“P” is for Perspective

I am thankful:

~ for a good, crazy week. We made it through locker days and meet the teacher days and 18 more trips to Office Depot and orientations and back to school parties. And that was just Monday and Tuesday! I’ve got 2 at new campuses this year, so we toured and made sure they could find their way and understand their schedules.

Then it was finally time for the first day of school. New shoes, favorite outfits, bulging backpacks, and sleepy smiles. We got our traditional first day picture on the porch, but back a little bit, because the rain was absolutely pouring. (It overflowed our pool!)

As I got Tatum K dressed to take the kids to school in her new favorite jumper (wif a pocket!) and then watched Samantha do her hair in long pigtails, I was inspired for her first day of Pre-K. The letter “P” of course! God gave us lots of Puddles to Play in. We visited the Police station, where she gave the letter P a hug, and then had a Princess Picnic with all P foods. We had so much fun together.

No problem officer … we are just hugging the letter “P”

Before all the “P-Party” began, we started our day at the feet of Jesus. I told Tatum K that we need to always start with the most important part. We read the story of Creation from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and by the end, she could answer all my questions.

“In the beginning, what was there?”

“Nuffing. But God was there.”

“And what did He say?”

“Let there be light!”

“And then what did He make?”

“The sand and the sea and the trees and birds and all the animals and EVERYTHING!”

“And He made 2 people, what were their names?”

“Adam and Even.”

It was a Perfect first day.

Everyone had a great first day. We celebrated with a special snack and burgers for dinner. I assured the kids that we wouldn’t be maintaining this grand lifestyle every day. But first days are extra special.

~ for such kindness from the Lord on such an emotionally charged day. Even if I am, to a certain degree, glad to send the kids back to school, it’s still genuinely hard to let them go. They are growing up before my very eyes and I can feel the time slipping away. And as we all know, the world’s gone mad. So letting go of my most precious gifts is so so hard. Wednesday morning I got up extra early and when I opened up my Bible app, I was so encouraged.

I was even more encouraged because I knew what shirt Sawyer had chosen and laid out for himself to wear for his first day.

And look above his head❤️

In that moment, I felt so seen and held and loved by my Heavenly Father. I already knew, but I needed reminding: He’s got my babies.

~ for continued “P” fun with Tatum K during the rest of the week.

~ for my special bracelets.

I wear my “it is well” bracelet every day. It is hand stamped brass, made by a childhood cancer mama who lost her beautiful girl only 12 days after her leukemia diagnosis. It reminds me to not lose heart on my hard days. God is always good, and always faithful. And if that broken mama can still say “it is well,” then so can I. And I recently was given one of the original “Praying for Baby Sawyer Rucker” bracelets. There aren’t many left, and the only one left in our house is broken. So when a sweet boy offered to give me his, I broke. I didn’t even try to stop the tears that came flooding. And the 3rd is a handmade leather bracelet from my mom. All three meaningful and beautiful in different ways.

~ for excitement brewing about our upcoming Gold Network ETX events coming up. Go GOLD Tyler is in just over a week, and Tyler Gold Run, 1 month. It’s CRUNCH TIME! Phone calls, emails, bookings, appointments, supplies…it’s NON STOP. So very thankful for the people helping behind the scenes.

~ for one of our most important, most critically needed events: CONNECT. Every few months, we host a gathering in our home for cancer moms and dads. To talk, to share, to laugh and cry together. We always cater in a delicious meal (this time Stanley’s World Famous BBQ!) and just spend time sharing our stories and leaning on one another. I love these families with my whole heart, and seeing them CONNECTING WITH EACH OTHER brings me so much joy.

I did hit a snag this week (several actually, but I’m just going to share about one.)

Every year we share a video featuring all our amazing warrior children from across East Texas. It is so emotional for everyone, but also very special. I can’t even tell you how many hours I put into this thing. I am NOT a tech savvy person, but I have (with MUCH trial and EVEN MORE error) taught myself how to build websites and graphics and videos for Gold Network, Tyler Gold Run, and Giddyup and Whoa. I originally created this video for the very first Go GOLD Tyler back in 2016, and I’ve updated and added to it each year. So, it’s time to start working on it this year, with so many new families to add.

The video is gone.

Sure, its on YouTube. I can WATCH it. But the editable file I’ve used to update is is gone. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE.

I began to panic, thinking of the hours and weeks of work it has taken over 6 collective years. How could I possibly start from scratch and have it done?

I frantically searched file after file and location after location on our computer. Then I looked at my bracelet. “it is well.” And I took a deep breath and began gathering pictures and starting a brand new project.

I have a million pictures of these children. And millionS of pictures of my own child.

I started finding picture after picture after picture. And as I looked at them, really looked at them: children in the hospital, some bald, some healthy, and some who have gone to be with Jesus…my perspective began to shift. I looked at these brave beautiful warriors smiling through their pain. And I have a second grader who wasn’t supposed to be here. BUT GOD! And I was freshly reminded that a stupid video is just a stupid video. What matters is fighting for these precious ones.

I still hope I get it done. I hope we line out all our details and that the events are successful. But none of that really matters. What matters is that our eyes and our anchors are fixed in Jesus. And that we love on all these families wherever they are in their journey.

Let’s love one another well, friends, and focus on the things that really matter. And those AREN’T THINGS!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

“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.” (Philippians 4:8)

Back to School CRAY

I am thankful:

~ first and foremost, SO THANKFUL to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE!!! GLORY TO THE LORD! Wednesday Sawyer, aka the Bravest Boy in the Whole Wide World, had his 6 month follow up appointment with his Oncologist and his ACE (After Cancer Experience) doctor in Dallas. It’s always an emotionally charged and exhausting day. So many triggers attached to going to the hospital down the all too familiar highway, and each time the same uneasy feelings build up as we prepare for either the best day or the worst day of our lives. But Sawyer never ever sees it that way. He’s THRILLED to go to the hospital.

One day he will be so embarrassed that he played on this like it was a dump truck

He loves to see so many of his favorite people (and his story so well known, it’s like he’s the little mayor of Children’s Hospital!)

Dr. Winick taught Sawyer how to use an ophthalmoscope, and then let him examine her

He knows he gets one on one time, extra snacks, gets McDonalds for breakfast and Whataburger for lunch (EVERY. TIME. His choice.)

And he knows he gets to go home with a toy. He doesn’t see the day as scary or stressful at all. What an amazing gift from God! As usual, he hopped right up in the phlebotomist’s chair, chatted and laughed with Miss Sharon as she placed the needle in his arm, and then cheerfully drew his own blood! I will never stop being amazed at the maturity and bravery of my 7 year old. It just blows my mind.

It is always such a blessing to see the wonderful doctors and nurses who so lovingly cared for Sawyer, and many of them hugged him (and me) especially tight this visit.

They have such an unbelievably hard job, and it has been a rough season of many hardships for them. Several of them took a deep breath and said, “I needed this dose of hope today.” Sawyer is a healthy 7 year old against all odds. No one thought he’d survive, let alone be THRIVING. BUT GOD.

I will never ever ever stop praising Him for the countless miracles He has done in Sawyer’s life. I do pray that one day I will not feel so overwhelmed with dread every time we go back. But I do know that Jesus will meet me with grace in those moments, no matter how I handle them.

~ thankful for our sweet Aunt Gina who finally got to join us for Sawyer’s appointment!

Hospital policy has limited us to only one caretaker, so I’ve been making the trip alone the last few times. Gina Sue had gone with me almost EVERY APPOINTMENT since about my 3rd trimester with Tatum K (when I realized that having contractions while barreling down the interstate at 75 miles an hour was probably not the best idea.) She has been a faithful prayer warrior, chauffeur, encourager, and the provider of the bottomless bag of snacks for almost 5 years now, rising at an appallingly early hour to drive FROM CARTHAGE TO TYLER, pick us up, and THEN DRIVE FROM TYLER TO DALLAS. AND BACK AGAIN. She’s such a blessing and a wonderful help and support. She knows I’m weary and that the day is always hard for me, and she goes out of her way to take care of me. I’m so thankful she’s my sister.

~ and thankful for this bag.

At our house, this bag can only mean one thing.

Aunt Gina makes the yummiest friendship bread, and it’s the kids’ favorite breakfast. They always know what’s in the bag when they see it. And it ain’t soap!

~ thankful for Colton being back from Albuquerque and spending his few days off with us. He was super helpful during my back-to-school-supplies-madness, and helped me divide up the list and track down every orange folder with pockets and brads, white polymer eraser, and broad tipped yellow and blue highlighter on the supply lists. And then we tried out a great new coffee spot in town, Crema. DELICIOUS!

~ for “decent” store-bought pimento cheese turned FAB with a few ingredients at home to jazz it up. I’m very particular when it comes to pimento cheese.

~ for a super fun day swimming with sweet school friends.

~ for Whataburger chocolate malts to celebrate August Tonight.

~ for this year’s sharp new Tyler Gold Run t-shirt design created by our graphic artist. I’m so excited for a different look this year.

Our Gold Network of East Texas events are coming up so quickly, it’s making my head spin. With no in-person events last year, I feel a little rusty at remembering what all I have to do! It is SO BUSY!!! Go GOLD Tyler, our event on the Downtown Square to kickoff Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is coming up August 31.

It’s such a special event, honoring all our families: on treatment, completed treatment, or who have lost a child to cancer. Our HERO wall with all our kids’ pictures grows every year, which is so heartbreaking. But watching the kids and their families walk the gold carpet is so inspiring, and the still over the crowd as the families release balloons for their loves who were taken too soon is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. Read more about Go GOLD Tyler here.

And Tyler Gold Run is just 5 short weeks away! Where did summer go!!?? We are praying all goes as planned to have our race in person this year, and we are just so excited about this year’s 10k•5k run! Registration is open at tylergoldrun.com And if you are out of state or not a runner, we have the GoldDreamer option, to donate and be a part of our event right where you are. You even get the tshirt! I hope you’ll join us.

~ thankful that our pool toy box isn’t any deeper.

~ thankful for a really awesome visit with some really awesome friends. Some friends are just truly LIFE-GIVING. You know, the kind that you leave feeling so refreshed and lifted up. Find you some friends like that. And better yet, try to BE that kind of friend to somebody.

The kids start back to school on Wednesday. And the pre-crazy is in full swing. We have meet the teacher/locker day/orientation/swim parties back to back to back. 11th grade, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and 2nd, across 4 campuses.

As much as we all love summer, we are ALL ready for this season to change. I’m always so happy to have the kids come home for summer. And I’m equally happy to send them back to school. To everything there is a season. But believe it or not, I will miss them when my house is quiet. But I just may enjoy a little quiet too. And I’ll still have my spicy Tater home for one more year. I want to soak up every minute with my girl, and not rush her off to grow up and away. She is excited to start “Pre-skoo wif my mama.”

Time continues to run away, and there’s no stopping it. My goal for this school year is to take it all in, not sweat the small stuff, press through even when I’m overwhelmed, and be my kids’ biggest cheerleader. I know these years are hard, but they are the moments I will never get back again. And I’m reminded that “hard” doesn’t always mean “bad.” We are all learning and growing and God is at work. I’m so thankful for His perfect grace and redeeming love. May we all look more like Him next May than we do today.

Even in the midst of all the crazy, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

I Still Know

I am thankful:

~ for morning Bible time with my kids. I love their open hearts, and how they honestly pray for the people they care about. They never stop asking.

~ for two days in a row of short-but-sweet visits with Aunt Gina. This pic is of her being entertained by a Tatum K Original Song.

~ for YouTube videos. I’m grateful that so often I can look up the answers to my random questions. This week learned how to repair my crumbled blush compact with rubbing alcohol. Isn’t that handy?

~ for the opportunity to mail out Christmas in July gifts from Gold Network of East Texas to our on-treatment families. We have more families than ever before, having added 11 newly diagnosed kids this past year. It is heartbreaking every time we hear of another diagnosis. But I am more THANKFUL THAN EVER before that THE NETWORK IS WORKING! People know who to reach out to when they hear the news. And nurses and cancer families are reaching out to get these families connected immediately! It’s the worst club that no one would ever want to be a part of, but I am so incredibly grateful that we can ensure that no one will walk it alone. This week Sawyer helped me put Christmas stickers on our cards and get them ready to go out to the families, and together we prayed over each one. It fills my heart to see him have the opportunity to serve his “friends.”

~ for a fun painting birthday party for the girls to attend with friends. They had so much fun. I love that they jump at any chance to create and be creative. And they are all so talented!

~ for our latest, super-challenging puzzle, a bald eagle from the National Eagle Center in MN, gifted by Great Grandma. It was so hard, I did 93% of it by myself. The challenge eclipsed my time, taunting me to be completed. I spend WAY too much time on it this week, but FINALLY I was victorious.

But the victory was hollow, as somehow we are MISSING ONE PIECE. What a kick in the gut.

How you taunt me, o elusive missing piece

~ for a productive week of accomplishing our first round of back-to-school preparations. I’ve been sifting through the mountains of new and old school emails, tracking down summer math and reading assignments for each of the kids, and checking off each box that they complete. We made another trip to the library for the books we still needed, and we are almost done with everything! Only 17 more days of summer! Where did it gooooo?????

~ and for one more box checked, this one a fun one! New shoes all around! Does anything inspire more joy than spanking new school shoes? We had multiple fashion shows to celebrate the occasion. And man these kids are getting some BIG OLE FEET!!

~ for my new shirt, which I hope to make my new motto.

~ that I know God hears. Even in those times when I can’t even make my mouth form the words. He hears the cry of my heart. Because He’s my dad.

I woke up this morning knowing that it was August 1 and that July was finally over. That sounds so dumb and dramatic, but it’s just been such a battle. all. stinking. month. And I know it really doesn’t have a thing to do with the calendar. But I’ve just been in such a stuck funk that I haven’t been able to shake. Anxiety is such a trendy buzzword these days, and it feels like such a copout to throw it out there as an excuse. But it’s a real thing, and it doesn’t play fair. But God.

I still believe. And I still know.

And even though it has nothing to do with the calendar, I’m going to remember August 1, 2021. I’m going to remember why Sunday Gratitude didn’t get finished until the wee hours on Monday.

Because God cracked open my stifling, fog-filled vault and showed me a glimmer of hope. A literal breakthrough.

“Since when has ‘impossible’ ever stopped You? This is the sound of dry bones rattling… This is the praise makes a dead man walk again…”

Whatever it is that you’re asking Him for. Keep waiting. Keep trusting. He’s coming.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“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)

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace…. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans‬ ‭8:6, 11‬)

What I did on my Spring Break…

Well it was spring break week for us, as it was for many across the nation. We enjoyed a relaxed pace, beautiful weather, and an open calendar. One favorite tradition is breakfast dates with mom. I love having the one-on-one time to connect with each of them that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We started these little outings back when Sawyer was an infant… so I guess that makes seven years now! Can’t believe we’ve been doing it that long…time really does fly. It’s fun to surprise somebody different each day and to see where they all choose to go. My heart and my belly are full.

Zoe chose lunch instead of breakfast to fulfill her lifelong dream of dining at ZOE’S KITCHEN!

And the kids all had their turns getting loved on by their Aunt Gina. The girls had an afternoon,

the boys had a sleepover (Sawyer’s VERY FIRST night away from home other than hundreds of nights in the hospital! Mama’s heart had a hard time handling this! BUT GOD!)

And even Cooper got his own lunch date. So much fun.

When Sawyer gets to go back to his 1st Grade class tomorrow and give a report on what he did over Spring break, he can say he went to the hospital. Wednesday was his quarterly oncology clinic visit. Such fun for spring break, right?

But Sawyer loves it. He loves the trip, he loves the nurses and the doctors, and Wednesday was no exception. We rejoice to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE and healthy on all counts! We are freshly reminded of what a miracle he is. You can read the full details on the visit here.

Everyone is reflecting on one year ago when life as we knew it was changed forever by the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that the kids came home for Spring Break and never went back to school. We muddled our way through unprecedented virtual learning, toilet paper shortages, and mandatory stay-at-home orders. Social distancing, temperature checks, quarantine, and “I love your mask” became part of our new normal. EVERYTHING became political, EVERYONE had an opinion, and it felt mandatory to PICK A SIDE in every debate. Over the last year we’ve seen the loss of jobs, loss of freedoms, and loss of so many lives. So much has changed, and it doesn’t appear that the season of perpetual change is ending any time soon.

But no matter what has changed or will change, God is the same. He’s seated securely on His throne, loving us, drawing us, and waiting for more people to come to Him. And if we choose to anchor ourselves to Him, no matter how mad the world become, we can be confident that we know how the story ends. With life eternal in the Promised Land WITH HIM. Life often feels so complicated, but the Truth that matters is VERY SIMPLE. Most everything can be sifted down to Love God, and Love Others.

I’m not trying to preach to anybody but myself. I just want to live a simple life, loving my family and the people God brings into my path. I want to be anxious for nothing. I want to be Mary instead of Martha. I want to say “yes” to Him and really mean it. I want to love and forgive the way I’ve been forgiven and loved.

Anyway, I’m so thankful for all of you who take the time to listen to the musings of this everyday Mama, and follow along with the ins and outs of our Tribe. I’m always so encouraged when I hear from you. Thank you for your prayers, encouragements, and kind words over the past 7 years. You are my Sunday Gratitude.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Plains

I am thankful:

~ for a great week of swag pick up for Tyler Gold Run. I worked with some of the most wonderful volunteers on the planet, and got to see some of my favorite people, even if just behind a mask. So thankful for the incredible support for our virtual event this year, and looking more forward than ever to our (hopefully) in-person event next year!

~ for Sawyer having the opportunity to share the pledges at Chapel. This is a simple privilege that could easily take for granted. Lord, may I never cease to see the miracle in front of my eyes when I see the things the Lord has allowed him to do.

~ for steaming, zesty tortilla soup on the first day of fall.

~ for a full trashcan of hair trimmed from Birdie! She is still a big, puffy orange pom pom dog, but she looks fresh as a daisy with her trim!

~ for more good laughs. During virtual church this morning (yes, we stayed home this week. Josh had to work, and I was not up to a solo effort keeping the 6 little people quiet without children’s church.) Tatum K pointed to our pastor on the tv and said,

“That’s my favorite guy. What’s him name?”

I said, “Brother Joe.”

“Yeah, Brudder Joe. He says he loves me”

And for post it notes. Especially ones that make me giggle like this…

~ for incredibly steady Giddyup & Whoa opportunities! I don’t know that I’ve ever had 18 projects underway all at once before! I am up to my eyeballs in reclaimed wood, and I absolutely love it! The Vintage and Company Fall Barn Sale is coming up in a couple weeks, so if you’re local be sure to come check it out. I have some really special treasures in store. And Jodi‘s collections never disappoints!

~ for my sweet husband coming home with my absolute favorite lunch: a decadent wagu burger and truffle fries from C Rojo‘s.

~ for Tatum K tenderly caring for her “babies.” (Last week it was acorns. This week it’s snails.)

~ for our amazing HERO friend, Aneesa, who has DONE IT AGAIN! You may remember her from last September, when she wrote a letter to her middle school principal asking the school to Go Gold. This year she is a freshman at a new school, Early College High School, and she approached her new principal with the same proposition. They agreed and did a supply drive, collecting items for our parents’ survival kits and the clinic toy closet. They gathered an impressive assortment of items and an additional cash donation of over $400 for Gold Network of East Texas! The principal assured me that this would be a yearly event! Way to go Aneesa!

~ I missed mentioning last week, I was thankful for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season! It never disappoints. Thank you, Gina Sue!

~ for the opportunity to watch some exciting Carthage high school football with some pretty stoked fans.

Some weeks are just kind of a grind. No big trials, just the basic mindless cycle of wash – rinse – repeat. Little snags. Irritations that pile up. Revolving to-do list. Our kiddos have recently settled into an unpleasant pattern of incessant bickering with one another, which sets my nerves constantly on edge. One child will have a great day while another one (or 4) are falling apart. I have a lot of plates in the air to keep spinning, and I’m never sure when I might just trip on a random Lego or dinosaur and send them all flying. BUT GOD. He’s the God of the mountains and the valleys. He’s also the God of the plains. The God of the hallway. The God of the in-betweens. He’s with me in the dark nightmare of cancer and in the jubilation of a baby girl born with a perfect heart. And he’s with me when my life is a treadmill of full laundry baskets and bickery kids and snail babies. He’s steady and faithful when I am not. He’s patient when I lose my cool. He’s full of love when my tank is empty. I’m so thankful that He pours into me according to the abundance of His faithfulness and not according to my capacity for faith. Where are you this week? The mountain? The valley? Or the plain? Let Him meet you there. Press on, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalms 143:8)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

“Come all you weary / Come all you thirsty / Come to the well that never runs dry / Drink of the water / Come and thirst no more / Come all you sinners / Come find His mercy / Come to the table / He will satisfy / Taste of His goodness / Find what you’re looking for / For God so loved the world that He gave us / His one and only Son to save us / Whoever believes in Him will live forever” “God So Loved” by We the Kingdom

Peace

I am thankful:

~ for a GOLDEN start to the month! Custom license plates in. ✔️

Go GOLD window clings✔️

Wreath and yard sign up✔️

Gold swag for the Tribe✔️

Bling bling mask✔️

New mask and decals gifted from another cancer mom ✔️

So very blessed by seeing how many people have changed their profile and Gone Gold In various ways, both locally and across the nation. And the INCREDIBLE HISTORICAL MILESTONE – the official national proclamation naming September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the FIRST TIME EVER lighting of the White House GOLD!!!!! Childhood cancer advocates have been begging for this show of support for YEARS, and to FINALLY see our precious children honored in this was a truly monumental victory.

Please consider Going Gold by registering for Virtual Tyler Gold Run. Just two weeks left to register. You can run or walk anytime, wherever you are. Or you can just consider it a donation to a great cause. When you support Gold Network of East Texas, you are truly making a difference in the lives of brave kids fighting cancer, and the valiant families supporting them. Click HERE to register.

~ for Sawyer to have the opportunity to have his Warrior buddy, Jase in the same 1st grade class this year. Jase was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2017, and is preparing to finish treatment NEXT MONTH!!! GLORY TO THE LORD!!! I love that these two brave boys have each other for support and encouragement. Well I had the opportunity to come to their classroom and ask the other students, “Did you know that you have TWO SUPERHEROES in your class?” I shared briefly that they were both cancer warriors, and the kids were all quite impressed. Then Sawyer and Jase passed out gold ribbons to wear, gold ribbon stickers, and “Go GOLD”fish crackers. So fun!

~ for some really fun and unique Giddyup & Whoa projects. We are so grateful for steady orders coming in. And grateful for good helpers!

~ for cute brothers who love to dress alike.

~ for Vogmask, our very favorite premium N99 masks that we have used since Sawyer was a baby. We have recommended them to other cancer families for years. As you can imagine, the pandemic has had a major impact on their business, and it has been hard for them to keep up with the increasing demand. Despite this challenge, Vogmask sent me a most generous shipment of masks to be donated to our Gold Network HERO kids! We have spoken with the company founder, and have officially made Vogmask the Official Mask of Gold Network of East Texas!

~ for our very favorite tangy and refreshing lemon icebox pie.

~ for a great weekend having Uncle Mike and Kenedy staying with us. And for one evening we had our whole bunch: the oldest two with each of their sweethearts, Cooper with a friend over, and all the Little people. It was loud and chaotic and loud and LOUD. But it was great.

~ and for the blessing of celebrating 21 years of marriage to my Love. This year was a far cry from last year’s Mexico getaway. It’s been a challenging season, one of sanding, of sacrifice, of bearing up under one another. For our marriage, it’s been a workboots and overalls year instead of a slacks and sequins year. Work. But I don’t mean that in a negative way at all! Work is not bad! Marriages are built and strengthened and anchored and fortified with WORK and SWEAT and calloused hands. I’m thankful that after 21 years, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we do…whatever it is, we are together. So very thankful.

Happy anniversary dinner

And for a much needed reminder. That peace, “shalom,” is not the absence of strife or conflict. Instead the Hebrew word means fullness or completeness. I think about how often I find myself seeking “peace” in the wrong way, fleeing from something instead of coming to the Father and letting Him fill me. That peace that really does pass all understanding. Lord, may my FIRST RESPONSE to stress be to turn toward You instead of away. Not to try to numb or mask or cram full all the margins with STUFF, but leave breathing room BE STILL and fill my thirsty lungs with LIFE. Set a guard over my lips and let me listen twice as much as I talk. “He must become greater; I must become less.”” (John 3:30)

As always, I’m so grateful to anyone who takes the time to read these words. God opened this door for a purpose, and I pray I am able to stay out of the way enough for Him to be glorified. May we allow ourselves to drink deeply of His faithfulness, and be filled to overflowing with the fullness of His peace.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

Glimmers of GOLD

We are another week in, and so far things are rocking and rolling. The kids are all loving school, and our routines are growing more and more familiar. God’s mercies are new every morning, and I’ve felt His comforting presence so near every day. It’s been good for me to get back into the practice of “Thank You Therapy,” thanking God for all the blessings I can think of THE MOMENT I wake up, before I even open my eyes. Thank you so much to those who have faithfully covered us in prayers – I can feel them!

I am thankful:

~ for the peaceful stillness of the morning when I come out to the navy blue sky only pierced by one bright morning star. I love to have my coffee and start my day with Jesus here.

~ for perfectly perfect avocado toast.

~ for a God-soaked exercise in humility. Oh, how He loves…

~ for my carefully cataloged boxes of hand-me-downs. So exciting to find treasures “from the box!”

~ for our first sweet and tasty watermelon of the summer – FINALLY! We’ve had one flavorless dud after another! Thank you Sara!

~ for a good lookin kid with a good looking frog!

~ for a fabulous find – someone replacing their fence along my route to the school. So after dropoff one morning, Tatum K and I scooped up a busload of gorgeous reclaimed wood!

~ for a great late night surprise: Carson Grace popped in from college! And Colton was in town for the weekend, so for a few precious hours, we had our whole tribe back home in the nest. Good for Mama’s heart.

~ for technology that allows us to worship with Carson Grace at her church in Longview and also with our home church.

~ for the best possible compromise in a tough situation. Tuesday is September 1, and we should be gathering on the Downtown Square of Tyler to honor our Gold Network of East Texas HEROES and their families and kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. With concerns related to Covid 19, with heavy hearts, we made the difficult decision to cancel the event. This is one of our most meaningful and personal events, and I am so disappointed to be missing out on the irreplaceable fellowship of our HERO families. In lieu of gathering together this year, we are sending out Gold care packages to our families, so they can GO GOLD wherever they are. We have designed a sharp new T shirt that will be a great way to raise awareness, and a VERY LIMITED quantity of sizes are available for purchase (YouthXS-2X). If you would like to purchase a shirt ($20), send an email to info@goldnetworkoet.com with the sizes you would like, and we will reply with detailed payment information. Free local pickup and $5 shipping available.

Go GOLD T shirts available $20
Go GOLD Tyler 2019

~ for the support we have seen for Virtual Tyler Gold Run 2020. We are excited to have so many of our HERO families registered, and how they are sharing the event with their friends and neighbors. It is certainly uncharted territory for us, and difficult to know what to expect. But I’m doing everything I can to promote this year’s unique event, posting on social media 3 times a day, sending out emails, and introducing our brave HERO kids. WE ARE NOT GIVING UP! Childhood cancer is not going away. 2 of our HEROES were hospitalized this week, and we added 3 more new families to our Network. Every time I look at Sawyer, I see the miracle that he is. And I think about what life used to be like when we lived in the hospital, asking God for one more day. And then I think about what life would be like today if things had turned out differently. BUT GOD. My heart is in the childhood cancer world. These families need support, need encouragement, need to be reminded that they are not alone. Will you pray about what God would have as your part? Can you come alongside with a one time donation by registering for Tyler Gold Run? Would you want to support our Clinic Call-in Program, where we provide meal delivery on treatment days for our families, by giving a monthly donation? Would you select Gold Network of East Texas as your charity of choice when shopping on AmazonSmile, so that Amazon will make a donation to us when you shop? Would you pray for us? GNET is an offering to the Lord: we hold it with hands open, asking Him to lead us where He would have us go, and we surrender it all to Him. We seek to be a blessing and a light. Join us in GOING GOLD this September. Wear GOLD! Carry GOLD accessories. Change your social media profile picture. Start a conversation about childhood cancer. Awareness is the place where change begins.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15)

Tiptoe

I have to be honest and say that I still feel very alone. But I feel very surrounded by the Lord. He has wrapped me in so much kindness. I don’t feel like anyone can relate to my particular physical or emotional circumstances, but that’s ok. God knows me intimately, He loves me unfailingly, and He walks with me tirelessly.

Tiptoeing outside the quarantine bubble for the first time this week was very hard. Things were familiar and eerily unfamiliar at the same time. Faces of friends, parents, and teachers we have loved for years were now behind a mask or a face shield. Hallways were quieter than usual but still closer contact than we’ve had for months. BUT GOD.

We met and conquered each mountain. Sophomore Ipad training, 6th grade locker day and Middle School tour,5th grade locker day and Middle School tour, Elementary Meet the Teacher and supply drop off for grades 1, 3, and 4. Time after time in the middle of conversations, my raw emotions would rise up, and I could feel my muffled voice begin to quiver, and my eyes above my mask begin to well up with tears. And every time, my poorly concealed weakness was met with such kindness.

More than anything, what pushed me to move forward the most was the enthusiasm and complete lack of fear or reservation of all my kids. They were just straight up so excited to get back to school (and I am NOT entertaining the thought that any percentage of that excitement desire to get away from me.) All day Tuesday, Sawyer kept asking what time it was. “I want it to be bedtime, so I can go to bed and then when I wake up it will be SCHOOL!” They miss their friends. They miss their activities. They miss NORMAL. Don’t we all?

So we did all the things. Labeled all 7,463,726 supplies. Packed all the lunches (with surprise Lunchables). Hung out all the backpacks. Laid out the new clothes and shiny new tennis shoes and masks. Favorite Martha White blueberry muffins for breakfast.

I posted this picture on the first day of school. My friend Melissa from Laurel & Cotton had released her BOLD lion T-shirt design about a month ago, and I messaged her right away, “I want that one!” But the more I thought about it, the less bold I felt, and I couldn’t really imagine myself wearing the shirt. But suddenly I knew I DID need that shirt – for Sawyer. I don’t know anybody more bold than him.

So I ordered the BOLD lion shirt for Sawyer and “Overwhelmed by Jesus” for me. Never has their been a more appropriate pairing of shirts for an occasion as those two for the first day of school. (And for the record, when I showed Sawyer his new shirt, he was SO EXCITED about it, he chose it for his first day of school outfit without any prompting from me.)

I’m definitely ok but not ok. But it doesn’t matter if I am ok. God is FAITHFUL. He sees me as I really am: broken and held together with paper clips and chewing gum, and doesn’t turn away. I dropped off my babies (after we all had our foreheads scanned in the parking lot). And as we drove away, Tatum K patiently waited for me to stop bawling. She and I had a donut date at our favorite spot, and then we went to Home Depot to buy a new plant. Several thoughtful friends called and texted to check on me, which was so kind. Tater and I spent the day cuddling and crying and praying and watching the clock. I’ve never appreciated a quiet house less.

But when 3 o’clock FINALLY arrived, I’ve never been so ready to get my hands on my kids. They had all had a great day, and all shared every detail all at the same time. They told all their stories over cups of Andy’s Frozen Custard, and then they all washed and sanitized and changed clothes and got ready to do it all again the next day.

God was so faithful and kind to LOVE SO LAVISHLY this week.

~ Carson Grace had a great first week, acing a couple quizzes, auditioning for and MAKING the ETBU Chapel Praise Team, as well as being chosen for a paid position on the Worship team at Oakland Heights Baptist Church.

~ Colton is loving his new job and learning a TON. His business cards came in so he feels “official.” He came over this weekend before he heads back out of town for his next project. Grateful to be in this season where he is choosing to come spend time with us and share his life with us when he doesn’t HAVE to.

~ for the FINAL PIECE of the kitchen remodel: our light fixture that has been back-ordered since April. I had my heart set on it, and I’m so glad I waited. I love how it completes the kitchen transformation! Thankful it is DONE! (Now what project to start on next???)

~ for a restaurant-inspired recipe that I tried to recreate: roasted poblano peppers stuffed with creamy cheese, succulent shrimp, asparagus, and grilled corn. Not your grandma’s stuffed peppers. UNBELIEVABLE!

~ for the sweetest neighborhood kids (not just mine) who held a lemonade stand for charity, and chose to donate to Gold Network! They sat in the sweltering heat and even went door to door to invite “customers” (vital since we all live at THE VERY END of a DEAD END street!) And then my sweet neighbor sat with them and gave them a lesson an stewardship and accountability when raising money for a charity, and the kids all prayed over the money before they counted it. They raised $80! What a blessing!

~ for continued support of Gold Network of East Texas as we have made the difficult decision to convert this year’s Tyler Gold Run to a Virtual Race. We just have to err on the side of caution as we face the unknown, especially as we serve immune compromised kids. The BEST part about the run being Virtual, is that ANYONE can participate from ANYWHERE! If you are local, we will have a pickup to give out medals and T-shirts, but if you are farther away, we can mail it to you! I encourage you to prayerfully consider registering, because our HERO kids and their families need your help more than ever. Unfortunately, #cancerisntcanceled. Every 3 minutes another family hears the life-shattering words “your child has cancer.” Kids all over East Texas and the world are taking chemotherapy every day, spending their childhood in and out of hospitals, and dealing with long term side effects from the toxic treatments used to save their lives. And 1 out of every 5 children diagnosed with cancer will not survive, leaving a gaping hole in a family that will never ever be the same. That’s why we created Gold Network of East Texas: to support families impacted by childhood cancer during their darkest days and then every day afterward. Once a hero, always a hero. You can register or donate at www.tylergoldrun.com

Today I am grateful for a successful three days of school down, and for a peaceful weekend with my Loves back home. It did feel good to have some of the old familiar routines that added margin to each day, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a weekend that actually felt like a weekend. I am grateful that I don’t have to have all the answers, because I am held by the One Who Does.

Wherever you are, whatever highs or lows you are walking through, He is there. May we rest in that. May we rest in Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18-19)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Ready or Not

I am thankful:

~ for God’s mercy. I limped to Him last week (and every day since then) and He has lovingly held me and encouraged me and let me just be His child without all (or ANY of) the answers.

~ for an exciting new adventure for Colton. After years of working in the food service industry, this week he started his first “grown up job,” as a superintendent for a commercial construction company. He’s got a new uniform, his own business cards, and has already started traveling out of town for a large project. He has already learned so much in his first week, and has been eager to share details from his days with us. He is so excited about this big step, and we are so proud of him!

~ and a big next step for Carson Grace as well: we moved her back to ETBU for her sophomore year of college. New apartment-style dorm, new roommates, and a fresh new enthusiasm for her classes after the abrupt end of her freshman year. We got her stuff all moved in despite a sudden downpour, and her room is cozy and organized. As always, it was hard to say goodbye, but we know she’s right where she needs to be. Since she left, we have chatted every day, and this morning we all enjoyed watching her lead worship with one of her professors at his church via a LIVE broadcast. She is excited for her first day of classes tomorrow!

~ the mixed blessing of having Carson Grace back at school means I once again have my beautiful work space (her now empty bedroom) for Giddyup & Whoa painting. I love that room, the crisp white walls and gleaming natural light. It’s just a space that inspires me. We’ve had some lovely pieces to work on lately. All the kids have taken turns painting in there with me, as well as some rousing games of UNO and charades.

~ for a succulent roasted sheet pan dinner: BBQ chicken, quartered potatoes, and green beans.

~ for the great honor and privilege of Gold Network of East Texas being chosen as a charity beneficiary of the Fresh 15. The race took place back in March the week before the country shut down, and Brookshire’s Grocery Company held a Virtual Check Presentation this week. So thankful to be in the company of the finest and most respected nonprofits in our area.

~ for the perfect mouthwateringly tart sweetness of a cherry sour candy.

~ for 99.9% school supplies ready to go for all 6 kids. Especially considering A) as of Monday I had not purchased ONE ITEM and B) I did not have to set one foot in a store. Online shopping, I love you!

~ for the kindest people that the Lord has braided into our lives. It is no secret that the question facing nearly every family in America is whether or not to send their children to school. And Josh and I have wrestled day and night over our options. We have prayed. We have made lists of pros and cons. We have prayed. We have sought council. We have prayed. We have been still. We have prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. Ultimately, FOR US (and the most important distinction I want to stress is that EVERY FAMILY is doing their VERY BEST to make the best choice for THEIR CHILDREN…and that will mean something different to each of them. NO JUDGMENT!) we have made the decision to send our kids back to their school. And let me tell you, our kids are EXCITED! They are chomping at the bit to get back to their school and their teachers and classmates. Their eagerness and loyalty to their school has helped soothe our uncertainties at least a little. But it still is a weighty decision that I have continued to struggle with. BUT GOD. One day this week, our principal called to check in on our decision. I heard the words came out of my mouth, “We are planning to send them in person,” (as opposed to doing virtual learning from home). As soon as I spoke, I realized it was the first time I had spoken those words aloud, and I burst into tears on the phone. At that moment, our principal, my friend, became to pray for me right then. She prayed for God’s peace and grace to flood my heart, for protection for each of our children, and for wisdom to make the best decisions we can for our family. Her kindness and grace met me in that moment, and my weary heart was encouraged. I can’t say I’m past my concerns, or even that I am confident that we’ve made the right choice. I don’t even know that I can single out a particular ACTUAL FEAR that is plaguing me. Just that nothing feels safe or “normal” or familiar or easy. But I am freshly reminded of why we LOVE the community that has been our home for 16 years. They know us. They know our kids. They’ve seen us through fostering, through adopting, through cancer. They have rallied around us and prayed for us when we were tossed from one storm to the next. I am NOT thrilled with the prospect of sending my kids back out into a group setting with so many unknowns, but I AM CONFIDENT that they are going into an environment where they are loved and seen and that everyone on every level is covering every aspect with prayer.

This is a big week of dropping off supplies, meeting teachers, and for Kora and Samantha, touring a brand new school. Tomorrow is the first time tiptoeing out of the quarantine bubble as we start the precursory steps. The official first day of school is Wednesday. Since March, we have been home. Together. With the exception of an hour here or there, I haven’t been away from my kids. And believe it or not, I’m not impatiently waiting to boot them out of the house for some “peace and quiet.” After months of keeping them safely at arms’ reach, I can’t even wrap my mind around dropping all my babies off and driving away. Especially after daily temperature scans and with masks as a normal school supply. Ok, I’m starting to hyperventilate again, need to refocus my heart. It’s a big week and the kids are excited to meet their teachers and see their friends. I am excited to see God’s hand at work in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

And what in the world am I going to do with Hurricane Tatum K?

Thank you for all who have been praying for us. And for all of you moms, dads, cancer families, educators, administrators, doctors, nurses, first responders…I am praying for you, too. Lord, help guide us to the best choices for each of our families and also help us to respond to people who think similarly AND differently WITH KINDNESS AND GRACE. We all just want to get through this season the best we can. God is still on His throne where He has always been. His plan is still good, and I trust Him with my life and the lives of my children.

I’m back to praying two prayers over and over:

“Not my will, but Yours, Lord.” And “Jesus come.”

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”” (Zephaniah 3:17)

“Your love is deep, Your love is high. Your love is long, Your love is wide. Your love is deeper than my view of grace Higher than this worldly place. Longer than this road I travel. Wider than the gap You fill…” “Your Love is Deep” by Jami Smith

“Waymaker, miracle worker Promise keeper, light in the darkness My God, that is who You are” “Waymaker” by Sinach

Mightier

Six years ago tomorrow, I wrote my very first Sunday Gratitude journal entry on Sawyer’s Caringbridge site. We were not quite 3 weeks into his cancer journey.

“Aug 10, 2014

I’d like to copy from a blog I’ve read for a long time….she dedicates her posts on Sundays to giving thanks. Especially in the midst of trials, it is easy to only see the bad things, and start feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t want to fall into that trap. Of course I wish none of this was happening, but this is a part of God’s best for our family, and I want to set my eyes on His goodness that is all around us.

Sunday Gratitude

~Our new room with a nice recliner

~a playmat for the floor so SaSa can crawl around without getting contaminated

~food from “the Outside”, especially homemade pimento cheese

~nurses who love Sawyer so much they come see him when they are not assigned to him

~getting to witness a 9-year-old girl finally get to celebrate going home after 8 months of treatment (her mom bought her a sparkly new dress, she had a panda hat on her bald head, and her daddy surprised her with a limo to drive her home!)

~news of so many people pulling together to bless my family by bringing meals and back-to-school bounty

~Sawyer’s sweet little voice chattering away

~pictures colored by my kids at home for their little brother

Join me in giving thanks!”

Today I find myself in far different circumstances, but in such a similar place of need. Of needing to raise my gaze. Raise my focus. Raise my voice in gratitude.

I have felt like our house is filled with a fog of sad. So many people I love are hurting and there is nothing I can do. I just can’t seem to get my feet under me.

This was a page on my daily calendar this week. Why do I feel like I have never seen this verse before? I read it and reread it and looked it up in several versions.

I love the sound of the ocean’s crashing waves. It’s vastness and power makes me feel so small. The crash is deafening. In this world, doesn’t it seem like there’s just so much deafening noise? All competing. Each voice, a thunderous wave crashing louder and louder, demanding to be heard above the rest. Noise on traditional and social media. Noise from every opinion on every issue. Noise inside me. BUT GOD. He is so far above the noise. He does speak in that Still Small Voice. But His majesty, His magnitude, His presence, His power. Is greater. Mightier than the noise attacking me from the outside and from the inside. Far mightier than the strongest, most powerful waves on any sea.

I am thankful that no matter how low or how NOT THANKFUL I FEEL, my loving Father is so gracious and persistent to show Himself to me even when I am a mess.

I am thankful:

~ for friends who call in lunch when they know it’s been a hard day. Even though they live in Dallas!

~ for the times when social media is a tool used for good, and flooded with kind words and encouragement to those who need it.

~ for a special birthday girl with a fantastic attitude on a quietly celebrated day. Our Zoe turned 9, and though we were unable to GO anywhere or INVITE anyone, we compensated with FOOD. Her brown eyes sparkled when she saw her waffles with sprinkles for breakfast. Daddy brought home a special treat from DQ for her lunch. And as one of our family’s most discerning diners, Miss Zoe selected a decadent menu of packaged Velveeta Shells and Cheese, cheese toast, and chocolate cake with more sprinkles of course. (It was a nice variation from last year’s choice of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Cheezits.) She felt special, and that’s what counts.

~ for the perfect worship song that plays at the perfect moment.

~ for my precious Littles who are so quick to forgive their mama when she’s not as nice or as patient as she should be. And for the genuine prayers they pray for me.

~ for my very best friend to wake up with every morning.

~ for new house numbers and solar lights giving our home a simple but cozy exterior update.

~ for ones who I know pray faithfully, and who alternately offer gentle encouragements and less gentle admonishings to kick out of my funk.

~ for August Tonight and Whataburger malts honoring one of the finest men who ever lived.

~ for a fun puzzle completed.

~ for a tasty night cooking up the fish Josh and the big kids caught on their Galveston Bay fishing trip. We had everyone back together again, and it was good to have fresh laughter around our table. I’ve missed that.

~ for the promise that God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. In the words of one of our Littles’ favorite songs, His love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.

Let’s lift each other up during these strange, uncertain, and unfamiliar times. Whatever you may be feeling or struggling with, it is certain that someone else is struggling with it too. Everyone is dealing with their own personal flavor of hard. It’s ok not to have it all together all the time. It’s ok to be unsure. God knows what He is doing, and His good and perfect plan will be done in the end.

Prayers especially for educators and administrators and support staff who are gearing up for an unprecedented back to school season. And for parents everywhere who are doing their very best to make the very best decisions for their families about schooling. Let’s all be kind to one another. Let’s raise a hallelujah!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.” (Psalms 93:3-4)