Build

I am thankful:

So I know I dropped a bomb last week. But first things first…

Sawyer asked Jesus into his heart to be his Lord and Savior! We are REJOICING! He asked us lots of questions, and we asked him lots of questions, and it is abundantly clear that he knows exactly what he is doing and why. What rejoicing there is in heaven!

Now, on to our other news. It’s been a long and complicated road with lots of twists and turns, but it finally looks like it’s actually going to happen. We are moving!

I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, we’ve been thinking the same thing ourselves. WHY!? We love our house and our neighborhood so much. We have worked so hard on it to get it just exactly the way we wanted, and it’s just so perfect for us. Almost 6 years ago we asked the Lord for this, and He delivered BIG TIME.

October 2017

But we are entering into a new season with lots of fear and lots of trembling, but also lots of excitement. And He has shown us that the time to leap is now.

We are building a house in the country!

We found a breathtaking 10 acre tract of land, and the kids are all-a-flutter, choosing names for pet chickens, thinking about pygmy goats, and barn cats, ATV riding, and even a horse!

But as of now…there is no house.

That means a pit stop in a QUAINT (aka TEENSY WEENSY, as in less than HALF the size of our current home) rent house for the next year while the farmhouse is built. All I can say is, in the beginning, Josh tried to convince me that ALL 10 of us could live for a year IN AN RV. So I’m BEYOND THANKFUL for a 4 bed, 2 bath rent house! It’s an ADVENTURE!

On every level, this change is bittersweet. We have had moments of unbridled excitement and we’ve had lots and lots of tears. It’s getting really really real. Rooms are emptying daily as we take loads to the rent house, we had a massive yard sale yesterday, clearing out 87,000 pounds of JUNK. Seriously, how could we POSSIBLY have so much STUFF!?

I have personally gone through the gamut of emotions. Fear. I hate change. Sadness. I love this house and never wanted to move. Fear again. What if our building plans fall through? What if something terrible happens? What if we regret this decision? Sadness again. The kids are going to miss their neighbor friends so much, as are Josh and I. Discouragement. The rent house is so tiny, we are going to be on top of each other and drive each other nuts. This is going to be the loooongest year ever. Sadness again. My painstakingly scraped beams. The brick floors. THE POOL! But somehow, I know it’s right. And I am CONVINCED that God has a purpose for us in our new little house in our new little neighborhood, even if it’s temporary. He’s planting us there to be a light and a blessing. And MY ATTITUDE will set the tone for the attitudes of my children. If I’m sour and negative, they will be too. I want to BUILD (our family, our kids, our literal physical house) not tear down!

So buck up buttercup!

In the midst of our reservations about the unknown, we are clinging to what God has shown us along the way. The exhortation in His Word that spoke so loudly and so clearly to both of us. Be strong and courageous and do the work. So that’s where we’re at right now.

We are grateful for your prayers, particularly this week. God’s timing often makes us simultaneously laugh and cry. Within the next 5 days we will close on selling our house, close on buying our land, spend our last night in this house, first night in the rent house, and the kids will have their last day of 11th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade, along with all the end-of-school activities that go along with that.

One last thing on the topic of BUILDING – Sawyer is participating in a childhood cancer Lego Building Challenge this week. Starting tonight, you can visit https://www.buildingsmiles.org and vote for his Lego creation. One vote per day. Sawyer’s entry is #16 in the under 10 age division. So fun!

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

Thank you for walking along with our family on this crazy journey. We are so grateful for all of your love and support and prayers. Looking forward to sharing this wild ride with you over the next year, and filled with expectant hope to see all that God will unfold along the way. We are not just building a house. He is building something in us, and with us. It’s not going to be easy, but IT IS going to be GOOD! Let’s GO!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”(Proverbs 14:1)

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:5-6)

“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)

Wild Ride

I am thankful:

~ for the one who made me a Mama 23 years ago.

How is my baby boy so grown? It was fun to celebrate him, and feast on his consistent annual menu of choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and confetti cake.

~ for more good baseball. (And is it ok if I’m also thankful that the end of the season is in sight?)

~ for my favorite Farmer’s Market salad from Piada Italian Street food. Even if I almost had to share it…

~ for an amazing morning with Sawyer the Warrior representing Gold Network of East Texas at the Annual LukeStrong Race in Palestine.

It’s such a special event, honoring the brave children fighting cancer and their families. I met some incredible people and left with wet eyes and a full heart. Sawyer had a blast playing games and shooting Nerf guns, and proudly told everyone all day what he had had for breakfast: 2 1/2 donuts and a snow cone. Love going to these events with my amazing miracle boy.

~ for a lovely day in Carthage swimming and being blessed by Gina and Justin. They outdid themselves, BBQing the most delicious chicken, accompanied by a tasty salad and the most decadent array of desserts. They spoiled us!

~ for a lovely low-key Mother’s Day with my Loves. A ZINGER of a Sunday sermon, Rounders for lunch, and then more swimming for the kids. I’m so blessed.

~ oh, and one more thing…

SURPRISE!

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride…

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

Breathe In

I am thankful:

~ for generous givers on East Texas Giving Day. Gold Network of East Texas received more than $600 in donations!

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

~ for the triumphant successful completion of our largest Giddyup & Whoa order to date! We were commissioned by our high school to create 67 handpainted reclaimed wood signs for the parents of the 2022 graduating class!

It was an intense effort of measuring, cutting, sanding, building, sanding again, field painting, handlettering, and watercoloring each one.

Then each was stamped with GW and wrapped with our signature twine and tag!

Phew! What a fun challenge! Thankful that even though I received the order with only 20 days to have them completed, I actually beat my deadline by 3 days!

~ for a fun visit with Aunt Gina and Uncle Justin, who made the trip to Tyler and helped Josh and I divide and conquer to attend the 2 baseball games + 1 Spring Concert we had…all at 7pm on the SAME NIGHT! I was thankful to get to see Zoe’s concert and catch most of Gavin’s game,

but SO DISAPPOINTED that I missed witnessing Sawyer running OUT OF HIS SHOE and scoring a run BAREFOOT!!! (Thankful that Samantha got pictures!)

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for Sir Gavin the Knight of the House of Rucker having an awesome Medieval Feast with his 5th grade class.

~ for priceless time with our Gold Network ETX HERO couples at our CONNECT Support Group. Beautiful fresh flowers, delicious BBQ, and decadent desserts set the stage for a time of loving on these families through whatever stage of the cancer journey they are in. How we love our time with them!

~ for a special treat for the boys: Colton’s birthday gift to his dad was tickets for the 5 of them to the Texas Rangers game! What an awesome day! Even came away with a W!

~ that I got to enjoy a sweet time with my girls while the boys were away. After church we enjoyed stuffing our faces at Olive Garden! Restaurant dining is a rare treat for our bunch, so they were THRILLED!

~ for a husband who loves me right where I am. In my struggles. In my mess. In my doubts. In my fears. He lovingly leads our family, and I’m so grateful I can trust him completely, because I know his trust is in the Lord. There are big changes brewing on the horizon for our Tribe, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. But there’s no adventure I wouldn’t risk with him. My “Whoa” would sure miss out on a lot if it wasn’t for his “Giddyup!”

But I don’t always FEEL adventurous and excited about change. Sometimes my emotions and fears and anxieties take over and I’m, well…the word “basketcase” comes to mind. BUT GOD. I calm my heart by returning my eyes from the waves to my Savior. And I give thanks for the little blessings that surround me. Hugs and kisses and coffee and silly dogs and silly kids and coffee and the smell of candles and fresh laundry and coffee.

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

Eventually, we will make it victoriously across the finish line. And we won’t even care if we lost a shoe along the way.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1-2)

Stretching

I am thankful:

~ for a safe spot to weather the latest rash of East Texas storms!

~ for Gavin’s school project: using fractions in a recipe, and cooking a treat to bless the custodial staff at the school. He chose one of his great grandmother’s recipes. So fun! And what an awesome assignment!

~ for awesome spring evenings at the ballpark.

~ for the opportunity to snuggle some of Bear and Birdie’s puppies! It’s so awesome when we get to see them!

~ for a heartwarming, long-awaited reunion. Years ago Sawyer made a special friend at the Lighthouse Family Retreat for cancer families in Florida. One of the families serving had a daughter named SAWYER! They were instant fast friends because of their names, even though she was several years older.

We were thrilled to find out that Sawyer and her family lived in Fort Worth! They made the trip to Dallas several times to see our Sawyer at his oncology checkups, but it’s been at least a couple years.

Well last week I got a call that their family was camping at Tyler State Park, and they wanted to get the Sawyers back together. I kept the secret, and asked MY Sawyer if he remembered his Lighthouse friend. His eyes lit up when I asked if he’d like to make her a card to send in the mail. He quickly set to work, and asked me, “Mama, how do you spell, ‘I miss you so much and I hope we can see each other soon’?” My heart sang! We met at C Rojos, and Sawyer and Sawyer were SO EXCITED to see each other! Our families had the most wonderful, if way to short, visit! I love the connection they have!

~ for a great day at the Vintage & Co Spring Barn Sale Preview Day. Each sale they do an Early Bird Day with an admission charge that benefits their charity of choice. This time they chose Gold Network of East Texas! What an awesome blessing! Tatum K was my trusty assistant. But more than once, she frighted guests by popping out from under my table!

~ for a wonderful evening watching Kora and her classmates 6th Grade production of “How I Became a Pirate.” She did such a great job, and had so much fun.

~ for one of Sawyer’s self-proclaimed “Best Days of My Life.” The beloved “Creature Teacher came to visit their class! Baby kangaroo, lemur, and a python were just a few of the animals they got to meet up close and personal. I LOVE the pictures captured of Sawyer’s excitement!

~ for the amazing milestone, Tatum K taking her admissions assessment to start Kindergarten at GCS in the fall! How is my littlest peanut so big!? She was tearful that morning, “I’m afraid to be wif-out you, Mama!” But she calmed down and had fun with the teacher. What is my mama heart to do!?

We are in such a season of stretching in our family. The kids are quite literally stretching, growing out of their clothes and shoes almost daily. But more than the physical stretching, we are in a place where God is causing each of us to be stretched out of our comfort zone in about 17 million directions. I have definitely come to the realization that I am NOT A FAN OF STRETCHING. But I know it’s necessary. And I know it’s good. There is not much growth that happens when we are comfortable or still. It’s an awesome lesson to talk through with the kids, and even more awesome (not really) to see how much still I need the very same lesson myself.

When my faith is sifted back down to a mustard seed, I see more clearly than ever my need for a Savior. I’m nothing without Him. BUT GOD! Because WITH Him, and Him in me, all things truly are possible. So grateful for the beautiful and terrifying adventure He has in store! And even though I’m not always a fan of the process of stretching and growing…I know the best is yet to come. I don’t want to stay where I am. So let’s get to stretching…

Are YOU willing to be stretched?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

~ for baseball, baseball, and MORE BASEBALL. (And finally got to see Samantha play softball!) It’s a busy season with constant practices and back to back games, but we are loving it.

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

~ for wonderful friends who walk beside me in good times and bad. What a blessing not to walk alone.

~ for 2 special birthdays this week! First we got to celebrate Josh: a down home Southern meal of mashed taters and country fried steak. And yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing of course!

And then the self proclaimed Birthday Princess herself, Miss Tatum K, who was very proud to turn 5!

After much back and forth, she settled on a menu of homemade pizza, salad, and CHIPS! And for her dessert, she remained true to her love of both sweets: confetti cake and lemon pie.

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

If you are new-ish around here, back when Tatum K was a baby, she would chant and beg for cake and pie in her high chair, banging the tray with a fork in each fist like a little pirate. And when I asked her if she wanted cake or pie for her 2nd birthday, without blinking an eye, she replied, “YES!” So it’s been cake AND pie ever since! Love that spicy girl!

2021
2020
2019

~ for a Giddyup and Whoa order of epic proportions! We have an order for 67 signs, due in 2 weeks! It’s all hands on deck around here!

~ for a successful kickoff of our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Oncology Clinic Toy Drive.

We have several drop off locations across East Texas, and will be collecting until May 15. A small toy, craft, or gift card is such a small thing to us, but such a blessing to kids of all ages going through cancer treatment. Just a tiny incentive to make them smile through the hard. We were blessed to benefit from a Camp Gladiator Super Saturday this week. An amazing workout group collected toys and funds to support the toy drive. You can drop toys at any of our locations, or give online at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate and we’ll do the shopping for you!

Current drop off locations (looking for more!!):

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

Big Daddy’s Stereo 2624 Bill Owens Pkwy Longview, TX 75604

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

Village Salon 1118 W. Panola St., Carthage, Tx 75633

Serenity Salon & Spa 2500 East End Blvd. North Marshall, TX 75670

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

Kingdom Veterinary Clinic 15051 County Rd 1103, Flint, TX 75762

I was so encouraged during my Bible reading this morning. As so often is the case, I read a Scripture for like the millionth time, and it suddenly stood out to me like never before. In 1 Chronicles, David is talking to his son Solomon about the monumental task of building the temple, and he says, ““Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” I read it again and again. I told Josh, “If this is not our family motto, I don’t know what is!” It’s really that simple. Be strong and courageous, and DO THE WORK. We have to be willing to work. Everything isn’t always going to just fall into place. We all have to do hard things. Make hard choices. Make hard changes. We can’t sit idly by and watch as life passes us by. BUT GOD! The Scripture goes on to encourage, “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.” (1 Chronicles 28:20). We do not labor alone or in vain. He is with us always. He sees. He cares. He has a plan. But He expects us, COMMANDS US, to do the work, to put our hands to the plow. To extend ourselves expectantly, knowing that He is moving with us. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me. We personally are in a season right now where it is time to be brave and do the work. He is faithful. And I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:17-18)

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalms 143:8)

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (2 Samuel 22:29-34)

Spring

I am thankful:

~ for each one of you. It never ceases to amaze me that anyone still reads these blog posts, but here you are. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words and prayers after last week’s heavy post. This life is filled with much we can never understand, and the suffering of children is at the top of that list. Our HERO families continue to put one foot in front of the other, facing each hard challenge as it comes, because they don’t have a choice. Thank you for your continued prayers for these precious families.

~ for the glorious arrival of Spring. The sun soaked days are good medicine. Elephant ears are forcing their spikes from the earth, fresh flowers on the front steps, and our freeze-ravaged azaleas are trying their best to shine. Even my resurrected orchid has pushed two more stunning blooms!

~ for baseball! It’s been several years since the big boys played ball, and it’s finally Gavin and Sawyer’s turn. We’ve got multiple practices. and multiple games every week. It’s a daily affair. Late nights and sandy shoes.

It’s both boys’ first time to play, and we could not have asked for better coaches for their first experience. They love Jesus and are so kind and encouraging when they work with the teams. It’s so fun for Josh and I to watch them having so much fun!

~ for ooey gooey magic cookie bar deliciousness. I haven’t made them in years…how did I forget how WONDERFUL THEY ARE?

~ for a wonderful night for Cooper for his Junior Prom. Isn’t he so handsome? How is he so GROWN?

~ for such a special chapel play for Sawyer and his class. Sawyer had a very important part: the role of Jesus! Who knew Jesus could have worn glasses and had such a cool hairdo?? It still stops my heart to see him doing all the normal, healthy KID stuff we never dared allow ourselves to hope for him.

~ for the yummiest cheesy instant pot lasagna. New recipe was an instant favorite.

~ for the cutest little April Fools in all the land. We love Jolly Joke Day!

~ for a house full of young folks (how old do I sound?) as we hosted the youth group this evening. Such a neat group of kids.

Life is such a rollercoaster, and I feel like I’m holding on for dear life. BUT GOD. I know He knows. I know He sees. Good days and hard days and impossible days and everything in between. It seems like every time I blink everything and everyone has flashed forward. I just remind myself to breathe Him in deeply, and exhale with thanksgiving. A day is coming when He will wipe away every tear. He is faithful. There is an order to all things.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 62:5-6)

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:23-25)

Diving into Spring!

I am thankful:

~ for a simultaneously full and relaxed Spring Break with my Loves. The long-awaited sunshine warmed me from the inside out.

~ for tart and refreshing key lime pie to celebrate Pi Day! (3.14) Bear and Birdie got a good sniff, but didn’t get to share. (Although upon examining my photo, I spy something that looks suspiciously like whipped cream on Bear’s mustache…)

~ for our long-standing tradition of Spring Break Breakfast Dates with Mom. One-on-one time is a precious commodity, and these brief stolen moments are so special. I know how much I love going, but it surprised and blessed me to see how much each of the kids valued it as well. They eagerly leapt out of bed when it was their turn, voluntarily dressed in favorite outfits, and agonized over their restaurant choices. Best week of my year. (I’m exhausted and FULL!)

~ for a donut as big as Tatum K’s leg!

~ for a fun day visit with Grandmommy and Aunt Gina. We visited and laughed and caught up on each other. Our whole Tribe journeyed to Jucy’s for delicious burgers, fried pickles, and beans. The kids enjoyed the pool, and then Grandmommy treated our kids and half the neighborhood to fully loaded banana splits! What a fun day!

~ for green-stained smiles from green-dyed oatmeal on St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody got pinched!

~ for the most darling “gold” shirts for me and my girls. Thanks Gina Sue!

Came across these while spring cleaning, and stopped in my tracks. While on treatment for leukemia, Sawyer took zofran for nausea around the clock. Every 6 hours for pretty much 3 solid years. And hydrocodone regularly for the intense bone pain and neuropathy that would wake him screaming multiple times every night. I truly can’t believe we all survived that nightmarish season. BUT GOD! Thank You Jesus for our amazing miracle boy!

Feeling so very thankful tonight. For my precious kids that are so incredibly unique, and so thoughtfully and precisely chosen by God for our unique family. For my husband and best friend who pushes me way past my limits and stretches me out of my comfort, in such a maddening and loving and growth-inspiring way. He is SO the Giddyup to my Whoa, and we balance and ignite one another. There’s no one else I’d rather dream crazy dreams with.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalms 65:8)

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” (Psalms 127:3-5)

Our Peace

I am thankful:

~ for a decadent breakfast at my all time favorite place, First Watch on “Breakfast Day” with Dad and TK. Their pillowy waffles and spicy maple cayenne bacon are what I dream about.

~ for an awesome week for Cooper on Go Week. Each GCS High School grade goes on a different class trip, and Juniors spent the week touring historical sites from Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee back to Dallas. Such an amazing opportunity.

~ for the smell of fresh baked cookies.

~ for an awesome sunshine- soaked day at the ballpark. The UT Tyler Patriot Baseball Team held a “Strike Out Childhood Cancer “ game, and invited Gold Network of ETX families to be honored at the game. 14 year old osteosarcoma survivor, Corbin Glasscock, threw out the first pitch. It was a special day!

~ for Spring Break. Excited for a laid back week with the kids. No real plans, no schedule, just freedom from watching the clock. Lots of baseball practices and sunshine I hope.

Birdie and Bear love to watch baseball practice

~ for the life and legacy of our friend, Sophie. Sawyer only met Sophie once at the hospital, but they bonded instantly and he talked about her constantly.

Sawyer and Sophie in 2017

She was a spunky and sassy and I think Tatum K would have been crazy over her. Sophie was stolen from her family by lymphoma in 2018 before her 3rd birthday. This Saturday she will celebrate turning 7, but in heaven with Jesus instead of here with her Mama and Daddy and little brother. Her incredible family has purposed to make her birthday a day of celebration and encouragement, a day to spread kindness and the love of Jesus in Sophie’s memory. They will take a massive toy donation to Children’s in Dallas to share joy with other kids in their battle. You can donate directly to Sophie’s mom, Shelby here www.paypal.me/ShelbySkiles. Or you can just find a way to spread kindness on March 19. Buy someone’s coffee. Make a meal for a sick friend. #domoreforsophie Happy birthday, sweet girl. We won’t ever forget.

This week I’ve just been super conscious of the stirring God is doing in my heart. I shared last week about feeling like I was at the beginning of coming out of the dark season of oppressive anxiety. I’ve continued to seek the Lord’s leading daily, and have experienced a closeness and a refreshing in His presence. My circumstances and my biology have not changed. Every problem and anxiety is still right there waiting for me, waiting to trip me up, waiting to steal my joy. But I am healthier than I once was. Stronger. I physically feel the armor of the God protecting my heart and my mind.

I was really struck by this Scripture in a new way this week. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We may think of PEACE as being passive, the absence of conflict. I never thought about the PEACE OF GOD BEING A GUARD. Jesus is our peace, and He is actively protecting us. Watching over our hearts and minds, if we only will give thanks and ask.

There is so much stirring in my heart…what lies ahead I can scarcely imagine. But I’m thankful for this corner I’ve turned. Doesn’t mean I don’t still have my struggles, hard days, dark days. But instead of feeling like I am sleepwalking, I am alive. Instead of a spectator, I am engaged and ready to put my hands to the plow.

That’s something I learned from Sophie. Life is hard. God is bigger.

May you be encouraged, literally FILLED WITH COURAGE, this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:14-17)

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalms 34:3-4, 14-15)

Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

~ for the great privilege to have the freedom to vote. Tatum K and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a friend and candidate. It was such a sweet time with my girl. And when we went inside to vote, she even got to cast my ballot!

~ for a fun and different sign challenge. A dear friend has opened a new birthday party venue, and she asked me to create a sign for her…probably A YEAR AGO! I had started it right away, but almost immediately developed a creative block. I can do lettering or paint solid colors blindfolded and asleep. But a bright, multicolored, whimsical piece was more like the paintings I did 20 years ago, when I used to paint name canvases for children’s rooms and colorful teachers’ chairs. But this week I finally got inspired, and laid down layer upon layer of blended color, then fine-tuned the lettering, and finally finished with all the tiny details and GLITTER! Such a fun project!

My poor dogs

~ for God’s provision and the Body of Christ in action. One afternoon, I was sitting in traffic at a long red light, totally zoning out, when a tap on my window startled me to death! A school dad had hopped out of his car to alert me that our rear bus tire was low. Like REALLY LOW.

I pulled over and sent a picture of it to Josh, who sent me straight to the tire shop. Not the afternoon I had planned: 4 of my school kids plus Tatum K plus one kiddo who had stayed home from school sick (and those two of course had no shoes on because they were not expecting to get out of the car) PLUS two extra kiddos I had for the afternoon! So that’s 9 of us basically filling EVERY SEAT of the waiting room! But what a miracle that we made it there – the mechanic found a 3 inch screw in my tire! They took great care of us, and we are so grateful for a good ending to an eventful afternoon.

~ thankful for another great hibachi dinner on the flat top. Colton tried his hand at it this time. Fried rice with veggies, chicken, and shrimp…delish!

~ for a great evening of worship and teaching at a local women’s conference. I was invited by a friend, and several ladies were going from our church, but I really battled whether I actually wanted to go. My anxiety always flares up when I have to get out of my comfort zone in social settings, and I rarely attend any event that takes me away from my husband and kids. I just like to be home with my people. But God just keep drawing me, and I knew I was supposed to push past my comfort, and that I was supposed to go. I sat in my car for several long minutes before I worked up the courage to go inside, and endured some awkwardness as I entered the crowded foyer filled with groups of ladies chatting. My heart wedged somewhere between my throat and my armpit. But I found some friends to sit with, and when worship began, I closed my eyes tightly and turned my focus to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Almighty who made me and loves me unwaveringly as His child. And I was swept into the Throne Room. The teaching that followed was powerful, convicting, and inspiring. I left feeling awakened and challenged. What a gift.

~ for a fun, early morning cheering Josh on at the Fresh 15K race. We parked at the halfway point until he ran by, and then made our way to the finish line to cheer him in. So proud of him!

I’ve been pretty open here with my personal struggle with anxiety. It’s been a dark and ugly battle, crippling at times. But I am able to say with great joy, I see a brightening light at the end of this very long and lonely tunnel. I have heard the phrase over and over in my mind recently, “coming out of the dark.” I’m so grateful to feel a little stronger, a little lighter, and a little more capable. But I know that no matter how I feel or how I have ever felt, the Lord has walked with me faithfully all along. In my weakness, He is strong. He pours through all the gaping holes in me, and uses me even though I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give. What an awesome God we serve!

Whatever you find yourself walking though, whether you feel yourself coming out of the dark or smack dab in the middle of it, be encouraged. He’s behind you and before you and on every side. And darkness won’t last forever.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,”(Psalms 107:13-15)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” (Micah 7:7-8)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1)