Pure Gold

I am thankful.

For God’s favor.

For kindness.

For people who are generous with their time, their gifts, and their resources.

For fellowship.

For new friends and old friends.

THANK YOU to everyone who came to Tyler Gold Run, who donated, who volunteered, who helped behind the scenes, and who prayed. You have truly made a difference by going gold.

September is almost over. Our mission is not.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

“David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:23-25)

All Systems GOLD

I am thankful:

~ for a delicious traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for a crisp, fresh new candle.

~ for my new diffuser running nonstop with eucalyptus oil.

~ for new Tyler Gold Run shirts! Always exciting to open the boxes and see the latest design. And it doesn’t hurt that I have the cutest models in all the land!

~ for a week of all things GOLD: hours of putting out Tyler Gold Run signs, Run Committee meeting, radio interview, speaking to 3rd graders about Gold Network and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,

and for the arrival of my long-awaited custom GOLD glitter chucks!

~ for the conquering of an IMPOSSIBLE SATURDAY. Talk about a day when we needed a few clones! We had one sister with a cross country meet in Longview at 8am. One sister with a volleyball tournament in Gladewater at 8:15am.

And mom had Tyler Gold Run swag bag filling in Tyler at 9am.

SuperDad expertly shuttled the girls where they needed to be, and the rest of the Tribe helped me. Then we headed to the barn to hang sheet metal for 9 hours! Days like that harshly remind me of my age. But God!

My sentiments exactly. #relatable

~ for wonderful fellowship with dear friends at church and afterwards. What an awesome gift.

We are all systems GOLD this week. Speaking to schools, several interviews, last minute details, coordinating volunteers, and every big and small detail leading up to our 8th Annual Tyler Gold Run 5K. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years! What a ride!

2015
2017
2018
2021

We’ve learned so much and met the most incredible people along the way. I will never understand why Sawyer got cancer, but I will never stop thanking God for the undeniable beauty He brought from those painful ashes. You can learn more about Gold Network of East Texas or register for the run here. Local or not, runner or not, you can make a donation at any time via our website. Do it for Sawyer. Do it for Bristell. Do it for Sophie. Do it for all the children around the world who need someone to stand up and say that kids with cancer need better care and more funding. Together we can make a difference.

Hope to see lots of you Saturday!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Too Short to Waste

I am thankful that this life is not all there is.

This week one of our brave and beautiful HEROES finished her battle and leapt with joy into the arms of Jesus.

Bristell, aka Bristell Brave, fought cancer not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. Her parents and her doctors did everything they could, but her cancer was aggressive and devastating.

Today her family celebrated her short but inspiring, joy-filled life and laid her earthly body to rest. Family, friends, and her fiercely loyal Tribe of supporters wore orange (the ribbon color for leukemia) to honor the memory of the vivacious little princess that we had all fallen in love with.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate cancer?

I look at my boy, with inextricably intertwined gratitude and guilt for his healing. I think of how many friends he has lost. Micah, Anna Luisa, Sophie, Ceely, Lucas, Noah, Harold, Brock, Luke…

But oh, how I love Jesus.

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The ONLY door to life everlasting, where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more cancer.

Please pray for Bristell’s family. They know she’s whole and healed and dancing with Jesus. But there will always be a gaping Bristell-sized hole in their hearts until they are reunited one day.

Love your people well. This life is short. Too short to waste. Trust Jesus as your Savior before it’s too late.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (Psalms 119:49-50)

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1-4)

23

I am thankful.

I am thankful for this man. This man who came into my life so unexpectedly. Who pursued me so relentlessly no matter how hard I tried to discourage him.

I’m so thankful he wouldn’t give up on us.

I’m thankful we grew up together in almost every way. We simultaneously became best friends, parents, spouses, Christ followers, and started a completely new course for our lives almost overnight. And we never looked back.

I’m thankful that he taught me a love like I had never seen before. I’m thankful for the amazing dad he became overnight, and the way he has learned and grown and outdone himself over and over through the years. I’m thankful that he boldly and courageously leads our family to honor Jesus.

I’m thankful that the words “Giddyup and Whoa” were spoken over us two decades ago, and that they have consistently remained true, almost comically so. Sometimes we are so opposite we drive each other crazy, but we know we need the balance the Lord built into our relationship. Can’t drive without BOTH a gas pedal and the brakes.

I’m thankful we learned how to communicate, how to extend grace, and to forgive. I’m thankful that even though we learned a lot of things the hard way, that at least we did learn. And we are still learning. I’m thankful that God knit us together so tightly in preparation for the trials we didn’t know were ahead. We clung tightly to Him and to one another through darker days than we could have imagined.

I’m thankful for laughter and adventures, for Mexico, for the everyday grind, for back-breaking labor, impossible projects, and working side by side. He’s seen me at my worst. He knows all my details, and he still sticks around.

Today we celebrated 23 years of marriage. We served a luncheon at church, hung metal out at the barn all afternoon, and ate gas station pizza with the kids for dinner.

For better, for worse.

In sickness, in health.

For richer, for poorer.

Thank You Jesus, we are so very rich indeed.

I’m thankful we’ve never stopped dreaming. And that we will continue to be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I’m gonna live where the green grass grows

Watch my corn pop up in rows

Every night be tucked in close to you

Raise our kids where the good Lord’s blessed

Point our rocking chairs toward the west

Plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows

Where the green grass grows.” (Tim McGraw)

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

September is Coming…

I am thankful:

~ for the yummiest perfectly toasted cranberry Einstein Bagel.

~ for everyone (even me) settling in to the school routine. This little nugget is loving her class SO MUCH! She says she especially loves the naps and “a-spanish.”

~ for a super fun evening of fellowship with our church Women’s Ministry painting at Pinot’s Palette.

~ for NO MORE PUPPIES IN MY HOUSE!!! Pups #6, #7, and #8 found their families early this week.

#8 (aka Blue Boy, now named Rusty) was lone wolf for a few days until his new mama could drive in from Laredo, so he got some extra special treatment. This was a much more challenging litter, with the new smaller surroundings, brutal summer heat, and less than ideal timing during back to school. SO THANKFUL to have “been strong and courageous and done the work” and to now have it behind us!

~ for Josh’s Father’s Day gifts getting lots of use: his noise canceling headphones, equipped with Bluetooth AND AM/FM tuner, perfect for listening to Texas Rangers Baseball while he mows.

And his stackable scaffolding, which makes the continued process of building our barn possible. (Still not a fan of heights though!)

~ for our boys’ joy at finding creatures out at the farm.

MOST creatures anyway!

This little feller was NOT welcomed, and was met SWIFTLY with his demise!

~ for Kora’s very first Cross Country meet. We all got up at an ABSURD hour for a Saturday morning to have her an hour early for a meet an hour away! I’ve never even attended a Cross Country meet before! It was a great experience for all of us, and special to be there for Kora’s very first activity. I failed miserably at getting pictures, but she ran hard and did great. We are so proud of her!

~ for a fabulous treat, lunch at the world famous Dairy Palace in Canton on the way home.

~ for more hard work at the farm. I’m so worn out, my TIRED IS TIRED. Josh didn’t earn the nickname “Mr. Giddyup” for nothing. I’ve never been so thankful for Mondays in my life – because I get a break!

It’s a big week. Tuesday Gold Network of East TX will host our annual Go GOLD ETX event on the Downtown Square to kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s always such a special evening to honor our HEROES and cheer them on as they walk the gold carpet with their families. And a sobering one as we see the impactful display of all our kids on the ever-expanding Wall of HEROES, and when we release balloons for the friends we’ve lost along the way. Please join us if you are local: 6:30-8:30pm on the Tyler Downtown Square.

And then it’s September.

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging now for 8 years, since Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis turned our world upside down. I’ll never forget God telling me to thank Him while laying on that vinyl couch next to the hospital crib where my baby was receiving chemo.

THANK HIM? But I did. And it changed me. And I’ve been thanking Him ever since, sometimes freely and sometimes completely against my will. As much as I hate cancer and mourn all that Sawyer was forced to endure, I am grateful for the mission and ministry that was birthed from that excruciating season of suffering.

In 2015, we found 9 families in East TX that had faced childhood cancer. 7 years later, we have connected with more than 100. Which is simultaneously wonderful and devastating. BUT GOD.

Will you GO GOLD with us this year? Follow Gold Network of East Texas on social media to learn more about childhood cancer and how YOU can make a difference.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4)

Ready or Not

I am thankful:

~ for a great first week of school under all our belts. We did all the things. Shoes✔️ Backpacks✔️ Haircuts✔️ Supplies✔️

Teachers were met. Desks and lockers were stocked with crisp new paper, pencils, markers, and folders.

Honoring our beloved Mrs. Youngblood. All 5 kids had her for Jr.K, and she had been so excited to finally have Tatum K in her class this year. Bittersweet.

Everyone was raring to go. It’s been a different kind of summer for us. We left our awesome house with our awesome pool and our awesome neighborhood friends. We’ve certainly made great memories working out at the farm, but here at the rent house it’s been a little lonely and a lot HOT. All 7 kids were ready for some structure and variety. AWAY FROM MOM.

Miss Tatum K counted down the minutes leading up to school. But it did take a few attempts to actually coax her out of her bed.

But a few blueberry muffins later, and she and the rest of the Tribe were ready to go! 12th grade, 8th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade, and JrK, HERE THEY COME!

Did I cry? Yes, but I made it back to the car first. Did I go back to bed? No, my wonderful husband insisted on taking me to breakfast. Did I shove my face full of donuts? Why yes, yes I most certainly did. Ain’t no shame in my game. I eat my feelings.

I didn’t like the quiet. My house felt oh so empty. But I had plenty to do. It’s almost September, so my Gold Network ETX to-do list is full. And puppies of course.

But 3 o’clock couldn’t come soon enough. We celebrated with our tasty first day of school tradition – Shivers snow cones.

I wish I had a recording of the simultaneous overlapping words and phrases coming from every seat behind me in the car on the way home. “Mom, I need a red folder with brads but you gave me a blue one with no brads and I need one with brads. But red.” “Mom my PE uniform didn’t fit.” “Mom, we HAVE to get new shoelaces. TODAY. Like RIGHT NOW!” “Mama my shoes are itchy.” “Mom, you need to sign these 16 forms by tomorrow morning or I can’t go to Bible class. They said I can’t even GO to class if I don’t bring them.” “Mom, what box is my locker shelf in? What box is my calculator in? What box are my volleyball knee pads in?”

I must have made a face. Because Samantha looked at me and turned to the others and said, “Hey guys… lets give mom a minute before we all attack her at once. Breathe Mom.” (Thanks Sam).

I’m thankful for all my ducks, even if I can’t keep them in a row. I just know this is going to be a big year in a lot of ways. Tatum K’s first, Cooper’s last, and everyone and everything in between that will unfold for our family.

Lord, help me actually embrace each day instead of skipping ahead or looking to the next. Give me grace for the messiness and the unplanned. Let me be a grace-giver. Give me courage. Courage to face the hurts that will come that I can’t fix with a bandaid and a kiss. Courage to say “no” even when it makes them hate me. Courage to say “yes” even when it terrifies me. Give me eyes to see that today, today with the cramped house full of stinky puppies and stinky, moody teens and pre-teens will be gone before I know it. And that one day I will miss 3 loads of laundry a day and 87 forms to sign. My hands and my heart and my plate are full, full of people that I love. Don’t let me wish these days away.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

Where Did it Go?

I am thankful:

~ for a few, very few, lazy days left of summer.

~ for a fresh and yummy mini date with my Love at Salsaritas.

~ for the joy of finding Fur-ever homes for our puppies! Thank you so much to everyone who has shared my posts or spread the word! Only 3 little boys left!

~ for Whataburger malts to celebrate August Tonight, a very special day to remember and honor a very special man.

As for many others, our “summer” will officially come to a close this week as the kids go back to school. The mountains of supplies have been assembled, sorted, and labeled. Shiny new shoes sit waiting in their boxes – HUGE boxes of HUGE SHOES!!! WHO ARE THESE GIANT-FOOTED CREATURES AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY CHILDREN!? Backpacks and lunch boxes are at the ready. I can’t believe we’re here already.

It seems like yesterday that we were packing up the moving trucks.

And telling the kids about our dream of a farm…

Where did it go?

It’s been a very different summer. But in a good way. It’s been a sifting summer, a refining summer. A season of dreaming and reflecting and shifting and regrouping. Some parts I would choose, and some parts make me want to get back in my bed.

As if that was an option.

Time marches on. My babies aren’t babies anymore.

Now this little nugget is finally going off to school. (Pretty much against my will.)

She couldn’t be more excited. She asks me every 20 minutes how many days until school starts. She pats my hand and says, “You’ll be ok, Mama. You have Bear and Birdie.”

I haven’t been alone in 23 years. This year my BABY baby is starting school, and my 3rd oldest baby will graduate from high school.

I am not ok. I have planned my schedule meticulously.

• drop kids off at school

• return home

• cry

• eat donuts in bed

• repeat

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬)

Board by Board

I am thankful:

~ for a fun-filled birthday for our Zoe! This sweet brown-eyed girl turned 11 with quite the special day. She started with Z-shaped pancakes, then to the mall for EARS PIERCED!!!

Lunch was an obvious choice: Zoe’s Kitchen, of course, followed by frozen yogurt for dessert.

Her requested dinner menu: tacos, beans and rice, and a fancy homemade chocolate cake topped with Oreos. She proclaimed it the best birthday ever.

~ for our first farm “crop” doing well. We laugh when we look back at our very strategic planting technique.

Back in June

~ for these puppies! They literally get cuter EVERY DAY! It’s so fun watching their little personalities emerge. They are now 5 weeks old, and soon to be ready for their forever families. We still have several available, message me if you’re interested. And if you’re not, please spread the word!

Summer is winding down, and the days are counting down until the kids go back to school. They are all excited to see their friends and meet their teachers, if not for the actual “school” element itself. But the #1 MOST EXCITED is Miss Tatum K. She has her backpack and lunch box and new cup and crayons, and she is RARING TO GO!

What am I going to do without my little spunky sidekick??? (I’ve already told her that I’m going to cry on the floor and eat donuts all day. So if I’m not answering my phone…)

We are truly enjoying our time out at the farm. We are out there working nearly every day, board by board. It’s a slow process, but more and more I think it’s supposed to be.

As much as I would like to ding-it-all-done overnight, I really do like the slower pace.

I like watching my kids learn from their dad.

I like working with them side by side, and knowing that they will forever remember that they built this barn with their own hands. I can imagine them showing the barn to their own kids one day, pointing at the nail they shot or the board they cut.

I loved hosting dinner out in the fresh air (ok, it was still 95°) for the first time tonight. Grilled pork chops and potato salad just taste better outside, with friends, and after a hard days work.

I know that along with every board we hang as we build this barn, God is building me, building each one of them. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but tonight my heart is full.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Keep Digging

I am thankful:

~ for lots of progress on the farm. I have to remind myself, slow progress is still progress.

So many people have asked, “so what exactly do you DO when you go out there?” And, “so what is the timeline on the house?” As much as Josh and I both wish we could blink and have everything completed, that’s just not the way it works. Does it work that way with ANYTHING?

This is a beautiful if maddening picture of the journey being even more important than the destination. We are side by side with our kids. They are working hard, getting sweaty, and learning new things every day.

They are playing in the dirt, chasing cats, and eating popsicles. We are literally framing a 4000 square foot barn one board at a time. We are learning, in a million different ways, what it actually means to be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.

~ for the cutest puppies on the planet. Bear and Birdie’s miniature Goldendoodle pups are now 4 weeks old, and we love to love on them! We still have several available, so feel free to put the word out if you know of someone who needs a new snuggle buddy! You can find our G & W Goldendoodles Facebook page here.

~ for an incredible night of delicious food and fellowship at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT Support Group. Although I stressed a bit about hosting at our new ever-so-SLIGHTLY-smaller home, the Lord didn’t let me shy away. AND WHAT A BLESSING! There is just nothing like gathering with people who understand the hardest parts of your life, and the opportunity to lift one another up! We laughed our heads off, ate until we could hardly breathe, and together we prayed heaven down. I could not be more grateful for the priceless gift and honor of loving on these families.

I was super encouraged by the message at church this morning. It was an exhortation to not give up. We can’t give up when things get hard. I know we all KNOW that, but don’t we sometimes need to be reminded? How many times have we found ourselves in a place we never wanted to be, certainly never THOUGHT we’d be, and just had the thought, “That’s it! I’ve had as much as I can take, and I’m just DONE!”

We don’t get to be done.

Wherever we find ourselves, that’s where God has us for now, and even if we can’t make ANY SENSE OF IT AT ALL, there’s purpose in it. In trial, in weakness, in suffering, in brokenness, in sickness…He is there with us, and as long as there is breath in us, we are here for His purposes.

And on the flip side, we MUST NOT GIVE UP WHEN THINGS ARE GOING GREAT! We pray and beg and plead for God to lift us out of the muck and the mire, and when He does, we thank him (hopefully) and then somehow we so often go back on cruise control. Until we find ourselves back in a ditch. We have to remain connected to our Father and His people in the good times and the bad. WE NEVER CEASE TO NEED OUR FATHER!

I was just so encouraged and convicted. We have to KEEP DIGGING. Digging into the Word. Digging deeper into an intimate relationship with God. Digging down through the rubble of apathy and laziness for fresh Living Water.

Sometimes life seems dry and too hard. Too many kids. Too many puppies. Too many fires to put out. Too many bills. Too many setbacks.

BUT GOD.

So I’m gonna keep on loving my babies and teach them Jesus the best I can. And every time I screw up, I’m going to try to do better the next day. I’m gonna hoist those boards and build that barn. I’m gonna get out of bed when I don’t feel like it and do the work. And keep digging.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:47-48)

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

“David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”(1Chronicles 28:20)

Summer Lovin

We love the beach. This week we loaded up and made the trip to our happy place. So thankful for this family and for the opportunity to make special memories. I know each day is a gift; these babies aren’t babies anymore.

Texas Burger
Straight to the beach
Transforming Tatum K into a mermaid
Feeding the seagulls is always a favorite
We always celebrate Adoption Day while on vacation. So thankful for these three miracles.
Night fishing

It was a great week. I don’t expect relaxation from our super-sized family excursions. It’s never perfect. It’s messy and flawed and loud and bumpy and absolutely exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade this Tribe for anything. And I will be grateful for EVERY OPPORTUNITY to enjoy being all together as many times as I can.

Saturday marked the 8 year anniversary of the terrible day we were told our baby, 7 month old Sawyer, had cancer. It’s always a hard day for me. You can read my thoughts on “Cancerversary” here.

It’s wonderful to get away for a change of scenery, but it’s good to be home. Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalms‬ ‭116:7‬)