Caravan Sonnet: August 2016

8/31/16

Celebrating the beauty of Love... 2 More Weeks

Seven years ago my sister and I decided to go to Orlando and Disney World to celebrate my four year anniversary of being healed from Endometriosis. It was a wonderful sister trip and it was filled with so much laughter and fun that both of us refer to it as "the trip of laughter". We searched and found this amazingly cheap deal that included a stay at a beautiful new hotel site, tickets to Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and a day at Typhoon Lagoon. We giggled throughout our time in Epcot and the old Norway "scary ride" (and Emily's favorite $95 cookie), laughed hysterically throughout all of the rides in Magic Kingdom (including our 10 minute delay of getting stuck in "It's a Small World"), and raced around Typhoon Lagoon re-riding certain rides a hundred times like we were little kiddos. 
Time in the parks and Disney was a beautiful celebration. A time to remember the hard and celebrate the miracle of healing that had taken place.
Over the past seven years and the last few years especially we would always talk about taking a sister weekend back in Orlando. When I was to weak to even walk down the hallway and my sister would spend her time off from work laying on my bed with me, brushing my hair we would talk about two things: being on the Amazing Race (please pick us CBS *smiles*) and returning to Disney. I don't know how many times my precious sister has said to me these past four years, "when you get better we will go celebrate in Disney". Many times I would be extremely sick and would weakly nod my head, hoping and believing that someday it might come true.
Disney for me has always been a magical place. It brings you out of your own world and reminds you of the joy and magic that exists in every day. Dreaming of celebrating in Disney has been a dream... a beautiful dream... until the Lord brought up an amazing opportunity. 
This past fall an amazing opportunity arose to write about a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean. I prayed about it a ton, talked with my medical team in depth, and wondered at the timing. Emily and I had talked about going when I was healed... we hadn't really considered going as I was getting better. I have to admit that I hesitated. Many questions came to my mind and I wondered if this would be a wise thing for me and my health. I prayed a ton about it, consulted with those who love and know me best, and again my medical team. 
The beautiful thing was that everyone thought that this was a great opportunity so I went ahead, signed up, and called my sister who jumped on board immediately. We were both over-the-moon excited and thrilled about what was to come in the following fall. I realized an important lesson last fall... there is beautiful hope in the waiting for the miracle to happen.
As difficult times throughout this past year happened, when serious and life-threatening issues with "Nick the PICC" took place, when I was incredibly sick throughout treatment, and when each of us were dealing with different types of stress, my sweet sister would say again and again... "I can't wait for the Disney Cruise". 
And we kept dreaming and planning and praying and God in His amazing ways continued to throw out extra blessings, including free tickets into the park in exchange for me writing about our experiences and a lot of extra special things that have made this trip a trip to dream about.
As we approach this special trip I am reminded in a million little ways of the joy of dreaming and hoping and the magic of celebrating. Sometimes we celebrate big things (like the end of a treatment round) and sometimes we celebrate little things (like good days with #courtneytheportney). And sometimes... well sometimes we are blessed to celebrate life and love and the beautiful gift of love and family and friendship even when we are waiting for bigger celebrations. 

Because we have definitely learned that with the Lord there is always beautiful gifts to celebrate. 

As I look back on these pictures to seven years ago and think about what the last seven years have brought I am overwhelmed with the beauty and the gift of love. Love that seeps into the dark places of life and reminds us of joy. Love that curls up with you in bed when you are to weak and sick to leave. Love that overcomes the dark. Love that reminds us that today... the beautiful today... is a gift.

 So in two weeks we will celebrate so many things, but mainly I can't wait to celebrate the gift of hope and the beautiful ways and gifts that are given throughout this journey.
A huge thanks to Disney World for the amazing opportunity to experience this trip. We are so looking forward to it!

What's Up Wednesday (August Edition)

Happy Wednesday friends! I am excited to link up with MelShaeffer, and Shay for the "What's Up Wednesday" Link up! I have so enjoyed reading these ladies posts and am excited to join in! It is so fun to connect with so many other ladies who are doing this each month! I missed last month as we were busy celebrating my sister's engagement party and I was traveling out to Nebraska for the sweetest wedding ever so I am excited to be back this month!

What We're Eating this Week... 
Raspberries. More Raspberries. And yes, more Raspberries. *smiles* So basically, as y'all know I spend every single day working to improve my immune system through the food that I eat, drinking tons of water, and the supplements that I take. I truly believe that working on building my immune system is just as important as all of the treatment I do to beat Lyme Disease. A couple of months ago I shared in my Thursday Health Thoughts post the 10 Amazing Health Benefits of Raspberries and I am definitely seeing some of these things truly play out in my own body . I try to eat Raspberries all year long, but there is something about the beautiful and fresh Raspberries at the Market during this summer season that is absolutely yummy (and yes, I am trying to hold on to summer as long as possible! *smiles*). Needless to say my mixed berry morning smoothies are pretty much raspberry smoothies right now. *smiles*

What I'm Reminiscing About... 
My sister and my "sister weekend" back in 2009 at Disney! We are heading back to Disney for a day at the parks and a short Disney cruise in two weeks and I am SO very excited! I keep looking through and thinking about our last trip and the fun we had and my little heart is over-the-moon excited about this upcoming trip! (Words can not express how grateful I am to those who made this trip possible, including Disney World. This trip is truly a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity that we will treasure.)

What I'm Loving... 
Cool and soft summer evenings at the lake. August brings the most beautiful sunsets and sometimes the softest ones and both are absolutely gorgeous. I am trying to grasp every single moment that we have left here before we leave camp. 

What I've Been Up To...
As y'all know this past week has been a whirlwind of activity with the December Caravan Book Release. I have truly been so overwhelmed and blown away by the incredibly kind support and words about this book. Thank you so much for all of your love about this project! (If you are interested in purchasing December Caravan you can find it where books are sold and on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. If you are interested in bulk/group discount orders you can find out more information HERE.)

What I'm Dreading... 
Let's be honest... this treatment round has been extremely difficult and when I return from the cruise in two weeks it will kick up an even higher level! I would covet prayers for this as I am going into some of the most intense weeks and months of my life. Would you also continue to pray that all of the finances to come in for this treatment round? As I mentioned before this treatment round is extremely expensive (about $30,000 a month) and we are trusting the Lord for His provision. If you are interested in helping out financially you can find my "go fund me page" HERE

What I'm Working on... 
Lots of new items for the shop including this adorable Kate Spade Emma journal! You can check out the shop HERE!

What I'm Excited About... 
In addition to an incredible sister weekend the Lord has provided an amazing opportunity to spend time with these sweet friends! My little heart is over-the-moon excited and God is so good to provide this time!

What I'm Watching/Reading... 
Last year when I shared the 5 books that have impacted my life the most I was quick to list this precious book, Evidence Not Seen. This book tells the story of Darlene who was a young newlywed in the pre-World War II era and her experience as a missionary in the jungles of New Guinea and then her four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. The title of this book is perfect because she truly is honest in her experience of the way that the Lord often appeared silent but His hand was continuously orchestrating protection over her each and every day, providing "evidence not seen". There are so many nuggets of truth and encouragement that I have walked away from after reading this book and I have made it a tradition to read this book once a year in the Spring or Summer and am just finishing it up again. Each time I do I am struck again by this woman's faith in God despite her horrific circumstances. You can read more of my thoughts about this book HERE if you are interested!


What I'm Listening to... 
A couple of years ago this song was on repeat every morning and I have had it back listening to it again almost every morning and evening. I definitely have used this as the prayer of my heart these past few weeks and this summer and plan to as we enter this fall. If you are tired and weary or feel like you have been forgotten by the Lord this song is for you. 

What I'm Wearing... 
Let's be real... I have been in comfy comfy clothes most of the last few weeks treatment but am so excited for the upcoming trip and lots of fun outfits and cute cruise wear!

What I'm looking Forward to Next Month... 
DISNEY TRIP. TWO MORE WEEKS. CAN NOT WAIT. 

I would love to know your answers to these questions friends! Share your thoughts below in the comments!! *smiles* Happy Wednesday!

8/30/16

A Beautiful Nebraska Wedding

Several weeks ago I shared that after three years of having to miss out on MANY special events and one-of-a-kind occassions and countless tears at all of the "No's" the Lord gave me the opportunity to say a huge "yes" to travel and attend the beautiful weeding of a dear friend and celebrate all that God had done in their lives. It was an emotional "yes". 

This week my medical team cried as I walked out of treatment... it was happy tears at this beautiful milestone of healing. It was tears not for the time lost, but of a glimpse of the future...a future full of "yes's". It was tears speaking into the silence as I was given a "yes" by a doctor who believed I might not make it several years ago. It was a blessed yes by my lead doctor and medical team who are fighting to save my life. And for me it was tears in the miracle of being at this point. In the midst of these tears I had the opportunity to share a little bit about Jesus and all that He has done. It humbled me to recount so many instances of grace over these difficult years. 

It was also humble tears for those who have graciously understand when I have had to miss their "one of a kind moments" over the years, for those that have cried and continue to cry with me when I have been at my end, for the encouragement to keep fighting, for all of y'all who have left precious messages celebrating this huge milestone, and most of all for your love and grace in the different seasons of this journey. 

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. The Lord has done spectacular things for us and we are filled with joy. Those who cry while they plant will joyfully sing while they harvest." 
(Psalm 126:2-3,6)
Nebraska was beautiful. Absolutely stunning. SO very different than my beautiful lakes and mountains that I call home, but so very beautiful. 
There was a beautiful peace that surrounded the quiet and I spent some time walking among the cornfields and having an opportunity to pray and just be with the Lord. 
Nebraska cornfields are abundant and I marveled at the unending rows of corn that were everywhere.
I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and had the lovely opportunity to spend time with my dear friends, the Wissmann Family that evening. Having time to spend with them as they ministered at a nursing home singing and at their home was such a blessing. They are such dear friends and I am so grateful for their friendship and they way that they have truly touched my life. The next few days were filled with set up and time exploring different parts of Nebraska. Like with so many wonderful times I didn't get pictures of everything but for so many of you that were praying here is a smattering of pictures!
My sweet friend Hannah did an amazing job with the reception site and all of the details. She had a most beautiful concept and there were so many helping hands that brought her vision to fruition. You did amazing Hannah!
All of the extra details that Hannah incorporated were just stunning! Every single table had a unique center piece that fit the theme that was simply gorgeous.
A wonderful part of my trip to Nebraska was spending time with this sweet couple, Esther and Doug, whom I met on the last cruise. It was so lovely to get together for lunch and catch up on all that God is doing in our lives!
The day of the wedding dawned bright and clear with a few clouds (which was an answer to prayer!) and for all of us arriving at the beautiful church there was an air of excitement over celebrating all that God has done!
It was so good to be back with these dear friends again. The time flew by to fast and I look forward to the next time that the Lord brings us together again!
Ruth, my dear friend was a radiant bride and there were tears at all that God has done in Ruth's and Ryan's lives! Truly the Lord is faithful and loving in fulfilling the desires of our hearts!
After the wedding we headed out to the reception and it was a time of joy - celebrating the new marriage that God had brought together. One of the neatest and most special things was when one of Ruth's brother-in-law's asked how many people in the room had been praying for Ruth or Ryan and their future spouse. Almost every single hand was raised. It was humbling, beautiful and sacred to see the way the Lord answers prayers. 
It was so lovely to see you Kori and I can't wait to spend a day with you at Disney in two weeks!! She is so incredibly sweet and wonderful!
Meeting Courtney was absolutely delightful. 
I love the way that the Lord works and weaves our times in and out of people's lives. I had the opportunity to meet Anna briefly back in 2010 at a christian conference in Colorado. We reconnected again in 2014 on a cruise and then had the opportunity to see her again in Nebraska. It was wonderful to hear how the Lord is working in your life Anna and all that He is doing! I hope he brings us together again soon!
It was so fun to "meet" Bethany on this trip! We had connected years ago over the internet and meeting her in person (and her sweet family!) was such a blessing! You are so sweet Bethany!!
Alan had us all laughing with some fun bride and groom games!
Celebrating what the Lord has done in Ruth and Ryan's life was absolutely beautiful. This past year it has been such a blessing to hear how the Lord was orchestrating and bringing these two people together and their wedding was absolutely lovely. It was one of the most beautiful and God-honoring weddings I have ever attended. I welled up with tears many times over the joy of two people whose hearts desire to serve the Lord wholly and fully in their marriage and how it beautifully started with their wedding ceremony. (If you would like to read their love story which is absolutely beautiful you can do so HERE.) Congratulations again Ruth and Ryan! I can't wait to see what the Lord does in your marriage. 
Thank you to so many of you who had covered me in prayer for this trip, for your sweet encouragement, to the entire wissmann family for your dear friendship. It was wonderful to see y'all again. I may have left Nebraska but a part of my heart remained. God be with each of you "till we meet again".