years the word was not as clear cut and didn't come immediately to me when I picked it. Instead I felt that there could have been 50 different words that would have been good words. But the Lord kept bringing me back to Jeremiah 31:2-5 again and again I knew that this little word, although uncommon was the perfect word for the year. 

And it has been. Anew is defined as: (1) Once more; again (2) In a new and different way, form, or manner (3) In a new or different way, typically more positive way and (4) Once more, again. My prayer for the year had been the following:

"Granted, it is not a word that is "common" or used everyday, but the definitions sum up exactly what I pray for this coming year. This battle for my health continues to be very difficult and demanding and I want to meet this challenge with the hope of what is coming. I want to perservere and yet live fully in this season. As I lean on the Lord's strength to conquer the "unknowns" of what lies ahead with my health, healing, relationships, my professional life, my shop, my writing, and some personal circumstancs I can can rest fully in the knowledge that His strength is going to give me the joy to face these demanding and difficult situations. Finally, I want to be a good soldier for the Lord in this difficult situation and have the quality of temperament to face the pain of illness, the strength to believe in the impossible, and the lovely peace comes from trusting a Sovereign God fully without fear."
So as I prayerfully say goodbye to 2016 and commit to the Lord the difficult, the painful, the confusing, and the unknown, I also look back with gratitude at all that God has done. I am truly overwhelmed by His goodness and His love. Here are just a few of the amazing things that the Lord did this year and some of the most read blog posts from this year:
Grateful, Humbling, Emotional, and Exciting News: In February I was overcome with emotion that I had been released from Cancer check ups every month to couple of months to every YEAR. It was beautiful news that we cried over and rejoiced over.

Beautiful Joy: In the midst of some very difficult pain and illness the Lord gave a few beautiful hours to enjoy at my favorite spot on earth with my sister and my mom that was a beautiful gift.

The Fourth Spring: In this post I struggled to adequately express the grief of dealing with approaching the fourth spring  of my world being turned upside down, while at the same time trying to adequately describe how grateful I am for the support and love that I have received. (I also posted my first video on the blog!) 

Path of Hope Book Release: This book was such a joy and delight to write as I was gently reminded of the precious truth of hope that is found throughout the Psalms. When it released in April it was beautiful.

Speaking in Phoenix, Arizona: Having the opportunity and being well enough to travel alone to Phoenix and speak on two subjects that are dear to my heart was an absolute blessing and unique adventure for the year. 

An Engagement Party in the Woods: It was so much fun to gather with dear friends and family in our woods for an engagement party this year. 

A Look Back Before Tomorrow: On the eve of my book release I shared more about the precious community whom the book was dedicated to and a special video of special pictures that hold incredible personal meaning to me.

December Caravan Book Release: And then three years after signing the contract, the book that I poured my heart into was released. 

A beautiful Nebraska Wedding: After many years of having to say "no" to special and one-of-a-kind events I was blessed with the strength to be able to travel to a dear friends wedding in Nebraska. It was absolutely lovely to be there for the wedding, see dear friends, and see a new part of the country. I always thought of myself as a mountain and lake gal, but after being in Nebraska, I quickly fell in love with the mid-west.

Magic Kingdom with Friends: Probably one of my favorite memories from 2016 was the day spent at the Magic Kingdom with my dear friends Ali and Kori. It was a day that I will never forget and treasure always!

The 11th Anniversary: In October I celebrated the 11th anniversary of being healed from Endometriosis. Perhaps more than any other year, this anniversary beautifully spoke hope into some very dark and difficult and painful days. 

A Season of Adventure: A Season of Adventure and getting to meet my dear friend Katie (from Always, Katie) in person was a treasure to my heart that I will always remember.
A Drive to the Von Trapp Family Lodge (Stowe, Vermont): Traveling to see this beautiful place that I hadn't seen since I was a child was a delight. 

Mother Cabrini Shrine (Peru, New York): Visiting this beautiful memorial was inspiring to me. As I researched and learned about Mother Cabrini I was so inspired by her famous quote: "I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him." For me this has deeply impacted me, especially in this season of life and has become my prayer. May the Lord use me however He chooses.

Wildflower Loop Trail, Desert Botanical Gardens (Phoenix, Arizona): While I was Speaking in Phoenix, Arizona, I had the opportunity to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens which was a beautiful reminder to me that even in the desert times in our lives beauty can grow.

Muir Woods, (California): This was one of my favorite places that I visited this year and the "Cathedral Grove" section was absolutely breath-taking. This is a place that I hope to return to again in the future.

Emerald Bay (Lake Tahoe, California): This was another one of my most favorite places to visit this year. It was absolutely breath-taking and I was in absolute awe of the beauty.

Disney Cruise with My Sister: This was a beautiful and amazing trip and one that I will treasure forever! You can read all about the entire cruise HERE

Atlantis Aquaventure Excursion (Bahamas): Emily and I had dreamed of doing this since we were kids and it did not disappoint. This was one of the most fun highlights of the entire Disney Cruise!

Castaway Cay (Bahamas): This island was absolutely stunning and breath-taking. It is definitely everything that you think of when you think of a "Caribbean Paradise".

Royal Caribbean Cruise with My Parents: This precious cruise is filled with lovely memories that I will treasure for a lifetime. You can read all about the entire cruise HERE.

Coco Cay (Bahamas): It was so delightful to be back at Coco Cay and absolutely stunning.
Lyme Disease:
Climbing Another Mountain: One of the most painful, difficult, and traumatic parts of 2016 was when "Nic the PICC" developed a serious and life-threatening blood clot. This situation changed the course of my treatment and was the backdrop for a very difficult and painful season this past year. 

#courtneytheportney: In June my mom and I flew out to California for a couple of weeks where I spent test dosing new medications and having #courtneytheportney placed. It was definitely a frightening time, but the Lord was so good in that there was no complications with the surgery and I was so grateful for all of the prayers.

Treatment Round #3 started off with several bumps in the road and eventually had to be changed and morphed into looking like something different. It was definitely one of the most difficult times in this entire journey and was a season where I struggled with absolute frustration.

10 Tips for Enjoying Disneyworld With a Chronic Illness: The theme parks can be fun but also entirely overwhelming for those who are struggling with a chronic illness. This post shared 10 tips on how to enjoy your time at Disneyworld if you have a Chronic Illness.

A New Season and Stage in the Lyme Journey: After many years a new season and stage arrived in the Lyme journey for which we rejoiced over!

Fourth Times the Charm: I started treatment round #4 including starting a med that I have tried unsuccessfully to use three times this past year. We continue to pray for blessings and favor on this treatment round.

10 Affordable and Helpful Lyme Disease Supplements for the Gut: This post shared 10 Affordable and Helpful Lyme Disease Supplements that I have used. 
Singleness and Relationships:
Feeling Unbeautiful: This fragile and sensitive topic really resonated with not only my readers who are singles but all women. 

The Power of Words in Relationships: This post really resonated with many of my precious readers in this community and reminded me of the power that our words have in another's life. 

Hope for the Future in the Single Journey: One of the real aspects of singleness is the heartbreaking reality of seeing days pass without our dreams fulfilled in this journey. It can be tempting to doubt God and His promises as each day passes without seeing our deepest longing fulfilled. It can be hard to hold onto hope, but the Lord is faithful.
Blogging and Writing:
Blogging Advice- Three years Later: It is hard to believe that in January Caravan Sonnet turned 3! I have been sharing on this blog for three years. This post gave tips and advice on things I have learned in this growing and stretching journey.

12 Ways to Support Your Friends Book Release: With the upcoming book release of my book, December Caravan, I shared 12 ways to support a friend who is having a book release.

Guest Post at Mundane Faithfulness: I was so honored to share my heart with the community at Mundane Faithfulness several times this past year. Blythe, is a woman whose friendship this past year is one of the biggest blessings that has come from 2016, is truly amazing. 

From Hope Valley Book: I was so excited to announce my upcoming book release in 2017 entitled, "From Hope Valley".
Etsy Shop:
Florence Altered City Journal and Small Journal Combo: This new combination for the shop was one of the most popular: a combo of a city journal (or state or country journal) with a small journal. 

Altered Planner 2016: Another new addition to the shop this past year was the opportunity for ordering an Custom Altered Planner. 
As I look back on all of these precious memories from this year, I am most grateful for the beautiful friendships and community that God has placed in my life. Thank you for your love, for your support, and most of all thank you for faithfully and consistently modeling God's faithfulness in my life. I look forward to growing in grace with you in this upcoming year. 

Happy New Years Eve friends. May our God bless you abundantly as we embark on a new season and year.


10 Affordable and Helpful Lyme Disease Supplements for the Gut

Back in October I shared with my instagram community what my "daily and weekly life" briefly look like. The two things that were the most shocking for most people was that I spend nearly $2500 dollars daily in my fight for my health and that I take 225 supplements each day (you can read the entire post HERE). Today I wanted to share 10 of the most affordable and helpful supplements that I take for my gut that I have found the cheapest on Amazon in hopes that it may help other Lymies who are fighting for their health and looking for the most affordable products. 

Please note as a disclaimer that the information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

As a quick background due to my specific issues with Lyme there are many times that that different companies have the same product but I have to use a quality rich supplement from a specific company due to manufacturing. I hope that these help! Here in no particular order are 10 of my tops supplements that I use everyday:
Saccharomyces Boulardi + MOS (or "myce" as we have affectionately nicknamed it around our household) plays a HUGE part in my daily regime and my healing. Under the care of my doctors orders I take very large quantities of this and it has been a huge help for me - especially when I am in the midst of difficult and intense treatment rounds. I can't recommend it enough- especially for those of you who like me are on intensive and high med regimes. 

According to studies Saccharomyces Boulardi + MOS is helpful for the entire digestive track, general intestinal health, helps in nutrient absorption, helps with diarrhea, helps the immune system, and helps to combat the bad bacteria while restoring the good. As with all of my supplements I did a ton of research on this and was amazed at how much this probiotic is known as the "king" of all probiotics for all of its health benefits. I also found that Jarrow Probiotics combination is thought to be the "best on the market" and "most potent" so that is why I use this particular brand. A new book, Saccharomyces boulardii: The Special Forces Probiotic became available in 2016 and I am looking forward to reading more about this special and helpful probiotic!

Saccharomyces Boulardi + MOS is a bit expensive and I have found it for the cheapest on Amazon. The price seems to fluctuate on Amazon up to $35 for a large bottle but I have gotten it for as little as $26. I simply check every single day to see the price and order it at the cheapest times. You can find Saccharomyces Boulardi + MOS on Amazon by clicking HERE.

It is so important to have a digestive enzyme as part of each meal and after trying nearly 50 different ones over the last several years I have been extremely pleased with Biogest by Thorne Research. Biogest is a blend of HCI (hydrochloric acid), pepsin, pancreatin, and ox bile. This combination makes it helpful to promote the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. 

One of the things that I love about Thorne Research, Inc. is that they do not make any products that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. Unfortunately (and what a lot of people don't realize) is that many digestive enzymes are filled with GMO's and this can be detrimental in the body- especially in fighting Lyme Disease. 

Biogest is a bit expensive and I have found it for the cheapest on the Thorne website HERE. You can find  on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Ginger Root is one of my favorite supplements for my gut as it has so many different benefits. Scientific studies have shown that ginger helps to maintain healthy gut flora, helps to aid digestion, and can help calm and soothe the digestive track. In addition to this some studies show that ginger can help balance immune response and even help cardiovascular function. There are tons of amazing benefits of ginger and last year I wrote about 15 Amazing benefits of Ginger, which you can find HERE if you would like to learn more.

After researching through different brands I ended up choosing the Ginger Root from NOW. I was impressed with the manufacturing and the price (less than $6 a bottle!) is hard to beat. You can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

4. Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm is another product from NOW that I use that has been hugely beneficial in my healing process. Slippery Elm has been used an herbal remedy since the 19th century and is known to help a number of digestive issues. One of the unique things about Slippery Elm is that it contains mucilage, which is a substance that becomes a slick gel when it is mixed with water, which in turn coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines over time. Slippery Elm also comes in powder form (which I took for a while before switching to this capsule) and has several amazing benefits. 

Slippery Elm is known to help the digestive track and those that suffer with IBS, helps to aid in weight loss, and some scientific studies are showing that it can help Psoriasis and Breast Cancer. More research is being done but it is amazing to think about all that this can help with in our bodies.

Slippery Elm is another wonderful supplement that is cheap (less than $5 with a Prime Membership on Amazon) and can be found HERE!

5. George's Aloe Vera Supplement
I have shared many times how beneficial and important Aloe Vera has been in my healing journey. I rotate the different brands of Aloe that I use throughout the year, but George's Aloe Vera Supplement is one that I use consistently. There are many reasons for this. First, the taste is the easiest to swallow and drink and it allow me to use the necessary dose that I need. Second, it is free of preservatives and additives which is really important to me. Finally, I can personally attest that it has helped my gut in the healing process.

Aloe Vera juice contains a wealth of nutrients and vitamins and minerals. In addition to this it helps to provide antioxidants, and helps support circulation in the body. Studies have shown that Aloe Vera juice helps to aid digestion and ease stomach aches. In addition it helps to increase the alkalization in the body. It helps to encourage a healthy stomach lining and some studies have also shown that it helps to boost the immune system.

George's Aloe Vera Supplement can be found in your local health food store and sometimes I have found it cheaper there but other times I find it cheaper on Amazon. I buy a large bottle that lasts for a bit (and I even have traveled with it!). If you are interested in purchasing it on Amazon it can be found HERE!

6. Licorice
Licorice is a key component for Lyme Disease patients for a number of different things, including a helpful supplement for the gut. The herb's key therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin, helps to give the body lots of different beneficial effects for the body, including helping to heal the digestive system and helps to heal ulcers. In addition Licorice helps to lower stomach acid levels, relieve indigestion and heartburn and can help with inflammation and spasms in the digestive tract. Licorice has additional health benefits beyond the gut as it is beneficial for the liver, helps to lower cholesterol levels, helps lessen the pain and fatigue of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, and can even help with PMS symptoms.

With all of these benefits, Licorice is a top contender and supplement for me and yet it took a long time for me to find the right company. Unfortunately lots of licorice supplements have added ingredients, which may work for some people, but for a patient like me who is extremely fragile, I needed a supplement that was purely Licorice. After researching I found the Nature's Plus version and it has been a perfect fit for me.

For all that Licorice does, this is one of the more affordable supplements that I take. I love when a supplement is helpful and healing for my gut, but also helps my body in other areas! On Amazon it retails for under $11. You can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

7. Bromelain
Bromelain is another one of those amazing supplements that is awesome for the gut but also has tons of other medicinal properties. Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes that is found in pineapples that helps to digest protein. It has been used for centuries throughout the world to help treat indigestion and reduce inflammation. Interestingly enough the German Commission approved Bromelain to treat swelling and inflammation after surgery, particularly sinus surgery!

In addition to the amazing health benefits it has for the entire body, Bromelain has scientifically been shown to help heal issues in the gastrointestinal tract including IBD, Ulcertaive Colotis, Colon Cancer, Chron's Disease, Dyspepsia, and Constipation.

If you are like me and enjoy pineapple than you probably are getting some of the amazing benefits already. But if you struggle to eat it everyday, then you might benefit as I do from the supplement. There are lots of different companies that make Bromelain, but like many other supplements they have added ingredients. This version from NOW is one of the only ones that has only Bromelain in the ingredients.

The price fluctuates mildly on Amazon but stays under $20. You can purchase it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

8. Apple Cider Vinegar
I have written several times here on the blog about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (and 17 ways to use Apple Cider Vinegar) I won't bore you with repeating myself but I am definitely a huge believer in the power of this product. I can't recommend enough Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar and definitely encourage you to use that brand specifically.

On the flip side though after using it and drinking it daily for nearly four years I struggle sometimes to deal with the taste so recently I have been substituting some of the amount my doctor has me taking with the Apple Cider Vinegar Capsules by NOW:
To be frank, I definitely feel the Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is the best option, but sometimes you have to do what you can do to get in what you need and so this product by NOW might be the best option. 

Both are affordable and Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar can be purchased on Amazon by clicking HERE but I have found it in my local grocery store for cheaper (and for a larger bottle!). The NOW Apple Cider Vinegar caps can be cheaply found on Amazon for about $8 by clicking HERE.

9. VSL #3
A couple of years ago, when I was really struggling and completely bed ridden (you can read more of this portion of my story in the Notes from the Porch updates section HERE) I was introduced to VSL #3 probiotic. VSL #3 is a high potency probiotic medical food. VSL #3 formulations continue 225 billion to 900 billion bacteria per serving and is known to be one of the most potent probiotics in the world.

VSL #3 has been played a huge part in my healing of my gut. It is one of the more expensive supplements that are apart of my treatment protocol but a huge part in my healing. I definitely recommend this. 

An important thing to note is that VSL #3 needs to be refrigerated and it also needs to be carefully monitored by a physician. A physician can order the product and you can find out more HERE. Technically you can order the non-prescription version (which in my understanding is a little less potent but still the same ingredients) on Amazon HERE.

10. Peppermint Oil
A couple of years ago, when I was really struggling and completely bed ridden (you can read more of this portion of my story in the Notes from the Porch updates section HERE) I used peppermint oil like it was going out of style. As I have continued to heal I don't use it as frequently, but it is still apart of my treatment regime everyday and I use it in my detox baths

Peppermint Oil has been used for thousands of years- even dating back to Egyptian time- and has tons of healing properties. Peppermint Oil helps to reduce stomach aches, sooth the digestive system, and even has antimicrobial properties. In addition Peppermint Oil helps to relieve headaches, boost energy, and relieve tight muscles among other things.

I have tried several different manufacturers of peppermint oil and while I used Young Living's Peppermint Oil for a couple of years, this past year I discovered NOW's Organic Peppermint Oil and have been incredibly impressed. For those of you that can't afford to purchase Young Living Oils (like myself) I am so excited to share about this because it is an easy and affordable option and is certified organic. I would never criticize another helpful brand, but this for me has been incredibly helpful and I love it!

It costs about $12 on Amazon and you can find NOW's Organic Peppermint Oil on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Honorable Mentions:
1. Boiron Homeopathic Medicine Magnesia Phosphorica
I started using this supplement this past summer and after several months I was amazed at how much it has helped my gut. For those that struggle with IBS, abdominal cramps, stomach cramps, etc. that is helped by placing a heating pad on the area this is a great little supplement to have.

For those who are extremely sensitive patients like myself, homeopathic options are a great way to go sometimes and this is a key example. For this I definitely recommend giving it several months before you expect to see a major difference. I noticed some result and help from it quickly but after several months I noticed huge results.

You can purchase Boiron Homeopathic Medicine Magnesia Phosphorica lots of places (including your local health store) but I found it for a couple of dollars cheaper on Amazon HERE. After trying it for 6 months and seeing the beneficial difference of continuously taking it daily I found it was cheapest to purchase a pack of 5 which can be found HERE.

2. Ideal Bowel Support
Ideal Bowel Support from Jarrow Formulas is something that I added in a couple of years ago and I have really appreciated it -especially when I am taking certain oral meds. In short, it is a probiotic that helps to reduce bloating, gas, and intestinal discomfort.

Ideal Bowel Support contains a clinically-documented strain, L. plantarum299v that resists stomach acid and bile salts. This mixture is a huge help for those struggling with intestinal discomfort. This is a supplement that I take that I see as an "aid" more than an overall healing help. If anyone has research that differs from this I would love to know it as I haven't been able to find any, but I do know it helps me in the day-to-day.

You can purchase this on Amazon for 2 boxes for about $31. I haven't seen the price fluctuate that much with this product but have found that often times Amazon will put one box on sale for about $7 which is an amazing deal. This happens a couple of times a year and sells out really quickly so you to watch for it. You can find the 2 box supply of Ideal Bowel Support on Amazon HERE.

I hope that this product list is helpful for those of you struggling with Lyme Disease or those who are interested in healing your gut! Let me know if you have any questions!