Not Finished

I am thankful:

~ to be home. We had a great trip and it was awesome getting to see so many of our family and friends. But after more than 40 hours of perpetual family togetherness in the car, we are OVER traveling.

~ for a bushel of juicy red ripe tomatoes waiting for us when we got home. We have been living off BLTs.

~ for waking up our first morning back home to one of my favorite sounds: the gentle rumble of a Texas thunderstorm.

~ that I am finally caught up on my laundry after no less than 7 loads of vacation laundry.

~ for crisp buttered toast with my Grandma’s blueberry rhubarb jam.

~ for a pic and a text from a friend saying that Cooper is great at his job.

~ for an experiment that paid off. We love love LOVE the brick floors that we painstakingly laid ourselves 2 years ago, but we have found them hard to clean. Josh had the bright idea of bringing in his pressure washer with the spinner brush attachment. We knew it would either be a success or an epic failure and flood. After a couple test spots and the addition of a mountain of towels and the shop vac, Josh got a good system going. It was A LOT of water, but the floors look amazing again! Great job, babe!

~ for the humbling honor and privilege of sharing my testimony at an intimate gathering of young moms at a pregnancy resource center. I’ve gotten more and more comfortable sharing about our childhood cancer nonprofit, about our personal journey through childhood cancer with Sawyer, and about our family’s adoption experiences. But it’s been a long time since I’ve shared with a group my raw personal experience as a lost, scared single girl faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

It was very emotional. But such an incredible story of God’s sovereign, redemptive Hand. I was thankful to share my story of hope with these young ladies, each with their own backgrounds, their own trials, their own stories. But each one of us the SAME: loved and valued and seen by our Heavenly Father.

That testimony just took place earlier this evening, and it was the perfect way to end an emotionally taxing week. I still hate July because we always get sick every year and because of losing Alan and missing him and because Cancerversary doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Don’t get me wrong, I look at Sawyer and am completely overwhelmed with gratitude that he is healthy and well and cancer free. He is truly a miracle in every way, and I thank God for him every single day.

You can read my Facebook Cancerversary post here.

But looking back on that terrible day still has a shocking, staggering weight to it. This year it was the days leading up to July 23rd that were the worst. I couldn’t stop thinking about the days before we first heard the word “cancer.”

I always say we never saw the freight train coming. Those were the last days before we were branded forever with the identity of “cancer parents.” When the anxiety starts to rage, it begins with a heaviness in my chest. Like a deep dull burning ember. A heavy heavy weight in my heart muscle that crushes, suffocates, until I physically remind my lungs to breathe because they seem to have forgotten how to work. Then a sharp stab. Between my ribs, piercing, twisting, paralyzing my entire chest. Can’t breathe, can’t move, can’t think.

But then the guilt comes. I don’t get to fall apart: my child is healthy. We are not in the hospital. He survived. We are a success story. We got our miracle. Get over it and move on. Nobody wants to hear about your anxiety. I mean come on, it’s been 7 years for heaven’s sake.

I recently found a new Facebook page, “Off Treatment, Now What?” The moment I started reading, I was met by entry after entry, “I don’t know where I fit…“ “I don’t know how to talk to my friends who have lost a child…” “Why do I have such a hard time sleeping?…” “Why am I still struggling? Does it ever get any better?”

I resonated with all these people, but why didn’t it encourage me? Why did my stomach start to turn and my breathing suddenly speed up so fast? Why did I just want to run away?

I know that I always tell other cancer moms be kind to themselves. I’m trying to be kind to myself, but it’s hard. I’m tired of falling apart. I’m tired of feeling stuck, and like I am held together with chewing gum, scotch tape, and paper clips. I don’t know if reading these other stories made me acknowledge that I’m not as healed as I like to think I am? BUT GOD.

When I find myself in the midst of a breakdown, when I feel that downward spiral tugging, I remind myself that my anchor is set. God is faithful, and He won’t let go. I know He has a purpose for every single detail, every piece of our testimony, from the earliest days with Colton to all the things we struggle with today. Our story is still being written. And it’s for our good and for His glory. As much as I wish I was past all my hang ups, I’m thankful that I know that I know that I KNOW He’s not finished with me yet.

Whatever your story, whatever your struggles, He’s there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭73:26‬)

Buh-cation

We had a memory-making, exhaustion-inducing, marathon trip back to where I grew up. We drove more than 2000 miles and stayed in 6 different locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We crammed more into 8 days than one would dream possible, especially with a Tribe like ours. But it was a trip we will always remember. We pulled in to our driveway and hugged our puppies late this evening, my 2nd load of laundry is washing, and I’m ready to collapse in my favorite bed. Fried but grateful. God is good.

Arthur Bryant’s Kansas City BBQ
Beautiful bluffs of southeast MN
Reconnected with high school classmate, Mandy, who brought kids cupcakes and a PIE for Tatum K!
MN “Friend the Mustache”
Beautiful Winona, MN on the Mississippi River
Garvin Heights Scenic Overlook Winona, MN
Recreating our iconic photo from 1998
September 1998
Great Grandpa is the coolest 90 year old
Visiting Nana and Papa’s old farm
4 generations
Love my cousins
Visiting Nana and Papa in Alma, Wisconsin
Origami class
National Eagle Center, Wabasha, MN
Pepin, WI Marina
Cheese balls at the AirBnb
Cabin in Spooner, Wisconsin
Making music
Sweet friend from college, Katie
Our miracles, Sawyer the Cancer Warrior and Adam who was born premature and spent his first 100 days in the NICU. BUT GOD!
Grandpa David’s farm Lewiston, MN
Cooper’s view from 110 feet
Exhilarating/terrifying ATV adventure

Thankful for a wonderful and memorable trip. And thankful to be home.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭100:5‬)

Free

I am thankful:

~ for Cooper and Samantha having a fantastic week at camp. They made/reconnected with friends and had more fun than I can even describe. Sam said it was the best week of her life! So thankful for this wonderful opportunity.

~ for a wonderful evening with friends Chris and Lindsay and Coby Tate. Our kids just dote on Coby and love him to pieces.

~ and for the rest of the kids having a great week at home and at Ignite Day Camp.

Crazy Hair Day
Silly Sock Day

And the MOST EXCITING NEWS OF ALL, is that we got a NEW SISTER THIS WEEK!!!! Our sweet Zoe girl asked Jesus into her heart on Wednesday!!! She and I have had some good talks over the past few weeks, so I knew her little heart was stirring. Well all the great talks and prayers during Ignite were the perfect environment for that spark to burst into a flame! She expressed interest about getting saved to one of her leaders, who then spend the whole next day praying for her. When they met up the next day at Family Fun Night, they prayed together, and Zoe gave her heart to Jesus! What a beautiful beginning to her new life in Christ. With her brown eyes just shining, Zoe told me, “I just knew I wanted to be free and I wanted to live forever with Jesus in heaven.” The children’s director approached me afterwards, and actually arranged to come over to the house and do a video interview of Zoe’s testimony as an encouragement to others.

Speaking on camera was a big challenge for our shy girl, but she was super brave and did a beautiful job of sharing her story. We are so proud of her. Zoe’s story is at the end of this video highlighting the fun at Ignite.

~ for the daily joys of finding new treasures in our garden.

~ for a bright sunshiny project. Mid-week I hit some bumps, and was just struggling personally. I decided I wanted to throw my energy into a quick little DIY makeover. When we moved to this house, of course we were excited about the pool. But I promise you I was EQUALLY excited that there was an outdoor bathroom to accompany the pool! A pool bathroom is just a game-changer. Well our pool bathroom has been functional but absolutely not cute.

And I was ready to change that. This whirlwind makeover took less than 48 hours: first brightening it with a clean blank slate of our favorite Alabaster white paint on EVERY SURFACE, then adding a cheerful retro design in a modern muted palette, and finally a hand lettered encouragement from the Word of God was just the finishing touch it needed. Literally painting the sun brought much needed LIGHT into my tired heart.

To me, white paint is almost like magic. It can brighten and transform almost any space.

~ for tasty black bean and corn salsa, flavored with jalapeños, avocado, cilantro, and lime.

~ for 4th of July fireworks with such fun neighbors. I do love a good fireworks show.

~ for my sweet friend who surprised me with festive ColorStreet adhesive nail art delivered to my door. Thank you Jacquie!!

~ for a wonderful day spent with friends and family. We laughed and swam and laughed some more and ate the most delicious food until we could hardly move. Tatum K joyfully wished everyone, “Happy Forf-a-La-Jiiiiy!”

And we loved on each other. Because July 3 is not just the day that precedes Independence Day. July 3 is a very important, if somewhat under-promoted holiday: it’s our Alan’s birthday. And it’s his first birthday in heaven since he received his ultimate healing last July. There were many sweet Alan memories shared and lots of tearful hugs. We are all thankful that he is whole and healed and free and rejoicing, and we know he is laughing that loud belly laugh with Jesus and has probably got everybody up there into wearing shiny white original Reeboks and MAKING SURE EVERYBODY knows it’s his birthday. But our July celebration was too quiet without our favorite long-haired dragon-tatted sweetheart. Nobody loved quite like Alan. We all miss him so much.

I’m thankful to be free. I’m thankful for the nation I live in and the freedoms I enjoy that so many do not. But oh, the freedom that I have in Jesus. I am so thankful that I am free to live and love and fail and forgive and be forgiven. I am free from who I once was, and free to be the new creation that I was always intended to be. I am free to love my husband and my children and know that while I am so far from perfect, I was perfectly chosen for them by their perfect Father whose perfect love will never fail them even if I do. I am free to leave my hands open, and trust a trustworthy God with my life and all my questions and the situations that try to steal my joy away. I am thankful to be free.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1)

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Galatians 5:13-14)

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”(John 8:36)

In Between

I am thankful:

~ for the joyful celebration of beautiful Coby Tate Cochran. We love our Miss Lindsey and Mr. Chris with all our hearts, and Coby is the most beautiful answered prayer, so celebrating him and them is easy!

Coby is obsessed with cows, so his “Cow Jumped Over the Moon” theme was adorable. We went to an awesome park in Lindale, and the kids had a great time playing and splashing and celebrating Coby turning 2.

~ for our first juicy and delicious red ripe tomatoes fresh from our garden.

~ for the best laughs. Sawyer has taken to wearing a mustache these days. Years ago when he was little, he had “Friend the Mustache.”

2018
The Original “Friend the Mustache” 2018

He proudly donned his new one this week and said, “‘Friend the Mustache’ is back!” He wears it almost every day. He came down and sat beside me and I looked at him and started giggling. “What?” he asked innocently. I just shook my head laughing and reminded him, “Your mustache.” To which he replied without hesitation, “What??? Is it upside down?”

~ for Cooper’s favorite French toast, slightly crunchy with cinnamon sugar and a hint of orange zest, dusted with powdered sugar, dripping with melted butter and warm maple syrup.

~ for Giddyup&Whoa signs to paint. I’ve had the wonderful privilege of painting for my dear friends’ new vet clinic (Faith Veterinary Clinc in Troup if you are looking for a vet), several weddings, and a special anniversary. I love creating something beautiful and meaningful for people I love.

~ for the sweetest concert. Our kids and their friends have been talking for WEEKS about a fundraiser concert they were planning for the neighborhood. For weeks I’ve heard them singing their hearts out at the top of their lungs. For weeks they’ve been borrowing the Alexa to play music and have “Sunshine Sisters” band practice. For weeks I’ve been hearing plans. Last week they had a stack of lumber in the driveway and half of Josh’s tools out. “What in the world is going on here?” we demanded. “We’re building a STAGE!” Thankfully we put an end that, or surely we would have had to get a permit from the HOA. Thursday I was in informed, “The concert is TONIGHT!” I began getting texts from other moms and neighbors, “Is this thing really happening?” And as I watched my children hustling and bustling through the house, setting up tables and gathering chairs and blankets… I soon realized, their plans were VERY real, and “this thing” was REALLY HAPPENING INDEED. When I walked out my front door, there were chairs in rows and a refreshment table. The kids had made signs and knocked on doors, and pretty much the whole neighborhood came out!

The kids sang and danced and told jokes and drew names for prizes. It was absolutely adorable. They even got their audience to participate!They collected $59 in donations for a local foster care support organization. I was blown away by their dedication, creativity, and courage. They had a goal, worked hard, and didn’t back down. And the support shown by our neighborhood was heartwarming.

~ for the bittersweet blessing of dropping two of my babies off at camp. Cooper and Samantha are THRILLED to go to Pine Cove this summer: Cooper’s 4th time(?) and Sam’s first. We have spent the whole week prepping and packing, and this afternoon I loaded up all their gear and made the short drive to the lushly wooded Pine Cove property on Lake Palestine. I know they will have a blast, but we sure will miss them!

~ and it will prove to be a fun week for Sawyer, Zoe, and Gavin, as they attend 4 nights of IGNITE, a VBS-type event at their school campus. Tonight was SuperHero Night. Kora and Tatum K (too old and to young for IGNITE) helped me bake some yummy muffins at home, and I will enjoy some girl time with them with the others are gone.

It was a mish-mosh week of highs and lows and everything in between. Just real life messes. Hoverboards left out in the driveway and half-dog-eaten crayons under the table. Clogged toilets and a pocketful of Kleenex-turned-confetti in the washer. The kind of week that caused me to know there are 52 days of summer left until the first day of school. Sometimes parenting looks like this…

Simple joy

And sometimes it looks like this.

When someone can’t resist sticking their fingers in the THIRD coat of a drywall project

I know that a huge part of parenting (or life in general) is the humbling, the stretching, the reaffirming that we don’t have all the answers. Our shortcomings highlight what a perfect Father we have. In our weakness He is strong. He never gives up, never wears out, never turns His back. I can’t tell you how many times I had to put myself in a time-out this week. I’ve emptied myself, come to my end. I’ve cried myself to sleep and said not-very-Christlike words in my closet. If you had a week that you had to sit and think a moment to come up with what you are thankful for… you are in good company.

But it’s still worth it.

It’s still worth giving thanks for sticky jelly kisses and a warm bed and silly mustaches and an occasional 5 quiet minutes alone with a great cup of coffee. And a reminder to give thanks that none of my babies are in the hospital. To take nothing for granted. The more of me that gets emptied out, the more room there is for Jesus.

Dear Lord, we DO have so much to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.” (Psalms 25:4-5)

“Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5-7, 10)

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone You’re God of the hills and valleys And I am not alone” (“Hills and Valleys,” Tauren Wells)

Simple Moments

I am thankful:

~ for the simple moments. For a hot cup of coffee and Jesus at the start of my day. For crisp, freshly laundered white sheets. For elephant ears in my backyard and cheerful red caladiums in their pots. For so many people to hug every morning and kiss every night. Lord, give me eyes to see the beauty in the simple moments that so easily could be missed.

~ for Colton’s latest “adventure.” The commercial construction company he works for assigned him to a new project, a business remodel in Albuquerque, New Mexico! With less than 24 hours notice, he had to head out on the 10 hour drive, and the project is expected to last a month! Very overwhelming, but such a big step for him and a wonderful opportunity. We are so proud of him.

~ for my cute little nightly sleepwalker. We left Sawyer’s door hinge squeaky on purpose, so we hear when he comes out. Usually we help him find the restroom and direct him back to his room. But sometimes I find this. He laughed until he cried when I showed him this picture in the morning.

~ for our silly dogs. They are so much fun.

~ for my puzzle-master kids. They started and finished this in ONE DAY. Like less than 5 hours I think. 500 pieces are just too easy.

~ for a fun evening at the Cattle Barron’s Little Wranglers event. We saw several of Sawyer’s warrior friends, and hung out with Chismo, the painting pony.

~ for a message at church that was right to the point and right on time.

~ for the cutest little teeny tiny praying mantis.

~ for a good evening frying up chicken fried steaks with friends.

~ for my husband. He is so easy to celebrate. Our life is far from perfect. We have walked through many trials, and wrestled through pain and heartbreak time and time again. But this man is as steady as they come. He works hard, harder than anyone I have ever seen. He even works hard AFTER work TO RELAX! He has very high expectations and standards, and models how to reach them. He never fails to make me laugh, whether he’s teasing me or making up his own vocabulary that makes PERFECT SENSE. He loves deeply, sacrificially, and never ever puts himself first. He seeks the Lord in everything, and is not afraid to stand up for what is right. His kids will never ever wonder if they were loved by their dad. And every single day, they see the way he loves their mother. They see the way he honors me and cares for me and serves me as if it’s his most important job. I’ve never met a better man.

Love when we work side by side

I wish I could pick and choose the bright spots and leave the rest. But that’s not real. Life is messy and some parts are really hard. But living in Christ, we have to cling to the promise that our best days are always before us. God is at work, refining and strengthening our faith, deepening our relationship with Him. There is purpose in it all. So whatever season we are in; whether we are skipping in the sunshine, crying in the rain, or agonizingly dragging ourselves across the desert, we just have to hold on to Jesus and take the next step. And however hokey that sounds, it really is that simple.

He’s that good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (Deuteronomy 10:21)

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs 16:9)

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalms 121:1-3)

Testify

I am thankful:

~for a bountiful garden. The change in soil fixed our problem, and our garden is going crazy! We literally have hundreds of tomatoes on our plants ripening, and I cannot wait to eat them all! Sunflowers stretching up, baby strawberries, baby bell peppers, and vines growing and crawling everywhere!

~ for a fresh new palm tree on the patio. Let’s see if I can keep this one alive…

~ for catching sweet sister moments.

~ for a colorful plate of happiness.

~ for a victoriously completed puzzle with, by-nothing-short-of-a-miracle, no missing pieces!

~ for another section of fence painting ALMOST completed. Loving the updated look, but the blazing Texas sun is brutal.

~ for a bright fresh coat of paint on the pool deck. It’s a beat down to do, but makes such a difference!

~ after nearly painting myself to death this week (at one point, I literally PRIED the paintbrush from my hand, and my cramped fingers STAYED IN THE POSITION from holding the brush!) I was thankful for a quiet and relaxing soak in a fragrant eucalyptus bubble bath. At least for a few minutes it was relaxing…

Ahhhh, a relaxing bath in the peace and quiet
But then I got company

~ for the kids having a truly wonderful week at VBS. All the volunteers did an amazing job, and the kids had the best time. It was Tatum K’s first experience with “PTS,” and she was a lot more timid than I expected. Lots of tears and clinging to Mama.

But she made it, and somehow wanted to go back each day. I nominated myself “VBS BUS” of the neighborhood, and most of our neighbor kids went with us each evening. Our family even won a prize for bringing the most guests. Such a fun and exhausting week for the kids.

It was strange not working at VBS. One evening I helped with serving dinner, but otherwise I just dropped the kids off each night. I wrestled with feeling guilty over it, but God had something else planned for me this week during my nightly 2 hours without kids. I had random but very purposely-appointed, God-ordained get togethers each evening. I know this timing was no accident. Last week and starting off this week, I was not in a very good place. As much as I purposed myself to refocus my eyes and heart from my circumstances to my Savior, I was failing. I wasn’t sleeping. Anxiety was fierce and persistent. I felt hollow and alone.

BUT GOD.

One night was the refining gift of back-breaking labor with my Love, ripping out our now-dilapidated planter boxes/poles that we built for our backyard string lights when we first moved here. They were cute as a bug when we built them, and we LOVE our string lights, but the boxes did not weather well,

2018

so Josh came up with a better plan to replace them with aluminum poles behind our fence. Unfortunately, that meant re-stringing the lights and hauling off the 250 pound blocks of solid concrete we had set them with. No small task.

But we got it done and rewarded ourselves with a decadent steak dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. I can’t remember the last time we had an ACTUAL date. This was a good week for that one-on-one time.

Anyway, on my other evenings with my various activities, it was interesting that each time, I was put in a position to share parts of my testimony. Over and over, I was asked questions. How and where I grew up. How I met Jesus. How Josh and I did everything out of order in our relationship. Our adoptions. Cancer. So many stories.

So many amazing stories of God’s faithfulness and perfect timing.

It was no accident that God had perfectly timed these appointments on a week when I was feeling empty and low and defeated. I could have filled my time serving at VBS and had a great time, distracted from those feelings. OR, I could have had a peacefully child-free quiet home to sit in, and I would have squandered that precious time either mindlessly staring at Netflix or maybe wrapping myself up in my hurt and letting my anxiety completely wreak me.

BUT GOD didn’t let me.

A timely gift from a dear friend

Instead, He got me out of my comfort zone and asked me to tell my story. He asked me to TESTIFY. He knew that I needed to be reminded afresh of all He has done. TRUE MIRACLES. And not just a couple miracles. MIRACLE AFTER MIRACLE AFTER MIRACLE. As I told my stories, I felt as if I were hearing them for the first time. Hearing with brand new ears the things God had told me. The things He had taught me. The times when He gently held me, spared me, protected me. The times when He lovingly challenged me, stretched me, broke me and tenderly put me back together.

I was amazed.

And encouraged.

And refreshed.

WE HAVE TO TELL OUR STORIES. We know that we as Believers are called to testify: to glorify the Lord and to encourage others, but it encourages US TOO! It reminds us of where we once were, and how amazing our Father is. Oh, that we would not forget. Help us remember that no matter how small our mustard seed of faith, He made that mustard seed and planted it. And He planted it TO GROW. To be buried in the earth looks and feels and smells like death. But God BIRTHS LIFE!

What story can you share to remind yourself that God knows what He’s doing?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:25-27)

“and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”” (Joshua 4:5-7)

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”” (Psalms 77:11-12)

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 9:1-2)

A Puzzle and a Fence

I am thankful:

~ for the brave men and women who gave their lives serving this country so that we can enjoy so many freedoms today. May we never forget that our freedom isn’t free.

photo by Marvin D. Lynchard

~ for a fun day spent swimming with cousins and stuffing our faces with watermelon and amazing brisket and homemade ice cream. So much fun we didn’t take a single picture!

~ for the kids’ excitement over going to the library. My bunch as a rule are not avid readers, but they love to GO ANYWHERE, and the novelty of so many choices is always fun.

~ for a hard day’s work with my Love. But man, we are not as young as we used to be, and our bodies are literally falling apart.

~ for the gift of hot pizza after a long day.

~ for cool rain on my face and the sound of thunder.

~ for somebody who knows I love Buccees salted caramels.

~ for my littles who aren’t so little anymore, but still snuggle with me. I’m blessed with very affectionate children, and I absolutely adore it.

~ for the most beautiful little nephew who made his entrance this week! Meet Russell!!

~ for the genuine and kind young man Cooper has grown into. Seriously, that kid blows my mind.

~ for a Sunday nap with my dogs.

~ for a freshly painted fence.

Our fence needed a facelift

~ for morning Bible time with the kids. I love starting our day together in the Word. And I got each of them their own journal to write down their thoughts and prayer requests, so they can look back later and reflect on all that God has done from their own point of view.

~ for progress on a really awesome, but REALLY HARD puzzle.

I laughed that this week I spent my “free time” doing the puzzle and painting the fence: 2 measurable tasks that (UNLIKE PARENTING) have a clear ending point, can be successfully COMPLETED, and involve inanimate objects that cannot talk back to me. I needed to spend time with a puzzle and a fence.

It should have come as no surprise after making a bold proclamation ( in last week’s blog) that I would focus on my blessings instead of my lack, and that nothing is too hard for God, that I would be met with fiery darts and a gut check for my faith.

Life. Is. Hard.

And messy.

And loving Jesus does not give me a pass from all the hurt.

But it does give me HOPE. And I’m so thankful that NO MATTER HOW I FEEL, HE IS ALWAYS GOOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WORTHY OF PRAISE.

HIS FAITHFULNESS IS NOT CONTINGENT ON MY FAITH.

Storms come. Hurts. Wounds. Failures. Disappointments. Loss. Life isn’t always easy or kind.

BUT GOD.

He is still good.

I’m weak and empty. HE is GOD.

I’m flawed and selfish. He is HOLY.

My VERY BEST attempts at love are so limited. HE IS LOVE.

I’m out of answers. HE is THE ANSWER.

So today I am spending my energies on thanking Him for all He has done, and all He is doing, and all He is going to do.

Whatever storm or valley you are in the midst of, He is there with you.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“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 8:38-39)

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalms 139:7-12)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Impossible

I am thankful:

~ for this handsome too-grown-up boy and his new haircut.

I hinted at it last week, but it was too new for me to fully process. I know it sounds ridiculous to be so dramatic about a simple haircut…but my cancer mama friends understand. When you’ve had a child that loses their hair during cancer treatment, hair becomes A REALLY BIG DEAL. Sawyer’s fine, straight baby hair grew back super curly and perfectly matched his vibrant personality.

Those soft curls nestled into the crook of my neck every night for years. I stroked those little curls while I waited for him to wake up after every spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy. Those curls would get sweaty when he got fevers, and I would know it was time to pack up and head to the Dallas ER.

I just loved his thick head of hair and everything it represented. It was like another badge of honor he had earned. But he was ready for a new “do” and I knew I had to let go. It was hard to watch. And Josh admitted it was very hard for him to do the haircut. But we are both so proud of him. Isn’t he just the stinkin’ cutest?

His first glimpse of himself…

~ for a fun day trip to Longview to pick up our final load of Toy Drive toys and to visit Aunt Dinah. Although our visits are never long enough, we managed to squeeze in a pizza party, fun in and out of the rain with her sweet neighbors, treasure hunting in her beautifully wooded backyard, and assisted her in testing whether or not her bathroom’s frosted glass window was frosted ENOUGH. We had a great day.

~ for the MOST AWESOMELY EPIC TOY HAUL! Our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive was a fabulous success thanks to the many businesses and individuals who gave so generously. Not only did we collect hundreds of toys at each donation location, we were blessed with more than $1100 to go shopping with! Paula and I had a blast shopping for toys and gift cards with the donated funds.

All together, we collected 2,229 toys, a huge growth from last year. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO GAVE!

We are blown away with your kindness, your support, and your generosity. We took all the seats out of our bus, leaving a spot for Sawyer, and turned it into Toy-Delivery-Mobile.

What a fun job that was! Of course, with current COVID-19 restrictions, we were not allowed to actually physically stock the CCBD Prize Closet like we have in years past, but we were met in front of Children’s Hospital by the Child Life Team. They greeted us with 2 large, industrial rolling bins, and I gleefully advised them, “I think you’re going to need MORE!” We ended up filling 4 bins to overflowing.

The Team was thrilled with the donation, and amazed by the quality of the toys you all collected. And our wonderful social worker, Diane, who has been by our side since Sawyer was diagnosed with leukemia at just 7 months old, was amazed to see him now: tall and handsome, with his new glasses and new haircut. She just couldn’t believe it.

~ thankful for sweet Aunt Gina who chauffeured us for the day, and encouraged me to override Sawyer’s lunch suggestion (Buccees of course). Instead we tried a new-to-us spot, Rodeo Goat, and enjoyed the MOST DELICIOUS burgers and fries.

~ also thankful for these delicious dark chocolate salted caramels. You can see I was not able to restrain myself from opening them even long enough to take a picture (see the empty space at the top of the canister?) Gina Sue gave them to me on Wednesday. And it is POSSIBLE that they MAY HAVE been GONE BY SATURDAY….possibly.

~ for a wildly successful mission yard sale at church last weekend, and a wonderful treasure that was clearly meant for me.

~ for an awesome afternoon at church helping decorate for next week’s upcoming Vacation Bible School. The kids have loved it every summer, and are so excited to be meeting again this summer!

~ for a great first week for Tatum K in her big girl bed! I thought she’d get up 8475 times a night, but amazingly enough, she never has! In fact, it seems that it has not clicked that she is PHYSICALLY ABLE to get out of the bed by herself. Instead, she SCREAMS AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, “MAMAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” any time she needs anything or in the morning when she wakes up. Also surprisingly, she hasn’t ever fallen out. So we graduated to the next level, from the mattresses on the floor to her actual bed with a frame. So cute.

I had a good wake up call this week. It can be so tempting to look at the hurts in our lives. To wrap up in a blanket of hurt and surround yourself with your disappointments. Isn’t it funny/sad how our eyes instinctively seek out a flaw. We do that with our lives. We look for the holes. The lack. We see what’s missing instead of what’s there. Let-downs, disappointments, broken relationships, people we miss. People who were never there in the first place. But today I sat in my chair and the Lord lavishly poured His love over me. He showed me all the things He has given me. All the people he has braided into my path. He lovingly reminded me of all the ways He has made up for what I lack. People who have loved abundantly when they didn’t have to. BUT GOD.

What would happen if we consistently focused our eyes on our abundance instead of our lack?

What are you praying for that to you looks unanswered? What looks impossible? I am loving the song “Rattle” by Elevation Worship. “Since when has ‘impossible’ ever stopped You?” I know so many people walking through such hard trials, and they are so beaten down and discouraged. But we, the people of God, believers in Christ, HAVE TO BELIEVE that He is WORKING WHEN WE CAN’T SEE! We shouldn’t be living like the ones who have no hope! Do we really believe it? Do we really believe Him? And do we LIVE LIKE WE BELIEVE HIM? The beat from that song pounded upon my chest, and I could physically feel its resonating in my heart. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD. He hears every prayer. He is working, for His glory and for our good. He is working in the dark, working beneath the surface. So much of what He is doing we cannot see. So we foolishly think nothing’s happening. We are so arrogant and impatient with God, second-guessing His ways and His actions (or the appearance of inaction.) I promise you I am preaching to MYSELF here. I have situations that I have worried myself half to death over, and I have begged God over and over to move. But I have to remind myself that He cares more than I care, and He knows more than I know. And His timing is ALWAYS perfect. And the stretching and refining that only comes through waiting is JUST AS important (if not more so) than the answer itself.

What is your “impossible?”

Think again. He’s not done yet...

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””(Matthew 19:26)

“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)

“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)

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“My God is able to save and deliver and heal and restore anything that He wants to / Just ask the man who was thrown on the bones of Elisha if there’s anything that He can’t do / Just ask the stone that was rolled at the tomb in the garden what happens when God says to move…”

This is the video for the song, “Rattle.” May it bless you and encourage you as it has me. https://youtu.be/xrAdbH28gIg

Rejoicing

I am thankful:

~ to joyfully report that Cooper is doing AMAZING! The first week out of the hospital he dealt with a lot of headaches and some back pain, but they are all gone now, GLORY TO GOD! He says he feels back to normal! There are still many holes in his memory. He has no memory of the first 24 hours of symptoms/hospital, and the last month is very foggy. But long term memory is intact, and he is retaining new memories. WE ARE SO THANKFUL!! Thank you so much to everyone who prayed and helped our family!

So much has gone on over the last 3 weeks: mostly 187 million end-of-school events, so I will just let my pictures tell the story…

Tatum K’s first terrified trip to the dentist
X-rays
The wonderful hygienists at Boozer Dentalworks won her over by the end
Josh’s latest home project
Sawyer used the nail gun to finish the bottom trim all by himself because he could fit behind the building…
But mom and dad had to squeeze in to trim out the top!
This charming little cottage, aka “the Pool House” will house the lawnmower, garden tools, and pool chemicals and accessories.
Help from Colton and the dogs
Adding shingles that match our house
A wonderful morning on 5/8 representing Gold Network of ETX at the LukeStrong Run in Palestine (later this afternoon was when Cooper got sick and went to the hospital…I still can’t believe that was all in one day!)
Posters of kids all over East Texas who have fought cancer
Superhero Cape-decorating station
Nerf War!
Sawyer was given his first devotional book, which he sat down and immediately began to read❤️
We love Miss Cherie and Mr. Dwayne. The Grumbles family pour their lives into others to honor the memory of their son Luke.
Samantha: 6th Grade Crud Wars, an epic food fight on the playground (chocolate syrup, fruity cereal, whipped cream, and flour)
I come prepared for the car ride with a plastic tablecloth
End of year awards for Sawyer and Gavin. Thankful for a LESS MESSY event
Cheering at Fresh 15 race with Gold Network/Grace Community volunteers
Kora: 5th Grade Crud Wars
Zoe’s End of Year Grace’s Races
Gavin: 4th Grade Crud Wars
First Day/Last Day of School – they are growing up way too fast
Shower bar broke, so Sawyer fixed it, all by himself
A BIG change happened just last night…
SOMEBODY is transitioning to a BIG GIRL BED!
Amazingly, she did great!
Somebody else had a MAJOR “FIRST” also, but I’m going to leave you hanging for now…my heart can’t take any more tonight!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 9:1-2)

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” (Psalms 104:33-34)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalms 103:1-5)