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)

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)

We Pray

I am thankful:

~ for “Breakfast Day” aka Dad’s day off, with Tatum K. Roost (a new restaurant for us) was great, with perfect coffee and tasty red skillet potatoes.

~ for Colton and Cooper being awesome big brothers, taking Samantha, Gavin, and Sawyer to practice their softball/baseball skills.

~ for the best time ever at our second Gold Network of East Texas HERO Hangouts. This time we took 67 cancer kids/siblings/and families to the movies! We bought out an entire theatre for a private showing of Sing2, and we packed almost every seat!

It never ceases to make my heart explode to see these amazing kids just getting to be kids! It’s so awesome to see connections among the cancer kids, among the siblings, among the parents. Their resilience and quiet strength is completely inspiring.

Even though my thoughts and my heart are heavy, I have to acknowledge and appreciate the intensely sharpened focus on how much I truly have to be thankful for, the simple yet profound gifts that I must never take for granted. My Love, who is also my best friend, who leads our family boldly and with great courage and unwavering faith. Unsolicited hugs from my not-so-Littles. For my Bigs who now CHOOSE to come home and spend time with us, even when they don’t have to. For nights like tonight when everyone is excited about the meal: they just DEVOURED two 9×13 pans of chicken pot pie. For our health, and the miraculous physical and spiritual healings we have experienced firsthand over and over again. Never having to worry about food in the pantry and gas in my car. A safe home. A neighborhood that is truly a family in every way. For spiritual mentors who have poured into me and continually encourage my growth. The freedom to worship God openly and speak the Name of Jesus without fear.

It’s heartbreaking to read the headlines. I hate to watch the news, but it’s too pressing, too important to remain uninformed. We pray for the people who are hurting, terrified, people who have lost everything.

I feel powerless. But I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe God’s Church is alive and reaches across every ocean and every language. I believe we were made for a time such as this, and that we are called to raise up our children as Warriors for Jesus, and that they are arrows created to be launched out to reach farther than we could ever go ourselves.

I don’t know what’s coming next. (BUT GOD)

I know The One who does, and I am His.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalms 56:1-4)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

~ for Rucker birthday season in full force. We celebrated Kora last Sunday,

and the Gavin is our Valentine’s Boy. He had a great day, starting with heart shaped pancakes (of course),

pizza for lunch, and taco salad and ice cream cake.

And today was my turn! A surprise latte from Colton, lots of thoughtful birthday wishes, a delicious salad from Piada for lunch, afternoon nap, and then a FEAST of Ruby’s authentic quesadillas

and my favorite homemade-salted-caramel-sauce-soaked-coffee-infused-chocolate-cake-topped-with-Heath-bits.

With all my Loves here at home. I couldn’t dream of anything better. Thank You Lord, for this family that I don’t deserve.

Samantha made me a “BUT GOD” bracelet 💛
Tatum K said, “You have one more present, Mama!”

~ for Sawyer’s chapel character quality award: Generosity. Sawyer has such a loving and generous heart, the fact that he was chosen for this award was no surprise.

~ for a favorite special tradition: February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a special day when Gold Network of East Texas partners with families and friends all over to raise awareness of childhood cancer. We eat ice cream to support kids battling cancer, celebrate the survivors, and to honor the memory of our friends we lost too soon. We enjoyed a sweet treat as a family, and then we shared ice cream with Sawyer’s class at school (as well as his warrior classmate, Jase, and another HERO friend, Matthias).

Josh took ice cream to work to his team, Grandmommy organized an ice cream social at her school in Carthage, and pictures flooded in from all over East Texas from HEROES and their supporters. What an incredible community to be a part of!

~ for our first attempt at hibachi on the griddle. Chicken and veggie fried rice was a hit!

~ for the boys’ room finally completed! These boys are so excited: freshly updated room, baseball practices underway (we have a National and an Astro), and just the excitement of trying something new. It’s going to be so busy but such a fun season.

~ for a long-awaited project completion. Our master bath was one of our first makeovers when we moved into this house. Wall to wall carpet, dingy mustard walls and ceilings, discolored cabinetry, and a most unusual round wall with lots of sheetrock damage.

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

Last year’s stay-cation brought a new light fixture and textured paintable wallpaper in hopes of disguising the unsightly wall blemishes. But then I hit a quite literal design “wall.” I wasn’t sure what color to paint, and was not at all satisfied with how the wall looked. But this week I bit the bullet and went BOLD with a deep, almost black, charcoal in a matte finish.

And we LOVE IT! The wall dents and cracks are finally almost indistinguishable, and I’m digging the unexpected high contrast color. You’ve come a long way, baby!

~ for God’s protection. As you can well imagine, laundry is a neverending battle at our house. Picking up clothes, hanging up towels, sorting bins, stain spotting, soaking, washing, what to dry, what to hang, fluffing wrinkles, folding, figuring out who in the world each item belongs to, and then putting it all away…it is a round the clock, full on enterprise. Both machines are pretty much running constantly. This week was no different, but when i pulled a load out of the dryer, I thought it smelled bad. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I’m notorious for my inability to smell bad odors, so I was really questioning myself. The more I smelled each piece of the dry laundry, the more I decided it all smelled like smoke. I didn’t see anything amiss, but even with the dryer off for the rest of the day, the acrid scent got worse and worse. When Josh got home, we inspected the inside and the back of the dryer. Checked the vent for clogs or lint buildup. Nothing. But when he opened up the dryer, we couldn’t believe it. There were INCHES of lint inside the machine – and all of the underbelly was black – the whole inside of the dryer had been ON FIRE! Yet somehow, miraculously, it had self-extinguished!!! There is absolutely no explanation for this. BUT GOD!

BUT GOD!

~ for Mr. Giddyup and his brilliant mind for construction. We were certainly not planning to do a laundry room makeover, but that was suddenly on the agenda this week.

Laundry room before we purchased the house
Demo in 2020
New paint & reclaimed wood countertop

We made the switch from our top loaders to front load machines, and the coordinating pedestals were one serious back order, not to mention PRICEY. So of course, Josh built a completely custom built in platform that tied in seamlessly with our existing cabinetry (and the custom reclaimed wood countertop he had installed last year).

I think the whole project from start to finish (from taking the first measurement to both the washer and dryer running) took less than 10 hours! His talent and “giddyup” truly amazes me.

~ and now I’ve never been so thankful to be back in my laundry room! An unexpected three day laundry hiatus (and multiple loads that had to be re-washed) makes for a SERIOUS EVEREST of stinkiness! But the new and improved setup is super functional and efficient, so I’m ALMOST caught up.

It’s a wild season, and I won’t lie and say it’s all glorious. Some days are still a battle to hold fast to the joy of the Lord. But every single day, I open my eyes and thank Him. Every day I remind myself that His plan, His purpose, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His grace, His love is forever true.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalms 105:1-4)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“While there’s breath in my lungs, I will praise You, Lord. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing. The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (“Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective)

Blessed to be a Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for a dream come true for Samantha. She has recently fallen in love with all things equestrian: all she wanted for Christmas was cowgirl boots and cowgirl clothes (since she knew we couldn’t get her an actual horse). One of big brother Colton’s friends invited her to his horse farm, and she had the best time of her life! (Zoe got to tag along.)

~ for Tatum K’s darling little playhouse. She loves her cozy new spot, and spends most of her time inside it. You can definitely find her there for breakfast and lunch, listening to the birds!

~ for the great honor and privilege of presenting our beloved Dr. Sam John at Children’s with a check for $10,000 from Gold Network of East Texas to further his ongoing cutting edge pediatric cancer research project. Dr. John holds a special place in our hearts from the earliest days of Sawyer’s cancer treatment, so it means so much to be able to support his research now. Dr. John shared that Sawyer’s successful treatment has been an inspiration for his continued passion for research of infant leukemias, and when presented with the Gold Network check, he said “I know this check is also backed with countless prayers, and that means a lot.” What a blessing for him to get to see Sawyer as a happy, healthy 8 year old!

You can barely see Dr. John in the laptop. We laughed that Sawyer was actually holding HIM for a change!
2014
Dr. John and Sawyer the Warrior, 2016
2018

~ for fire-side puzzling on our nifty new puzzle table. Even if our family Christmas puzzle is apparently too hard for everyone else in the family except me, and I’m pretty much doing it by myself.

~ for a quiet New Year’s Eve with the fam: pizza for kiddos, couch date with Longhorn steakhouse for Mom and Dad. Late night field trip for ice cream sundaes in pjs, and a sparklers in the driveway. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ for a traditional tasty start to 2022: savory blackeyed peas, roasted cabbage, brown sugar glazed ham, and buttery sweet cornbread, followed by a trip to the movies with the whole Tribe to see Sing 2 (I highly recommend!)

~ for the cutest, cuddliest puppies in all the land! We are having so much fun watching Bear and Birdie’s babies as they grow each day. They have started eating soft food, and are getting more and more playful. We still have available pups if you know anyone looking.

~ for hilarious virtual reality fun, from the international space station to the mountains of Peru to the gnarliest rollercoasters you can imagine!

~ for 101 ways to play with a stick. Why in the world did we buy toys for Christmas????

Are you a resolution person? People either love them or hate them. I know it’s kind of hokey to put off making necessary changes in your life until a certain day, but what’s the harm? I love the turn of the calendar page, and the fresh feeling that comes with the New Year. A fresh start. Fresh opportunity. Fresh potential. After the constant indulgence and unrelenting pace of the holidays, our overloaded senses crave a reset. The Christmas finery/clutter gets put away, and in the space left behind seems like fresh breathing room. Fresh margin. It may seem silly, but why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt this New Year? A good habit has to start sometime, and January 1 is as good a day as any. Or January 2. Or the 15. Why not just try? How about challenging yourself? Don’t write yourself off as a quitter before you even try. Give yourself some credit AND SOME GRACE!I’ve got lots of goals for this year, lots of dreams and things I want to do better. But mainly I just want to love well and look more like Jesus on December 31 than I do today. We are so blessed. And I know we’ve been blessed so we can be a blessing to others along the way.

Friends, we need your prayers. Our precious HERO friend, Bristell, has relapsed. After bravely battling Infant AML, victoriously surviving a bone marrow transplant, and celebrating almost 3 joyous years of remission, the unthinkable has happened. Four year old Bristell is back at Children’s as her care team creates a treatment plan for this next battle, and her precious mom and dad and new baby sister are reeling with broken hearts as they try to wrap their minds around this unexpected blow. No 4 year old should have to face cancer, let alone a second time. Will you please pray for this dear family, and stand with us as we bear up under this burden beside them? I will link their personal GoFundMe here if you would like to donate directly to Bristell.

Sawyer the Warrior and Bristell Brave

This is the grim reality for parents of a child who has battled cancer. The fear remains. Maybe it’s way in the back of the closet or tucked away in the deepest reaches of consciousness. But somewhere, although no one ever speaks about it, there is the cold pang of dread that hiding in there somewhere, a malignant cell was missed, a dormant trigger that will reawaken, and when we least expect it, our tenuously duct-taped world will suddenly implode again. This is life as a cancer parent.

But God.

In Him we hope. In Him we believe there is still good in the world, and better yet, that this world is not all there is for us. We know that Jesus heals. We have seen it. And more importantly, we have seen HIM.

And because of Him, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thank you for lifting your prayers for Bristell and her family. And thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I am thankful:

~ for the fun annual tradition of 12 Days of Christmas gifts. Grandmommy loves to spend her birthday sharing with others, and it was no accident that God hand-picked it to fall exactly 12 days before Christmas! She goes to such great lengths to come up with creative and thoughtful gifts for everyone to open each night, and we have the best time singing the song, reading Christmas trivia, and taking turns opening gifts each night.

~ for the last round of Christmas concerts, programs, parties, and events. There’s been something every day! Anyone else want to recommend we take half these events and do them in say…April?

Kora’s Middle School Choir Concert
Sawyer’s 2nd Grade Christmas Play

~ for my darling husband, who combed the swarming aisles of Walmart for over an hour to find the last solitary pack of Christmas treat bags in the city for me. That’s a good man.

~ for last minute G&W holiday projects.

~ for our twice a year trip to the dentist successfully completed! Tatum K was terrified last time, but this visit was greatly improved! 7 kids at the dentist in the middle of December is no joke!

~ for Pajama Day/Christmas Party Day/Last Day of School before Christmas Break. Somehow it seems too early, but we are really here, just a week out! Glad to have my loves all home.

~ for round 2 of cranberry bliss bars. They have been such a hit they have definitely been added to the holiday rotation.

~ for a fun day celebrating with family at our annual “Kilgore Christmas Party”…but since hostess-with-the-mostest, Aunt Polly has moved from Kilgore to her newly completed, stunningly beautiful home in Carthage, we had to update the name to “Aunt Polly’s Jolly Holiday.” We feasted on delicious snacks and the warmest fellowship. It’s always hard missing the ones who aren’t with us, but I thing it makes us spend the time loving on each other a little tighter.

Aunt Nikki surprised Josh, gifting one of Uncle Alan’s beloved bass guitars, and brought some, I guess we’d have to call them “vintage,” handheld video games that he’d kept for the kids. So special.

~ for cozy socks, yummy hot chocolate, and rowdy games of spoons.

~ for sweet puppy snuggles. Birdie’s pups are growing every day, and they are just the most precious little things. After 12 days of sleeping with them on the closet floor, I am beyond thankful that they are big enough to graduate to their next stage of care: a pen in our bathroom! That means I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!! Wahoo!!!

It’s still a constant battle to keep eyes on the Savior instead of all the STUFF. I can feel when I start slipping. After a steady diet of donuts, cookies, and candy canes, the maniacal frenzied chorus of “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” on REPEAT becomes markedly less cute. Especially in the car. After the 7th time. I’m a little less patient with a certain 4 year old who skipped her nap yet AGAIN. But I have really purposed myself this month to do regular heart checks. I’ve been listening to Rend Collective on repeat, “Though the tears may fall, my song will rise My song will rise to You / Though my heart may fail, my song will rise My song will rise to You / While there’s breath in my lungs I will praise you, Lord…The joy of the Lord is my strength The joy of the Lord is my strength In the darkness, I’ll dance In the shadows, I’ll sing The joy of the Lord is my strength”

My joy is not found in, nor is it subject to, my circumstances. My moods come and go, His faithfulness does not. Our family has so much going on, both for public eyes and privately in our hearts, and it would be so easy to give in to the waves that doggedly try to pull me under. BUT GOD. Trust me, I get tired of fighting for peace. Doesn’t that sound like such an oxymoron? Fighting for peace? But that’s exactly what we must do. There’s a constant war, and war is what it wants. Anxiety, division, hatred, fear, unrest, discontentment. But when we fight against those things and instead anchor ourselves to the steady, immovable Father, we can see the irritations and distractions for what they really are. Traps. I’m not trying to say I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m handling things so great right now. But I have a strong sense that I know where I COULD BE emotionally/spiritually right now, compared to where I actually am. And I’m thankful for Jesus’ grace and His leading. This broken world is not my home. This life is not all there is. I truly have strength and joy in His Presence that no one can steal. And I’m hanging onto that for dear life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms‬ ‭34:14‬)

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John‬ ‭14:27‬)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Parties, Programs, and PUPPIES, oh my!

I am thankful:

~ for a fun opportunity for Kora and her 6th grade drama/choir classmates, playing the choir in the Jr.High presentation of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

~ for Cooper, who is thrilled to be a legally licensed driver! I’m not sure I’m ready for this!

~ for a lovely evening hosting our church Ladies Christmas Party. We had a delicious spread of home baked treats and festive holiday charcuterie, and a sweet time of fellowship with some really special friends. So grateful for the body of believers we are a part of.

~ for a mixed blessing: that I have discovered a copycat recipe for my very favorite Starbucks goodie: the decadent Cranberry Bliss Bar. A sweet, chewy blondie lightly scented with orange zest, studded with dried cranberries and chunks of white chocolate, topped with creamed cheese icing and a white chocolate drizzle, it is just plain delicious. But now that I can make my own…this could be dangerous.

~ for a special afternoon hanging out with Kora, Gavin, and Zoe’s biological big sister. They are all growing up so fast, and it is such an incredible blessing to see the special bond the four of them have. They treasure every moment spent together. It’s been too long.

~ for a fun night for Cooper attending Whitehouse High School Winter Formal. Isn’t he so handsome?

~ for a life-giving visit with a precious sister and mentor, who always refreshes me with her presence and who left me truly encouraged.

~ for the sweetest Christmas program at church, a kid-led Christmas carol sing-a-long. Each of our children had one or more special songs they helped lead, Gavin played percussion on the cajon for the first time, and little Tatum K got to play Mary.

Now, without knowing the backstory, you might think Miss TK, ever the performer, was born for her moment in the spotlight. That could not be farther from the truth. She LOVES to sing and dance and play pretend…privately. As soon as she’s ASKED to sing a song, or recite something…she clams up like a stubborn little goat, and it’s flat out not gonna happen. So when the children’s leaders told me they had her in mind to dress up as Mary for the play, I was dubious. But we told her about the idea, and she said she would like to do it. However, Tatum K warned me, “Mama, I am NOT a “still” person. We tried on the costume and talked about it a bunch, and she seemed excited. I thought…MAYBE…just maybe she’d go through with it. But I prepared for the worst when she had to be physically dragged onto the stage for a practice, after which she spent the rest of the performance with her face buried in his sister’s shoulder. But God! After an afternoon nap and a good pep talk, little Mary was ready for the show! She stood stock still with a glazed smile frozen on her face the whole time. I watched closely fearing she was about to tip right over and pass out. But she made it through the show perfectly, and everyone was equally shocked, tickled, and oh so proud.

~ and for the biggest news: PUPPIES! After days of waiting and watching with baited breath, Birdie FINALLY had her puppies Tuesday night.

9 sweet cuddly miniature goldendoodles. Mama and babies are all doing well, and I am in my full time role of doggie nursemaid. For the first full two weeks I “sleep” on the floor of the closet with them, to make sure no one gets stepped on or smothered, and to ensure each pup gets fed. It’s a wonder to me how much easier 9 puppies is than the 11 we had last time! We will enjoy them for the next 7 weeks until they go to their forever homes.

It’s a crazy season: busy days, endless commitments, and a to-do list as long as the interstate. But I’m thankful for the manna God provides every day. He always meets me. Right where I am. He’s the God of every detail, the Author of my future, the Redeemer of my past. He’s the bright sun shining on me when things are rocking along beautifully. He’s holding me in the dark when anxiety unexpectedly grips my heart for no apparent reason at all. He’s with me on the hard days, when nothing seems to be going right, and when I’m so exhausted I don’t think I can take another step. He knows my anxious thoughts and the secret cries of my heart. I don’t have to know what’s coming, because I know whatever it is, He’s coming with me. He’s always with me, patiently waiting for me to invite Him into whatever I’m doing.

There was no room in the inn for Jesus so long ago. Have you made room for Him in your busy schedule?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

Wonder

I am thankful:

~ for a week full of warm holiday smells: cinnamon and sweet potatoes, cranberries and cedar, cloves and pumpkin.

~ for a successful, if INTENSELY STRESSFUL, first attempt deep frying a turkey. We have heard so many horror stories of fires and explosions, so we had the fire extinguisher at the ready. After a multiple generous injections of creole butter, and a 50 minute bath in boiling peanut oil, we had a gloriously golden brown, crispy skinned bird! It was delicious!

Fire extinguisher at the ready

~ for a lovely Thanksgiving with all my kids together. We enjoyed spending the days laughing and stuffing our faces with family, complete with our favorite traditions, dancing the chicken dance and competing fiercely in the Pumpkin Olympics before the reigning Pumpkin Queen. It was a day of feasting and thanking the Lord for His faithfulness. There were beloved faces missing from around our table, but we did find comfort knowing they were together at the best celebration of all.

Pumpkin Olympics
Chicken Dance

~ for pumpkin pie for breakfast.

~ for Round 2 of the festivities, this time at our house. We pulled out all the leftovers and watched the broadcast of the Carthage Bulldogs playoff game. Sadly they did not come away with the win, but the fellowship was top notch.

~ for coconut cream pie for breakfast.

~ for a wonderfully successful Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa this season! I sold out of 2 restocks of ornaments and all but 3 signs. Thank you for supporting our small business!

~ for cherry pie for breakfast.

~ for the start of our holiday decorating. It’s so exciting to pull out the tubs and bags and get out all the Christmas greenery and sparkles. I did a quick little upcycle with two trash finds today. I cut off the top of a rusted old steamer trunk and dry brushed it with some white paint for a “new” tree base.

And then a salvaged headboard became a new sign for our mantle. I don’t often make a sign that I get to keep, so this one is a treasure.

Josh did a fantastic job on the lights on the house, braving yet again his aversion to heights. We’ve got a long way to go, burned out lights, rearranging and ornaments to hang, but it was a good start and is looking cheerful and festive. I’ve always felt like this house was just MADE for Christmas.

Even Bear is ready! Birdie, not so much. She is expecting puppies in the next week or so. Poor girl is tired and uncomfortable.

I love watching the holidays through the eyes of my children. The awe and wonder. The unfiltered joy. I’m not sure when that starts to change, but for most of us, it has at some point. We are impatient with the long lines at the stores and the bumper to bumper traffic. We are irritated when what we want is not in stock or if the shipping isn’t overnight and free. Parties are obligations we’d really rather skip and the preparations seem a hassle instead of a blessing.

I want to step back into the wonder.

I want to delight in the twinkle of the lights and how they are reflected in my kids’ eyes.

I want to look at my Grandma’s decorations and remember them in her home and how special she always made me feel.

I want to prepare my heart for the Advent, and eagerly await the coming of my Lord.

I want to look past the irritations and the stress and and the disappointments and the hard, and hold fast to the unsurpassable JOY that is mine.

Lord, help me find true rest in You, in the joy of Your presence and the freedom of surrender. Let me trust You with it ALL, especially the pieces that I think I can’t let go of.

Thank you for reading, for choosing to follow along with our family’s story. I’m always so encouraged by your kind words.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalms 59:16-17)

“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Even When it’s Hard…

This week I’m thankful for the little stuff.

I’m thankful for a sleepy girl with tangled up hair crawling into my lap for snuggles. (And a beautifully healed lip/chin I might add).

For a beautiful box of the best tacos.

For a cozy sweater when the weather’s cool enough, even if I change into a tank top after lunch.

For a new vacuum that REALLY SUCKS. (Like it’s supposed to)

For a most realistic Leonardo Da Vinci, who was known for having the most captivating dimples of the 15th Century.

5th Grade Wax Museum

I’m thankful that I sold almost every single sign and ornament at the Barn Sale! Leftovers will be available Saturday at Vintage & Co Christmas Open House!

For the smell of roasting chicken.

For hot coffee that’s waiting for me when I wake up, and the first cup in the quiet stillness of the morning.

For hard lessons and good talks and God’s amazing grace that covers our shortcomings.

For a whole week off with my kiddos home from school.

I realized this week, this is the first time in 18 years that I have not attended a school Thanksgiving feast or program. The emotional mushpot that I am, I shed some tears, thinking of all my little Indians short, indigenous individuals, the same cute songs about turkeys and pies, and the well-loved costumes that we have used year after year.

But I’m thankful.

I’m thankful because it means my babies are growing up. That they got to do those special rights of passage when they were little, and that by God’s hand, now they are too big for them.

And thankful for the memories of so many sweet Thanksgivings gone by.

Just like the old adage, “is the glass half full or half empty,” everything is in our perspective. Thankful for the laundry because it means we have clothes to wear. Thankful for the mountain of dirty dishes because of the food that was on the plates. Thankful when the Word or the Spirit pierces my heart, because it reassures me that my heart has not turned to stone. Even thankful for the unspeakable pain that comes from grieving, because it proves how deeply we love.

We have to take the bitter with the sweet. And keep looking for the sweet in front of us. And remembering the sweet that was. And believe that sweet is coming.

Because He IS coming….

And we have to keep giving thanks, even when it’s hard.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalms 34:3-4)

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

A Paintbrush in my Hand

I am thankful:

~ for a fun, albeit way too short visit with Aunt Gina.

~ for Sawyer’s Native American clothes pin project for school. Fun to do this project each time I have a second grader.

~ for the Word of God, the comfort and refining it brings every time I open it up.

~ for the joy it brought to hear of one of Gold Network of East Texas’ programs at work. If you’ve been here since Sawyer’s treatment, you may remember that he spent lots of time in an inflatable-pool-turned-playpen at the hospital. It’s where he took his first steps.

Sawyer, 2014

When we created GNET, we began stocking the social worker with pools and portable pumps to distribute to cancer babies in the hospital. “Sawyer’s Just Keep Swimming Program.” I saw this photo on an INTERNATIONAL online support group this week, and I recognized it instantly.

New friend, 2021

Sure enough, when I messaged her, I found that she was in Dallas at Children’s. We quickly connected and exchanged information. A day later, I received this email from our beloved social worker at the hospital.

GLORY TO THE LORD! What a beautiful blessing to be a part of!

~ for a special Happy Birthday for our Bear Boy. We got him a new collar and a new toy.

The toy lasted 1 hour and 14 minutes. Completely destroyed.

I picked up a replacement toy after school. Bear and Birdie ripped it open and ate the squeaker out in about 4 hours, but they are still getting some amusement out of what’s left of it.

~ for a wonderful day off with my Love. He’s off every other Wednesday, and the past few times we have had a breakfast date, trying out various local eateries. This has been a favorite of Tatum K. She loves and frequently asks to visit Jimmy’s Egg, which we visited several weeks ago. The other restaurants were new to her, and she had her own unique names for them: Happy’s Fish House = “Happy Face” and First Watch = “Sky Watch”. After some not-so-good breakfasts (MAJOR understatement), we finally had our PERFECT breakfast at “Sky Watch,” complete with a light and pillowy waffle and decadent, savory candied “Million Dollar Bacon.”

~ for an awesome evening of football for Josh and the boys who traveled to Athens for the first Carthage Bulldogs playoff game.

Us girls had a cozy evening back home with a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

~ for the most productive Giddyup & Whoa week I think I’ve ever had! I’ve been behind on my projects because of my hand, so I have a lot of catching up to do. On top of orders, I’ve got the Barn Sale this week AND another sale the first week of December. So Josh and I both buckled down and got to work. He cranked out 15 signs in ONE AFTERNOON,

and I painted or stained the base coat on all of them, and completed 8 Christmas signs plus two custom orders.

Lots of ornaments on deck in the next couple days, and then more custom orders. If you are local, be sure to check out Vintage & Co Christmas in the Country. Jodi and her team curate the most charming and unique collection of vintage holiday decor, gorgeous furniture, and one of a kind finds. It’s such an honor to be a part of her sale.

Christmas in the Country: November 17-20

It felt good to have a brush in my hand. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Painting is such a part of me. I really haven’t been doing very well personally. My anxiety has been raging out of control, and I’ve been discouraged, struggling to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of the waves. And I was amazed to see how peaceful I felt as I got back into my zone.

~ thankful for a smooth resolution to a rough afternoon. Tatum K tripped and fell at church, and sliced herself under her lip on a stool. When I got to her, she was hysterical and splattered with blood. Once I got her calmed and cleaned, I was relieved to see that the cut was very superficial. But its location was not good: prime for her to bend her lip and pop it open. Almost 2 hours later it was still oozing down her chin. So to the ER we went. Much to my surprise, we were the only patients in the waiting room, and were seen immediately. We got fantastic care, and the doctor was able to glue Tatum’s wound with no pain or trauma. And little missy was such a trooper…after the glue was applied, she was told to lay perfectly still for 4 minutes. You have never seen a more still little Rapunzel statue in all your life! I was so proud of her. She skipped happily into the house when we got home and showed off her glued lip and her hospital bracelet. So thankful.

I loved the illustration in church today that giving thanks is like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger you get. I have been feeling really weak in a lot of ways, and I know I need to be strengthening my thankfulness muscles. God is good, y’all. Don’t doubt Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He sees the end result that our perspective can never see. Press on. Press in. Rediscover something that brings you joy. Serve somebody else. Take a walk. Turn your music up loud and SING. And when you fall down, when you screw up, when you lose it and find yourself flat on your face… scrape yourself back up again. And thank Jesus.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done…” (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)