Work in Progress

I am thankful:

~ for a very happy birthday for a beautiful new teenager. Sweet Samantha had her birthday this week, and she is SO EASY to celebrate. Samantha Lucy’s name means “Listener that Brings Light,” and she lives up to that name in every way.

She is a joy and a blessing and such a help. It seems like she has grown up into a young lady overnight. She enjoyed her favorite chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, a lunch delivery at school, and her birthday dinner menu of choice: grilled ham and muenster sandwiches with avocado ranch, Pringles, and fruit salad.

Well-known in our household to be avocado OBSESSED, she got avocado cards from all her siblings, avocado socks, and original avocado painting, even avocado sheets to go with her new (more grown-up) bedding. We are so proud of the young woman she is becoming, and wait with great expectations for all that God has for her.

~ for a terrific maiden voyage on the potty train for Tatum K! I don’t want to be prematurely confident, but since starting wearing panties last Saturday, she has only had one accident! She’s so excited and proud of herself. We took a field trip to Target to pick out new Elsa Days-of-the-Week panties, and boy, she tells EVERYBODY about them, and she has been singing her original song, “let’s poop poop poop on the potteeeeey” loudly for all to hear (including in Target).

~ for the undisputed champion of all sandwiches, Stanley’s famous Mother Clucker smoked chicken sandwich, topped with a fried egg and peppery candied bacon on pillowy jalapeño cheese sourdough bread. There is no photo. I couldn’t restrain myself long enough before I devoured it.

~ for the loveliest flowers from our neighbor.

~ for a fantastic evening with my Tribe: great football, a new Giddyup & Whoa project on my easel, and steaming hot meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies.

~ for a busy week well spent. As I mentioned last week, Josh has had lots of projects planned for his vacation, but in true Giddyup fashion, he can’t stand to wait. Last week he did the ceiling fans and the mattresses and light fixtures and the barstools. This week he gave me a Christmas gift that I never would’ve asked for…he hired a crew to finish scraping my beams. If you’ve been following along with the Sunday Gratitude blog for a while, you may remember that a little over a year ago I started the painstaking process of hand scraping the massive oak beams in our great room (find that blog post here). I killed 2 sanders and a planer and shredded all 10 of my knuckles in the process of scraping 11 beams, and work halted right before Covid hit last March. Talk about a work in progress…

I spy Tatum K under the ladder…

With just 4 left to go, I just plain ran out of gas. When Josh told me he wanted to bless me with having it done, it was tough to receive. I felt like I was admitting defeat. It was my baby. My project. My Everest to conquer. But I’d begrudgingly swallowed my pride, and this week two strong young fellas simultaneously scraped those beams nonstop for 10 hours and got the job done. They did a fantastic job, and Part B on the project will be painting the dingy cream colored ceilings with a fresh crisp coat of alabaster white to match our walls. We’ve wanted this done since the day we moved into this house 3 1/2 years ago, and we are so excited. I’m so thankful to have a husband who loves me so much.

But of course, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Josh got done. The next two projects that will be running concurrently will be a deep refresh in our girls bathroom and the conversion of a non-functional, hardly-used dressing area into a recording studio for Cooper (aka Davvec)!

He is beyond excited about having this space and has been saving his money from his various jobs to buy all his musical and recording equipment, as well as the soundproofing medium to cover all the walls. Although this sounds like extravagant use of space, it will easily be converted two a super useful storage closet when Cooper is done and moves out. We are excited to support his dreams and reward his hard work and dedication.

The bathroom was already in bad repair when we moved here, and it’s gotten plenty of wear since then. This will be a fun reno, and Step One was closing off the doorway into that dressing area (Cooper’s studio) and relocating it to the hallway. Josh did an impeccable job of placing the new door and matching the existing trimwork, and he did it with lightning speed!

There is so much left to do, it’s a never ending cycle of owning a home. ESPECIALLY when you are into the DIY world. But we will tackle it all together. One of Josh and my very favorite things to do together is to work on projects. We love the entire process: dreaming together, researching options, the excitement of committing to a project, and then the troubleshooting, prep work, and the execution. It’s not always pretty. We have plenty of bumpy moments, failures, miscommunications, and start-overs. We don’t always understand one another because we process things so differently, and we sometimes drive each other crazy. Thankfully, we get generally get back on track quickly and we can laugh at ourselves. We have learned most of our skills by watching a lot of YouTube and by making a lot of mistakes. But our favorite is watching the work in progress, watching the transformation take place, and then finally getting to enjoy the return on lots of sweat equity once the project is done. I love the feeling of collapsing in the bed beside him after we have both worked our tails off. We love bragging on each other’s efforts. And most of all, I love that our kids have always grown up watching their mom and dad work side by side literally building a life for them.

I want to close tonight by sharing a testimony about a friend. This is one of the most amazing miracles I have ever encountered, and I just have to TESTIFY! After a process of learning to hear and obey the Lord, and through a series of events too remarkable to deny, he is undergoing surgery to donate his kidney to save a life tomorrow. PLEASE watch this video and be blessed by Tim’s story. (Watch video HERE)

And please lift him and his family in prayer as they try to rest tonight, preparing themselves for a truly life-changing day tomorrow. Lord, you know we are all works in progress, and YOU are the One doing the hard work. May we give You free reign to do the work on and in us that needs to be done. And may we draw so near to Your heart that we don’t flinch when You ask us to give. Or to go. Or to let go. What a Promised Land opens up when we say, “Yes Lord!”

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8)

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Chisholm)

Less but More

I am thankful:

~ for the astounding miracle of Sawyer turning 7! Seven. It takes my breath away.

I just never ever let myself picture him as a 7 year old. I didn’t dare. Sawyer’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive THE DAY on the day he was diagnosed with leukemia at 7 months old. BUT GOD. He had a less than 40% chance of surviving to age 5. BUT GOD. I can’t even type these words without the tears taking over. Now this miracle boy is 7! He is bright and active and doing all the things the doctors warned us he likely would not be able to do. BUT GOD! It’s so hard for me to treat him like a “normal kid.” To let go and let him be in germy, “virus-y” crowds, let him ride his bike and scooter in the street, and climb trees… And equally hard for me to get onto him like a normal kid: to not let him get away with murder, to not overlook whining or pouting, and to not favor him over his siblings. I can’t even explain how hard that is. I think about how much he has been through and how many times we almost lost him, and the rules and my resolve flies out the window. But I know overindulgence is the worst thing for him, and I remind myself that God didn’t deliver Sawyer only for him to grow up to become an entitled, spoiled-rotten little punk. He had a great birthday: donuts for breakfast, a mom/dad/Tatum K lunch date at school, and his menu-of-choice for dinner was homemade French bread pizzas, homemade mac and cheese, and chocolate cake with orange (colored, not flavored) buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for allowing me to love Your boy for seven whole years!

~ for a wonderful and unexpected blessing. A local homeschool coop did a raffle ticket fundraiser and chose Gold Network of East Texas as the charity beneficiary. I was blessed to receive the donation of $122.25! And even better, I got to receive the donation from my sweet friend/sister!

~ for a long-overdue visit from sweet Aunt Dinah! She treated us to yummy Braum’s ice cream, and got her fill of kiddo hugs and puppy snuggles.

~ for Cooper’s first week of work at Chick-fil-A! Doesn’t he look so handsome?! So far he is loving it and learning more each shift. So proud of him.

~ for Gavin’s 4th grade Colonial Trades Day presentation. His group represented Colonial wheelwrights. He did a great job researching and reciting his part. He is such a bright boy. And he looked so handsome in his many-times-recycled costume. Over the last 10 years, the same embroidered vest and flouncy old lady blouse from Goodwill has been the attire for a Colonial merchant, missionary Hudson Taylor, Colonial barrel maker, and now a wheelwright!

~ for the hilarious pics I discover when I wake up from an accidental nap to realize that Sawyer has taken my phone. Nothing like taking selfies with your mom when she’s asleep.

~ for the blessing of a continued BUSY season for Giddyup & Whoa. We had a successful Barn Sale, and I got to participate in a home bazaar with some friends this weekend. Orders have continued to steadily pour in almost every day, keeping Josh and I hustling at the saw and paintbrushes. We are so excited and grateful that our small family business is growing. We love getting our kids involved. And we love bringing life to the vision our customers request! I can’t wait to eventually share pictures of some of the AWESOME Christmas gifts I’m working on!

~ for THE MOST WONDERFUL evening with my Love. For the first time in about 13 million years, we were able to slip away to do some Christmas shopping and go out to dinner. Like a REAL DATE! No kids. No puppies. It. Was. AWESOME! We got lots of our shopping done, and then OVER-indulged in a dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse! I thought I’d have to be rolled out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow, but I did not regret one bite!

Another week of puppy-ing under our belt. Sweet pups are now 3 weeks old, and growing and changing every day. Eyes are all open, they are all walking, and trying to find their little puppy barks. And they are LOUD!

The Golden Girls
The Golden Doods

Today was Day 1 of introducing puréed solid food. What a slop-fest! Josh built an adorable feeding station with little bowls, but man, those pups were all over the place! They walked through the food, ate it off their feet and off each other! It was quite a sight!

It’s so fun to see their personalities develop as they start to play with one another, and we have LOVED seeing several families fall in love with their puppy-to-be. It’s more work than we ever dreamed, but still so much fun. I apologize in advance if I bump into you in person and am wearing a questionable odor…I am trying hard not to look/smell like the zookeeper I FEEL LIKE! Josh got to work one day this week after being home for lunch, and it was a few hours before he realized that he was wearing a PUPPY SURPRISE on his pants! **Just a few pups still available.

As always, December has the potential for a month overflowing with too much of everything: an overburdened calendar, an aching bank account, and complete and utter exhaustion. Completely lacking in joy. What a tragedy to get so distracted by a counterfeit Christmas and completely miss the presence of Christ. I wrestle with it every year. Complicated emotions, emotional baggage, unrealistic expectations of others and of myself…it’s not hard to end up in the weeds. Maybe it’s the added element of the puppies and/or sign orders, but I have definitely felt a pull this year to SIMPLIFY. I want to DO LESS activities, but instead do things that MEAN MORE. I want to really get into the presence of the Lord. Get close to His heart. And share that with my kids. I want to soak in the beauty and wonder that comes from really grasping what Christ has done for us. And I just really want to love on my people.

Lord, fix my wandering eyes on You. Don’t let my get so distracted by empty busy-ness that I miss YOU.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; For behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God! For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory].” (Luke 1:46-49 AMP)

Unraveled

I am thankful:

~ Thankful that there are some really spectacularly good people in this world. There’s so much junk going around, and I think we are all disappointed by people on a daily basis, especially in the traditional and social media. But this week I got some awesome reassurance in humanity. Cooper, our third born, the one who just had his 16th birthday, was out hanging out with friends last week and lost his wallet. Now the kid never ever ever ever EVER has money, but of course that week he had just gotten paid for a job AND had his birthday, so he was LOADED! What timing to lose everything. He left his information with store personnel at the places he had been, but especially since he didn’t even have a drivers license, there was very little hope. Until two days later I got an email. Someone walking in the store found: first his money, then his wallet. They opened it up and found Cooper‘s school ID, and contacted the school, who forwarded the lady’s information to me so I could reach out to her.

She then went out of her way to package up the wallet and spent $8 to mail it back to Cooper. And not a dollar was missing! Cooper’s joy at its return was priceless, and he was quick to say, “That was the LORD!”

~ for an unlikely family favorite: loaded taco salad. I heap the MOST GIGANTIC bowl on earth, and we all eat every last bite!

~ and for a new favorite snack. Cape Cod sweet and spicy jalapeño chips. I’m not usually a spicy chip fan, but the sweet counterpoint in these is SO TASTY! We (mostly I) MAY have bought 3 bags this weekend! I can’t stop!

~ for the glimpse of a glorious sunrise.

~ for the opportunity to cast my vote. As most of us feel, it’s more important than ever not to take this privilege/responsibility for granted. And thankful for the efficiency and convenience of early voting and a polling location close to our house. Tatum K and I were in and out in about 20 minutes.

~ for some rollicking family UNO games.

~ for my sweet kids that gathered the neighbors’ roses off the ground and brought them to their mama. They still saw beauty left to enjoy.

~ for a new recipe and the opportunity to surprise my sweetheart. About a month ago, for the first time EVER, my sweet husband snapped a picture of a dessert on a magazine cover and sent it to me. “Doesn’t this sound AMAZING?” Well, I kept the thought in my back pocket until this week. Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars did not disappoint. And the look on Josh’s face was PRICELESS. He was so tickled that I remembered.

~ for “catching” sweet Sam reading her Bible.

~ for a wonderful evening celebrating the best reason to celebrate: Sawyer’s buddy Jase completing his 3 1/2 year cancer treatment! We took a drive out to the family’s newly built dream farmhouse, toured their stunning custom home, and got our fill of fellowship, including snuggles with the sweetest baby kittens and French bulldog puppies. We enjoyed the brisk weather around the campfires, and were introduced to their family tradition: the fine art of roasting biscuits over a fire. It was a wonderful night to celebrate a brave boy and the goodness of God!

Isn’t that such a great list of things to be thankful for!? Then WHY do I let get myself completely UNRAVELED over worries – over the things that God’s NOT DONE with??? ONE WOULD THINK I HAD LEARNED BY NOW.

It’s not as if I hadn’t lived through a miracle or two…

I think about how when I was a little girl You surrounded me, Lord. How I was pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned. BUT GOD. I think about how You showed me Your glory and Your love even when I didn’t know it was You, Lord. I think about the way You had a plan for my life even though I messed up over and over and over again, and I did absolutely everything wrong and backwards. You were so good to me. Obviously so much better than I ever deserved. Even in my darkest lost days You never left me. I think about the way You inextricably weaved Your plan and braided people into my path that nudged me in the right direction, whether they were negative or positive influences…You used for good with the enemy intended for evil. I think of how I met my husband two days after I moved to Texas, 1000 miles from home, all by myself with nothing but a Penske truck, a clock radio, a game boy, and three cats. I think of the way You wouldn’t let him give up on me just the way You didn’t give up on me. I think of the way You made me a mom. It was so far outside MY plan. BUT GOD. You meant for me to be a mother. And You gave me such a beautiful son. And You knew my deep-seated fears about being the mother of a daughter. But You gave me a daughter, (and eventually 4 more!) because you had a plan to bring beauty out of brokenness. I think about when I was the pregnant with Cooper and his sonogram showed several serious abnormalities in his heart and brain. How we agonized, watching all those issues sonogram after sonogram. BUT GOD. Because when he was born, he was PERFECT, all the abnormalities were GONE. You have walked us through bumps in our marriage, You have enlarged our hearts individually and together, and added beautiful children to our family in the LEAST EXPECTED WAYS. You have brought us to our knees and to the end of ourselves time and time again. Difficult relationships, finances, leaps of faith. Anxiety. Pain. Through better and worse, sickness and health. Losing a baby through miscarriage. Cancer. Launching a nonprofit. Starting a business. I could list the miracles of how You have carried us, story by story that I myself have LIVED for HOURS.

YOU. ARE. FAITHFUL.

Lord, keep the miracles You have done ever in front of my eyes so I don’t lose heart for the miracles I am still asking You for. I still get so scared. So impatient. BUT YOU ARE NOT DONE. You’re not done with me, with my marriage, with my kids. Thank You for being infinitely more patient with me than I am with You.

Whatever you are praying for, friends, He hears you. He is working and His Way is BEST and His timing is PERFECT.

Don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:23-26)

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24)

Plains

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “Brother Joe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Golden

I am thankful:

~ for good laughs from the littlest Littles. One morning Tatum K was particularly snuggly and was all curled up in my lap. I whispered in her ear, “I love you.” She turned my face toward her mouth and whispered into my ear, “I love donuts.” Honesty is good, my dear.

And Sawyer asked his dad in all seriousness, “Dad, is it TRUE that safe drivers save 40%?”

~ for a long-awaited dream come true. I have wanted to deck out our family bus for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for a long time. I’ve even looked into having a wrap put on it. (Josh said no). So a good compromise that I could still get excited about, I decked it out in custom magnetic gold polka dots! I was so tickled when they came in the mail, and I was able to surprise Josh and the kids. Makes a statement to be sure! GO GOLD!!

~ for my new throw pillows. Maybe a silly thing to be thankful for, but 40 days ago I thought I was making a simple Etsy purchase. I didn’t realize the Etsy shop was in Guiyang, China. I have watched the tracking on these BLESSED pillows twice a day for FORTY DAYS. I did a little happy jig when they arrived this week.

But then I did have to laugh. You know those annoying “extra” Instagram people who match their pets to their house? I looked at my pillows and had to just shake my head. This was NOT intentional.

~ for the sweetest support from the kiddos. You know your kids are all in on the mission of going gold when you find these all over the house.

~ for the kids and my first Sunday back at in-person church. I can’t say it was easy for me. I struggle with social anxiety anyway, and quarantine and isolation have only amplified my tendency to withdraw. But I’m thankful for the loving leadership of my husband. It was time. It was good to be back in God’s house worshipping with His people. And as a double blessing, (don’t you just love a double blessing?) the church was hosting a blood drive. So Josh and I both got to donate blood. Giving blood means a lot to us. Sawyer received more blood transfusions than I can count. So often it ALMOST wasn’t even a big deal any more. But I will never forget the time Sawyer needed platelets, so we took him to the hospital for a transfusion. But they didn’t have the specific blood he so desperately needed. (The platelets were eventually located and flown in from out of state). It was a terrifying feeling to realize that I could not take for granted that my baby would always be able get the life-saving transfusion he needed. So today I t felt good to give.

~ for a fun night hosting 30 teenagers for our church youth swim party. For good burgers and hotdogs and yummy junk food and for kids that did not mind that the pool was NOT WARM!

~ for the sweetest time with Samantha at a 6th grade Mother/Daughter Tea. We got all doodled up and had fancy girlie snacks while encouragement was shared about growing up, letting go, friendships, and being set apart for God’s purposes. Each girl was given their own fine china plate inscribed with 2 Timothy 2:21,“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” How is this beautiful girl turning into a lovely young lady before my very eyes? Someone turn back the clock…

~ and most of all, I’m thankful for a very different, very special Virtual Tyler Gold Run. It was so difficult to be forced to make the decision to not have an in-person event. It’s our largest event, our largest fundraiser, and last year’s race was SO EPICALLY AWESOME! But obviously this year has been a crazy one of taking steps back and slowing down and trusting God when we don’t understand. But can I just say that the support we saw for this year’s virtual event KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF!!! You registered! You donated!!! Every day the numbers went up, and I was freshly amazed, encouraged, and humbled that you believe in the mission and ministry of Gold Network of East Texas. The week was a different kind of busy leading up to Saturday, fielding phone calls and emails, 6 social media postings a day, and 5 tv/web interviews. For a virtual event, it sure took a lot of real-life in-person WORK! BUT GOD!

We love the support from favorite local new anchor Blake Holland from KLTV. After our interview, he asked for a sign to put in his yard.

Saturday came, and the weather was PERFECT: bright, crisp, and refreshing. Sawyer and Jase’s 1st grade class walked together to honor them, and the Lord had put it on my heart to walk for ALL our Gold Network HEROES. So I wrote their names all on race bibs that we either wore or had displayed on our wagon. It was so special to have them all with us, and to know that we were honoring their lives and their fights no matter what. Nobody can take that away from us.

We had a great turnout for our little group at the park, and the sweetest time of prayer over Sawyer and over Jase, who will compete his 3 year course of treatment for leukemia next month. Although I missed EVERYTHING about in-person Tyler Gold Run: the crowd, the volunteers, the HEROES and their families, the hundreds of people in our shirts and race bibs, the pounding of the drum line and the electric excitement in the air…there was a special sweetness about our quiet walk. And what a blessing that for the first time in 6 years, I got to participate!

SuperHEROES Sawyer and Jase with their SUPER teacher, Ms. Benscoter
Co-founder, right hand, and dear friend, Paula Kimmey
The first time I have gotten to actually participate

And it was also awesome to know that Virtual Tyler Gold Runs were taking place all over Tyler! And not just Tyler: Jacksonville, Bullard, Lindale, Longview, Sulphur Springs, even in Colorado and Tennessee!

Blake and his fiancé Erika did their 10k at the park
Tyler Gold Run for Sophie the Brave in Downtown Tyler
Tyler Gold Run in Carthage
Tyler Gold Run in Colorado
Tyler Gold Run in Dallas

I’ve said from the very beginning, before we did ONE THING, that the only way any of this could happen is if God breathed life into it. AND HE HAS!!! Over and over again! And we have to continue to believe (and to walk out that belief in real life) that God has a plan ordained for Gold Network of East Texas, and lay down our woefully incomplete plans in exchange for His perfect one. As long as He continues to provide the grace, and as long as East Texas families need our support, we are going to continue raising funds and raising our voices for the childhood cancer community! Thank you for GOING GOLD with us. We can’t wait to see what God opens up for us in the coming year!!! If you missed your chance to register, you can make a donation any time at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate

Click here to enjoy a video of SOME of Virtual Tyler Gold Run 2020. (Be sure to to tag us if you share any other pictures on social media #tylergoldrun2020)

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice. A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.(Proverbs 16:7-9)

“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.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

God of Hope

I am thankful:

~for a hilarious dream come true. When you are six years old, most of your life hinges on some truly pivotal moments: the loosening and pulling of teeth. For some it comes with anguish and terror. But for Sawyer, it is his greatest mission. He had a particular for tooth #3. He has been BEGGING to have his tooth tied to a doorknob. Finally we gave in (we had worried it would hurt, but he assured us he would be SO BRAVE.) Well he was, and that sucker flew right out! It was shocking and hysterical. He was thrilled.

~ for a day to reflect on the tremendous bravery of the men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. With all the social unrest we see around us today, it was especially poignant to remember the way our country set aside our differences and pulled together in a time of such deep tragedy. And so very thankful for the dedicated first responders who choose to put others’ lives before their own, and who run TOWARD danger instead of away from it. None of our kids are old enough to remember, but we teach them about what that day means to our country. We remember.

~ for fluffy homemade biscuits, farm fresh eggs, and smokey slab bacon (especially the batch I made with brown sugar and cayenne).

~ for two challenging but beautiful G&W projects in the works.

~ for the long-awaited return of FOOTBALL! I never thought I’d say that, it’s never really been my thing. But man, it makes my man happy! And I realize how I’ve missed it in the background of our weekends and evenings. Feels good to have some “normal” back!

~ for fun Go GOLD care packages delivered or mailed to our East Texas HERO families. How I wish we could have met together in person, but I’m glad we could at least send them something special so they could Go GOLD at home or school. We have T-shirts available if you’d like to Go GOLD with us! (Email to order)🎗🎗🎗

Shirts available Youth XS – Adult 2X – $20 (email info@goldnetworkoet.com to order)

~ for the first participants of Virtual Tyler Gold Run. SuperHERO Liam and his family gathered to support him and all his warrior friends. So special. I remember meeting Liam’s family when he was first diagnosed, and I have watched him CRUSH every obstacle in his way.

He’s just a remarkable kid. They all are. Having a front row seat to witness the incomparable spirit of these children is COMPLETELY LIFECHANGING. Remaining entrenched in the childhood cancer world is excruciating. These are all my babies. Another diagnosis. Another relapse. Another heart shattering loss. Another day of not understanding why I have my Sawyer boy while another mama’s arms are achingly empty. But the pain keeps me motivated. To keep fighting. To keep advocating. To keep reaching out. And watching the miracles is EXHILARATING! Liam rode his bicycle this weekend! Corbin played his first football game, when years ago his doctors told him he WOULD NEVER play any sports! BUT GOD!! We celebrate the victories together, pray for one another, lift each other up and share HOPE. Please prayerfully consider registering for Virtual Tyler Gold Run. Registration is way down from years’ past, which of course is understandable for a virtual event instead of live. It has been a hard year for everyone. But the need for support for these families is greater than ever. Every registration is a donation that supports local families, contributes to dedicated pediatric cancer research, and provides a tangible show of support to the brave children and their families walking through their worst nightmare. You can walk or run, or just register as a donation and get a great T-shirt as a bonus! You can register and participate any time this week. Registration closes at 11:59pm on September 19. www.tylergoldrun.com

And this week, I’m so grateful for unmistakable hints from the Lord. I am working on a sign for one of my neighbors, and the Scripture she requested was Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I started working on the sign, and got a text from another friend who placed an order. I jotted down the information and didn’t think much about it. Until I looked up the scripture reference. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Then this morning as our family gathered together for virtual church in our living room, what do you think the Scripture was for the children’s ministry lesson this morning? “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I hear you Lord.

That is truly the cry of my heart this week. Help me to empty myself of my baggage, my selfishness, my anxieties, my idols, and let You fill me to overflowing with Your joy and peace that never pass away. Thank You for Your Word that continually refreshes and refines.

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

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

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalms 71:14)

Glimmers of GOLD

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

I am thankful:

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

~ for perfectly perfect avocado toast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go GOLD T shirts available $20
Go GOLD Tyler 2019

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

Tiptoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

Mightier

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

“Aug 10, 2014

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

Sunday Gratitude

~Our new room with a nice recliner

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

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

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

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

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

~Sawyer’s sweet little voice chattering away

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

Join me in giving thanks!”

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

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

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

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

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

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ for a fun puzzle completed.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

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

Free

I am thankful:

~ for more STICKERS!! So much fun! Thank you Grandmommy!

~ for two sweet, silly mop dogs. They bring us so much joy. They are crazy about swimming, and they love our garden because they think we are growing balls for them (tomatoes).

~ for Gavin’s very first job: feeding the neighbors’ dog for a few days. He was very responsible and did a great job. With the money he earned, he bought a new skateboard. So proud of him!

~ for a sweet visit with our beloved Miss Lindsay and Baby Coby. How is this beautiful lovebug already 1???

~ for Josh to have the opportunity to visit his big brother Alan on his 50th birthday. We don’t live close enough to visit as often as we like, and there were a lot of reasons why this trip was super special. We did not take the whole Tribe, but thanks to modern technology, we got to join in the fun and sing Happy Birthday.

~ for the most delicious cookies! Served WARM and bigger than Tatum K’s face! Crumbl, you definitely have seven more fans!

~ for the biggest, most glorious elephant ears.

~for our covered patio which allows for the perfect shelter from which to watch and listen to the splendor of a summer thunderstorm. I took these photos this evening.

~ for ANOTHER big week for Sawyer! First, another lost tooth. This time he just ran in from playing outside with a bloody mouth, “MAMA!!!! I PULLED OUT MY TOOTH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!” And then this weekend, he finally showed us that he was ready to swim, like FOR REAL swim without a floatie. It’s so completely stressful for Mom and Dad. You know how all newly swimming kids look in the water – like they are absolutely drowning. It is hard not to panic every time he plunges straight to the bottom, because he has 0% fear. But he just kicks and paddles and thrashes with all his might and pops up like a little cork. You have never seen a kid exploding with more joy and pride. It is truly overwhelming to watch another miracle come out of him every single day. BI can’t even explain it. BUT GOD!

~ for remarkable grace and second chances and third chances… If, for example, I decide I want to learn a new language, I don’t just suddenly wake up and know it, just out of the sheer desire to know it. Change doesn’t just come from desire. It comes from practice, and it’s just like praying for patience: God doesn’t just miraculously gift you with beautiful patience, but instead allows uncomfortable situations that would try any saint. So ASK ME how my week was after making the proclamation that I was going to LOVE LAVISHLY. I think my loving muscles were in need of some exercising.

One morning, the kids were particularly at each other from the moment they got up. They were even bickering during Bible time about whose turn it was to read the Scriptures, or sighing loudly in annoyance if someone missed a word or lost their place. By the end of it, I was pretty much as frustrated as they were. So I talked to them about their murmuring and complaining, just like the Israelites when God was in the midst of leading them to the promised land. I told them, “This is the family He has chosen for you, and we’re GOING TO give thanks instead of gripe.” And I made each one of them pray for each of their siblings. And something BROKE. Whatever was clouding the atmosphere in our home rolled away. The children laid hands on and prayed the most tender, loving, and sincere prayers for their brothers and sisters. They cried, and particularly amazing to me, each one of them prayed for each other to be a good mom or dad. And then, on their own without prompting, they all laid hands on and prayed for me. It was the sweetest, sweetest time that I will never forget.

~ for a fun time celebrating July 4. It admittedly took some concerted effort to redeem the day. Fourth of July has always been such a fun and festive holiday for us. We’ve always traveled to spend the day with family, swimming, grilling, going to a fireworks show or popping our own. The quintessential Americana celebration. Obviously, things are so different this year. No trips. All fireworks cancelled. There has been so much unrest and turmoil going on “out in the world” that the kids know very little about, but they still feel the unease in the air. And they’ve been disappointed by various cancellations and “no’s” over and over since March. But Josh and I had the same mission in mind this weekend: to make the best of our time together and make it fun for them. We got some new pool floats and goggles. Red, white, and blue juice pouches (MAJOR treat). Roasted hotdogs in the fire pit. Spent the whole day in the pool. Baked and decorated a flag cake. Let the Littles stay up way past their bedtime so they could enjoy swimming with the backyard and pool lit up at night. We said “yes” a LOT more than we said “no.” It was truly a wonderful day. Not because we did anything grand. But because we spent it together, living intentionally and loving lavishly.

There’s been so much turmoil and division about literally EVERYTHING lately, it’s like tiptoeing through a minefield to talk about ANYTHING. Many people are concerned and fired up that their rights are being taken away, or that the future holds many injustices and unreasonable controls being imposed on all of us. I’m one of THE LEAST political people you will ever meet, and not a huge fan of any great debate. I’m often on the naive side and I don’t even comprehend a lot of the issues. I’m definitely trying to do the work to educate myself so I can A) know what I believe and B) answer the inevitable hard questions my kids ask. But as unsure as I am about many issues and policies, I am sure of one thing.

I AM FREE.

Christ died to set me free. I am free from my sin and my former broken life. I’m free to love and serve Him and the family He has given me. I’m free to love my enemies and free to forgive just as I have been forgiven. No one can take my rights away if I willingly lay them down to better love my neighbor and to count others more important than myself. And my rights as an heir to Christ live inside me. And that’s where Jesus lives and He will crush the head of anyone who tries to come into His house and try to push Him or His Child around.

So no matter what my eyes see in this world gone mad, I’m gonna rest in that.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? … Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “F OR Y OUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; W E WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31, 35-39)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)