Choosing a Soundtrack

I am thankful:

~ for an uneventful day off from school. It was nice and quiet. The kids had fun in the pool. It was a lovely nothing day.

~ for a special, special day that I never could have dreamed we would see.  Our 20 year anniversary!  The naive kids who repeated vows 2 decades ago would have rightfully been nominated “Least Likely to Succeed.”  We had everything against us.  But God breathed His life into us, and into our marriage.  He knit us together because we only had each other.  He took us through the fire and refined our love and our faith.  I scarcely recognize those kids.  But I love what our life has become.  We enjoyed our new favorite C Rojo’s burger and grapefruit sodas for lunch, and thanked God for 20 beautiful, hard, grace-laced, overcoming years.   This was what I posted that day:

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“These two kids didn’t have a clue.  We were wild and naive and crazy about each other.  We had a baby. And then found Jesus. And then got married.  Had some more babies and adopted one.  Lost a baby, adopted some more, and had another baby all in one year.  Then came cancer.  More cancer, and ANOTHER baby.  I am blown away by the quantity and quality of life and love God has packed into 20 years.  We chose each other when we didn’t know any better.  Now I know, and I’d choose you again and again and forever.  And to borrow from another favorite love story, “Let ‘me say we’re crazy. What do they know?  Put your arms around me baby, don’t ever let go.  Let the world around us, just fall apart.  Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”  Happy Anniversary to my Love.”

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~for an uncommonly cooperative and photogenic dog.  He doesn’t mind being a Giddyup & Whoa model or a Gold Network spokesdog.  But he does get tired after all the limelight. 

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~for exciting updates from our graphic designer for this year’s Tyler Gold Run shirts!  We wanted something fun and different to celebrate 5 years.  Can’t show you yet…but I can’t wait!!!!  There’s still time to register!

~ for so many heartwarming reports of people “Going Gold!”  You have changed your profile pictures, shared awareness posts, worn gold… THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of so many families who live childhood cancer awareness month every single day, not because they choose to, but because it is the reality of the life they now live.

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~for healing.  Cooper’s hip is mending well.  Kora has had a chronically recurrent ear infection that is improving.  Sawyer has had a yucky cough.  That’s not uncommon for him.  He always catches whatever crud is going around.  He was coughing by the second day of school, and pretty much has been ever since.  I try not to not be too quick to drag him to the doctor’s office, because I know everybody gets a cold at back to school time.  And I know I am oversensitive and overprotective with Sawyer.  Unfortunately, Monday night, he started running fever.  High fever, over 102°.  We kept him home from school of course, but resisted the urge to jump straight to the doctor, for the same reasons referenced before.  But the cough worsened enough that it was keeping him up all night.  And me.  And Tatum K.  After three days of significant fever and increasing coughing, I finally took him in to the pediatrician. Pneumonia.  Now after missing a full week of school, and a few days on antibiotics, the fever has lifted and the cough is at least a little better.  BUT, now Tatum K is running fever. Sigh.  Just one exceptionally exhausting act in the intricate dance of a large family. BUT GOD… 

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~ for melatonin.  When your child physically does not have a “get sleepy” button, you MAKE SURE you NEVER run out of melatonin.  

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When life is super busy (back to school + a million kids + Giddyup & Whoa painting + crunch time in preparation for the Gold Run) and then we have a health curveball… it really sends me spiraling.  Anxiety doesn’t play nice, and is merciless in its attacks.  Rest at night is almost nonexistent.  I often feel paralyzed by all I have to get done, and physically feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Somehow I had recently heard some song, just a snippet of a really terrible song, and it got stuck in my head.  It was absolutely maddening.  After about 3 days, I realized how it was absolutely MESSING WITH ME!  It was quite literally a vulgar and negative soundtrack playing constantly in my head.  But once I keyed in on it…I took action right away.  I turned on my worship music and began to SING!   Every time the negative song would creep back into the background, I would silence it with prayer and singing.  Changing the soundtrack of my day made a huge difference in my peace.  Have you ever noticed that?  That you replay something over and over in your mind?  And how much more often it is something NEGATIVE than anything remotely positive?  We replay a scathing argument, but rarely an uplifting encouragement.  Recognizing this habit, and acknowledging the negative impact it has on our mood and our spirit can be such a life changing paradigm shift. 

I’m ready for a better week. Sawyer is excited to return to school after several days on his antibiotic and now fever-free.  I pray Tatum K recovers quickly and no one else gets sick.  I have a to-do list 86 miles long, but I trust God to provide the grace I need breath by breath.  And it may not all get done, and it probably won’t all go perfectly, but that’s ok too.  BUT GOD…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When every day is just another struggle / And every choice is an act of war / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for / When it feels like I’ll never make it / When my heart’s crying out for more / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for.” (“Prize Worth Fighting For” Jamie Kimmett)

“I hear the whisper underneath your breath / I hear you whisper, you have nothing left / I will send out an army / To find you in the middle of darkest night / It’s true, I will rescue you / I will never stop marching / To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight / It’s true, I will rescue you. (“Rescue”  Lauren Daigle)

“Now I have resurrection power / living on the inside Jesus / You have given us freedom No longer bound by sin and darkness / living in the light of Your goodness / You have given us freedom Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, my chains are gone! Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, HALLELUJAH!” (“Resurrection Power” Chris Tomlin)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Gearing up for Gold

I am thankful:

~ for a mostly successful first week back to school.  We are working on our rhythm of drop off and pickup and homework and reading and folders and lunches and snacks and water bottles.  

~for the moments when I miss my kids.  Because it helps me in the other moments when I decidedly DO NOT MISS THEM, not to feel quite as much like a wretched troll mother. 

~ for my bestest little helper while the brothers and sisters are at school. I don’t know how I’d get anything done without her!  Many have asked if the house is so quiet with the kids gone…it MOST CERTAINLY IS NOT!  When it gets quiet, that’s when I KNOW THERE’S TROUBLE!  Hurricane Tatum keeps life interesting for sure.

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~ for Bear.  He is just a big fluffball of slobber and love.  We love our muppet dog.

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~ for God providing some long-awaited little windows of time with a sweet friend.  Life-giving friendships are so refreshing!

~ for a mouthwatering FD’s burger with barbecue ranch sauce and sweet candied bacon. I couldn’t stop thinking about one, and finally gave in. 

~ for a fun night hosting Youth Group Back-to-School Swim Bash.  They are a spirited bunch, and they can put down  some hot dogs and some cookies!  We haven’t done much hosting over the last few years, and it was good to open up our home. 

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~ for those rare moments when I get it right with the kids.  When I say “yes” instead of an automatic “no.”  When I put down what I’m doing to look at a salamander.  Or watch a giggly talent show.  When I let them chop the tomatoes and mess up the entire kitchen when it would have been so much easier to do it myself.  When I correct the tone of my voice BEFORE it comes out of my mouth.  I usually get it wrong.  My patience is short and my fuse is shorter.  But then I look at Carson Grace’s empty bedroom.  Unnaturally clean.  I don’t have to tell her to pick it up or turn her music down, but I also don’t get to kiss her goodnight.  For better or for worse, this season of Littles and chaos and bickering and smudgy windows and everybody-always-needs-mama WON’T LAST.  I’ve got to stop bemoaning the hard, stop being frustrated with the season, stop wishing it away.  Lord, let me slow down my heart and my hands so I don’t miss these moments that I won’t ever get back.  

~ for grace amidst the madness.  August/September is crazy season at our house. Between back to school, Go Gold Tyler, and Tyler Gold Run, the pace and the to-do list are RELENTLESS.And if I’m honest, which I am trying so hard to be, I feel like I live in a constant state of teetering between EXploding or IMploding.  But God.  He meets me right where I am.  He gives me the grace to apologize to my kids when I lose my patience for the 82nd time.  Or apologize to my husband when I am LESS THAN GRACIOUS to him. God braids the right people into my path at just the right moment to encourage me when I think I can’t do one more thing.  He gives me the courage to do what I’m afraid of, and the courage to say no when it’s too much.   He has lit the fire in my precious children who steadfastly love me so well and who are each so passionate about all things GOLD.  

I am so excited for Go Gold Tyler coming up this Thursday.  We are in full on Gold Mode at Casa Rucker.  Phone calls, printing photos, video editing, social media posts, building and painting, even a spontaneous last minute news interview! 

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It’s busy, and completely overwhelming, but it’s good.  We’ve gotten in contact with many more families this year, and the “Network” is WORKING!  Our goal when we started Gold Network of East Texas was to offer hope and encouragement to Childhood Cancer families, and to connect them with each other.  And that is happening!  Families are meeting, reaching out to one another, and inviting new families to our events.  In 2015, we had met around 9 families.  This year we have pictures of 58 children!  Staggering.  Of course I hate it.  I hate that all these kids have had cancer.  I hate that we have to have one entire display of kids who have gone to be with Jesus instead of growing up.  I hate that I met 12 new-to-us families JUST THIS YEAR, and we all have the worst thing in common. But as long as kids get cancer and as long as families need support, we are going to ask God to continue to give us the grace to come alongside them.  If you’re local, join us Thursday night.  Go GOLD Tyler is such a special evening, and these incredible children and their families will change your lives forever.  And a reminder of the Gold Network online auction.  We still need an opening bidder!  Click here.

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I wanted to share updates from Harold’s family and a message from Lucas’s mom. 

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“I want to thank everyone who has been apart of our journey whether personally involved or just reading along these entries.  Thank you for praying along us and rooting for Lucas’ well being.  We needed that support both then and now.  We are truly grateful.  Do us a favor and enjoy the small stuff.  Give your loved ones an extra hug.  Smile at a stranger.  You don’t truly know what another person is living through so be kind.  And if you see a Dino randomly, maybe it’s Lucas saying hi.  We’ve had lots of sightings lately.  Love you all 🧡🦕🦖” (Kelly, Lucas’ Mom)

I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am for you, the Sunday Gratitude community.  So often I feel like I’m writing for no reason, no purpose, and wonder who in the world cares a single bit about what I write about each week.  And then one of you will post a comment.  Or stop me in the pickup line at school and say that you were encouraged.  Y’all bless me and encourage me more than I can ever explain.  Thank you for loving me, for loving Sawyer, for loving our family, and for choosing to follow along.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:1-6

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 

Back to School Daze

I am thankful:

~ to be DONE BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING.  It only took me 3,647,447,262 trips to 78,226 stores to get what everyone needed. 

~ for our wonderful, kind teachers at Grace Community School, and how thrilled each of the children are with the classroom they were placed in.  I love the aroma of eagerness and hope at the beginning of the school year.  There is just so much promise: new friends, new skills, new adventures.  There are few things that thrill my kids more than strapping on a brand spankin’ new pair of tennis shoes and a 86 pound bulging backpack to go see friends they have missed all summer and meet their teachers.  

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~ for a good first day of school.  Everyone popped out of bed with a grin, gobbled up fresh baked banana muffins for breakfast, and doodled up in their favorite outfit to start off their new year.  (I may have chosen Sawyer’s shirt…)  We read our morning devotional, like always, and prayed over our day and our family and our teachers, like always.  Josh headed off to take Cooper to his first day of high school while I walked into the elementary school with 6 of my babies.  And walked out with just one.  I’m infinitely grateful for a school filled with people who love Jesus and love our family, and who give a whole lot of grace to this mama who has a very hard time letting go.  But God.  

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~ and as if that were not enough, Wednesday was the day to drive Carson Grace back to ETBU, this time for good.  Tatum K and I made the drive with her, and when we arrived, the dorm was HOPPING!  When we moved her into her dorm before her mini-mester 2 weeks ago, there were just a handful of students on campus.  But this week was Tiger Camp, ETBU’s Freshman Welcome Week.  All of Carson Grace’s suite-mates were there, and it was great to meet them and their parents.   I can already tell they are a really special group.  We did the few last updates to her room, went on a quick grocery run, and a hurried Subway lunch, as I had to rush back to Tyler in time to pick up Littles from school.  This meant I didn’t get to participate in the parent part of Tiger Camp, attending the first Chapel service of the year with Carson Grace.  But I know God’s timing is better than mine, and I trust that it was best for me to get on the road when I did.  Oh, it was so hard to drive away.  I could tell though, that she was excited and ready.  Much more so than the first time we dropped her off, all alone in the dorm.  This time her room and the campus were already familiar, and she was surrounded by classmates ready to dive in right beside her.  Hard hard for Mama, not so much for my girl.  And that’s how it’s supposed to be, praise God. IMG_5764.jpg

She has sent lots of pictures since Wednesday: scavenger hunts, team challenges, and community service projects.  She’s making lots of friends and looks like she’s loving it.  She and her camp group went to a local church this morning together, and classes start bright and early in the morning.  Proud of her.  But I sure do miss my girl.  I’ve spent a lot of time in her room this week, thinking about her, praying for her.  (I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying….)

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~ for traditions.  If you know me, you know I’m big on traditions.  Every year on the first day of school, we go to our very favorite snow cone shack in Tyler, Shivers.  Tatum K shared her piña colada snow cone with me…she loved her “pink-alada”!

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~ for kind friends.  Thoughtful friends.  For old and new friends.  For truth-telling-even-when-it-hurts friends.  For tried-and-true, gone-through-the-ringer, here-for-the-mountains-and-the-valleys friends.  

~ for steady Giddy up & Whoa work.  I truly love to paint, and our little home business is such a blessing to our family.  And I needed the diversion.  Thursday was even harder than Wednesday with the kids gone.  On the first day, taking Carson Grace to Marshall took the whole day.  I was too busy to think about anything. (WHICH WAS MERCY).  Thursday was a different story.  It was a different kind of quiet.  Not a TRUE quiet, because Tatum K is a wild little fireball and a constant chatterbox.  I know this year will be a sweet time with just my Tater Tot at home.  But for now, the empty house is echoey.  Too much space.  As much as my Tribe drives me crazy and I’m always exhausted with their questions and their squabbles and their needs…they are MY PEOPLE.  And I miss them when they’re gone.  So anyway, it was a blessing to have 5 sign orders that needed my attention during Tatum’s naptime.  And I’m pleased to say I got them all done!

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~ for a good evening and meal with Colton.  The Littles were thrilled to swim with him and climb all over him.  Always good to spend some time with my boy. 

~ for a nice start to our Gold Network Toy Drive for the prize closet at Children’s Hospital.  A group of sweet ladies all went out and purchased nearly 100 toys and donated them in honor of one of their friend’s birthdays!  What a great idea!  Last year we donated more than 1400 toys to Children’s.  We are collecting toys through the month of September.  

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~ for excitement brewing over all our upcoming Gold Network events.  August 29 is Go Gold Tyler, our annual Childhood Cancer Awareness night on the Tyler Downtown Square.  I’ve been reaching out to our cancer families and have been thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive response!  It is so special to have all these Hero families together.  And then Tyler Gold Run is coming up September 21.  For our big 5 year celebration (how can it be 5 years!?) we are thrilled to have added a 10k route and moved to a new, larger park.  I am always amazed at how our friends and family and the community rise up in support of all these brave kids and their families.  Please consider being a part of these special events, or donating toward the cause. 

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IMG_5513.jpg~and this is just INCREDIBLE!  One of our Hero families has a cousin who is an amazing artist.  She created an original watercolor painting and has DONATED IT FOR AUCTION TO GOLD NETWORK!!!  This priceless painting takes my breath away.  Please check out the auction and bid or donate if you feel led.  The auction is open until August 29.  Click here for details.

~for good baseball memories with my Love.  Josh is one of the biggest Texas Rangers fans that has ever lived, and he has passed this passion on to his family.  I learned early in our marriage that if I was going to have any quality time with my husband from April until October, I needed to learn to speak baseball.  So I asked a few questions, and it was his greatest delight to teach me the ins and the outs of the game.  So this week, it was very special to glue ourselves to the TV screen to watch a momentous milestone for our all time favorite player, Josh Hamilton, as he was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.  Josh is one of the greatest talents to have ever played the game, but we love him because of his story.  He has battled drug and alcohol addiction for his entire career, and although he found salvation in Jesus Christ, he has continued to fall back into those self-destructive patterns.  But seeing him back on the field, hugging his old teammates, and hearing his bold and honest speech that gave all glory to the God who continued/continues to love him in the midst of his failures….we cried our eyes out.  It. Was. Awesome.  He closed his 14 minute speech with these words of encouragement for when we get knocked down, “Don’t you dare stay down. The God of the universe sent His Son to die so that we have the right to GET BACK UP IN JESUS!”

Our friend Harold needs your prayers.  He was allowed to go home from the hospital Wednesday, only to have hydrocephalus symptoms return Thursday, causing his parents to rush Harold back to Dallas for his FIFTH surgery.  Please pray for healing and wisdom for the team of doctors treating him.  And for grace and strength for his precious family.  Thank you for continuing to lift up the parents and family of sweet Lucas, who went to heaven last week.  Someone I love is recovering from a dreadful injury, and 3 family members are battling cancer.  So many people hurting.  Oh how I hate cancer.  Jesus come….

Friends, life is hard. It is hard and good and beautiful and horrible and excruciating and glorious.  Live well.  Love large.  Give freely.  Forgive.  See people.  Pray for one another.  Share Jesus.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””  John 13:34-35

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

Sanctification

I am thankful:

~ for creative get-out-of-bed excuses.  “Ma-a-a-ma, I need to ask you something?  Do chickens fly?”

~for Giddyup & Whoa orders that come right on time.  Every single order is a blessing of provision.

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~for decadent French toast with orange zest and a crispy crust of cinnamon sugar.  I had a new recipe, and it was a resounding hit with the Tribe.

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~for the tender hearts of my children. We did not tell them about the senseless tragedies of last weekend.   But they are incredibly observant and quickly noticed all the flags lowered to half-staff.  When I briefly told them what had happened, they were aghast and IMMEDIATELY asked if we could pray aloud together in the car.  First they prayed for the grieving families of the victims, and then began to pray that God would touch the hearts of the shooters, “that they would come to know You Lord, and that they would be sorry for what they have done.”

~for such a special surprise: my sweet friend Meredith blessed Sawyer with one of her impeccably hand-sewn minky puppies!  Check out the gold childhood cancer ribbon!  If you haven’t checked out My Minky Co, you need to!  Thank you Meredith!

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~for back-to-school shopping.  It’s hard for me to say I’m thankful for this.  Not gonna lie. School supplies, shoes, and clothes for six in school is no joke.  Just the magnitude this year’s number is intimidating, but sometimes brave is what you are when you don’t have a choice. We tackled the stores as a wild and boisterous unit.  My kids opened every shoebox in every store.  They showed me every pencil that was ever made.  They were pretty good about not “asking” (they had been severely warned) but instead they just exclaimed over and over, “look at this one Mama!  Isn’t this one cute? Isn’t this one sweet?  This one is awesome!  I love this!”  I had warned them, don’t ask for everything you see. However, I had forgotten to specify, “don’t show me and describe every detail of everything you see.”  School starts Wednesday…I’d estimate that I am 68% done with the supply shopping.  And that I am 143% READY to be done.  It’s not that I want my kiddos out of the house, it’s just the progression of the season.  They are all ready to be done at home and back to their friends.  Instinctively they crave the structure and margin of the school setting, even if the appreciation won’t stay with them long.  

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~for grace for new seasons.  I don’t think I can express to you how different my life is going to be with Carson Grace gone to college.  She’s my babysitter.  My ONLY babysitter.  And I have become accustomed to running my errands by myself.  I just don’t take my people into stores.  I just don’t.  A couple of my children have literally been in a store, ANY store, like three times in their lives.  It’s just one of those things, that if I didn’t have to go with an entourage, I didn’t.  Well now, that luxury is over for the most part.  Six little people at the grocery store.  Six little people shopping for shoes.  Six little people in the return line at Walmart.  It’s just a different season.  But you know what… WE SURVIVED!  I’m not trying to say it was relaxing and poetic and my favorite way to spend my time.  But nobody backflipped off the shelves, and I didn’t lose any of them.  So I’m going to call it a win.  I think I’m going to be getting a lot of use out of my “big girl panties” this year.

~thankful to have my girl back, even if it’s only briefly.  Carson Grace finished up her mini-mester class at ETBU, and I drove with the Tribe to pick her up on Friday. Everyone was thrilled to see her, and excited to get to check out her new room at the dorm.  She goes back for real on Wednesday.  I’m thankful for the Lord’s kindness to allow us to have a more gradual “letting go.”

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She even sent me a “First Day of School” picture!

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~for a fun night at Meet the Cougars.  At this yearly fall school event, each high school athletic team is highlighted to get people hyped for the school year.  Very excited to see Cooper’s #19 jersey come out of the football tunnel.  He’s so excited about his freshman year.  Can’t wait to watch him play!

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~for Sawyer’s fun time at his Kindergarten picnic.  He got to see old friends and meet some new ones, and went on a scavenger hunt on the school playground.  So proud of my brave boy and how excited he is for kindergarten. Here come the tears again.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do without him every day. He just makes life so bright.  I hope I never outgrow the utter awe I feel when I look at him, knowing all he has overcome. 

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~for God’s Word spoken straight to the heart.  Sometimes it just pierces in such a powerful way.  The message this morning was on sanctification.  Being redeemed, made holy, and set apart.  Brother Alvin, our dear friend and visiting missionary from Honduras, referenced offering someone a cup of water in a filthy glass.  I long to be set apart for God.  Sanctified by His blood so that He can use me for His purposes.  But how often I come as a dirty vessel.  With unforgiveness.  With my own agenda.  With short-sighted expectations of my Father’s ability.  I long to set an example for my children of being set apart.  Called higher.  Called to be in the world but not of it.  To love with the sacrificial supernatural love of Christ.  How much more useful we are when we do it God‘s way.  And what a stumbling block we are when we insist on our own way.  The message hit me right between the eyes today.  Lord, cleanse me and sanctify me as a vessel of honor. 

Friends, sweet Lucas went to be with Jesus yesterday.  Now he is whole and healed and forever free from cancer.  And now his family is broken-hearted to have to live without him.  His suffering is over, and theirs has intensified.  Please, please pray.  Our lives will go on…theirs will never EVER be the same again.  And while they do have the blessed assurance that they will see their boy again one day, today…today there is unspeakable pain. 

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Love one another well.  Hold tight to your people and don’t skip the extra story and the 14th snuggle.  Forgive when you don’t think you should have to, and give more than you think is necessary.  Life is a vapor. You won’t regret it. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 20:7

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”  John 17:15-19

Letting Go

I am thankful:

~ for the beginning of football season.  Is it really the beginning of football season already?  Well, Cooper started two-a-days this week, so that meant we were up before the sun.  And even though I was in a coma as I drove him, I still appreciated taking in the glorious sunrise.  And I love seeing Cooper with a goal in mind.  That kid loves him some football!

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~for a great time at the Football Moms’ Clinic.  It’s a special time for moms to learn a little more about the game and focus on our boys.  To sit at their football locker and pray over the upcoming season.  To share a meal with other football moms and our sons.  It’s always such a sentimental night for me.  I attended my first Moms’ Clinic 6 years ago when Colton was a freshman, with Sawyer in my belly.  I missed the next year because Sawyer and I were in the hospital, in the critical early stages of his chemotherapy treatment, and the coaches and moms were so kind to us with notes of encouragement.  The next 2 years attending with Colton were super special, and now I’ve had a couple years off with no high school football player.  So to sit beside my Cooper, who gets taller and more handsome daily, as he starts his freshman year of football, I couldn’t be more proud and thankful.  

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~ for the opportunity to give blood in honor of an amazing warrior boy.  Luke’s birthday was Wednesday, but this year he celebrated it in heaven with Jesus.  His family chose to celebrate his life and his memory by encouraging people to donate the gift of life.  You may have heard that there is a nationwide blood shortage.  Kids with cancer require frequent blood transfusions throughout treatment.  Sawyer had dozens.  So I was thankful for the opportunity to participate and tell the techs about Luke and about Sawyer.   If you can, GO DONATE BLOOD!

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~ for a fun, albeit way too short, visit from Uncle Mike and Cousin Kenedy.  We got some great snuggles and lots and lots of giggles.  My favorite was hearing Kenedy ask for “Clipper” (Cooper). 

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~ for those rare moments when God allows us to see purpose past our pain. So often we cling to what we want, not knowing He has something far greater. Sometimes we have to let go of what WE THINK we need so that we can receive His BEST!

~for the most amazing honor!  Our friends from Minnesota, the Franz’s, shared amazing news.  Their 10 year old son, Andrew, participated in the Pinky Swear Foundation Triathlon for childhood cancer, IN SAWYER’S HONOR!  Andrew completed a 100 yard swim, 3 mile bike course, and a half mile run.  We hope he heard us cheering for him all the way from Texas!

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~ for a happy happy birthday for our sweet Zoe Girl.  I still can’t wrap my mind around how much our little Brown-eyed girl has grown up.  I remember meeting her: 18 months old, bitsy tiny, big watering  wide eyes, and absolutely SILENT.  She refused to be put down, and Carson Grace carried her so much she wore a sore on her hip.  Today Zoe is bubbling with life, dancing and singing everywhere she goes.  She is a silly goose and loves to use her imagination.  She loved her waffles with sprinkles and whipped cream for breakfast and chose red velvet cupcakes for her cake.  Happy birthday ZoZo!

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~ for a (hopefully) win-win-win-win situation.  We had friends who needed to find homes for some kittens.  We had another friend who had been wanting a guinea pig.  Our kids really wanted a kitten.  Our Dad was anti-kitten, but EXTREMELY in favor of parting with our guinea pig.  So much so, that he was willing to acquiesce to a kitten if it meant re-homing the pig.  So bottom line, we traded a pig for a kitten.  Meet Miss Stella.  Bear is PASSIONATELY EXCITED about his new “sister.”

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Last night, we were in battle mode.  Last minute list checking and Walmart runs.  Pack?  Keep?  Memory box?  Toss?   We watched Carson Grace’s eternal tornado of a bedroom slowly transform into a stack of boxes and bags and suitcases.   Saying goodnight was different.  I knew it wasn’t going to be her last night to sleep in her room.  But it’s not ever going to be the same.  Most likely, whenever she comes back, it will be for a visit.  Not to stay.  She’ll always have a home to come back to here, but she really may move on and move out for good instead of ever coming back here to stay.  Ever my daughter, she was highly sentimental, and we shared lots of tears and sweet words with one another before we settled to bed.  I will always treasure those moments with my girl.  Today was our hard day.  We knew it was coming, and we have worked hard to get ready for this point.  Josh and I drove Carson Grace to Marshall and got her all set up in her new dorm room.  We rearranged the furniture and mounted her built-to-order Giddyup & Whoa sign over her bed. 

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We hung her clothes and arranged her mountains of shoes.  We set up her coffee bar and had a coffee-making lesson.  It turned out absolutely darling, and she loves her personal little oasis. 

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If this week seems early to start college, it is.  Carson Grace starts her 1 week mini-mester class in the morning, and then she’ll be home one more weekend before school starts for real.  We are so happy for her, and so proud.  We feel great about the environment she’s going to be in, and we know that she never belonged to us, but to God.  But I gotta tell you.  In spite of all those healthy, grounded, mature FACTS THAT WE WHOLE-HEARTEDLY BELIEVE…all that goes out the window when you drive away from the building where you just left your baby girl by herself.  Did we teach her enough?  Is she going to make good friends?   Is she going to work hard?  Is she going to be lonely?   We did the best we could the last 18 years, and we made a ton of mistakes along the way.  But it’s time to let go and release her with our blessing. And now it’s her turn.  To chose.  To stand.   And I know God’s got her, like He always has, and that she’ll be ok through the good choices and the bad, the sweet times and the heartbreaks.  I really do know she’s gonna be ok.  I do.  But tonight….tonight my house is a little too quiet without the sweet whisper of a ukulele and my favorite voice coming from the door at the end of my kitchen.  And my heart feels like a big chunk is gone.  Tonight I’m giving myself permission to be sad and miss my girl.

Please continue your faithful prayers for our dear friends Harold and Lucas and their families. God is, and always will be, bigger than cancer.  Bigger that anything we fear.  Bigger than than anything we face.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;  the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24, 26 

Home Sweet Home

I am thankful:

~to be HOME! We had such a wonderful trip to the North, and made so many incredible memories, but there is truly NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

~to be out of the car!!!!!! Mercy, 40+ hours is a loooooong time! It was a long drive to Kansas City and then on to Winona, MN over two days. Then we spent a minimum of an hour each day in the car visiting various family members or attractions. 3 hours further North to the cabin in Wisconsin. And then, after such a tiring, jam-packed week of activities, the drive home was TORTURE. It seemed like we would never get to Texas, and once we did, the miles just went on forever. So thankful to be back to our home, our bed, our pets, and our coffee pot!

~for both old and new memories. I truly can’t put into words how meaningful it was for me to revisit places from my early life, and especially to do so with the people I love the most. To show my kids where I went to elementary school and high school. They have seen the pictures of their mama with big 80’s hair as a cheerleader, so it actually meant something to them. It meant something to Josh to see the beautiful surroundings of Decorah, Iowa where I went to college, the dorm where I met my friend Katie. Especially with our own daughter leaving for college soon. (Their running joke all week was that I had rebelled from an Amish heritage and gone to Corn College.) I showed them the treacherous winding gravel road that I rode my bicycle down to Grandma Grace’s house, road with them in the fields where I first learned to drive my Grandpa’s antique tractor, and introduced them to the delicacy of fresh and deep fried CHEESE CURDS! Many of these places also hold memories that are not at all sweet and warm. But to walk the old paths, now as an adult, and to see through the eyes of a new creation in Christ, AND to do it with my family…it was emotional and healing and beautiful. Josh and I even recreated a picture we had taken the first time I brought him to Minnesota to meet my family, 21 years ago. My how we have changed – I scarcely recognize those kids. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

~ for priceless connections with the kids with their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents.

~ for Chick-Fil-A!!! Oh how we missed you! We hit Sulphur Springs on the way home just in time for dinner, and the car erupted in cheers when we pulled up! Tatum K was SO DONE with the car at that point, but she perked up for chicken and french fries!

~ for the best neighbors on the planet. Our sweet friends across the street lovingly tended to our menagerie all week: 2 dogs, cat, guinea pig, and tank of lake fish. Another friend mowed our yard just because. Another maintained our pool so that it was clear and sparkling when we returned. This weekend, Josh was working on a faulty sprinkler in the yard and a neighbor came over with a shovel and spare parts and jumped right in to help! What a blessing to live side by side with such caring folks.

~ for new Dekalb Heublein Seeds hats for all! The kids hardly ever take them off. I took a picture to show my dad, and Sawyer insisted that I take one of him “wif this fing in my mouf, like a REAL FARMER.”

~ for unexpected, unbelievable generosity.

~ for the eager, loving hearts of my kids. “Mom! Come look! There is a beautiful Heavenly Glory outside! Come take a picture!” They are faithful and dedicated prayer warriors for any need, from a tummy ache to cancer. They love to help and cook and they give tremendous foot rubs. And they worship Jesus at the top of their lungs! Our trip served as a powerful reminder of how very special and unique and loving they are.

~ for reaching Sawyer’s 5 year “Cancerversary.” If you follow my Facebook or Instagram, you already read my post on July 23. If not, here you go:

“Cancerversary. So much has become hinged on this day. BC – Before Cancer. AD – After Diagnosis. 5 years ago life as we knew it ended. “Your baby has cancer.” The words fell into the hushed ER room, and time stopped. From that moment on, every single day was lived knowing it could quite literally be the last. I stopped making plans. I lived in a strained tension between the faith I clung to and the grim reality that slapped me in the face every time I walked the halls of the Oncology floor. Fast forward through 3 years of blood transfusions and spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies and adult chemotherapy, of administering shots in our bathroom and my baby taking his first steps in a blow up pool at the hospital.  Port placement. Port removal. A near fatal drug overdose/reaction. 2 Christmases in the hospital. Dozens of ER visits and hundreds of trips from Tyler to Dallas.  But also relationships built, lives changed, prayers answered. A front row seat to see the Body of Christ rising up and meeting the needs of the broken.  We’ve clung to each other and clung to Him for every breath.  And God has shown off. His Glory has surrounded us, overwhelmed us, overshadowed us. And today Sawyer is beautiful and bright and strong and healthy. If you didn’t know, you’d never dream he had fought this battle his whole little life. He is proud of his scar on his chest, announcing, “I don’t need a port anymore. Jesus healed-ed me, and NO MORE CANCER!” The doctors said he would experience developmental delays. But God. The  doctors gave him 24 hours to live. But God. BUT GOD!!!!”

The end of summer countdown has begun. 2.5 weeks until Littles go back to school. Which means 2.5 weeks until Sawyer will go to school EVERY DAY (as opposed to MWF last year). He’s so excited, so ready. I wish it wasn’t so hard for me to let him go. I’m so proud of him, and so thankful to God for allowing him to grow up to be so healthy and bright. He is truly a warrior, an overcomer. Lord, help me to trust You with his life today the way I did when he was a frail, sick baby. Help me to be as brave as Sawyer.

Brave indeed. Next Sunday we will load up and move Carson Grace to Marshall to start her journey at East Texas Baptist University. She is going early to take a week-long mini-mester as a part of her Music Major requirements. My heart isn’t ready to let her go either. I have cried about every 7 minutes all week. I know it’s time, I know she’s ready, and I’m so proud. But she’s my baby girl. Lord, help me to remember that she is Yours, not mine.

Please continue your prayers for sweet Lucas and his family.

And I’m sad to share ANOTHER new diagnosis in East Texas, 3 year old Harold, with an aggressive malignant brain tumor. Little Harold has already endured 2 brain surgeries this month, with a 3rd expected this week. Please lift these precious families to the Lord, for healing and for comfort in the midst of their worst nightmare.

Hug tightly the ones you love. Life can change in an instant. You are faithful Lord, and You are good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-8

Cheese Balls

I am thankful:

~for the sweet, sweet time reading to my kids. We have so been enjoying the little Laura Ingalls Wilder series. We just finally finished “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” And already as we began the next book, “By the Shores of Silver Lake,” I love how engaged the children are with the characters. They gasped to learn of Mary’s blindness caused by scarlet fever. And we all cried together when Jack, the beloved bulldog, died.

~for our morning walk/stroll/bike ride. 2 miles every morning. I think we are the neighborhood entertainment.

~for those moments when my kids inspire me. Sweet 11-year-old Samantha has the most amazing hair you can imagine. Thick and lustrous, healthy and long. She has been growing it out for a long, long time with a very specific goal in mind. She knew she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love. I’m always amazed at how each of the children have been impacted by Sawyer‘s battle with cancer. Their hearts are just so compassionate. So we’ve been measuring Samantha‘s hair, waiting for it to get long enough to still leave her with a cute haircut. I asked her over and over if she was sure, and she never wavered. When we finally agreed that it was long enough she told me, “Mama, I prayed over my hair in the shower. That it would be a blessing to whoever it goes to.“ My heart exploded. She is donating six 12 inch ponytails! Isn’t she just so beautiful? And even more beautiful on the inside. It’s like instantly she just grew up before my eyes. So proud of your heart Sam!

~for God’s Grace that is always right on time. I can cry out in my moment of need, and He’s there with me. Anxiety has been big and ugly this week, and it doesn’t play nice. But prayer warriors lifted my arms when I could not, armed me with Scripture, and the Lord fought for me. I don’t say this because I feel victorious or that I mastered my anxieties. On the contrary. I feel like a whooped dog. But I know those are just my feelings. I made it through each battle, and anxiety didn’t win. And I’m stronger and cling more tightly to the Lord because of it.

~ for ice cold, juicy watermelon. Can there be ANYTHING more refreshing on a hot Texas day?

~ and for homemade dill pickles, straight from our garden. Cooper liked them so much, he followed my recipe and made his own batch! DELICIOUS!

~for the beautiful and undeniable presence of God when we have eyes to see. Last week, a friend shared a Scripture that she had been meditating on, and she knew it would encourage me. She had no idea it was the Scripture I was painting for my latest Giddyup & Whoa sign order. And the friend who had ordered that sign had been praying this same scripture over herself and a coworker. This verse has been referenced to me again at least twice THIS week. An accident? I don’t believe it for a second. I believe in the alive and active and proceeding Word of God that speaks to us through the Bible and through his people. And when He repeats Himself, that means He’s making an important point that He doesn’t want us to miss. I’m hearing Him loud and clear.

~for a fresh haircut. I honestly don’t think I’ve had a haircut since last September, so to say it was long overdue is an understatement. I can’t be the only one who feels like a new person when they get their haircut? Anyway, thank you Laura! You made my day so happy!

~ for the wonderful team that supports Gold Network of East Texas. We met at Panera for a meal (and a decadent cinnamon roll) to hash out plans and goals for the upcoming events this fall: Go GOLD Tyler (August 29) and Tyler Gold Run (September 21). I am blessed with the absolute best team. This is our 5 year anniversary of the race (how can that be?) and we are so excited about our new location at Bergfeld Park and the addition of a 10K route. It’s gonna be so great! Register for the race or make a donation at www.tylergoldrun.com We are so sad each time we learn of another East Texas child diagnosed with cancer. But we also know we can help!

~ for the privilege to pray for our friends when they need it. Will you please join me in lifting up Baby Lucas and his family? Their battle has been intense and wearying, and they need us to intercede for them. He has scans on the 18th, and we are asking for a miracle. You can sign up for updates on Lucas or drop a note of encouragement to his family on Caringbridge.

~ and lastly, I’m thankful for CHEESE BALLS!

At the Rucker household, the giant Sam’s Club barrel of cheese balls is only purchased one time a year, and their presence can ONLY MEAN ONE THING.

CHEESE BALLS = VACATION!

(Strange? Maybe so. But it’s been our family tradition for at least 6 years). There is nothing like the collective jubilant cheers that erupt when the cheese balls make their appearance. We even found them last summer in Hawaii!

It suddenly dawned on me what a milestone this is for us. This is our first trip since Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis in 2015 that HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER! We have made 2 trips to Florida for wonderful cancer retreats at the beach, and then last year was Sawyer’s unforgettable Make-a-Wish trip to Hawaii. But this trip, this is just a trip for our family. A regular family vacation. What a gift.

So I’m going to sign off for now, we are hunkered down for the night, and another big travel day tomorrow. But I’ll leave you with just one little hint until the full update next week….

Have a great week friends. Let’s love one another well. Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,”. Hebrews 10:23-24

“be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:18b-20