New Vision

Sawyer handed me an envelope from his backpack. I scanned it quickly and saw he’d had the standard vision screening by the school nurse. “Hey bub,” I told him as he crawled up beside me on the couch, “it looks like we need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.” “Glasses!!??” he exclaimed. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and his sparkling eyes suddenly started to fill with tears. “I don’t WANT glasses!!”

Change is hard. And it can be hard to wrap your mind around a paradigm shift, even just a seemingly minor one. I even got a little teary that evening when I talked to Josh about it. We both wear glasses and contacts, and know that life is just a little easier without having to deal with them. Even though we were both sure that the vision issues were simple and hereditary, it was impossible not to think about the chemotherapy drugs that listed vision loss as a side effect. I remembered wrestling with Sawyer as a tiny infant to apply eye drops every 4 hours round the clock when he was taking high dose cytarabine. But Josh and I held one another and thought back to those days, and we praised God that all we were facing was glasses for a beautiful 7 year old. To God be the glory!

Fast forward to the eye appointment. Sawyer’s reservations were completely forgotten.

He cheerfully hopped in the chairs for each different eye test, asked 7 billion questions, tried on several pairs of frames, and once the appointment was over, he asked more times than I can count, “HOW MANY MORE DAYS until MY GLASSES get here????” He went from nervous disappointment to impatient excitement almost overnight.

After two excruciating weeks of waiting, (thanks Snow-pacalypse 2021), I pulled up to the eye place and Sawyer squealed, “Are they finally here?” You’ve never seen a kid more excited. And once those tiny cute little glasses were placed on his little freckly nose, you’ve never seen a kid stand more proud. And better yet, “Wow! I really can see better!” Isn’t he so handsome?

To add some tasty icing to the cake, during the snow shut in, we had watched all the Superman movies with the kids. As soon as Sawyer climbed in the car with his glasses on, Tatum K yelled, “You look like Clark Kent!” He has latched onto that persona BIG TIME. Sawyer the Warrior has always been a superhero to us.

How often do we trip ourselves up and rob ourselves of clear vision because of fear and preconceived ideas? How often are we short sighted, in every sense of the word, instead of being willing to look for God‘s way, which is always SO MUCH BETTER?

Apparently this is something the Lord is really trying to drive home with me, because it keeps coming up. And when God repeats Himself, it means He’s NOT. KIDDING.

I’ve been looking for a certain vintage piece for our home for a LOOOONG time: a rustic wooden chicken nesting box. I’ve seen them in other people’s decor and fell in love. Little drawers and cubbies are just my favorite, and I’ve been hunting for a piece like this for YEARS. They are hard to find, and invariably WAY out of budget.

Photo: Instagram @yellowprairieinteriors

As Josh and I look for new pieces, and as our taste and the needs of our family change, we are often getting rid of STUFF. It’s always a challenge because, true to our nicknames, Giddyup (Josh) and Whoa (me), we RARELY agree. Josh would throw anything away in a minute and I would keep everything forever because if either a sentimental attachment or the nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, we would need “that thing” again one day. Anybody relate? Which side of the line do you land on?

So I have this dresser. It was mine as a kid, and my Grandpa Henry built it. The corners of the top were roughly rounded, and I knew the marks were from where I had actually chewed on it as a child. (I know, I guess I had problems, what can I say.)

Grandpa Henry was married to my Grandma Grace, and he passed away when I was 8 years old. My old dresser made lots of moves with me as I grew up, eventually being used by Colton until he moved out, and then was passed down to Cooper. It wasn’t in great shape any more. The finish was worn, the drawers had grown a little warped and were tough to slide. Josh and Cooper both said it was time to say goodbye.

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ACTUALLY BROKEN. It was still FUNCTIONAL. And it was so special to me.

But Josh had his mind made up. There was a better storage solution for Cooper’s closet that would free up floor space in the bedroom. But he also loves me, and is so considerate, and he knew how much having a piece of my Grandpa meant to me. He told me he was going to take the dresser apart so it wouldn’t take up so much space, but that he would save the wood until we found a special project for it.

I cried. (I really am a mush pot).

I think the dresser parts have been sitting around for about a year.

Until one day about a week ago when Josh came to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I have an idea that I think you’re gonna like. What if I build your nesting box out of your Grandpa’s dresser?”

I cried again.

Before I could even wipe my leaky eyes, he was out in his shop with the saw going. As always, I had strict instructions to stay out until he was done. “NO PEEKING!”

Maybe an hour later, he was ready for the grand reveal.

It. Was. Perfect.

Exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly made to fit our space. And handmade by the man that I love with wood from a special piece of history from a man that had meant the world to me as a little girl. And yes, I cried again.

When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me even more history about my dresser. He said, “I think Dad made it for the master bedroom in the old house after he and Ma were married, with home-sawn oak from here on the farm, so around 1945 is my guess. Dad liked to work with wood and usually had a project going.” Then it had been handed down from my Grandma to my Dad, and eventually to me. I couldn’t love that old wood more!

I love this piece. I love the function and warmth it adds to our hallway, and I love all the stories connected to it.

But first, I’d had to let go of the dresser.

I started with something that meant a lot to me, but it really wasn’t working anymore. I had to be willing to let it go and embrace a change. And when I finally did, I got something I REALLY wanted, and it turned out even better than what I had ever dreamed of.

Can we really do that?

Can we let go of our familiar and comfortable routines that we have built around ourselves, and allow God to dismantle them? Are we willing to trust that He actually has something better for us? And are we actually willing to WAIT for whatever that is, as long as it takes?

I don’t know what God has in store. But I know one thing. I know there’s more to this story than a pair of glasses and an old dresser. He’s been nudging me about a few things that I’m pretty certain he’s asking me to let go of. It may not be easy, but I know I want what He has for me more that whatever poor substitute I’m clinging to.

I don’t want to cling to ANYTHING but HIM.

I hope whatever season you find yourself in, that this encourages you. Let it go, and let your eyes open to His vision. I’m thankful that if we are willing (and sometimes even when we are not) God will speak to us through the most ordinary and unexpected ways.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Snowed In

I don’t know how to describe this week. Most of you blog readers are here local in East Texas, so you experienced the Great Freeze yourself. And those from the North are well accustomed to the trials that come with an abrupt and harsh winter storm. How can it be that all of this happened in SEVEN SHORT DAYS? The snow started falling last Sunday, it froze that night, and everything spiraled from there. One week later, most of the snow that turned our lives upside down is already gone! How can we see temps of -6° and 60° in the same week? Our family fared remarkably well compared to so many of our friends and neighbors. We never lost electricity, which means we never had to go without the comfort and convenience of heat and cooking. We were only without running water for a short 2 days. Even then, we had plenty of bottled water to drink and water available from our pool to flush our toilets. The icy road conditions kept the kids and I at home, although Josh braved them a few times to go to his job. So far, the only damage we have discovered is one burst pool line and most of our landscaping. We were mildly inconvenienced, but never in danger or seriously affected, unlike so many others across the state who have been displaced, have incurred thousands of dollars in damage to their homes, and others who have even lost their lives.

But it certainly has been an opportunity to practice gratefulness. I have been encouraged and inspired by the way I have seen neighbors helping neighbors and strangers coming alongside families in need. In a season where the world seems upside-down, and where everyone seems forced to take a stance or a side in opposition to someone else, THERE IS STILL SO MUCH GOOD!!! THERE IS SO MUCH KINDNESS!!!

So my list of “thankfuls” this week is very simple.

I am thankful for my hardworking husband who lays his life down for his family. I am thankful for the way he loves me and makes me feel loved whether I ACT lovely or not. I’m thankful that he hears and obeys the Lord and puts the first things first, and that he is such a wonderful example for his kids of a strong, godly MAN’S MAN.

I didn’t know Cooper snapped this picture of us when we went on a walk together.
I love it so much.

I am thankful for each one of my children, thankful for the family God built out of lots of broken pieces into something supernaturally beautiful. I am thankful that they are all so different but so uniquely bright and full of love. And thankful that Sawyer survived cancer and is here with us. And I am thankful for the humbling privilege and honor of being their mother.

February 18 was Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a day to honor childhood cancer warriors.

I’m thankful these kids, who have all been born and raised in the South, got to experience one whole week of snow life. They bundled up in layers, played outside with the neighbor kids until they couldn’t feel their fingers, and had more fun in the frozen fresh air than they will probably ever experience again in their childhood.

And for my adorable husband who, we have discovered, turns into a fascinated 7 year old when it snows. He could often be found throughout the day staring at the snow, measuring the snow, and on multiple occasions, dragged me OUT OF BED to come look at the SIZE OF THESE FLAKES.

I am thankful for our warm, comfortable home. I’m thankful Josh and I love to work on it together and that we never stop dreaming. And I’m thankful Project Month was done before the storm, when it would have been impossible to make a quick run to the hardware store for supplies whenever we needed.

I am thankful for RUNNING WATER. I am thankful for the conveniences of hot water, washing machines, dishwashers, showers, and toilets. We all take these things for granted so easily until suddenly we no longer have access.

I’m thankful for a pantry, refrigerator, and freezer full of more food than we need. Lord let me be grateful for the abundance of choices we take for granted every day.

I’m thankful for first responders, linemen, healthcare workers, and truck drivers that leave their families and brave the elements so that others can have what they need. I’m thankful for the kindness and generosity of those who opened their homes, donated food and water, gave blood, and helped people who ran off the roads.

I am thankful for all of our wonderful neighbors who check in on everyone else and help each other anyway they can.

But do you know what? I had EVERY ONE OF THOSE THINGS last week and the week before.

When I took my first shower after having 2 days of no water, huddled under the meager dribble of low water pressure, it felt GLORIOUS. A week ago, I probably would have complained that it was the worst shower ever. So what made that shower feel so wonderful?

GRATITUDE.

When you are forced to do without, you learn a new level of appreciation. But that appreciation will quickly fade if you don’t keep the attitude of gratitude.

It’s sounds cheesy. But it’s so true. And you know what? I’M THANKFUL FOR CHEESE! I’m thankful for the moments when God simplifies a concept down, and I can relearn it in the brand new, refreshing perspective of childlike faith!

I feel like I have been given a great gift. The gift of fresh eyes of gratefulness for the bounty of blessings around me. And as I tell my kids almost every day, and now I repeat as a reminder to myself, we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

Lord help us to be thankful. But not just surface level / lip service / dinner-time prayer thankful. A deep rooted, genuine thankfulness that changes the way we live our lives. Give us eyes to see the blessings around us, and the people around us that we need to share with. Let us hold THINGS loosely with open hands and make more room in our hearts for Him and for His people.

Please pray for the state of Texas, and the many people who are still dealing with various hardships. But God…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

“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)

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 4:11-13)

How NOT to Rest on Your Vacation

I am thankful:

~ for the glorious report that Baby Annie came through her pacemaker surgery BEAUTIFULLY, and every single day this week has made great strides toward healing, BLOWING THE DOCTORS’ MINDS. Her mama and daddy have finally been able to hold her again, and she has been able to lose many of her lines and tubes. She has a long road of healing ahead, but this brave, strong little fighter is a MIRACLE!

~ and for a different kind of miracle. My Uncle Stan (technically Josh’s uncle. But he’s mine now too) has wrestled through health battles for many years, from cancer to debilitating chronic pain. He has been bed-bound and on hospice care for the last 4 years, but he and his devoted wife have weathered these storms side by side. Stan didn’t ever follow any of the expectations or timelines set forth by any of his doctors or hospice nurses, the eternal comeback kid. But this time, Jesus let Stan know that it was finally time to rest easy. The Lord gave the immediate family, the closest inner circle of loved ones, the priceless gift of meaningful conversations and goodbyes in his last days. Then they were all together in the presence of the Holy Spirit as Stan stepped into Glory, finally whole and healed, free from sorrow and pain FOREVER. It’s really hard to grieve when we know he’s finally FREE.

~ we enjoyed a trip over to Kilgore to visit Colton at his job site of the Dairy Queen he is building. We are so proud of him. And so good to stop by and get some hugs from Aunt Polly and our cousins too.

~ for Josh’s vacation. He works so hard and such long hours, and has a ton of stress, so it is our favorite time of year when he gets a respite to do what he loves to do. Now, the man DOES NOT know how to REST. So on his vacation, he works TWICE AS HARD as he does at his job. But he does get to sleep in and enjoys the freedom of choosing how to spend his time. He loves to build and work on projects. He loves to spend time with us and enjoy our afternoon coffee together. He loves to eat good food and spoil us. So this week we did a lot of all that.

~ so that means I’m thankful for ANOTHER exhaustingly productive week of DIY-ing with my Love. His vacation is my vacation. And since he likes to work on his vacation, that means I get to WORK too. So let me go on the record to say this has been the LEAST RELAXING vacation of all time. (Although Josh says I said that after his vacation last year as well!) This week maybe seemed more tiring than the previous 3 weeks of projects because A) we did the most fun projects first and these were the last ones on our list, and B) since it was finally the “official” vacation, for the first time we felt the pressure to have all the projects completed by an unofficial “deadline” (TODAY). So this week we tackled:

Sheetrocking up the door in the hall bathroom. When we bought our house, this bedroom had a private bathroom, which of course it not functional for our Tribe.

Our first stage of remodeling was to cut a doorway in the hallway and Josh built/installed a custom reclaimed wood barn door. We painted the walls and cabinets and framed out the wall mirror at that time as well.

But there was still a door into Sawyer/Tatum’s room. A 60 square foot room is TOO SMALL for TWO DOORS! I was thrilled to have the doorway walled up finally.

Then we got the bathroom repainted and Sawyer and Tatum’s room painted as well. And just in case you have the impression that our house is always perfect and clean and “just so,” let me show you some REAL LIFE pictures in the midst of that project.

Under the dresser!
Where Sawyer rubs his grubby feet on the wall beside his bed!

We also painted the walls, ceiling, trim, and doors in the hallway outside the girls’ bathroom, and hung new lights.

Before
Before

Another long-awaited project was to repair/mask a curved wall in our master bathroom with cracked and dimpled sheetrock.

We’ve had lots of ideas, but finally settled on textured wallpaper. That project actually went pretty quickly once we got the hang of it (ha, see what I did there!?) I was a little disappointed that you can still see most of the imperfections on the wall through the paper, but I’m planning to try out some paint techniques to hopefully disguise it a little more.

We wanted to change the glass in our front door from the dated leaded-glass panels. We asked a glass installer for an estimate and he said it couldn’t be done. Undeterred, Josh simply decided to do it himself! He carefully removed the trim pieces from each panel, traced the openings to create templates of the glass, and ordered the individual panels from a local glass company.

It was a messy, nerve-wracking project, and of course the glass came in as the temperatures were dropping, so it was SO COLD to have a front door without glass, even for a short time. But in a matter of about an hour and $100, this small project made a major impact on the appearance of our home. Replacing the door would have cost thousands. I love how brave and handy my husband is!

And of course we had Giddyup & Whoa orders to work on as well…

~ that our goofy dog survives her goofiness. Birdie is notorious for eating ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING: 2 birthday cakes, puzzle pieces, stuffed animals, dozens of pairs of panties, and socks. During our remodeling projects, Birdie consumed insulation, dropped screws, a piece of the bathroom baseboard, and almost ate A RAZOR! Thankfully we got it away from her in time.

~ for TWO special birthdays this week. Kora turned 12 and Gavin turned 11. These two are fun to celebrate. Their eyes just sparkle when they feel special. They are eager and grateful recipients, and they both love to bring others into their celebrations. We had made plans to surprise the kids on their Winter Break with a big celebration at the end of Josh’s vacation by actually taking a little mini trip to Dallas for the weekend. But the crazy arctic weather set in, and we had to cancel and come up with a new plan. So we just did our best to have a super-duper fun weekend at home. We started with a movie on Friday at the local movie grille (a first for all the younger kids) followed by cocoa by the fire. Saturday was Kora’s cinnamon roll birthday breakfast, birthday lunch, arts and crafts, sliding on ice, seafood restaurant for dinner, and homemade fudge brownies à la mode. And then “Gavin-tine’s Day” began with sausage, eggs, and heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes for brunch, build-your-own pizzas + macaroni and cheese (from the box) + salad and banana pudding for dinner, and we finished the double-decker-vacation/birthday-celebration marathon by BRIEFLY frolicking in the FREEZING snow flurries before bed.

I had a moment during one of our projects this week. We’d had some bumps with a couple of our kids, and some tough conversations, and I was feeling weary. Weary from working. Weary from feeling my age. Weary from the perpetual battles of parenting. And I just felt discouraged all of a sudden. It hit me like a tidal wave, and I could feel the undertow trying to pull me all the way under. But even as I felt that discouragement, I recognized it as a trap. I turned on my favorite worship playlist and started talking to the Lord. Just like I talked about last week, nothing about my circumstances changed…except me. It was like engaging with the presence of the Lord shook me out of that fog. I can do all things through He who strengthens me. It’s not all on me. He is Lord of my life and Lord of my kids’ as well. And He is the source of my joy. Not a house that looks the way I want, or kids that look like they are doing good, or even a fantastic marriage. MY HOPE IS IN HIM. And nothing is going to take that away!

Prayers for all down here in the South who are facing the bitterly cold weather and treacherous conditions so out of the norm for our areas. We plan to hunker down and wait for the next crazy turn (temps in the 60s expected next week!)

Keep loving on one another. And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Psalms 40:1-3)

Praying

I am thankful:

~ for a big, big, BIG week for Sawyer. Tuesday was one of the most highly anticipated and celebrated events in a GCS First Grader’s year: a 30+ year tradition, the performance of Little Bo Peep. All of our kids have been in it, as have cousins, and with multiple performances for each of them, I personally have watched the play no less than 17 times. But the sweet story of Bo Peep asking all the other nursery rhyme characters for help finding her lost sheep, never ceases to touch my heart. And it was truly surreal to see Sawyer on that stage, that he again reached a milestone that we never dated dream of for him. BUT GOD! He was the cutest little mischievous Georgie Porgie, and he teased those poor little girls beautifully. My heart exploded.

He also had so much fun the very next day celebrating the 100th day of school. The 1st graders made projects and enjoyed various activities all day. So much fun in one week!

We found a 💯on the way to school!

~ for a quick catch-up with Aunt Gina, and the delivery of a tasty Grandmommy self portrait!

~ for the cutest little matching sisters. Same same!!

~ for yummy, ooey gooey chicken wings with “BARBIE” SAUCE.

~ for ALL THE HELPERS. I definitely had more fun watching Josh and the kids build this storage unit than the football game tonight.

~ for another productive week of DIY projects. Josh has instructed me that last week was PRE-pre-vacation, and this week and weekend has been pre-vacation. The ACTUAL vacation starts TOMORROW. This week Cooper started getting his studio set up, moving in his equipment and mounting professional soundproofing panels. The panels go up with tiny map pins, and we have used ALL the black map pins in the city of Tyler, so the rest of that project is on hold until more pins arrive via Amazon. Josh laid carpet tiles and baseboards, and installed double doors, also fitted with soundproofing. What a cool space for creating!

The girls’ bathroom was dingy and greatly in need of updating and repair: water damage, broken tile, leaky faucet, and a shower door that fell off at least once a week. We tackled it with full force this week.

Where we started…

Josh had already repaired all the drywall, including closing up the hole from a dated medicine cabinet, and the new tile floors had been installed. After 2 coats of Alabaster on the walls, trim, and ceiling, I was overjoyed that the last bit of the drab yellow that was in so many rooms of this house was FINALLY GONE. The soft, creamy white brightens the space and lifts the ceiling so much!

Oh the transformative power of PAINT!

I got the cabinets painted and helped Josh hang the new mirror and build and install the shower doors.

This mirror was the piece I was most excited about. What a dramatic change!
Putting the shower door together
Clean and beautiful. And it WON’T FALL OFF!

Next came WALLPAPER! After 20 years and 3 houses with terrible wallpaper, I can’t believe I actually wanted to put it in my house! But I fell in love with the idea of doing an accent wall, and it seemed like a great place to do something fun. I changed my mind no less than 837 times during the planning process, but I’m completely thrilled with where we landed.

My original design ideas

Josh replaced the leaky faucet with a new matte black fixture, and we are so happy to mark all of that off the project list! I have a couple small details and touch up to finish, so this is still not the FINAL reveal, but we are SO SO CLOSE! We are thankful that our girls have a bright and pretty space to get ready for their day each morning. I’m so excited to have Josh home this week, to work together doing what we love to do.

Always my shadow…

~ for the power of prayer and the joy of the Lord. I talked last week about so many people I love who are wrestling through hard things. Unspeakably hard things. I have spent more hours in prayer this week than I have in a long time, just talking to the Lord about what is going on and asking Him to move in mighty ways. AND HE HAS! Every problem hasn’t gone away, and every trial hasn’t disappeared, but I have seen people walk through fire and come out on the other side. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen hope where there should have been none. I’ve seen supernatural self control and grace under pressure. I’ve seen grieving coexist with joy. And I have also seen and heard some heaven thundering prayers come out of the mouths of my children, especially my spicy little Tatum K. Let me tell you about Annie.

If you follow my social media, you’ve already heard that Annie is a beautiful 4 month old baby girl. She was born with a congenital heart defect, and underwent open heart surgery January 29. Annie has had complications during and after surgery, survived drastic lifesaving measures and spent 7 days being kept alive by an ECMO machine. AND BY JESUS. Every. Single. Day we watched another miracle unfold through Annie. Today they took her off the ECMO machine, and she will be closely monitored until her doctors decide she is ready for her NEXT surgery, which will be to install a permanent pacemaker. Annie’s story has captured our hearts, though we have never even met her, and she has people praying all over THE WORLD. I set her picture as the lock screen on my phone, so that every time I open it up, I pray for her. And Tatum K has become SO INVESTED in Baby Annie. She has prayed over and over, “Jesus heal Baby Annie and her broken heart and make her feel better and be happy. Annie loves God and I just love her. Your turn to pray, Mama.” After one of her prayers, she asked me to play her favorite song, “Raise a Hallelujah.” I turned it on, and Tatum suddenly cried out excitedly, “MAMA!!!! This song can heal Annie’s broken heart!” PLEASE pray for Baby Annie, and for her parents and big brother. And keep praying for the people around you that you know are struggling. And don’t stop bringing your own burdens and worries to the Lord. We ALL have them, so why do we waste so much energy trying to make it look like we have it all together? Having Annie’s picture on my phone has me praying all day long (yeah, I’m probably on my phone more than I should be), and she’s been my reminder to keep praying for all the others on my prayer list over and over.

Prayer works.

God listens.

And prayer changes us.

That’s half the miracle.

Keep praying.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desire of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30)

The Gift of Perspective on a Crummy Day

I am thankful:

~ that I found the bag of frozen corn that the kids put away IN THE PANTRY after only three days instead of a week.

~ for a big impact from a fast and inexpensive project. It took me 15 minutes to switch out the hardware on these cabinets. I love the more modern touch, and these were a great Amazon find for less than $2 a piece.

~ for a mostly successful week of potty training with Tatum K. She is proud as punch in her big girl panties, and beams with pride when she is rewarded.

~ for one of my best Goodwill “hauls” of all time. Cute fuzzy cardigan, brand new good yummy candle in amber glass jar, some handmade pottery, and two additions to my basket wall. The big score was the $150 Pottery Barn blanket in pristine condition! All for $10! I love the thrill of the hunt!

~ for lots more done around the casa this week. The living room ceiling got a bright coat of fresh white paint to match our walls. The newly scraped beams, now rustic and beautiful, with the crisp white paint between them did wonders to brighten the room and lift the ceiling.

Josh made lots of progress texturing his drywall patches, and I painted the studio. We found unexpected hidden plumbing behind the built in drawers, and Josh had the brilliant idea to flip it around to add a utility sink in the garage! (Won’t that be helpful for our next litter of pups!?) Josh also built shelving and a fantastic reclaimed wood desk.

The “before“
Demo Day
Unexpected plumbing….wonder what “No No” means?
Supervising my work
Bear approves

I’m excited for Cooper to have such a cool space that will also be a functional storage space for me as well.

Lots of prep work in the girls bathroom. Josh repaired water damage on one wall and removed the bent and leaky shower door. The stained, stinky carpet and the cracked marble floors are gone! The beautiful new tile floor went in on Thursday, and I expect that this week we will make good progress on that little makeover!

Before…
Testing out cabinet paint colors…

In the midst of all the DIY projects, Josh still made time to build our Giddyup & Whoa orders, and I made good progress on some really pretty signs. Can’t reveal them yet though… Stay tuned!

Many have been asking for an update on my friend Tim, but I just had to wait until they were ready to share. The surgery took place as scheduled on Monday, and the procedures all went very well. He spent one night in the hospital and was able to be discharged the very next day! Glory to God! Although he is still in quite a bit of pain, and having some trouble resting, he is recovering well. And they have been in communication with the kidney recipient, and she is doing great and her new kidney is functioning as it should! What a miracle! All glory to God!

One day this week I had a crummy day. Nothing devastating, just a lot of annoyances stacked up on one another. Rude drivers in traffic, poor customer service at a store, mouthy kids, a hand-wash-only coffee cup ruined in the dishwasher, an accidentally Cajun (aka BLACKENED) dinner… We’ve all had THAT DAY. But at the end of it, I thought about the the VERY WORST part of my day: that I had connected with two more families newly diagnosed with cancer. I thought back on those terrifying days and weeks at a time spent confined to the hospital. The mingled numbness and panic as I sat on a vinyl chair praying for my baby and trying to wrap my mind around this new life that I didn’t want. I may not have missed the mouthiness of my kids, but I would have given anything to wrap my arms around them, or for a burned meal and literally any coffee cup in my own house. I thought about Sawyer, loving life, happy and loud and doing all the things we never dared hope he would do. And NONE of the crummy baloney mattered. AT ALL. It’s all in your perspective.

Several dear friends are wrestling with some serious health problems and anxiously awaiting test results to try to find some answers. A precious family said goodbye to their beloved godly matriarch last week. They rejoice knowing where she is for eternity, knowing they will see her again, and thankful she is finally free from pain. But it still hurts so deeply. Others have been suffering in their earthly bodies for a long time and long for their heavenly healing. Bitterness fracturing a family that should be loving on one another. Lonely kids that need a home. A mama misses her baby. A brave, sweet cancer warrior facing potentially devastating and lifelong complications from the treatment that is saving her life. A baby girl fighting for her life, while her mama and daddy sit begging God to heal her.

Lord, help me keep my eyes on You and to regularly check my perspective. When I fall into the familiar patterns of murmuring and complaining, WAKE ME UP. When Jesus got ready to teach the people, the Bible says “when He saw the crowds He was moved with compassion…” But first He SAW THEM. We can’t see people unless we LOOK.

Lord, give me eyes to see, a heart of compassion, and willingness to do whatever You ask of me.

And may we never stop asking for miracles and testifying of Your Goodness.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” (Psalms 42:4-5)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

~ for a very happy birthday for a beautiful new teenager. Sweet Samantha had her birthday this week, and she is SO EASY to celebrate. Samantha Lucy’s name means “Listener that Brings Light,” and she lives up to that name in every way.

She is a joy and a blessing and such a help. It seems like she has grown up into a young lady overnight. She enjoyed her favorite chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, a lunch delivery at school, and her birthday dinner menu of choice: grilled ham and muenster sandwiches with avocado ranch, Pringles, and fruit salad.

Well-known in our household to be avocado OBSESSED, she got avocado cards from all her siblings, avocado socks, and original avocado painting, even avocado sheets to go with her new (more grown-up) bedding. We are so proud of the young woman she is becoming, and wait with great expectations for all that God has for her.

~ for a terrific maiden voyage on the potty train for Tatum K! I don’t want to be prematurely confident, but since starting wearing panties last Saturday, she has only had one accident! She’s so excited and proud of herself. We took a field trip to Target to pick out new Elsa Days-of-the-Week panties, and boy, she tells EVERYBODY about them, and she has been singing her original song, “let’s poop poop poop on the potteeeeey” loudly for all to hear (including in Target).

~ for the undisputed champion of all sandwiches, Stanley’s famous Mother Clucker smoked chicken sandwich, topped with a fried egg and peppery candied bacon on pillowy jalapeño cheese sourdough bread. There is no photo. I couldn’t restrain myself long enough before I devoured it.

~ for the loveliest flowers from our neighbor.

~ for a fantastic evening with my Tribe: great football, a new Giddyup & Whoa project on my easel, and steaming hot meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies.

~ for a busy week well spent. As I mentioned last week, Josh has had lots of projects planned for his vacation, but in true Giddyup fashion, he can’t stand to wait. Last week he did the ceiling fans and the mattresses and light fixtures and the barstools. This week he gave me a Christmas gift that I never would’ve asked for…he hired a crew to finish scraping my beams. If you’ve been following along with the Sunday Gratitude blog for a while, you may remember that a little over a year ago I started the painstaking process of hand scraping the massive oak beams in our great room (find that blog post here). I killed 2 sanders and a planer and shredded all 10 of my knuckles in the process of scraping 11 beams, and work halted right before Covid hit last March. Talk about a work in progress…

I spy Tatum K under the ladder…

With just 4 left to go, I just plain ran out of gas. When Josh told me he wanted to bless me with having it done, it was tough to receive. I felt like I was admitting defeat. It was my baby. My project. My Everest to conquer. But I’d begrudgingly swallowed my pride, and this week two strong young fellas simultaneously scraped those beams nonstop for 10 hours and got the job done. They did a fantastic job, and Part B on the project will be painting the dingy cream colored ceilings with a fresh crisp coat of alabaster white to match our walls. We’ve wanted this done since the day we moved into this house 3 1/2 years ago, and we are so excited. I’m so thankful to have a husband who loves me so much.

But of course, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Josh got done. The next two projects that will be running concurrently will be a deep refresh in our girls bathroom and the conversion of a non-functional, hardly-used dressing area into a recording studio for Cooper (aka Davvec)!

He is beyond excited about having this space and has been saving his money from his various jobs to buy all his musical and recording equipment, as well as the soundproofing medium to cover all the walls. Although this sounds like extravagant use of space, it will easily be converted two a super useful storage closet when Cooper is done and moves out. We are excited to support his dreams and reward his hard work and dedication.

The bathroom was already in bad repair when we moved here, and it’s gotten plenty of wear since then. This will be a fun reno, and Step One was closing off the doorway into that dressing area (Cooper’s studio) and relocating it to the hallway. Josh did an impeccable job of placing the new door and matching the existing trimwork, and he did it with lightning speed!

There is so much left to do, it’s a never ending cycle of owning a home. ESPECIALLY when you are into the DIY world. But we will tackle it all together. One of Josh and my very favorite things to do together is to work on projects. We love the entire process: dreaming together, researching options, the excitement of committing to a project, and then the troubleshooting, prep work, and the execution. It’s not always pretty. We have plenty of bumpy moments, failures, miscommunications, and start-overs. We don’t always understand one another because we process things so differently, and we sometimes drive each other crazy. Thankfully, we get generally get back on track quickly and we can laugh at ourselves. We have learned most of our skills by watching a lot of YouTube and by making a lot of mistakes. But our favorite is watching the work in progress, watching the transformation take place, and then finally getting to enjoy the return on lots of sweat equity once the project is done. I love the feeling of collapsing in the bed beside him after we have both worked our tails off. We love bragging on each other’s efforts. And most of all, I love that our kids have always grown up watching their mom and dad work side by side literally building a life for them.

I want to close tonight by sharing a testimony about a friend. This is one of the most amazing miracles I have ever encountered, and I just have to TESTIFY! After a process of learning to hear and obey the Lord, and through a series of events too remarkable to deny, he is undergoing surgery to donate his kidney to save a life tomorrow. PLEASE watch this video and be blessed by Tim’s story. (Watch video HERE)

And please lift him and his family in prayer as they try to rest tonight, preparing themselves for a truly life-changing day tomorrow. Lord, you know we are all works in progress, and YOU are the One doing the hard work. May we give You free reign to do the work on and in us that needs to be done. And may we draw so near to Your heart that we don’t flinch when You ask us to give. Or to go. Or to let go. What a Promised Land opens up when we say, “Yes Lord!”

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8)

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Chisholm)

Marinating

I am thankful:

~ for Snow Much Fun! The “blizzard” on Sunday led to a Snow Day on Monday for most of East Texas, and it was GLORIOUS! The snow lingered most of the day, the sun was shining, and the rare sight of the white blanketed Texas countryside was just beautiful. The kids bundled up from head to toe and made more snowballs and played with neighbors and rolled around in it until they were soaked through. I did as much laundry in those 2 days as I do in a week! (and believe me, that is saying a lot!) But it was the perfect opportunity to come inside and snuggle up by the fire with some hot cocoa. It will be a story we will tell for years to come.

~ for my hardworking husband. He works all day at his “real” job, and then comes home ready to work on projects. We have lots of home improvement plans to do when he takes a week of vacation next month, but MR. GIDDYUP just can’t wait that long. So far he has replaced two ceiling fans, installed a pendant light, replaced two non-functional lights with SUPER-FUNCTIONAL track lighting, built and modified the barstools that I ordered that were the wrong size, and replaced all the lightbulbs that needed to be updated to LED. Sometimes the “giddyup” in him drives me crazy, but I’m so grateful for how hard he works to take care of us.

2017 – realtor.com pictures of our master bedroom when we bought our home
Mistakingly ordered BARSTOOL height instead of COUNTER height…
Mr. Giddyup was undeterred
And now they are perfect!

~ that our supersized bus for our supersized family can also be converted to use as a cargo van. The seating is completely modular and can be removed as needed to utilize the space. While the kiddos were at school, we loaded up on all the materials we will need for our upcoming projects.

Tatum K had a big time at Home Depot. It made me think of all the times I would go to hardware and farm implement stores with my Dad when I was little. I thought it was the most amazing place on the planet. So much to see, and I had no idea what any of it was. But I knew my dad knew, and I knew he would take care of me, so I was as carefree as can be!

~ for the official close of the puppy chapter for now. Our very last puppy, Red Boy, now named Oakley, finally went home to his forever family yesterday. It was very hard to say goodbye, as we have all fallen in love with the little fella.

But it made us feel great to know that two boys got the best surprise of their life yesterday afternoon. Our puppy families have been so kind to share pictures and videos of their babies with us. They are all so loved.

~ for one spicy little girl who FINALLY pooped on the potty for the first time. I don’t want to celebrate a victory of the war just yet, but I will revel in finally winning one battle.

~ for a yummier-than-expected healthy dinner, a loaded homemade cauliflower crust pizza and fresh salad.

~ for a fun, if way-too-short visit with Aunt Gina. Whenever we get the chance, we catch up on each others’ news, have some good laughs, and she always blesses me with friendship bread and Starbucks. So thankful for my sister.

~ for an amazing donation! Josh’s company, Aaron’s Inc, has a corporate donation program, and this year made a MOST GENEROUS donation of $5000 to Gold Network of East Texas. It was an honor for Paula and I to meet for a check presentation at Josh’s store this week.

~ for our first Sunday back to in person church service. Our little fellowship was hit hard with COVID-19 over the last couple months, and nearly everyone in leadership fell ill and was forced to quarantine. What a blessing to be back in the building together joined in worship. I know that the church is not a building, and I know God doesn’t live only there. But there’s nothing like it when we gather together in His name.

~ for Tiny Uno. Seriously, is anything cuter than Tiny Uno?

~ for friends to pray for and for friends who pray. And for the edification that comes when we testify to one another.

~ for good football (Go Chiefs!) and mouthwatering marinated chicken and carne asada fajitas with cilantro lime rice and fresh homemade salsa.

I remember writing about this once a long time ago, but it came to mind again tonight. Marinating. We use a marinade to tenderize meat or to add flavor. The longer something sits in a marinade, the more it absorbs it and the more it changes. It takes on the flavor of the marinade’s ingredients and in some cases the acidity of a marinade actually cooks the meat. We take on the flavor of what we soak ourselves in. The longer we marinate, the more we are changed. What are you marinating in? Are you spending your time soaking in social media? How many hours a day do you find yourself steeping in the barrage of headlines from your favorite news broadcaster or podcast? Or are you immersing yourself in God’s Word? Reveling in worship? Are you surrounding yourself with believers who testify of His faithfulness and spur one another on in good works? If you look at the ingredients of your marinade, are they what you want to taste like? Are they what you want to become? These are the thoughts that have been cycling through my mind as I try to pull away from old bad habits and try to establish new ones. What am I marinating in, and what am I becoming? And how does what I am becoming impact others, especially my husband and my children? Am I becoming better or bitter? I want to soak myself in Jesus, abide in Him, and be transformed to become a little more like Him every day. Imagine what would happen if we turned off the news and turned on our praise music and just worshipped instead of worried. I know it’s not really that simple. Or is it? All I know is it couldn’t hurt. I don’t want bitterness. Or fear. Or comparison. Or selfishness. Or divisions. I want more Jesus. So I need to spend more time with Him. And that’s the bottom line. Let’s encourage one another this week. And marinate in the goodness of God.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.””(Luke 10:38-42)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (IICorinthians 3:17-18)

Steadfast

I am thankful:

~ that I was only halfway to school when I heard Sawyer’s voice come from behind my shoulder in the car, “Um, mama… I forgot my shoes.”

~ for our Birdie girl’s birthday. What a year she has had! She joined our family, got married, and had 11 babies before turning 1!

~ for the blessing of tasty AND healthy options this week. We enjoyed delicious lean steaks (ok maybe cooked in some butter) and my favorite homemade healthy vegetable dip.

~ for the freshness that comes from putting away the Christmas decor and doing the first deep clean of the year. Everything looks brighter. Maybe a little bare at first, but it’s like a welcome pause after the constant overstimulation of the senses during the holidays. At first I always feel a little sad when I take down our favorite festive decorations, when all the nativities and the ornaments and stockings and the sparkle have been wrapped up and stored away until next year. But there is a fresh beauty in the spaces between. I’m always inspired to mix things up a little, to try a different arrangement, update a few pieces. Replacing a mattress that’s had a hole for…I-don’t-even-know-how-long. Changing up an old mirror with a little spray paint. Trading out a space age, rattling ceiling fan. January is the start of PROJECT TIME at Casa Rucker! We have some exciting projects planned for the next few months.

~ for a fun family movie night and the most hilarious Tatum K lookalike. (Check out Sophie on Rise of the Guardians.)

~ for a fun week with our temporary puppy. Red Boy, as we call him, referencing his color-coded id collar, is a sweetheart. He plays hard with the big dogs (we wonder if he has the concept that they are his parents), and has done a remarkable job with potty training. He has a most unusual favorite spot in the house. We will enjoy loving on him for one more week.

~ for a self proclaimed “best day of my life” for Sawyer. It suddenly dawned on me this week as he was struggling to buckle himself into his car seat with his bulky puffer coat. HE. IS. SEVEN. And is still riding in a high back car seat with a 5 point harness (the exact same seat Tatum K rides in). It was time, and I just hadn’t realized it. So while kids were at school, I purchased a new booster, and traded it for his old one. When he got in the car at pickup, you would have thought I had handed him tickets to Disneyland. “A booster seat! Mama! Thank you SO MUCH! This is the favorite gift I’ve ever gotten!” Immediately after school, he was invited to a laser tag birthday party at a local park. When I picked him up from the party, he was a tired, disheveled, frozen and oh-so-happy boy. Brown and green war paint smeared on his cheeks, a nose red from the cold, and tongue stained blue from Gatorade, he hopped into his new seat with a wide grin and said, “this is the best day of my LIFE! Well, the 2nd. The BEST day was the day I was done with cancer.” Oh my heart. Thank You God for the life of this beautiful shining light of a boy!

~ for the most glorious SNOW DAY! Here in Texas this is a highly accoladed event! I’m pretty sure we haven’t had any measurable snow in about 3 years. When the kids spotted the faintest hint of a flurry out the window this morning during our virtual church broadcast, they were beside themselves, and soon they were cheering at the meager white dust on our yard. The snowfall got heavier and steadier, and even to this Minnesota girl, it was magical. Huge white flakes falling and blanketing every surface – the kids say it looks like Narnia! Today they have built snowmen, had snowball fights, made snow angels, and did all the snow things you can pack into one afternoon.

Neighbors played outside, we snuggled with cocoa by the fire, we took breaks to warm up and dry out the sopping wet clothes, and then went back out for another round. Snow in the south is such a delightful oxymoron. Several times throughout the day we had to clean the snow off our palm trees to keep them from snapping. The kids were haphazardly bundled in multiple layers of pajamas and soggy hats and gloves that didn’t fit. And the initial jubilation of playing in the long-awaited snow lasted about as long as it took a snowflake to melt on their little Texas noses, quickly turning to whiny pink cheeked popsicles asking, “how do you know if you have frostbite?”

Dad and the big kids tried their hand at sledding down the snowy street on a cookie sheet: failed miserably, but hilarious to watch. Coop topped off our evening with a Polar Plunge into our pool!

Today was definitely my favorite day of the year. (As of 11 pm, it’s STILL coming down in giant flakes, we have gotten about 5 inches, and school is unsurprisingly cancelled tomorrow.)

The climate of our nation is insane. The devastating events on Wednesday were heartbreaking, and there is so much uncertainty about what may come next. It’s not hard to fall into the taps of anger, bitterness, division, and fear. But I’ve been so settled in my spirit. I mean, don’t misunderstand, I’m sad. I’m shocked. But I just know that God knew all this was coming, and that you and I were MADE for such a time as this. We, the Church, have been warned that trials were coming. That we will be targeted. That a day will come when we will be called to rise up in defense of the Gospel to a degree we have never experienced before. It’s time to dig deep and make a decision who we really are and what we really believe. Not what our parents told us to believe. Not what our preachers, or our Bible study teachers, or the social media influencers told us to believe. It’s time to get into God’s Word and read what HE SAID. IT’S TIME TO PRAY. It’s time to build our house on the Rock and set our anchors deep, because the STORMS ARE COMING. It’s time to ready ourselves. It’s time to teach our children to read their Bibles and that they can talk to God FOR REAL – ANY TIME, ABOUT ANYTHING, and that He hears them. It’s time to teach them to be kind to the lonely and to stand up for truth. It’s time to love our neighbors, especially the ones who are different from us. It’s time to pray for our enemies. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to WAKE UP BECAUSE IT’S FIXIN’ TO GET REAL.

During at-home worship, this song pounded into my heart.

“I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken!”

I’ve been open about it. I’m prone to anxiety. I worry. I think about cancer EVERY DAY. BUT GOD. I don’t want to puff up and act like I’ve got all the answers. I don’t know what I’m going to feel like tomorrow. But all I know is that TODAY…today my heart is steadfast. Many things are uncertain. But I KNOW what’s coming.

JESUS IS COMING.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)

““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33)

Welcome New Year

I am thankful:

~ for a fun trip to our favorite Tex-Mex spot, Papacitas. We pretty much go out to eat as a WHOLE FAMILY about once a year, so it’s a pretty big deal. Even though I wish it was something we could do more often, mostly I’m thankful that it’s such a treat for our kids, one they don’t take for granted because we do it all the time.

~ and I had forgotten to show my super cute Bear and Birdie Christmas ornaments that are a favorite on our tree.

~ for the after-Christmas buzz of new paints and trampoline tricks and hoverboards and puzzles and games. We had beautiful weather days and cabin-fever yucky days. And not many pictures because we were just living life with both hands AND because Mama was busy picking up puppy poop.

~ for the wonderful day of celebration when our dear leukemia warrior friend Jase aka “Hulk Strong” had his port removal surgery this week! His surgery was uneventful, and he has recovered well at home. This is such a major milestone marking the official end of treatment for a cancer survivor, fraught with lots of BIG mixed emotions. So thankful Jase has done so well, and praying that he can move past this chapter and have the carefree childhood his family has dreamed of. BUT GOD!

~ for the end of an era. This puppy pillow was a birthday gift for Sawyer when he turned 2.

In the thick of cancer treatment, it traveled back and forth to overnight hospital stays, and at home, it was used in his bed – a twin mattress on the floor in our master bedroom. Sawyer NEVER ONCE slept through the night until he turned 4, and most nights I slept with him. On the floor. With the puppy pillow. I was surprised to find that the puppy pillow was actually a pretty terrific shape for neck support. 5 years have gone by, and I have used that silly pillow every night. Well, this week we got new bedding: hotel quality sheets and quilt that feel like heaven! I’m SO EXCITED. And I got a new neck support pillow that prompted me to retire the puppy pillow once and for all. Now if only I could ACTUALLY SLEEP…

~ for a rollicking New Year’s Eve at Casa Rucker. We ate chicken strips, had a very serious gingerbread house decorating contest (judged by Dad and Cooper),

and then an intense Trouble tournament.

Our sweet friend Miss Karen brought us a delicious white chocolate raspberry Nothing Bundt Cake.

We played with sparklers in the driveway (which is still a bit of a battle for me…growing up in Minnesota where fireworks are illegal, I had ever been around them. Fireworks displays were put on strictly by firemen on July 4, and that was it. So the concept of letting teenagers fire off bottle rockets and giving sparklers to babies is a little unsettling for me, even after 20 years in Texas.) But the kids had a blast and it was such a fun end to this crazy year. We even made it to midnight.

~ for our tasty Southern traditional New Year’s Day meal of sweet buttered cornbread, savory roasted cabbage, and blackeyed peas.

~ for 11 puppy baths! Those little stinkers were ready for one! What an event that was!

Today was puppy pickup day. All day, every 30 minutes we had another thrilled/nervous/or-combo-of-both family show up at the door to pick up their new baby. I will replay those “awwws” and squeals of excitement over and over. The first in-person meeting for many. The first hold. First hug. First puppy snuggle and wet puppy kisses. So many sweet moments. Billy, Nola, Mango, Julie, Rambo, Dexter, Maddie, Bo, Dugan, and Charlie went to their homes amid lots of smiles and wagging tails.

But definitely heart wrenching for us to say 10 goodbyes one after another. It was hard on the kids, but we had lots of great talks about how loved the puppies will be at their new homes and what a blessing it is for us to share in their joy. AND we get to enjoy a little extension of the joy for a couple more weeks: we are puppy-sitting for 2 weeks while the last little pup’s family is on vacation. It will be fun to experience ONE puppy for a little while, even though we know that goodbye will be even harder. We LOVE BIG in this house. Just can’t help it.

Sawyer has spent most of the day in the kennel with this pup

I have to admit I have a new sense of optimism. Freshness. Excitement. Maybe that’s the thrill of hope of a weary world rejoicing that the song talks about? Even if January 1 is just a turn of a calendar page, and just another day, it’s still a fresh start to a new year. I’m up for all the clichés this year. I’ve RE-started my diet and fitness plans. I’ve RE-started my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. I want to try to be more organized. More transparent. A better communicator. Goals are good, and January is as good a time to start as any. And I know lots of my good intentions will fizzle or flop. But I also know that’s not where my worth lies. Jesus will meet me in my successes and my failures, and neither will make Him love me any more or any less. My number 1 goal is that I would look more like Jesus in 363 days than I do today. I have lots of hopes and dreams for Gold Network of East Texas. And some exciting prospects and possibilities for Giddyup & Whoa. Josh and I have numerous home projects planned, trips in mind, and hopefully even MORE PUPPIES (after a good LONG break). But we hold all of these things in open hands, knowing that God’s plans, however unpredictable, are ALWAYS so much better than ours. We just want what He wants, for our family, for our marriage, for our future. Whatever comes, we will do it WITH HIM, FOR HIM, IN HIM.

2020 has been a complicated year. Lots of loss, lots of pain, lots of conflict. But God is a master of bringing beauty from ashes. I hope we learn from our own and others’ mistakes, hope we appreciate more the things we used to take for granted, and that we value relationships more than ever before. I hope we glean the blessings that have come along the way, life a little slower, or at least a little more intentional. And that we take those lessons into this new year having grown in both wisdom and compassion. I know I have had time with my kids that I never would have had any other way. I learned that I will never fulfill my dream of being a math teacher or story problem writer. And I have learned afresh that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”(Psalms 37:5)

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Merry Real and Imperfect Christmas

I am thankful:

for a wonderful Christmas.

I will never forget what it was like to be in a hospital at Christmas with my baby. Away from my husband and the rest of our kids. And he was so sick, running fever for unknown reasons, nurses coming in and out all through the night monitoring him. Countless tests being run to try to find a potential source of infection. I don’t think at the time I understood how precarious his health really was. At his point in his cancer treatment, babies could take a turn and things could spiral in an instant. Every year at Christmas, I am taken back to those moments.

Christmas at Children’s Hospital 2014
Christmas morning on C6

BUT GOD.

This year we did ALL THE THINGS. Baked. Decorated cookies. Passed out treats to the neighbors.

Loved on puppies. Watched all our favorite Christmas movies. Wore matching pajamas. Stayed up too late cooking and baking and stuffing stockings on Christmas Eve.

We read Luke 2 on Christmas morning. Feasted on all our favorite foods: spicy crawfish chowder, pumpkin pie, gooey caramel monkey bread, sausage bread, and deep fried turkey. Opened more gifts than we needed.

The “Purple Girl with the Pink Hair” from The Greatest Showman
Big brother Colton teaching Gavin and Sawyer how to set up their new baseball card collections
Lots of new puzzles this year, including a custom 1000 piece of our family beach photo

It was more than I could have ever dreamed.

Trust me, it wasn’t perfect. Kids fought. Puppies pooped more than one would think possible. Tatum K hardly slept. Birdie ate half Jesus’ birthday cake.

I wiped out on one of the boy’s hoverboards on the driveway and cracked my skull so bad I almost knocked myself out. We missed people who weren’t with us. And plenty of people who we love were hurting. Really hurting. Our pictures make it look like our life is perfect. It’s not. Remember, what is shared here is a snapshot, a highlight reel. Christmas isn’t always magical, for us and for anyone else, and that’s something that’s always heavy on my heart.

But God.

Emmanuel, God with us. With us in our joy. With us in our pain. With us always us if we allow him to be. It’s ok to not love every moment of Christmas. It’s ok to admit that the chaos and the togetherness and the unrealistic expectations make us anxious. It’s ok if be honest when there is some raw pain mixed in with our joy. And it’s ok to allow ourselves to experience joy even when we are hurting. Joy and pain can and often do coexist. It’s ok to be real. The King of Kings came to earth in a lowly stable. He was Glorious, the Answer, the Savior, welcomed by angels. But I bet the barn still stank.

Gold Network of East Texas had the awesome privilege of donating $10,000 to Dr. Sam John of Childrens Health/UT Southwestern to help fund his groundbreaking pediatric cancer research. Even more meaningful because Dr. John was one of Sawyer’s doctors all throughout his treatment.

We were disappointed not to be able to do an in-person check presentation, but grateful for Dr. John and Sawyer to be reunited via Zoom.

He told us that inspiring survival stories like Sawyer’s are a huge driving force behind the research his team does. We also missed our beloved tradition of delivering a home cooked meal to our oncology nurses on Christmas Eve due to COVID regulations. But we compromised by catering a nice Mexican fiesta for them on Christmas Day. We will always be grateful to these angels on earth for pouring their lives out for children battling cancer, even sacrificing their own family time to serve these hurting families.

We were tickled to receive pics and videos from some of our families who surprised their kiddos with a Christmas puppy. They had their first vet visit on Christmas Eve, and they all got a clean bill of health. One more week until they go to their fur-ever homes.

First vet visit for 11 pups
Puppy surprise
Puppy surprise

I’m thankful and exhausted. I have a painful knot on the back of my head from my fall, and I’m pretty sure there’s still some puppy poop on my leg. I’m thankful that this crazy year is almost over, and I’m thankful to know that no matter what highs and lows are ahead, that Emmanuel will meet me there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. And Merry Christmas. The real and imperfect kind.

“I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”” (Lamentations 3:20-24)