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!

mWVp8cdJQcq2dLhoKlL4Vg

~ 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. 

fullsizeoutput_d2ecfullsizeoutput_d303

~ 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

p5f4PcUpTEmcuZCwn00pFA

~ 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

0CE9D52B-EEC3-4111-B32A-44B5A581D5DD

~ 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.  

QEFmPnNxTVSVvLxE+GN0dwyWKp1qviRw2C9mh2tAQmZQtMgPpQ+KZFF3pftAixgevLD54UjQUGKTCmTbkpPMgjIp6DZqmS0OkZcG8XsZHbgIMG_3988.JPGIMG_3995 2.JPG60420270499__42EA9591-D3D1-4AB9-9CAC-EDA3CB8BF427

~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. 

IMG_4001.jpgIMG_4002.jpg

~ 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. 

IMG_0108IMG_1130 3IMG_6866

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.)

IMG_2247.jpgIMG_2259 2.jpgIMG_2290.jpg

~ 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!

D40A6E16-09D5-4A1A-AEA4-BF5ED65F144F.JPG

~ 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!

IMG_2366.jpg

~ 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.  

IMG_2321.jpg

~ 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.  

60109723813__9164EBE5-2314-46A5-A5B1-80A7C06A330B.jpg

~ 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!”

IMG_2201.jpgIMG_2270.jpgIMG_2358 2.jpgIMG_2200.jpg

~ 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. 

IMG_2294.jpgIMG_2336.jpg

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…

IMG_8166 3.JPG

~ 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. 

IMG_8136 3.JPGIMG_8154 3.JPG

~ 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!

IMG_8163 3.jpg

~ 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. 

IMG_F37D730D398B-1.jpeg

~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!

IMG_8262.jpgIMG_8263 2.jpgIMG_8264.jpg

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

IMG_7869 2.JPGIMG_8190.JPG

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

IMG_8109 3.jpg

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

IMG_8214.jpgIMG_8217.jpg

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!?!?!

IMG_8233 3.jpg

img_8238-3.jpg
Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

~ 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!!!

IMG_8254.JPG

~ 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!)

59269775703__FB4905D3-3E1A-4AD0-A8D9-6CD9B5FE6635.JPG

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

Don’t Give Up

I am thankful:

~ for breathing easier.  You might remember that Cooper was injured at football practice about a month ago.  His hip is fully recovered, but we had another issue hanging over our heads with his health. The EMT on site that day was concerned with Cooper’s heart rhythm, and said we needed to follow up with our primary care physician.  We did, and THAT doctor felt it best to err on the conservative side, referring Cooper to a pediatric heart specialist.  That appointment was this week.  When we arrived, the nurse noted Cooper’s blood pressure as slightly elevated (which could easily have been caused by his anxiety about the appointment).  But also, the repeat EKG showed the same concerning abnormality, and prompted the doctor to do an echocardiogram.  Thankfully, the anatomy of Cooper’s heart looked perfectly healthy, and the doctor said Cooper is fine.  He has an electrical dysrhythmia, an abnormal electric impulse in his heartbeat, but it is not causing any issues.  The specialist wants to see him back in a year to make sure nothing is developing into a problem, but otherwise cleared him for all activities, including football!  Those were the magic words Coop had been waiting to hear.   So it was very special to get to see him take the field with his team Thursday night.  Thank You God for taking care of our boy!

IMG_7536.JPGIMG_7630.JPG

~for the sound of little voices lifted in praise. I love that my Littles love Christian music. It’s mostly what we listen to in the car every day.  I don’t say that to sound preachy or to brag that we are doing something good.  It’s just a choice that I’ve made after hearing my kids sing some less-than-wholesome lyrics that just didn’t sound right coming out of their a little mouths.  So anyway, even Tatum has a few songs that she knows, and I love to hear her tiny “hallelujah,” and see her lifted hands.  My middle girls are entering the preteen years, and they love music so much.  So they sing out with ALL THEIR MIGHT. And I have to hide my giggles when the tone is more enthusiastic than melodious.  I know it all sounds beautiful to the Lord. 

~ for a reprieve from the oppressively hot weather. We have had a few days that almost feel like fall is coming.

~for one of our most amazing and inspiring experiences since creating the Gold Network of East TX.  One of our sweet Hero girls, Aneesa, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in the first grade.  She bravely fought through her treatment, and is now an 8th grader at Moore Middle School here in Tyler.  She asked her principal to do a Go Gold fundraiser at their school.  He said no.  Disappointed, but determined, she wrote him a THREE PAGE LETTER explaining what she had been through as a child with cancer, her compassion for other kids with cancer, and shared with him the maddening statistic that less than 4% of federal research funding is directed toward childhood cancer research. IMG_7553.jpg

She told him about Gold Network of ETX, and how we have supported her family and her other friends with cancer, and asked him to reconsider and Go Gold.  He agreed!  Aneesa got on the announcements at her school, shared the news that she was celebrating being 7 years cancer-free, and asked them to pay $2 to wear gold or yellow on the designated day.  Her classmates and the faculty were incredibly supportive, and raised over $1000! IMG_7544.JPG

I was invited to their pep rally this week (as was the local news station) where Aneesa presented me with a giant check in front of her whole school!  I could not have been more proud!  What an inspiration this young lady is!  She is taking the biggest challenge of her life and turning it into a blessing for others – and is refusing to take “no” for an answer!  She didn’t give up!  Josh told her he could envision her being the first of our Hero kids to join our GNET board one day.  Aneesa was absolutely GLOWING.  Love that sweet, sweet girl.

069AE6CD-B769-4EC3-841E-922178FAE43D.JPG 

~ for a wonderful evening with some of our Tyler Gold Run volunteer team.  We gathered at our big table around a feast of C Rojos decadent tacos and burgers and visited and laughed and just encouraged one another.  Then we busted out some delicious pies and coffee and talked about the high points of Tyler Gold Run 2019 and goals for improvement for next year’s event.  We got such great feedback, and I just treasure each one of these dedicated individuals who give of their time and energy to support the vision and mission of GNET.  I am STILL more exhausted than I have ever been in my life.  Another year older, I find I just don’t bounce back the way I once did.  But I am so excited to see all that God has in store for us in the upcoming year, and all the lives GNET is going to touch.

IMG_7565 2.jpg

~ A friend texted me the most touching and surprising note. She keeps a Sawyer shirt in her classroom as a reminder to pray for him, and so many others of course. We don’t often think about that most of our prayer requests are not one and done. It’s always a process, always a journey. when someone is sick, we pray for healing, but do we continue to pray for recovery? When we know someone is about to have a baby, we pray for the pregnancy and a healthy delivery. Do we continue to pray for the momma during the sleepless nights? And that the baby will grow strong and healthy? That momma is never going to stop needing our prayers. I’m so grateful for the friends who don’t stop praying.  The ones who continue to pray more than five years after Sawyer was diagnosed. Who pray for my adopted children for the different things that they are working through. That pray for all of my kids, that pray for my marriage, and pray for me. We have to be faithful to lift one another up.  Don’t give up!

IMG_7651.JPG

~ for a fun day watching our yummy 1 year old cousin, Emmett.  He loved the Bear, and kept me on my toes with his exploring.  Tatum K surprised me with her jealousy and how decidedly and passionately she hoarded “HER” things.  Our prissy princess had quite the furrowed frown!   I also got some good baby sugars from baby Coby this week.  I’ve been itching to get my hands on him for a long time.

IMG_7595.JPGIMG_7606.JPG8E04F942-DB18-44B4-951B-EAE86F378B52.JPG

~ for so many generous donations for the Children’s Hospital Toy Drive.  We are so excited to refill the prize closet at the clinic next month.  There’s still time to donate!  

IMG_7652.JPGIMG_7654.JPGIMG_7656.JPG

~ for an unexpected surprise. Looks like it is large item pick up week again! Already this evening just running an errand, I have seen pile after pile on the curb. In less than 20 minutes I scored a pair of shutters, and antique file box, and a set of finials off a bedframe. It’s going to be a great week!

I know I am not alone in saying: this parenting stuff is HARD, y’all. HARD!!!  No matter how many kids you have, or what their ages, whatever you’re walking through, it’s just a different flavor of hard.  Our family is in a unique situation with so many kids on so many points along the timeline.  Not many parents are training toddlers, navigating Littles, preteens, teens, and young adults simultaneously.  The needs are relentless.   I can’t remember a time when ALL NINE of them were all doing solidly OK at the same time.  Somebody’s always mad at us or at each other.  Somebody’s in trouble.  Somebody’s sick.  Something is falling apart with at least one of them at all times.  It’s like whack a mole. But I’m the one who consistently takes the mallet to the head.  Parenting HURTS. I know we will get through it, and I know God is always at work. But I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I just feel like I want to run away.  But God. I am thankful for new mercies every morning, and I’m thankful that the outcomes are not up to me doing everything right.  God knew what He was doing when He chose me to be the Mama for each one of my babies, and He has faithfully, consistently, and without fail given me the grace to walk through sleepless nights and cancer, fostering and rebellion, adoption and selfishness and defiance and everything else that life has thrown at us.  And no matter how weary Josh and I get, we are never giving up.  We won’t ever give up on any of our kids, and we will fight for them on our knees and in our hearts as long as we have breath.  Don’t lose heart friends.  Don’t give up when it’s hard.  Read the extra story.  Give the extra hug.  Say you’re sorry when you screw up.  And don’t be so hard on yourself.  God is working on them and He is working on you.  God is doing His thing.  Let Him.  Anyway, I needed to say all that to encourage myself, and I figured maybe somebody else needed it too. 

Let’s love one another well this week. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:28-31

Reset Button

I am thankful:

~ that Tatum K and Sawyer are both feeling so much better.  Still some ever-lingering hacking coughs, but no more fevers.  Thank You Jesus!  It’s amazing how this virus knocked them down.  They have been so completely exhausted all week.  I snapped pictures in the car each day after school.

IMG_6816.JPGIMG_6817.JPGIMG_6829.JPGIMG_6837.JPGIMG_6860.jpg

~ for so many people sharing how they are Going Gold.  Profile pictures, wearing gold, sports teams, or making generous donations to the prize closet.  It encourages my heart so much to see that people really do care, and that the word IS SPREADING!  You are MAKING A DIFFERENCE, FRIENDS!

~ for hot, cheesy, gooey homemade pizza. 

~ for our sweet, OLD, grumpy grandpa dog, Cricket.  He turned 14 this week.  He is deaf as a post, halfway blind, and HATES Bear.  But we sure do love him.  Happy Birthday, Cricket.

F3A4D964-92BE-4AE7-A6CA-929F1A82C1E8.JPG

~ for good help right when I need it.  A sweet friend called to say, “I have a free day.  Let me ride around and ask businesses for giveaway prizes.  I could sell ice to an Eskimo!”  What a blessing!  And he was right!  In a few short hours, he stocked us up with FABULOUS prizes for the post-race drawings!  Thanks Jarrod!  And we also had a super efficient morning filling race bags, organizing medals, and sorting t-shirts.  The student volunteers worked steadily to get it done, and the support from the school maintenance staff was OUTSTANDING.  I also had a friend help me get Cooper to AND from his Pine Cove work retreat with his youth group. Not only THAT, I found out that my son went to camp WITH NO BEDDING OR TOWEL, and she took care of him for me! Thank you, Emily!!!! (I‘ll check his packing next time!)

~ for a new milestone for Cooper – his first “ask” to a dance.  Thankful for his creative big sister who made his poster, and for a sweet friend to go to Homecoming with in a few weeks. 

IMG_7190.jpg

~ for great time for Sawyer at Donuts With Dad this week.  When the note came home about it, he was bouncing OFF THE WALLS.  And it’s ALL he talked about ALL week.  “FOUR more days till Donuts With Dad!”  “Only THREE more days til we have donuts, Daddy!”  “You know what TOMORROW is????”  The actual event did not disappoint.  Josh and the other dads had good times with their kiddos.  And Sawyer’s teacher commented on how much his face lit up when Daddy walked in.  Moments like this are such a big deal for us.  Maybe you can’t understand.  But when you’ve done these fun little milestones and events with all your other kids, the kind of events that you really do take for granted….and you were never quite sure if you were going to get to do it with this one… I don’t know what else to say.  It’s just a really big deal.

IMG_7145.JPG

~ for the simple sweet moments that refuel the heart.  Friday was INSANE.  In the course of the day I fielded more than 20 emails and 152 text messages.  We scoped out Bergfeld Park to map out our new layout.  I put out more posters and signs.  Picked up 800 race shirts in 10 GIANT BOXES and crammed them into our bus like a Tetris game around the 7 kids and dog.  It was 90 to nothing ALL DAY.   But then I had a moment. In the afternoon there was this tiny little window of time to sit and put my feet up and be quiet.  And then a little boy woke up from his nap. Sweaty little curls on his neck, he crawled up into my lap and put his head on my chest.  “I love you mama.”  That was the reset button I needed. I squeezed that boy a little too tight for a little too long.

IMG_6890.JPG

~ and can I just say, I am SO THANKFUL and EXCITED about our new Tyler Gold Run t-shirts!  We wanted to change up the design for our 5 year anniversary, and our talented graphic designer did a terrific job!  Aren’t they great!!??  

B43BFAF9-FCE3-4B83-8D1C-37031676E1A1.JPEG4DBB0D89-D1E6-461E-9E89-5505BA79A80A.JPG

~ and Friday STILL wasn’t over!  We had fun taking the kids to Elementary Night at the GCS varsity football game.  They bounced in the bounce houses, ran around with their friends, and formed a spirit line for the players to run in through.  I’m not sure if any of them watched any football. IMG_7191.jpg

IMG_7154.JPG
The Littles were CAPTIVATED with the football game

~ for a fantastic evening of fellowship.  We have stepped out in faith to be a host home for a 10-week Small Group Bible study.  It’s been a LONG TIME.  Hosting and opening up our home has been a central part of our lives for most of our married life.  We had 50 people in our home EVERY. SUNDAY. for YEARS.  And LOVED IT.  But everything stopped when we started fostering our 3 Littles in 2013.  Small group, church, Sunday school, school activities.  Basically anything outside the home.  That season was just so hard, and we had to focus all our energy on their needs.  Then Sawyer was born.  And just when we thought we had caught our breath and were about ready to rejoin society…then cancer stole everything away.  And it’s taken a really long time to get back into normalcy.  There’s the emotional side – my anxiety kicks my butt and keeps me from wanting to be in social situations; we feel so DIFFERENT, because the war we’ve been through over the past 6 years has changed us in pretty much every way.  But then just the practical side – we have a giant family, and opening our home or going to someone else’s is both intimidating and a ton of work!  But man!  Stepping out of the comfort zone, stepping out into a scary place in obedience….it is SO right where God wants us!   It is stressful and stretching and sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes even inconvenient.  And the fruit it bears is LIFE GIVING AND LIFE CHANGING!  Letting people into our lives and our homes is where LIFE HAPPENS.  It was a great night. So very thankful. 

~ and for my sweet girls who Go Gold without being told.  They just instinctively chose gold/yellow outfits for church today.  So sweet.

IMG_7181.JPG

This week, I connected with 2 more cancer mamas. They have both had children diagnosed in the last couple months, and both in East Texas.  Reaching out to them and adding their pictures to our wall of Heroes at the upcoming race was such a powerful paradigm shift for me.  Talk about a reset button.  It’s so easy for me to get swamped by the mountainous to-do lists: clearing our route with the police department, making sure we have volunteers, health department, street department, water, signs, SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS THREE TIMES A DAY….there is just so much to do.  But then is the staggering reminder: these 2 families lives are falling apart right now.  And one of our sweet friends who is almost done with treatment had to be unexpectedly hospitalized due to fever and low counts.  And tomorrow is Lucas’s birthday, and instead of enjoying a smash cake and taking a zillion pictures, his mama and daddy are away on a trip, trying to comfort one another.  It is these staggering heartbreaks that help me focus back in on the WHY.  These are WHY we do what we do.  These families are WHY I wear gold every single day and cover my bus with gold magnets and spend hours a day on my phone.  These are such small, insignificant things that on their own mean very little. But alongside everything everyone else is doing….and fueled by the UNSURPASSABLE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST…. I genuinely believe it makes a difference to these families. Because they all deserve to be SEEN AND HEARD AND RALLIED AROUND.  They need to know they are not walking alone.  

It’s gonna be a BIG WEEK!  I have interviews and morning shows, elementary chapel, and Friday night will be Go GOLD night at the GCS football game.  And then Tyler Gold Run is SATURDAY!!!!  I’m totally thrilled and completely overwhelmed.  It’s not too late to register as a runner, walker, or just give a donation.  And we also have lots of volunteer opportunities as well.   And as always, I’m so grateful for your prayers over all the big and the small details.  At least the weather forecast looks better than last year’s….AND, Sunday is the Opening Ceremony for the Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour, an incredible organization/event that raises awareness for Organ Donation in the state of Texas.  Our pastor and his wife have been involved for years because of their son Josh, who was an organ recipient as a teenager, and then later an organ donor when he passed away.  Because of our relationship with them, we have been big fans of the Circle of Life for years.  But this year, Brother Joe reached out and informed me that they also honor people who have received blood transfusions; and that they wanted to honor and ride for Sawyer!  Talk about humbled and overwhelmed!  Another of our precious Gold Network Hero kids, Jessi Brown, who passed away 2 years ago is also being honored, along with many other donors and recipients.   Did I mention it is a BIG WEEK!!??? 

I’m also excited about the unique opportunity presented by our school through the ministry of World Vision: the Matthew 25 challenge.  Perhaps another “Reset Button,” if you will.  As parents and students, each day has a different specific challenge based on Matthew 25:35-40. 

Monday – “I was hungry” : Fast from snacks and desserts, and only eat rice                                and beans for dinner.

Tuesday – “I was thirsty” : Give up all drinks today except for water.

Wednesday – “I was a stranger” : Sleep on the floor tonight.

Thursday – “I needed clothes” : Wear the same clothes to work/school that you wore yesterday.

Friday – “I was sick … I was in prison” : Reach out to someone going through a difficult time.

Our kids are all very eager to participate. We’ll see what they think by the end of the week.  I’m blessed to walk beside them as we talk about what is REALLY MEANS to love and serve the least of these. 

Let LOVE OTHERS WELL this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  Matthew 25:34-40 

Choosing a Soundtrack

I am thankful:

~ for an uneventful day off from school. It was nice and quiet. The kids had fun in the pool. It was a lovely nothing day.

~ for a special, special day that I never could have dreamed we would see.  Our 20 year anniversary!  The naive kids who repeated vows 2 decades ago would have rightfully been nominated “Least Likely to Succeed.”  We had everything against us.  But God breathed His life into us, and into our marriage.  He knit us together because we only had each other.  He took us through the fire and refined our love and our faith.  I scarcely recognize those kids.  But I love what our life has become.  We enjoyed our new favorite C Rojo’s burger and grapefruit sodas for lunch, and thanked God for 20 beautiful, hard, grace-laced, overcoming years.   This was what I posted that day:

589302063.650972.jpg

“These two kids didn’t have a clue.  We were wild and naive and crazy about each other.  We had a baby. And then found Jesus. And then got married.  Had some more babies and adopted one.  Lost a baby, adopted some more, and had another baby all in one year.  Then came cancer.  More cancer, and ANOTHER baby.  I am blown away by the quantity and quality of life and love God has packed into 20 years.  We chose each other when we didn’t know any better.  Now I know, and I’d choose you again and again and forever.  And to borrow from another favorite love story, “Let ‘me say we’re crazy. What do they know?  Put your arms around me baby, don’t ever let go.  Let the world around us, just fall apart.  Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”  Happy Anniversary to my Love.”

5D85FE48-E137-4F99-8A6D-74CE6658B4B9.JPG

~for an uncommonly cooperative and photogenic dog.  He doesn’t mind being a Giddyup & Whoa model or a Gold Network spokesdog.  But he does get tired after all the limelight. 

IMG_8494 2.JPGIMG_6597 2.JPGimg_6777.jpg

~for exciting updates from our graphic designer for this year’s Tyler Gold Run shirts!  We wanted something fun and different to celebrate 5 years.  Can’t show you yet…but I can’t wait!!!!  There’s still time to register!

~ for so many heartwarming reports of people “Going Gold!”  You have changed your profile pictures, shared awareness posts, worn gold… THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of so many families who live childhood cancer awareness month every single day, not because they choose to, but because it is the reality of the life they now live.

76D6CEDB-286C-40FE-B141-6B829961B46C.JPEGIMG_6771.jpgE162D4F5-5F03-4593-9BFE-F4B450F6CE6BIMG_6795 2.JPG

~for healing.  Cooper’s hip is mending well.  Kora has had a chronically recurrent ear infection that is improving.  Sawyer has had a yucky cough.  That’s not uncommon for him.  He always catches whatever crud is going around.  He was coughing by the second day of school, and pretty much has been ever since.  I try not to not be too quick to drag him to the doctor’s office, because I know everybody gets a cold at back to school time.  And I know I am oversensitive and overprotective with Sawyer.  Unfortunately, Monday night, he started running fever.  High fever, over 102°.  We kept him home from school of course, but resisted the urge to jump straight to the doctor, for the same reasons referenced before.  But the cough worsened enough that it was keeping him up all night.  And me.  And Tatum K.  After three days of significant fever and increasing coughing, I finally took him in to the pediatrician. Pneumonia.  Now after missing a full week of school, and a few days on antibiotics, the fever has lifted and the cough is at least a little better.  BUT, now Tatum K is running fever. Sigh.  Just one exceptionally exhausting act in the intricate dance of a large family. BUT GOD… 

IMG_6618.jpg

~ for melatonin.  When your child physically does not have a “get sleepy” button, you MAKE SURE you NEVER run out of melatonin.  

IMG_6785.jpg

When life is super busy (back to school + a million kids + Giddyup & Whoa painting + crunch time in preparation for the Gold Run) and then we have a health curveball… it really sends me spiraling.  Anxiety doesn’t play nice, and is merciless in its attacks.  Rest at night is almost nonexistent.  I often feel paralyzed by all I have to get done, and physically feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Somehow I had recently heard some song, just a snippet of a really terrible song, and it got stuck in my head.  It was absolutely maddening.  After about 3 days, I realized how it was absolutely MESSING WITH ME!  It was quite literally a vulgar and negative soundtrack playing constantly in my head.  But once I keyed in on it…I took action right away.  I turned on my worship music and began to SING!   Every time the negative song would creep back into the background, I would silence it with prayer and singing.  Changing the soundtrack of my day made a huge difference in my peace.  Have you ever noticed that?  That you replay something over and over in your mind?  And how much more often it is something NEGATIVE than anything remotely positive?  We replay a scathing argument, but rarely an uplifting encouragement.  Recognizing this habit, and acknowledging the negative impact it has on our mood and our spirit can be such a life changing paradigm shift. 

I’m ready for a better week. Sawyer is excited to return to school after several days on his antibiotic and now fever-free.  I pray Tatum K recovers quickly and no one else gets sick.  I have a to-do list 86 miles long, but I trust God to provide the grace I need breath by breath.  And it may not all get done, and it probably won’t all go perfectly, but that’s ok too.  BUT GOD…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When every day is just another struggle / And every choice is an act of war / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for / When it feels like I’ll never make it / When my heart’s crying out for more / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for.” (“Prize Worth Fighting For” Jamie Kimmett)

“I hear the whisper underneath your breath / I hear you whisper, you have nothing left / I will send out an army / To find you in the middle of darkest night / It’s true, I will rescue you / I will never stop marching / To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight / It’s true, I will rescue you. (“Rescue”  Lauren Daigle)

“Now I have resurrection power / living on the inside Jesus / You have given us freedom No longer bound by sin and darkness / living in the light of Your goodness / You have given us freedom Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, my chains are gone! Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, HALLELUJAH!” (“Resurrection Power” Chris Tomlin)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)