Caravan Sonnet: June 2017

6/24/17

1000 Places to See Before You Die Custom Journal

Happy Saturday sweet friends! I hope that you are having a lovely weekend! I am so excited to share with y'all today a custom order from a while back! 
I have said this before, but one of my favorite items to create in the shop are the "altered travel journals". There are different travel journal options available and I love that they are a wonderful keepsake or a perfect gift!
This custom order was a gift that was a joy to create! It allowed for highlights to where places had already been traveled but also allowed for more experiences to be remembered in the future. 
I was delighted with the final results and loved this color combination and definitely plan to use it again in the future!! 
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you J! Thank you so much for your kind and wonderful shop review also! You are a blessing!
If you are interested in purchasing an altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal  click HERE! Or hop on over to check out more items available in my shop!
Happy Saturday friends! I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend!

6/23/17

a beautiful sunset (Shelburne, Vermont)

One evening we were heading back home after a day of treatment and appointments when we saw the most beautiful sunset. 
As we waited for the ferry we marveled at the beauty before us and the stunning color depth and change that we saw in a matter of minutes.
It was a precious and gentle reminder that beauty can be found everywhere, every single day. Beauty, truly, surrounds us.
As we approach this weekend I hope that you have a wonderful Friday and a lovely weekend.
Most of all, I hope that you find beauty to inspire you. Happy Friday friends! 

6/22/17

"Courtney the Portney" turns One!

"Courtney the Portney" celebrated a 1 year "birthday" today, and I celebrated 1 year closer to healing! It has been a whirlwind of a year...a year that I have stood in awe at all the healing and progress that has taken place. I am simply amazed at the difference this year has brought and am so incredibly grateful for my medical team and everyone who has compassionately and kindly cared for my port. 

Thank you for all of your prayers, your love, and your encouragement during this past year. I can't wait to see what this next year will bring! 

"But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever." 
-Psalm 146:5-6-

6/21/17

From Hope Valley (Week 19): The Blessing of Open Communication

Throughout the last four seasons of When Calls the Heart we as viewers have been blessed by lots of different (and wonderful) advice that Abigail has given. From the very first episode of the show Abigail has not only inspired the fictional town people of Hope Valley, but also the #heartie community at large with her gentle encouragement and rich wisdom. In this seventh episode of Season 2 we are once again challenged to consider the beautiful truth that Abigail puts before us- the blessing that comes from open communication. 

I am sure, like myself, that we have all experienced walking the heartbreaking road of a relationship change. Where once conversation flowed freely, it becomes stilted and quiet due to mis-communication and mis-understandings. For a variety of different reasons conversations start to drift off and instead of diving into the deep waters of what is going on at the heart of the matter, conversation over time stops. 

I remember years ago a talk show host asking a guest about his marriage. He was asked if he believed that his marriage would last a lifetime. It seemed like a simple question, but at first the guest didn't answer and then he said that he couldn't promise a lifetime, all he could promise was for that day. When the host asked why he couldn't promise a lifetime commitment, he replied that he didn't know if he would be talking to his wife for a lifetime. At the time the audience laughed, but as I have thought about that scene years later, I realize there was incredible truth that this man was sharing. He was equating one of life's most deep relationships success rate with the fact that the conversation had to keep going or the relationship would end. 

There is such powerful truth in this that extends beyond just a marriage relationship and goes into friendships, dating relationships, co-worker relationships, and extends to each person that we interact with in our lives. The minute that we stop talking and keeping open communication is the moment that a relationship starts to end. 

See, there is a blessing of open communication that is surrounded by love the restores lost voices, by the incredible power of speaking life-affirming and redeeming words, by letting go of what is not important, and giving blessing in graceful truth to those in our lives. In this type of setting, conversation and open communication (even when it is painful) can thrive. it can set the stage for a deeper relationship that only comes with open communication. 

I am sure that there are a few of you that are reading this and thinking with brokenness, "but I tried... I tried to keep the conversation going and the relationship still died". My heart hurts for those of you in this position. Sometimes it can seem that despite our best effort to have open communication things still don't work out the way that we want, hope, or pray that they will. I had this exact same situation happen this year and it was incredibly difficult and hurtful. Despite my best efforts to continue communication a friend stopped responding to messages and without warning stopped all communication. It was incredibly hurtful and it was a painful season working through forgiveness. But in walking in forgiveness, I learned that there is a beautiful blessing that forgiveness brings to brokenness... the blessing of grace and love. Grace to realize that despite my best efforts and trying I can only be responsible for my part in relationships and love to pour out onto other friendships and relationships. Friends, instead of dwelling on our pain and loss let us move towards others with an open heart, extending grace, and living in the blessing of open communication.

Open communication is sometimes difficult, messy, and incredibly hard as we live vulnerably in the world before us. It is having the courage to know that we can trust our hearts not only with the person before us, but mostly with the Lord. It is having the strength to know when to speak and when to listen. It is having the wisdom to understand that sometimes words are just words and that what is not being said is actually the deepest part of the conversation. Open communication requires a humility to realize that it is love in action as you put others before yourself. Open communication is having the confidence and the love for another person enough to speak gentle truth and grace into difficult situations. 

Today, dear friends, let us have courage to keep the communication open, for in doing so we learn that there is a blessing that only comes from doing this... the blessing of deep relationships. 

"The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just."
-Psalm 37:30-


Looking for past From Hope Valley Devotionals? You can click HERE to find a complete listing of all of the devotionals! 

I have received several emails asking me about the books by Janette Oke that the series is based on. You may remember that I mentioned in my very first From Hope Valley Devotional post that I had read Janette Oke's series back when I was a teenager. The original book series, "The Canadian West Series" was based on Elizabeth's aunt and her adventures (she also married a Mountie). Here are the listing of the books from that series (there are six) in order:


In the last several years Janette Oke released a new series entitled, "Return to the Canadian West" which you can find listed below in order:

Janette Oke is truly one of my "writer heroes". Meeting her at the Hearties Family Reunion this past December was one of the absolute highlights for me. She was so incredibly kind and encouraging about the topic of writing to me. 

And guess what? The dates for the next Hearties Family Reunion has been announced! It will be happening in October. If you are already not a member of the When Calls the Heart Facebook group you can join HERE and find out more information. Or if you would like to see the most up-to-date information about the reunion you can do so on the website HERE. If you would like to read about my experience last year you can do so by clicking on one of the links below:


Please let me know if you have any questions about the reunion! 

*Please note that the quotes used in these weekly devotionals are the sole intellectual property of Hallmark Channel, WCTH, & Crown Media, LLC. These on-line posts are in no way supported, endorsed or affiliated with WCTH, Hallmark Channel, or Crown Media. They are simply encouragement inspired by Janette Oke and this precious show.*

6/20/17

Emigrant Gap, California

Last year, after we had visited Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe (you can read about it HERE), we decided that we would drive back to our hotel in San Francisco on I-80, by Donner Pass. 
To be honest when we made the decision it was kind of on a whim, my traveling heart wanting to see more of California and the beautiful area that we were surrounded by, and my mom always willing to go on an adventure. I had absolutely no idea the extreme beauty that was still to meet us that day after we had experienced the awe and wonder of Emerald Bay.

It was the best decision.

I can't recommend a trip to Emigrant Gap enough. Located along I-80 in California the views just driving to Emigrant Gap are so stunning and the pictures above show just a few shots that we saw of the beautiful countryside. As we drove along we just kept saying, "oh my... absolutely gorgeous", "oh my goodness this is beautiful" and were literally speechless at the beauty before us.
When we arrived at Emigrant Gap we stood at the overlook and just were blown away by the breathtaking beauty that was before us.
Since teaching about the westward expansion in AP US History years ago, I have always wanted to see Emigrant Gap. Emigrant Gap is a ridge that is famously located along the California Trail. It is located to the west of what is now referred to and called Donner Pass. 
Emigrant Gap is famous in tales of westward expansion mostly because of the cliffs that are so steep in this area that forced the pioneers in the 1840s to lower their wagons on ropes in order to continue westward. This section of the pioneer trail was also where pioneers were emigrating from the United States to California (as California was part of Mexico at that time). 

The feat of lowering wagons on ropes was something that I honestly had not thought that much about when I was a high school student. My history teacher at the time seemed to just gloss over the fact and paint the picture that the ropes were steady and the wagons were easily lowered down. This could not have been less true.

When I was teaching this section of history I learned that was simply not the case at all. Despite all that the pioneers encountered along their journey (sickness, starvation, praire fires, bears, fights with specific Indian tribes, etc.) one of the most dangerous parts of the journey came when the pioneers encountered this section of their journey with lowering the wagons in these steep cliffs. 
Now, I will be the first one to admit that when I showed portions of Into the West to my students the scenes that depicted this section of lowering the wagons caused us to giggle a bit. The "mountain" and "cliffs" in the show looked like a tiny hill about 10-20 feet high and at one point one of the main characters was idly standing on the hill watching a wagon break loose from its ropes and head towards her (yes, eventually hitting her). After I had tried to explain the incredible thing that the pioneers had done, the bravery that they had, and the incredible task of lowering the wagons, the scene did seem to downplay the severity of this task (and may have prompted the infamous "Into the West mock video" that made us all laugh- hahahaha). 

BUT standing in that space, overlooking Emigrant Gap last year, I realized how wrong both my high school history teacher and I had been. The task was anything but easy and anything short of being incredible. As I stood staring out at the rolling mountains, one after another, with the dramatic cliffs and high peaks I was stunned at the brave, courageous, and arduous task that the pioneers encountered.
It was absolutely amazing and incredible to stand in this place of history that was not only beautiful, but incredibly inspiring. 
To think about all that the pioneers encountered along their journey and then to think about facing this section of land - so close to where they were trying to go and yet still so far- this task would have seemed daunting and overwhelming. It was completely inspiring to stand in this area and pay tribute to those courage few who accomplished this. It was also absolutely inspiring. We saw this just a few days before "courtney the portney" was placed and standing there reminded me to be courageous and face the "mountain" that was there before me. 

If you ever get the chance to drive along Interstate 80 in California and see Emigrant Gap, I can't encourage you enough to go visit. You will walk away inspired, encouraged, and in awe of not only the beauty before you, but the incredibly bravery of a generation past.
"The spring of 1845 saw the first covered wagons surmount the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They left this valley, ascended to the ridge, and turned westward to Old Emigrant Gap. The wagons were lowered by ropes to the floor of Bear Valley. Hundreds followed before, during, and after the gold rush. This was a hazardous portion of the overland emigrant trail."
-Historical Marker at Emigrant Gap, California-

6/19/17

Monday Inspiration and Encouragement (Volume Seven)

I shared a couple of months ago that for a while now I have had a dream of sharing some Monday inspiration and encouragement on the blog. Life is hard and I know full well that in the difficult times it can be hard to find inspiration, so a couple of months ago I shared my first post (which you can find HERE and all of the Monday inspiration posts HERE) and I plan to routinely share with y'all different things that I have found to be really inspiring and encouraging from all different genres and hope that it will encourage and inspire you for your week! 

To be honest I have come to look forward to these posts the so much throughout the week. I have realized that it makes me look and find more inspiration than could ever be shared in one post in all different areas! It is so much fun! I hope that these things continue to inspire you!
{first} It would be impossible to not share my gratitude again for the overwhelming support of the release of the 2nd edition of Praying through Lyme DiseaseAs I shared a couple of weeks ago, I am truly overwhelmed in the best possible way by your support of all of my writing, especially this book. Thank you so much!! Also... I know I said this a couple of weeks ago but If you are an aspiring author and have a dream for a niche specific book that you are having trouble getting signed to be published through traditional publishing... I can't encourage you enough to consider independent publishing. Run with your dreams and go after it. Your book and story is needed. You are the only one that can uniquely share it. 

{second} If you haven't already seen the above video be prepared to be amazed. This was from a bit ago, but seriously is so inspirational and this audition of her overcoming all that she has brought me to tears. Honestly- I have this song on repeat most days. if you are looking for an encouraging song during a tough time... Rachel Platten... thank you. You can hear the original cover here:
{third} Remember how I shared last week about watching Pride and Prejudice? Well this week I re-watched Sense and Sensibility. Y'all. Seriously. If you are looking for a girly-girl movie that will make you laugh and then make you cry happy tears. Go rent it tonight. So lovely. You can rent Sense and Sensibility on Amazon by clicking HERE.

{fourth} So last week I shared that I had been doing some research about an upcoming project and came across a listing of women who had saved people during World War II. Many of you know how much I love the history of World War II - it was definitely one of my favorite time periods to teach and I was so inspired by the women on that list. A couple of weeks ago I found this book, The Nazi Officer's Wife at a garage sale and it was a fascinating read. The Nazi Officer's Wife is the true story of a Nazi officer who fell in love with a Jewish woman and married and saved her. If you haven't read it it is a fasinating, interesting, heartbreaking, and inspiring story. You can purchase it on Amazon HERE.

If you love this time period and are looking for something inspiring to read though you must read Evidence Not Seen. It is my favorite book (probably of all time... or one of them) and it is wonderful. I re-read it every summer and it is life-changing. You can find it on Amazon HERE.
{fifth} Have Courage and Be Kind. This saying has been resonating with me this past week. I hope it inspires you as it has me. 

I hope that you are inspired and encouraged by these five things on this Monday! What about you? What is inspiring you recently? 

4 MORE Tips for Exploring Your Own City

Whenever I am planning a trip or getting ready to go see some place that I haven't yet seen, I am always excited to see and try new experiences in a new part of the world. Recently though I have thinking about this and thinking more about how I can incorporate this type of planning into exploring more of my own city and this beautiful area of the world where I live. 

I have shared my post, 10 Tips for Exploring Your Own City, (you can find it HERE) which has consistently stayed one of my top read posts. I think the reason for this is simply because we as people love to have adventures, and often want to travel to far off and exotic places but that isn't always possible. I think many times the word "adventure" is synonymous with far away travel, but maybe you don't have a ton of money to travel to far away places or maybe (like me) your health doesn't allow you to travel as much as you would like. Maybe you can't leave your job to travel. Maybe... maybe there are a 100 reasons you want to travel adventures but right now in this season you can't do that all of the time. But that doesn't mean you have to miss out on adventure and lose your spirit of wanderlust. I hope that this post will inspire you to explore right where you are and see the beautiful adventure of the life you have. 

Here are 4 more tips for exploring your own city... 

1. Act Like A Tourist
If you had loved ones coming for a visit where would you take them? What are the things that you would want them to experience or the sights that surround and make up the place that you live? Research online to discover, find the history, consider visiting a state park or going to a museum. 

Several years ago when I lived outside of Atlanta I remember planning a "Saturday vacation day". I, along with some friends, planned out an entire day "pretending" that we were driving from a great distance to Atlanta and we had to fit in as many things as we could. It was SUCH a fun day. We met up early, had brunch at a upscale hotel in downtown Atlanta, saw all of the sightseeing things you could possibly imagine, took pictures everywhere, grabbed dinner at an exclusive place that overlooked the city that a friend had a connection to and then went to a live show in the city. The places we picked were things we all had never done before and it truly felt like we had traveled to another world. It was fabulous. I had never done this in another city that I had lived in, but definitely plan to again. 

2. Learn About the History of Your City
Several months ago my mom and I decided to venture to a new little town in Vermont. I was doing some research for an upcoming blog post on cute towns in Vermont and had wanted to include a town that I kept hearing about. We traveled a couple of hours and found the most adorable town, but we also received a huge lesson in history. As we drove into the town we saw lots of museums and historical markers telling and sharing that this town had played a huge part in the underground railroad, something I had never known. 

To be honest, I felt that I knew the history of my city and the surrounding area and the large part that it played in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, George Washington's ties, and mainly the War of 1812. Learning about the impact that a town had on the Underground Railroad was an eye-opening experience as I realized that there was still so much to learn about this place that I lived. 

Maybe, like me, you think that you know the history of your city, but take the time to explore and research and learn on a different level. It will definitely provide you with adventures of wanting to explore new areas and things. 

3. Accomplish a Goal
What are some clubs or unique activities in your city that are specific to your area of the world? One of the things that many people try to accomplish in this area of the world is becoming apart of the "ADK46ers" club. To obtain this goal you commit to climbing all of the 46 mountain peaks that comprise the Adirondack Mountains. A couple of dear friends accomplished this goal last year and it was so exciting! There is also a "winterADK46ers" club and lots of variations. I am confident that your city or town has lots of similar things for all different interest. There are many cities that have wine tasting clubs, bookstore clubs, etc. Think about what you love to do and set out to accomplish this goal in your city!

4. Overlook Your City
Isn't it funny that when we are traveling we often search for a place to see the city from a high vantage point but never do this in our own cities? Almost every city has a tall building and is open to visitors where you can see the city skyline. Take a trip to do this. Check out if there are any lounges or restaurants that offer a view of the city as you eat a meal. Maybe you have a friend who has an apartment or home with a rooftop that overlooks the city- ask them if you can come and take some pictures. Take the time to plan to overlook your city and it will give you a new perspective of the place that you call "home".

What are tips you have for exploring your own city? I have said this before, but never feel that exploring your own city is second to exploring other areas of the world! Remember sweet friends, your beautiful life is the adventure and no matter how near or far you can physically go, you can make life FULL of adventure and joy right where you are at! (Want to read more on my thoughts on being adventurers? Check out this post HERE!)