Seasons

I am thankful:

~ for 2 sweet quick visits with 2 different dear friends before they move away.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to people you love.  But seasons are always changing and you just pray that you can find a way to stay connected regardless of location.  Tatum had a great time playing with a friend, and later having a delicious breakfast of diced tomatoes and chocolate milk!

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~ for the stunning color of the fall leaves.  People say Texas doesn’t really get seasons.  And while the foliage may not be as electric nor the temperatures quite as brisk as in the north and northeast, I think East Texas is beautiful in the fall.  I love the drop in temperatures, pulling out the boots and sweaters, and the crackle of a fire in the evenings.  To me, the autumn season was the ideal choice for scheduling Thanksgiving: leaves change and fall, colder weather makes us want to cuddle closer, we hunger for the warmth of nostalgic comfort foods…it’s a season built for looking around at our surroundings and seeking to give thanks. 

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~ for a extra special week for Kora.  Her class presented the Chapel program, a Tribute to Veteran’s Day.  It was an inspiring and reverent program, and all the students did a beautiful job with their songs and recitations.  Then as a part of her classroom’s weekly Toastmasters presentation, she gave her original speech.  Big week for our girl.  She delights in having her turn in the spotlight, and nothing makes her light up more than seeing Mama and Daddy smiling from the audience.  So proud of her. 

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~ for the rare opportunity to surprise my girl!  Carson Grace invited us to a special event as a part of her music major program, Student-led Night of Worship.  Unfortunately, she invited us about 22 hours before the program.  I let her know we were very proud of her, but told her how difficult it would be to make arrangements to get all the way to Marshall the next evening, especially on a school night.  But as soon as I got off the phone with her, I got to work planning those details.  Even that evening, as we were on the road to Marshall, I continued to text her and tell her that we loved her and were praying that the service would go well (true statements).  When we showed up at the recital hall (you can imagine, a Tribe of Littles is quite a spectacle on a college campus, so we weren’t hard to spot), she saw us and burst into tears.  I’m so thankful we made it a little early so she had time to get herself together before taking the stage with her worship team.   What a blessing to see our beautiful daughter, singing unto the Lord with her peers.  It was just awesome.  After her set was over, she joined us in the audience, and squeezed me so hard…it felt great to know how much it meant to her that we were there.  It was an incredible night worshipping together, and even the Littles totally got into it, clearly blessed by the presence of the Lord. IMG_9530IMG_9599

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~ for lots of progress in preparation for our 2 upcoming Giddyup & Whoa sales: Vintage & Company’s “Christmas in the Country” and The Market.  Josh has been building and building for me, and I paint every chance I get.  The kids love being a part: helping design, paint, and construct; and they are always eager to “model” for me.  So thankful for the opportunity to create together as a family, and hopeful that we are coming into a busy season for the business. 

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~ for successfully surviving the last (and coldest, and WETTEST) JV football game of the season!  Armed with our blankets, scarves, gloves, and hot chocolate, the Littles and I made it to halftime, and left Dad, Colton, and Brooke to cheer Coop on to the bitter end.  I love watching him play, so I’m sad to see the season end, but I WILL NOT miss shivering in the bleachers with 875 whining kids. 

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~ for our furry, floppy muppet dog, Bear, who turned 1 today!  He has been such a fun addition to our crazy Tribe. 

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~ for relaxing evenings, chilling and watching the Cowboys.  Ok fine.  If you know me, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about football. I can barely keep my eyes on Cooper’s jersey to see where he is on the field at his games.  I can get into sports when I know personal stories about the players, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to follow.  BUT. I love my husband.  And my husband loves to watch the Cowboys.  So I love to be near my husband while he watches the Cowboys.  I paint or write, and I cheer when he cheers.  We’ve got a system down. 

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~ for a weekend with our girl home from college.  We enjoyed a RARE laid back weekend devoid of a schedule.  Carson Grace got to sleep in, we ran some errands, ordered some much-needed glasses for both of us, and spend the evening watching Lion King all together. 

~ for unexpected blessings.  One of the reasons Carson Grace came home for the weekend was because she had been invited to be a guest vocalist at the church of one of her professors.  The church was in Athens, and we decided to load up the whole Tribe and go with her.  Carson Grace of course did an absolutely wonderful job sharing her song, and blessed the heart of the Lord and every parishioner in attendance.  But it was clear the moment we got there that the He had a very specific purpose for our family visiting that church.  The pastor (who teaches voice part time at ETBU, and was the one who invited Carson Grace) and his wife have recently taken in 4 foster children.   Recently as in 3 weeks ago.   I looked into that mama’s tired tired eyes and knew exactly what she was feeling.   Oh, how vividly O remember the pain of that season, of those raw first weeks. Josh and I were able to share our foster/adopt story and listen to where they are in theirs.   We could relate to one another on such a strikingly similar level, and there was such hope in that.   After church was over, our 2 families went for pizza, and the adults visited as much as we could while juggling kid plates, refilling cups, wiping noses and wiping spills…  We sat there and told the stories we have told so many times.  Stories of broken beds, and heads cracking through windows.  Stories of getting locked out of the house by 3 toddlers and of the end of life as we then knew it.  BUT GOD.   Because the kids from those stories are gone.  They really are.  I can’t think of a day when I was more proud of my children.  As we were telling those stories with the grownups, OUR kids were loving on THEIR kids.  Our little girls were chatting it up with their girls, and have already declared that they are friends who can’t wait to see each other again.  Their little guy and Sawyer had been in Sunday school class today that morning, so they were tickled to buddy up at lunch.  And Carson Grace and Cooper were kind and conversational with their quiet and reserved 16 year old boy.  It was beautiful.  I’m not even bothering to hold back my tears as I write this tonight, with the images fresh on my mind.  I ache thinking of all that these precious children have gone through, more than anyone even knows about.  They have been shifted around and let down by the ones who they trusted to keep them safe, and so many others after that.  I can only imagine how broken and scared and confused they are.  And I know how shell shocked those foster parents are right now.  Everything about their life has changed overnight.  And they are holding on for dear life, clinging to Jesus, desperately trying to be obedient to whatever He asks them to do.   I’m so grateful that we got to meet this family today, and ask that you would join me in praying for them.  They need it.  And I’m so grateful that the Lord used this day to show me afresh how far our beautiful children have come, and the beauty that shines from the ashes of their story.  Their story is one of brokenness and loss and pain, and a story of love and redemption and healing and hope. And today I got to see them ministering.    Thank You Father for fresh eyes to see the miracle of New Life. 

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you remain securely anchored into Christ.  When things are bad, hang on.  Jesus is holding you, He is fighting for you, and He will never leave you.  And this season won’t last forever.   And if you are in a sweet season, a season of plenty, of peace – set that anchor DEEP.  Study His Word, seek God’s heart, pour into the lives of others.  Invest wisely in eternity during seasons of peace, because that season will end too.  And we never know what’s ahead.  We just know that our best days are still to come.  Which season are you in?  Who can you encourage this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)

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 

Encouraging Words

I am thankful 

~ for breathtaking technicolor sunsets.

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~for the freedom of summer.  It’s still daunting to balance structure and flexibility in our days, but we really are having a great time.

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~for a fun week of Vacation Bible School!  The Littles had a blast with their crews and Cooper was on the Recreation Team.  The GSM staff at Grace Community Church always puts on top notch events, and this year did not disappoint.  As Sawyer has not yet completed Kindergarten, he wasn’t able to participate, so he and Tatum K had a little extra “Mama time” each night.  We went on walks in our neighborhood with his patrol car, snacked on Frosty’s, and went to the Sonic playground.  VBS always means a stretched schedule, hyper kiddos, and LAAAATE NIGHTS, but I love that they are all enjoying themselves with their friends and learning more about Jesus along the way. 

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~ for VBS “Family Night.  The kids dined on hotdogs and snocones, and went crazy on waterslides.  I’ve never let Sawyer participate on inflatables in a crowd before. Honestly, it was unspeakably hard for me.  My anxiety attacks hit hard as I surveyed the masses of overstimulated children racing from one attraction to the next.  My heart tightens again now as I write.  No one ever seems to notice when I am freaking out, but Cooper was so kind.  He reached over and squeezed my hand, “it’s gonna be ok Mom.  Sawyer will be ok.”  I’m not going to lie and pretend it was my favorite.  But he had the time of his life.  Big sister Samantha was his running buddy, and they and the others all jumped and climbed and raced and slid nonstop until they were soaked to the skin. 

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IMG_2070~ oh how a hungry heart yearns for encouragement.  A kind VBS volunteer took the time to speak some thoughtful and edifying words about one of my children.  It MAY HAVE BEEN the same child who had a rough week last week.  And it MAY BE a child who doesn’t always inspire edifying words from their leaders.  This gal spoke kindly and genuinely about my child, and her words were truly life-giving, as cool water on parched ground.  It wasn’t a big deal to her…she was merely making an observation, a casual compliment.  But to this weary mama, it was EVERYTHING.  

~ for kind words from a kind stranger.  A woman approached me out of the clamoring herd of sugar-and-waterslide-amped crazies at Family Night, introduced herself, saying, “You don’t know me, but I read your blog.”  She spoke kindly about following along with our family, that she prays for us, thanked me for writing, and encouraged me to “keep it up.”  I won’t forget that moment.  Heather, I hope you’re reading this week.  You blessed me so much!  You didn’t have to speak up, take the time in a crowd, put yourself out there.  But you did.  You’ll never know how many times I wonder WHY on earth I’m writing these journals, wondering who in the world would care to read.  And that day, at that very moment…I really needed that encouragement.  You never know how your words may impact someone. We truly have been given the power of life and death in our tongues.  

~ that I have found it extremely therapeutic to sit on the trampoline with a two-year-old. Hard to stay upset.

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~ for a simultaneously harrowing and HILARIOUS adventure with the Tribe.  We took an evening walk down our street, which has been under construction for several months as an extension is being added and new neighborhoods are being plotted out.  The former cul de sac is barricaded off, and during the weekdays there is lots of tractor activity going on.  But on this particular weekend evening, we decided to venture down the newly graveled road to check out the progress.  It was a perfect evening, moderate temperatures, light breeze, right before sunset.  The kids skipped along, and we all marveled at this new stretch of pavement that we had never seen before.  Suddenly, Gavin squealed, “Ow!  Something bit me!”  I saw a giant horsefly buzzing behind him.  I swatted at it, and it furiously continued to pursue Gavin, who took off at a run.  Another swat, and I killed it.  We have been bitten by these predatory bugs before, and their bites are super painful, and now everyone is terrified of them.  About the same time as I swatted Gavin’s assailant, I saw Josh and Cooper running. “Horseflies!” they yelled.  So we all started running back toward home.  Off and on, each one of us were targeted: relentless angry buzzing around the back of our legs and necks.  All the kids were screaming and twirling, trying to lose the flies.  In between the screams, the rest of us were absolutely hysterically laughing at the absurdity of the situation.   I’ve never seen my kids sprint so fast.  I doubt we will venture down that path on our walks for a while!

~ for a loud and rowdy Cousin Crew for our kids to grow up with – and T shirts to prove it!

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~ for the incredible growth I have witnessed in the young people in our church. This morning I could scarcely believe it…MORE THAN HALF of the worship team were teenagers!  Carson Grace has been serving on the worship team for years, but now several others have stepped up, including Cooper running the soundboard, and one of his best friends had his first Sunday on the drums.  I remember teaching all these kids when they were little, either in children’s church or Sunday school.  And now they are grown, serving the Lord with their gifts.  My heart is so full. 

~ for a really special Father’s Day evening.  We were all really bummed to find out that Josh had to work on Father’s Day, but planned to make the best of it and get together in the evening for burgers.  Colton came over once he got off work, and it’s always such a blessing to have all our kids home.  Dad’s menu: grilled burgers, Doritos, and yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing.  After dinner, the kids one by one presented Dad with all his favorites: Martha White blueberry muffins, new outfit, pistachios, Oh’s cereal, beef jerky, cinnamon Trident, sunflower seeds, chocolate chip cookies, and a Whataburger gift card.  They were each so tickled to bless him, and he was tickled and surprised at how well they know him.  I love watching him be a dad.  He loves us all so well.  After all the Littles had shuffled off to bed, we had some time with the Bigs.  And it got real.  Really real.  They opened up about some things, and we were able to listen and able to speak into their lives.  Josh had a Word from the Lord that He put in his heart earlier in the day that was clearly prepared for THIS MOMENT.  There were tears, and hugs, and it was proven that big kids are never ever too big for Mama’s lap.  These are the moments that put gas in your tank when it’s empty, at least enough to get you over the next hill.   

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If you have an encouragement for someone…share it!  Put some gas in their tank.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Proverbs 18:21

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

“They’ve made me feel like a prisoner / They’ve made me feel set free

They’ve made me feel like a criminal / Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart / To places I’d never been

And they’ve dragged me down /Back to where I began

Words can build you up / Words can break you down

Start a fire in your heart or / Put it out

Let my words be life / Let my words be truth

I don’t wanna say a word / Unless it points the world back to You.”

(“Words” by Hawk Nelson)

Ready or not…

I should have expected it. Last week I boldly proclaimed to the world how thankful I am. How thankful I am for my lively mess of a family and the perfectly imperfect.  Why should it surprise me that Monday morning I’d be hit on all sides with utter chaos: squalling siblings, mouthy teens, and a maniacal 2 year old terrorist.  I was attacked full force from every direction.  And man, I fell right smack off my thankful mountain.  I know that’s real life: highs and lows and not-so-pretty-or-poetic emotions.  BUT GOD.  Oh how thankful I am that God doesn’t turn His back on me every time I fail.  And that His goodness is not contingent on my faithfulness.  WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE!  

But when all is said and done, He gives me the grace to get back up when I fall on my face.  I get to tell my kids I’m sorry and we all get a do-over.   New mercies every morning.  And every week. 

I am thankful:

~ for more end of school fun.  Our final FINAL day of school was Wednesday!  It is surreal to see Sawyer completing his first year of school.  I don’t take these “firsts and lasts” for granted.  Every time he reaches another milestone, I never fail to see that frail, white little baby.  BUT GOD!  He knew this day was coming even when all we could see was death in every direction.  Thank you Jesus for the last five years!  And we will be thankful for all the rest you will give us!  I pray Sawyer lives to be a strong, healthy, old old man who never tires of telling the story of how Jesus healed-ed him. 

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Our beloved Mrs. Youngblood

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“Mama, what are the other ribbon colors?  I want to pray for God to heal ALL the people with cancer.”

~ for nail polish remover.  I used a whole bottle to clean up Tatum K and the carpet where she painted her “Pretty toes Mama!  I MESSY!”

~ for my 2 kiddos recognized for Perfect Attendance!  Way to go Kora and Gavin!

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~for the remarkable kindness and generosity of friends.

~ for good news.  Our friend Mason got his port removed after completing leukemia treatment, Baby Lucas got wonderful news from his oncologist, and sweet Georgia is home from her latest stay in the hospital.  God, You are so good.  Thank you, faithful prayer warriors, for praying; please keep lifting up all these precious families. 

~ for at least a couple lazy days.  No alarms to set, no plans on the calendar. We enjoyed our walks, kids swam in the icy pool until their lips turn blue, and we laughed as Bear eagerly dove in after them, showing off his swimming skills. 

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~for Carson Grace and the Cougars safe trip down to Houston for their next softball playoff game.  They battled through and played their best, but this time didn’t come away with the win.  But what a great season!

~ for the way all my kids love music.  They are always singing along with the radio behind me in the car, making up songs, or singing on their own at home.  This week a favorite came on, “I’m a Child of God,” and Sawyer said, “Mama!  I just love this song so much!  I just HAVE to Praise Him!”  I can only imagine how this blesses the Father’s heart. 

~ for the eagerly anticipated, fast and furious arrival of my latest BEAUTIFUL NIECE, Josey Dean! What a little sugar!!!

And Saturday was the biggest day; a day of so much joy but also bittersweet tears. My girl, my Carson Grace, my heart.  How can my baby be graduating high school?  I remember picking out her first day of school clothes from the toddler department.  I remember the tiny wooden stool that her teacher had built for her because her little legs dangled from the desk and couldn’t reach the floor. I remember crying as she graduated from Kindergarten, then from 5th grade, then 8th.  I blinked. Tiny crocs and Mary Jane’s were replaced by Vans and impossibly high heels.  My memory hasn’t faded from her baby days, because all I have to do is look at Tatum K, her carbon copy. Saturday, my beautiful girl put on that cap and gown and proudly received her diploma.  She fought for it: high school wasn’t easy for her on any level.  But she did it, and we are so proud.  We even had the excitement of a tornado warning and mandatory evacuation in the middle of the ceremony, but she made it!  We ended the evening with burgers and watermelon and friends crowded in the kitchen, celebrating our girl.  

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~ and then a wonderful baby shower for my precious friends Chris and Lindsay, as they prepare their hearts and home for their baby boy on the way.  They are such treasures, and I am so ready to watch them step into the role they were MADE FOR as Mama and Daddy!

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As you may well imagine, it’s slightly terrifying to face being home with all these kiddos for the summer.  I’m so ridiculously outnumbered.  But thankfully they haven’t figured that out yet.  I am trying to find a balance between high hopes and realistic expectations for the upcoming weeks: lots of swimming, walks, trips to the library, and some good healthy brain exercise.  We’re gonna eat popsicles and ride bikes and Cooper’s going to teach me how to flip on the trampoline.  And I’m gonna love my babies the very best I can.  I’m gonna soak up these last precious weeks of having Carson Grace home before she leaves for college.  I’m going to press into Jesus.  I’m going to pray with my kids and play with my kids.  I’M GONNA FINISH SCRAPING THOSE BEAMS.  It’s going to be a glorious mess, but we are going to do it together. 

Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:1-2 

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:14-17

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 

Don’t Stop Praying

I am thankful…

~ for Bear.  He’s such a great dog.  He’s been a relatively easy puppy, very smart and learning quickly.  My favorite is how he and Tatum K love each other.  They greet each other each morning with enthusiastic kisses, and just roll all over the floor together.  I’m blown away that Bear clearly recognizes and respects the difference between Tatum and the other children…he is so much more gentle and tender with her, and puts up with her squeezing him and over-loving him.  I can tell they are going to be best friends.  Love to have him riding along in the bus to and from school.  He MAY be just the SLIGHTEST bit spoiled. 

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~ for my latest favorite salad recipe: crunchy chickpeas, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocados tossed with green onions, cilantro, lime, and olive oil!  It is so tasty!

~ for a fun, albeit chilly first baseball game of the season for Cooper.  He had a great game, and was stealing bases left and right!  Great start to the season!

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Chilly Baseball Game!

~ for a great tournament for Carson Grace’s softball team.  They traveled to Frisco and won 2 out of 3 games.  We couldn’t make it to watch, but I was super thankful for the ability to follow the game live via an app on my phone!  

~ for my awesome rockstar husband, who was a pacer with Uncle Caleb for the Fresh 15K yesterday morning.  The kids and I loaded up the bus to cheer for him, and after an hour of driving in circles and backtracking around the blocked off streets along the race route, we FINALLY found a place to park and walked A MILE IN THE RAIN, arriving at the Finish Line: 5 minutes before they crossed!!!!!  So proud of Josh, who nailed his goal pace, and persevered through the challenging course despite back and knee injuries.  

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Fresh 15K

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~ for another rockstar: our friend Mason who kicked leukemia’s butt and took his very last dose of chemo last week.  Mason is a brave boy who overcame trial after trial and side effect after side effect.   And his family never lost heart or let go of their faith. Such a joy to celebrate these milestones. 

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Warrior Strong Team Mason

~ for Sawyer’s tender heart during worship.  Today at church, unprompted, he began to raise his hands.  He sang along, and swayed back and forth with his hands in the air.  Then, he abruptly got down on his knees in the aisle of the church, bowing his face to the floor of until worship was over.  It was priceless.  Maybe he was pretending, or copying what he sees others do.  Who knows.  It doesn’t matter.  I know the Lord sees his innocent little heart inclined to Him and is pleased.  I asked Sawyer afterward, and he said simply, “I wanted to make God happy.”  

~ I WAS super excited to share a project that I have been painstakingly working on all week, stripping a unique old end table we’ve had for years.  It had an outdated dark stain that I stripped, planed, sanded, and then bleached to get to a far lighter, almost driftwood look.  Turned out great.  Unfortunately, I guess all the motion and commotion didn’t agree with it, because the day after I moved the completed table into the house and got it all staged cute, all of a sudden, the beautiful glass base of the table shattered!  SO SAD!  But times like these make me extra thankful for my junker’s heart, because we always have random table bases tucked away somewhere, and Josh got it all fixed up.  I sure was bummed about that awesome glass base though. 

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~ and I’m so excited for Carson Grace on her latest adventure.  She is currently in Washington DC with her senior class for the week.  I dropped her at the school at 2am, they flew out of Dallas at 7, and hit the ground running in DC taking in the sites.  Praying for the students to have a safe and phenomenal trip, one of the last events they’ll go through together before graduation.  Man, I miss that girl.  

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My heart has been heavy this week.  So many people I love are hurting, weighted down by some tremendous burdens.  And I can’t do one thing.  There’s no answer, no fix, no remedy.  I mean, of course, Jesus is the remedy.  If we know Him, we know that.   But when the people we love hurt, we hurt.  There’s just no way to take that away. But we can do the only thing we can do…we pray.  We reach out.  We remember.  And don’t stop praying, and reaching out, and remembering.  We don’t have to have perfect poetic words of encouragement that no one has ever said before.  Or come up with THE ONE SCRIPTURE that is going to enlighten the situation and give a fresh perspective and change everything.  That’s God’s department.  He’s the One in the miracle department.  Keep praying for your friends, friends.  He listens.  Prayer changes things, and it changes us.  Don’t lose heart.  I know you have been praying for Baby Lucas – don’t stop!  My pastor friend received his heavenly healing…he is with Jesus now, right where he wanted to be.  But please keep praying for his family and his church.  And please add another this week.  Brian is my friend’s husband, and his family is eagerly waiting for him to wake up from emergency heart surgery several weeks ago.  You can keep up with the updates here www.caringbridge.org/visit/brianwilhoite

Keep praying and looking for the blessings around you, and let’s lift one another day by day a step closer to the Throne.  Maybe I’ll be strong for you today, and then you’ll be strong for me tomorrow.  And God is always working, even when we cannot see.  And be kinder than you think you have to be.  You never know what someone is walking through.  Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Sweet

IMG_3387I am thankful for a full week of fun…

~ for a great week for Tatum K.  She likes all these birthdays and parties and holidays for one important reason: CAKE!  If you’ve seen my Instagram, you have seen her insistent chanting:  “Cake! Cake! Cake! Pie! Pie! Pie!”  There is no denying her love of sweets, and she was one happy girl to get to indulge this week!

~ for Gavin’s 2nd grade class chapel program, celebrating that the Bible is God’s Valentine to His children.  Such a sweet message, and the kids did such a great job. 

~ for a dear friend’s good news that made my heart sing. 

~ for excitement for Cooper – thrilled that he made the A team for Jr High baseball!  He started practice last week, and games will commence soon.  Carson Grace is enjoying playing on the Varsity Softball team.  Come on SPRING!!!

~ for new signs completed for Giddyup and Whoa.  Bear and Tatum K both got to be sign models. 

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~ for two special back-to-back birthdays.  Kora turned 10 on the 13th and Gavin turned 9 on the 14th (Gaventime’s Day!).  Yep.  366 days apart!  These two are used to sharing birthday celebrations, and Gavin knows his birthday is going to be red and pink every year until eternity.  They are great sports about it, and we do our best to make their individual days special for each of them.  We feasted on box macaroni and cheese and pizza and pink and blue cupcakes. 

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~ Miss Kora had no reservations about what she wanted for her birthday: pierced ears!  She marched right in and hopped up in the chair!  She made some pretty intense, horrified faces during the piercing, but she was super-duper brave!  So pretty!

~ for surviving the epic amounts of sugar consumed by my household this week: from “special birthday breakfasts” to class birthday treats, birthday cupcakes, ON TOP OF class Valentine’s Day parties.  It was a high-fructose corn syrup and Red 40 flavored week.  We may be doing a cleanse these next few days!

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~ for the single-most highly anticipated evening of the year: the Father-Daughter Banquet/Dance at Tyler Christian Fellowship.  There is nothing that thrills my girls more than to hear the doorbell ring and open it to find their beloved Daddy with roses in his hand to offer to each one of his beautiful girls.  They all dressed in their finest, and they dined, they danced their little tails off, and each one of them soaked up how much they are loved by their Daddy.  Even Carson Grace cherishes this time.  I love that this is a memory they will always treasure.  This year I had a really great time with Tatum K (too young to attend) and my boys.  We cooked some tasty nachos and watched a movie.  But the highlight of the evening was playing Pie in the Face!  We all got “pied,” even mom, much to the boys’ delight.  Lord, help me to relax and have fun with my kids.  They really are so easy to please….all they want is time and some good laughs.  And sometimes it really is as simple as a fistful of whipped cream smeared on my face. 

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~ for a special time of fellowship and sharing after church.  Leadership hosted a lunch for new visitors, with a tasty meal and encouraging testimonies from people in the Body. Love the opportunity to get to meet, welcome, and encourage new families.  

It’s been a good, full week.  Plenty of hard, but also plenty of sweet moments.  I think that’s just where we are in life.  I think it’s always going to be some flavor of hard.  Large family life is uniquely challenging.  Adoptive family dynamics are complicated.  Life after cancer is ugly hard.  But God is just so faithful.  His Word reminds me of His new mercies.  His Spirit comforts mine and reminds me that no matter what I feel like, I’m never ever alone.  And Jesus meets me: in my brokenness, in my joy, in the moments when I feel like an utter failure, and in those fleeting moments when I breathe a sigh of relief that I finally got something right.  We serve a God of second chances!  Hallelujah!  He never gives up on us, and I’m so thankful.  And while my loving Father never ceases to extend grace to me, I also need to DO MY PART!  It’s my responsibility to get into the Word and seek Him.  My flesh is never going to feel like praising Him.  But I have to do it anyway.  And I know that He will meet me.  

Tomorrow is a very special day that you may not know about…February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day!  It’s a special day set aside to support children who are fighting or who have fought cancer.  Gold Network of East Texas is encouraging people to eat ice cream for breakfast and post pictures on social media, with a caption in support of kids with cancer.  You can participate by posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram, tag @goldnetworkofeasttx and @eaticecreamforbreakfastday, and tell us who you are eating for.  If social media isn’t your thing, just dish up a sweet treat and say a prayer for the kids.  You can even email me a picture at info@goldnetworkoet.com.  Our family will be eating ice cream for Sawyer.  And Eric.  And Olivia.  And Sophie, Brock, Jase, Liam, Michael, Izzy, Bristell, Hudson, Addie Leigh, Anna Luisa, Kaitlyn, Abigail, David, Ceely, Parker, Emerson, and all the other children whom we have met in person or online, and kids around the world.  No child should ever have to fight cancer.  But for now, we can eat ice cream.  And we pray.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”” Jeremiah 29:12-14