Flattened

I am thankful:

~ for one if my favorite Christmas traditions: our trip to Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve.   We load our bus with the most delicious home-cooked spread of food and drive to Dallas, to give smiles and thanks to the dedicated nurses caring for the kids who are too sick to be home for Christmas.  Even though it’s been years now, we have promised to never forget those frightening days.  Josh at home with 7 kids missing their mama.  And 12 month old Sawyer and I in the hospital.  We had known we would be in the hospital that Christmas.  He was in a particularly harsh phase of his leukemia treatment, and needed close monitoring.  But Christmas Eve he had taken a turn for the worse, spiking a high fever, and his nurses watched him like a hawk.   I’ll never forget the way they tended to him, and to me all through the night.  I remember watching the clock turn midnight, and crying in the dark room lit by a blinking IV pole as I wished my sick baby Merry Christmas.   BUT GOD.   I couldn’t have done it without those nurses, those angels on this earth.  They lay their lives down and are gone from their own families to take care of hurting children, and they do their very best to bring joy into a scary and sad place.  I love going back (for a quick trip and not to stay) to tell them Sawyer’s story, and give them a fresh breath of Christ-ordained, thriving, 6 year old, curly-headed HOPE. IMG_20191224_144050514_Original.jpgIMG_1498.JPGIMG_1501.JPG 

~ for a quick, fun visit with Aunt Dinah.  Sawyer picked Slims Chicken for lunch, and then she and I visited while I tackled my holiday baking and trashed my kitchen from one end to the other. 

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~ for beautiful weather to deliver baked goodies to our wonderful neighbors.  We are so blessed!IMG_1459.JPG

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~ for a wonderful, messy, overstimulating, joyful, chaotic, noisy Christmas.  For too much delicious food: spicy, cheesy jalapeño crawfish chowder, tart/sweet cherry pie, caramely sweet monkey bread, and chocolate-coffee-salted-caramel birthday cake for Jesus.  For Andes mints that make me think of Grandma Grace.  And Great Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters that are now my kids’ favorite.  For tums and stretchy pants.  For new Christmas jammies for everyone and a new ornament each.  For the sweetness of each of us reading Luke 2 verse by verse…and how the powerfully tender words feel more tender and more powerful on Christmas morning.  For a second round of too-much-everything and 14 cousins to play with.  It was an extra noisy Christmas with robots and transformers and Elsa microphones and walkie talkies and laser tag.  I’m also thankful that batteries do not live forever. IMG_1544.JPG

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~ for the fullness in my heart at having all my children together.  I learned when Sawyer got sick that I couldn’t take it for granted.  But life moved on, the crisis passed, and I realized that I still did sometimes.  But now comes another paradigm shift: they really are growing up.  Colton’s living on his own, Carson Grace is 18 and in college.  Soon enough they will start having their own families and may not always be around.  How I treasure these fleeting moments with all these faces around my table and piled up on my couch. 

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~ for my husband’s dedication and work ethic.  Even after working 65+ hours a week at his “real job,” then building signs and caring for our home in his “spare time,” AND being Dad to 9 kids….he is grinding out his real estate courses, one after another, even amidst the chaos of our home environment.   So proud of him.   Even squeezed in a much needed date with him this week! 

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~for the signature throaty growl of my daughter’s hauntingly beautiful voice and her guitar coming from her bedroom.  Oh, how I’ve missed her and that sound.  

~ for 4 little and not-so-little girls that still let me dress them alike.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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~ for the fresh grace to keep going even when it’s hard.  Tatum K, while just as cute as she can be, continues to challenge us daily with her fiery temperament.  Her latest challenge is NOT SLEEPING.  She is taking hours to settle down to sleep, most of that spent screaming violently at the top of her lungs, anything from “I want my MAAAAAMAAAAA!” to “I want PIZZZZZZAAAAAAA!” to “Tickle my BAAAAACKKKKK!!!!”  And then sometimes she is waking up and doing it all again for hours in the middle of the night.  Makes for a tired mama, especially after days on end. 

~ for days when I wake up to sweet artwork left beside my bed.  Parenting this many children usually feels a lot like whack-a-mole, and there is many a night that I go to bed feeling like a very defeated worst-and-meanest-mama-in-the-whole-wide-world.  But by some stretch of miracle, my kids don’t seem to think so!  Thank You Father for the NEW MERCIES EVERY MORNING!

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It’s that groggy limbo week between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone I talk to seems drained and wiped out and nobody is sure what day it is.  I find myself with a little bit of the blues…flattened by the steamroller of the packed schedule over the past few weeks.  And emotionally flattened as well.  Just a lot going on in my heart these days.  Anybody else feel flattened?  (FLATTENED, not FATTENED.  Although that certainly feels applicable as well…)

My weary heart dragged me to the church this morning.  Physically and spiritually drained and exhausted, I couldn’t even make my voice form the words of the songs.  So I just sank to my knees and let the worship and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit wash over me.  

“Worthy of every song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe

We live for you.  We live for you…”

The words and the percussion pounded into my chest, beating the melody into my heart as I sang and prayed and worshipped and wept.  

“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.”  

Lord, I’ve seen You do miracles with my own eyes.  I KNOW and I BELIEVE that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.  Help me to trust in You: that You are WORKING, that You are PRESENT, and that You are SOVEREIGN.  Remind me that You care about the needs I bring to you.  Line up my desires with Yours so that I want what You want for me instead of what I want for me.  Help me to remember TRUTH when my circumstances try to trip me up.  Help me unclench my fists and my feeble attempts to take control.  Renew in me a deep love for Your WORD.  Fill me with Your LOVE so I can pour it out. 

Give me endurance for the race You have set before me.  It is the race You made me for.  

Don’t lose heart.  He is FOR YOU.  Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I am thankful:

~ for innocent children who aren’t afraid to ask the questions we all wonder.  “Mama? What is piggy pudding? And why do they want it so bad?”  “And what does pa-rum-pum-pum-pum MEAN?”

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~ for a sweet night of fellowship with our Tyler Christian Fellowship elders, deacons, and wives.  And for pumpkin bread pudding with warm salted caramel sauce.

~for the sweetest Christmas play at the school.  Zoe and Gavin brilliantly executed their parts in “It Happened in the Country.”  Gavin even had his first little solo and did a great job.  I love seeing them so excited to share their hard work with us.

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~ for GPS.  Tyler is famous for its holiday traffic jams, and the GPS on my phone was able to pinpoint the trouble areas and reroute me.  Even though it took me miles out of the way, it was undoubtedly faster than the direct route.  I would still be sitting on Broadway…

~ for human Christmas party ping pong.  I pinged and I ponged my way through five simultaneous Christmas parties at opposite ends of the elementary school.   They had Christmas movies, toilet paper snowman building, cookie decorating, and pancakes in pajamas. The kids all had a ball and then that was that!  They are all officially home for Christmas! 

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We are now enjoying lounging around, living room football, and binge-watching Disney plus.   And we finished our puzzle.  Sadly, Tatum and Bear ate 7 pieces, so we didn’t get the full victorious satisfaction. 

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~ for the dollar store.  Love me some dollar store when it’s time to shop for Christmas stockings for 9 kids!

~ for the absolutely MOST DELICIOUS slow-cooked, fall off the bone, flavor-LICIOUS ribs on the planet.  Drew, you are a BBQ ARTIST!!!!

~ for encouragement from the Lord: through His Word, His Voice, and His people.  It brings such comfort to know that my Heavenly Father sees me and cares about every detail of my life, and that He is WORKING IN AND THROUGH every trial to refine me and make me more like Him.  It’s so incredibly hard to stop trying to control everything.   Even though my mind knows that I don’t have ANY POWER to control anything anyway, I still waste so much energy fighting for it.  I can’t control Sawyer’s health, or whether or not his cancer will return.  I can’t control what others think of me or whether or not they love and accept me.  I can’t control my children’s choices or their relationship with the Lord.  And sometimes that makes me feel so empty and powerless and just plain hopeless.  

But God. 

An empty vessel.  Cracked and broken.  The perfect vessel for the Lord to pour into and fill to overflowing.  Every crack in me allows Jesus to shine through more.  If I am empty, there’s more room for Him.  I’m not trying to say that I just radiate Jesus everywhere I go.  Or that I am moping around sad and hopeless.  I’m just increasingly aware that God’s power shines through my weakness WHEN I LET HIM.   I am more useful in my honest brokenness than I could ever dream to be in any artificial“I’ve-got-it-all-together-ness.”  

My life feels kind of out of control.  But that’s ok.  Because my Perfect Father has a Perfect Plan for all the details.  And I don’t have to know what’s next, because I know who’s in charge and I KNOW THE ENDING.  The story will end with Jesus on the Throne and every knee bowed.  Glorious. 

 We eagerly count down the days until Christmas, and those who are Christ-followers celebrate the birth of the Messiah.  “Jesus IS the reason for the season.”  

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But it’s so much more. 

Jesus is more than the baby in the manger.  More than a miracle that wowed some shepherds in the middle of the night.   HOPE was born.   The REMEDY for our brokenness.  FREEDOM for the captives.  He came to walk among us, to turn religion on its head, and teach us what LOVE looks like. 

So wherever you are in the midst of your Christmas busy-ness, MAKE SOME ROOM.  As you shop in the madness of stores or fight your way through traffic, look around.  See the exhausted checkout clerk.  Or the frazzled mother dragging her kids out of the toy aisle.  If you are breaking your back to get your baking done, your house spotless, and fretting about the relatives that you are not looking forward to seeing this year…take a deep breath and think about the families who will spend Christmas in the hospital or who would give ANYTHING for one more Christmas with their mom, or their dad, or their husband, or their child.   Let’s ungrit our teeth and unclench our hearts and pour Jesus on each other instead.   Spend more time than money.  Give less stuff and more of ourselves.  This Christmas might not be perfect, but it will never be this Christmas again.

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Christmas in the hospital, 2014

   

Let’s love one another well this week.  Merry CHRISTmas!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””  (Luke 2:10-14)

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

The Biggest Little Things

I am thankful:

~ for HEALING!  The Rucker Tribe has survived the Great Flu of 2019.  Oh, we still have some sniffles, snuffles, and coughs.  And sleep is still hit or miss (mostly miss).  But it is a vast improvement over last week to say the VERY LEAST.  Thank You JESUS!  And thank you to all of you for reaching out with your kind words and encouragements.

~for all the funny little memories at Christmastime.  For the kids’ love of EVERY Christmas song, and how they sing out with all their hearts.   I love that Tatum K doesn’t know who Santa is.  She just points when she sees a picture or an inflatable and says, “look mama! It’s a May-wee Cwis-mas boy!”  We have had fun running errands together, she’s my little buddy while kiddos are at school.  She attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so stinkin’ cute in her little boots and messy bun.  At this store she found slippers that matched her little sherpa jacket, so she had to give them “a lovey.”  Oh Lord, let her stay my sweet tiny Tater. 

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~ for puzzles.  I forget how fun puzzles are.  

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~ for a wonderfully special occasion worthy of celebration: Grandmommy’s 70th birthday!  Aunt Polly hosted the gathering, and we feasted on brisket and chips and dips and a charming custom purse cake topped with FON-DANT.  We all laughed and made Grandmommy cry, and celebrated the legacy of the lovely, godly lady we all love so much.  

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~ as always, Grandmommy’s birthday also marks the start of the greatly anticipated tradition: 12 Days of Christmas.  Each night we gather and sing the song, and then open our thoughtful treat and take our picture.  The kids absolutely love the whole process, and I am so thankful for all the work that Grandmommy puts into it all.  These are memories that will last forever.  I am a sucker for traditions, and it fills my heart to see the smiles of my babies beside the tree.  Day 1 was sticker page nativities.  And you have never seen such joy as they each diligently worked on decorating their own paper.

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~ for such a fun Christmas party with our small group from church.  The adults had organized a rowdy (and rather cut-throat) white elephant gift exchange.  The kids were very intrigued by the idea (I mean, OBVIOUSLY they saw a bunch of gifts and wanted some) so I quickly gathered items from around our house to put together a white elephant exchange for them. None of them had ever played it before, so it was a little challenging.  Sawyer ended up with the dud gift: a ladies bracelet and a coupon.  He was NOT IMPRESSED.  Nor was he gracious about being disappointed.  There were tears.  Everyone else had fun though.  I’m thankful for such a fun group.  As you can see, I was in a PARTICULARLY FESTIVE mood.

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~ for a new-to-me treat:  baked crescent rolls filled with melted chocolate chips and drizzled with powdered sugar glaze.  Just STOP IT!

~ for last minute Giddyup & Whoa orders.  you can imagine how tight the budget gets with nine kids at Christmas time. Even though our focus is definitely not on spending a lot on extravagant gifts, all the expenses just all add up faster than the deposits.  Every order is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for the way God provides!  It is such an honor to be trusted with bringing to life special mementos for people.  

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~ for amazing and inspiring connections.  I got a sign order this week from a lady I did not know.  She had taken my card at the show at the Foundry several weeks ago and just now contacted me.  She came to the house to pick up her order, and we had the best conversation!  She is also a mother of 9, and we have several  common friendships.  Such a small world.  The sign she had me do for her was so unique and personal, my very favorite kind of sign to paint.  A saying with personal meaning that you’re just not going to find hanging in Hobby Lobby.  She had asked me to paint “Love is the Tuesdays.”  It’s a lyric from the song, “Tuesday’s,” by Jake Scott, and it was a gift for her husband.  She encouraged Josh and I to listen to the song, which we did later that evening.  The song is advice given by a father to a young man who is asking to marry his daughter.  “No it’s not Hollywood son ’cause troubles will come / But it’s the best decision you’re ever gonna make / And you’ve got my blessing but just hear this lesson / Twenty-seven years and all I’ve got to say / Is it’s not just picture perfect dancing in a white dress / It’s not just rainy days where nothing stops the fighting / It’s not just highs and lows and champagne toasts / I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days or the worst days / Love is the Tuesdays”

Isn’t that just the truth?  Love is the everyday moments that happen in between the highs and the lows.  So blessed by the song and touched by the sentiment behind the sign order. 

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~ for an amazing accomplishment for my INCREDIBLE HUSBAND!  A few weeks ago he took the step of faith to enroll in an online real estate course, and this week he completed the first class and ACED his first exam!   So proud of this remarkable man of mine and excited to see what doors God will open down the road!

~ for the kids’ DARLING Christmas program at church.   From our Tribe, we had scintillating portrayals of an angel, King Herod, and Caesar Augustus, as well as 2 eloquent narrators.  There is something so pure about seeing the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes and lips of children.  And even seeing how beautiful and grown up Samantha and Kora are.  Zoe sparkling in her tinsel halo.  Sawyer, serious as can be, sternly barking out his line, and Gavin’s dramatic death on stage.  Even Tatum K’s spontaneous interruptions asking when it would be “cookie time.”  It was just so very special.  

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Before the Children’s Program, Becky the Children’s Pastor, asked the audience to pause.  I LOVED how she said it.  “Let’s just pause a moment to make some room.  We can’t appreciate a gift we are given if we don’t take the time to realize how much we NEED that gift.”  Advent is the season of waiting.  Waiting expectantly for the birth of the King.  Waiting longingly for His Return.  But do we have room?  Are we too busy and distracted by the cares of this world?  By how many friends/followers/likes we can accumulate?  By having the Pinterest-perfect porch display, ugly sweater, or charcuterie board?  By buying the perfect gift to outdo what we gave last year?  

Quieting our heart is hard.  Waiting is hard.  What are you waiting on?  What prayer are you praying that has not yet been answered?  My heart aches with the weight of some of the things I wait for, long for.   But I know God sees me.  I know He cares about the things and the people I’m asking Him for.  He saw the needs of the people of Israel.  He had a plan to meet those needs.  He has a plan to fulfill every need.  But for now, we wait.  Creation is groaning for our Coming King.  We ache for healing, for reconciliation, for restoration.  We cry out to Him for a Breakthrough.  And sometimes every single thing our eyes see looks like failure.  Hopeless.   But the God of Hope is working when we cannot see.  And thankfully, His power is not contingent on our faith.  I thank God for that every day.  Because my faith feels so small and my vision falls so short.  But God.  So whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t lose heart.  

He is working.  

He is coming. 

And He’s always right on time. 

So let’s pause a moment.  And let’s make some room for Jesus in our hearts and our schedules this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:13-14)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-19, 22-25, 28)