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)

Welcome New Year

I am thankful:

~ for a fun trip to our favorite Tex-Mex spot, Papacitas. We pretty much go out to eat as a WHOLE FAMILY about once a year, so it’s a pretty big deal. Even though I wish it was something we could do more often, mostly I’m thankful that it’s such a treat for our kids, one they don’t take for granted because we do it all the time.

~ and I had forgotten to show my super cute Bear and Birdie Christmas ornaments that are a favorite on our tree.

~ for the after-Christmas buzz of new paints and trampoline tricks and hoverboards and puzzles and games. We had beautiful weather days and cabin-fever yucky days. And not many pictures because we were just living life with both hands AND because Mama was busy picking up puppy poop.

~ for the wonderful day of celebration when our dear leukemia warrior friend Jase aka “Hulk Strong” had his port removal surgery this week! His surgery was uneventful, and he has recovered well at home. This is such a major milestone marking the official end of treatment for a cancer survivor, fraught with lots of BIG mixed emotions. So thankful Jase has done so well, and praying that he can move past this chapter and have the carefree childhood his family has dreamed of. BUT GOD!

~ for the end of an era. This puppy pillow was a birthday gift for Sawyer when he turned 2.

In the thick of cancer treatment, it traveled back and forth to overnight hospital stays, and at home, it was used in his bed – a twin mattress on the floor in our master bedroom. Sawyer NEVER ONCE slept through the night until he turned 4, and most nights I slept with him. On the floor. With the puppy pillow. I was surprised to find that the puppy pillow was actually a pretty terrific shape for neck support. 5 years have gone by, and I have used that silly pillow every night. Well, this week we got new bedding: hotel quality sheets and quilt that feel like heaven! I’m SO EXCITED. And I got a new neck support pillow that prompted me to retire the puppy pillow once and for all. Now if only I could ACTUALLY SLEEP…

~ for a rollicking New Year’s Eve at Casa Rucker. We ate chicken strips, had a very serious gingerbread house decorating contest (judged by Dad and Cooper),

and then an intense Trouble tournament.

Our sweet friend Miss Karen brought us a delicious white chocolate raspberry Nothing Bundt Cake.

We played with sparklers in the driveway (which is still a bit of a battle for me…growing up in Minnesota where fireworks are illegal, I had ever been around them. Fireworks displays were put on strictly by firemen on July 4, and that was it. So the concept of letting teenagers fire off bottle rockets and giving sparklers to babies is a little unsettling for me, even after 20 years in Texas.) But the kids had a blast and it was such a fun end to this crazy year. We even made it to midnight.

~ for our tasty Southern traditional New Year’s Day meal of sweet buttered cornbread, savory roasted cabbage, and blackeyed peas.

~ for 11 puppy baths! Those little stinkers were ready for one! What an event that was!

Today was puppy pickup day. All day, every 30 minutes we had another thrilled/nervous/or-combo-of-both family show up at the door to pick up their new baby. I will replay those “awwws” and squeals of excitement over and over. The first in-person meeting for many. The first hold. First hug. First puppy snuggle and wet puppy kisses. So many sweet moments. Billy, Nola, Mango, Julie, Rambo, Dexter, Maddie, Bo, Dugan, and Charlie went to their homes amid lots of smiles and wagging tails.

But definitely heart wrenching for us to say 10 goodbyes one after another. It was hard on the kids, but we had lots of great talks about how loved the puppies will be at their new homes and what a blessing it is for us to share in their joy. AND we get to enjoy a little extension of the joy for a couple more weeks: we are puppy-sitting for 2 weeks while the last little pup’s family is on vacation. It will be fun to experience ONE puppy for a little while, even though we know that goodbye will be even harder. We LOVE BIG in this house. Just can’t help it.

Sawyer has spent most of the day in the kennel with this pup

I have to admit I have a new sense of optimism. Freshness. Excitement. Maybe that’s the thrill of hope of a weary world rejoicing that the song talks about? Even if January 1 is just a turn of a calendar page, and just another day, it’s still a fresh start to a new year. I’m up for all the clichés this year. I’ve RE-started my diet and fitness plans. I’ve RE-started my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. I want to try to be more organized. More transparent. A better communicator. Goals are good, and January is as good a time to start as any. And I know lots of my good intentions will fizzle or flop. But I also know that’s not where my worth lies. Jesus will meet me in my successes and my failures, and neither will make Him love me any more or any less. My number 1 goal is that I would look more like Jesus in 363 days than I do today. I have lots of hopes and dreams for Gold Network of East Texas. And some exciting prospects and possibilities for Giddyup & Whoa. Josh and I have numerous home projects planned, trips in mind, and hopefully even MORE PUPPIES (after a good LONG break). But we hold all of these things in open hands, knowing that God’s plans, however unpredictable, are ALWAYS so much better than ours. We just want what He wants, for our family, for our marriage, for our future. Whatever comes, we will do it WITH HIM, FOR HIM, IN HIM.

2020 has been a complicated year. Lots of loss, lots of pain, lots of conflict. But God is a master of bringing beauty from ashes. I hope we learn from our own and others’ mistakes, hope we appreciate more the things we used to take for granted, and that we value relationships more than ever before. I hope we glean the blessings that have come along the way, life a little slower, or at least a little more intentional. And that we take those lessons into this new year having grown in both wisdom and compassion. I know I have had time with my kids that I never would have had any other way. I learned that I will never fulfill my dream of being a math teacher or story problem writer. And I have learned afresh that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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 43:19)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”(Psalms 37:5)

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

God With Us

I am thankful:

~ for my favorite view…a bazillion stockings on the fireplace, soft, twinkling lights on the tree and new mantel decor this year. I spy a refurbished treasure salvaged from my roadside adventures.

October “Treasure Week”

~ for how excited the kids are to draw each other‘s names for our sibling “Secret Christmas Buddy” gift exchange.

~ for Carson Grace starting her new job this week, as a sales lead at Aeropostale. How crazy for my girl to start a job in retail clothing just like I did at her age. She’s learning a lot: retail at Christmas is no joke.

~ for the cutest puppies in all the land.

They are doing great. We learned how to feed them their transitional semi-liquid food by trial and LOTS OF ERROR. Josh upgraded his feeding center, and they are finally getting the hang of it.

Some have it more figured out than others

They are visibly growing and changing every day. I can’t believe they are 4 weeks old today, and that THEY ALL HAVE HOMES! It makes me so happy to think of how much joy they will bring to so many families. For now we are enjoying all the sweet puppy breath and snuggles.

~ for all the help when putting a project together. ALLLLLL the help.

~ for exhilarating high school football playoffs. Even though a televised game is a weak substitute for the in-person electric energy of a brightly lit roaring stadium on a Friday night, the necessity of these broadcasts now enables so many more people to get to watch games they would not be able to attend (including us!). This week we were excited to see the Carthage Bulldogs secure ANOTHER trip to the state championship in their division. AND we were beside ourselves as we watched the nailbiting comeback of the Lindale Eagles, as they soared in for a victory and ticket to their state championship. Coach Chris Cochran and his wife Lindsay and sweet Coby Tate are family to us, and we could not be more proud of this well-deserved victory for them and their boys.

~ for Samantha’s very first acting gig! She and her 6th Grade Drama class presented the play, “Too Wrapped up for Christmas,” and did a fantastic job. While Sam said acting “isn’t really her ‘THING,’” she said she had a great time. How are these babies growing up so fast!?

~ for SO MANY PROJECTS underway for Giddyup & Whoa! I have continued to get new orders daily, and I’m painting and wood burning as fast as my little fingers can go! It’s always such a blessing to meet another customer and see them pleased with their sign. I still have many projects to complete for Christmas gifts, so I am HUSTLING. I have one particularly intimidating order…a MASSIVE 7 footer. I call this part of the season “the Christmas Crunch.”

~ for all our favorite memory-laden Christmas decorations. Grandma Grace’s nativity and handmade felt ornaments.

The well-loved Fisher Price nativity, that never seems to have all its pieces at one time (it’s usually missing Mary, and several times we have lost Baby Jesus. We replaced the angel one year, but we are still short 2 wisemen.) This little snowman and puppy combo was a Hallmark classic. Our sweet Granny Lucy bought it when Cooper was a baby, 16 years ago. We have loved pulling it out every year and listening to its cheery jingle bark song.

It traveled with me to Dallas when Sawyer was in the hospital at Christmastime two years in a row.

One year it stopped working, and I researched how to clean battery connections, and then painstakingly swabbed the connectors with white vinegar. By some miracle it worked, resurrecting the Christmas cheer. And now Tatum K loves it. It reminds me of Granny and always makes me smile.

Another favorite tradition is celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with Grandmommy. She spends so much time and thought putting together gifts for the children, and we love the excitement of singing each verse of the song and opening a gift each night.

Traditions mean so much to me. Always have. I think back on spending Christmas at Grandma Grace’s house…the ornaments and nativity that I loved so much when I was little, and the sparkling Christmas tree made from her jewelry that would mesmerize me for hours. I remember her card table set up with the poinsettia tablecloth, serving up orange 7up punch with her pretty crystal cups, mixed nuts, homemade Chex mix, and ALWAYS a little tray of Andes mints. At my other grandparents house, we would celebrate on Christmas Eve in their cozy basement, with a big spread of food, including my favorite peanut clusters, and often we would have a White Elephant gift exchange. I remember the year I was so greedy that I chose THE BIGGEST present, and it ended up being a huge and hideous velvet painting of an ocean, and my 8 year old self was DEVASTATED.

I hope one day my grown kids will tell their families about reading Luke Chapter 2 and eating monkey bread and sausage bread. I hope they explain all the stories attached to each of the ornaments they got each Christmas Eve, and how EVERY YEAR I would pretend to surprise them with “opening ONE present early” – always new Christmas pajamas. I hope they love pulling out Granny’s singing snowman and Aunt Dinah’s Christmas village. And I hope they’ll find their own special traditions that will become meaningful to their families.

Is Jesus at the center? It sounds like such a cliché, but do we have room for Him? Is there room in the busy-ness, between the Amazon orders and the holiday baking and the Christmas party-ing, is there any margin in our lives to sit at His feet? We pray and ask Him all year long to use us, but when it comes down to it, do we leave any room for what He actually intended to use us for: to listen to a friend who is lonely, to give to a stranger who is hurting, to forgive that family member who has hurt us?

I feel like most of us have gone through a lot this year, and we are all processing things differently. We may not be celebrating all our same traditions in the same way this year, but the Most Important Thing is still the same, and can’t be taken away by national mandates or quarantines. Emmanuel. God With Us. Wherever we are, He is there if we leave room for Him.

Let’s not lose Jesus this year.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

““Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(Isaiah 41:10)

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)

BUCKLE UP!

Well it’s been a monumentous week at Casa Rucker.

We DO have so much to be thankful for!”

I am thankful:

~ for beautiful weather for a successful grocery shopping day, at ALL THREE STORES!

Store #1
Store #2
Store #3

~ for Gavin and his class performing an moving and inspiring Veterans Day program at chapel. Obviously it was more meaningful this year than ever before. Listening to the patriotic words of our forefathers who pioneered the way for freedom highlighted our need today to press in through prayer and faith so we don’t lose those freedoms that were so hard fought for. And Gavin also had a solo which was just beautiful. You can watch the program here.

~ for the awesome opportunity to attend an amazing event. Long time Texas Rangers fans, our family are big-time fans of Derek Holland, the former star Rangers pitcher. I had the chance to meet him years ago during Sawyer’s treatment when the team visited Children’s Hospital.

Around that time, Derek made a special connection with another childhood cancer warrior and created his own nonprofit organization… The 60 Foot 6 Foundation, named for the distance from the pitchers mound to the plate. The young boy bravely battled cancer, and rallied back after several close calls, but did eventually pass away. Over the years Derek has raised funds and generously supported the childhood cancer community. Earlier this year, I connected with the executive director of his foundation, and she invited our family to be guests of Derek to his fundraising concert in Fort Worth this week. What an amazing night! We enjoyed fantastic music from the über talented Fort Worth artist Josh Weathers, got to meet some other childhood cancer families, and hear Derek’s moving personal testimony of the life-changing impact his young friend had on him. And of course, we got to meet Derek! Like REALLY meet him. He and Sawyer bonded quickly, with Derek saying, “this kid is the cutest!”

We so enjoyed his down-to-earth demeanor, and his charge to the crowd to “not wait until this (childhood cancer) affects you personally…Do something NOW to support these kids!” I also loved this exhortation, “We need to stop spending so much time comparing ourselves to each other and start comparing ourselves to what we did yesterday.” There were some unbelievable silent auction items and prize drawings, and although we did not win anything, another attendee who DID win gave his prize to Sawyer! An engraved Ian Kinsler bat!

Sawyer was over the moon, and has hardly put it down since. He has proclaimed that he wants it mounted “in a frame with glass” in his room! It was such a special, memorable night, and my hope and dream is that it COULD be a door that God could open for Gold Network of East Texas and 60 Feet 6 Foundation to collaborate on more projects in the future. We’ll see!

And the news of the day: last Sunday’s shotgun wedding was just in time! Birdie had her puppies this morning!

Not 3.

Not 5.

Not 8.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!!!!

Mama and pups are all doing well. Birdie has been an amazingly attentive mother, and I’m telling you, they are THE CUTEST things you’ve ever seen. A first litter of eleven is pretty much unheard of, and we have never done this before, so it is definitely a daunting undertaking. I was up with Birdie all night as she labored, and have stayed by her side pretty much all day to make sure nobody gets stepped on, crushed, or misses a feeding. I am continually counting little heads over and over – reminds me of taking Littles to the pool. And we are also supplementing with bottles just to be sure all the puppies get enough nutrition. OVERWHELMING? Maybe just a tad. Are we INSANE? Probably. But the kids are all thrilled, and I know they’ll all pitch in. Colton spent the day helping any way he could, including cooking dinner! These are the kind of memories I’m thankful to be making with them all. And we’re not afraid of hard work. (Ok, I might be a TINY BIT AFRAID THIS TIME.)

Soooo, that being said…anybody want to give a pretty amazing Christmas gift? These sweet babies are all for sale and will be ready for their forever homes just after the first of January. We’ve had a lot of interest in them already, but we definitely had more than we were expecting! (Miniature goldendoodles are a WONDERFUL breed, hypoallergenic, non-shedding, and fantastic with kids.) Bear and Birdie are the BEST DOGS!

So this week, in between school Thanksgiving feasts, 5th grade wax museum, and the regular tasks of our Jumbotron Tribe, I have “Christmas in the Country” at the Gresham Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa to get ready for (November 18-21),

and 11 puppies to tend to (and feed every 2 hours round the clock!) JESUS HELP!

I cannot believe I have 9 kids and 13 dogs. I have become THAT LADY.

My hands are full, but my heart is FULLER. Ain’t nobody got time for grammar with this much going on!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. BUT GOD!!

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭126:3‬)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬)

Come Together

WHAT A WEEK, HUH?

I don’t know about you, but I am EXHAUSTED. But, in times of trial, in times of questioning, it’s more important than ever that we CHOOSE GRATITUDE. Training our eyes to seek out and focus on the simplest blessings around us makes all the difference.

I am thankful:

~ For Taco Tuesdays and steaming hot charro beans fresh from the instant pot.

~ For quiet mornings at home on repeat: Tatum K + dogs + paints + The Greatest Showman.

~ for fun neighbors to hike and explore with.

~ For sweet helpers in the kitchen.

~ For Carson Grace having a spontaneous weekend road trip with her roommates to do some hiking in the beautiful hills of Oklahoma.

~ For an exciting week for Cooper. He has been super into music for about 3 years, and has been producing his own beats and songs on software on our home computer. He has created a makeshift (almost) soundproof recording studio in the pool bathroom, and spends hours editing his songs. He recently purchased a self-production media kit, and this week he released his first single on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. His artist name is Davvec, and the single is “Reminiscing.” It may not be your taste in music, but we are so proud of Cooper, of his drive, his talent, and his commitment to becoming an artist. He created every element from scratch on his own! Give him a listen! https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/davvec/reminiscing

~ For Colton taking his little sisters out to dinner. This special time with their big brother was off-the-charts exciting for the girls, and they all had a blast. I love that he wanted to spend time with them.

~ For exciting news that we have been anxiously awaiting to announce. We had an intimate backyard wedding this week. To be honest, it was a shotgun wedding. The newlyweds are expecting their first litter any day now.

Look at those smiles!

~ For a special time at church this morning sharing part of our fostering and adoption testimony for National Adoption Month. It was a meaningful and encouraging service, highlighting the various ways people can make a difference in the lives of the innumerable children in the foster care system. I’m so thankful the Lord opened our eyes and our hearts to adoption, and for the family He hand picked for us, a family I far too often take for granted. You can find more information on how you can help at http://bethelightetx.com

For many of us, it’s been a long, stressful roller coaster of a week. I know that I know that I know that God is in control. He is high above all earthly authority and supersedes every government. He is Lord and King of all. And I know He is sovereignly on His throne and not rattled by all that goes on around us. I know all this. I’m confident of all this. But somehow, as I sat and watched the election coverage, watching the states turning colors and the consultants making their predictions and speculations…my heart began to pound. I could hear it in my ears. I could feel it in my forehead. Peoples’ angry reactions and insults and tantrums were making me physically sick. I’ve never been affected this way by politics before, and it just really sent my anxiety off the charts. So much hate and ugliness attacking from both sides, I just felt so grieved that our nation had come to this. And even as I could physically feel my peace being sucked out of me, it was like I couldn’t tear myself away from it. BUT GOD. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who guards my heart when I don’t do it myself, and he encouraged me and turned off the television and tucked us into bed. And as the drama dragged out day after day, I would feel the tension rise up again, but I was reminded over and over of God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. He has a plan for our nation, and He WILL BE GLORIFIED. I love this picture I took on the morning of November 3 of Gavin and his classmates.

Four innocent 10-year-olds with no agenda, who love their country just because it is THEIR country, raising and saluting our nation’s flag just because it is the right thing to do. At this point, it doesn’t really matter who we voted for. It’s time to come together to honor and pray for our nation, to honor and pray for our president, to honor and pray for each other. It’s time to stop throwing stones and taking sides and start coming together so we can be a nation that our children can continue to be proud of. And for those who have claimed Jesus as Lord, it’s rubber-meets-the-road time…to walk out with our feet the trust in Him we have proclaimed from our mouths, and to conduct ourselves in a way that honors Him (speaking to myself here).

GOD IS FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men….Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.” (Psalms 33:12-13, 20-22)

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

Awake

I am thankful:

~ for the first cozy fire of the season. We LOVE a fire! And fresh baked pumpkin muffins.

~ for my first Burger Warehouse burger. What a treat!

~ for the joy in my kids’ voices when they run inside calling, “Mama! You HAVE to come look at the sky!!” May I never take for granted the privilege of seeing the wonder of God’s creation through their eyes.

~ for Colton’s first groundbreaking ceremony for a new commercial construction project with his company.

Colton, second from the left

~ for the opportunity to attend Gavin’s 4th grade Toastmasters speech. He told the story of crashing his big brother’s bike and earning 7 stitches. Gavin was a natural in front of his class, speaking clearly and confidently. So proud of him.

~ for the perfect autumn weather for an evening stroll.

~ for HOPE: a first tiny step in the right direction for a long-standing prayer request.

~ for God’s care and provision over every detail. Monday at lunch, I asked God for work for Giddyup & Whoa. We had gotten caught up on orders, and our schedule was open. (Which is NOT a good thing for a small business.) WITHIN THE HOUR, I got an order through our website for 12 handpainted ornaments. An hour later, an order for 9 more. And this week I got additional orders for 10 more signs! Glory to the Lord! If you need me, I’ll be in the studio! And if you need a unique and meaningful gift for Christmas, Josh and I would love to create a special piece for you. But get your order in early! Thank you for supporting small businesses. Target and Amazon don’t care about your order, but the small shops you support DO! It genuinely makes a difference for our families.

~ for the cool blessing of seeing our oldest work with his dad to help us get all these signs built.

~ for 20+ years of friendship. When Josh and I came to the Lord, it was such a season of firsts. New marriage, new faith, new baby. And we had the incredible blessing of going through all those firsts with some really special couples. Further along in their faith, they discipled us and ministered to us, answered our questions, and taught us about Jesus just by living their lives openly and inviting us along. We were all growing our families for the first time in that season, and it was the most awesome time of fellowship and eating together and staying up way too late with a room full of pack-and-plays full of not-really-sleeping babies in the next room. Our kids all had built-in best friends from birth. Then life had twists and turns and changes. Job changes, more kids, address changes, blessings, and tragedies. We don’t hang out every weekend anymore, haven’t for years. But the love is the same, we treasure the memories, and we give thanks when we have the opportunity to get together again.

2004 – I remember thinking that this group was a TON of kids! But it’s actually LESS CHILDREN than I have in my family alone now! Since this picture, we have collectively added 9 more children to our families.

~ for my favorite fall tradition: the Thankful Game! Our family has a giant group email thread for sharing big and small thankful thoughts each day. I don’t know how many years we have been doing it, but as long as I can remember. I love hearing everyone else’s perspectives, and the feeling of connection regardless of location. And the kids LOVE to participate, and it’s so fun to hear what they thank God for. It helps us get back to an attitude of gratitude.

I’ve been really convicted this week of my own laziness. It’s so easy to get into a routine and set the auto pilot. Get up each day, do all the things, lather, rinse, repeat. Check all the boxes. Looking busy instead of looking for Jesus. Skimming on the surface without going deep. But God. This week I feel as if I’ve been shaken awake from being half asleep. I heard my voice giving someone counsel that I was needing to hear myself. It’s time to wake up. Eyes up. Off my worries. OFF MYSELF. No more sleepwalking. No more tuning out. More of Jesus, less of me.

Are YOU awake?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must become greater; I must become less.”” (John 3:30)

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17)

More Than a Pie

I am thankful:

~ for another special birthday. Cooper turned 16. Man, I just can’t believe he’s gotten so grown. He is growing up before our eyes, into such a bright, handsome young man. So proud of him. Enjoyed his feast of choice tonight: a stuffed burrito bar with homemade queso and salsa and a triple layer chocolate cake.

~ for a fun long weekend for Fall Break. We enjoyed the cooler weather and bright sunshine, spent one day with sweet friends, and another day catching up with Aunt Gina. Nothing fancy, but just good time together.

~for a spectacularly beautiful coconut cream pie. It was a beautiful snack. And a beautiful breakfast. And beautiful over and over until it was gone. And this pie was made with so much love, and the heart behind it made it so much more than just a pie. Nobody else can understand. But oh, it was so much more than a pie.

~ for a wonderful quarterly oncology checkup for Sawyer. We rejoice that he remains CANCER FREE! It was a physically and emotionally exhausting day PACKED with special moments. You can read the details of our day here. Or on Facebook

~ one of the highlights of our trip to the hospital was the privilege of celebrating Sawyer’s best buddy as he had his last hospital chemo treatment! We are so proud of you, Jase!

~ another highlight was stopping at the wonderland that is Buc-ees. Always a favorite. And of course, that’s where I get my very favorite treat…

~ while Sawyer and I were in Dallas, Tatum K had a day at home with Daddy. She helped him with some plumbing repairs and kept him laughing all day. If you watch my “Tuesdays with Tatum K” Instagram stories, you understand. She has been saying all week, “I like to fix toilets wif you, Daddy!”

~ for a slug day. The day AFTER clinic I’m SO DEPLETED. Tatum K and I stayed in our pjs all day and did NOTHING. NOTHING.

~ for perfect weather for a successful Fall Barn Sale this week. So thankful that Giddyup & Whoa can be a part of this awesome event.

~ for the blessing of being in church with ALL my kids for the first time since I can remember.

What you imagine church is like with Tatum K… doesn’t she just look like an angel playing quietly with her little jungle animals?
What church is ACTUALLY LIKE with Tatum K

~ for another delicious feast: Colton and Brooke cooked brunch for us! It’s one thing that they are enjoying learning to cook, but it’s quite an undertaking for them to cook for 15 people! Sausage and onion quiche, mini pigs in a blanket, and toasted hash browns! So impressed! And so thankful for the time we spend together.

Life is still hard. Complicated. Heartbreaking. Relentless. It feels like we gain ground one day only to lose it all the next. Eternal whack-a-mole. And some days I feel like I’m grounded and handling things gracefully, while other days I am floundering flat on my face. But God. I cling to the promise of new mercies every morning, and that “even when I don’t see it, You’re working…even when I can’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop, You never stop working.” He cares about everything we care about. He loves the ones we love and worry about. I give thanks for the grace to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One prayer on top of another. I’m so thankful for the glimpses we get of prayers being answered, renewing our hope for the ones that to us may look like we are just spinning our wheels. We’re NOT just spinning our wheels, friends. Every big and small thing we do matters. Every act of faith and every sacrificial offering of love leaves an imprint. And sometimes something as simple as a pie is so much more than a pie.

Lord, give us eyes to see what will be, instead of only what is today. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you….being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭1:3, 6‬)

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
‭‭(Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬)

Shifting the Focus

I am thankful:

~ for fall decorations. Haven’t been super motivated to decorate, but the kids have been asking. I pulled out a little more each day and they were excited to look around like a scavenger hunt when they got home from school to see what I had added. And I love my pampas plumes, and am so very thankful I did not get arrested for trespassing when I clipped them. I will not divulge the location on the grounds that it may incriminate me.

~ for one of my favorite weeks of the year: Bulky Item Trash Pickup! I had an exceptionally successful week of treasure hunting, so good that even Josh was pleased! (That NEVER happens!) I look forward to giving these castoffs a second chance at life!

~ for Gavin, who received a Character Quality Award for “Carefulness.” So proud of the young man God is shaping, and love seeing those sparkling eyes and dimples for days!

~ for the love of and talent for art that ALL our children have! They are all such creative artists! These are just a couple paintings done this week.

~ for a remarkable donation! In September I was approached by an Usborne Books consultant who asked if she could do a fundraiser for Gold Network of East Texas. Of course, I gratefully accepted, she held the fundraiser, and we finally met this week. She collected funds to purchase 50 copies of the book, “Cuddle Bear,” and its companion stuffed teddy bear for our HERO families! It was such a blessing to get to meet her, and I can’t wait to distribute these bears to our families!

~ for a friend who unexpectedly pops in to deliver a donation to Gold Network of East Texas AND brings a minky kitty for a certain little girl!!! Thanks so much Meredith and My Minky Co!

~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week prepping for the Vintage & Co Fall Gresham Barn Sale. I finally completed all my custom orders and was able to create several new designs to take to the Barn. If you are local, come check it out THIS WEEK October 14-17.

~ for a fun departure from our normal Friday nights. We went to hear Carson Grace’s boyfriend’s band! Rock music and brick oven pizza under the stars! It was a family friendly event, and we all had a blast.

~ for the roars of alternating jubilation and agony as we watch ALL the football. Prayers for our beloved Dak Prescott. He has been so kind to the childhood cancer community, and has loved personally on many of our HERO kids.

~ for a decadent FEAST prepared by Dad and Colton: juicy grilled pork chops, cheesy scalloped potatoes, and savory grilled asparagus. Thumbs up all around!

Before church this morning I was wrestling with some things, feeling low, sitting alone in my studio space while the family finished getting ready. (That’s always one of my patterns: to withdraw and hide away when I’m struggling.) I was playing a worship playlist and thinking about a troubling situation that is heavy on my heart. One by one, my kids trickled in. (Don’t they always?) They settled in around me, snuggling in and singing along to one of their favorite songs, “I give thanks for all you have done. I won’t forget all the battles You have won. Your love is unfailing, Lord I am grateful…”

And I was reminded afresh: He has done so much! Look around! Look at the blessings! Look at the victories right in front of you! Yes, there are still broken hearts and prayers that long for answers. BUT GOD! HE IS WORKING! He is good all the time (and all the time, He is good).

I don’t take back what I said about parenting being hard. It’s SO. HARD. But it’s also so worth it. The valleys are agonizing, but the mountains are pretty spectacular. And I’m so blessed.

I think about when we make a project or create something, or even cook something. Maybe it’s even when we look at ourselves. Our eyes search out the flaws. And once we find one, and we inevitably do, that’s where we focus. We can’t help ourselves. “If only I hadn’t done that.” “If only this spec wasn’t there.” We miss the beauty of what was created by zeroing in on the flaw. It’s so easy to focus on the hard parts, the bumps in the road. Our family, like every family, has some things that we are wrestling through, some painful processes that will take time and healing to grow through. That’s real life. Messy. Imperfect. And it’s so easy to let myself be CONSUMED by focusing on the problem.

But when I shift my focus and look at the whole picture…I see a six-year-old boy who wasn’t supposed to live to be one-year-old. BUT GOD.

I see him thriving and bright and active when we were told to expect brain damage and learning disabilities and fragile bones that might limit his abilities.

I see three beautiful bright thriving kids who were terrors just a few short years ago. They were physically and emotionally unhealthy, kicking and screaming and pulling each other‘s hair out. And we were pulling OUR hair out trying to manage them. BUT GOD.

Now they are sweet and smart and creative and loving. And OURS.

I see a bitsy girl who first had heart arrhythmias in the womb and then was nonverbal as an infant long enough for doctors to suspect hearing loss. BUT GOD.

And now she’s the liveliest, healthiest, singing-song-iest little spitfire you ever did meet.

I see an angry, rebellious teenager who couldn’t stand his parents who now as an adult comes over just to hang out 3 to 4 times a week.

I see prayers answered. Hopes realized.

Even though I blog my thankful thoughts every Sunday, I struggle just as much as anyone else to KEEP MY FOCUS on the faithfulness of the Savior instead of the ever-changing and troubling waves of my circumstances. But when I remember to shift my focus…oh, how blessed I am.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“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)

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:3)

Plains, continued

I am thankful:

~ for the most surprisingly simple way to bring joy to my children and instantly elevate my mom status to superhero. I wish someone had told me sooner: all I have to do is pick my kids up from school blasting the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman.” You would have thought I had delivered ice cream and puppies for all! They sparkled and sang and clapped all the way home! It was GLORIOUS! Sawyer even said, “When I grow up and get married and have children, I want this to be the FIRST movie they watch. Cuz I just love it so much.” There really is something magic about that movie.

~ for the refreshingly crisp drop in temperatures. It actually feels like fall, even for Texas.

~ for a delicious feast of zesty fried gulf shrimp and fries from our favorite little secret local spot.

~ for one more successful door-slamming tooth pull. Love that proud toothless grin!

Before…isn’t that dangly tooth just painful to look at?

~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week. Lots of new designs getting cranked out and delivered. One sweet lady was so tickled with her sign she asked if she could hug me! So awesome to have the privilege to create something special for someone’s home. Plenty more work to do to get ready for the Barn Sale in a week and a half!

~ for a full week of GCS Homecoming festivities. Sam and Kora enjoyed dressing up for their first Spirit Week in Middle School (and of course I didn’t get a single picture). Littles enjoyed Crazy Sock Day. In between painting signs, I was up to my eyeballs in hot glue and ribbon to make a Homecoming mum, and Cooper enjoyed the pep rally, football game, and Homecoming dance.

~ for a fun day spent visiting with a dear sister that I have missed dearly.

~ for a long overdue trip for the Tribe to the dentist, which amazingly yielded zero cavities!

~ for a great afternoon for Josh and Colton who worked together to build a reclaimed wood coffee table and 2 end tables for his new house. (Again, NO PICTURES!!! I’m really off my game this week!) But really, I’m thankful for the tremendous blessing of a renewed and refreshed relationship with Colton. We’ve been through some really rough, painful seasons, and there was a season when none of us desired to spend much time together. It’s just so awesome that now we value each other so much, and he CHOSES to call and/or come over ALMOST EVERY DAY! What a gift! Glory to the Lord!

~ for the blessing of being back in physical church. As much as it stirs up my anxieties, it is a such a blessing to be in my church home building, surrounded by believers that I know and love, raising our voices together and receiving the word of God. Even if it looks like this…

~ for the kids favorite Sunday afternoon comfort food: pigs in a blanket.

~ for the sweetest toothless baking assistant of all time.

I’m very late posting due to a VERY LONG EVENING. (I guess it’s more of a Monday Gratitude this week). Can I just make a revolutionary observation?

Parenting is HARD.

That is all.

P.S. BUT GOD. I am thankful for new mercies every morning, and that His love never fails, it never gives up, and never runs out on me. And I’m thankful that while I know I have a very important job to do, at the end of the day, God is God and I am not. Glory hallelujah.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalms 138:8)

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

“‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:15‬ ‭