Our ENTIRE Tribe made it safely to the beach this afternoon. We have transferred our quarantine residence to a private beach house and we are ready to soak up some family time in the sun and the sand. Tatum K is “so exciting to be on a-cation!” Ready to fill this week that holds so many painful anniversaries with fresh memories of God’s goodness and great grace. We are most grateful for your continued prayers.
Josh and I have named a theme for this trip, “Love lavishly.”
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:3)
~ for Aldi groceries delivered right to my front steps. Game changer.
~ for refreshing Kona Ice on a sweltering hot day.
~ for a huge undertaking that will be well worth it in the long run. We have amassed a fortune in other peoples’ trash, i.e. reclaimed wood from the side of the road. Panels upon panels upon panels of barnwood and fencing stacked up along the side of our house. Every time we have an order, step one is the beat down of deconstructing and prepping the wood for building. This week Josh and I and the kids took on the task of stripping ALL the panels apart and removing all of the old rusty nails, creating a much better system for organizing and storing this beautiful wood. Now it is ready to go whenever we have a sign order. It was a backbreaking job in 100° weather and blazing sun, but after six hours, it was complete!
~ for good old fashioned hard work with our kids. They have their daily chores, and usually are eager to jump in and help mom and dad with whatever other projects we have going on. But we also have some really good laughs along the way. Near the end of the wood project, Sawyer was wilting, and started asking, “Can I just skip THIS ONE nail, Dad? Do we have to do ALL these boards?” Josh replied quickly and firmly, “Son, do you know what your last name is? When your last name’s Rucker, you work hard, you do it right, and you don’t quit until the job’s done.” A little bit later Sawyer piped in again, “Hey Dad. Maybe we could change our last name…”
~ for fresh haircuts. Thankfully, the “Home Salon” is our norm anyway. Dad has always cut the boys and mom cuts the girls.
~ for surprisingly tasty homemade cauliflower crust pizza.
~ for sweet, compassionate Sawyer who spent 30 minutes protecting a tiny ant from the dogs so it could safely carry a piece of food “home to its family.”
~ for a lovely tea party with Tatum K and Birdie. Birdie adored her princess dress, and happily gobbled down all the party treats. They both need to work a bit on their formal table manners.
~ for CHEESE BALLS. That’s right, if you have followed along on our journey, you know that cheese balls can only mean one thing…
VACATION! We literally buy cheese balls only once a year, and the kids know exactly what it means when they see them come through the door. We have a trip planned to a beach house in Galveston next week. It’s been hard to get excited about it because I’ve been guarding my heart just in case it gets canceled (like everything else has all year.) But as of now, everything looks to be a go. Our plans are just to drive down and continue our self quarantine at the house…but at least it will be a change of scenery, and at least it will be ON THE BEACH!
I have to confess. I have a problem with July. Six years ago in July, sitting in an ER at Children’s Hospital with my baby in my arms, I heard the word CANCER for the first time. The following July, Sawyer developed severe complications from a combination of viruses that landed him in the hospital for weeks. The next July we were at the Lighthouse Family Retreat in Florida when I got the call from my doctor that pathology reports came back confirming that I had malignant melanoma.
July is not my favorite. My flesh and my enemy know it, and the fiery darts have my name on them at the very turn of the calendar page. I find myself emotional at the drop of a hat, ultra irritable, attacked by unpredictable anxiety, not to mention battling constant headaches and chronic pain. Anxiety and fear don’t play fair. They want me to focus on the panic that rises up every year on these hard anniversaries. They want to cripple me with the pain of reliving the past and distort my outlook on both the promises of the future and the present joys of today. And the current dismal scenery of rioting and injustice and sickness and death everywhere is NOT HELPING me.
I wish I had wise words about it. I wish I had a victorious story of how healthy and faith-filled I am. Truth is, I’m a mess. I have totally blown it with each of my kids over the past few days, and I’ve been a ball of grouchiness and nerves. I’m annoyed, frustrated, and embarrassed at feeling stuck in this trap. AGAIN.
I may be back in this stupid trap, but my Father is with me. He loves me and He encourages me – LITERALLY FILLS ME WITH COURAGE – and He holds me when I cry in the dark. And every time I fall and disappoint myself again, He reaches His mighty right hand to me and says, “Let’s try again baby girl.”
I know He is growing me, allowing me to be pressed and sanded for my good and for His glory. I know it will pass. I know He’s holding me close and He won’t ever leave me. I know He will birth something beautiful from the ashes of all the shattered July’s that have come and gone.
I pray for a wonderful salty, sand-kissed week away with my Loves next week (I could pray for “relaxing”, but with 9 kids, that’s a not really even a goal). I pray that Sawyer’s Cancerversary and the days leading up to it will come and go with more thanksgiving than anxiety. I pray for health and safety for our Tribe as we venture out for the first time in months. I pray for no more bad news this July. But if not, He is still good.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24)
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms….In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:11-12, 16)
~ for more STICKERS!! So much fun! Thank you Grandmommy!
~ for two sweet, silly mop dogs. They bring us so much joy. They are crazy about swimming, and they love our garden because they think we are growing balls for them (tomatoes).
~ for Gavin’s very first job: feeding the neighbors’ dog for a few days. He was very responsible and did a great job. With the money he earned, he bought a new skateboard. So proud of him!
~ for a sweet visit with our beloved Miss Lindsay and Baby Coby. How is this beautiful lovebug already 1???
~ for Josh to have the opportunity to visit his big brother Alan on his 50th birthday. We don’t live close enough to visit as often as we like, and there were a lot of reasons why this trip was super special. We did not take the whole Tribe, but thanks to modern technology, we got to join in the fun and sing Happy Birthday.
~ for the most delicious cookies! Served WARM and bigger than Tatum K’s face! Crumbl, you definitely have seven more fans!
~ for the biggest, most glorious elephant ears.
~for our covered patio which allows for the perfect shelter from which to watch and listen to the splendor of a summer thunderstorm. I took these photos this evening.
~ for ANOTHER big week for Sawyer! First, another lost tooth. This time he just ran in from playing outside with a bloody mouth, “MAMA!!!! I PULLED OUT MY TOOTH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!” And then this weekend, he finally showed us that he was ready to swim, like FOR REAL swim without a floatie. It’s so completely stressful for Mom and Dad. You know how all newly swimming kids look in the water – like they are absolutely drowning. It is hard not to panic every time he plunges straight to the bottom, because he has 0% fear. But he just kicks and paddles and thrashes with all his might and pops up like a little cork. You have never seen a kid exploding with more joy and pride. It is truly overwhelming to watch another miracle come out of him every single day. BI can’t even explain it. BUT GOD!
~ for remarkable grace and second chances and third chances… If, for example, I decide I want to learn a new language, I don’t just suddenly wake up and know it, just out of the sheer desire to know it. Change doesn’t just come from desire. It comes from practice, and it’s just like praying for patience: God doesn’t just miraculously gift you with beautiful patience, but instead allows uncomfortable situations that would try any saint. So ASK ME how my week was after making the proclamation that I was going to LOVE LAVISHLY.I think my loving muscles were in need of some exercising.
One morning, the kids were particularly at each other from the moment they got up. They were even bickering during Bible time about whose turn it was to read the Scriptures, or sighing loudly in annoyance if someone missed a word or lost their place. By the end of it, I was pretty much as frustrated as they were. So I talked to them about their murmuring and complaining, just like the Israelites when God was in the midst of leading them to the promised land. I told them, “This is the family He has chosen for you, and we’re GOING TO give thanks instead of gripe.” And I made each one of them pray for each of their siblings. And something BROKE. Whatever was clouding the atmosphere in our home rolled away. The children laid hands on and prayed the most tender, loving, and sincere prayers for their brothers and sisters. They cried, and particularly amazing to me, each one of them prayed for each other to be a good mom or dad. And then, on their own without prompting, they all laid hands on and prayed for me. It was the sweetest, sweetest time that I will never forget.
~ for a fun time celebrating July 4. It admittedly took some concerted effort to redeem the day. Fourth of July has always been such a fun and festive holiday for us. We’ve always traveled to spend the day with family, swimming, grilling, going to a fireworks show or popping our own. The quintessential Americana celebration. Obviously, things are so different this year. No trips. All fireworks cancelled. There has been so much unrest and turmoil going on “out in the world” that the kids know very little about, but they still feel the unease in the air. And they’ve been disappointed by various cancellations and “no’s” over and over since March. But Josh and I had the same mission in mind this weekend: to make the best of our time together and make it fun for them. We got some new pool floats and goggles. Red, white, and blue juice pouches (MAJOR treat). Roasted hotdogs in the fire pit. Spent the whole day in the pool. Baked and decorated a flag cake. Let the Littles stay up way past their bedtime so they could enjoy swimming with the backyard and pool lit up at night. We said “yes” a LOT more than we said “no.” It was truly a wonderful day. Not because we did anything grand. But because we spent it together, living intentionally and loving lavishly.
There’s been so much turmoil and division about literally EVERYTHING lately, it’s like tiptoeing through a minefield to talk about ANYTHING. Many people are concerned and fired up that their rights are being taken away, or that the future holds many injustices and unreasonable controls being imposed on all of us. I’m one of THE LEAST political people you will ever meet, and not a huge fan of any great debate. I’m often on the naive side and I don’t even comprehend a lot of the issues. I’m definitely trying to do the work to educate myself so I can A) know what I believe and B) answer the inevitable hard questions my kids ask. But as unsure as I am about many issues and policies, I am sure of one thing.
I AM FREE.
Christ died to set me free. I am free from my sin and my former broken life. I’m free to love and serve Him and the family He has given me. I’m free to love my enemies and free to forgive just as I have been forgiven. No one can take my rights away if I willingly lay them down to better love my neighbor and to count others more important than myself. And my rights as an heir to Christ live inside me. And that’s where Jesus lives and He will crush the head of anyone who tries to come into His house and try to push Him or His Child around.
So no matter what my eyes see in this world gone mad, I’m gonna rest in that.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? … Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “F OR Y OUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; W E WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31, 35-39)
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
~ the most joyous news of all is that Sawyer remains cancer free! Glory hallelujah! We had his quarterly oncology ACE (survivor) visit on Wednesday. You can read my post about clinic day on CaringBridge or Facebook.
~ for such a big week for Sawyer: not only did he go to the hospital and draw his own blood, but he lost his very first tooth! It’s so crazy to me that he faces these giant mountains with such courage, but yet he’s still a normal little boy. He’s just so sweet, he’s been worrying over his loose teeth for months. Sometimes he’s so eager to hurry up and lose them, and other times he has all these little worries, “Will I still be handsome with a hole in my smile? Will I REALLY only be able to eat soup?” But we had a long talk about it one morning with lots of hugs and reassurance, and by the end of that day, that little sucker was ready to come out! I was surprised and impressed that Sawyer was brave and excited and let me pull it out for him. (For the mighty Sawyer the Warrior is as brave as you will ever find when it comes to hospitals and fighting cancer, but he is a standard 6 year old weenie about skinned knees and paper cuts and accidental mustard on his sandwich). But that tooth came right out and you have never seen a boy so proud. He squealed with joy and pride! And now he carries it with him everywhere!
~ for the kindness of our local police officers. We live close to the station, so they regularly frequent our street, and are faithful to stop and say hi and pass out stickers. I love the opportunity for these hardworking servants to be greeted with cheers and smiles. We LOVE our first responder friends!
~ for a stay-at-home date with my Love. Thanks to his Father’s Day giftcard from Colton, we enjoyed a feast from Texas Roadhouse. It was nice to enjoy a treat together, even if I had a little monkey that hung on my neck the whole time AND ate my entire sweet potato.
~ for the bright crimson cardinals that dart across our neighborhood and chatter in our trees.
~ for succulent pork loin slow cooked all day, and the creamiest mashed potatoes made in the instant pot. Anybody have any favorite instant pot recipes to share? I am learning how to use it, but haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.
~ for the over abundant blessing of our home. Josh and I had prayed for the Lord to lead us to the right place for our family 3 years ago, and we have worked hard to transform it to meet the needs of our Tribe. We are so humbled and thankful to have this comfortable, beautiful haven that we love so much. With all that’s going on, this is pretty much where we spend all our time. I really don’t go anywhere, and I’m so thankful to be so safe and more than comfortable, nestled in with my people. Sometimes it’s crowded, but it’s bursting with life and love.
~ for a new puzzle, genuinely challenging, but still conquered by the kids in ONE DAY!
~ for Cooper having an awesome week at camp. We got to see pictures while he was away, and it looks like the most fun ever. He came home bleary-eyed, exhausted, and exhilarated. But man, I had forgotten about the blistering stench of a week’s worth of camp laundry. That is no joke.
~ for online church broadcasts. It is such a blessing to stay connected with our church body even though we are not attending in person. We love our church so much. And I love that both Cooper and Carson Grace have the opportunity and the desire to serve on the audio/visual and the worship teams. Cooper is behind the scenes helping make sure everything looks and sounds great, and the kids are so excited to see their big sister on the screen! They think she’s SO FAMOUS!
~ for fun painting projects. Finished 3 orders this week, and 2 more to go. So grateful to have steady orders coming in.
I even got to paint for myself. The big circle below is a weathered table top I found on the side of the road last year. I knew when I picked it up that one day it would be a showstopper of a sign, but I didn’t know where it would fit or what I was put on it. Quite some time ago, we had heard a sermon where our pastor used the phrase, “love lavishly,” referencing 1 John 3, and that phrase resonated with Josh deeply. He later said he knew that’s what he wanted on our sign.
Ever since sketching the phrase on the sign with chalk, I’ve been chewing on it in my mind. What does that really mean? To love generously, excessively, more than we deserve. We are wayward, rebellious, and self serving, yet the Maker of heaven and earth calls us His daughters and sons. His love knows no bounds. By adorning my wall with these two words, I am issuing a challenge to myself that I will be reminded of daily.
Love beyond the minimum. Love more that is expected or deserved. Love radically, excessively, hilariously, recklessly.
Because God loves me that way. He gave me the love of a husband beyond anything I ever could have wished for. He blessed me with a family larger than any crazy dream I could have come up with. He took me out of the pile of garbage that was my life before I knew Him and made me clean and new and His. Just like I picked up a dirty, broken table, unable to function as it should, cast off on the side of the road, and saw its beauty and potential as something new.
I can’t love like Him. I’m still a mess. I’m FAR too selfish, too short-tempered, too tired. But God. Christ IN ME can love lavishly. Jesus’s Love can pour through the holes in me and love my kids and my husband and my neighbors and my enemies like that.
I’m glad it is painted BIG where I can be reminded every day.
Let’s love lavishly this week.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
“We love, because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
~ for Happy Mail. So fun to open up your very own mail. Especially when it’s full of STICKERS!!! Thank you Miss Linda!
~ for Colton treating me to my very first Freddy’s burger. I’m a fan!
~ for the next step in our ongoing kitchen remodel project. Our tile arrived Wednesday around lunch, Josh got home about 7, and we got right to work! I love knocking projects out with my Love, and we both love putting the sweat equity into our home. Later in the week, our replacement window was installed. Goodbye to the smeary windows that never came clean because of the broken seal between the panes. The new window is bright and giant and so clear it looks like there’s no glass in it! I am absolutely certain that it will never be this clean again, but I will enjoy it while it lasts!
~ for a special day with a really special girl. Kora, Gavin, and Zoe’s biological big sister Grace had her birthday this weekend, and what she wanted most was to see her little siblings. Is that not the sweetest thing? Grace and her family moved several years ago, so visits are few and far between. But what a joy to spend the day with her. We ate lunch, swam, painted rocks together, and baked cookies. It meant the world to all 4 of them. A one day visit is never long enough, so there were lots of tears at “goodbye,” but still, it blesses me to see the genuine love and bond they share. Adoption is so beautiful. But it is inextricably tied up with loss and pain. My babies had a life before me. My motherly instinct is to protect them from the painful parts of their story, and shield them from the hurt. But it’s all part of their story. And by erasing or hiding what I would selfishly and short-sightedly deem the “messy” parts, would also steal from them their own miraculous redemption story and the awesome story of their first big sister that shares their blood. Lord, give me the courage to trust what You are doing and not get in Your way. Pry off my anxiously controlling hands and write their story Your way. BUT GOD!
~ thankfully, our kids didn’t have time to be sad for long, because as soon as Grace drove away with her mom, we had another knock at the door: Uncle Mike and Cousin Kenedy! We enjoyed having them for the weekend!
~ for new goggles. Does anything make kids happier than new goggles?
~ for homemade ice cream. Is there anything better than homemade ice cream???
~ for Cooper’s favorite week of the year: Pine Cove! He loves his time at camp more than anything, and we dropped him off today. Can’t wait to hear about all the fun he has and all that the Lord will do in his heart this week!
~ for a great time celebrating Josh for Father’s Day. We had all his favorites: juicy grilled burgers with sharp cheddar and blue cheese, jalepeno chips, sweet tea, and homemade chocolate ice cream. I love this man so much, and the way he faithfully lives his faith in front of his kids and models to them how to love lavishly. I love how hard he works even when he’s dog tired and always hurting. We don’t call him “Giddyup” for nothing. I love that his favorite part of every project is watching my face when I admire it, because he says his favorite thing to do is make me happy. I will never understand why God has blessed me with a love this big, and I will never stop thanking Him that He did.
Today during worship at church (via the Rucker satellite campus) one of the songs was a favorite of our whole family, “Raise a Hallelujah.” There’s something so soul-stirring about hearing my children’s little voices lifted, singing at the top of their lungs to their Lord, “I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm. Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar.”
In that moment, it became my prayer. My prayer over EVERYTHING. Over the divisions about how to handle Covid 19. Over all the injustices and the big and the small polarizing issues people are all raging about. Over all the voices screaming at once about every hot topic. Over my own anxiety. Over my children.
“Sing a little louder, in the presence of my enemies…
Sing a little louder, louder than the unbelief…
Sing a little louder, my weapon is a melody
Sing a little louder, heaven comes to fight for me…”
It sounds silly, but what if we really did that? What if we all raised a hallelujah in the middle of our storms, a hallelujah that became louder than the noise? What if we really believed that praising God is a weapon that will defeat the darkness? What if we really loved others openhandedly, with no agenda, no catch, with the love of Christ? I’m not trying to sound like a Hallmark card, not am I trying to act like I’m doing it right myself. I just believe that it really does make a difference when we make simple but genuine changes in the way we respond to our circumstances. And when it all boils down, the ONLY cause I want to champion is the cause of Christ. Lord, let it be so. Stay my eyes on You, Lord.
Speaking of which, it is Clinic Week for Sawyer. It’s his first time back to the hospital since all the virus outbreaks and sheltering in place, so I won’t pretend it doesn’t cause my heart to pound a little faster. Hospital restrictions will only allow one adult to accompany a patient, so for the first time in as long as I can remember, it will be just Sawyer and I. His appointment is Wednesday, and I will post an update that evening. We are grateful for your prayers that our Warrior Boy remains cancer free.
Will you raise a hallelujah with me this week?
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.” (Psalms 97:1-6)
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:6)
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
~ for the sweetest time with the kids doing our morning Bible time out on the front porch in the cool of the morning. We talked about looking for the blessings. And my heart was completely overwhelmed looking at all the blessings cuddled around me and the way their hearts are so open.
~for pool-soaked pruny piggies.
~ for ice cold juicy watermelon.
~ for steady Giddyup & Whoa orders. I’ve been a busy bee sanding, staining, lettering, and water coloring. It’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to be creative and add to our family’s income, and the kids love helping!
~ for the first juicy and delicious tomatoes from our little garden. To me, there is nothing more absolutely delicious than a salted fresh tomato. Heaven on a plate. They even got me craving fried green tomatoes!
~ for streaming television. I know I’m not alone in my opinion that there is very little redeemable programming on TV these days. But the streaming services have allowed us to introduce our kids to some of our nostalgic favorites. The girls have been enjoying Little House on the Prairie, and the boys are now obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Imagine having those 2 theme songs constantly playing through your head!
~ for super fun and functional finds. A local school was getting rid of old classroom tables and chairs. After a good scrubbing they were perfect for my Littles to snack and color. At first I wasn’t sure if Tatum K would allow anybody else sit at “HER TABLE”, but she finally eased up a bit.
~ for the next steps of the kitchen project. I gave the walls, ceiling, trim, and doors a coat of crisp, creamy white paint, freshening the dingy beige, and brightening the whole space. Then, after three weeks of temporary plywood paneling countertops, our quartz was finally installed this week! It was a fascinating process to watch, and we are just thrilled with how they turned out. Finally almost done…
Two more precious children, Hope and Jacob, went to heaven on Friday. Cancer had ravaged their childhood, and it does bring some comfort to know that they are whole and healed in the arms of Jesus now instead of suffering. But that doesn’t take away the steel-toed boot kick to the gut. I’ll never understand. BUT GOD. Please lift up these devastated families who will never be the same.
All of the chaos and unrest swirling around everywhere continues to scream for my attention. The pain, the death, the hate, the virus. It makes me think of Jesus in the boat with his disciples. He was asleep and his disciples were terrified. And with a Word, He stilled the storm. He stilled the wind. He stilled the waves. And then I think about Peter calling out to the Lord, when he was standing upon the water. When he took his eyes off Jesus, and looked instead at the wind and the waves, he freaked out and began to sink. Now, I wouldn’t say that I’ve actually been freaking out, but I know my eyes have not stayed where they belong. And I know that Jesus doesn’t only want to calm the storms around me, he wants to calm the storms inside me. He’s asking me to trust Him. He’s asking me to model that for my kids. He’s asking me to love my neighbor. I remember the quote from Mother Teresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” It starts with me. It starts in my house. It starts with me loving my neighbor. It starts with me being more patient with my kids and loving them the way Christ loves me. Jesus, You are the Light of the world. And no matter how bleak things get, the darkness will never, EVER win. No matter how small, the tiniest spark cuts through darkness. And I see it. I see Light. I see Hope. I see it in my kids. Thank You Jesus.
Let’s be the light.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
““Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:29-33)
“They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”” (Luke 8:24-25)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Has anyone else felt completely confused and/or defeated this week?
“It’s not ok to say nothing.”
If you DID say (or post) something, somebody might have told you it was the wrong thing.
“You should’ve said….”
“You have to POST this….”
Then, if you did, “WHY did you do THAT? What are you trying to PROVE?”
Posting Scripture was often met with the response that it was a misuse of the context or else it was twisted into something negative.
Social media was a lose/lose this week.
I felt bullied. I felt like every single thing I did/said/posted/didn’t post needed an explanation and/or disclaimer.
Am I defined by a square? By crafting the perfect caption that sums up my beliefs and everything I stand for?
Part of me felt like it was just hopeless. The hate. The hurt. The injustice. The division. The name calling. It’s never gonna end. There is no RIGHT answer.
But there is. The right answer is always Jesus! The right answer is always that I must decrease so that He may increase. The right answer is always to love your neighbor as yourself, whoever that neighbor may be. The right answer is always that Light casts out darkness. And one glorious day it IS going to end.
I think some of the wisest words I’ve heard (outside Scripture) came from Anna on Frozen 2. “Just do the next right thing.”
And I want to try to do more of that. Whether it shows up on social media or not.
I am thankful:
~ for the Lord’s protection. Gavin and Sawyer were playing outside, and Sawyer was about to go potty “country boy style” outside when Gavin noticed something at his feet. At first, Sawyer didn’t believe it was real, but Gavin convinced him and the two boys ran screaming inside. “Snake!” Mama had to get brave with my rubber boots and long shovel, and put an end to the snake, which turned out to be a 2 foot long copperhead! I’ve never killed a snake before. I felt a little bit like She-Ra Warrior Princess and a little bit like passing out. When I think about what could have happened if Gavin hadn’t noticed it, or if Sawyer had reached down to grab it… BUT GOD.
~ for Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones. Isn’t that just the flavor of summer?
~ for a great, HOT week at the Barn Sale. Wednesday was Early Bird Day, and the admission fees were donated to Gold Network of East TX, so I worked at the table selling admission tickets and sharing about our programs. I met some fabulous people, and so many were kind and super generous. The sale went on through Saturday, and I was thrilled to sell more than half the Giddyup & Whoa signs I had painted! Double blessing!
~ for Carson Grace turning 19. How? How can my Princess Peanut be 19 years old??? She had a great time being celebrated by her friends, and she squeezed in a window for us to have her birthday dinner. We all love her birthday, because she has such great taste: BBQ chicken legs, pickled cucumber and tomato salad, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and ice cream cake. Her meal was a celebration in itself! But in all seriousness, I am excited to see what the Lord opens up for and in her this year. She is such a bright light, I know she has so much shining to do for Him!
~ for cool, refreshingly sweet and tart lemon icebox pie. It didn’t last long.
~ for a few more treats from our garden, including a teensy bitsy carrot.
~ for successful completion of the next, highly stressful stage of our gradual kitchen reno. We busted up and ripped out the final slab of dark granite from our island. The next day, a freighter dropped off its replacement: a 500 pound 8 foot long maple butcher block. The driver asked how long it would take for us to get it inside and installed. Josh confidently assured him it would be in place that night. We enlisted the help of a neighbor, and josh and I and Cooper CAREFULLY slid the massive slab onto a flat dolly, wheeled it into the house, and hoisted all 500 pounds of it onto the island. That process went much more smoothly than I had envisioned in my mind. But then came the real challenge. To measure, re-measure, and measure AGAIN to confirm the opening Josh would have to CUT out of that beautiful butcher block for our range. No do-overs. No margin for error. Man, we were calling out to Jesus for sure! But as always, Josh was meticulous and BOLD, and he cut the hole perfectly in one shot. So happy with how it turned out.
Let’s love one another well this week. Less time staring at screens and more time looking into the actual eyes of actual people. Let’s not throw darts or dodgeballs, but engage in active listening and compassion. Let’s admit when we’re wrong and forgive when we’re wronged. And pray for the healing that our nation so desperately needs to start in our own homes and in our hearts.
Thanks for giving thanks with me. Y’all are truly such a blessing.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
“Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
I’m sad to hear story after story of hatred and brutality and discord, and watch angry lines be drawn and sides taken.
I’m sad to hear of abuses of power and people who are either too afraid or too numbed to stand up for what is right.
I’m sad to hear people make broad critical judgments about “ALL” of any group of people.
I’m sad thinking about what the future will be like for my children. And for children everywhere.
I’m sad to read more stories of more and more people turning away from their faith, because they don’t understand how a loving God “lets this stuff happen over and over again.”
I am a white, middle aged, middle class Christian female. I am a stay at home mom. I am a mother of nine. I am an adoptive parent. I am a cancer mom. Just because we don’t have any or all of those things in common, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to relate to one another. We are humans. We have hopes and dreams and fears for ourselves and our children.
I don’t think any of us are called to be “color blind.” We SHOULD see our world in color. We just need to see all color as beautiful and valuable. I am a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart, and I believe in the Bible and everything it says. And there are people who disagree with me. And I think we can still be friends. We may not worship together, but we can walk side-by-side. And if you are thirsty, I will share my water with you. And it’s my responsibility to live and act in such a way that you would feel safe to share yours with me.
Love is a verb. Love is a choice. If we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (which we are), then what hurts my neighbor hurts me. Whether that hurt comes from a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a child, the loss of a job because of Covid 19, or racial inequality.
Thursday morning I sat down with my Littles, and talked to them about the value and beauty of people of every color. About the value of being kind to people we don’t agree with. And about the importance of standing up for what is right, whether or not anyone else will stand up.
I was so blessed when I asked them what they would do if they saw someone was getting picked on or bullied or hurt. They all replied immediately in unison, “PRAY!”
I will try to do everything I can to raise kind humans who will love others with the love of Christ, who will be friends to the lonely, and who will reach out to the kid who is alone at a lunch table or gets picked last on the kickball team. I pray that they will grow up to be peacemakers and bridge builders looking for the common ground instead of picking at differences.
I am sad. But I have hope. BUT GOD.
And because God is worthy of praise regardless of circumstances, I will give thanks.
I am thankful:
~ for perfectly sweet, drip-down-your-chin fresh peaches.
~ for progress in the kitchen. I was super bummed that new countertops will not work with the backsplash I lovingly and painstakingly handpainted 2 years ago. But it’s fine. So thankful for my husband’s remodeling skills.
~ for the sound of my children’s voices worshipping.
~ for my belated-because-of-shipping Mother’s Day gift from Colton.
~ for ice cream.
~ for wonderful neighbors.
~ for tiny but tasty nibbles from our garden to add into our salads.
~ for my sweet kids who rub my hair when I have a headache.
Let’s love one another well this week. Let’s love our neighbors. Let’s not hide behind social media and throw darts that we wouldn’t say face to face. Let’s look for the good and let’s BE THE GOOD. Let’s treat others BETTER THAN WE THINK THEY DESERVE. Let’s love like Jesus. Because if He can love ME, He really MUST love everybody.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:9-18)
~ for Sawyer’s thrill of chatting with one of his real life heroes. We live very close to a police station, so we regularly have patrol cars on our street. This week, Officer Long stopped to chat, and Sawyer proudly informed her that he was going to be a police officer when he grows up, then excitedly dashed back to the house and drove out of the garage in his little motorized police car. Later it was neat to see his picture shared on the KLTV Instagram page !
~ for Kora’s first job (at 11 years old). After seeing her creative chalk art doodles on our driveway, a neighbor hired Kora to chalk a giant Happy Birthday card for a grandson down our street. What a fun “job!” And my sweet girl used her hard-earned wages to treat us all to Shivers snocones!
~ for hot, delicious elotés, roasted corn ears seasoned with mayonnaise, spices, and cotija cheese. I had never had it before, and I am now a FAN!
~ for our next DIY home project underway. Josh and I love tackling remodeling projects together, and have gradually transformed our kitchen into the kitchen of our dreams over the last 2 1/2 years. The next step is updating the dingy countertops, stained sink, and leaky faucet. Demo has begun! So thankful for such great helpers!
~ for an excellent BIG BOX, and the endless possibilities it contains.
~ for fresh homemade salsa. Just wish we didn’t devour it in 2 hours every time I make it.
~ for a really special NEW PUZZLE! After each puzzle we have completed, the kids have asked if we could frame it. But none of them have been anything we would particularly care to frame. So this time Josh and I put a lot of thought into our next puzzle, and came up with the perfect, meaningful scene. The Texas Rangers stadium, Globe Life Park. Our family loves baseball and love love LOVE the Texas Rangers. We have been to numerous ball games over the last 20 years, and Josh and I experienced our first Rangers game together on one of our first dates. For those of you who are not Texans, a new baseball stadium has recently been built for the Rangers, and while we are thankful that Globe Life Park was not demolished, we will never see another ball game played there. We are so thankful that we were able to take in one last game before the end of the season last year. All that to say, we are excited to have successfully completed this latest puzzle (zero missing pieces!), and look forward to framing and displaying it. (And Mama is DEFINITELY a puzzle hog master.)
~ for a perfect quiet afternoon of yardwork and snow cones & sign builds and puddle jumping.
It’s been a challenging week of parenting. Instead of the jubilant end of school crescendo followed by the thrill of a new blissfully open schedule of free time, there was a strangely anticlimactic transition from “SCHOOLING at home” to “just STAYING home” with more of the same 4 walls and the same 10 faces. Finally after 2 months of wrestling, we had found a schedule that was manageable, and now it too was gone. This has led to “the grumpies” for all of us. During our virtual learning season, I definitely felt much less equipped as a teacher than a mom. And this week I have seriously questioned my capabilities on the mom side as well. How am I supposed to be a loving, godly example to my kids when I am constantly exhausted and pulling my hair out???
As He is so faithful to do, Jesus came to my rescue. He spoke to me in His Word, confirmed it in my prayer time, and then reaffirmed His lovingkindness through the encouragement of others.
I am His child. My kids are His children. He loves me like crazy and He loves them like crazy. He’s got a plan for each one of us collectively and individually. And I don’t get to know the plan, and I just have to make peace with that and trust Him with it all.
I DON’T HAVE TO BE THE PERFECT MOTHER. (Insert: WIFE / PERSON / CHRISTIAN / ANYTHING).
I read this reference this week and it has reverberated in my head and my heart. We all know Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” But in the NASB, “Be still” is translated as “Cease striving.” That is SO my natural response to stress and conflict – Striving. Struggling. Fighting. Exerting all my energy to get to a resolution. Doing whatever it takes to get it all done and get to the bottom of every issue.
“Cease striving and know that I am God.”
This stuff is hard. I always say “Capital ‘H’ Hard.” But He designed it that way, or we wouldn’t need Him. If it was even CLOSE to doable, we would just get it done BY STRIVING, and then walk away knowing we were capable in our our strength. Satisfied with being a great parent. Confident in being the perfect spouse. Great teacher. Full of faith.
This pressure is on purpose. It changes us on the inside and the outside. And it brings us to the excruciating and beautiful place of surrendering our own strength and relying on Jesus.
I don’t have to be enough. Because He is enough. I can cease striving and know that He is God.
And He is good at being God.
I thought just maybe somebody besides me needed that reminder this week.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
““Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10 NASB)
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
~ for the highly anticipated tapering off of Virtual Learning here at Rucker Academy. Carson Grace and Cooper officially wrapped up their Freshman year of college and high school last week. Monday was Sawyer’s last day. He celebrated his Virtual Kindergarten Graduation with a drive through ceremony on Tuesday. He had the very best attitude, and it was special and memorable.
Tuesday was Samantha and Kora’s last day, AND their last day of elementary school. 5th grade traditionally “graduates” from elementary, but our school is moving 4th grade to the new Middle School Campus next fall, so it was a transition for Kora as well. 4th graders had a drive through to receive their completion certificates, and then an hour later, 5th graders had their own drive through ceremony to receive Elementary School Diplomas. We all enjoyed a Pokey O’s treat in between the two.
Wednesday was Gavin and Zoe’s last day of school, officially closing out our year. We now have a College Sophomore, High School Sophomore, 6th grader, 5th grader, 4th grader, 3rd grader, and a 1st grader. And what better way to celebrate the end of school?
But with an Aloha Drive Through on Thursday of course!!!! It was fun to see ALL our beloved teachers and support staff, even if we couldn’t give the hugs they so richly deserve! I let our principal know that I WOULD NOT be seeking employment, just in case she had planned to call on me to fill a math teacher position. (I wonder if there is good money in the story problem writing field?)
~ for one blissful day of nothing. No drive throughs. No papers. No zoom meetings. No “Mama, can you check this?” I sat. I drank coffee. They played. It was glorious.
~ for the kindest surprise blessing on my front porch. THANK YOU Jennifer and Janet!
~ for a glorious double rainbow that stretched directly over our house. Oh Lord, thank You for being faithful to remind us of Your promises.
~ for my Laundry Wizard tools: bleach, peroxide, Windex, and a toothbrush; for the times when a little girl scribbles all over her sheets. Or when a big girl sets down her iron on her bed.
~ for the cutest, tiniest little red bell pepper from our garden. And the cutest, tiniest little spicy pepper holding it.
~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week. I’ve been trying to keep up with the orders that keep coming in.
Very pleased with these new projects, and excited that the Vintage & Co. Gresham Barn Sale has been RESCHEDULED for June 3-6! Looking SO FORWARD TO IT! And for the most wonderful added blessing, Jodi has chosen Gold Network of East Texas as the local charity beneficiary for their Preview Day!!! We are so honored and grateful. We continue to connect with our families who are traveling to Dallas for chemotherapy or follow up appointments, one almost every day. We are so blessed when people from the community believe in what we do and want to help support these deserving families during the hardest season of their lives.
~ for an awesome afternoon with my Love. We were invited by a friend of a friend of a friend to salvage some gorgeous wood from a demo’ed building. It was a pretty good drive, so we decided to make a date of it. After church, Carson Grace and Cooper watched the Littles and we hit the road. I love this picture.
You know we love our coffee. Well our His and Hers coffee cups haven’t been side by side in a cup holder in a hot minute. We turned on some classic rock, drank our coffee, and held hands. We stopped on our way out of town to pick up THE BEST chicken,
and then just enjoyed being out of the house and ALONE TOGETHER. We got a small truckload of GORGEOUS and PERFECTLY CHIPPY 100 year old reclaimed wood, and then topped the afternoon off with some ice cream. The sun-soaked drive through the picturesque countryside was beautiful and filled up a place in my heart that I didn’t even realize needed filling.
The grip of quarantine is loosening, businesses have begun reopening, and lots of people are chomping at the bit to be back to normal.
Ugh. Just the phrase makes my stomach hurt.
I’m not panicky. I’m not actually afraid of the virus. My anxiety has been surprisingly relatively minimal through all this. I can’t really explain it, I just don’t feel peaceful about everything going back to normal.
And I wrestle with that every day. Because does that mean I don’t have faith? Does that make me controlled by the government? Does that make me a mindless rule follower?
I don’t think it does. I think it means I’m human.
Everyone is different. Everyone processes this stuff differently. And I know that a big part of the reason I feel the way I do is because of what we have walked through with Sawyer.
When you hear the words, “your child has cancer,” there’s a physical reaction. It changed every part of me. It changed my DNA. In a lot of ways, I genuinely believe it changed me for the better in the long run. I love deeper. I see life’s colors brighter. I absolutely KNOW with every fiber in me that God is fully God and fully love and fully good.
But it’s changed me in other less endearing ways. I’m changed because I have held my baby dozens of times while propofol was pumped into his body, causing him to go limp in my arms, and handed him over to doctors, while I left the room for him to have spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies. I have held my baby and watched him unresponsive to a sternal rub, and watch a code team swarm in and set to work to care for him. I have spent weeks in isolation in a hospital room with my son, away from the rest of my family, because of a combination of simple cold viruses. During that season of personal quarantine, I turned down dozens of invitations to gatherings for myself and my children because of concern for Sawyer’s immune system. Social distancing is a lot more lonely and isolating when no one else is doing it. But there was never a question of “would we or wouldn’t we.”
So a highly contagious virus, whether or not it may be “exaggerated by the media,” “just a bad cold, “has a “good survival rate” and “rarely affects children” is something I don’t take lightly. This season of sheltering in place has triggered a protective Mama Bear instinct. I will repeat: I AM NOT AFRAID. I know that God is God and we all have a number of days that we will live, and He is in charge of that, not me. I can’t keep Sawyer (or any of them for that matter) in a bubble or protect them from life. But I just do not have a peace about my family jumping right back into “normal” life and crowds and public contact again just yet.
And it’s OK if you do. I’m not imposing anything about how I feel on anybody else. You do you. And let’s all just be kind.
The “normal” I AM excited about is that I am NOT A MATH TEACHER. I’m excited about popsicles and watermelon and homemade ice cream. I’m excited about sleeping in and floating in the pool and roasting hotdogs and Tuesdays with Tatum K. I’m excited about more drinking coffee and holding hands and dreaming with my Love. I’m excited for the thrill of the hunt, whether it’s “treasure” on the side of the road or the newly elusive treasure, toilet paper. I’m excited for a million zillion loads of laundry and 2 shaggy dogs and a house bursting full of people that simultaneously make me thankful and exhausted.
And I’m excited to discover all the blessings Jesus has prepared for us along the way.
There are a lot of people I love who are really hurting right now. Maybe you are too. Let’s press into our Father and lift up one another. There may not be one single thing we can do to take away somebody’s pain. But we can listen. We can pray. And we can be kind. Let’s be good at that this week.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.” (Psalms 73:28)