The Life We Never Expected: Review and Giveaway


The Life We Never Expected: Filled with personal stories and biblical encouragement, this touching memoir by two parents recounts the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, ultimately directing readers to the God who promises us peace and joy, even in the midst of trials.

It is no secret that I have special needs kids.  My kids “stuff” is a broad range of childhood depression, to reactive attachment disorder, to fetal alcohol syndrome, to single sided deafness and the list goes on and on.

I will tell you, this book hurt my feelings.  It did not hurt my feelings in a bad way, but a humbling “I never thought of it like that” way.  I sat here, reading, with tears in my eyes because the last couple of days have been HORRIBLE and I’ve thrown up my hands and said “I.  Am.  Done.” I, then, read “this is almost unbearable, and it’s almost worth quitting, but the sun is on its way.  Hang in there, brothers.  The light always breaks.” (page 29)

It has been a really bad time, in our household.  I’ve struggled.  My kid has struggled, which means ALL my kids struggle.  I, literally, was at the end of my rope and ready to just say “I am done” when I read this “This is almost unbearable, and it’s almost worth quitting, but the sun is on its way.  Hang in there, brothers.  The light always breaks.”  (pg. 29).

This book is raw.  It is painful to read.  It is also full of hope and wisdom.  I have hope.  I not only lean on Romans 4:18, 20-21 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  I have these great words that I can utilize on those hard hard HARD days “the weapons of the true battle include silence, prayer, thought, clinging onto a recently read Scripture passage with my fingernails, singing through gritted teeth, reading a prewritten prayer out loud, reaching for Jesus through the mist of confusion or unanswered prayer, stilling myself in his presence, and remembering that he is good and faithful and kind.” (pg. 43)

I could go on and on about this book….I have read it while my daughter, who has RAD, is raging all around me.  It has given me perspectives that I have not ever thought of and I appreciate that.  I will be drawing a name for this book on July 16, 2016.  Just like any of my social media posts to be entered.  I wish I had all the money in the world to send this book to all my friends who have kids with struggles….eye opening.


What do you do when hard or painful circumstances turn your world upside down, resulting in a life you never expected? Andrew and Rachel Wilson grappled with this question after both of their children were diagnosed with regressive autism.  Refreshingly honest, this book explores the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, reflecting on the broader question of how to cope with suffering of all kinds. Sharing personal stories from their lives and encouragement rooted in the truth of God’s Word, Andrew and Rachel highlight lessons they’ve learned related to fighting for joy and thriving in the midst of trials—ultimately pointing readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new.


Link to purchase this book on Amazon.



Unashamed Book Review and Giveaway



One of my favorite songs is by Kari Jobe and it called “Holy Spirit”.  There is one phrase that brings me to my knees, no matter how many times I have heard it.  That phrase is “I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone.”  It humbles me to know that no matter how bad I am, what has been allowed in my life, or what I allow to penetrate my soul, that my shame is forever undone, as a child of the King.

This books title intrigued me and had me thinking on those lyrics to that song.  It is about freedom in Christ and how He can use your brokenness to bring His Name honor and glory.  It is hard.  It is SO hard to see all those negatives or to hear all those negatives and not let yourself be wallowing in that shame.  We are free, as believers in Christ….this book is a good beginning to complete healing of those past shames and to help you find joy in the freedom that Christ offers.

If you would like to be entered to win this great book, please like any of my social media links.  I will be drawing a name on July 7, 2016.  Good luck.

Live free.  Be free. Your shame is undone. If you do not win a copy of this book, I encourage you to go to amazon (link below) or your local Christian bookstore to purchase this.  It is one that you will want to read over and over, as well as, give to others who are living with those shackles on their feet!

About the book:

Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame offers hope to those struggling under the burden of shame. This book shines the life-giving light of the gospel on the things that leave us feeling worthless and rejected, directing our attention to the God who promises to forgive and restore us—no matter what.

About the author:

Heather Davis Nelson (MA, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a writer, counselor, and speaker. Heather writes regularly at and has been a featured writer at the Gospel Coalition, as well as a contributing author to the Journal of Biblical Counseling. She and her husband are parents to twin daughters and live in southeastern Virginia. 

Social Corner:
Where readers can buy book:


Mother & Son: The Respect Effort


I am currently doing Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect with our ladies group at church.  This book….my husband read it first and said that it was spot on and that I needed to read it.  Well, I have 7 kids….so my reading time consists mainly of Dr. Seuss.  When the opportunity came up to read it, at church, I took it.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it and there have been a lot of “aha” moments.

Enter this giveaway…when I saw the author’s name, I thought “hmmmm, I know that name” and when I read further down it was talking about respecting your son so they grow up knowing what Biblical respect is.  I have 4 sons ranging in age from 15-2 and I can honestly say that respecting them has never entered my mind.  I always talk to them about respecting me, their dad, adults, etc but for *me* to respect my son, my child was foreign. I can say that it is foreign no more!  What an eye opener for me.  My prayer is that I can utilize these tools and learn how to effectively respect my boys…I also want to pass this knowledge onto all my children so that they can utilize these same tools for when they have boys.

To enter to win, simply “like” this post or any of my social media posts and I will draw a name on June 4, 2016.  Good luck.

Here is another great book, Mother & Son: The Respect Effort, from a great author, Dr. Emerson Eggrichs up for review! Respect goes a long way in our world. A mother who shows respect to her son, no matter his age, has set him up for a fulfilling lifetime experience. Since males view love and respect interchangeably, showing him respect is as vital as showing him love.

About the Book:

A new book from W Publishing Group/HarperCollins asks you to consider the all–important mother/son relationship in a new way: respect, as in the mother should respect the son.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect – a landmark book that transformed millions of marital relationships – is launching his latest book, Mother & Son: The Respect Effect.

In Mother & Son, Dr. Eggerichs proposes that while showing love is important to a son, showing him respect is key to his heart, and what will transform the mother/son relationship. Of course, to a lot of people, that will sound backwards – shouldn’t it start with the son respecting the mother??

Since the importance of the mother/son relationship crosses all age/race/religion barriers, this is a topic applicable to all – regardless if they agree or disagree with Dr. Eggerichs’ method.

Social Corner:

Link to Share: Love and Respect

Wise Guys Review and Giveaway

WiseGuys book-and-logo3-500x637

This would be an awesome Father’s Day gift!

One thing that I have (or am rather) teaching my boys (15, 12, 9) is that the role of a man is to Lead, Provide, and Protect.  This book is filled with life stories that can help any man learn the appropriate ways to handle life in a Godly fashion.  This world is full of indecisive people and people who are afraid to let their God light show….I believe it says in a children’s song to NOT hide your light under a bushel.  Let it shine.  I hope this book helps some of the men in your lives to LET THEIR LIGHT SHINE for God.  I will draw a name on June 3, 2015 for one lucky person to win this book and to gift it to the man in her life.

Men are to be the leaders in our families and many are but some get weighed down with that expectation.  This book will help you to understand God’s plan for men better and in turn would make a great book to pass onto the guys in your life!  Our sons will be fathers and husbands some day.  How can we help them along in becoming the men God intended them to be?
“I’ve always defined true ministry as the process of walking through something with God and then being vulnerable enough to turn around and walk someone else through, too. Kent’s infectious passion to develop Christ-like men is evident in his writing and you will be both challenged and inspired by this collection of characteristic profiles of men who have gone before to show the way. Bravo, Kent. You are walking us through.” Mark Hancock, award-winning writer and Chief Executive Officer of Trail Life USA

For guys, more than ever, it’s a confusing world. Your GPS doesn’t offer any maps
showing how to get to the point of wisdom — and who likes asking for directions

But there are ways to get that guidance you need. The answers may be all around
you, in the form of guys you already know. Wise guys. More experienced guys.
Better-traveled guys. Could there be ways to tap into their invaluable knowledge
without enduring dull lectures or taking pages of notes?

Kent Evans has surrounded himself with these wise guys. They have shown him all
the back roads on the way to wisdom. With a great deal of humor and an endless
supply of stories, he wants to show you how to gather life-enriching truth from the
guys in your own circle.


KENT EVANS is the board chairman and co-founder of Manhood Journey, a ministry
that helps fathers and mentors build the next generation of godly men.  Kent has
personally experienced how the guidance of godly men can change the course of a
life.  Today he is blessed with a solid 20-year marriage, four wonderful sons and a
fulfilling life – largely because of what he’s learned from other men.  He lives in
Louisville, Kentucky, and can be found on Twitter @manhoodjourney.


Official Website – :

Amazon – : Unlocking-Hidden-


Twitter – @manhoodjourney




The ESV FAMILY DEVOTIONAL BIBLE is a hardbound colorful Bible.  It retells 130 key stories from the Bible with full color illustrations for each story, as well as placed within the Bible text where it is found.  The stories are simplified and easy for children of all ages to understand.
The ESV Family Devotional Bible is designed to help families read and apply God’s Word together. This full-color edition features the complete ESV text interspersed with engaging illustrations and gospel-centered devotions related to key Bible stories—guiding families through the entirety of God’s Word over the course of a year. Each devotion also includes discussion questions and suggestions for additional reading, helping families develop a habit of reading the Bible together and applying its truth to all of life.
I am the first to admit that I have a problem.  I may need therapy for this problem, but alas, I enjoy my problem.  I love Bibles.  I love all kinds of Bibles.  They make me incredibly happy.  I like to hold them and break the bind on them.  I love to smell them and carry them around.  I love children’s Bibles, devotional Bibles, all versions, all manners.  Now, you might think I have lost my mind and that I have one whole room dedicated to an abundance of Bibles….you would be wrong.  I simply have a shelf and a half:)  In my defense, when we have people over or when I hear of a friend or young person that does not have a Bible..I’m quick to go and pick out the one that I think would fit them the best.  So, my Bibles have a high turnover rate:)
This Bible smells divine!  It is packed with beautiful pictures and stories that even my special needs kids get and understand.  Oh, this is seriously exciting!  My kids range in age from 2-20 and though the older kids like to look through it and see it all, my younger ones are the ones that benefit the most out of it…oh and my 15 yr old daughter with reactive attachment disorder…it helps her grasp some key concepts as well.  I will be drawing a random name on May 20, 2016.  Please like this post on any of my social media accounts (twitter, facebook, pinterest, google+).
Your kids will thank you!


Facebook –

Twitter – https:/

Amazon -


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

The League and the Lantern


Author: Brian Wells

A concerned dad who couldn’t find quality entertainment for his kids. He has worked and produced 15 TV movies for the major networks, and this is his book debut.


The League and the Lantern is the first book in a new adventure series for middle-school readers. It all starts when a dangerous organization invades Jake Herndon’s seventh-grade sleepover. He escapes along with two new classmates, Lucy and TJ, only to face a 48-hour fight for survival on the streets of Chicago.

The kids unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War, and an incredible secret about Jake’s family. Along the way they learn unexpected lessons about courage, family and friendship.

Talking Points:

• Inspires reading – Adventure series your kids will want to read.

• Educational Value – 140 key vocabulary words hidden throughout the story, historic sites are part of the setting.

• Moral Value – Lessons in family, friendship, mercy and compassion. Lead characters are friends who are different races.

• Help Kids – Operates on a buy one – give one campaign to get books into the hands of kids who cannot afford their own copies.

Social Corner:

The official website will have the books available for purchase for your readers:


This book is being reviewed by my 15 yr old son, Boo.  He says that this book was an easy read, for him (I will also have my 11 yr old son read it as well and possibly my 9 yr old son, we shall see).  He got through the book fairly quickly and the book disappeared into his room where he has hidden it from the other boys.  His favorite part of the book is near the end (I will not ruin it for my readers) of the book.  He stated that there were no negative parts of this book.  If he (Brian Wells) makes another book, he is anxious to read that one, as well:)  It is fun to introduce children to the wonders of books…just to see where their minds and imaginations can take them.

You can “like” this post or any of my other social media posts to be entered to win this great book (facebook, pinterest, twitter, google+).  I will be drawing a name on May 18, 2016.


Here are the winner guidelines for you to use in 2016:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


None Like Him: Review and Giveaway!


NONE LIKE HIM:  10 WAYS GOD IS DIFFERENT FROM US (and why that’s a good thing)

Author:  Jill Wilkin

Paperback: 163 pages


God is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient,

omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible.

We’re not.

And that’s a good thing.

Our limitations are by design. We were never meant to be God. But at the root of every sin is our rebellious desire to possess attributes that belong to God alone. Calling us to embrace our limits as a means of glorifying God’s limitless power, Jen Wilkin invites us to celebrate the freedom that comes when we rest in letting God be God.


The chapters are easy to read, but they took a bit more time then usual for me.  There is a lot to absorb in each chapter and at the end, there are verses for meditation, questions for reflection and then a pray.  This is a “meaty” type of book and those are the books that I enjoy the most but they also take up a lot of my brain power:)  This is a great book to add to your library.

Please like either here, on facebook (thebarefoothomeschooler), pinterest (thebarefoothomeschooler AC), twitter (BarefootHSer) to be entered to win.  A winner will be drawn on May 13th!




Live Event on April 18:

We would encourage any bloggers in the Chicagoland area to mention this free

speaking event on April 18 if your open to plugging something early: Link

Amazon link for purchase


Here are the winner guidelines for you to use in 2016:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids Review



I received this book in order to review it for my readers. In doing so, the author has provided a discount code that can be used to purchase this book for 1/2 off.  The code is GREATKIDS16 and you can use it wherever this book is sold.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received this book.  I’m a mom of 7 and they range in age from 20-2, so I am always up for thoughts or suggestions to better my relationship with them and my parenting skills.  The first chapter caught my attention.  It is called “Control your Volume Knob.”  I might have chuckled at that title.  There were several key statements that I could relate too and utilize within my own parenting style.  Chapter 3, however, “Start with You” was an eye opener.  I think I underlined/highlighted most of that chapter because he is right, good parenting starts with the parents.  It is tough to parent in today’s world.  We often compare ourselves to other families or those “perfect” family images we see on facebook, instagram, or twitter.  It is time to stop comparing and start being present.

This book is not a hard read. There are chapters and about 5 sections within each chapter that are no more than a few pages long.  Those few short pages are crammed packed with ideas, thoughts, stories, and more.  At the end of the book, the author comprises a list of all of his “tips” that can be printed off, written on cardstock, or do with whatever you need.

I hope you utilize the coupon code GREATKIDS16 to get your copy of this book for 50% off.  This offer expires on May 15, 2016

A message from Dr. Todd Cartmell:

I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. We then moved to Columbus, OH, where I completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Wright State University at the Children’s Hospital. Since then, I have done my clinical work at Summit Clinical Services in Wheaton, IL, where I continue to see children, teens, and families on a full-time basis.

 I have written five parenting books (faith based), which you can learn more about on the Books page. I have presented many parenting workshops at mom’s conferences (Hearts at Home, MOPS International), MOPS groups, churches, and schools, which you can read about on the Workshop page. I have also recently developed a skill-building game for kids called The Flexible Thinking Game. 

In my free time, I enjoy doing anything with my wife, spending time with my boys whenever possible, reading, running, and playing jazz piano any chance I get. My Christian faith is an important part of my life and thinking, and I am continually thankful for God’s grace, of which I am an undeserving recipient. 


Official Website-

Dr. Todd Cartmell’s FB:

Free access to the HEARTS AT HOME “ESSENTIAL WORKSHOP COLLECTION FOR PARENTS” with every purchase: (so readers not only get 50% off with the coupon code at, but also get access to a slew of freebies).

“Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

So, I stumbled on this video.  I do not know anything about this woman, only that I loved her rendition of our national anthem she sang at the Super Bowl.  I don’t know why she wears such crazy clothes or does her makeup so out there.  Yet, I watched this video.  It is a video about rape or sexual assault that occurs on college campuses every day!  These statistics are horrifying!

  • It is estimated that the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions may be between 20% and 25% over the course of a college career.
  • Among college women, 9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.
  • Almost 12.8% of completed rapes, 35% of attempted rapes, and 22.9% of threatened rapes happened during a date.
  • 2.8% experienced either a completed rape (1.7%) or an attempted rape (1.1%) during the six-month period in which the study was conducted.  Of victims, 22.8% were victims of multiple rapes. If this data is calculated for a calendar year period, nearly 5% of college women are victimized during any given calendar year.
  • It is estimated that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.
  • Off-campus sexual victimization is much more common among college women than on-campus victimization.  Of victims of completed rape 33.7% were victimized on campus and 66.3% off campus.
  • Less than 5% of completed or attempted rapes against college women were reported to law enforcement.  However, in 2/3rds of the incidents the victim did tell another person, usually a friend, not family or school officials.


This video is graphic and young children should not watch it, but as a survivor and a mother of almost 2 college students who are daughters (I am NOT negating the rape of male students…it happens as well), I watched it.  I sat here, with tears streaming down my face at the pain and suffering these survivors deal with.  The shame that is put on them if they speak up.  The shame of people talking about it.  The shame of the thoughts of what could have been different and how, as a woman, you could have prevented it.  Shame.

As a survivor, I have felt worthless, unlovable, too scarred, too dirty, too messed up.  I never told anyone because I didn’t want to be ripped apart by an attorney or by this man’s family.  I was scared to tell my family because I was afraid they would not believe me.  I held onto this for YEARS.  I kept it buried deep within  myself and I carried that burden alone.  Jesus broke into my heart and revealed to me that I needed to release this pain to Him.  That He, alone, can carry my burden and allow me to heal from the inside out.

Let me just say this….NO MEANS NO!  No means no if it comes up in conversation.  No means no if you are alone with a man.  No means no if you are standing in front of a man completely naked and you change your mind NO MEANS NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I don’t care how you are dressed (or not dressed), I don’t care where you are, I don’t care how you are talking to someone…..NO MEANS NO. 

Moms of college aged kids, please tell your child!  If something has happened BELIEVE THEM.  Love them.  Encourage them.  Tell them they are still worthy. Tell them they are still beautiful.  Tell them that you love them.  Be the voice that they cannot be.  Stand in the gap.  Get your daughters mace.  Teach them some self defense moves.  Tell them to NEVER leave their drink unattended if they go somewhere.  Go places with a someone else to have another set of eyes.  Use wisdom!!!!!!!!!!!

This world we live in is ruled by the prince of this earth, satan.  He is seeking to steal, kill, and devour all that he can to cause chaos and pain.  We live in a fallen world full of evil.  Talk to your kids.  Talk to them.  If they have been sexually assaulted get them into counseling.  Listen.  Love.

If you have been a victim…let me empower you!  Beauty comes from ashes all the time because the prince may roam the earth but the KING IS STILL ON THE THRONE.  He is the ultimate Judge and Jury and He will protect you.  You are beautiful.  You are wonderfully created and made.  You are worthy.  You are loved.  You are no longer a victim, you are a SURVIVOR!  Your story, no matter your story, will be used for His glory.

The one thing I do regret, now that I’m older and have perspective and have learned to forgive, was that I did not tell my parents until I was well into my 30s.  They did not look at me like I was trash.  They did not judge me.  They did not tell me I was worthless or that I deserved it.  They loved me.  They held me.  They allowed me to cry and experience a wide range of emotions.  They have not one time ever let a judgmental word come out of their mouths.  They would have gone the extra 5000 miles to protect me and to see justice being served.  I simply didn’t tell them because I allowed my abuser to control my mind, as well. He had me so wrapped up in fear that I could not see straight.

Have I forgiven him?  Yes.  I have.  Have I used my story?  Yes, I have.  I will continue to use my story without using his name because, though what he did was INCREDIBLY WRONG and he deserved prison….I will not hurt his family…..they didn’t tell him to make this choice. They do not know about his choice and why spread pain when I can spread grace, mercy and forgiveness.  I never ever want to lay eyes on him again….like EVER but I have still chosen to forgive him. I have still chosen to use my story to help.

If you are a victim  SURVIVOR of sexual abuse or know someone who you suspect has been abused.  You can go to The RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) website or call their hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)

Please get help.  Please know your worth.  Please know it was not your fault.  Please talk to someone!

Here is the video.  Please know that it contains GRAPHIC content and should NOT be watched with young children.

Welcome My Guest Blogger: Callie and Read Her Lyme Story

Callie…..I met her parents before she was ever a speck in their eyes.  Her family and my family were neighbors and her mom, Lesley, and I were pregnant at the same time with the girls:)  It was lovely!  Callie was born a couple of weeks before my daughter, Victoria.  We raised our big girls together, so I’ve been blessed to know this family for over 20 years.  Please read the story that spurred on my desire to have this Lyme Disease Series.  I’m so proud of this young lady and her testimony is one that only God could orchestrate!  If you have ANY questions, please feel free to email me at and I will personally put you in touch with Lesley and she can share the details of how God chose an unconventional method to heal this sweet beauty of a crapola disease!


There’s No Suffering without Glory

Callie Emerson

I’m sure if you’ve been keeping up with the Lyme series on Brandi’s blog up to this point, you know quite a bit of my story and a significant amount of information about Chronic Lyme Disease. So while my blog post is going to be based on Lyme awareness and my personal battle with the disease, I’m hoping that the greater message that will come across is that no suffering occurs in vain when it is for the glory of God.

Before I delve into all of the medical mess, I want to give a little background information to those reading this. I grew up in a Christian home, and at age seven I knew that I was dearly loved by the Father, that I loved Him in return, and that I desperately wanted Jesus to rid me of my sin debt so I could spend my eternity with Him. I want to be clear, that I came to know Jesus as my Savior long before I had any medical issues.

My journey with Chronic Lyme Disease began in sixth grade when I began to faint at completely random times. I eventually reached the point where I was fainting roughly ten times a day. My symptoms only continued to increase from there. At age 13 my knee pain was so severe that I received steroid shots in both knees-and yes, shots in the knee are as awful as they sound. As I proceeded into eighth grade, my back, shoulder, and neck pain began to develop. By the end of my eight grade year my pain was so severe that I was physically incapable of opening my bottom locker, I relied on others to open my locker for me.

This next symptom, for me, is the hardest one to reflect upon. This is the point where I began to experience what I now know to be “Lyme rage”. During this time I was so unkind to my family, and even a couple of close friends. I don’t exaggerate when I say one of my family members could look at me, and I would begin to feel myself getting angry. I lived life in state of unjustified, uncontrollable anger. The worst part is that I could feel myself getting angry so I would try to assess why I was so mad, and even after I couldn’t find a single reason I found myself unable to stop the anger from welling up inside of me. Needless to say, my family is a really fantastic group of people for not only dealing with me during this time, but continually showing me grace and love.

At this point I was angry, sore, and dizzy. I continued on and my symptoms grew worse and I continued to be given misdiagnoses and pills. Luckily I have a really awesome mom who went above and beyond for four years, ignoring ten misinformed doctors to find the only Chronic Lyme Disease expert in the area. We found this doctor sometime around my sophomore year of high school. I’m not sure if anyone picked up on this idea from my mom’s post, but GOD’S TIMING IS PERFECT. Right before we discovered this doctor, I went to church camp. While I know it’s super cheesy, going to camp allowed me a much needed break from distractions and afforded me the opportunity to learn what it actually meant to be a Christian. You’re probably thinking that you haven’t heard much about my walk with Christ until just now-and you’re right. That’s because at age seven, most of us aren’t dwelling in sin that requires us to make an extreme life change. In fact, I made no changes at all as the years passed and my spiritual growth was completely stagnant. Fortunately attending camp presented the Spirit with an opportunity to convict me while I wasn’t distracted by soccer, school, or being sick. I became aware that I behaved well and made good choices because I have strict parents and that’s how they raised me to act, not because I was trying to live a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). My eyes were opened to what being a Christian actually entailed as well as actually believing that He had a plan for my illness. Up until this point when I asked I would half-heartedly respond that God had a plan for it. After learning what it meant to really follow and pursue Christ, I was finally able to fully grasp the concept that I was enduring this trial for a purpose.

God blessed me by allowing me to understand that He had a plan for this illness right before I entered into the most difficult time in my life. I can never communicate how gracious He is for doing so, this enabled to rely on Him wholly during this time. My physical difficulties began when I started taking some very strong oral antibiotics to fight off the Lyme. I reached the point where I was taking roughly 15 pills a day. During Lyme treatment with antibiotics your body can respond in weird ways, and oftentimes you have to go through phases of feeling worse before you can feel any better. For me this meant I would wake up for school in the morning and be unable sit up. I’m not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t move. There would be days that I would make it to school, but I would be sitting in my desk and I would be in so much pain that I would be on the verge of tears or would literally be unable to hold my head up without using my hands because of how badly my neck hurt. Because of how many and how strong the pills were that I was taking, I really struggled to keep anything down. I threw up almost daily-which defeated the purpose of taking the pills. Because I couldn’t keep all of the pills down, my doctor decided to pursue a different route.

This was the time in my life that I ended up getting two PICC lines. PICC lines are inserted into your arm and run through your vein, all the way to your heart. This allows IV medicine to be dropped directly into your heart so that it can reach your entire body much faster. As much fun as this sounds already, the entire process can became twice as great as my body began responding to the medicine. Random parts of my body would go numb, as much one entire side of my body would lose all feeling. I would also start shaking uncontrollably. At this point Lyme rage was taken over by random crying. I am completely serious when I say that I would be bawling, but telling my parents that I wasn’t sure why I was crying. While switching to IV antibiotics prevented me from throwing up medicine, the antibiotics were still so strong that I continued to get sick regularly. During the really rough times I typically ran a fever of 103°F. All of the physical turmoil the antibiotics put me through left me overly weak. I had to sleep on an air mattress in our living room because it was too difficult for me to walk from my room to the bathroom. My mom even had to sleep next to me on the couch because it was unsafe for me to be left alone all throughout the night. Because of this I missed 50 days of school from August to December of my senior year.

During this time we began to notice a pattern with my body’s response to antibiotics, after about two weeks I would become allergic and I would need to switch medicines. This happened with roughly five different medications. Eventually I ran out of possible medicines to use to treat Lyme. While contemplating our PICC line options, my PICC line got clogged. For PICC line users clogs, infections, and blood clots will force you to remove your line…so at the time this clog was a big deal. We were able to go to the ER and have it unclogged. In hindsight, the clog was more than likely God’s kind way of telling me to take it out. So naturally my skills of perception were not up to par and missed this, even after 5 failed medications and a clog. The night after I got my PICC line unclogged I ended up getting a blood clot and spending a week in the hospital. The PICC line was removed and my mom and I had no idea what type of treatment to pursue next, we felt as if we had exhausted all of our options.

After a lot of prayer, God led us to a small homeopathic clinic that is about 12 hours away from our home in good ‘ole western Kentucky. I will not delve into the details of the treatment that I received because you can receive that information by contacting my mom or me, but I will tell you that after only three days I was feeling better than I had in years. Total healing continues for several years after the initial treatment, and two years later I am still continually improving and adjusting to life as a healthy college student.

Fairly often, well-meaning friends will ask about my experience with Lyme and say, “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible! I bet you wish you had found that homeopathic clinic sooner.” or “I bet you wish you could erase that from your past.” My answer is always no. I don’t answer this way because I am trying to get attention or appear more “religious”, I answer the way I do because without this season of sickness and trial in my life, I would be a vastly different person. This time of suffering and trial made it very clear that God was directing me towards a specific profession in order to carry out His will. How many 18 year-olds are able to confidently say that they know what profession they want to pursue? I also cannot stress enough how pivotal of a rule this illness played in not only becoming the person that I am today, but becoming so firmly rooted in my relationship with Jesus. I’ve thought about where my walk with Christ would be without those six years several times and every single time I end up thinking the same thing: thank goodness I was sick. God was able to use something so dark to shed light into my life and draw me near to Himself. While I was also awakened to the profession I need to pursue in order to bring Him glory, my time of sickness allowed for me to see how I can use this experience to glorify Him and bring healing to others even before I’ve attended graduate school. Which is why I agreed to write this for Brandi’s blog. God has used my mom and I to personally share healing and the gospel with over 300 people in the US, Canada, and Norway. So while I do want you to come away from this post with new knowledge about Chronic Lyme Disease, I want you to be more impacted by the idea that whatever hardships you encounter can be used to bring God glory and reveal a purpose for your life that is far beyond what you could have ever conceived.