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)

Hope, Joy, and Generosity

What a jam-packed week!  I was just so whupped at the end of last week, really had the wind knocked out of me.  So much heaviness.  And you know what… none of those circumstances have changed. But even those sad, harsh realities are overshadowed by the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He keeps pouring out His goodness.  His mercies really are new every morning. 

I am thankful:

~ the best testimony of all – Sawyer the Warrior had a PERFECT checkup at his quarterly ACE Oncology appointment, and our brave boy remains CANCER FREE!  Thank You Jesus!!!   As usual, Sawyer hopped up in Miss Sharon’s phlebotomy chair all by himself and laughed while she drew his blood. 9016C527-90CE-45D8-8B8F-27A8CBD0826A.JPGBB0774A4-7AD1-450B-8757-8F8CB23820BD.JPG

I am always freshly astounded and in awe of the courage of this incredible boy.  His appointment went smoothly, and once the labs came back with the “all clear,” Josh and I were finally able to breathe again.   That part never gets easier.  Every time they draw his blood, we wait to hear the best news or the worst news.  BUT GOD.  This visit we packed in lots of extra-special visits on top of the clinic appointment.  Josh and I were joined by my friend and Gold Network of East TX co-creator, Paula Kimmey, to present a check from GNET for $10,000 to an acclaimed pediatric oncologist from Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ted Laetsch, to assist funding his groundbreaking CAR-T therapy which uses genetically modified immune cells to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Gold Network Photo 2.JPG9DD02FBC-58F9-4066-BC27-23CCE5E25B5C.JPG

Not only were we THRILLED to present this check to fund research at our own hospital (that’s about as LOCAL as it gets!), but it was even more meaningful because Dr. Laetsch was on the team of oncologists that cared for Sawyer when he was treated for Infant ALL!  What a surreal full-circle moment!   We also delivered a New Diagnosis Survival Kit to one of the new families we learned of last week, and we were introduced by a nurse to YET ANOTHER East Texas family – that makes 3 new diagnoses just last month.  Sawyer was able to meet the girl, several years his senior, and smiled sweetly at her in her hospital bed and told her simply, “Be brave!”  What an ambassador of HOPE! 

~ for a delicious, yet oddly romantic, candlelit lunch at Campisi’s.  We ordered from there several times while in the hospital, but had never been to the restaurant, so it was the perfect place to celebrate a great day.  Their BBQ chicken pizza is THE BOMB!  (Sawyer was not a fan, he stuck with cheese.)58B2E3C1-54CE-440E-8429-90A4879FD2D9.JPG

~ for Aunt Gina, who ran the morning and afternoon Rucker bus route while we were gone to Dallas and spent the day with Hurricane Tatum K.  And for her delicious gift of homemade Amish friendship bread for breakfast!IMG_20200224_112050147_Original.jpgIMG_4064.JPG

~ for a pretty successful first week of Intro-to Potty-Training with TK.  She is excited to use her little potty chair and has had only a couple of unfortunate mishaps in her pink Peppa Pig panties.  She is very proud of herself and never lets me forget her Skittles. IMG_4098.JPGIMG_4119.JPGIMG_4120.JPG

~ for sweet Zoe, who received the “Joyfulness” Award at chapel.  Love to see those brown eyes sparkle.   Her name means “life,” and I pray she always lives a life full of the JOY of the Lord. IMG_4073.JPG

~ for a lovely evening of fellowship prompted by some pretty exciting conversations.  We’ve been talking a lot about heaven lately, and one day last week Sawyer enquired, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus?  Do they get to go to heaven?” What a question!  I explained to him that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, and that that’s why it’s so important that we share the gospel with people who haven’t heard it.  And then he replied, “I REALLY want to go to heaven!  But I know it’s important that I really understand before I can ask Jesus into my heart…”

The rest of the conversation went like this

“Well, you have to believe in Jesus”

“I do!”

“You have to want Him to be your boss.”

“I dooo!”

“You have to want to serve Him your whole life.”

“I DOOOOO!”

You can only imagine this mama‘s heart.  We told Sawyer that maybe it would be a good idea for him to think of some more questions and sit down and talk about them with our pastor, Brother Joe.  He immediately hopped up excitedly, “Can we write them in a notebook?  I can’t read… but will you write down my questions for me, Mama?”

So of course I did.  When I told Sawyer that usually people make an appointment to meet Brother Joe at his office to talk, he promptly replied, “Nope!  I want him to come to our house.  For dinner.”  So that’s exactly what we did.  Brother Joe and Miss Becky came over, and we had a great visit.  Sawyer had some incredible questions: “Why did God want to make us?” and “Why doesn’t God make us obey him?”  That night at bedtime, he said it made him happy that Brother Joe and Miss Becky had come over for dinner.  He said “I liked asking him my questions,” and things have been left at that for now.   We will let Sawyer take the lead, and follow up when he brings it up again.  I never want to push or manipulate God’s perfect timing.  I’m excited about all the things that the Lord is stirring up and storing and building in his honest, tender, loving heart.  I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for him.

~ for Brother Joe and Miss Becky being extremely gracious in eating the meal we lovingly prepared for them.  Fried catfish.  Ask me if either Josh or I have ever fried catfish before.  It was on sale so we had wanted to try it.  It’s always a FABULOUS IDEA to cook a dish you’ve never attempted before for guests.  At least the brownies were good.  

~ for a tremendous progress on the refresh in Carson Grace‘s room / my studio.   Josh and I finished the herringbone wood-block backsplash and added some bright pops of color and gold for personality.  We had one wall with some sheet rock damage, so we created a fun and functional galvanized magnet board.  We still have some paint touch up to do, but for all practical purposes, the room is complete!  Carson Grace FaceTimed with me to check it out, and she is excited to get home and see it in person.  I look forward to sharing the space with her.  I love having a creative place to create!IMG_4275.JPGIMG_4282.JPGIMG_4178.JPGIMG_4268.JPGIMG_4269.JPGIMG_4283.jpg

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~ for the wonderful opportunity to attend Generosity Tyler, an event hosted by Jasper Ventures designed to encourage and inspire living generous lives.  I have to admit that I arrived at the event pretty much swallowed up by anxiety.  I felt very out of my element, very inadequate, and very overwhelmed.   I sat in my car in the parking lot for a while, taking my anxieties honestly to the Lord.  He reminded me who I am in Him, and that there is no need to ever be anyone else. It was a lovely event.  Paula and I heard testimonies from people who shared how they have personally been stretched and have experienced a paradigm shift on what it means to be biblically generous.  How the Lord wants us to be so generous WITH OUR LIVES that people find it shocking.  We had some great conversations with the people at our table and ate some delicious food. And at the end of the event, the generous hosts of Generosity Tyler generously gifted us the beautiful floral centerpieces from all the tables for our upcoming event!  I left so amazingly inspired and encouraged. IMG_4179.jpgIMG_4177.jpg

~ for a surprising, y’all-are-going-to-shake-your-heads-and-call-us-insane new addition to our Tribe.  Meet Birdie. IMG_2301.JPGIMG_3792.JPGIMG_4253.jpgIMG_4264.JPG

If you need me this week, I’ll be potty training a puppy and a 2 year old, sending my Freshman off on a camping trip with his class, and prepping for and hosting a Gold Network dinner for 100 guests.   Can’t wait to share all about it.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the hurting people around us: the newly diagnosed, the ones who have lost and are losing loved ones, the ones who may be keeping their pain hidden from anyone.  Let’s walk in joy, hope, and generosity this week!

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)

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

But God

I am thankful:

~for cute/sweet conversations overheard….

Sawyer, “Mama!  Tatum is jumping on me and squashing me and I can’t breathe!”

Tatum K “I sowwy Sasa.”

Sawyer, “It’s ok Tatum.  I’ll always love you.”

~ for a couple beautiful days of sunshine!  It was so refreshing to get outside and breathe deep in the crisp air and take a walk again!

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~ for a great excuse for a sweet treat.  February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a day set aside to raise awareness for childhood cancer.  Often during cancer treatment, kids lose their appetite. The chemo makes food taste terrible and kids day nauseated day in and day out. Sometimes the only thing that sounds good or might bring a smile is some ice cream. So why not ice cream for breakfast? We join in to encourage kids who are fighting cancer, to celebrate with kids who have completed their treatment, and to remember the friends who were taken from us too soon.  What a blessing to have friends from all over who joined in and shared their pictures with us.   Thank you all so much. 

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~ for yet another birthday at our house – mine!   I had a great day, lots of sweet messages from friends and family, homemade cards from the sweetest kids on the planet, a heavenly breakfast date with my sweetheart (and Tatum K of course), and a surprise coffee date with Colton!   I was blessed beyond measure.   Oh, and one of my highlights was getting the GOLD sneakers I’ve been dreaming of for a LONG TIME!!!  And a new gold coffee cup!  (Is there a theme here?)IMG_4005.JPG

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~ for the kindness of Grace Community School.  The GCS HOSA Club (Health Occupations Students of America, or Future Health Professionals) recently held a drive at the high school to collect the items we give in our New Diagnosis Survival Kits.  We are so thankful for the HOSA students for organizing and the students for donating!

HOSA Leadership - Gold Network of East Texas

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~ for amazing progress on Carson Grace’s room/my studio.  The Murphy bed turned out great, and we (after 79,358 problems and equipment malfunctions) got the whole room sprayed a fresh, bright Alabaster white.   I got inspired and started playing around with some stain colors and ended up loving the way the headboard turned out; and Josh did an amazing job on the reclaimed wood countertop.  It’s so fun working on a new project together, and we are reminded of how much we enjoy the process of dreaming up a design and then knocking it out.  

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~for a beautiful opportunity for our girls to give a praise offering to the Lord. Samantha and Kora are a part of the Psalm 149 Dance Team at church, preteen girls learning the art of worship dance.  The team is even taught by a young teenager who once danced in this group when she was younger.  It was an honest and sweet outpouring of love for the Lord, and their performance at church this morning was so beautiful. 

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~ for 15 years of memories.   We sorrowfully said goodbye to a precious member of our family this week, our 15-year-old pug, Cricket.  He’s been the best dog and has been through it all with us.  He was our first family dog when we just had three kids.  He survived the great Rucker Population Explosion of 2013, and was a bright source of joy for us throughout the journey of cancer.   He has rapidly deteriorated over the past few months, and I began to think the only thing keeping him alive was his sheer hatred of our new-er dog, Bear.  We are thankful that he is no longer suffering, and we will lovingly remember him always, but there is a stinky, snuffy-nosed, Cricket-shaped place that hurts in all our hearts right now. 

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The words from the song I shared last week still resonate in my head… “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working.  Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.  You never stop, You never stop working.  You never stop, You never stop working.”  No matter what’s going on, there are ALWAYS blessings to count.  That’s what Sunday Gratitude is about.  

 But this week has been one blow after another.

A dear friend got a devastating health news.   

Another friend had troubling findings on her sonogram.  

A suffering mother anxiously longs for her healing by graduation to heaven. 

Not one, but TWO new children were diagnosed with cancer here in Tyler.   

And another family got the only news worse than “your child has cancer.”  The words, “There’s nothing more we can do.”

 BUT GOD.I say that a lot, both here on the blog and in real life.What does that even mean anyway? BUT GOD. It means He really IS the answer to every question. 

Father God, I am out of pretty words.  My heart is broken and bleeding and sad.   I am hurting for my friends.  I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why babies have to get sick and suffer.  I hate cancer.   Oh, how I hate cancer.  I don’t understand why some people get healed on this earth and some people don’t.   But I do know with everything inside me that You are FULLY GOOD.   I believe that You have a good plan that is better than mine.  And I believe that You hold me when I’m sad and mad and confused and anxious and furious and falling apart.  AND I BELIEVE THAT THIS WORLD IS PASSING AWAY AND WE WILL ONE DAY LIVE A GLORIOUS LIFE WITH YOU IN HEAVEN!  And there will be NO MORE SORROW AND NO MORE PAIN!  How I long for that day!  Until then, Father God, please hold my friends close.  Give them Your supernatural peace that defies all logic.  Give them grace breath by breath to walk through their circumstances.  Surround them with friends who bring Your comfort.  Show us how to help them in real life, practical ways.  If it’s Your will to heal on this earth – HEAL!!!!  To You be all the glory!!!!  And if it’s Your will to heal them in heaven, let it be bathed in Your infinite mercy, and help us to trust in Your timing.  Jesus COME!

Please pray for the hurting people all around you.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    (Romans 8:37-39)

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)

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)

Thankful for a Faithful God

I am thankful:

~ first and foremost, for a WONDERFUL clinic appointment on Wednesday, and the report that Sawyer REMAINS CANCER FREE!   GLORY TO THE LORD!!!  HE IS FAITHFUL!  The fear never ever goes away, there is always a heaviness that comes with the appointment as we wait for the best or the worst news.  This was the second time for Sawyer to be seen by the ACE unit (After Cancer Experience).  The new doctor we see, Dr. Cindy, is great.  She still getting to know us and has been so wonderful and patient putting up with our, (or shall I say MY) fears and hangups.  But best of all is seeing Dr. Winick.  Oh how we love that woman!  I met her the very first day in the ER the day Sawyer was diagnosed.  I will never forget her kind, gravely serious face.  When you connect with someone in the midst of the darkest day of your life, it is not a bond that is easily broken.  Ever since that first day, she was the one I would look for.  She was the one I wanted to get results from.  She was the one I trusted the most.  And when she says everything is all right with SaSa, I believe her.  And I love that she REALLY LOVES Sawyer.  He’s not just a patient – she truly delights in him.  She loves his huge personality; she marvels at his wit and his intelligence.  And that makes me love her all the more…

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~ and for Sawyer’s incredible attitude and bravery.  When I told him he wasn’t going to school, he jumped up and down and asked, “do I have a CLINIC APPOINTMENT!?!?”  Who DOES THAT?   And not only did he have to have his blood drawn, he actually had to have it drawn a SECOND TIME.  He just hopped right in that chair like it was nothing.  If you missed the Caringbridge update I posted Wednesday, you can read it here. 

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~ AND for the great news that the IGG levels they tested came back NORMAL!  Sawyer’s body is making antibodies like God designed it to do, despite all he endured when he was a baby.  BUT GOD!

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~ thankful for Gina Sue.  Gina started as my sister-in-law, and now she’s just plain MY SISTER.  She has been my copilot, my “ride-or-die,” for most of the last two years.  In the early days of Sawyer’s treatment, I used to do 90% of the clinic trips by myself.  I had a routine and we were a well-oiled machine.  But when I was about seven months pregnant with Tatum K, experiencing regular contractions while barreling down the interstate, it became pretty clear to me that it was no longer wise for me to do the traveling solo.  Various friends made the trip with me, but it was usually Gina.  I’ve never known someone more dedicated. Coming from Carthage, she gets up well before 3 AM to be ready to be at my house to leave at 6.  And she will tell you herself – she is NOT a morning person!  She handles Tatum K’s moods (and MINE) and has a backpack crammed with all the best snacks.  And then after long day in Dallas, and doing ALL the driving there and back, she drives another hour back home.   I am so grateful for her help and fantastic company.  I always come away encouraged. 

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~I’m also thankful that Carson Grace got a good, fresh dose of that Gina-flavored-encouragement this weekend (with a healthy helping of Justin and Grandmommy thrown in)!  She left school for the weekend to spend the night in Carthage, and then went to Potlatch, Carthage’s annual fall city festival where Justin was showing his pristinely restored classic Ford truck.  Not only did she enjoy the fellowship, BBQ, and the car show – she was asked to be the Trophy Girl, got to present Uncle Justin with a trophy, AND was awarded a trophy HERSELF at the end!  Such a fun day full of great memories!

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~ for a fun, easy makeover from my Trash Week treasures.  Could my salvaged chairs have turned out any cuter??

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~ for a perfect day to have Cousin Emmett!  The weather this week has been GLORIOUS, and we had a beautiful fall walk. 

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~ for a fun Homecoming week. The Littles enjoyed their part of the festivities, Crazy Sock Day.

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And Cooper had a great time all week.  I was thankful to SURVIVE the making of the Homecoming mum (seriously people. I’m from the North. I had never seen anything like the phenomenon that is Texas football season/Homecoming/mums!  It is like another planet!  This was SO NOT my thing, but I figured it out, THANKFULLY!).   Coop had a great time at the football game, and then on Saturday, he and his date were just the cutest.  They are just great friends, and went with a group of friends, so there was absolutely no pressure.  Just a fun evening of food, friends, and dancing.  How is my Coopy a Freshman going to a DANCE WITH A GIRL!?!?!

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~ for a fresh batch of new Giddyup & Whoa sign builds for next week’s Vintage and Co’s Fall Gresham Barn Sale!  I was so blessed to be invited back, and I have a ton of ideas for signs!  The sale is October 23-26; check them out on Facebook and if you are local, it’s a sale you WON’T WANT TO MISS!!!

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~ for a remarkable last-minute surge of donations for the Children’s Hospital Prize Closet.  Last week I was so disappointed. We were way WAY behind from last year‘s donations, and even though I knew we had lots of toys that would be a blessing, I just always hope to keep growing, bigger and better.  But, I kept begging on social media, and y’all responded in a big way!  Another amazing GNET Hero, Aileen, a sophomore in high school, saved money she received at her quinceanera to purchase toys for the closet!!  I’m so proud of her!!! IMG_8123 3.jpg

Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, we received more than $700 in donations JUST THIS WEEK, and Paula and I had a blast spending all of it on prizes for the most deserving kids in the world!   Every time we got more money donated: another trip to the store!   Tomorrow is delivery day, so I will reveal the grand total then.  Be watching on Facebook and Instagram!  (Blog followers will have to wait until next Sunday!)

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Life continues, fast and furious.  There’s never time to catch my breath.  How can a quarter of the school year already be over!?  My babies grow up more every single day, and I see a face I scarcely recognize looking back at my from the mirror.  Mercy.  But I’m so reminded, GOD IS FAITHFUL.  HE WAS.  HE IS.  AND HE WILL BE.  Everything around me seems to change at lightning speed.  But my Father is constant and sure.  His Word is alive and His promises are true.  And no matter what my anxiety tells me, no matter what I FEEL LIKE…no matter my fears or control issues or insecurities… I know that I know that I know that He’s never going to let go of me and that His plan for me is good.  And His plan for you is good, too.   I hope that encourages someone this week.  I need to remind myself every single day.  Don’t lose heart.  He sees you.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”” Genesis 16:13 NIV

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalms 145:13-18 NIV