Yes I Will

Some weeks we have to dig a little deeper to find the blessings.  

But they are ALWAYS there. 

Last week, we had an ambiguous “extra week” of Spring Break, we “played” school to stay busy, and learned new words like “pandemic” and “social distancing.”  

This week, Virtual Learning was officially launched by our school.  Effective immediately.  Duration, indefinitely.  At my house, that means I now teach Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade, ALL subjects ranging from phonics to Algebra, Spanish, Latin, world geography, literature, Bible, and history.  By the end of the week, the mayor issued the “Shelter in Place” order, and we are now pretty much on lockdown.  Carson Grace received word from ETBU that on campus classes will not reconvene this school year. 

Life feels like it is on perpetual pause. Groundhog Day over and over again.  What day is it?  Who knows?  Does it even matter?

People have asked how I am managing with 8 kids, homeschooling, not leaving the house, and my anxiety.   The most honest response I can give is, I’m glad there are no witnesses.  It’s been ok.  We’ve had rough moments.  And sweet ones.  I’ve had kids snuggled in my lap while I read to them, we have played together, we have danced together, and we have worshipped.  On the other hand, I have lost my cool.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve cried.  I’ve laid awake for hours at night.  I’ve eaten more sweets than I will ever admit to. 

But more than ever, I GENUINELY BELIEVE this season is about putting our faith into practice.  Of course it SHOULD always be that way. But let’s get real.  We are finding out if we really believe the things we used to say so casually…. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!” 

We have a choice.  

I am thankful:

~ for new mercies every morning.  I need to go back over my Sunday Gratitudes (how can it be that I have been writing every Sunday for almost 6 years now???) and see how many times I have been thankful for new morning mercies.   That is nothing new.  But boy, I am so grateful as I collapse into bed every night that the day is OVER and I get to start fresh the next day.   Every day is a do-over. IMG_5886.jpg

~ for the hard work our teachers and administration has done to transfer all of their curriculum into an online format for us.  I HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED OUR WONDERFUL TEACHERS SO MUCH!  Wow!  The things we realize we have under-appreciated or taken for granted!  They have done a TREMENDOUS JOB of making this switch happen basically overnight.  I am completely in awe of their giftings: their knowledge, their patience, and their love for all our kids that kept them coming back to their jobs day after day.   Oh how I miss my kids’ teachers!  (I bet not HALF as much as my KIDS miss their teachers!  Their new teacher is SO MEAN!  And never goes away!)IMG_5705 2.JPGIMG_5729 2.JPGIMG_5682.JPGIMG_5664 2.JPGIMG_5837.JPG

~ for generous help from loved ones to supplement the groceries we can’t stock up on for our jumbo-sized clan. 

~ for my kids OUTSTANDING attitudes.  They’ve had a few bumps (mostly in response to my own volatile moods), but so far they are still eager to get to their school work, and enjoying the material, and very forgiving of their grumpy teacher.  I’m truly the most blessed mama in all the world. IMG_5782 2.JPG

~ for another successful out-of-my-comfort-zone first.  The physical Laurel & Cotton Spring Sale was obviously cancelled, but the feisty shop owner, Melissa, undeterred, launched a virtual sale via Facebook LIVE.  That meant a crash course in camera-work and social media for each vendor.  It was nerve-wracking and felt completely awkward to talk to my phone (check out my CLASSY, PRO-FESSIONAL tripod!) IMG_2652.JPGand imagine an invisible audience in my living room (while my Littles were banished into hiding upstairs).  Amazingly enough, it went well, I had several kind viewers and comments, and I actually sold a bunch of Giddyup & Whoa signs, including more after the LIVE sale ended!  I was thrilled!  Not only that, but Melissa sold raffle tickets and designed an exclusive Go GOLD t-shirt, and raised $665 for Gold Network of East Texas!  What an awesome blessing!IMG_5960.JPG IMG_6007.jpg

~ for Josh’s job.  There seem to be new developments every day, and we know we cannot take anything for granted anymore.  The actual store is closed, so his interaction with the public is pretty minimal.  He had to lay off some employees this week, which was really hard on him.  He never EVER complains, although I know the gravity of the times and all that he is responsible for weighs heavily on his heart.  And he never fails to check on how I am doing, and to encourage me.  I’m grateful we can be raw and real and honest with one another.  No filter. 

~ for technology.  To accomplish virtual learning, we use a desktop computer, wireless printer, 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and a phone.  Thus far our router has held up to the massive usage, and I’ve been shocked and thoroughly impressed at how minimal the technical issues have been.  And we also had the opportunity to FaceTime with friends we hardly ever get to see.  This forced slower pace and social distancing is causing us to be more intentional. 

~ for coffee.  3 to 4 pots a day.

~ for our safe and comfortable home, and having everything we need.  We have kind, loving neighbors, a beautiful, quiet street.  Cooper has been organizing baseball tournaments and lizard hunts with the Littles.  We are not suffering in our quarantine. IMG_5759.JPGIMG_5966.JPGIMG_5995.JPGIMG_5996.JPG 

~ for laughs.  We’ve had some good late nights with our bigger kids, watching tv and funny videos together.  Carson Grace even badgered mom and dad and the whole Tribe into filming a TikTok video with her for a contest for school.  She choreographed a routine with us, and we provided live entertainment for our neighborhood from our front yard.  It was pretty hysterical how we all got into it.IMG_5975 2IMG_5981

~ for virtual church service from our living room.  It brought such comfort to see our pastors’ faces and to worship together with THE CHURCH.  We all even put on REAL CLOTHES for the occasion, and took the Lord’s Supper together.  It was simple, intimate, and very special.  I love that my kids are learning firsthand that the CHURCH has nothing to do with a building. IMG_5991.JPG

Hamburger bun and solo cups have never been so sanctified

~ for thoughtful care packages filled with love. 

~ for glorious sunshine.  Perfect for walks, PE, picnic lunches, and art class. IMG_A2A1A0208098-1.jpegIMG_5860.JPG

~ for “Live Meets” for each kiddo with their teacher and classmates.  It was so good for their hearts to get to see and hear from their friends.  And we got calls from several of our teachers, just checking in on us.  I’m so blessed and thankful for our GCS community. IMG_5838.JPG

~ for the people “out in the world” that continue to go to work to keep the world running.  First responders, healthcare workers, supermarket personnel, banks, truck drivers, sanitation workers…we will be grateful forever.  

One of the things I’m going to treasure the most from this season is my time with the kids right after breakfast each morning before we start school.  We snuggle up on the couch and each read verse by verse the Psalm and Proverb of the day, and then I’m reading to them from Hind’s Feet on High Places.  What a perfect book for the season.  The conversations with the children have been priceless.  We have walked with Much Afraid as she faced Pride, Resentment, and Self-Pity, along the Sea of Loneliness and now into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation.   How I want to respond as Acceptance With Joy, “He (the Shepherd) has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose.  I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.’”  

I’m not going to lie and say that’s where I’m at.  But it is my prayer.  I know that this is an opportunity for us to be refined and sifted by our LOVING FATHER.  I know that my hope is IN HIM, and that this world is not my home.  And I don’t want to miss the hidden blessings.  God WILL REDEEM FOR GOOD what the enemy intends for evil.  The immediate blessing of having extra quality time with my kids is just the beginning.  I pray for a deep and lasting heart change and genuine appreciation to be birthed around the world.  

So friends, let’s love one another well this week.  We may not be able to gather together physically, but we can call and check in one one another.  Write a letter.  Send a text.  Film a video. Get creative. I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have left to be creative after my packed days of homeschooling, but I’m going to do my best.  It’s ok to be honest about how we feel. Everything is different, and oftentimes “different” = hard and scary. But we can’t be RULED by how we FEEL. Let’s give each other lots of grace and remember that kindness is contagious.  It’s also ok to stay in stretchy pants. (But I personally AM making a commitment to shower more regularly this week.)

This song has really ministered to me this week, and the lyrics are especially appropriate for the season we are in. I hope it encourages you.

https://youtu.be/NrTv39-lG4M

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalms 46:1-7)

Vision

I am thankful:

~ for those sweet moments that make me laugh.  Tatum was crying, but was trying to settle herself down when her nose started running. Horrified, she started crying harder, “Mama!!!  Now my NOSE is CRYING!”  That girl keeps me on my toes.IMG_4507.JPG

~ for a better-than-expected first week with new puppy, Birdie.  She is sweet, and Bear is getting used to her…he is alternately playful and annoyed.   She is sleeping much better and more tuned-in to potty training than Bear was when we first got him.  She’s certainly doing better on the potty train than Miss Tatum K.  I guess perhaps Mama is a little more motivated with the dog…the puppy’s accidents aren’t contained by a diaper, and Tatum is at least slightly LESS likely to poop on my rugs….IMG_4313 2IMG_4524

~ for some of the most beautiful wood we’ve ever worked with as Giddyup & Whoa.  It is truly the prettiest, chippiest, most awesome wood, and it’s so special to the family we are making signs for.  Such an honor to be entrusted with their memories. 896D690F-D861-41FC-A14D-00296B1DD3EE.JPGIMG_4631.JPG

~ for Cooper being home safe from an incredible trip to Camp Eagle in West Texas.IMG_4636.JPGIMG_1380 2.JPG 

~ for AWESOME new GO GOLD t-shirts.  Go check out Laurel & Cotton to get yours.  Thank you so much to Melissa Vance for your heart to help our HERO families!IMG_4484.jpg

~ for another new and beautiful dream realized.  Last September after Tyler Gold Run, Josh and I started talking about how badly we want more people to understand the vision of Gold Network of East Texas.  Over the last 5 years, we have focused on reaching every family we could find, and raising funds by asking the local businesses we know to be race sponsors.  But we have come to realize that focusing on Tyler Gold Run is so short-sighted.  MOST people don’t want to hear about a race.  MOST people aren’t interested in being a race sponsor.  But I genuinely BELIEVE that if MOST people hear about these families, about the reality of childhood cancer, and about the incomparable bravery of these kids, that they will get on board with us and we just might change the world.   So we decided we wanted to have a dinner.  We envisioned inviting friends and family and others from the community to our home and just sharing our hearts.  When we started making a list, I told Josh that I thought it MIGHT be too big for our house.  To which he replied, “I don’t care!  I’ll stand on the table and talk!”  But as it all actually began to unfold, we decided to book the Foundry, a downtown coffee shop with additional venue space.  We reserved the middle floor which held 78 people, and we prayed that we weren’t being overly optimistic.   We booked a professional videographer, booked a caterer, booked a cellist, and called it the Vision Dinner.  And a week before the event, we had to move our reservation to the 3rd floor, because we had OUTGROWN  the capacity!   The Vision Dinner was Tuesday evening, and it was SO SPECIAL!  We heard from several of our Hero moms and from brave 8th grader and Ewing’s Sarcoma survivor, Aneesa, who read her inspiring letter to her school principal asking her school to Go Gold.  We shared what GNET had done over the past 5 years and our vision for the future.  I looked out at the crowded room of kind, supportive faces around the carefully decorated gold and black tables and felt as though my heart would burst.  I even had the special blessing of having Colton there: he had lined up several of his friends from work who all VOLUNTEERED their time to be our head servers. GNET received many donations that night, but more importantly, I genuinely believe eyes were opened and hearts were touched. _MDJ6866_Original_MDJ6975_Original_MDJ7030_Original_MDJ7108_Original_MDJ7168_OriginalIMG_20200303_181013276_OriginalIMG_20200303_182059657_Original

I will never forget that night. 

~ for the times when the Lord tells me to trust my gut.  Wednesday evening, Sawyer started complaining of a headache and sore throat.  Thermometer revealed 101° fever.  We gave him some Motrin and tucked him in to bed, fighting the inevitable anxiety that creeps in when he runs fever.  Years of conditioning to head straight to the hospital for a temp higher than 100.4° is hard to let go of.   We know the unlikelihood of fever meaning cancer relapse, and we know viruses come and go, and they just have to run their course.  Next morning, 103°.  I gave lots of fluids and Sawyer did not resist being confined to his bed.  That evening, his fever spiked back up to 104° and a rash began to spread across his chest and back.  Sawyer looked at himself and said, “Mama, I look like salami!”  IMG_4554.jpgI still tried not to overreact.  I know rashes can pop up with fevers.  But I just couldn’t shake my concern.  I was able to get the VERY LAST appointment for Friday afternoon at the pediatrician.   And am I ever grateful that the Lord wouldn’t let me let it go: sweet boy tested positive for strep throat and scarlet fever! IMG_4562.jpgI hate to think how sick he could have gotten if we had waited until after the weekend!  BUT GOD!  With antibiotics, the fever quickly subsided, and after a day he was released from quarantine.  Salami Boy is still pretty spotty and itchy, but the maddening red rash is improving and his sore throat is gone.   And thankfully no one else shows signs of getting sick.  Thank You Jesus! IMG_4609.jpg

~ for gloriously good news for my friend after terrifying news, an agonizing waiting period, and a very serious surgery.   Praying for healing mercies as she turns the page on a scary chapter. 

~ I am thankful for the GOAL of Daylight Savings Time, and I know I will enjoy lighter, brighter evenings this summer.  BUT TONIGHT I AM MISSING THAT HOUR AND I AM SO VERY TIRED. 

~ for the wide open schedule of Spring Break ahead.  Praying for lots of grace and patience and getting along with one another and sunshiny days for playing outside. 

My heart is so sad tonight.  Another innocent child was lost to cancer.  Two in a month.  Two more families that should be watching their babies grow up, and instead, they can only wonder what might’ve been.   And yet another family I love is on a trip to soak up some last memories with their sweet little one before they have to say goodbye.  Father God, I love You and I trust that You are good, even though no part of me can understand.  Help me to fix my eyes on You and not on the chaos and brokenness of my surroundings. 

Hold close the ones you love.  Please visit our newly updated website www.goldnetworkoet.com to see the phenomenal video.  If you are moved to give, please do so.  Or contact me about getting involved.  Childhood cancer is not going away.  Help us do more for families living their worst nightmare. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalms 90:12)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;” (Job 19:25)

We hope

I am thankful:

~ for momentum! One more beam down! It’s tiring, backbreaking work, and such a mess, but I’m (thankfully) still in love with the results, and the end is in sight… (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, read about it here).

~ for the deep, heart to heart conversations with my 2 year old. Tatum, “ mama can I have a snack?

Me “ do you want an orange?

No! I want a snack!

Ok, then what DO you want?

An ORANGE!

~ for cheerful fresh tulips brightening my table.

~ for healing! We have all been taking our turns with THE CRUD over the last couple of weeks…intermittent fevers, coughs, runny noses. Last weekend, Sawyer’s cough intensified, and he woke up Monday with a fever. We don’t mess around with anything when it comes to him, and fevers set this mama on high alert, so we were at the pediatrician’s office at 8:30am.

Dr. Everett definitely suspected that he could be in the early stages of developing pneumonia, but we agreed to just watch him closely before jumping forward to any meds. So he missed 2 days of school, and we had a couple pretty rough nights, but Jesus protected Sawyer, and he got better instead of worse! Glory to the Lord! He’s still a little weak, and tires easily, but I told him if he rests well tonight, he’ll finally be allowed to run at recess again. He is SO READY. He told me he’s been being the soccer goalie at recess, and “I’m so terrible at it Mama.” And I think the rest of us are ALMOST well also.

~ for the opportunity to participate in another Vintage & Co.  Jodi does the most amazing job of curating her collections of beautiful and unique vintage finds. It’s always an honor to be able to add a few Giddyup & Whoa pieces to her sales.

~ for the simple little things that bring such joy to my kids. Like pancakes for dinner. You would have thought it was the finest gourmet cuisine ever cooked. I bet they each thanked me 6 times.

~for my kiddos’ sweet and innocent prayers at midweek service. They prayed for healing for everyone who was sick, prayed for their older siblings to make good choices and to “stay on God’s path,” and one of them prayed simply, ”Dear God, help me to obey and have self control.” How it blesses me to hear them learning to talk to their Heavenly Father, and believe that He hears them.

~ for another fun and simple DIY Goodwill makeover. Love those 99¢ finds!

~ for a great time celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. He was turning 50, so the theme of the party was “OLD.” I love Sawyer’s interpretation…

~ for Carson Grace having the opportunity to sing Beethoven’s 9th with her ETBU Concert Choir this weekend. It was a huge concert, and we weren’t able to be there; but so grateful that Grandmommy, Uncle Justin, and Aunt Gina were able to go support her (and fill her up with some much needed Whataburger.)

~ for the sound of the rain against my window, especially when I’m snug in my bed.

~ for my cuties that just happened to end up looking like little Valentines for church. How are they growing up so fast?

~ for an AWESOME evening at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT group. The concept was conceived from our trips to Lighthouse Family Retreat, when all the kids would go play and swim, and the parents would gather for a small group time called Common Ground. All these moms and dads from various walks of life, different faith backgrounds, a variety of diagnoses… but all of us had the worst thing in common. We all had a child with cancer. And we pretty much instantly became family. We listened to each other’s stories and we cried and we prayed for one another. And we encouraged one another. And we laughed. The connections were real and deep and unexpected and life-changing. It gave us so much hope. Josh and I had no idea how much we were thirsting for relationships with this specific community of people. And we just knew we had to try to bring something like it in Tyler. Last night we had seven pediatric cancer families around our table. We feasted on food from Oliveto and laughed and talked and ate and cried. And it was pure gold.

Our work with Gold Network of East Texas keeps us pretty entrenched in the childhood cancer world, even though Sawyer is now 3 years off treatment. (That fact is staggering to me). We celebrate all that God has done, and yet we are still continually learning what life-after-cancer means for us. And every day, I am still talking about cancer, and still thinking about cancer. We haven’t left cancer behind. Representing GNET, I am speaking with cancer families daily. I follow their updates and pray for them. I work on Gold Network event planning, manage the website, and almost daily update social media with announcements or post about childhood cancer awareness. It’s always at the forefront of my thoughts and day to day activities. But in such a different context from 3 or 4 or 5 years ago. But all it takes is to listen to one of our GNET parents begin to talk about that terrible, earthshaking moment when everything changed in their life… and I’m right there again. Sitting in a pediatric exam room on a red vinyl cough with a greenish-white baby in my arms, seeing Dr. Everett come in and close the door behind him with a look on his face like someone had kicked him in the stomach with a steel-toed boot. It never goes away. I see all these families and the pained seared in their eyes. Forever changed. Some of them are giving their brave kids toxic meds every day and praying for the cancer to go away. Some of them, like us, have graduated from the treatment routine, and pray against long term side effects and for the cancer to stay away forever. And some of them have said goodbye to their child, and now they wait, and now the hope they pray for is for the day they will be reunited with their child. It never goes away.

EVERYONE is walking through something. The loss of a child. Caring for an aging parent. A strained marriage. A prodigal child. Struggles at work. Chronic pain. Addiction. Loneliness. Anxiety. PTSD. And the world screams at us from 2 camps: either DO MORE! GET YOURS! CRUSH THE COMPETITION! YOU DESERVE TO RISE! Or on the other extreme: SLOW DOWN! TAKE CARE OF YOU! SELF CARE! YOU DESERVE A BREAK!

We all just need Jesus. Because none of us want what we REALLY deserve. We know the mess we truly are inside: the brokenness, the selfishness, the depravity. But He loves us anyway, right where we are. But even though the gift of salvation is FREE, it does have a cost. We have to say “no” to something to say “yes” to Him.

Saying “yes” to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean our circumstances will change. Sometimes they do. Often they do not. But our PERSPECTIVE changes. And we don’t have to walk alone ever again. Because of Jesus, we are promised that the end of the story is good.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thanks for reading the thoughts I’m musing tonight. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and there’s heaviness weighing on my heart. BUT GOD. Because of Him, I pray with so much hope. Unspeakable joy is COMING.

Have a good week friends. Reach out to somebody who could use a little hope.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Momentum

I am thankful:

~ for MOMENTUM.  Josh got started on all those projects last week (Click here if you missed them), and just kept right on going.  The laundry room refresh was so great…but he still wasn’t satisfied.  Monday he came home from work and started putting up a white subway tile backsplash!  It turned out SO BEAUTIFUL!   I genuinely LOVE going in there to do my laundry now!  

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~ Josh’s momentum inspired me to get back on scraping my beams!  That daunting project has been on the back burner for MONTHS, but I got back at it this week.  It’s going a lot slower because I am doing all the scraping by hand instead of using the planer (planer is just TOO LOUD for Tatum K and Bear ).  But I am going to PRESS ON!

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~ for a nice emerging tradition: Colton joining us for dinner on Monday nights.  It’s typically his day off so it has been working well with his schedule, and we all just love having him with us.  He enjoys having a mom-cooked meal and it does my heart good to have him home just for a minute. 

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~ for Tatum K’s bright and unpredictable personality.  That spicy girl keeps me on my toes, and keeps me laughing every day. 

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~ for Gavin’s amazingly bright mind and creativity.  He is gobbling up the WWII for Kids book he got for Christmas, and is always sharing what he is reading in it.  He spent one afternoon creating his own “military code” inspired by something he read in the book, and got totally into writing coded messages.  Can’t wait to see what God does with that brilliant mind of his. 

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~ for one of the most joyful and long-awaited days I can even imagine.  Our beloved friends Chris and Lindsay finalized the adoption of their beautiful SON, Coby Tate.  They have prayed to be parents for years, waited patiently and impatiently on the Lord, walked through agonizing heartbreak, and finally…FINALLY, the cries of their heart were answered BEYOND MEASURE!  This is the absolutely most blessed and fortunate little boy.  He hit the jackpot with the most loving parents on the planet.  Thank You God, for Your faithfulness that is always right on time!

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~ for the delicious decadence of a juicy C Rojo’s Wayagu burger and indulgent sweet potato truffle fries.  I have been craving this burger for over a week, but we couldn’t ever catch the truck before they ran out of food!  It was WORTH THE WAIT!  SO GOOD!!!!

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~ for the opportunity to see Kora give her speech to her class during their Toastmasters presentation.  Her eyes just sparkle when she sees that I am there in the audience. 

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~ for lots of special Giddyup & Whoa pieces in the works.  We have a few items going to the Vintage & Co Valentine’s Pop Up Shop coming up this week, February 6-9.  If you are local, be sure to stop by.  Jodi and her team have impeccable taste, and they always put together the best collections of unique vintage finds. IMG_3021.JPG740F7D3A-F3A1-4C3E-9B9D-AC603ABB5B56.JPG

~ for the best Goodwill find in a long time: an awesome, unique coffee table!  It was in bad shape: a blotchy, marred finish and layers of spilled glitter all over it, but it was crying out to be revamped.  We gave it a good sanding and a bleach bath, and then I tried my hand at homemade liming wax for the first time.  I am completely in love with the end result!  I actually “rescued” a little desk out of a dumpster this morning (still in my bathrobe, no less) and I can’t wait to give it a makeover!

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~ for another weekend of having Carson Grace and her roommate here.  I miss her so much when she’s gone, and it just fills my heart to have her here even for a couple of days.  And it’s my prayer that she gets her “tank” full when she comes home.  

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~ I’m thankful that when I backed out of my garage, not realizing that the garage door was partially down, I banged into it JUST A LITTLE, and barely dented the door instead of tearing it down completely. 

~ for a fun night of food, fellowship, and football.  East Texas has had SuperBowl fever with local hometown hero Pat Mahomes, Jr. being the talk of the press across the nation.  So it was more fun than ever to have a house full of friends and “FRAMILY” to watch the game and cheer the Chiefs to victory.  I can’t remember the last time I saw (and ate) so much good food, from spicy wings to juicy pulled pork; hot, cheesy cheese dip and rich, creamy banana pudding!  I think the food was the star and the football was the bonus!  

So many blessings, so much to give thanks for…but in all honesty, this has been a TOUGH WEEK personally.  Parenting is NO JOKE.  This stuff is Capital “H” Hard.  And I know most of you are nodding your heads right now.  Because life is full of lots of good if you choose to look for it, but positive outlook or not, life is also just plain HARD.   Often I feel like I get going in a good rhythm, get through to one of the kids, get the house organized…and then, “whack-a-mole!”  Everything falls apart.  Back to square 1, or even worse.  It’s just always something.  Parenting was hard this week: we had to work through some not-very-fun stuff and say some difficult “no”s.  But the Lord keeps pressing the word “momentum” on my heart.  The simple definition of  momentum is “mass in motion.”  And the larger the mass and the faster the motion, the more momentum is created.  Josh’s large vision and fast progression created MOMENTUM…it inspired us to GET moving and KEEP moving.  But most of the time, it’s so easy to just waffle, or drift.  Why is is SO HARD to gain and maintain POSITIVE MOMENTUM? And so easy to lose it…or even worse, pick up negative momentum? I know it’s partially because of our sinful, selfish, lazy nature…it’s just in there, whether we admit it or not. Most of the time we’d rather sidestep the hard work it takes to get moving and keep moving. But we also are subject to the negative impact of the world around us, and the enemy of Light that actively seeks to stumble us. WE CANNOT BE PASSIVE because negativity will pull us down.  When things are hard at home. Or work.  Or with the kids.  If we passively have a “good day” and it’s followed by a “rough day,” we don’t ever get anywhere.  But instead, we have to fight to press forward: through the hard AND through the “blah.” I just feel burning in my heart the challenge to PRESS IN AND PRESS ON.  UNDETERRED.  I am not by any means talking about muscling through in my own strength.  I just mean pressing in to God in trust and in prayer when things get hard instead of slinking away and throwing my hands up.  I’m not giving up!  My “mass” of faith and hope is going to keep growing and gaining speed and creating positive MOMENTUM.  When we have a rough day, I’m going to look to Jesus and believe that He is good, and He is working, and He is with me in the trial.  And together we will press on.   I’m going to scrape these beams. I’m going to raise all these kids.  I’m going to serve my husband.  And I’m going to fall on my face and make a zillion mistakes along the way.  BUT GOD! Because I’m going to keep getting back up and keep not quitting.  And by the grace of God, one day I will look back and thank Him for the perfect purposes He had for every piece.  (I’m absolutely preaching to myself here, but I hope it encourages someone else out there…)

Let’s build up some positive, Jesus-inspired MOMENTUM this week, and love others well. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:13-14)

“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:8-9)

Training Wheels and Laundry Baskets

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful day celebrating our beautiful Samantha turning 12!  How in the world is the little fuzzy headed muffin that captured our hearts the moment we laid eyes on her 12?????  Samantha has the biggest and most tender heart.  She is a born little mama, and wears Tatum on her hip constantly.  She is spunky and sassy and quick-witted, and entering the “tween” phase has made her even more ANIMATED.   She enjoyed her menu of choice: Nacho Supreme Hamburger Helper and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she baked her own chocolate cake with tie-dyed icing.  

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~ for a lovely day off school on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.   Carson Grace and one of her roommates came home for a day, so it was a treat to have them here.  

~ for the sweetest photo shoot with my oldest and youngest daughters.  Tatum K is the spitting image of baby Carson Grace, and seeing them together fills my heart with such joy. 

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~for the seasons that I know will not last forever…the seasons where in the middle of my shower, the door opens and a little voice says, “Mama, I want to snuggle wif you.”  Or when that same little voice says, “Mama, pray for the chocolate on my leg!”

~ for a powerful expression of intercessory prayer for a special couple needing healing in our church.  They are pillars of our Body, and beautiful, godly examples of humble leadership, Christ-centered marriage, and quiet strength.  

~ for a crazy week of home makeover DIY projects.  Josh had a week of vacation that he needed to use up, so he had planned a “stay-cation” with a list of several projects to get done around the house.  Why, WHY didn’t I think about what that meant for me?  I’ve been married to this man for a LOOOONG TIME, and HIS projects are almost always OUR projects.  I am AMAZED by all he (and we) got done!  He repainted the trim all the way around our house and both garage doors.  In 2 days!  Ripped out the cumbersome and non-functional built-in cabinet in our laundry room.  Designed and built me 2 reclaimed wood double-bay laundry sorters on casters to my specifications.  Built a shelf from a massive, stunning slab of wood we’ve been saving for years, and installed a galvanized hanging rod.  Ripped out the countertops and replaced them with custom reclaimed wood butcher block. Replaced the broken light fixture.  And I caulked and repainted the laundry room and cabinets, repainted our dingy mudroom and added a fun pop of color on the door.  Our laundry room and mudroom are two of the most hard-working rooms in our home, so it is so awesome to have them updated and more functional for our family.

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~ for the extended quality time with my Love this week. We enjoyed checking out a new place, Jimmy’s Egg. (Gina Sue treated Tatum K and I to breakfast there last week, and it was SO YUMMY that we had to take Dad!)  It was THE BOMB!  And we finished off our FD’s gift certificate with an at home date.  Tatum K crashed both “dates” (and ate half my food both times) but she’s cute enough, we really didn’t mind.  Bear also thought he should be invited…

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~ for an exciting next step… on-camera interviews for a professional promo video we are creating for Gold Network of East Texas.  We have so many dreams and plans stirring in our hearts for GNET in 2020 and the upcoming years.  It still blows my mind that less than 6 years ago, Tyler Gold Run and Gold Network of East Texas didn’t exist!  What a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to serve East TX childhood cancer community, and to see the network of families leaning on one another.  

~ for a hearty cooked-by-Dad breakfast. 

~ for another thrilling milestone: Sawyer learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!  He just hopped on and took right off!  Josh talked to him at bedtime about how much he has loved teaching each of his kids how to ride their bike.  That moment of pure joy when the balance kicks in and they soar away on their own. And of course, with Sawyer every new accomplishment is emotional and mind-blowing.  No milestones are small or taken for granted.  We just can’t believe Sawyer is alive and thriving and turning into a big kid in front of our very eyes.  Thank You Jesus!  (We did end the day with the inevitable skinned knee and big tears.  It’s all part of growing up!  Check out that shirt, though!)

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~ for SUNSHINE!!!!  We have had so many days upon days of rain and gloom, I was in desperate need of blue skies and sun!  Do you start to feel your soul get tired during gloomy weather?

It was a great week having Josh home.  He truly is my favorite person to spend time with, my very best friend.  We laughed tonight thinking that it seems like the longest week ever because we packed so much into it.  Parts of the week were surprisingly hard though.  We really are “GIDDYUP” and “WHOA.”  He pushes me.  Challenges me.  All these renovation projects came out of nowhere and really threw me for a loop.  I’m a pack rat, he’s a cleaner-outer.  He pushed me to go through a couple stacks I had sitting around.  (My piles drive him crazy.  And it drives ME crazy when he tosses things out without checking with me.)  He brought up the idea of building the laundry sorters I’d been wanting (which of course I was thrilled about, but I didn’t know anything else was coming), and 5 minutes later he put a caulk gun in my hand and started ripping the cabinet off the wall. (Oh.  So we’re DOING this!? You mean TODAY!?  Like…RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Ok then.)  The intensity and change of routine actually launched me into a pretty massive anxiety attack over THE STUPIDEST details.  If I remember correctly, it involved chicken sandwiches and some laundry baskets full of crap.  Good.  Grief.  It’s laughable now.  But in the moment, it was real and frustrating and suffocating and lonely.  But God.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  And now, I look at the freshly updated rooms, especially the laundry room, and it’s just…AWESOME!  It’s so much better than I ever could have envisioned.  It’s more than I asked for.  And Josh worked hard to make it happen, BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  He doesn’t spend any time in that laundry room.  He didn’t do it because HE wanted it.  He did it to bless ME.  And to get it done, he had to push me a little.  I’m so thankful that God knows what we need better than we do.  He chose Josh for me because he knew my “Whoa” would hold me back from so much in life, and that I NEEDED some “Giddyup.”  (And of course, Josh needs a little “Whoa” from time to time, so he doesn’t fly straight off the rails).  God uses my husband and my kids to teach me about the height and width and depth of His Love.  God loves us so far beyond our self imposed limitations.   He ABSOLUTELY gives us more than we can handle, but never more than He can handle.  Sometimes He pushes us.  And it is ALWAYS for a purpose…  He has things in store for us so far beyond what we have ever asked for or imagined.  Because He LOVES US.  So we have to see past anxiety and laundry baskets and chicken sandwiches that try to rob us of that joy.  And we will never experience the joy that feels like flying if we don’t take off the training wheels.  Even if we skin our knees.  Because flying is worth it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

To it Not Through it

I am thankful:

~ for the most adorable Kindergarten talent show!  Sawyer and his class wowed us with their variety of talents: from zooming around the auditorium on bikes and scooters to dog training and cartwheels, this is one talented group!  Leading up to this event, Sawyer had a hard time narrowing down his choice.  Finally, he settled on playing (I use the term “playing” loosely) his ukulele from his Hawaiian Make-a-Wish trip.  HOWEVER, said uke was in ROUGH shape.  So I promised Sawyer I would take it to a music store to see if it could be fixed.  You have never seen a little guy SO EXCITED as Sawyer was as he watched the gentleman at the guitar store repair and completely restring his beloved ukulele.   And the man was so kind and so touched by Sawyer’s enthusiasm that he did it all free of charge!  (And in the interest of FULL DISCLOSURE, let me just also say, the ukulele got repaired on Monday.  Monday was ALSO the day that I finally looked at the calendar and found out that the Talent Show was on WEDNESDAY.  So Sawyer basically had one afternoon after school to get ready for his talent.  Serious Mom Fail.  But GOD.  Thankful for God’s great grace.)

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~ thankful that I FINALLY got a 2020 calendar so I can get my schedule in order!  (If I missed something already, please don’t tell me!)

~ for a great visit with our sweet Miss Lindsay and baby Coby Tate.  I have been needing some good CHOCOLATE SUGAR!!!  Oh, he is just the sweetest, happiest boy!

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~ that Josh had a work day in Marshall and was able to meet Carson Grace for a Taco Bell date!  And so thankful that she has had a great first week back at school!

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~ for a COMPLETED PUZZLE!  It took us 3 1/2 weeks, but we WOULD NOT BE DEFEATED.  998 pieces of 1000.  Perhaps one day we will successfully finish a puzzle without losing ANY pieces.  Right now that seems like a lofty, unattainable goal.  We are taking a break from puzzles for a while.  

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~ for football exciting enough to get even ME interested!  So fun to root for a local hero.  Let’s go Chiefs!

~ for ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven.  

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~ for a successful week for Giddyup & Whoa.  New products, new orders, and new custom work.  We are getting great feedback on our new website.  And so excited to have 2 upcoming local sale opportunities.  We will have items for sale at the Vintage & Co Valentine Pop-up Shop February 6-8 in Tyler, and I will be working a space at the Laurel & Cotton POP-up Shop March 27-28 in Bullard (this is the one benefitting Gold Network of East Texas.)  So grateful for the support of our little family business.  And for my cute and ever-eager youngest model, “Mama!  Pitcha me!”

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~ for an over-the-top celebration for the most joyous of occasions.  Our friend and Gold Network Hero, Addie Leigh turned 5!  And what could be better than turning five? How about triumphantly finishing cancer treatment!!!??  NOW THAT is cause for celebration!  I’m talking bounce houses, food trucks, snow cones, face painting, and a balloon artist!  Addie Leigh and her family have just recently moved into their new home, which had been an intensive renovation, and the setting was perfect for a fresh new start for the whole family.  Everything, even the weather Saturday, a bright day of sunshine after days upon days of dreary drizzle, was like a refreshing gift of HOPE.  My favorite moment of the day (besides seeing beautiful, spunky Addie Leigh frolicking with her friends, shining from the inside out) was when I was chatting with Tami, Addie Leigh’s mom.  She was talking about how busy things had been building up to this special day.  She said she had to get through the party before she could think about anything else.  But as soon as she said it, she quickly corrected herself. “I want to soak this up and ENJOY IT!  This is something to celebrate!  This is not something I want to just GET THROUGH!  I have reminded myself that I wanted to GET TO this day, not get THROUGH IT!”  Her words absolutely INSPIRED me. 

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What a beautiful perspective.  How many times do we get so sidetracked by the details and busywork that we MISS THE JOY???  What a waste.  Lord, help me to enjoy the journey AND the destination.  Even through the hard, let my eyes look for You, and learn all You have for me along the way.  Help me to be a wife and friend and mama that is PRESENT.  

Let’s BE PRESENT and love each other well this week.  Whatever is on the horizon, whatever you are working toward, whatever challenge you are facing…let’s get TO IT, not just through it.  God is good, and He is faithful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalms 113:2-3)

Happy “New Day”

I am thankful:

~ for a staggering honor and privilege: I wrote a check from Gold Network of ETX for TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  We donated $10,000 to Dr. Ted Laetsch at Children’s Hospital to support his cutting edge research projects for improved cures and therapies for childhood cancer.  Dr. Laetsch was on Sawyer’s oncology team, so the donation is even more meaningful.  We are so grateful for the funds raised through Tyler Gold Run and and generous donations from the community to help Gold Network do what we do.  Our primary focus will remain local family support, but we will always donate toward childhood cancer research in hopes that one day our GNET mission will become obsolete!  Until then, we press on.  We have exciting new dreams brewing for the upcoming year…more information coming soon!

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~ for laid back schedule-free days on break.  The kids have painted, baked cookies, learned new tricks on the trampoline, decorated a gingerbread house, and we have made a TINY dent in the HARDEST PUZZLE IN THE WORLD. IMG_1986.JPG

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~ for a manageably fun-enough New Years.  We stayed home.  Ate chili.  “Nice Mom” showed up and let the kids stay up until 10 and played with  sparklers in their pjs.  Then mom, dad, and Bigs stayed up to watch the ball drop just to say we did.   But it felt really important to me that the first thing we did in 2020 was to pray together as a family.  It was simple, sweet, and I will treasure it always. 

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~ for traditional black eyed peas, buttery roasted cabbage, and steaming hot sweet cornbread on New Year’s Day.  

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~ for a Starbucks gift card and a Starbucks right around the corner from our house!  Bear was glad he rode along, they gave him a “Pup-puccino!!”

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~ for a fun overnight sleepover for Gavin to Uncle Justin and Aunt Gina’s.  He had the feast of his dreams and had 24 blissful hours as an only child!  A trip to Kilgore to explore the East Texas Oil Museum and a mile-high loaded cheeseburger were the perfect fit for our inquisitive boy.

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~ for a joyful dream-come-true for dear friends.  Before brave 10 year old cancer warrior Luke went to be with Jesus in 2018, his dream was for his beautiful husky Scout to become a therapy dog.   This week, that dream came true!  Scout went through the rigorous testing to become certified, and PASSED!   Now Scout will be able to bring joy and smiles to kids in the hospital and continue sharing Luke’s legacy, bringing glimmers of beauty from the unspeakable pain his mom and dad and brother are walking through.  You can read more about Luke and his family’s unshakable faith and generosity here. https://lukestrong.org/

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~ for an exciting new venture for G&W: we launched our new website, www.giddyupandwhoa.com!  We’ve been praying about this for a while, and decided to make the leap in hopes of growing our business.  We also were super blessed with a new connection for old wood.  We have had our eye on a large section of damaged fence for months, and this week I worked up the courage to stop by the house and ask for it.  I was met by the sweetest gentleman who was delighted to have the fence hauled off, even taking my card for when he tears more of it down! Finds like those are the best! IMG_6067.JPEG

Josh has created some beautiful new reclaimed wood decor pieces in addition to a fresh batch of signs, so we are ready for a great year!  It’s amazing to me that we started this journey by tiptoeing onto social media last year at Thanksgiving.  Excited to see where the Lord takes us.  We even included a link to Sunday Gratitude on the G&W website.  Amazing to see different pieces of our dreams begin to braid together. 

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~ for the opportunity to reflect on the past decade.  I always get a little moony at the turn of the new year…to me it’s just natural to look back and take stock, and that process always proves emotional for me.  Looking back not just a year but a decade was pretty staggering.  I’ll spare you the in-depth play by play, but 10 years ago we only had 4 children, were going through the process of our first adoption, and Josh was self employed, remodeling and flipping houses.  We often look back and say that that was the season we thought we could tie a bow on our picture perfect little family with our beautifully God-ordained adoption story as the crescendo of our testimony.  BUT GOD.  In the infinite wisdom of our Father, we had no idea what was coming.   We never dreamed of car wrecks and ATV wrecks and fostering.  Never dreamed Josh and I would go from completely disagreeing about whether or not to grow our family to getting on the same page, only to walk through the heartbreak of losing a baby, then adopt 3 and have 2 more!  We would never have imagined cancer.  Cancer changed EVERYTHING.  I don’t even recognize that family from 10 years ago.  But out of the wreckage also came beauty.  A front row seat for miracles.  For excruciating grace.  So many wonderful, life-changing relationships born in and outside the hospital.  The Gold Run and Gold Network, opening doors to share hope with people all over.   And God has entrusted us with the stewardship of all these remarkable children in our family… gifts that I didn’t even ask for because I couldn’t have dreamed them up…  And even if New Year’s resolutions are hokey and empty, I appreciate the crisp, fresh air that comes with the turn of the calendar page, like the warmth of sunrise after a dark night.  My Father’s arms are always open.  And with renewed passion, I will seek to love Him with more of my heart this year.  And serve Him more and myself less.  Oh Lord, the cry of my heart is to let go and trust You.  So if I WAS going to have a resolution, that would be it.   But I think that has to be more of a New Day’s Resolution.  EVERY DAY.

Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“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 6:33-34)

“We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:19)

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

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

 

The Biggest Little Things

I am thankful:

~ for HEALING!  The Rucker Tribe has survived the Great Flu of 2019.  Oh, we still have some sniffles, snuffles, and coughs.  And sleep is still hit or miss (mostly miss).  But it is a vast improvement over last week to say the VERY LEAST.  Thank You JESUS!  And thank you to all of you for reaching out with your kind words and encouragements.

~for all the funny little memories at Christmastime.  For the kids’ love of EVERY Christmas song, and how they sing out with all their hearts.   I love that Tatum K doesn’t know who Santa is.  She just points when she sees a picture or an inflatable and says, “look mama! It’s a May-wee Cwis-mas boy!”  We have had fun running errands together, she’s my little buddy while kiddos are at school.  She attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so stinkin’ cute in her little boots and messy bun.  At this store she found slippers that matched her little sherpa jacket, so she had to give them “a lovey.”  Oh Lord, let her stay my sweet tiny Tater. 

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~ for puzzles.  I forget how fun puzzles are.  

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~ for a wonderfully special occasion worthy of celebration: Grandmommy’s 70th birthday!  Aunt Polly hosted the gathering, and we feasted on brisket and chips and dips and a charming custom purse cake topped with FON-DANT.  We all laughed and made Grandmommy cry, and celebrated the legacy of the lovely, godly lady we all love so much.  

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~ as always, Grandmommy’s birthday also marks the start of the greatly anticipated tradition: 12 Days of Christmas.  Each night we gather and sing the song, and then open our thoughtful treat and take our picture.  The kids absolutely love the whole process, and I am so thankful for all the work that Grandmommy puts into it all.  These are memories that will last forever.  I am a sucker for traditions, and it fills my heart to see the smiles of my babies beside the tree.  Day 1 was sticker page nativities.  And you have never seen such joy as they each diligently worked on decorating their own paper.

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~ for such a fun Christmas party with our small group from church.  The adults had organized a rowdy (and rather cut-throat) white elephant gift exchange.  The kids were very intrigued by the idea (I mean, OBVIOUSLY they saw a bunch of gifts and wanted some) so I quickly gathered items from around our house to put together a white elephant exchange for them. None of them had ever played it before, so it was a little challenging.  Sawyer ended up with the dud gift: a ladies bracelet and a coupon.  He was NOT IMPRESSED.  Nor was he gracious about being disappointed.  There were tears.  Everyone else had fun though.  I’m thankful for such a fun group.  As you can see, I was in a PARTICULARLY FESTIVE mood.

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~ for a new-to-me treat:  baked crescent rolls filled with melted chocolate chips and drizzled with powdered sugar glaze.  Just STOP IT!

~ for last minute Giddyup & Whoa orders.  you can imagine how tight the budget gets with nine kids at Christmas time. Even though our focus is definitely not on spending a lot on extravagant gifts, all the expenses just all add up faster than the deposits.  Every order is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for the way God provides!  It is such an honor to be trusted with bringing to life special mementos for people.  

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~ for amazing and inspiring connections.  I got a sign order this week from a lady I did not know.  She had taken my card at the show at the Foundry several weeks ago and just now contacted me.  She came to the house to pick up her order, and we had the best conversation!  She is also a mother of 9, and we have several  common friendships.  Such a small world.  The sign she had me do for her was so unique and personal, my very favorite kind of sign to paint.  A saying with personal meaning that you’re just not going to find hanging in Hobby Lobby.  She had asked me to paint “Love is the Tuesdays.”  It’s a lyric from the song, “Tuesday’s,” by Jake Scott, and it was a gift for her husband.  She encouraged Josh and I to listen to the song, which we did later that evening.  The song is advice given by a father to a young man who is asking to marry his daughter.  “No it’s not Hollywood son ’cause troubles will come / But it’s the best decision you’re ever gonna make / And you’ve got my blessing but just hear this lesson / Twenty-seven years and all I’ve got to say / Is it’s not just picture perfect dancing in a white dress / It’s not just rainy days where nothing stops the fighting / It’s not just highs and lows and champagne toasts / I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days or the worst days / Love is the Tuesdays”

Isn’t that just the truth?  Love is the everyday moments that happen in between the highs and the lows.  So blessed by the song and touched by the sentiment behind the sign order. 

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~ for an amazing accomplishment for my INCREDIBLE HUSBAND!  A few weeks ago he took the step of faith to enroll in an online real estate course, and this week he completed the first class and ACED his first exam!   So proud of this remarkable man of mine and excited to see what doors God will open down the road!

~ for the kids’ DARLING Christmas program at church.   From our Tribe, we had scintillating portrayals of an angel, King Herod, and Caesar Augustus, as well as 2 eloquent narrators.  There is something so pure about seeing the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes and lips of children.  And even seeing how beautiful and grown up Samantha and Kora are.  Zoe sparkling in her tinsel halo.  Sawyer, serious as can be, sternly barking out his line, and Gavin’s dramatic death on stage.  Even Tatum K’s spontaneous interruptions asking when it would be “cookie time.”  It was just so very special.  

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Before the Children’s Program, Becky the Children’s Pastor, asked the audience to pause.  I LOVED how she said it.  “Let’s just pause a moment to make some room.  We can’t appreciate a gift we are given if we don’t take the time to realize how much we NEED that gift.”  Advent is the season of waiting.  Waiting expectantly for the birth of the King.  Waiting longingly for His Return.  But do we have room?  Are we too busy and distracted by the cares of this world?  By how many friends/followers/likes we can accumulate?  By having the Pinterest-perfect porch display, ugly sweater, or charcuterie board?  By buying the perfect gift to outdo what we gave last year?  

Quieting our heart is hard.  Waiting is hard.  What are you waiting on?  What prayer are you praying that has not yet been answered?  My heart aches with the weight of some of the things I wait for, long for.   But I know God sees me.  I know He cares about the things and the people I’m asking Him for.  He saw the needs of the people of Israel.  He had a plan to meet those needs.  He has a plan to fulfill every need.  But for now, we wait.  Creation is groaning for our Coming King.  We ache for healing, for reconciliation, for restoration.  We cry out to Him for a Breakthrough.  And sometimes every single thing our eyes see looks like failure.  Hopeless.   But the God of Hope is working when we cannot see.  And thankfully, His power is not contingent on our faith.  I thank God for that every day.  Because my faith feels so small and my vision falls so short.  But God.  So whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t lose heart.  

He is working.  

He is coming. 

And He’s always right on time. 

So let’s pause a moment.  And let’s make some room for Jesus in our hearts and our schedules this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:13-14)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-19, 22-25, 28)

It is Well (and we almost are)

Ugh.  

I would say that was the theme of this week. 

We had so much fun last Sunday celebrating Sawyer’s birthday.  Tatum K had started running a fever off and on.  When her fever went up, it knocked her out.  But then when Motrin kicked in, she was bouncing off the walls.  So we didn’t think much of it. 

Little did we know. 

Monday evening was a nice night celebrating Cooper at the GCS Football Banquet.  It’s hard to believe he’s already completed his Freshman football season!  AND, we had the BEST barbecue cooked by his Coach.  Tatum K continued to run fever off and on.  And I noticed by the end of the evening, my head had started pounding, and I felt so, so tired. 

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Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train.  Tatum was still running fever, and Gavin was barking like a seal.  

Wednesday, Zoe got it.  Then Thursday, Cooper.  And Tatum K and I never got better.  Only worse.  We all just laid around, moaning occasionally.  Washing hands and reapplying hand sanitizer until our skin was raw.  Tatum didn’t eat all week.  Maybe 4 carrots and few bites of Fruit Loops.  Trust me, I tried everything. 

By some miracle SAWYER DID NOT GET SICK!!!!  And neither did Samantha, Kora, or Josh!  GLORY TO THE LORD!   (Colton and Carson Grace don’t know how very blessed they are not to be living at home this week!)  I honestly cannot remember EVER being this sick.  I get colds every year: it doesn’t matter if Mom gets sick – life still keeps rolling and I have to roll with it.  With whatever-in-the-world-this-was, THERE WAS NO ROLLING.  And to top it off, Tatum rested so much during the daytime, she stopped sleeping at night.  EVERY. NIGHT. THIS WEEK, she was up a MINIMUM of 10 times.  No sleep for sick mama.  No wonder I couldn’t get better. 

BUT GOD!  No matter what, no matter how sick, no matter how rough the week was, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for!  

So here we go!

~ for the delicious BBQ at the football banquet.

~ that I had been able to get the house decorated for Christmas BEFORE the sickness hit.  Not only would it not have gotten done, but it made the house cheery and festive to brighten up our hard week.  Our house was just MADE for Christmas. IMG_0723.jpg

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~ for the children’s sweet prayers for their Mama and their siblings.  They were the absolute best sports on the planet, and did their best to help around the house.  Sawyer was devastated that he couldn’t hug me, so he had to make due with hugging my leg.  They all offered so much grace and kindness to their sickly and not-very-gracious mama.  I tried not to be grumpy, but failed miserably.  

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~ for good snuggles from poor little Tatum.  It was clear how awful she felt – she was not her spicy self at all as the week progressed.  All she would do was croak, “Mama, I lay wif you.”

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~ for a FEAST delivered to our doorstep!  When I opened the door and saw all the tasty food, I could hear the choirs of angels singing!  Slim Chickens never tasted so good!  THANK YOU Karen!!!

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~ for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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~ for the most wonderful Advent Devotional.  Even as sick as most of us were, I’m grateful that we chose to end each day on the sweetest note.  We ended every single night  with the Word of God and pointed to Jesus.  That’s really the only thing I got right all week.  But thankfully, it’s the ONLY THING that matters.  Glory to His Name.  You can find the devotional here.  (Thanks so much for sharing it, Jen!)

~ that Josh was able to attend (and video for me) Kora’s 4th Grade Colonial Trade Days presentation, where she portrayed a Leather-worker.  

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~ for Bear being the most adorable and photogenic Christmas dog ever.  (And for Tatum who had to show me that she could sit as nicely as “Bear Boy”). 

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~ for my amazingly talented, creative, and hardworking husband who built signs for our orders this week AND created several new items available from Giddyup & Whoa.  I just love everything he builds!

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~ for HEALING!  As of Saturday, we are all fever-FREE, and on the road to feeling better.  I still have ZERO energy, but it’s such an improvement from how I did feel. 

~ that Josh and I are both up to date on our tetanus shots!  I stepped on a rusty nail on our street that pierced my foot through my sneaker, and Josh narrowly missed cutting off his thumb, but sustained a wide flesh wound.  Thank You Lord, for Your MERCIES! 

Have you used the feature on Spotify that tells you your “Most Played Song of the Year?”  So many people have been sharing it, I was curious.  I can’t even remember what it told me for 2019, but then the feature went backward several more years.  When my “Most Played Song of 2015” popped up, it took my breath away.  “Bye Bye Bye,” by NSYNC.  For those of you who are new here, that was Sawyer’s favorite song when he was a baby, and I played it for him OVER AND OVER in the hospital.  2015 was a really hard year:  we started January in the ICU after a terrifying narcotic reaction, and then later that year we had lots of long hospital stays due to side effects and infections. BUT GOD. Gives a little perspective on one week of RELATIVELY MILD illness in the comfort of my home.  (Oh, and my “Most Played Song of 2016?”  “Rise Up,” by Andra Day.  Thank You Jesus!)

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I am ready for a FRESH NEW WEEK!   How about you?

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

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

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” (Psalms 3:3-4)

Thank Full

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful, JAM-PACKED break. Most days the weather was great, and the kids enjoyed running around and playing outside. They raked leaves into piles and delighted in jumping in them. When they found that we didn’t have enough leaves, they were more than happy to visit our neighbors and gather THEIR leaves and bring them to our house!

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~for the absolute best kitchen helpers in all the land.  My sous chefs were raring to go, and what they lacked in expertise they made up for with enthusiasm.

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~for even a little time with my Girl home from college.  Way too short of a visit, but thankful just the same.

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~for sweet moments with my Love.  We have our ups and downs like anybody else, and sometimes we bicker and get on each other‘s nerves.  But most of the time, the love we have is everything you could ask out of a sappy movie.  I love driving down the road, holding my babies hand, singing Garth Brooks’ songs to one another.  It is delightfully nauseating.

~for online shopping.  I just don’t have it in me to get out there and box the crowds for the best deals.  I can’t even express how grateful I am to be able to find what I need while sitting on the couch and have it shipped right to my door.  

~for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We always drive to Carthage and spend the day with family.  The children cherish all the traditions, and their excitement is so contagious.  This year we had an even larger crowd than usual: I love how everybody feels at liberty to invite more people along…and everyone is TRULY WELCOME.  I don’t think anybody every feels like they are an “extra.”  They just BELONG.  And it’s truly the most fun gathering you can imagine. We are a lively bunch, with our chicken and turkey hats, our pumpkin Olympics complete this year with a reverent and very formal coronation of the Pumpkin Queen, and chicken dancing in the front yard next to the highway (punctuated with frequent honks from passers by).  There’s just  SO.  MUCH.  JOY.  We ate until we were completely uncomfortable, and then we made another plate.  Once that was ram-crammed down into our bellies, then it was time for PIE.  The food was fantastic, but it’s the fellowship that defies explanation.  I’m so grateful to be in the company of so much love.  Such special memories. 

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~ for the soft glow of Christmas lights, a fire in the fireplace, and my snuggly $4.99 blanket from Aldi.

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~ for the very best curbside find yet: the 9 foot Christmas tree (in original box) I picked up on large item trash week earlier this year.   We put up the tree and with just a little finessing, all the original lights are functioning!  Whoever threw this tree away, THANK YOU!  We decked our halls this weekend, and everything is bright and festive.  Josh even built me a custom reclaimed wood tree collar (gotta add a little Giddyup & Whoa, of course!)  The kids love seeing their favorite ornaments and decorations come out of the boxes.  They hear the stories of Grandma Grace’s handpainted nativity and Granny’s Christmas village.   We hung our new ornaments from this summer’s trip to Lark Toys in Minnesota and the Laura Ingalls museum in Wisconsin.  And Tatum K just points at everything and chirps again and again, “May-we Cwis-mas!!!”  (We’ll see how much of it she breaks before the season is over.)

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And today, what I’m most grateful for is a curly headed, blue eyed little boy, because today he turned 6.   Six years old.  I can’t even say it without crying. 

IMG_0639.JPGIt doesn’t matter how normal life is, how long he’s been a happy kindergartener, how normal he looks.  It still takes my breath away when I stop and think about everything Sawyer has been through.  From almost losing his life to organ failure the day he was brought by ambulance to Children’s, to the life and death battle he fought against cancer as a baby, the toxic reaction to meds, narcotic overdose and withdrawal, and then countless unidentified infections and bizarre complications along the way… but you’d NEVER EVEN KNOW IT.   The faint white port scar on his chest and the curly hair that used to be straight are the only physical indicators left behind to hint that he has a medical history.  I don’t know why Sawyer is the way he is, why his light shines so bright and why he loves so big.  I just know he amazes me and that it feels like a tremendous responsibility to shepherd such a child.  I don’t know how old he is going to grow to be, or what he is going to do in his lifetime (my heart still guards itself against looking too far ahead), but I know he is very very special.  And I am thankful for every. single. moment.  And I’m thankful for a very low-key, normal-just-like-every-other-kid-in-the-tribe birthday: no party, just donuts for breakfast and menu of choice for dinner: pizza, mac-and-cheese, and chocolate cake that he helped me bake.  He wasn’t an honored guest of the police department, and nobody surprised him with a trip to Hawaii.  He got Legos and a hot wheels track and some clothes.  Just like a regular kid.  And that’s kind of hard on Mom and Dad, because quite honestly, we think he deserves a parade every day (I mean, DOESN’T HE?)  But what a gift that Sawyer, even after all he has been through, gets to live a normal life and be a normal kid.  Normal maybe.  But nonetheless, an EXCEPTIONAL WALKING MIRACLE.  Glory to God!IMG_0606.JPG

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Happy December.  My mission this month is to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter how busy life gets.  And remember why we have anything to celebrate.   

(And just for the record: I love ALL my kids. Each one of them is incredibly unique and special and I’m in awe that God has entrusted me with stewarding so many of His treasured creations. I’ve said it before, I’m the most blessed Mama in all the world. I will spend my life doing my best to point them all to Jesus and love them all well.)

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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