Blink

In a blink of an eye, everything can change. Not the Mother’s Day I expected. In the hospital with one of my babies, with terrifying symptoms and more questions than answers. Please pray for our son, Cooper. He’s been through a nightmarish ordeal over the last 2 days. He is improving and we believe we are headed in a good direction toward total healing and answers to our questions. I have no energy to share any more details. Josh and I feel like we have been sleepwalking through our worst nightmare all over again. We are all ok, and God is faithful. I will update as I am able.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I call unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”(Psalms 61:1-2)

Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful, thriving garden! Looks like the new soil and new plants are actually going to make it! Sawyer planted sunflowers this week, and eagerly checks daily for signs of sprouting.

~ for a wonderful presentation from Gavin and his 4th grade classmates at their Spring Concert. Gavin was so proud to be chosen to sing a solo, and he performed it beautifully. Their worship was pure and innocent and SO POWERFUL, and I know it was so pleasing to the Lord.

~ for my dear friend having a wonderfully successful mission yard sale to raise money for their ministry to Uganda (check out Rock of Living Waters. The Lord is doing great things!) Despite their one day sale being a dreary, rainy day, they raised almost $5000! And after their sale, they had so much left over, they donated it to TCF for our mission yard sale happening later this month! My DARLING HUSBAND wanted to kill me for volunteering him to pick it all up…it filled EVERY INCH of an Aaron’s box truck, which we had to load and THEN UNLOAD at the church. (“The Giddyup” & “The Whoa” switched roles for a couple brief hours that day, but we got through it, and order has once again been restored.)

~ and Tatum K was in her glory at that yard sale. I told her she could choose a treasure, and Little Miss stomped from one end of the tent to the other in her rain boots, with a trash bag in her hand. She found her 2 princess puzzles, a princess bubble kit, a Hello Kitty doll, a new dress 3 sizes too big, and the most beautiful princess dress up high heels that she had ever seen.

Considering that day I had already dragged her, in the pouring rain, to Home Depot, Home Goods, Sam’s Club, ALDI, At Home, Walmart, and Lowe’s…she deserved some treasure! It was a big day for Bitsy Girl.

~ for the opportunity to celebrate our firstborn‘s birthday. Colton, the beautiful black haired, once-chocolate-now-green-eyed baby, the one who made me a mama, turned 22 today. We have gone through hell with him, and with great joy have come out the other side. We are so proud of the man he is becoming, and grateful for the relationship that has been rebuilt over the last few years. Celebrating him is a true celebration. A food-lover after my own heart, his menu never disappoints: crescent chicken (a savory chicken and cream cheese mixture baked in a crescent roll pocket), sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and a tower fluffy cream puffs. Tatum K approved of his “ba-zert.”

~ for my husband’s Giddyup spirit. He decided the front of our house needed a little bench in a spot that had been an awkward little flowerbed. So of course, he drove straight to Home Depot and bought the cedar he needed, and came home and built a bench – all after a an 11-hour day at work. He finished it up and had it in place a little before 11pm. That man always blows my mind. We don’t call him Mr. Giddyup for nothing!

Kid tested and approved!

~ for good progress on my makeover projects. I’ve been busy with other things, and the weather has been uncooperative, so nothing is done, but I’m excited about the pieces I’ve been working on.

~ for an outstanding response to the Gold Network of ETX Toy Drive! These pictures are just SOME of the donations you have given! This is the first year we have had multiple business drop off locations, and the first year other pediatric cancer families have really gotten involved, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I can’t wait to finish gathering all the toys from the drop off locations, go shopping with the remaining donated funds, and count how many toys have been collected! What an amazing blessing for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic!!

It’s been a hard week. I often describe my parenting style as professional Whack-a-Mole.

There’s always a fire to put out. Always a crisis. I mean, statistically the kids CAN’T all be doing great at the same time. But mercifully, we have never had everybody doing terrible all at once either. Thank God for that. But there’s also the part of me that says, “you’re not even walking through cancer anymore. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OVERWHELMED. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH TERRIBLE TRIALS! SUCK IT UP!” Anybody else talk to themselves like that?

I’ve definitely felt discouraged this week. If you’ve ever seen the goofy picture of someone feverishly trying to sweep the shore while the ocean waves pound, crashing again and again…that’s what it feels like.

I feel like I’m constantly fighting a losing battle. Something will come out of nowhere, and I just throw my hands up and wonder, “what am I even doing?” I mentioned that to Josh this afternoon, shaking my head. He hugged me tight and held me close, and he said quietly and tenderly in my ear, “turn your music on.” He had mentioned that last week in Small Group, and it had surprised me that he had noticed that particular detail. He had said to the group, “I can always tell when I come home and the worship music is blaring… I know it’s been a rough day.” But it really is true: there is power in praise. There is power in worship. There is power in speaking the name of Jesus. So this afternoon I turned on the speaker and was instantly meant by the words, “By Your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…” Thank You Jesus for the comforting power of the Holy Spirit, and for Your Presence. You have promised that You would never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to abide with You, and keep You as our first resource instead of our last resort. I know the trials You allow are refining gifts, sanding me and shaping me, keeping me humbled on my knees where I belong. And thank You for new mercies every morning, for each one of us!

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you will look for the good. Even in the darkest days of my life, God was with me. Don’t lose heart. And when you think it’s all about to fall apart, turn your music on.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

Do-Overs

I am thankful

~ for the most divine Stanley’s “Mother Clucker,” tender smoked turkey piled high on a buttery jalapeño cheddar sourdough bun, topped with a fried egg, candied bacon, guacamole, and spicy peppery barbecue sauce.

~ for Rodeo Day. My little first grade cowboy has been looking forward to Rodeo Day for no less than a month. Every day was another day on the countdown: “18 days until Rodeo Day,” “only 14 more sleeps until Rodeo Day!” “I can’t wait until bedtime, because then tomorrow is only one week until Rodeo Day!” It is all he has thought walked slept and dreamed about. We were blessed to be able to borrow all the different garb and gear to transform Sawyer the Warrior into Sawyer the Cowboy,

and I am delighted (and relieved) to report that the long awaited, highly lauded Rodeo Day lived up to the hype. Sawyer had a blast roping calves, milking cows, and scooping cow patties. He ended his epic day with a picnic on the open range and an ice cold Dr. Pepper of course!

~ that Little Sister got to have her tiny taste of Rodeo Day as well. sawyer had talked it up so big, she couldn’t help but get excited. She got all dolled up with her braids and vest, and when we made a quick stop at mama’s favorite place before arriving at the school (Goodwill of course) what do you think she found? BRAND NEW “COW BOOTS” JUST HER SIZE! Cardboard inserts still inside, never worn. She couldn’t have been more proud.

~ for such a fun day for the boys, going to the zoo with Colton and Brooke.

~ and that the girls and I had a lovely day together, celebrating Aunt Katherine and Baby Cousin-on-the-way, Russell! So fun to get all dressed up together to celebrate a baby!

~ for sweet mornings with Tatum K’s new favorite way to start the day: breakfast on the front steps “listening to da bids.”

~ for a new makeover project. I love a good find. I’m planning on re-doing one of our rooms, and I’ve been on the hunt for a small scale vintage dresser. I scored big with a Facebook Marketplace bargain, but it definitely needs WORK.

We picked it up this afternoon, and this is how far she has come after 4 hours and 3 coats of stripper.

The dresser to me is such a picture of the journey of a life. It started out one way, created for a purpose, intricately hand crafted, beautifully stained. Then it went through a season of change (a cultural change, style change, lifestyle change) with a coat of paint. Who knows how many layers of paint it went through as styles, tastes changed. Maybe it was repainted to cover wear, to cover chips, coffee rings. And now it looks like a piece of junk to a lot of people. But it’s EXACTLY what I’ve been searching for, and I’m excited to give it a do-over so it can be beautiful and useful again.

Don’t we all need a do-over sometimes?

We are on our THIRD do-over with our garden. We put in a new raised bed this spring, replacing an existing flowerbed to make better use of our backyard space. We hired out the project, and the contractor filled the bed with organic garden soil, ready to be planted. We have loved having a little garden every year, and were excited to plant our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and melons. That was over a month ago. And NOTHING has grown. The tomato plants look stunted and a funny color, and none of the other plants have grown at all.

Josh and I were shocked when we realized, “THERE AREN’T EVEN ANY WEEDS GROWING!” Something HAD to be wrong with the soil. So of course, we googled it. It sounded like a phosphorus deficiency, and the remedy is adding bone meal to the soil. So Josh dug up each plant carefully, generously sprinkled in bone meal, mixed up the soil, and replanted everything. We watered and watched. Nothing. So we called a friend who is a master gardener, who suggested that there was TOO MUCH organic material in our garden, causing the PH to be off, and to try adding LOTS of regular old bags of topsoil. So today, while I was in the driveway stripping down that dresser, Josh and the big boys toted bag after bag of top soil to the bag yard. Yet again, he uprooted every plant, replacing some with new, and salvaging others. Hopefully, third time’s the charm.

It would be a lot easier to just give up. Do-overs take time, they take patience, and they are USUALLY MESSY! But aren’t we all thankful that God is the absolute Master of the do-over? We’ve all messed up big enough, or enough times that it would be easier to give up. But our loving Father never does. His mercies are new every morning, and He stands at the ready for us to take advantage of a fresh start.

I have prayers that I’ve been praying that I don’t see the answer to. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

I have friends who are hurting, walking through hard, heartbreaking trials. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

I am not the person or the mama or the servant that I want to be. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

Where in your life do you need a do-over? Whatever looks hopeless, broken, dead, or too far gone…remind yourself, God is not done. He is always working.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

“But GOD ’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.” (Isaiah 30:18 MSG)

Good Hard

I am thankful:

~ for the opportunity for my kids to use their gifts + their hearts. Gavin sat on the front porch and drew our neighbor’s car. But it is so much more special, because it is the car of their son who passed away just over a year ago, and Gavin wanted to give them his picture. Love his tender heart.

~ for Zoe’s character quality award in chapel this week: Creativity. Look at those sparkling brown eyes. She loves knowing she has made us proud.

~ for a long-overdue visit with a dear friend and sister. Our visits are never long enough or often enough, but we pack in the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of what’s been going on in our lives, and I always walk away from our time so encouraged.

~ for the great privilege of Gold Network of East Texas being chosen by Jodi and her team at Vintage & Co as the charity partner for their Spring Barn Sale. A team of us worked the admission table on Early Bird Day, and it was an extra treat to run into one of our very own HEROES: sweet Georgia! She loves vintage shopping and had found her own treasures that day!

I also had the privilege of painting a sign for a dear friend‘s baking business featured at the sale. I LOVE painting on unique salvaged pieces, so this charming punched tin pie safe was a treat for me!

~ for Sawyer’s school project: flourishing grass seed! He decided it needed a haircut!

~ for the grace and endurance I needed for a manic marathon Friday! This Friday was grocery day, which means tackling three grocery stores across town, loading and unloading before kids get out of school at 1. That’s a normal routine every other week for Tatum K and I, so it’s no big deal. Except of course that this week was a torrential downpour and lightning storm. AND it was Gavin’s turn to give his demonstration speech at school.

AND across town at the middle school, Kora was a queen in the much lauded annual 5th grade Medieval Feast.

By some miracle, I managed to get to everything, but I was a soaked, soggy, exhausted mess by the end of it all. Thankfully, many good memories were made, and even MORE thankfully, Dad brought home Rounders for dinner!

~ for a great Friend’s Day at church. Friend’s Day is a trademark of our church’s history: a relaxed picnic on the grounds, good food, good music, and good time connecting with friends, old and new. Josh’s and my first every visit to TCF 21 years ago was on a Friend’s Day. I’ll never forget it. We were so nervous to be showing up to a church service with our little 10 week old baby, and we were all dressed up in our Sunday best to try and look like we had it all together. We walked into the sanctuary and everyone there was dressed in shorts and T-shirts, ready for a picnic! We sat in the back and scurried away as soon as the service was over. Today was wonderful, several testimonies shared about the lavish love and faithfulness of God, bright sunshine, and a pie contest! I entered Josh’s favorite lemon icebox pie, but the grand prize of the day went to a most delicious pecan pie.

Also a staple at Friend’s Day is a blood drive. Josh and I try to give blood whenever we can, because we have seen Sawyer’s life saved time and time again with the blood transfusions he received throughout his cancer treatment. I was so bummed today when I tried to sign up to donate, but realized I didn’t have my purse and ID with me. Cooper, my one who is squeamish and hates needles, came up to me and said, “I’m ready. I want to do it. Will you come with me?” I was so proud to listen to him talk to the phlebotomist as she prepped him, “I know that helping the person who really needs this blood is a lot more important than any fear I have.” He did so great. And then Josh gave too. So proud of my Loves.

Saturday night we had our Gold Network ETX caregiver support group, CONNECT. It was our first meeting in over a year. When I first sent out the invitation, I was thrilled with the eager response I received – people were HUNGRY to get together. We catered a beautiful fajita feast from Abuelos, and I filled the table with bright and happy fresh spring flowers.

We had families drive in from all over East Texas, 18 people in all, several new to the group. We ate and we talked and laughed and got to know one another. And then we shared our stories. About our kids. About our journeys through our worst nightmares. People opened up about how lonely they had been, how hard it was to accept help, and how much it meant to them to be able to speak freely with other parents who understood the language of childhood cancer. At the end of the night, dad’s were exchanging phone numbers, we prayed together, and everyone went home with a restaurant gift card for a date night out. It was an emotionally exhausting evening, but we felt so incredibly humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of all these precious lives through Gold Network. And to give all glory to God, that He had walked this journey with us, and had opened our eyes and our hearts through the terrible trial of Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis. What a picture of beauty from ashes. I never would have chosen to walk this path, to see my child suffer in so many ways. But God had a purpose so much greater that we never dreamed of during all those hard, hard years. It is still very painful and draining to stay so entrenched in the childhood cancer world. Every new diagnosis, every harsh side effect or relapse pierces my heart as if it was my own child. But it fuels the desire to press in to the Lord more deeply, and to fight for these precious children and their families. It is hard, but it is a good hard. If you’d like to partner with us, you can register for the Tyler Gold Run 5K or 10 coming up in September, at www.tylergoldrun.com Or we currently have our annual Toy Drive for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Check Facebook or Instagram for toy dropoff locations around East Texas, or donate at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate If you make a tax deductible donation online, you can select a particular program you’d like to support: the support group, care packages, toy drive, our clinic call-in meal program, or to the general fund to be used as needed. We are so honored to be able to serve the childhood cancer community in this way, and so very grateful for your support.

As always, it was a hard week, a busy week, an exhausting week. We had highs and lows, successes and lots of failures. It’s not a fairytale. But more and more, I’m learning to be thankful for the hard. It’s where I learn the most. It’s where I come to the end of my facade and get real with God. It’s were real life happens.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

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

Birthdays and Baseball Games

I am thankful:

~ for another full whirlwind week!

~ for weather so bright and beautiful and perfect that I had to drag my easel outside to paint! It was GLORIOUS!

~ for Tatum K finding such joy in hiding and finding Easter eggs. All day. Over and over. Empty eggs never brought so much joy!

~ for my very best friend’s birthday. Josh would never make a big deal about his birthday, but I always tell him it’s a day that HAS to be celebrated, because it was the day God made him for me! Best C Rojo’s burgers and truffle fries for lunch and mouth-watering Southern Classic chicken for dinner, topped off with a 4 layer yellow cake with chocolate icing (one of his love languages might be food). And then the birthday surprise that has been KILLING ME TO KEEP, because let’s just say his other love language is Texas Rangers baseball. He was tickled with his gift of a new Rangers shirt and tickets for the whole Tribe to go to a game. I love surprising him!

~ and before I could even catch my breath, it was time for the next special birthday: a “FOY” year old Tater Bug! Tatum K, as you can well imagine, was over-the-moon tickled that it was her birthday, and squealed with delight at her breakfast of 4 colorful donuts and special birthday crown.

She proudly wore that crown all over town as we ran our errands, LOUDLY singing her original song, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! TO-DAY IS MY BIRTH-DA-A-A-AAAYYYY!!!”

She gobbled down her mac and cheese for lunch, and it was no surprise that she was incredibly specific and demanding about her evening menu of choice: sausage and eggs and colorful cake AND chocolate pie and chocolate cow milk. Tatum’s name means “brings joy,” and joy truly just explodes out of her tiny little self. She is easy to celebrate.

~ for a wonderful evening of food and fellowship hosting our church small group.

~ for a fantastic first trip to the new baseball stadium with the whole Tribe. We were all excited to be going to an actual in-person ballgame after a year of watching cardboard cutouts. Free hats, dollar ice cream, seats behind home plate, and a perfectly air conditioned environment made for a wonderful day.

Rally caps…sadly did not work

~ and my favorite part of every car trip (besides the every-17-minute-potty-stops and endless voices asking “how many more minutes?”) is holding hands with my sweetheart and singing our favorite songs. Right now our kids think we are lame and embarrassing, but I know one day they will remember fondly how in love their mom and dad were.

Life isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun. It isn’t always birthday dinners and baseball games. But when it is, grab onto those moments with both hands and LOVE LARGE! There will always be something hard around another corner, it’s just inevitable in this crazy world gone mad. We must TREASURE the sweet moments, the bright spots, because they fuel us when the road gets bumpy again. Hurts and disappointments, sickness and tragedy are on their way. But as I’ve been crying out to God about some things, I’ve been so encouraged by a certain worship song this week.

“When all I see is the battle, You see my victory

When all I see is the mountain, You see a mountain moved

And as I walk through the shadow, Your love surrounds me

There’s nothing to fear now for I am safe with You

So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees

With my hands lifted high

Oh God, the battle belongs to You

And every fear I lay at Your feet

I’ll sing through the night

Oh God, the battle belongs to You”

(Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham)

You said, “It is finished,” Lord. Help me to trust You with EVERYTHING. Things I worry about, even if they are huge mountains in my eyes, are so simple to You. And no detail escapes Your eye. You have finished the work, and it is well.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”(Exodus 15:2-3)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Full

I am thankful:

~ for a full week: as you can imagine, Rucker weeks are usually full (just by our sheer numbers), but this week was even full-ER than our standard full.

~ for quiet moments with the Lord in the morning. Lighting a candle makes it feel like a special occasion. Love it when Tater wants to snuggle in and “study” with Mama.

~ for April Fool’s Day aka “April Tuesday” aka “Jolly Joke Day.” Sawyer is captivated with jokes/pranks/magic tricks/funny videos, so this holiday is his sweet spot. His love of gags challenges me to find creative ways to have fun with the kids, and this year I was inspired! Bugs in their cereal, jello instead of orange juice, veggie straws hidden inside their sandwiches at lunch,

Sawyer (Mr. Jolly Joke Day) went to school with a forehead injury – a mixture of BBQ sauce and marinara
Tatum K was NOT AMUSED
But she forgave me

and beautifully iced “cake pops” (only they were actually brussels sprouts).

We laughed all day. The perfect end of the day was a game of Bean-boozled. Don’t be FOOLED: I’m SO NOT a fun mom by nature. I’m the do-your-chores, why’d-you-leave-your-socks-on-the-table, wipe-that-look-off-your-face mom. I’m not as patient as I should be, and certainly not NEARLY as patient as people like to assume I am. I get easily overwhelmed by the relentless needs of so many, by the firing of questions that never take a break, and more days than not, I usually feel like I’ve missed the mark. BUT GOD. It was fun to be the fun mom for a change.

~ for a wonderful turnout from the community at our church Easter egg hunt. Lots of new faces and old friends.

~ for hula hoops. Not just for hula anymore!

~ and for a lovely day today celebrating the greatest gift of all, the resurrection of our Savior, who conquered death and set before us eternal life. Carrying on my love of traditions, we made our favorite Resurrection Rolls for breakfast, reading the Scriptures together and telling the story of Jesus’ burial and the empty tomb. They are SO DELICIOUS! I’ll link the recipe here.

The empty tomb!

The kids loved opening their Easter baskets, and it was a blessing to all be together for church.

Then a festive afternoon with 22 cousins + the best smoked brisket of all time + more candy than anyone should ever have. And yes, we still do the matching outfit thing. They don’t fight me on it. They know they will lose. I get my picture, and then they are free to get comfortable and go chill. But they absolutely know: The picture. Is. Happening.

I’m exhausted and thankful. I’m so thankful for my family, and for the incredible people God has braided into all our lives. When I think about what Jesus did for us, and what He has done for me personally, I can’t wrap my mind around it.

It’s ok that I’m not perfect, that I’m not always patient, and that I still don’t have it all together.

Jesus loved me before I was ever born.

He knew my name, and He knew the path He had prepared for me.

He knew all my flaws and failures, and the gaping holes in my faith.

He saw me.

He saw the debt that I owed. And He paid it all.

For all of us.

“IT IS FINISHED.”

So I’m free. I’m resurrected.

And it is well.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

This powerful video gets me every time.

https://youtu.be/yzqTFNfeDnE

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6)

“He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).” (John 20:15-16)

Choose Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for Zoe‘s American History Hall of Fame at school. Each student in the 3rd grade reads several biographies of American historic figures, and they choose one to portray. Zoe chose a family favorite: Laura Ingalls Wilder. She dressed the part of a pioneer girl and delivered her speech eloquently. So proud of her and so fun to watch her program.

~ for the opportunity for the kids to work hard together. They tackled the remaining fence panels as a team, and got rewarded by Dad for being such a great help.

~ for the kickoff of our annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive. We are excited to have several new drop off locations around East Texas: Aaron’s on Broadway in Tyler, Pace Insurance Agency and RDA Pro-Mart in Longview, and Village Salon in Carthage Tx. We are collecting small toys for all ages to stock the Prize Closet at the Dallas Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Kids come to the clinic for procedures, chemotherapy, and checkups, enduring needle sticks and painful and nauseating treatments, and sometimes getting a little trinket at the end of that visit is the only bright spot in their day. We launched the toy drive after Sawyer had gone for an appointment and went to pick a prize out of the nearly empty closet, and the best thing he could find was a roll of craft ribbon. These kids deserve better. Toys will be collected through the end of April, or monetary donations can be made for us to purchase toys at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate.

~ for a generous and thoughtful donation from my friend Meredith at My Minky Co. She creates top quality handsewn minky puppies, kittens, and elephants, as well as stunningly beautiful baby and adult minky blankets. She donated two huge bags of the stuffed animals for the hospital kids. And a special prize for Tatum K. Many people may not know that Meredith is the only person in Texas I’ve known longer than Josh. When I moved to Tyler to manage the Buckle, she worked for me. How was that 23 years and a lifetime ago? So proud of the way she has grown to use her amazing giftings and talents.

~ for good old fashioned family fun. The kids had more fun being silly and creative with an empty box. Kora worked on her hand embroidery, and Samantha sweetly read books to Tatum K. Why do we even buy toys? It fills my heart up when we find joy in the simple things.

~ for doggy apparel to assist in the FULL TIME JOB of puppy prevention. While we DO intend to raise more litters of miniature goldendoodles, we know it’s in the best interest of Birdie’s health for her to wait awhile between litters. Let me just say, the instinct to procreate is STRONG!

~ for a fun weekend for Samantha, who was invited by friends to attend Fuel, a weekend youth retreat. She spend 2 nights away from home and had a fantastic time of fun, Bible teaching, and fellowship. How is this girl getting so grown up?

~ for a Spring re-fresh! We have added a new raised bed garden for our vegetables this year, and have potted some new plants and cheery red geraniums in the back yard. Come on sunshine!

~ for ANOTHER breakfast date! Tatum K had chosen to go to the donut shop for her Spring Break mom date, but she has been asking and asking to “go to Jimmy’s Egg wif Daddy.” So on Josh’s day off, we did just that!

~ for our first al fresco feast of the season. Dad’s mouthwatering burgers did not disappoint, and buttered, toasted Hawaiian buns took them to the next level. It was so wonderful to gather together in the cool, comfortable evening weather.

Spring is here. The dogwoods and redbuds have exploded into bloom amid the drab, grey, leafless trees. Hints of green are emerging from beneath the desolate frost-burned shrubs, and even a few brilliantly hued azaleas have valiantly burst forth where we thought no life was left. BUT GOD.It’s a picture of HOPE. New life overcoming. It’s so encouraging, a reminder that no matter fiercely a storm ravages, and the devastation it may leave behind, there is ALWAYS HOPE.

I read a devotional a few weeks ago that has resonated in my heart ever since. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it was phrased in a way that spoke to me afresh. We become what we focus on. It’s just the same as the adage “you are what you eat:” eat healthy, be healthy. Eat junk, come junk. Take in garbage (physically, mentally, or spiritually) and you will reap those benefits, and if you take in godly encouragement, worship music, read your Bible, you will be transformed to be more like Jesus. We’ve all heard it a thousand times.

But something about how it was said this time. You become what you focus on. If you focus on your problems, YOU WILL BECOME A PROBLEM. If you focus on your blessings, YOU WILL BECOME A BLESSING. And that’s really what Sunday Gratitude is all about. 7 years ago, when life as I knew it was crumbling, separated from my family, living in the hospital while my baby was fighting for his life, God told me to thank Him. To lift my focus from myself and my circumstances and seek out the blessings sparkling in the rubble. Writing Sunday Gratitude became an exercise in discipline, no matter what was going on. Trust me, there is plenty more going on behind the scenes in our lives that I’m not able to write about. We have had a million more ups and downs since then, but the blessings are ALWAYS THERE. From the high highs to the lowest lows and the everyday in-betweens, Jesus has never left. I just have to be willing to take the time to look for Him. And be willing to testify of His faithfulness. It’s a choice. I choose blessing.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

What I did on my Spring Break…

Well it was spring break week for us, as it was for many across the nation. We enjoyed a relaxed pace, beautiful weather, and an open calendar. One favorite tradition is breakfast dates with mom. I love having the one-on-one time to connect with each of them that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We started these little outings back when Sawyer was an infant… so I guess that makes seven years now! Can’t believe we’ve been doing it that long…time really does fly. It’s fun to surprise somebody different each day and to see where they all choose to go. My heart and my belly are full.

Zoe chose lunch instead of breakfast to fulfill her lifelong dream of dining at ZOE’S KITCHEN!

And the kids all had their turns getting loved on by their Aunt Gina. The girls had an afternoon,

the boys had a sleepover (Sawyer’s VERY FIRST night away from home other than hundreds of nights in the hospital! Mama’s heart had a hard time handling this! BUT GOD!)

And even Cooper got his own lunch date. So much fun.

When Sawyer gets to go back to his 1st Grade class tomorrow and give a report on what he did over Spring break, he can say he went to the hospital. Wednesday was his quarterly oncology clinic visit. Such fun for spring break, right?

But Sawyer loves it. He loves the trip, he loves the nurses and the doctors, and Wednesday was no exception. We rejoice to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE and healthy on all counts! We are freshly reminded of what a miracle he is. You can read the full details on the visit here.

Everyone is reflecting on one year ago when life as we knew it was changed forever by the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that the kids came home for Spring Break and never went back to school. We muddled our way through unprecedented virtual learning, toilet paper shortages, and mandatory stay-at-home orders. Social distancing, temperature checks, quarantine, and “I love your mask” became part of our new normal. EVERYTHING became political, EVERYONE had an opinion, and it felt mandatory to PICK A SIDE in every debate. Over the last year we’ve seen the loss of jobs, loss of freedoms, and loss of so many lives. So much has changed, and it doesn’t appear that the season of perpetual change is ending any time soon.

But no matter what has changed or will change, God is the same. He’s seated securely on His throne, loving us, drawing us, and waiting for more people to come to Him. And if we choose to anchor ourselves to Him, no matter how mad the world become, we can be confident that we know how the story ends. With life eternal in the Promised Land WITH HIM. Life often feels so complicated, but the Truth that matters is VERY SIMPLE. Most everything can be sifted down to Love God, and Love Others.

I’m not trying to preach to anybody but myself. I just want to live a simple life, loving my family and the people God brings into my path. I want to be anxious for nothing. I want to be Mary instead of Martha. I want to say “yes” to Him and really mean it. I want to love and forgive the way I’ve been forgiven and loved.

Anyway, I’m so thankful for all of you who take the time to listen to the musings of this everyday Mama, and follow along with the ins and outs of our Tribe. I’m always so encouraged when I hear from you. Thank you for your prayers, encouragements, and kind words over the past 7 years. You are my Sunday Gratitude.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Right On Time

I am thankful:

I’m thankful for a little spicy three-year-old in my lap snuggling and making faces and asking me to tickle her leg.

For lots of Giddyup & Whoa creations built, in process, and delivered.

For the sweet families that send us updates about Birdie and Bear’s puppies. They are growing up so fast, and are just the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen!

For my newest cute little plant, a dainty creeping wire vine. Who knew you could ORDER PLANTS OFF ETSY!?

For Cooper’s new obsession with “Chay-moe-ME-lay” tea.

For a full house for the first time in over a year. It seems like forever since we’ve hosted a small group for church. Small groups have been home to us over the last 20 years. It’s where we’ve been discipled, been fed physically and spiritually, where we’ve built relationships. We have worshipped together, prayed together, laughed together. We’ve worked through conflict and wrestled through questions together. The groups have changed so many times over the years, from 5 or 6 families to 1 or 2, to the mega group that numbered 50+ attendees, with 29 kids under 12. Last night we had 4 families with our collective 20 kids. Not even gonna lie: it was overwhelming. It was loud, kids were insane, and sensory overload for my anxiety. But it was so good. It’s why God gave us this home: to have a space of open doors and open hearts for loving on people. Kingdom investment. We are excited for this new season of stretching. We knew it was time.

For hand-me-downs. Thank you hand-me-downs for keeping me from having naked kids.

For walks at sunset.

For fun finds at Goodwill.

For my sweet boy I found hiding in the warm towels fresh out of the dryer.

For a sweet movie that the kids and I stumbled upon by accident: “Safety,” inspired by the true story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey, who became legal guardian of his little brother while still in college. It was a perfectly timed, God-ordained opportunity to talk through some questions a couple of our children had about foster care. As they grow into their tween and teen years, there have been more questions…deeper questions, the kind of questions that make my stomach hurt. Lord Jesus, help me tell my babies the truth with the right words given to me by only You. Help me to be a safe place for them, and give them the courage to ask their questions instead of stuffing them down inside. And fill them so completely with Your Love that they don’t have to doubt that they belong. I trust that the moment they need You the most, You will be right there.

This week a sweet friend asked how they could pray for me, and I said “that I would not lose heart and not grow weary trying to pour into all my kids.” It’s a daunting responsibility. Impossible really. BUT GOD. In myself, I don’t have a chance. But I have to remind myself – DAILY, if not multiple times a day – that HE saw fit to entrust Josh and I with each one of these incredible blessings, and that His grace is enough. And I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m never going to quit trying to get it right-er than the time before. And what I want to remember about that day, the day my friend asked how she could pray for me, was that that day my kids REALLY needed me. We talked through some really hard stuff, we had some extra hugs after a big owie, we prayed some really raw prayers. Had some looong talks. Any one of their needs would have been big enough to overwhelm a day. But stacked together and multiplied? WAY too much. BUT GOD! God knew what was coming THAT DAY, and He put me on my friend’s heart. And He knew she’d be faithful, both to reach out to me, AND to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH AND PRAY.

HE. IS. FAITHFUL. And He is ALWAYS RIGHT. ON. TIME.

Thank You, Jesus, for walking with me.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalms 32:6-8)

“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
‭‭(Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬)

“I’m changed by Your mercy Covered by Your peace I’m living out the victory Doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat You’ve walked me through fires Pulled me from flames If You’re in this with me I won’t be afraid When the smoke billows higher, oh and higher, and it feels like I can barely breathe I’ll walk through these fires ‘Cause You’re walking with me”“Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr