Yes I Will

Some weeks we have to dig a little deeper to find the blessings.  

But they are ALWAYS there. 

Last week, we had an ambiguous “extra week” of Spring Break, we “played” school to stay busy, and learned new words like “pandemic” and “social distancing.”  

This week, Virtual Learning was officially launched by our school.  Effective immediately.  Duration, indefinitely.  At my house, that means I now teach Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade, ALL subjects ranging from phonics to Algebra, Spanish, Latin, world geography, literature, Bible, and history.  By the end of the week, the mayor issued the “Shelter in Place” order, and we are now pretty much on lockdown.  Carson Grace received word from ETBU that on campus classes will not reconvene this school year. 

Life feels like it is on perpetual pause. Groundhog Day over and over again.  What day is it?  Who knows?  Does it even matter?

People have asked how I am managing with 8 kids, homeschooling, not leaving the house, and my anxiety.   The most honest response I can give is, I’m glad there are no witnesses.  It’s been ok.  We’ve had rough moments.  And sweet ones.  I’ve had kids snuggled in my lap while I read to them, we have played together, we have danced together, and we have worshipped.  On the other hand, I have lost my cool.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve cried.  I’ve laid awake for hours at night.  I’ve eaten more sweets than I will ever admit to. 

But more than ever, I GENUINELY BELIEVE this season is about putting our faith into practice.  Of course it SHOULD always be that way. But let’s get real.  We are finding out if we really believe the things we used to say so casually…. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!” 

We have a choice.  

I am thankful:

~ for new mercies every morning.  I need to go back over my Sunday Gratitudes (how can it be that I have been writing every Sunday for almost 6 years now???) and see how many times I have been thankful for new morning mercies.   That is nothing new.  But boy, I am so grateful as I collapse into bed every night that the day is OVER and I get to start fresh the next day.   Every day is a do-over. IMG_5886.jpg

~ for the hard work our teachers and administration has done to transfer all of their curriculum into an online format for us.  I HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED OUR WONDERFUL TEACHERS SO MUCH!  Wow!  The things we realize we have under-appreciated or taken for granted!  They have done a TREMENDOUS JOB of making this switch happen basically overnight.  I am completely in awe of their giftings: their knowledge, their patience, and their love for all our kids that kept them coming back to their jobs day after day.   Oh how I miss my kids’ teachers!  (I bet not HALF as much as my KIDS miss their teachers!  Their new teacher is SO MEAN!  And never goes away!)IMG_5705 2.JPGIMG_5729 2.JPGIMG_5682.JPGIMG_5664 2.JPGIMG_5837.JPG

~ for generous help from loved ones to supplement the groceries we can’t stock up on for our jumbo-sized clan. 

~ for my kids OUTSTANDING attitudes.  They’ve had a few bumps (mostly in response to my own volatile moods), but so far they are still eager to get to their school work, and enjoying the material, and very forgiving of their grumpy teacher.  I’m truly the most blessed mama in all the world. IMG_5782 2.JPG

~ for another successful out-of-my-comfort-zone first.  The physical Laurel & Cotton Spring Sale was obviously cancelled, but the feisty shop owner, Melissa, undeterred, launched a virtual sale via Facebook LIVE.  That meant a crash course in camera-work and social media for each vendor.  It was nerve-wracking and felt completely awkward to talk to my phone (check out my CLASSY, PRO-FESSIONAL tripod!) IMG_2652.JPGand imagine an invisible audience in my living room (while my Littles were banished into hiding upstairs).  Amazingly enough, it went well, I had several kind viewers and comments, and I actually sold a bunch of Giddyup & Whoa signs, including more after the LIVE sale ended!  I was thrilled!  Not only that, but Melissa sold raffle tickets and designed an exclusive Go GOLD t-shirt, and raised $665 for Gold Network of East Texas!  What an awesome blessing!IMG_5960.JPG IMG_6007.jpg

~ for Josh’s job.  There seem to be new developments every day, and we know we cannot take anything for granted anymore.  The actual store is closed, so his interaction with the public is pretty minimal.  He had to lay off some employees this week, which was really hard on him.  He never EVER complains, although I know the gravity of the times and all that he is responsible for weighs heavily on his heart.  And he never fails to check on how I am doing, and to encourage me.  I’m grateful we can be raw and real and honest with one another.  No filter. 

~ for technology.  To accomplish virtual learning, we use a desktop computer, wireless printer, 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and a phone.  Thus far our router has held up to the massive usage, and I’ve been shocked and thoroughly impressed at how minimal the technical issues have been.  And we also had the opportunity to FaceTime with friends we hardly ever get to see.  This forced slower pace and social distancing is causing us to be more intentional. 

~ for coffee.  3 to 4 pots a day.

~ for our safe and comfortable home, and having everything we need.  We have kind, loving neighbors, a beautiful, quiet street.  Cooper has been organizing baseball tournaments and lizard hunts with the Littles.  We are not suffering in our quarantine. IMG_5759.JPGIMG_5966.JPGIMG_5995.JPGIMG_5996.JPG 

~ for laughs.  We’ve had some good late nights with our bigger kids, watching tv and funny videos together.  Carson Grace even badgered mom and dad and the whole Tribe into filming a TikTok video with her for a contest for school.  She choreographed a routine with us, and we provided live entertainment for our neighborhood from our front yard.  It was pretty hysterical how we all got into it.IMG_5975 2IMG_5981

~ for virtual church service from our living room.  It brought such comfort to see our pastors’ faces and to worship together with THE CHURCH.  We all even put on REAL CLOTHES for the occasion, and took the Lord’s Supper together.  It was simple, intimate, and very special.  I love that my kids are learning firsthand that the CHURCH has nothing to do with a building. IMG_5991.JPG

Hamburger bun and solo cups have never been so sanctified

~ for thoughtful care packages filled with love. 

~ for glorious sunshine.  Perfect for walks, PE, picnic lunches, and art class. IMG_A2A1A0208098-1.jpegIMG_5860.JPG

~ for “Live Meets” for each kiddo with their teacher and classmates.  It was so good for their hearts to get to see and hear from their friends.  And we got calls from several of our teachers, just checking in on us.  I’m so blessed and thankful for our GCS community. IMG_5838.JPG

~ for the people “out in the world” that continue to go to work to keep the world running.  First responders, healthcare workers, supermarket personnel, banks, truck drivers, sanitation workers…we will be grateful forever.  

One of the things I’m going to treasure the most from this season is my time with the kids right after breakfast each morning before we start school.  We snuggle up on the couch and each read verse by verse the Psalm and Proverb of the day, and then I’m reading to them from Hind’s Feet on High Places.  What a perfect book for the season.  The conversations with the children have been priceless.  We have walked with Much Afraid as she faced Pride, Resentment, and Self-Pity, along the Sea of Loneliness and now into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation.   How I want to respond as Acceptance With Joy, “He (the Shepherd) has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose.  I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.’”  

I’m not going to lie and say that’s where I’m at.  But it is my prayer.  I know that this is an opportunity for us to be refined and sifted by our LOVING FATHER.  I know that my hope is IN HIM, and that this world is not my home.  And I don’t want to miss the hidden blessings.  God WILL REDEEM FOR GOOD what the enemy intends for evil.  The immediate blessing of having extra quality time with my kids is just the beginning.  I pray for a deep and lasting heart change and genuine appreciation to be birthed around the world.  

So friends, let’s love one another well this week.  We may not be able to gather together physically, but we can call and check in one one another.  Write a letter.  Send a text.  Film a video. Get creative. I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have left to be creative after my packed days of homeschooling, but I’m going to do my best.  It’s ok to be honest about how we feel. Everything is different, and oftentimes “different” = hard and scary. But we can’t be RULED by how we FEEL. Let’s give each other lots of grace and remember that kindness is contagious.  It’s also ok to stay in stretchy pants. (But I personally AM making a commitment to shower more regularly this week.)

This song has really ministered to me this week, and the lyrics are especially appropriate for the season we are in. I hope it encourages you.

https://youtu.be/NrTv39-lG4M

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalms 46:1-7)

Is This for Real?

Life looks so different overnight.  For all of us.  I think we thought it was a fluke.  I know I did.

It’s not a fluke.

We are really here.  This is really happening.

I have run the gamut of emotions.  One minute I am full of faith and ready to stand tall in the face of fear.  And the next minute I feel as though I can’t breathe.  If I see one more outbreak map or curve, or one more picture of all the empty shelves at Walmart, I’m going to flip.  What’s going to happen to my family?  To Sawyer?  To my parents and my grandparents and all the people I love?

Sound familiar?

But in the midst of this trial, this unrecognizable, crazy-cakes Twilight Zone world we are living in: I see so much good.  Parents are spending time with their kids.  Families are eating together.  People are cooking and crafting and making one another laugh.  Churches are rising to the occasion and learning new ways to spread the love and hope of Jesus.  Doctors and nurses are going into battle every day to take care of the masses.  Teachers are bending over backwards to teach parents how to be teachers at home.  

I’ve considered setting up a LiveStream from my house to let all of you see what life is like at my house.  I am sure we could be quite a source of entertainment.  Quarantine with 8 kids and 2 puppies is no joke.  We’ve had some shining moments and some epic fails.  Especially considering we are basically breaking the Law of Less than 10 just by being a family…over here living a life of a fugitive!

I am thankful:

~ for my kids.  Guys, my kids are amazing!  I am so incredibly proud of them.  They have been so flexible and positive this week as we have navigated these uncharted waters.  They have all been eager to “do school,” and have helped one another and helped me all along the way.  Samantha will read with Sawyer, and Gavin will answer math questions with Zoe, while Kora is keeping Tatum K entertained.  Trust me, I recognize that this has been an unusual week, and that the novelty will wear off sooner or later (probably sooner) and it will likely get much harder.  But THIS WEEK, this week they have been such a blessing!IMG_5201IMG_5205IMG_5356IMG_5541

~ for walks.  Fresh air is so healing to me.  To us all. IMG_5177.JPG

~ for timing.  I cannot express how thankful I am that I was able to squeeze all those breakfast dates in with each of my children before the world shut down.  That feels like a lifetime ago.

~ for Sophie the Brave Day, March 19.  It came right on time this year.  What a better time to force myself to think outside the box, think outside these walls, and think about others instead of ourselves.  I haven’t been sleeping at all this week, and the ideas came flooding in at 2-3am Wednesday night.  As soon as we got up, the kids got started making thank you signs and notes while I baked cookies.  We put our video together and then packaged up the treats and headed out to deliver.  To the police station.  To the grocery store.  To our schools.  Dropped off cash at Starbucks with notes about Sophie for the baristas to give out with the coffees.  The roads were quiet and the kids didn’t get to get out and take any pictures with our deliveries, so it was a different kind of day.  But still, they were all so excited to be spreading love and kindness amidst such bleak surroundings.  The world needed some Sophie Love that day.  And I know lots of others were doing similar things around town and beyond as well.  You can see our #DOMOREFORSOPH video here.IMG_5522.JPGIMG_5517.JPGIMG_5519.JPGIMG_5503.JPG

~ for awesome neighbors.

~ for friends who have checked in on us.

~ to hear from some of our HERO families.  Everyone I have spoken with is doing mostly ok.  In this situation, am so thankful for the technology available to stay connected remotely.  We just have to guard our eyes and our hearts as to what we are watching and sharing.

~ for the opportunity to paint and be creative.  I was able to finish and deliver 3 meaningful Giddyup & Whoa signs this week.  A watercolor family tree to a mama who has lost 2 children, a tribute to a beloved son, and a family sign built from gorgeous reclaimed wood salvaged from their father’s store.  What an honor to be entrusted with such special projects.IMG_5004.JPGIMG_5002.JPGIMG_5598.jpg

IMG_5534.JPG
Carson Grace has enjoyed getting creative, too!

~ for a fun Saint Patrick’s Day.  We wore green of course, had green oatmeal with green sprinkles, and with our lunch enjoyed green veggie straws and green grapes.  It was nice to have something light-hearted to celebrate.  Isn’t it refreshing to appreciate the simple things?  Thanks for the goodie box, Grandmommy!IMG_5225.JPGIMG_5325.JPG

~ for a new puzzle, and all the time in the world to finish it.  We shall see if we can actually  complete one with ALL the pieces.IMG_5568.JPG

~ for a night around the fire pit roasting hot dogs and eating ice cream. IMG_5464.JPG

~ for the children’s love of music and worship.  We’ve been starting every morning with Bible study and prayer time together, each one in turn reading through the Scriptures, and we are all memorizing 1 Corinthians 13.  They (unlike me) still know what day it is every day, so on Tuesday they got a little sad to realize they were missing Chapel at school.  SO WE DID CHAPEL!  I pulled up some of their favorite kids’ praise videos on YouTube, and we had the best time of singing and praising and dancing!  Like for almost 2 hours!  It.  Was. AWESOME!IMG_5218.JPGIMG_5566.JPGIMG_5227.JPG

~ for our little garden!  It was perfect timing to pick up our vegetable seedlings and seeds and work together to plant.  Some were more horrified than others to learn that we were spreading cow manure in the garden bed.  Tatum K was very confused that her tomato plants did not IMMEDIATELY produce her favorite food. IMG_5372.JPGIMG_5387.JPGIMG_5399.JPGIMG_5454.JPG

~ for coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

~ for a keyboard from the church for Carson Grace to borrow for her now-online ETBU music classes.  I love listening to her play. 

~ for greatly improved handwashing hygiene.  Unfortunately, that seems to be directly proportional to the lack of personal hygiene on mom’s part.  It is rare that I get out of my pajamas and even more rare for me to shower.  In fact, when I did shower, dry and style my hair, and put on actual clothes, the kids all stopped in their tracks and asked, “WHERE are YOU going????”  It was good to feel like a human again, even with nowhere to go.

~ for online streaming from our church.  And other churches.  What an awesome opportunity to get to “visit” each others churches in addition to supporting our local body.  I so love that so many people are rising up and problem-solving and finding new ways to encourage one another in the Lord.

~ for homemade banana muffins.  And chocolate ice cream.  And for grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I am praying we can maintain our rationing with all the comfort-food-binging.  The kids are LOVING trying “new” foods.  And by “new,” I mean brand names…they have really never had anything other than store brand groceries their whole lives, so now they are amazed by Yoplait yogurt and Kelloggs Rice Krispies.IMG_5635.JPG

~ for empty playgrounds, duck ponds, and hiking trails right around the corner from our house.  Cooper and Gavin have had fun fishing in the creeks and lakes.IMG_5280.JPG IMG_5639.JPG

~ for the kids’ great attitudes about the “homeschool” I threw together for last week.  In addition to the random “lessons” I gave them, they watched cool livestream videos from zoos all over the country, and then all got to choose an animal to research.  At the end of the week, they each gave a presentation to the family.  We were all amazed at all the new things we learned about crawfish, white tigers, zebras, king cobras, sharks, and llamas.  I was genuinely proud of the time and effort they put into their presentations.  

~ for a much-needed “date night” with my Love.  Josh and I had a date planned weeks ago.  Then Sawyer got sick.  Then Spring Break was busy.  We took for granted that we would get to it eventually.  Then the world as we knew it imploded.  But we still had the gift card we had been saving, and we decided to jump on it while restaurants were still serving carryout food.  So we got the Littles to bed and enjoyed a candlelit steak dinner outside.  The food was perfect, absolutely delicious.  But more than that, we had minute to just BE.  To just be in love and tired and honest and a little scared, but together.  

I don’t think I have any profound or inspiring words tonight.  This is hard.  Scary.  Confusing.  Right now, Josh still has a job, but like so many others, there is no job security, and there seems to be a new development every day.  His is certainly not an “essential” business.  The prospect of being unemployed with 8 kids at home (and the 9th who just lost his job and will have no means to support himself) is daunting to say the very least.  It is scary not to be able to order the groceries that I now realize I had completely taken for granted.  What looks like a stockpile is a normal grocery trip for my family, so the maximum quantities allowed don’t even meet my family’s basic needs.  Sawyer is fine, but his weakened immune system makes him so susceptible to every illness it is hard not to worry.  The rest of the kiddos are doing great, although a couple of our adopted ones are struggling with all the uncertainties and changes to their routine.  I recognized it today when we were having church in our living room.  Wide eyes, shaky hands, tense jaws.  Change has always been challenging for our adopted kids… they have been through so many hard and dramatic changes in their early years, and some of those changes came with lots of pain and loss.  It is scary for them to sense that their world has lost its familiar margins and that even mom and dad aren’t sure what is going to happen next, and that triggers old emotions for them that they don’t understand.  Tomorrow I embark on the uncharted path of homeschooling 6 children.  I am incredibly grateful for the dedication our wonderful school has poured into preparing the material for our kids and formatting it basically overnight into a vehicle that we can deliver.  But obviously I don’t feel prepared for this, and feel completely inadequate as a teacher, especially to so many at once.  But I also know we are all in the same boat, and that we will A) figure it out as we go and B) none of it is critical.  I do have it in perspective.  But all the while I sit here and type about how “in perspective” I have it, I still wrestle with oppressive anxiety about all these details individually and collectively.  Lots of tears when no one is looking.  Lots of deep breaths and giving myself the same reminder that I give Sawyer when he is struggling with his own anxiety….(Breathe in Jesus, slow and deep….breathe out the “yucky thoughts.”)  I hear my voice reassuring my kids, and my voice sounds like it’s coming from somebody else.  

BUT GOD.

He is with us.  He is here.  He will never leave us.  All His promises are true.  He has OVERCOME.  He is ETERNAL, and all the rest of this will pass.  We can trust Him.  We WILL GET THROUGH THIS, one way or the other.  

I don’t know how anyone is getting through this without Jesus.  If you have not trusted Him as your Savior – now is the time!  You have everything to lose without Him AND everything to gain with Him!  DON’T WAIT ANOTHER DAY!  This world has nothing to offer but MORE UNCERTAINTY and confusion.  But when you surrender yourself to the Maker of heaven and earth, you can rest knowing that in Him, you are safe, and loved, and you have a Home for eternity.  He is ready for you, and He loves you so much.

If you are a Believer already – this is our day.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Do you really trust Him?  Do you believe He is still good when everything around you is falling apart?  What if it gets worse before it gets better?  What will we say about Him then?  People are watching us, watching our reactions.  Are we sharing with others: our faith, our food, our toilet paper?  What is our conduct like in the grocery store?  Do we trust in the government?  In our self sufficiency?  Or is our trust securely anchored where it belongs?

This is what we are going to do this week at Quarantine de Rucker.  We are going to stay home.  We are going to “do school” the best we can.  We are going to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer.  We are going to love on each other even when we are sick of all the togetherness.  And we are going to trust in Jesus and thank Him every day.  And we will continue to wash our hands until all our skin falls off.

I am praying for you.  We will get through this.  Don’t lose heart.  Make it a daily practice to count the blessings around you…they are there if you look.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord will be kind over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”  (Zechariah 14:9)

““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart.”” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Contagious

If EVER there was a time to be reminded that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for, I think it is this week. 

I am thankful:

~ for Sawyer’s full and complete recovery from strep throat and scarlet fever!  His salami rash slowly receded and eventually stopped itching, and he is doing great.  Perhaps the greater miracle is that NO ONE ELSE GOT SICK!!!!  Glory to God!!!!

~ for a fun and relaxed Spring Break week before the crazy hit.  It blows my mind to look back through all the pictures I have taken and realize this was all THIS WEEK. 

~ for my favorite Spring Break tradition. Six years ago, we had just had a major life change.  The population explosion of 2013.  That next March we had 8 children, including three newly adopted kids and a four month old.  Spring break plans were out of the question for lots of reasons.  And I was also completely overwhelmed with the question, “How can I give each child the time and attention he/she needs?”  So our Spring Break plan became one-on-one breakfasts with mom.  It was just a tiny thing, but a sweet opportunity to get away with each child.  And that has become our thing.  The kids are chosen at random, no one knows they’re going until they get the tap in their sleep in the morning.  They pick the place, and usually we play a few rounds of 20 questions while we eat.  I absolutely treasure it.IMG_4621IMG_4641IMG_4662IMG_4961 3IMG_4981IMG_5034IMG_5057IMG_5151

~ for lovely weather.  We went on walks,  picnics, went to the park, and to the pond to feed the ducks. IMG_4688IMG_4726IMG_4775IMG_4852IMG_4917IMG_5094 2IMG_5112IMG_5122

~ for movie night.  Finally got to watch Frozen 2, and it was so good.  We love us some Elsa.  

~ for an unexpected quick visit from Aunt Gina and Cousin Jackie. IMG_5192IMG_20200313_103305796_Original

~ for a sweet early St. Patrick’s Day goodie from Grandmommy. IMG_5050.JPG

~ for Pi Day (3.14, March 14). I will take advantage of any opportunity to make AND EAT a pie!  (Thank You Lord, for my pie-loving girl that I can use as an excuse to bake pies!)IMG_5148.JPG

~ for one tiny purple violet smiling in my yard.  Hooray for spring!IMG_5041.JPG

~ for Andy’s Frozen Custard and Rounder’s Pizza.  Love us some local yumminess!IMG_5017.jpgIMG_20200313_125612739_Original.jpgIMG_20200313_130148943_HDR_Original.jpg

~ for the best help for Dad to put together our new fire pit. IMG_5172.JPG

So. We had a lovely, low key Spring Break week.  And then things started to get crazy.  At first we didn’t pay much attention, because it didn’t seem like it had much to do with us.  Then the crazy started taking over.  Headlines.  Social media.  Emails.  Cancellations.  Hysteria and hoarding in the grocery aisles.  

I have plenty of opinions, but they really don’t matter. The fact is, this is what we are living in right now.  I have lived a lifestyle of “social distancing” for more than 3 years.  No crowds.  Masks. Wiping down surfaces with bleach and hospital grade disinfectant.  Militant hand washing and hand sanitizer at every door.  Changing clothes as soon as coming home from school/work.  When you live with someone who is immune-compromised, life looks different.  The “outside world” feels scary, with danger lurking on every surface.  (I can’t relate to the toilet paper frenzy, though…)  I know what it’s like to want people to respect that my son couldn’t fight off “just a virus,” no matter how minor it was.  

I read somewhere that what our kids will remember most about this season is how their parents acted.  We have been very mindful of this with our kids.  Telling them we don’t have to be afraid, but we do have a responsibility to make wise choices to keep ourselves and others healthy.  God is bigger than any virus, and none of this has taken Him by surprise.  That doesn’t mean that if you “have faith” you ignore the warnings and barrel through.  

I have faith.  I know that God is in control.  I know that no matter what happens, I STILL KNOW how the story ultimately ends.  And in the meantime, I plan to do the best I know how to care for my family, and be a compassionate and responsible citizen that is mindful of others.  I also have been open with the fact that I routinely struggle with anxiety, and health concerns really ramp that up for me.  So I walk a very precarious tightrope of faith vs. fear. 

BUT GOD. 

Today was named National Day of Prayer for our country.  Let’s do it again tomorrow.  PRAY!  Pray for the broken-hearted families who have lost loved ones.  For those who are sick.  For those who are scared.  For the first responders and doctors and nurses and healthcare workers who are CHOOSING to work on the front lines and provide care to the masses.  For families with critically ill loved ones in hospitals that fear being exposed.  For the kids who are missing meals because the only time they get to eat is at school.  For the moms and dads who have to choose between keeping their job or caring for their kids at home.  For the businesses and employees who don’t know how they will manage with their loss of income.  For the store managers who are fielding nonstop complaints about the shelves they can’t keep stocked.  For the truck drivers feverishly trying to get those cargos delivered.  For the nursing home residents who are on lockdown.  And for the elderly people and immune-suppressed people for all different reasons who know they are potentially in danger.  For the leaders of our country and our states and cities who have important decisions to make as best they can. 

Let’s look past being irritated and inconvenienced.  Turn off the sources spreading rumors and panic and frustration.  And start SPREADING KINDNESS.  Let’s find the good in a slower paced, more simplified lifestyle.  Let’s spend time with our kids.  Read.  Call people we miss.  Be creative.  Clean.  Take walks.  Pray.  

This Thursday is Sophie the Brave Day.  Sophie Skiles would be turning 5 on March 19, but she will spend it in heaven with Jesus because of cancer.  Her incredible parents, Jonathan and Shelby, have dedicated this day to spreading Christ’s love across the globe in Sophie’s memory.  Do something!  Call a hurting friend.  Drop off a care package to a hospital.  Order from Amazon and have supplies delivered to a nursing home.  Send cards to a shut-in.  There are plenty of ways to #domoreforsoph that don’t violate safe social distancing practices.  

Let our faith be bigger than our fear. 

Kindness is contagious. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me.  (And wash your hands.)

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16)

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:12-15)

Vision

I am thankful:

~ for those sweet moments that make me laugh.  Tatum was crying, but was trying to settle herself down when her nose started running. Horrified, she started crying harder, “Mama!!!  Now my NOSE is CRYING!”  That girl keeps me on my toes.IMG_4507.JPG

~ for a better-than-expected first week with new puppy, Birdie.  She is sweet, and Bear is getting used to her…he is alternately playful and annoyed.   She is sleeping much better and more tuned-in to potty training than Bear was when we first got him.  She’s certainly doing better on the potty train than Miss Tatum K.  I guess perhaps Mama is a little more motivated with the dog…the puppy’s accidents aren’t contained by a diaper, and Tatum is at least slightly LESS likely to poop on my rugs….IMG_4313 2IMG_4524

~ for some of the most beautiful wood we’ve ever worked with as Giddyup & Whoa.  It is truly the prettiest, chippiest, most awesome wood, and it’s so special to the family we are making signs for.  Such an honor to be entrusted with their memories. 896D690F-D861-41FC-A14D-00296B1DD3EE.JPGIMG_4631.JPG

~ for Cooper being home safe from an incredible trip to Camp Eagle in West Texas.IMG_4636.JPGIMG_1380 2.JPG 

~ for AWESOME new GO GOLD t-shirts.  Go check out Laurel & Cotton to get yours.  Thank you so much to Melissa Vance for your heart to help our HERO families!IMG_4484.jpg

~ for another new and beautiful dream realized.  Last September after Tyler Gold Run, Josh and I started talking about how badly we want more people to understand the vision of Gold Network of East Texas.  Over the last 5 years, we have focused on reaching every family we could find, and raising funds by asking the local businesses we know to be race sponsors.  But we have come to realize that focusing on Tyler Gold Run is so short-sighted.  MOST people don’t want to hear about a race.  MOST people aren’t interested in being a race sponsor.  But I genuinely BELIEVE that if MOST people hear about these families, about the reality of childhood cancer, and about the incomparable bravery of these kids, that they will get on board with us and we just might change the world.   So we decided we wanted to have a dinner.  We envisioned inviting friends and family and others from the community to our home and just sharing our hearts.  When we started making a list, I told Josh that I thought it MIGHT be too big for our house.  To which he replied, “I don’t care!  I’ll stand on the table and talk!”  But as it all actually began to unfold, we decided to book the Foundry, a downtown coffee shop with additional venue space.  We reserved the middle floor which held 78 people, and we prayed that we weren’t being overly optimistic.   We booked a professional videographer, booked a caterer, booked a cellist, and called it the Vision Dinner.  And a week before the event, we had to move our reservation to the 3rd floor, because we had OUTGROWN  the capacity!   The Vision Dinner was Tuesday evening, and it was SO SPECIAL!  We heard from several of our Hero moms and from brave 8th grader and Ewing’s Sarcoma survivor, Aneesa, who read her inspiring letter to her school principal asking her school to Go Gold.  We shared what GNET had done over the past 5 years and our vision for the future.  I looked out at the crowded room of kind, supportive faces around the carefully decorated gold and black tables and felt as though my heart would burst.  I even had the special blessing of having Colton there: he had lined up several of his friends from work who all VOLUNTEERED their time to be our head servers. GNET received many donations that night, but more importantly, I genuinely believe eyes were opened and hearts were touched. _MDJ6866_Original_MDJ6975_Original_MDJ7030_Original_MDJ7108_Original_MDJ7168_OriginalIMG_20200303_181013276_OriginalIMG_20200303_182059657_Original

I will never forget that night. 

~ for the times when the Lord tells me to trust my gut.  Wednesday evening, Sawyer started complaining of a headache and sore throat.  Thermometer revealed 101° fever.  We gave him some Motrin and tucked him in to bed, fighting the inevitable anxiety that creeps in when he runs fever.  Years of conditioning to head straight to the hospital for a temp higher than 100.4° is hard to let go of.   We know the unlikelihood of fever meaning cancer relapse, and we know viruses come and go, and they just have to run their course.  Next morning, 103°.  I gave lots of fluids and Sawyer did not resist being confined to his bed.  That evening, his fever spiked back up to 104° and a rash began to spread across his chest and back.  Sawyer looked at himself and said, “Mama, I look like salami!”  IMG_4554.jpgI still tried not to overreact.  I know rashes can pop up with fevers.  But I just couldn’t shake my concern.  I was able to get the VERY LAST appointment for Friday afternoon at the pediatrician.   And am I ever grateful that the Lord wouldn’t let me let it go: sweet boy tested positive for strep throat and scarlet fever! IMG_4562.jpgI hate to think how sick he could have gotten if we had waited until after the weekend!  BUT GOD!  With antibiotics, the fever quickly subsided, and after a day he was released from quarantine.  Salami Boy is still pretty spotty and itchy, but the maddening red rash is improving and his sore throat is gone.   And thankfully no one else shows signs of getting sick.  Thank You Jesus! IMG_4609.jpg

~ for gloriously good news for my friend after terrifying news, an agonizing waiting period, and a very serious surgery.   Praying for healing mercies as she turns the page on a scary chapter. 

~ I am thankful for the GOAL of Daylight Savings Time, and I know I will enjoy lighter, brighter evenings this summer.  BUT TONIGHT I AM MISSING THAT HOUR AND I AM SO VERY TIRED. 

~ for the wide open schedule of Spring Break ahead.  Praying for lots of grace and patience and getting along with one another and sunshiny days for playing outside. 

My heart is so sad tonight.  Another innocent child was lost to cancer.  Two in a month.  Two more families that should be watching their babies grow up, and instead, they can only wonder what might’ve been.   And yet another family I love is on a trip to soak up some last memories with their sweet little one before they have to say goodbye.  Father God, I love You and I trust that You are good, even though no part of me can understand.  Help me to fix my eyes on You and not on the chaos and brokenness of my surroundings. 

Hold close the ones you love.  Please visit our newly updated website www.goldnetworkoet.com to see the phenomenal video.  If you are moved to give, please do so.  Or contact me about getting involved.  Childhood cancer is not going away.  Help us do more for families living their worst nightmare. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalms 90:12)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;” (Job 19:25)

Hope, Joy, and Generosity

What a jam-packed week!  I was just so whupped at the end of last week, really had the wind knocked out of me.  So much heaviness.  And you know what… none of those circumstances have changed. But even those sad, harsh realities are overshadowed by the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He keeps pouring out His goodness.  His mercies really are new every morning. 

I am thankful:

~ the best testimony of all – Sawyer the Warrior had a PERFECT checkup at his quarterly ACE Oncology appointment, and our brave boy remains CANCER FREE!  Thank You Jesus!!!   As usual, Sawyer hopped up in Miss Sharon’s phlebotomy chair all by himself and laughed while she drew his blood. 9016C527-90CE-45D8-8B8F-27A8CBD0826A.JPGBB0774A4-7AD1-450B-8757-8F8CB23820BD.JPG

I am always freshly astounded and in awe of the courage of this incredible boy.  His appointment went smoothly, and once the labs came back with the “all clear,” Josh and I were finally able to breathe again.   That part never gets easier.  Every time they draw his blood, we wait to hear the best news or the worst news.  BUT GOD.  This visit we packed in lots of extra-special visits on top of the clinic appointment.  Josh and I were joined by my friend and Gold Network of East TX co-creator, Paula Kimmey, to present a check from GNET for $10,000 to an acclaimed pediatric oncologist from Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ted Laetsch, to assist funding his groundbreaking CAR-T therapy which uses genetically modified immune cells to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Gold Network Photo 2.JPG9DD02FBC-58F9-4066-BC27-23CCE5E25B5C.JPG

Not only were we THRILLED to present this check to fund research at our own hospital (that’s about as LOCAL as it gets!), but it was even more meaningful because Dr. Laetsch was on the team of oncologists that cared for Sawyer when he was treated for Infant ALL!  What a surreal full-circle moment!   We also delivered a New Diagnosis Survival Kit to one of the new families we learned of last week, and we were introduced by a nurse to YET ANOTHER East Texas family – that makes 3 new diagnoses just last month.  Sawyer was able to meet the girl, several years his senior, and smiled sweetly at her in her hospital bed and told her simply, “Be brave!”  What an ambassador of HOPE! 

~ for a delicious, yet oddly romantic, candlelit lunch at Campisi’s.  We ordered from there several times while in the hospital, but had never been to the restaurant, so it was the perfect place to celebrate a great day.  Their BBQ chicken pizza is THE BOMB!  (Sawyer was not a fan, he stuck with cheese.)58B2E3C1-54CE-440E-8429-90A4879FD2D9.JPG

~ for Aunt Gina, who ran the morning and afternoon Rucker bus route while we were gone to Dallas and spent the day with Hurricane Tatum K.  And for her delicious gift of homemade Amish friendship bread for breakfast!IMG_20200224_112050147_Original.jpgIMG_4064.JPG

~ for a pretty successful first week of Intro-to Potty-Training with TK.  She is excited to use her little potty chair and has had only a couple of unfortunate mishaps in her pink Peppa Pig panties.  She is very proud of herself and never lets me forget her Skittles. IMG_4098.JPGIMG_4119.JPGIMG_4120.JPG

~ for sweet Zoe, who received the “Joyfulness” Award at chapel.  Love to see those brown eyes sparkle.   Her name means “life,” and I pray she always lives a life full of the JOY of the Lord. IMG_4073.JPG

~ for a lovely evening of fellowship prompted by some pretty exciting conversations.  We’ve been talking a lot about heaven lately, and one day last week Sawyer enquired, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus?  Do they get to go to heaven?” What a question!  I explained to him that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, and that that’s why it’s so important that we share the gospel with people who haven’t heard it.  And then he replied, “I REALLY want to go to heaven!  But I know it’s important that I really understand before I can ask Jesus into my heart…”

The rest of the conversation went like this

“Well, you have to believe in Jesus”

“I do!”

“You have to want Him to be your boss.”

“I dooo!”

“You have to want to serve Him your whole life.”

“I DOOOOO!”

You can only imagine this mama‘s heart.  We told Sawyer that maybe it would be a good idea for him to think of some more questions and sit down and talk about them with our pastor, Brother Joe.  He immediately hopped up excitedly, “Can we write them in a notebook?  I can’t read… but will you write down my questions for me, Mama?”

So of course I did.  When I told Sawyer that usually people make an appointment to meet Brother Joe at his office to talk, he promptly replied, “Nope!  I want him to come to our house.  For dinner.”  So that’s exactly what we did.  Brother Joe and Miss Becky came over, and we had a great visit.  Sawyer had some incredible questions: “Why did God want to make us?” and “Why doesn’t God make us obey him?”  That night at bedtime, he said it made him happy that Brother Joe and Miss Becky had come over for dinner.  He said “I liked asking him my questions,” and things have been left at that for now.   We will let Sawyer take the lead, and follow up when he brings it up again.  I never want to push or manipulate God’s perfect timing.  I’m excited about all the things that the Lord is stirring up and storing and building in his honest, tender, loving heart.  I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for him.

~ for Brother Joe and Miss Becky being extremely gracious in eating the meal we lovingly prepared for them.  Fried catfish.  Ask me if either Josh or I have ever fried catfish before.  It was on sale so we had wanted to try it.  It’s always a FABULOUS IDEA to cook a dish you’ve never attempted before for guests.  At least the brownies were good.  

~ for a tremendous progress on the refresh in Carson Grace‘s room / my studio.   Josh and I finished the herringbone wood-block backsplash and added some bright pops of color and gold for personality.  We had one wall with some sheet rock damage, so we created a fun and functional galvanized magnet board.  We still have some paint touch up to do, but for all practical purposes, the room is complete!  Carson Grace FaceTimed with me to check it out, and she is excited to get home and see it in person.  I look forward to sharing the space with her.  I love having a creative place to create!IMG_4275.JPGIMG_4282.JPGIMG_4178.JPGIMG_4268.JPGIMG_4269.JPGIMG_4283.jpg

IMG_4280.jpgIMG_4286.jpg

~ for the wonderful opportunity to attend Generosity Tyler, an event hosted by Jasper Ventures designed to encourage and inspire living generous lives.  I have to admit that I arrived at the event pretty much swallowed up by anxiety.  I felt very out of my element, very inadequate, and very overwhelmed.   I sat in my car in the parking lot for a while, taking my anxieties honestly to the Lord.  He reminded me who I am in Him, and that there is no need to ever be anyone else. It was a lovely event.  Paula and I heard testimonies from people who shared how they have personally been stretched and have experienced a paradigm shift on what it means to be biblically generous.  How the Lord wants us to be so generous WITH OUR LIVES that people find it shocking.  We had some great conversations with the people at our table and ate some delicious food. And at the end of the event, the generous hosts of Generosity Tyler generously gifted us the beautiful floral centerpieces from all the tables for our upcoming event!  I left so amazingly inspired and encouraged. IMG_4179.jpgIMG_4177.jpg

~ for a surprising, y’all-are-going-to-shake-your-heads-and-call-us-insane new addition to our Tribe.  Meet Birdie. IMG_2301.JPGIMG_3792.JPGIMG_4253.jpgIMG_4264.JPG

If you need me this week, I’ll be potty training a puppy and a 2 year old, sending my Freshman off on a camping trip with his class, and prepping for and hosting a Gold Network dinner for 100 guests.   Can’t wait to share all about it.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the hurting people around us: the newly diagnosed, the ones who have lost and are losing loved ones, the ones who may be keeping their pain hidden from anyone.  Let’s walk in joy, hope, and generosity this week!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

But God

I am thankful:

~for cute/sweet conversations overheard….

Sawyer, “Mama!  Tatum is jumping on me and squashing me and I can’t breathe!”

Tatum K “I sowwy Sasa.”

Sawyer, “It’s ok Tatum.  I’ll always love you.”

~ for a couple beautiful days of sunshine!  It was so refreshing to get outside and breathe deep in the crisp air and take a walk again!

mWVp8cdJQcq2dLhoKlL4Vg

~ for a great excuse for a sweet treat.  February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a day set aside to raise awareness for childhood cancer.  Often during cancer treatment, kids lose their appetite. The chemo makes food taste terrible and kids day nauseated day in and day out. Sometimes the only thing that sounds good or might bring a smile is some ice cream. So why not ice cream for breakfast? We join in to encourage kids who are fighting cancer, to celebrate with kids who have completed their treatment, and to remember the friends who were taken from us too soon.  What a blessing to have friends from all over who joined in and shared their pictures with us.   Thank you all so much. 

fullsizeoutput_d2ecfullsizeoutput_d303

~ for yet another birthday at our house – mine!   I had a great day, lots of sweet messages from friends and family, homemade cards from the sweetest kids on the planet, a heavenly breakfast date with my sweetheart (and Tatum K of course), and a surprise coffee date with Colton!   I was blessed beyond measure.   Oh, and one of my highlights was getting the GOLD sneakers I’ve been dreaming of for a LONG TIME!!!  And a new gold coffee cup!  (Is there a theme here?)IMG_4005.JPG

p5f4PcUpTEmcuZCwn00pFA

~ for the kindness of Grace Community School.  The GCS HOSA Club (Health Occupations Students of America, or Future Health Professionals) recently held a drive at the high school to collect the items we give in our New Diagnosis Survival Kits.  We are so thankful for the HOSA students for organizing and the students for donating!

HOSA Leadership - Gold Network of East Texas

0CE9D52B-EEC3-4111-B32A-44B5A581D5DD

~ for amazing progress on Carson Grace’s room/my studio.  The Murphy bed turned out great, and we (after 79,358 problems and equipment malfunctions) got the whole room sprayed a fresh, bright Alabaster white.   I got inspired and started playing around with some stain colors and ended up loving the way the headboard turned out; and Josh did an amazing job on the reclaimed wood countertop.  It’s so fun working on a new project together, and we are reminded of how much we enjoy the process of dreaming up a design and then knocking it out.  

QEFmPnNxTVSVvLxE+GN0dwyWKp1qviRw2C9mh2tAQmZQtMgPpQ+KZFF3pftAixgevLD54UjQUGKTCmTbkpPMgjIp6DZqmS0OkZcG8XsZHbgIMG_3988.JPGIMG_3995 2.JPG60420270499__42EA9591-D3D1-4AB9-9CAC-EDA3CB8BF427

~for a beautiful opportunity for our girls to give a praise offering to the Lord. Samantha and Kora are a part of the Psalm 149 Dance Team at church, preteen girls learning the art of worship dance.  The team is even taught by a young teenager who once danced in this group when she was younger.  It was an honest and sweet outpouring of love for the Lord, and their performance at church this morning was so beautiful. 

IMG_4001.jpgIMG_4002.jpg

~ for 15 years of memories.   We sorrowfully said goodbye to a precious member of our family this week, our 15-year-old pug, Cricket.  He’s been the best dog and has been through it all with us.  He was our first family dog when we just had three kids.  He survived the great Rucker Population Explosion of 2013, and was a bright source of joy for us throughout the journey of cancer.   He has rapidly deteriorated over the past few months, and I began to think the only thing keeping him alive was his sheer hatred of our new-er dog, Bear.  We are thankful that he is no longer suffering, and we will lovingly remember him always, but there is a stinky, snuffy-nosed, Cricket-shaped place that hurts in all our hearts right now. 

IMG_0108IMG_1130 3IMG_6866

The words from the song I shared last week still resonate in my head… “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working.  Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.  You never stop, You never stop working.  You never stop, You never stop working.”  No matter what’s going on, there are ALWAYS blessings to count.  That’s what Sunday Gratitude is about.  

 But this week has been one blow after another.

A dear friend got a devastating health news.   

Another friend had troubling findings on her sonogram.  

A suffering mother anxiously longs for her healing by graduation to heaven. 

Not one, but TWO new children were diagnosed with cancer here in Tyler.   

And another family got the only news worse than “your child has cancer.”  The words, “There’s nothing more we can do.”

 BUT GOD.I say that a lot, both here on the blog and in real life.What does that even mean anyway? BUT GOD. It means He really IS the answer to every question. 

Father God, I am out of pretty words.  My heart is broken and bleeding and sad.   I am hurting for my friends.  I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why babies have to get sick and suffer.  I hate cancer.   Oh, how I hate cancer.  I don’t understand why some people get healed on this earth and some people don’t.   But I do know with everything inside me that You are FULLY GOOD.   I believe that You have a good plan that is better than mine.  And I believe that You hold me when I’m sad and mad and confused and anxious and furious and falling apart.  AND I BELIEVE THAT THIS WORLD IS PASSING AWAY AND WE WILL ONE DAY LIVE A GLORIOUS LIFE WITH YOU IN HEAVEN!  And there will be NO MORE SORROW AND NO MORE PAIN!  How I long for that day!  Until then, Father God, please hold my friends close.  Give them Your supernatural peace that defies all logic.  Give them grace breath by breath to walk through their circumstances.  Surround them with friends who bring Your comfort.  Show us how to help them in real life, practical ways.  If it’s Your will to heal on this earth – HEAL!!!!  To You be all the glory!!!!  And if it’s Your will to heal them in heaven, let it be bathed in Your infinite mercy, and help us to trust in Your timing.  Jesus COME!

Please pray for the hurting people all around you.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    (Romans 8:37-39)

Way Maker

I am thankful:

~ for a red-and-pink-and-love-and-sugar-soaked week. We had Valentine’s bags and boxes and treats and cards. Valentine’s party at school and a Valentine’s goody box from Grandmommy, and a very special cake baked by a sweet neighbor.

~ for the glorious sunshine! I can’t believe the amount of rain and dreary days we have had. The sunshine is literally like medicine for my heart.

~ for one of our very favorite nights of the whole year: the Father/Daughter Banquet and Dance at our church. For the first time in the 14 years we have participated, I got to help behind the scenes. I have been up to my eyeballs in streamers and confetti and heart-shaped everything for weeks. It was so neat to see it all come together. The girls get so giddy and excited to get all fancied up for a night out on a date with their daddy. Carson Grace even came home from college to attend. It’s just the cutest thing when they all squeal at the sound of the doorbell. Because I t’s always Dad, dressed in his finest, offering a rose to each of his girls. He’s such an amazing dad, and I know our daughters will always remember these special evenings and how loved they are. And Little Miss Tatum K gets to get dolled up for the pictures, but is still too young to attend. She spend the evening with mom and the boys. We had our own fun: pizza rolls, watched a hilarious movie, and then a late night dash to Dairy Queen for a treat. It was a great night all around.

~ for a real life miracle. A precious missionary from our church who lovingly serves the people of Nicaragua was in a terrible accident in which the other involved party was killed. It was a horrific experience, and he was almost immediately thrown in prison. And people all over the world began to pray. Glory to God, our friend was released. We continue to ask for prayer for the family who lost their loved one, and for all the lives that we believe will be touched through this situation. God will redeem for good what the enemy had planned for evil.

~for tile floor and nail polish remover. I will let the photo speak for itself.

~ for a full week of birthday festivities. This is always a jam-packed week for us, with Kora’s birthday on the 13th and Gavin’s on the 14th. Kora enjoyed cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a mom/dad/Tatum K lunch date of Chick-fil-A for lunch, and macaroni and cheese and Cheetos for dinner. Gavin was treated to heart-shaped pancakes with whipped cream and sprinkles, a McDonald’s lunch, and he helped make his favorite homemade pizza for dinner. We continued the birthday celebration with dad‘s awesome grilled hamburgers and ice cream sandwich cake for dessert. I can’t believe how these two are growing up. I think about how little and broken and confused they were when they barreled through my front door six years ago. We still have plenty that we are working through, but I am so very proud of them and excited to watch as the Lord’s plans for them unfold.

~ for the start of another major DIY home project. Carson Grace‘s room is doubling as my painting studio while she is away, but it will always remain her bedroom as long as she wants to come home. So we are trying to do our best to make the space functional for both purposes. The entire room will get a facelift with fresh paint, but phase 1 is building a Murphy bed. This is a pretty major undertaking, and Josh created his own custom plans, building it from scratch. We had lots of stops and starts and do-overs, some frustrations for sure. But he has made remarkable headway in just two days, and we are so excited! This man’s brain and creativity never cease to amaze me! He sees blueprints in his mind and knows how to bring them to life.

~ for the tender hearts of my kids. At the end of the worship music portion of our service, Brother Joe encouraged us to pray for anyone that we knew had a need. Each one of my Littles immediately bowed their heads and begin to pray, with Sawyer sinking to his knees. I can only imagine what those innocent, heartfelt prayers mean to their Heavenly Father.

I’ve just really been struck this week by the miraculous, incomprehensible works of God. He truly is a Way Maker. (This song really is incredible…give it a listen) He makes a way where there is no way. Everything can look impossible. But God. With God, somehow through the unthinkable, we are able to put one foot in front of the other. Through cancer. Through grieving. Through chronic pain. Through imprisonment. Through brokenness. There is no way three adopted-from-foster-care Littles could overcome trauma and neglect and grow into bright, healthy, and thriving members of a family. No way that a baby dying from cancer and multiple organ failure could survive and live as a NORMAL 6 year old. No way that 2 kids who shacked up and had a child out of wedlock could stay married and continue to fall more in love after 20 years. Whatever looks impossible to our short-sighted human eyes. Impossible that a prodigal will one day decide to turn around and fall in love with Jesus. Impossible to smile again after losing a child. Impossible to forgive someone who isn’t sorry. Impossible to die without fear. But God. He IS a Way Maker. He is doing things just beneath the surface, just beyond our vision, and so far above and below and around us that we can’t even imagine. I don’t think we can ever grasp the depth of His love until the day we finally fall before His Presence. Even so, He’s so gracious… He gives us little glimpses along the way, because he knows we’re gonna want to give up. I see Him in the eyes of my children. I see Him in the way my husband loves me. I believe in miracles because I’ve seen them with my own eyes. I see a miracle every time I look in the mirror. Because I know who I was. Whatever you’re praying for, keep praying. Keep asking. Keep fighting. He is working. He’s working on the things you pray about, and He’s working on you. I needed this reminder this week, and I figured maybe somebody else did too.

Let’s love one another well this week. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop testifying. He’s worthy.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:11-14)

“Way maker/ Miracle worker

Promise keeper/Light in the darkness

My God/That is who you are”

(Leeland)