Where Did it Go?

I am thankful:

~ for a few, very few, lazy days left of summer.

~ for a fresh and yummy mini date with my Love at Salsaritas.

~ for the joy of finding Fur-ever homes for our puppies! Thank you so much to everyone who has shared my posts or spread the word! Only 3 little boys left!

~ for Whataburger malts to celebrate August Tonight, a very special day to remember and honor a very special man.

As for many others, our “summer” will officially come to a close this week as the kids go back to school. The mountains of supplies have been assembled, sorted, and labeled. Shiny new shoes sit waiting in their boxes – HUGE boxes of HUGE SHOES!!! WHO ARE THESE GIANT-FOOTED CREATURES AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY CHILDREN!? Backpacks and lunch boxes are at the ready. I can’t believe we’re here already.

It seems like yesterday that we were packing up the moving trucks.

And telling the kids about our dream of a farm…

Where did it go?

It’s been a very different summer. But in a good way. It’s been a sifting summer, a refining summer. A season of dreaming and reflecting and shifting and regrouping. Some parts I would choose, and some parts make me want to get back in my bed.

As if that was an option.

Time marches on. My babies aren’t babies anymore.

Now this little nugget is finally going off to school. (Pretty much against my will.)

She couldn’t be more excited. She asks me every 20 minutes how many days until school starts. She pats my hand and says, “You’ll be ok, Mama. You have Bear and Birdie.”

I haven’t been alone in 23 years. This year my BABY baby is starting school, and my 3rd oldest baby will graduate from high school.

I am not ok. I have planned my schedule meticulously.

• drop kids off at school

• return home

• cry

• eat donuts in bed

• repeat

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬)

Keep Digging

I am thankful:

~ for lots of progress on the farm. I have to remind myself, slow progress is still progress.

So many people have asked, “so what exactly do you DO when you go out there?” And, “so what is the timeline on the house?” As much as Josh and I both wish we could blink and have everything completed, that’s just not the way it works. Does it work that way with ANYTHING?

This is a beautiful if maddening picture of the journey being even more important than the destination. We are side by side with our kids. They are working hard, getting sweaty, and learning new things every day.

They are playing in the dirt, chasing cats, and eating popsicles. We are literally framing a 4000 square foot barn one board at a time. We are learning, in a million different ways, what it actually means to be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.

~ for the cutest puppies on the planet. Bear and Birdie’s miniature Goldendoodle pups are now 4 weeks old, and we love to love on them! We still have several available, so feel free to put the word out if you know of someone who needs a new snuggle buddy! You can find our G & W Goldendoodles Facebook page here.

~ for an incredible night of delicious food and fellowship at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT Support Group. Although I stressed a bit about hosting at our new ever-so-SLIGHTLY-smaller home, the Lord didn’t let me shy away. AND WHAT A BLESSING! There is just nothing like gathering with people who understand the hardest parts of your life, and the opportunity to lift one another up! We laughed our heads off, ate until we could hardly breathe, and together we prayed heaven down. I could not be more grateful for the priceless gift and honor of loving on these families.

I was super encouraged by the message at church this morning. It was an exhortation to not give up. We can’t give up when things get hard. I know we all KNOW that, but don’t we sometimes need to be reminded? How many times have we found ourselves in a place we never wanted to be, certainly never THOUGHT we’d be, and just had the thought, “That’s it! I’ve had as much as I can take, and I’m just DONE!”

We don’t get to be done.

Wherever we find ourselves, that’s where God has us for now, and even if we can’t make ANY SENSE OF IT AT ALL, there’s purpose in it. In trial, in weakness, in suffering, in brokenness, in sickness…He is there with us, and as long as there is breath in us, we are here for His purposes.

And on the flip side, we MUST NOT GIVE UP WHEN THINGS ARE GOING GREAT! We pray and beg and plead for God to lift us out of the muck and the mire, and when He does, we thank him (hopefully) and then somehow we so often go back on cruise control. Until we find ourselves back in a ditch. We have to remain connected to our Father and His people in the good times and the bad. WE NEVER CEASE TO NEED OUR FATHER!

I was just so encouraged and convicted. We have to KEEP DIGGING. Digging into the Word. Digging deeper into an intimate relationship with God. Digging down through the rubble of apathy and laziness for fresh Living Water.

Sometimes life seems dry and too hard. Too many kids. Too many puppies. Too many fires to put out. Too many bills. Too many setbacks.

BUT GOD.

So I’m gonna keep on loving my babies and teach them Jesus the best I can. And every time I screw up, I’m going to try to do better the next day. I’m gonna hoist those boards and build that barn. I’m gonna get out of bed when I don’t feel like it and do the work. And keep digging.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:47-48)

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

“David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”(1Chronicles 28:20)

Summer Lovin

We love the beach. This week we loaded up and made the trip to our happy place. So thankful for this family and for the opportunity to make special memories. I know each day is a gift; these babies aren’t babies anymore.

Texas Burger
Straight to the beach
Transforming Tatum K into a mermaid
Feeding the seagulls is always a favorite
We always celebrate Adoption Day while on vacation. So thankful for these three miracles.
Night fishing

It was a great week. I don’t expect relaxation from our super-sized family excursions. It’s never perfect. It’s messy and flawed and loud and bumpy and absolutely exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade this Tribe for anything. And I will be grateful for EVERY OPPORTUNITY to enjoy being all together as many times as I can.

Saturday marked the 8 year anniversary of the terrible day we were told our baby, 7 month old Sawyer, had cancer. It’s always a hard day for me. You can read my thoughts on “Cancerversary” here.

It’s wonderful to get away for a change of scenery, but it’s good to be home. Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalms‬ ‭116:7‬)

If You Know You Know

I am thankful.

We’ve had some wrestling going on this week. Quiet challenges, startling news. Seemed like one thing after another. Not exactly a week of walking in victory.

But God.

Sometimes He lets us stay smack dab in the middle of the “hard,” because He has us there for a reason.

And sometimes, He says it’s time for cheese balls.

If you know you know…

(And if not, check out a previous blog post for an explanation.)

Thank You God for You unfailing Love in good times and in hard. And thank You for cheese balls.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalms‬ ‭139:17-18‬)

His Best

I am thankful:

~ for 8 healthy puppies! Bear and Birdie had their third litter last week, and we are up to our eyeballs with the round-the-clock puppy routine! Follow G&W Goldendoodles on Facebook for available puppies and the cutest updated pictures of these little sweeties.

~ for the most delicious Abuelos and Villa Montez dinner dates with my Love.

~ for the older kids having an amazing week at Pine Cove, and the youngers having a blast at VBS.

The girls had fun with Crazy Hair Day

~ for a full week of family, farm, and fireworks!

Barn foundation repairs in progress
Fans installed
All lit up!
More framing
Kora is learning how to be quite the carpentry hand
Tic tac toe up high

~ for an unexpected treat: an evening at Splash Kingdom followed by our first trip to Canton’s iconic Dairy Palace! I sure do love me a good lazy river!

Life is good, hot, and busy. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day to day that I find myself running on fumes. Operating in my own strength instead of His, and that is a recipe for burnout and discouragement. How in the world could I find myself battling anxiety again when life is going great? It doesn’t matter how much GOOD is going on…without God first, I miss His BEST.

Thank You Jesus for lovingly guiding my heart when I start to get lost.

And to all of you, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.” (Psalms 116:5-6)

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalms 62:5)

Victory

I am thankful:

Truly overwhelmed in the very best way tonight. Humbled. Blessed.

Today Zoe (10) and Sawyer (8) chose to make their public profession of faith through the covenant of baptism.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4) Every child is special. Every baptism is cause for great rejoicing.

The Lord really spoke to me about these two leading up to this day.

Everybody pretty much knows Sawyer’s story. He’s a walking miracle in every way. We never dared dream he’d live to see his FIRST BIRTHDAY, let alone grow up to be an incredible 8 year old with a heart for Jesus and make his own solid decision to follow the Lord.

Not as many people know about our Zoe. Our quiet mouse. Our brown eyed girl. She’s a little mystery. Lots of struggles. Lots of sweetness. We met Zoe as a sickly, completely non-verbal, terrified 18 month old that had been in foster care for more than half her life. She immediately attached herself to Carson Grace’s and wouldn’t allow her to put her down. Like EVER. Carson had a rug burn rash on her hip for weeks! Within days of Zoe’s arrival in our home, she began to respond to and mimic the simple sign language I taught her, and within months she was a healthy, happy little girl, presumably for the first time in her life.

Zoe is a walking miracle in every way. And to see her make the conscious decision that she wants to follow Jesus melts my heart.

The gravity of what happened today has really given me pause. I look at these two beautiful children, and realize how purposefully Satan pursued them. He actively sought to rob them of their very lives before they even began. He must have known that God had a remarkable purpose and plan for each of them, so he tried to steal them away.

But he failed.

Zoe and Sawyer belong to Jesus.

I think about the rumble that tore through the heavens as the saints and angels rejoiced and their lives were SEALED.

I think of Uncle Alan, who spend his birthday (which JUST HAPPENED to be today) with Jesus. We missed him terribly today, but I know EXACTLY how loud he was singing “Happy Birthday to MEEEE” when his niece and nephew came up out of that water. Nobody loved their birthday more than Alan, and I know he was THRILLED to share his earthly birthday with their spiritual one.

I think about my friend, my Brother, who baptized my children, his first time “officiating” in that way. A life changing moment for all three.

I think about Zoe’s sweet camp counselor who prayed with her and led her to accept Christ, and who joined us for her special day. Zoe has made such an impact on her.

I think of Sawyer’s oncologist, and back to the day when she voiced her honest questions and skepticism about faith, and Sawyer’s simple response, “There is an order to all things.” And I know he has made such a remarkable impact on her already, AND SHE HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE PRAYING FOR HER because of him.

I think about all the chains that have broken, and the sting of death stolen because of what Jesus did for us, for them, and I marvel at the impact this day will have on the lives of countless others over the years.

I am so honored to get to be their mom, and now their sister in Christ.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 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 29:11-14)

Light

I am thankful:

~ for Samantha having the most incredible opportunity to go and shadow her cousin, Emma, at her job at an equestrian facility.

Sam has had horse fever for a while now, and our plans for country living have amplified them BIG TIME. But we of course need to make sure she understands how much hard work, sacrifice, and commitment horses are before we get in over our heads. This was a great first opportunity for her to spend some real time with real horses. And let me just say…she is SMITTEN! So thankful for this wonderful opportunity. And Emma is a tremendously patient and gifted teacher!

~ for the unexpected blessing of a dinner date with my Love and Colton! Best steak ever, also!

~ for a fun, if WAY TOO SHORT, visit from sweet Grace.

~ for a great trip to the public library to get everyone set up for their school summer reading assignments

…and for the EXQUISITE hour each day when everyone is reading SILENTLY, and I get to spend time with my new hobby – grown up paint-by-numbers! My sweet friend wanted to make sure I had a creative outlet while we take our hiatus from Giddyup & Whoa, and this project has been just the ticket!

~ for tremendous progress on my latest farm project – clearing thorn-vine-choked crepe myrtles. These poor shrubs were completely smothered, and little by little, I have fought to set them free.

Before…

I’m pretty sure this thicket has been the main source of my poison ivy or oak, so I’m thankful to be almost done! I am also on my THIRD DOSE of steroids, and the worst of the rash is clearing up. I’m SO READY to be done with that!

~ for icy cold watermelon and hot gas station pizza!

~ for watching my husband be the best dad. He’s so intentional with both our boys and our girls, teaching them tips and skills. Our girls have helped frame the barn and tend the burn pile, and Gavin had a mowing lesson this week.

~ for three happy kids who got dropped off for a glorious week at Pine Cove Summer Camp. Cooper, Samantha, and Kora were so excited for this amazing opportunity, and it was a family affair to brave the sweltering Texas heatwave to get them set up with their cabins and bunk mates. I would say it will be a quiet week without them, but I know better! I know they will have a wonderful time, and I pray they press into all that the Lord has for them in this perfectly appointed setting.

~ for a most welcome surprise: a visit from our dear neighbor (from 2 neighborhoods ago) Mr. Stockton. We were sad many years ago when he moved to Houston, but have been glad to keep in touch every now and then. We got a call that he was in town and wanted to “see his kids,” and it just blessed us to pieces.

2016
2018
2022

~ for the sweetest neighborhood friendships.

~ for country sunsets. I can’t get enough of them.

Friends, will you please join me in praying for our precious HERO friend, Bristell? At just 4 years old, she is facing her THIRD battle with cancer. News of her recent relapse devastated her family, and they were initially told they were out of options. BUT GOD. He opened a door for a clinical trial in Houston, and she was enrolled in 24 hours. Let’s lift up this incredible little girl and her family!

More reminded than ever this week that life is a gift. Relationships, connections, causal interactions, all have purpose. Split second turning points: choose to be curt or be kind. Or to be kind or be QUIET. For better or worse, we impact those around us in big and small ways. Are we building or tearing down? We always have the choice to be humbly grateful or grumbly hateful. And both postures are contagious. Let’s be Light in this dark world.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:12-16)

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

Summer

I am thankful:

~ for the unparalleled overwhelming Love of Jesus that has poured out among the hurting families in our church. Thank you for the prayers, and please keep them coming!

~ for walks in our new neighborhood.

We’ve met some kind neighbors and are gradually settling in. Hanging up some familiar decor makes it feel more like home.

~ for a great morning shopping with Paula for toys for the Gold Network Children’s Hospital Oncology Prize Closet. We are wrapping up the Toy Drive, and went shopping with an amazing $1000 that had been generously donated. I’ll be gathering the donated toys from all our drop-off locations around East Texas, and I CANNOT WAIT to see how many toys you helped us collect! THANK YOU to all who donated!

~ for lots of progress on the farm!

Brush hogging✔️

Excavator✔️

Electricity on in the barn✔️

Water on✔️

Chainsaw lesson✔️

Cleaning up the barn slab✔️

Rides on the new mower✔️

I can’t express the joy Josh and I are feeling as we work hard side by side with our kids and slowly bring out the true beauty of this neglected little piece of land. When we spend the day out there, we leave exhausted, dripping with sweat, scratched up from thorns, and covered in grit…and truly, absolutely, remarkably HAPPY.

~ for our first glorious sunset.

~ for an amazing day for our 3rd HERO Hangouts outing. We were able to take 55 childhood cancer warriors, siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends to a Texas Ranger baseball game!

Amazing tickets, parking, ballpark food, Blue Bell ice cream, and a WIN made for a fabulous day! It fills my heart with such joy to be able to gather these incredible families together for a fun day that has NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER!

I had the opportunity to share testimonies with a few people at the stadium, and they were truly blessed. Thank You Lord for Gold Network ETX, and the favor You have poured out on us. Out of our very worst nightmare You birthed a vessel of blessing to so many, and we will be forever grateful.

~ for our first LIVESTOCK acquisitions for the farm! We hope they will help us keep the mice, rats, and snakes at bay! Meet Bo, Luke, and Daisy!

~ for a great first night at VBS. Kids are having a blast.

What a kickoff to summer. I know this is one we will always remember.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”(Psalms 113:3)

Hurt

I am thankful:

That I can come to Jesus with my hurts and my questions and my anger and my fears and my disappointments and my confusion.

And He loves me there.

As a part of the Body of Christ, when part of us hurts, we all hurt.

The events in Uvalde have left us stunned and aching. We don’t understand WHY or HOW. So we hold one another and we pray. And we ask God to show us how we can help.

Closer to home, our church has suffered a crippling loss. Our pastor’s youngest son, a vibrant husband and father in the prime of his life, was tragically killed in a car accident Wednesday morning. This is the second tragic death among their 5 sons. The shock and grief are paralyzing. We don’t understand WHY or HOW. So we hold one another and we pray. And we ask God to show us how we can help.

https://gofund.me/b10f1ecc

So this week I’m not going to share what I ate that was yummy or all that we got done this week.

I’m thankful to be surrounded by a Body that loves Jesus and His people well.

I’m thankful that this broken world is just a pit stop on our way home where we belong.

I’m thankful for an anchoring hope that will not pass away.

Let’s love one another well this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)

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

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah” (Psalms 61:1-4)

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14)