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Shop the Lyme gift guide for apparel & accessories that spread hope & awareness! Click for more.

A Lyme Support & Awareness Gift Guide

Today I am beyond excited to share the creative work of some of the most fierce and lovely ladies I’ve been lucky enough to “meet” in the Lyme community. Their stories, talents, and vision all funnel toward the same positive message. And it is one of hope, courage, and compassion.

The wonder of the internet is that though I’ve never sat down and had coffee with any of these ladies, they’ve each had an impact on me. As they’ve shared their healing journeys and creative work, their strength and light have inspired and challenged me in some of the moments I needed it most. And I’m thrilled to share some love for them and their amazing talent here in this Lyme gift guide!

I’ve asked each of them to share a look at what led them to create their pieces, so enjoy hearing from the creators themselves!

Lauren Lovejoy
Lyme Warrior

Lyme Warrior Lyme Won't Sink Me V Neck and Warrior Bracelet

Lyme Warrior is a group of volunteers raising funds for Lyme research. With Lyme Disease being widely disregarded by the medical field, it is up to us to find a cure. It is one thing to fight for what’s right, but it takes amazing people to fight for what’s right while fighting Lyme.

You can find the Lyme Warrior shop here!

Melissa Cox
Lyme Don’t Kill My Vibe

Lyme Don't Kill My Vibe Unisex Tee and Flowy Yoga Tank

As an extension of my blog, Lipstick Warpaint, I created #LymeDontKillMyVibe, a hashtag primarily used on Instagram to spread positivity and awareness surrounding Lyme and associated conditions. The original design + slogan was created in 2014 almost 1 year after I was diagnosed with Lyme. At that time, there were very limited Lyme awareness apparel options that felt truly empowering.

I’m a huge hip hop fan and the slogan just came to me one day while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s “B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe” back in 2013. It became a near-daily mantra, and one day I decided THIS needs to be a thing. I now have a second edition design which was created in December 2016 with the help of my Lyme fightin’ entrepreneur friend Elise Graham. What I love most about Lyme Don’t Kill My Vibe is it encompasses both strength and community. There are over 25,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag alone, and it feels like such a positive step toward reclaiming what healing means.

You can purchase them (with new items being added this summer!) at Lipstickwarpaint.org/shop or find me on Etsy

Kerissa B.
Tx Stitch

Lyme Disease Sucks Pin by TX Stitch

I never really felt like I was a creative person before Lyme. There’s something about being forced to be in bed that made my hands feel idle. I started cross stitching and created an Etsy shop and slowly expanded to have exactly 1 patch and 1 pin. I wanted to create something Lyme related that was simple but really told people that it’s not a great thing to have. Thus, the pin was born.

Kacie Fleming
Katya Valera Jewelry

Katya Valera Jewelry Rising Above Lyme Bar Necklace & Frame Necklace Collection

I’d been a fan of Kami’s RAL (Rising Above Lyme) phrase and shirt line since she first released the shirts a while back. Being the spontaneous creative that I am, the idea of collaborating with her for some RAL jewelry flashed through my brain one day, and I jumped right in and contacted her with my idea. Thankfully she loved it, and thus began a good couple months of planning and work!

Originally I envisioned frame necklaces that feature text images designed by Kami, and then I developed the idea for a piece that visually represents the phrase—the bar necklace. We then added a minimalist, very lime wedge-style piece, and the collection was complete. I’m so grateful to have gotten to work with Kami on this collection and to be able to help inspire and encourage others who are on a similar journey.

Shop Katya Valera here!

Chloe O’Neill
More Than Lyme

More Than Lyme Keep on Keepin' On Tee and Canvas Tote

No matter where you are right now, know that you are enough. No matter how scared you feel, know that you are not alone. No matter how often you feel like giving up, remember that you are strong enough to have made it this far, so why not choose to keep on keepin’ on?

Why not take all the adventures you’ve gone on, mishaps you’ve had, and pain you endured, and use them to create a full and happy life for yourself? A life where no matter how hard things have been, or are going to be, you know that tomorrow will be worth it. You know that you are worth it.

You know that you are enough.

Regardless of where you’re at, what you’re doing, or how you feel, remember that you’re more than your doubts, your fears, and illness that hides beneath your skin.

Click to shop MTL! A code that people can use for 15% off is SHAREYOURSTORY. 

Kami Lingren
Rising Above Lyme

Rising Above Lyme Tee and Graceful & Fierce Tank from Living Grace Shop. Click to shop!

Hey, that’s me! 😉 Last year I had the phrase “Rising Above Lyme” on repeat in the back of my mind. Partly because I think it’s so easy to find ourselves consumed by our health challenges. And understandably so. But I didn’t want my story to be solely defined as “sick”. So I created a shirt that would remind me that my life’s purpose and worth are not defined by my circumstances. Rather, by my conscious effort to engage my life in spite of them. And I wanted the message to inspire and validate others who were fiercely healing as well!

This year I added the Graceful and Fierce design, which I feel resonates so deeply with the essence I strive for. To fiercely love, heal, advocate and show compassion, but to also be gentle with ourselves and others as we live, learn and heal. And what a beautiful thing it is to embrace both in our lives.

You can find the entire Living Grace collection hereAnd use code RISING this month for 15% off your order!

Have you been dreaming of creating something to help raise awareness and hope? I hope this Lyme gift guide inspires you to embrace that dream and make it a reality!

Lyme Creatives Gift Guide for spreading Lyme disease awareness and support! Click to shop items created BY women healing from Lyme FOR others also healing!
Lyme Awareness Wear: Gifts and Apparel for those healing from Lyme Disease. Click to check out all of these amazing creatives!

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Chronic Illness has a way of turning every day tasks upside down. I've set out on a mission to find items that will help make my life, and even pain management, at least a bit easier. Click to read more about my top 5 favorite gadgets for making the day to day of illness more manageable.

5 Useful Gadgets That Actually Make A Difference For Me

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Your purchases through these links help keep this blog running, so thank you!*

Chronic illness has single-handedly turned my health and day-to-day into a jigsaw puzzle. From navigating all my symptoms to pain management, life looks much different for me these last few years.

Normal things that I used to never think twice about, I have to plan for (or around) in order to make them possible. A myriad of other adjustments have had to happen.

I subconsciously (and sometimes vocally…color me weird) ask myself questions that I never did before. “Can I load the dishwasher today?” “How much will my body have to pay for taking a shower right now…can I still make dinner after?”

Some symptoms are harder to manage than others. Managing pain can often feel like playing hide and seek with a ghost. Fatigue is another beast that’s really hard to wrangle.

But for some of my symptoms, I’ve found tools – aids, if you will – that make my life just a bit easier. And that little bit means a whole lot to this girl! From saving me effort to supporting me (literally), these have become my must-haves for navigating my day-to-day. All while living with a list of diagnoses I’m working hard to heal.

Update: I’ve actually been able to stop using some of these wonderful aides after starting a program called DNRS that has helped me begin to heal! You can catch up here.

Slim-Fit Earplugs

Do you suffer from sound sensitivity? These slim fit earplugs have been a godsend for me! Super soft and comfortable on sensitive skin, too. Click to read more about these and other handy gadgets I use to help me navigate chronic pain and symptoms!

One of my top 5 most debilitating symptoms might surprise the healthy, but for those who live with sensitivities YOU FEEL ME. I’m not talking about emotional sensitivities, but sensory. I’m highly sensitive to noises, some triggering me more than others.

The simple sound of plastic crumpling, glasses tinking, or the faucet running, for instance feels like someone is taking a bristled bottle brush, adding electricity and shoving it through both ears. Yeah, it’s fun. With continued healing I’m confident this symptom will get better, but for now: earplugs are a must!

These slim-fit earplugs by Mack were recommended to me by a dear friend who uses them for the same purpose. And boy are they a godsend! They’re smaller than regular earplugs which makes them more comfortable for me. The set of 10 even comes with a travel tube so I can always have them on hand and easy to find in my bag!

Neck pillow

A couple of years ago I noticed that my head and neck pain would consistently rise in the car. Once I realized how much having neck support would help, Trev picked up a basic neck pillow for me. I was amazed at the difference it made!

As with anything I’ve purchased to help me manage my day-to-day, this doesn’t remove my pain, but it makes riding in the car more manageable. Even short rides used to spike my pain more than they do now that I have that bit of support.

I actually attach my neck pillow to our headrest in the passenger seat by turning it backwards and “hugging” the top portion. Not all seats will allow this, but thankfully the design of ours does. It feels more comfortable to me that way.

Walking Cane

Healing with a chronic illness looks different for every person and every illness. But through the process of healing and treating, we can find ways to offer support and relief to our overwhelmed bodies. Click here to check out my top 5 tools that have made a difference for me!

 

If you follow me here or on social media you may already know this, but I like to name things. My oxygen concentrator is formally known as O2D2 (I grew up watching Star Wars with my siblings, can you tell?). So I couldn’t help myself to name my cane Hugo. It was easy since his tag said so.

My husband suggested I get one that had more than one pod on the bottom for extra stability since my balance varies from day to day. And, as he would smile and tell you – I wasn’t thrilled with that idea. Oh vanity. As if four prongs somehow makes my cane more noticeable. 😉

I found this one and thought it was a perfect fit. And after using it for over six months now I can say I’m so happy I went for the quadpod version. It gets a good grip on the surface and the handle has enough traction that your hand is not likely to slip. I even used it in a snow-packed icy parking lot recently, while also being supported by Trev on the other side and it worked really well supporting my weak side.

Pill Organizer

This is, by far, the BEST pill organizer out there. Each day's doses are in individual containers which makes it easy to grab and go to doctor's appointments, meals out, and a day or two of travel. Soft silicone lids make for easy opening on arthritic hands. Click to read more about this and 4 other handy gadgets that have actually helped me LIVE, even if in small ways, in spite of chronic illness.

Okay, I’ve been raving about this since I bought it so I HAD to include it here. I saw someone share the link for it in one of my Lyme support groups and I loved it at first sight. I’m a romantic, after all.

Why was I willing to drop $35 for a pill organizer, you ask? Because I was confident it would make my pill routine easier. From accidental missed doses, to opening pill bottles every day with sensitive hands, to packing meds for travel – I saw this as a huge help. And it has been just that.

Its soft silicone lids make it ultra easy for opening and the ‘x’ opening easy for sliding in each day’s supplements. My hands are so much happier! Not to mention individual containers make for easy access when you have a meal you’re eating out or a day or two of travel. Since I’ve already sorted out the week’s doses, it’s just grab and go! This had made for less occurrences of late or missed doses which is always a positive.

Motion Sickness Bands

For a year and a half, nausea was a frequent – if not constant – companion to me on this healing road. I’ve always had motion sickness, but this was different. And it grew worse when coupled with driving.

I always ride in the front seat and I’m pretty cautious about anyone else driving besides Trev because of how sensitive my bod is. He’s the only one who knows just how fast things can turn for me.

Motion sickness bands like these made by Sea Band have actually helped this for me. It took me a bit to figure out the right spot for the pressure point, but once I did I noticed a difference. You do need to put them on at the start of the car ride, I’ve learned – and adjust them if you’re not feeling the benefit.

Be gentle with yourself.

In the chronic life there are many things we can’t change immediately. Healing that doesn’t come overnight. But if we can take even a bit of the burden off by making a few aspects lighter, why not?!

You’ve just heard my top 5 current faves for navigating my day-to-day symptoms so now I want to hear yours! What is your favorite(s) pain/symptom/make life easier gadget?? Let me know in the comments!

Have you snagged your copy of the FIVE gifts to give yourself when going through a hard time? Be sure to download yours here.

These 5 gadgets were my go-tos in moments I needed them most. From pain management to coping with symptoms, these tools were so helpful to me! Click to read the full list.

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Enter to win this Holiday Prize Pack on Living Grace Blog!

A Living Grace Christmas Giveaway!!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. But don’t worry, it’s at no additional cost to you!*

This giveaway has ended.

If there’s anything we can all agree on, perhaps it’s that giveaways are so-stinkin-fun. Amiright?!

The excitement. The anticipation. All of the FEELS!

(Can you tell I don’t get out much?)

I have been hoping these past few months that I’d be able to offer something this Christmas season for all of you readers to have a chance at winning. So many of you face your own battle with chronic illness, and many more may be navigating their own hard circumstances as we enter this next holiday.

We have connected here on the blog and on social media and your support has been such a gift to me this year. Without you, this blog would just be me writing words out into nothingness…so I truly value you being here!

Which makes me extra-very-excited and grateful to announce (as if you didn’t already read the title of this post, ahem) that I have rounded up a prize pack to send some Christmas cheer to one lucky winner!

[Insert me throwing sparkly garland around the room. It sounded festive.]

So what do we have for you, sweetums? Well let me just show you!

Enter to WIN this Christmas prize pack from Living Grace Blog!

The winner will receive:

  • One (1) Rising Above tee (your choice of Rising Above or Rising Above Lyme), designed by yours truly! (worth $19)
  • 10 Handcrafted Christmas Gift Tags from my retired craft shop ($7 value)
  • One (1) set of Holiday Cheer nail wraps by Jamberry ($15 value)
  • $15 Gift Certificate to my shop Eight Fourteen Designs

This makes for a total prize pack value of $56! All for one of YOU. For FREE. Are you excited yet?!?!

Here’s a little closer look at each item you will win:

Rising Above or Rising Above Lyme Tee

I first shared the story of this cozy American Apparel printed tee with you last month. In short, Rising Above Lyme reminds me that my value, talents, and purpose make up more of me than my illness. It represents the small and not-so-small ways that we dig deeper, find meaning, and look for the beauty in spite of the hard.


Rising Above in and of itself calls us to grab hold of the values that take us beyond the things that threaten to hold us down, the things that divide instead of unite. It gently brings us above hate, above greed, above discrimination. And into the freedom of kindness, compassion, and community.

These tees are fitted, so if you like a slightly looser fit (like me) you’ll want to size up. I typically wear XS/S and the one you see me wearing from time to time is a medium. There’s also a design available that’s a relaxed fit style by Anvil if you prefer that!

10 Handcrafted Christmas Gift Tags

A couple of years ago I was working my little hands like a madwoman, crafting handmade greeting cards and gift tags to sell on Etsy. I have taken an extended break from making and selling these, but I do have these beauties from my inventory just waiting to don your packages with cutesy little reindeer this Christmas!

Holiday Cheer Wraps by Jamberry

Aren’t these nail wraps so pretty?! They’d make such a lovely Christmas mixed-mani to wear this year and you can apply them yourself at home – all you need is a blow dryer! They have a beautiful sparkle to them in person.

Check out this Holiday Giveaway on Living Grace Blog!

This sheet of nail wraps includes enough wraps to give you 2 manicures and 2 pedicures, so you could even apply these with a friend or sis to be twinsies! 😉 A built-in friend date.

$15 Gift Certificate to Eight Fourteen Designs

If you like art prints and/or changing up your decor, my shop has a variety of creatively designed printables that are super easy  to download and print at home! They also make great, affordable DIY gifts for Christmas. With your gift certificate you’d be able to score 3 designs!

Win a Gift Certificate to Eight Fourteen Designs so you can get this print for free! Enter the giveaway at livinggraceblog.com - Ends 12/16/16
OR if you need help with business/blog design, I also offer that as well. My premade designs are a great, affordable option for giving your brand a new look (which you could get for FREE with the $15 certificate). Or we can start with a custom package to craft something that’s uniquely yours!

Looking for an affordable face lift for your blog or business? Check out these creative premade blog headers and logo designs at Eight Fourteen Designs!

The giveaway ends on 12/16/16 and you can earn up to six entries today and come back to earn one additional entry daily until it closes! So if you’re committed to getting all TEN entries, be sure to bookmark this page. 😉

A little shout-out to my readers that live outside the United States: I really wish I could open this internationally, but just don’t have the budget to do so this year. I’m planning to have one that’s for everyone in the coming months, though! Be on the lookout, dear ones. <3

Here are the deets for entering….

We have a winner! Congrats, Carrie! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you looking for a professional business logo at an affordable cost? Check out the premade section at Eight Fourteen Designs! "Creative designs for your blog, shop and home!"

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There is so much beauty in giving gifts that are handmade by small business. This network of shoppers is near and dear to my heart as each shop owner lives with a chronic illness. So inspiring!

Christmas With Conscious Crafties

 

There are several camps of Christmas shoppers, I’ve decided. There’s the uber planner who is done before Thanksgiving. The last minute, week of Christmas shopper. The gradual/early December shopper. And probably more.

I feel like I gravitate toward the gradual/early December category, but honestly? I can be as last minute as they come. (face palm) But for the ones still working on their shopping, I thought I’d share some opportunities for us to support other chronically ill business owners this season!

Today’s feature is this month’s installment of the Behind the Maker series on the blog: Conscious Crafties. You may have noticed their banner off to the side if you read my blog from a computer/laptop. 🙂

Proud Supporter of Conscious Crafties - banner

Conscious Crafties is an online marketplace where the chronically ill can sell their handmade goods and have the support of other chronic creatives. It’s a worldwide platform with many shops based out of the United Kingdom, but more shops popping up in the U.S. and beyond as they grow!

You’ll find a wide variety of items available, from jewelry and handmade clothing accessories to home decor and so much more. It’s a beautiful collision of all things creative!

It was started by the lovely Karen Thomas, who herself has been battling illness since 2011. She created this space in an effort to bring purpose to the lives of the chronically ill and I dare say she’s doing a stand up job of that!

I connected with her this year through the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network and knew I wanted to spread the word of what she and this fabulous marketplace are doing. And I had an inkling my readers would welcome it with open arms, because, well – you’re amazing!

So I thought I’d highlight a few things that caught my eye!

Gutsy Goodness

A look inside the shops at Conscious Crafties: An online marketplace for chronically ill creatives!

These necklaces are from the shop Gutsy Goodness and are handmade by Lisa Copen. When I saw her shop I realized I was familiar with her face! I somehow stumbled upon her Facebook page a couple years ago and that was one of my first connections with other chronically ill women. I was so grateful for it!

A look behind a shop of Conscious Crafties, a marketplace for the chronically ill handmade shops!

Here’s a little snippet of Lisa’s story from her shop:

“I have always been drawn to creating something with my hands and writing. Ironically my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis set the stage for narrowing my focus. I was diagnosed at the age of 24 in 1993, and out of that came my organization, Rest Ministries, a faith-based support 501(c)3 nonprofit. This gave me the chance to become an author, speaker, and I also began a national outreach through Invisible Illness Awareness Week in 2002.”

Mandi Moo Logos

Aren't these towels from Mandi Moo Logos adorable? See more items from the online marketplace, Conscious Crafties!

Follow Amanda’s shop on Facebook.

Amanda Bardgett’s shop focuses on embroidery and her pieces are amazing. Are these towels not the absolute cutest little things ever?! The embroidery on these towels is just beautiful. I’ve decided those robins can visit me anything they want! 😉

And these baby gingerbread men get all the heart eyes from me – SO CUTE!

Beautiful embroidery work by Amanda Bardgett's shop Mandi Moo Logos are so beautiful!

A little bit of Amanda’s story:

“For a long time I had thought about running my own business, but just didn’t know what to do. One day Mum saw and advert for a embroidery machine, ‘you could do that!’ she said. So, along came this huge machine which initially I was terrified of! Eventually after several months I braved it and in January of this year (2016) I jumped in.”

So glad you did, Amanda!

Everybody Should Feel Beautiful By Lea

This gorgeous Aquamarine and Sterling Silver necklace is handmade with care by a Conscious Crafty! Visit Lea's shop to find more beautiful items!

Who wouldn’t be able to get on board with Lea’s shop name?! Everyone should feel beautiful. I love the choice of aquamarine in this gorgeous sterling silver necklace. It’s somehow both bold and delicate, all at the same time.

Looking for a gift for the daring dreamer in your life? This unicorn pendant handmade by Lea's shop Everyone Should Feel Beautiful is a gorgeous idea!

Her shop carries gorgeous rings, earrings and necklaces that fit a variety of styles that are sure to brighten someone’s Christmas morning. Like this unicorn pendant and chain! Pretty sure my unicorn leggings would approve.

Spoon Lady Smile Shop


This shop is one I wanted to highlight. Are you familiar with the Spoon Theory? If not you can read more about it here. The author of the Spoon Theory, Christine Miserandino has been dealt an incredibly hard hand this year and this shop was set up by the Conscious Crafties to contribute to her fundraiser. Each item listed in the shop has been donated and the proceeds will go toward her surgery and treatment fund.

Visit Conscious Crafties to support chronically ill Handmade shops!

Isn’t this embroidered snowman cosmetic bag donated by Julie Vale’s shop so adorable?!  You can snatch this cutie up for yourself or a friend here. Julie’s shop carries cosmetic bags and adorably embroidered water bottle cozies.

Support handmade by purchasing from Paprika Jewelry at Conscious Crafties!

 

Laura McKee donated this vintage style butterfly box for the Smile Shop which has been lined with felt for safekeeping of your jewelry or trinkets. Her shop, Paprika Jewelry & Accessories, carries hand crafted jewelry, brooches, cards and more!

The Spoon Lady Smile Shop is a great place to start if you’re wanting to purchase some gifts for Christmas! Not only will you feel great supporting handmade work, but you’ll be directly helping another illness warrior in their fight.

There are TONS of other shops on Conscious Crafties and they’re loaded to the brim with items to browse and purchase for your Christmas gifts this year! If you find something in the marketplace that we just NEED to know about, be sure to let us know in the comments!

Looking to open your own shop on Conscious Crafties? You can read up on the process here.

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Are you facing a tough time? This resource was created with you in mind. To encourage and equip you with 3 essential tools to help you through. Download your free copy at livinggraceblog.com!

3 Gifts to Embrace In Tough Times

 

If there’s anything that’s a given in life, it’s that struggle is guaranteed.

In some capacity, we know that we we’ll face hardship, pain, and loss. That things won’t always be easy, happy or sunny. We’ll likely experience what it’s like to feel lonely in a crowded room. Or frustrated with a lack of understanding.

Throughout these last few years of my life I have struggled in ways I can’t fully put words to. And in the midst of the ache for normalcy or relief, I have had to fight hard for survival. Literally. Doing whatever I can to stay alive as a disease makes it’s brutal, destructive way through my body.

Illness has been the label I’ve commonly used to describe my greatest struggle. But it’s so much more than that. I’m not only fighting sickness, but I’ve been fighting for light. Reaching and stretching for any gift of beauty to carry me to the next day or week or year.

My wrestling has also been with grief. Grief over the loss of normalcy sickness has stripped me of and grief over the loss of our unborn babe. Sadness over relationships that not-so-subtly vanished.

The truth behind struggles of any kind? It’s that there’s a process to healing that is uniquely our own. A reality that our pain is not a fleeting feeling. That it’s valid and real. One person’s timeline may be far different than the next’s.

For healing isn’t a linear process.

There isn’t a one-and-done formula that will get every one of us from point A to point B. Which is what we tend to want or idolize in our culture, right? To just “get this healing over with already.” Microwave healing, if you will.

Or at least that’s what we sense from the outside. Those watching our struggle, pain or grief can often get uncomfortable with the process. Or, better yet, the timeline of our healing.

But you know what I want to say to you today, my friend?

I want to say this: their discomfort is not your problem. And their need for you to rush things or pretend the brokenness or pain isn’t there? Also not your problem or responsibility.

Your job in healing, your only job, is to care for your weary soul.

Going through a hard time? Get this free resource: 3 Graces to Give Yourself In Tough Times. Encouragement for the weary soul. <3

This is something that has been stirring deep in the achy corners of my heart since the worst of Lyme hit. This truth that there are three essential graces I NEED to give myself in this process of healing.

Because life doesn’t pause.

Suffering continues. Some people show up while others step out. New challenges arise. Expectations are spoken over us telling us we’re “doing it all wrong.”

Sweet friend, can we take a beat to sit on my virtual couch for a minute and just breathe?

Listen, if you’re hurting, I want you to know your pain is valid. If you’ve been holding back tears, perhaps it’s time to let them fall.

Healing is not a switch to be flipped. Rather, it’s a process. And it’s not easy. So I want to share with you these three gifts I’ve learned to embrace, to give myself, in these last few years of struggle.

They’re simple, yet powerful reminders that I’ve learned along the way and I believe they’re essential tools for facing tough times. It’s my gift to you, in the spirit of thanks and giving.

If you’d like to download this FREE resource, just click here

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Mrs. Sew and Sew FREE Handbag Giveaway!! Enter by 9/7/16 for your chance to win this beautiful fabric handbag!

My New Favorite Bag in Chronic Illness

For many of us in chronic illness, our bodies change a lot. From weight issues, effects on our cognition or physical sensitivities, a myriad of foreign symptoms – it can be difficult to find solutions for the many new problems that arise.

One of my constant issues is how physically sensitive I’ve become. I am sensitive to touch, light, sounds, and the list goes on. Over the last three years one of the solutions I had to embrace was a lighter, smaller handbag. Larger bags had become far too painful to carry, even if they barely had anything in them.

These lightweight fabric handbags are perfect for those with physical sensitivities in chronic illness! It's become my go-to bag! Enter to win this giveaway by 9/7/16!
Fabric Handbag Giveaway: Front Zipper

Recently my mother-in-law began sewing these adorable handmade fabric bags. And the one she gave me has quickly become my favorite bag! It’s lightweight, fits just enough of my personal necessities, and the mixed prints are cute and stylish.

Earlier this summer I offered to help her set up an Etsy shop and I’m so excited to say she accepted! We’ve worked hard to get everything ready and today is finally her SHOP OPENING!

Even better? She’s hosting a giveaway of one of her handmade bags and I wanted you all to have an opportunity to win! Mine looks almost identical to this bag she’s giving away:

Fabric Handbag Giveaway: Back Pocket (Passport not included, in case you were wondering.)

Just in case there is any confusion: you do NOT have to be chronically ill to enter this giveaway! It is open to everyone, as long as you meet the requirements listed below.

Mrs. Sew & Sew Giveaway

BEGINS:  Today, September 5th, 2016!
ENDS: Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.

Terms & Conditions:

  • No purchase is necessary.
  • This is a FREE giveaway! Shipping is included.
  • Must live in the US and be 18 years or older to enter. (So sorry, international friends!)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on or after September 8th and contacted via email. The winner will have 48 hrs to claim their prize, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
  • Prize is not transferable.
  • The prize (pictured handbag) will be shipped out within 1 week of the winner claiming their prize.

To enter to win, click below and follow the instructions to earn up to 6 entries in the giveaway! And feel free to share this with your friends 🙂

—-> Enter the Giveaway <—-

To find Mrs. Sew and Sew By Joyce:

Shop | Facebook | Twitter

What are your favorite tools that help you cope with your illness?

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Behind the Maker: Meet the owner of TrendyStop. Hannah's story is sure to inspire. As someone who has faced many challenges with her health, her spirit of determination and her passion for creativity shine through her handmade items featured in her shop!

Making in Illness: Hannah from TrendyStop (+ Special Offer!)

Last month I began this new series and I couldn’t be more excited about it! I’m loving getting to know each of these shop owners. And it’s such a special thing to then be able to share their stories and creations with you!

Today’s guest is Hannah Moore. She and I connected on Instagram over our shared struggle of Lyme and an all-too-similar ache for motherhood. Beyond her strong spirit in her fight against Lyme and other illnesses, the amount of creativity and beauty she’s put into her shop will impress anyone!

Before I introduce her I just have to show you the items that Hannah sent my way to try out. YOU GUYS. This scarf!! That wristlet! I wore the scarf for the first time on our recent trip to the coast and I’m in love.

 

An Interview with Hannah Moore: Owner of TrendyStop! Handmade Scarves, Wristlets and More!

 

Behind the Maker: An interview with Hannah Moore, owner of TrendyStop

 

Now for the BEST part of this post:

Get to know Hannah

 

Meet Hannah Moore: Maker of Handmade Scarves, Head Wraps

 

Connect with Hannah on Facebook | Instagram

A few of Hannah’s faves:

Favorite Motto: “If you’re going through hell, just keep going.”

Favorite Food: I lucked out and married a man who loves grilling, so I have gotten quite attached to his phenomenal steaks on the grill. Cheesy potato casserole to go with, and I’m a happy lady.

Favorite TV to Watch: I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch a LOT of tv, with most of my true favorites being reality shows. Human behavior has always fascinated me. However, I’d choose a football game (specifically my GB Packers) over any show, any day!

Where are you from?

I was born and raised near Milwaukee, WI. I lived in Minneapolis for a few years around college, but came back to Wisconsin. I moved up “north” to Oshkosh when I got married, and have grown content with a slightly slower pace of life, and the lack of traffic!

Can you tell me about your family?

My family and husband are my world. We are a tight group with a tremendous amount of love for each other. I’m the oldest, with a young sister and then brother. We all work hard on bettering ourselves, supporting each other, having a lot of laughs, and enjoying the little things together.

When were you first diagnosed with your chronic illness? What effects has your illness had on your life?

I’ve had a weak immune system since I was young. I became a restaurant manager at 23 and saw a desirable future in front of me for the first time in my life. Things were going really great and I was getting awesome opportunities and feedback.

Then I started going downhill in the health department. I pushed for another year, but finally couldn’t even get out of bed. I had to give up my job in early 2010 and lost most of myself in the process.

I saw some improvements as I began with a holistic doctor, but became drastically worse on my honeymoon in 2012. In early 2014, after getting laughed out of many offices, I found a doctor that knew to look for chronic Lyme. He ordered tests and started my early treatment.

A Look Behind Trendy Stop: Handmade scarves, pacifier clips, head wraps and more! Meet Hannah's story of fighting chronic illness and running her own handmade shop!

Three years later, I’ve switched doctors and treatments several times, but I am so thankful to have fantastic help now. I will likely be done with treatment in a few months, and almost all of my symptoms are gone.

It’s been brutal to lose my personality, ability to be active, annoying friends when needing to cancel plans, and missing lots of fun events, to name a few. The most painful aspect has been having to put my deep desire for motherhood on hold. I’ve always felt that is my one real purpose in life, but I’ve been too terrified to pass on the Lyme. My husband has been the most patient man, my rock and my happy place. I will never take that for granted!

What inspired you to open TrendyStop? How did you decide on what products you wanted to create?

I was living in Maryland with my husband for his job, and I was barely functional and bored. I’d grown up sewing, thanks to my professional seamstress Grandma and experienced Mom. I knew I remembered the basics and wanted to make a few infinity scarves for myself, so I ordered up a miniature machine.

I threw up a few photos on Facebook and was surprised at the response. I’ve wanted to have my own business since I was pretty young, so I combined the two concepts and put my heart into making it a success. I have a lot of awesome supporters who helped me take off, and a couple ladies who mentored me along the way.

Check out TrendyStop: The place to shop for handmade scarves, head wraps, pacificer clips and baby & kid scarves!

As the seasons change, I try to come up with other items that will sell in the warmer weather, but I always focus on keeping my items fashionable and leaning towards the practical side. Customer service, creativity and working with my hands have always been where I thrive, so I absolutely love that this business combines all of those and more! Having this purpose the last few years has gotten me through the many hard days, and it always puts a smile on my face to see a positive review.

How do you manage running a shop while fighting illness? Do you have others who help you?

My orders and business averages out to a part time job, so it ends up being pretty flexible for me to be able to work on tasks when I have better hours and/or days. Once I started though, I found that working with my hands always makes me feel better, so it’s been healing.

My husband assists me at craft fairs and hangs out in my work loft if I need to do projects into the night, but I mostly work alone. I’m very particular about my items, so that’s probably best.

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is thinking about opening their first shop?

I would tell that person to make sure they really love what they want to sell, because you spend many hours focusing on those items, and you’ll have to put a lot of love and time into it. Because of the many sellers on Etsy, it can be tricky to rise above the competition. So I recommend participating in team games that can boost views & favorites.

Try to focus on a product that is unique and will make you stand out. Talking with a successful shop owner will help you avoid early pitfalls and having other social media accounts is very helpful too. Don’t forget about signing up through a friend, so both of you get the free listings bonus!

Meet Hannah in the Living Grace Blog Meet the Maker series! In addition to fighting Lyme disease, Hannah creates beautiful thing for women and kids of all ages!

Is there anything else you want to add or share about you and your shops?

Everything I make and sell in the shop is out of fabric or yarn. I use a regular sewing machine instead of a serger, with a focus on infinity scarves – lots of plaids, knits a silky. I sell tons of kids scarves, and then supplement with wristlets and lanyards, headwraps, arm knitted scarves, pacifier clips, and button earrings.

I’m so thankful for the bonds and friendships I’ve gained through having an Etsy shop. It’s been healing, encouraging and brought joy to my life. Kami, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to hang out on your beautiful blog!

Exclusive offer for Living Grace readers!

Hannah has graciously extended a limited-time offer to you lovely readers in her shop! Her handmade scarves are perfect to add to your fall style. 😉
Simply visit TrendyStop on Etsy and use code BLOGLOVE15 when you checkout to receive 15% off your TOTAL PURCHASE! Offer good through October 15, 2016.

Be sure to find Hannah’s shop and social media and say “hi!”

TrendyStop Etsy Shop
Facebook | Instagram

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Behind the Maker Series: Kacie Fleming

This is the first installment of a new series I’m starting here on the blog entitled: Behind the Maker! Each month I’ll be featuring a shop owner who not only creates beautiful things and runs their own business, but is also a chronic illness warrior.

Today I’m beyond excited to introduce to you Kacie Fleming, the maker and owner behind not just one, but TWO highly creative shops: Katya Valera Jewelry and Streetlights at Midnight. I met her on Instagram this year where we began connecting through our healing journeys. She is a sweet soul, full of light and authenticity and I just can’t wait to share her story and creations with you all!

In addition to hearing about her life as a business owner and chronic illness warrior, she has something special to offer you lovely readers! So be sure to take advantage of that at the bottom of this post! (Or share this post to give a “hint, hint” to someone in your life…I won’t judge.  ;-))

Meet Kacie Fleming

Katya Valera and Street Lights at Midnight

Connect with Kacie on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Favorite Quote:
“He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” [ Psalm 107:14-16 ]

Favorite Food: Plantain fries. Odd I know, but seriously just sliced up and fried in olive oil and pink salt. They are amazing. (Dip them in guacamole!  🙂 )

Favorite TV Show: My favorite TV show is definitely Friends. As with most shows it seems, it has its issues, but it is great for a much-needed laugh and perfect for background noise while I’m working on my shops.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your family?

I grew up in West Virginia on a gorgeous cattle farm (cows mooing and the sound of a Ford truck will always make me happy…) with my parents and older sister. Both of us are grown up and married now, and I have the most adorable niece and brand new nephew. I’m very close with my family, and my mom is a huge supporter on my journey to healing, as we are both on the same journey.

I live with my husband of four years in North Carolina, and he is the most patient, long suffering, hardworking man I (and probably most people, honestly) have ever met. He lives this crazy ride of chronic illness along with me, and I know I could not have gotten through these years without him. We met at college my senior year, and though I graduated with my B.A. in Creative Writing, the infinitely more valuable result of that education was finding him!

When were you first diagnosed with your chronic illness?

I was originally labeled with Fibromyalgia in January 2011. I had just graduated college the summer before and had become mysteriously sick, seemingly out of the blue, soon after that. Fast forward three years and lots of prescriptions later, the whole time assuming that I had no choice but to stay this sick, and I discovered the world of holistic medicine and eventually my true issues.

I finally learned in the summer of 2015 that I actually have Babesia (a Lyme co-infection), Celiac Disease, the MTHFR gene mutation, Leaky Gut, mercury poisoning, autoimmune issues, hormone and liver issues, and other various issues all teaming up to make it no wonder I was so sick—and a wonder I’d been functioning as much as I had.

Behind the Maker Series

What effects has illness had on your life?

Illness has absolutely, completely changed my life. It’s inevitable with chronic illness that every decision you make comes to revolve around your health and, in my case, the quest for healing. I’m unable to go out and get a job, getting to go to church is a rare occurrence, and accomplishing things like laundry and dishes is a big deal.

My dreams have been indefinitely put on hold, and my college degree has been collecting dust. But I’ve finally found real hope for healing, which I can’t believe I never knew existed, in holistic, homeopathic treatments. We are witnessing the healing slowly but surely, so I am trying to not let those dreams slip totally out of reach. And I’m finally using my degree a bit in my card and print shop.

Can you tell the readers how you landed on the names of your two shops?

Katya Valera (pronounced KAH-tyuh Vuh-LAIR- uh), my handmade jewelry business, definitely has a unique story. I love Russian and took it for two years in college, during which time “Katya” was my nickname. “Valera,” means “healthy”. So the two together essentially mean “Healthy Kacie,” which I am not, so this shop is my defiant act of creativity and productivity while being too sick to go out and get a “real” job.

Streetlights at Midnight, my original card and print business, was inspired by my long-time love of the light-shadows that come from streetlights shining against the wall in soft oranges in the middle of the night. It seemed fitting for a shop that focuses on encouraging gifts for those struggling with chronic illness or any other kind of trial.

Behind the Maker Interview on Living Grace Blog

When did you first open each of them? What inspired you to open?

I first opened Katya Valera in fall 2011 on a complete whim. It wasn’t even called Katya Valera yet. I had been searching online for bridesmaid jewelry for my upcoming wedding and kept seeing all these clay rose pieces that I loved. Several YouTube videos later, I decided I could totally make those myself. Within two weeks I had bought supplies and opened my shop with ten pieces of jewelry.

We’re now coming up on five years of this shop and I’m so glad I just went for it. My jewelry has evolved a great deal over the years, but it’s helped me stay sane during the hardest years of my life. It’s also ended up being my small attempt at fundraising for my medical bills.

Streetlights at Midnight has officially been open for only about a month now. Though, my cards have been part of another shop of mine, which Streetlights at Midnight has now replaced, for about a year.

I got the idea to have a card and print shop last summer, as I’ve submitted to greeting card companies in the past. A couple were accepted but I still had all these cards I’d written and nothing to do with them. So instead of dealing with submissions and rejections it occurred to me to just make and sell them myself.

How do you manage running a shop while fighting illness? Do you have others who help you?

I run both shops entirely on my own, which is honestly how I like it! My husband helps when I need to vent or make big decisions and is also my photographer when I need to model the jewelry myself. Otherwise, it’s all me: planning, designing, writing, photographing, editing, listing, making, and packaging.

It helps that this is a very flexible job, so generally I can organize my work around my body’s needs. At times it does get rather overwhelming, but that is usually self-induced (overachiever perfectionist, anyone?). And I really don’t know what I would do without these shops. They help me feel like I’m accomplishing something while also being fulfilling creatively.

Chronic Illness Crafter, Kacie Fleming

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is thinking about opening their first shop?

There are three things that I find most important to consider:

  1. The cost. Consider how much each piece of whatever it is you’re making will cost you, how much you’ll have to charge for it to make a profit, and if you’ll have the finances to keep it all going.
  2. Your business name. As I mentioned, my shop began as a whim, so I started with a name that I’d only thought about for a few days. A few months down the road, I realized that it needed to be changed. So I had to go through the trouble of re-branding, redesigning my shop, and getting new business cards, etc. The process was worth it, but it probably could have been avoided.
  3. The legal side. This type of information oddly seems to be a secret in the world of small business, but it’s important. Find out if your state requires a business license (probably) and if you need to be collecting sales tax and paying that, along with regular income tax (also probably). Your state might have a small business association you can consult.

I wish I had known these three things when I was planning to open my first shop. Though in retrospect, they may have deterred me from jumping in. So in a way I’m glad I didn’t. But life would have been a whole lot easier in the long run if I had. 😉

Anything else you want to add or share about you or your shop(s)?

This year at Katya Valera I started releasing seasonal collections, along with a seasonal box, KV Wishbox, that precedes each collection. It lets you browse and pick from the selection at a huge discount before it’s officially released. I’m so excited about the new Summer Collection that released in June, “Drops of Summertime,” which was inspired by the quintessential moments of summer days and nights. We’re talking watermelon, starlight, honey, sea breezes and more—it was a lot of fun to plan!

The Fall/Winter Collection is now in the works and will hit the shelves in October, with the Fall/Winter KV Wishbox releasing in September. I highly recommend checking it out on its website and taking advantage of it when the time comes!

Meanwhile at Streetlights at Midnight, prints are coming soon. All original quotes currently available as printables will also be available in tangible form, which I’m very excited about and eager to launch as soon as I’m able. And special gift sets are coming soon too—more ways to encourage those you care about!

Original quotes, downloadable encouragement cards

A special offer for Living Grace readers:

Kacie is offering a limited-time discount to all you readers for both of her shops!

Katya Valera: Use code LIVINGGRACE for 10% off through August 13th

Streetlights at Midnight: Buy two printed or digital cards, get one FREE through August 13th. (Just purchase two cards, then let Kacie know in the note at checkout which card you would like to add.)

Don’t forget to follow Kacie’s shops & blog!
Katya Valera: Facebook | Instagram
Streetlights at Midnight: Facebook | Instagram
Life & Dreams Blog

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5 Ways to Reduce the Toxins in Your Home

5 Ways to Reduce Toxins In the Home

**This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission based on any purchase you may make. My review of the items contained in this post remains unbiased. I simply love these items enough that I have purchased and recommend each of them!**

Many of us with chronic illness become what I’ll call “toxin detectors.”

Our illness has compromised our immune system so much that many of the products and foods we may have thought we could tolerate years ago, have become triggers to us now.

I honestly never used to give a second thought about what I put on my skin, in my belly or sprayed into the air that I breathe – I was so clueless! From makeup to shampoo, detergent to daily coffee with creamer laden with processed ingredients – I didn’t worry about what I was putting into my system then.

But my health has insisted it matter to me now.

So, while I’m still learning and working to reduce the toxins around me, I thought I’d share a few of the little and big changes I’ve made along the way. Some are easier and less costly to than others, but I believe all have been helpful in my fight for wellness.

Some of these items are beauty/personal care, some are related to cleaning, but all enter the home and therefore I want them to be as clean of ingredients as possible.

Before I begin, I’d just like to say that there are a LOT of opinions on this topic. And I mean A LOT. So if you’re at the beginning stages like I was a couple years ago, I encourage you to use this list as a starting point. Do further research on your own to find a balance that’s best for you and your wallet.

On to the list…

Makeup

Many of us women wear this every-single-day. I had no idea years ago how many harmful ingredients I was putting on my face. Since our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, I wanted to be cautious of what I was allowing to absorb into my bloodstream. So while I only wear makeup occasionally now, I try to use natural products whenever I do.

100 Percent Pure makes a mascara that I love that is all natural and dyed with fruit and black tea pigments! I also use their Lip & Cheek Tint in Cranberry and Grapefruit Glow. They have a full line of non-toxic makeup and skincare products that are all made from pure, organic and natural ingredients and from the ones I’ve tried – they all smell ah-mazing.

For more budget-friendly options, I have also used this brand of foundation powder and I’ve been happy with it. There are even shops on Etsy of handmade all-natural makeup so be sure to include them in your search!

Hair Products

 This one was hard for me to let go of. I had used Dove shampoo for a few years and really loved the results I had (along with the fact is was inexpensive). But hair care products can also contain a lot of harsh chemicals.

I’ve used a few non-toxic and natural shampoos and conditioners that I have enjoyed, some not as much. My top two favorites are this Argon Oil Shampoo by Maple Holistics (I’ve yet to try the conditioner) and this shampoo and conditioner by Acure Organics. Both smell divine and I love how my hair feels using them!

This 7 Thirty hairspray was developed by a stylist after she became ill and left her salon practice to create her own line of natural products to use! It has a good hold and smells great (can you tell scent is important to me yet?). I love knowing I’m supporting someone else who has fought illness.

Cleaning Products

There are so many affordable ways to get around using the cleaning agents that are dripping with chemicals that we don’t need in our systems. I’ve made my share of DIY cleaning mixtures using household staples like vinegar, baking soda, salt and scented with essential oils and believe they work just as well as the cleaners I used to use. Pinterest has a wealth of recipes if you want to make your own!

Most stores are now carrying non-toxic alternatives in their cleaning aisles. 7th Generation, Method and Mrs. Meyers are a few. I love the scents in the Method line and the versatility of their sprays. My go-tos are this bathroom throne cleaner and this all-purpose cleaner which I also use in my floor cleaner mixture (1 pint mason jar: 1/3 Method, 1/3 Vinegar, 1/3 water. Use 1/2 cup per gallon of mop water).

 

Detergent

Non-toxic Laundry Detergent that works like a charm!

My skin became super sensitive a few years ago when my health began to rapidly decline. This detergent by Ecos has kept me from irritation and the smell of the Lemongrass is amazing (as is the Magnolia Lily scent). We recently found this same detergent at our local Costco for a great savings!

We’ve tried many products for the dryer, and have been left disappointed by a couple of brands. Ultimately we landed on using wool balls like these along with a sheet of these dryer sheets by Mrs. Meyers and we’re really happy with the results.

Mattress

When we made our move in January, we knew we would be replacing our mattress. We had read articles about the danger of flame-retardants and the off gassing that occurs with new mattresses that have been sprayed. We were concerned about exposure while I’m already immune-compromised in my fight with Lyme disease.

So we did some research, looking for the best options that would be less toxic and stay within our budget. Our top choice was out of our price range, so we bought this one and have been SO happy with it. I had no reaction (which says something for this sensitive bod) and it’s the comfiest mattress we’ve ever owned. You just need a base like the one below and you’re set.

        


 There you have it, a few of our shifts toward a non-toxic home. We’ve worked our way through these changes as we’ve been able to afford them, which means this definitely wasn’t an overnight switch for us.

I will say that when you’re sick, you want your body in as healthy an environment as you’re able to create! So many of these we’ve chosen out of that place – of wanting to protect my (and our) health.

What are some of your favorite non-toxic (or less toxic) products that you’ve found? I’m always looking for new ones to try! 

Be sure to find me on Facebook and Instagram!

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“For the Love” and All the Feels I Have for This Book.

This giveaway has ended.

Back in February I saw that one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, was organizing a special giving campaign for Valentine’s Day. It’s mission: putting a copy of her book, For the Love, into the hands of women who simply couldn’t afford to purchase it.

Jen is a mix of hilarity, conviction and faith. I have loved the ways her words have challenged me and her humor caused spontaneous bursts of laughing-til-my-sides-hurt. If you aren’t familiar with her, you should remedy that immediately. (I’m just saying).

With how tight finances have been between illness and moving, I was thrilled at the opportunity to receive a copy of her book!! The response to her Share the Love campaign was such a beautiful picture of generosity and community. Every single woman (2,250 of them) that signed up to receive a copy of For the Love was sponsored by someone within Jen’s community of followers!

The day before Valentine’s Day, my book arrived and planted the biggest smile on my face.

For the Love and all the feels I have for this book. | Living Grace

Her words over the last six weeks have been a beam of sunlight. The chapters of her and her readers’ version of Jimmy Fallon’s “thank you notes” had me rolling with laughter. And her essays on adoption, setting healthy boundaries with difficult people and embracing our gifts and talents tugged so deeply at my heartstrings.

I found pieces of myself in corners of each chapter and was ready to pull up to the dinner table for each recipe she shared. Her style of writing draws you in, making you feel like you’re curled up on the sofa having real time girl chat with her. About the harder parts of life and the things that matter. About finding meaning and purpose in whatever stage of life you are in.

This book is about shaking off the shackles of fear, feeling less than, and expectations of impossible standards. It’s about learning to look at life, ourselves and others through a lens of grace.

This is a book for the single one, the mamas, the woman holding back, and the fearless wanderer. No matter where you’re at in life, this book’s for you just as much as it has been for me. But don’t take just my word for it. You can read other reviews here!

I knew from the day I got this book that I wanted to be a part of the Share the Love movement in a small way through giving it away after I finished reading it.

So today I am doing just that!

One of you lucky readers will be the winner of my copy of For the Love!! You can enter with the intent of winning this book for yourself OR maybe you’ll be surprising a friend (hint: Mother’s Day is around the corner)!

About the Giveaway:

BEGINS:  Today, April 4th, 2016!
ENDS: Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.

Terms & Conditions:

  • No purchase is necessary.
  • This is a FREE giveaway! I’ll be covering the shipping.
  • Must live in the US and be 18 years or older to enter. (So sorry, international friends!)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on or after April 7th and contacted via email. The winner will have 24 hrs to claim their prize, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
  • The prize (1 copy of the For The Love book) will be shipped out within 1 week of the winner claiming their prize.

Good luck to you all!!

*This giveaway has ended, but you can snag your own copy of Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love for less than $12! Or on Kindle for less than ten!*

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