The After

My thoughts this week are a little different, so bear with me…

September is over. It is truly the busiest season of my life. As you may well imagine, life with 9 crazy kids, 2 rowdy dogs, a nonprofit, and a small business is going to be busy year round. But Gold Network’s pivotal events in September and the daily seeking out of opportunities to promote Childhood Cancer Awareness Month have turned into a full time job.

And then, all of a sudden, the calendar page turns and September is over.

So many ask me, “Are you recovering? Getting rest finally? Are you glad it’s all finally done so your life can go back to normal?” And the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”

For many reasons, this September was exceptionally hard for me. It hit me this week how this whole abrupt halt after a season of intensity is such a mirror of the perceived “end” of our cancer journey.

During treatment, there is no letup. Clinic, port access, labs, chemo &/or radiation, therapies, in the car, fevers, ER, back in the car, isolation, neutropenia, lose the hair, regrow the hair, lose the hair again, spinal taps, scans, bone marrow biopsies, nausea, steroid rage, pain, insomnia, more fevers, more ER visits, more hospital stays, more chemo, another 200 miles on the interstate…. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s just what life looks like for the months or years on treatment.

People observe from the outside, “That looks really intense.“ “I don’t know how you do it.“ We don’t know either. But we don’t have a choice. (Although I DO actually know how we do it…His Name is JESUS.)

And for some, the cycle never ends. Some children have chronic or recurrent cancers that never go away. They stay on chemo indefinitely, and are closely monitored by specialists. Others have significant impairment from their cancer (or more often, their treatment) and they must endure life-altering long term therapies, surgeries, and/or disabilities.

And then there are the friends we’ve lost.

That pain never goes away. The loss never goes away. The hole never goes away.

But for many of us, cancer treatment comes to an end. There’s a party at the hospital, a bell is rung, and people change our label from “warrior” to “survivor.” Ding-dong-DONE! Everybody celebrates a hard-fought victory, and now we can all get on with our lives.

But is it really that simple? As simple as the turn of a calendar page?

I can only speak for myself. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) that simple for me. Treatment felt like being on a terrifying tightrope for three years, surrounded by a coaches and trainers and safety harnesses and a net on every side. And when treatment is over, all the safety gear and nets are packed up and put away and everyone goes home from the circus, but you’re left up there on the tight rope. Alone.

Some of “your people” aren’t your people anymore. There’s no more meal train, no more T-shirts, no more support bracelets. Everyone else’s life has moved on, and honestly, you’re GLAD for them! You wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, and you’re glad they can’t understand the silent screaming that still wakes you up at night. What if the cancer comes back? What if the doctors missed something? Where did that bruise come from? How do you know if his platelets are low? Does he look pale? You’re supposed to be trusting God, but you feel helpless and terrified. Not to mention how the most random “nothing” can send you spiraling and gasping for breath.

And what of the other casualties from this war that’s over-except-that-it’s-not? What’s the condition of your extended family? Your marriage? Your other kids? How are your finances? Did you take care of yourself while you were fighting for the life of your child?

All I’m trying to say is that it’s never really over. We march on because we have to. We turn the page of the calendar and put our yard signs back in the garage. The polka dots come off the bus, and the gold shoes go back on the shelf until next year.

Everybody’s walking through something. Everyone goes through their own personal refining fire and comes out changed. Not everybody walks with a limp that you can see. Some people suffer inside and you would never know it. So we have to be kind to one another. It’s OK if their healing process doesn’t look like yours. Not everybody can just “get over it”(whatever their “IT” is). Extend more grace than you think they deserve. Ask good questions. And then LISTEN. Instead of telling someone you’re going to pray for them, PRAY FOR THEM! Everyone is looking for the right place to take their broken pieces.

Love people well. Your people and other people’s people. And let’s help one another carry our broken pieces to Jesus.

I will give thanks to the Lord as long as I have breath in my lungs. He has never left me. In the crisis. In my questions. In my wrestling. In the waiting. In the after. He is FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:17-18)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Golden

It was GOLDEN.

This week has been an exercise in holding on to Jesus with both hands.

I don’t even have words to describe the week, except perhaps to compare it to balancing 83 spinning plates while riding a rollercoaster backwards in a lightning storm every single moment. Highs and lows, sometimes simultaneously.

But we got there.

The day was beautiful. The weather was perfect. God’s presence was everywhere.

And I am thankful.

Praying with the GCS football team
Countless news interviews this week. This was KLTV with the Rodriguez family
Swag pickup
Go Gold at TISD Early College High School
Aneesa’s school media interview
Such a special girl. Aneesa presented GNET with the school’s donation
All the GOLD errands with my sidekick
Race snacks for daaays
Adorable awareness cupcakes made by the girls
Kids’ Dash
10K
5K
HEROES handing out water at the finish
3 amazing cancer dads

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“From the end of the earth will I call unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalms‬ ‭61:2‬)

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1-2)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Light

I am thankful:

~ for an low key uneventful Labor Day.

~ for a cute Homecoming “ask.”

~ for a great time sharing with the GCS 2nd graders. It’s so awesome that TWO SUPERHEROES, Sawyer and his HERO buddy Jase, are in the same grade and class, and the 2nd grade teachers are collaborating on a class project making posters to support their classmates and promote Tyler Gold Run. So proud of them all!

~ for a great volleyball week for Samantha. She got to play in Thursday’s games and they came away with a victory! Then this weekend was her first tournament. Although I was not able to attend, I had several moms taking pictures for me, and keeping me posted on how the team was doing. Sam had her first opportunity to serve, and did a great job! After a full day of play, GCS took second place in the tournament. She had a blast! So proud, and so glad she’s enjoying herself. It doesn’t seem like she should be this grown-up.

~ for the best helpers in the land. I love that my kids just jump right in on Gold Run activities. They all love to help and they know this is just what our family does in September. They have helped sort metals, carry boxes, model T-shirts, fill race bags… I pray no one reports me for breaking child labor laws.

This became a new favorite photo shoot location

~ for continued traction as we prepare for Tyler Gold Run ON SATURDAY!! I have canvassed the city, putting up signs and posters, asking for donations, and finishing up all the details. My mind is a frantically flashing ticker tape of items to check off my lists.

Numbers aren’t where I’d like them to be, but I know God is Lord of all, and we trust Him with the details and the outcome. It’s all His anyway! There’s still time to register and to spread the word, and we have many opportunities for volunteers as well. It’s going to be a wonderful day to remember, and you won’t be sorry you chose to be a part. www.tylergoldrun.com

~ thankful for faithful friends who pray. This week I have had multiple people reach out and encourage and/or pray for me. I’m thankful for the God who sees me, and the faithful saints who listen and obey His promptings. You never know but that you might be the answer to someone’s prayer today. Give us ears to hear, Lord.

~ thankful to have my WHOLE TRIBE together for dinner and for church. It’s been too long.

I’ve been running on low fuel this week. Low on energy. Low on grace. Anxious. Discouraged. My eyes on circumstances instead of the Savior.

That’s a good indication that my focus is off, and that I’m operating (poorly) in my own strength instead of trusting Jesus.

I needed to be reminded.

He is good.

He is RIGHT.

He is faithful.

His way is better than mine.

He is working when I can’t see.

He sees me.

He sees the ones I worry about.

And no matter what happens, all the above statements are STILL TRUE.

I sat with my coffee this morning and took this picture.

What a beautiful visual of light breaking through. It always does and it always will. Darkness comes back, even blots out the light. But inevitably, Light will always pierce the darkness and overtake it.

I can’t do everything. I can’t make everything go ok. I can’t fix all the problems or ensure good outcomes. But God.

He knows. He sees. He loves. HE WINS.

Whatever you’re walking through, whatever you’re asking for…don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”(II Corinthians 4:6)

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

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

To Have And to Hold, Through Life and Through Gold…

I’m not sure if we could have packed more into a week if we tried.

Monday was filled from sun up to sundown with last-minute errands, emails, and phone calls preparing for Go Gold Tyler.

Tuesday – we had the remarkable honor of attending the Smith County Commissioners’ Court session to witness the reading of a resolution officially declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Smith County! This is a historic event, spearheaded by fellow East Texas cancer mom, Kalish Boyd. We had several HEROES and their families in attendance, and it was truly a moment I will never forget.

⁃ then 2 simultaneous news interviews with local television networks.

Real life…
Heroes getting to be kids!

⁃ at lunch I was invited to speak at a student assembly at our young HERO-turned-activist, Aneesa’s school. Once again she appealed to her school administrators and arranged for a GO GOLD in September event and care package supply drive. So incredibly proud of her.

⁃ then it was Go time! GO GOLD TIME that is! Our team descended upon Tyler’s Downtown Square, transforming it with a Midas touch of GOLD! Gold bows, gold banners, gold balloons, and our glittering gold carpet. It all came together beautifully, and we had a wonderful turnout. Live jazz, food trucks, sparkly face paint, and so many HERO families…

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see our families and honor their courage. There is something so powerful when we stand together and raise our voices for all our children. Thankful to have 23 HERO families in attendance. And thankful that we had good media coverage as well, with 2 more TV interviews as well as the local paper. The more the word gets out, the more we can make a difference for these deserving families! View this year’s HERO video here.

Wednesday – mostly a day of recovery, paying invoices and reorganizing supplies, punctuated with lots more emails and phone calls. That evening Tatum K and I got to represent Gold Network ETX at our local Kendra Scott store who hosted a give-back event for us. Our glitter-girl HERO Georgia and her mom and YaYa joined us, and the little girls had the BEST TIME sorting through jewels and modeling their gold gear! It was a girlie golden evening to the max!

Thursday – the morning started with me sharing at GCS Middle School chapel. It was a sweet program, with powerful worship, and a very attentive group. So special for me to be with Kora, Gavin, and Samantha and their classmates. Tatum K was a little restless as my forever-day-after-day-gold-sidekick, so I quietly promised her a donut prize as a bribe for sitting quietly. We went to our favorite spot, Donut Delight, home of the decadent maple-bacon donut. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

⁃ then that evening was Samantha’s first volleyball game! B Team was not scheduled to play, but there were several A Team out with illness, so B Team dressed out. Although we were disappointed that Sam didn’t get to play, I could not have been more proud of her. She stayed fully engaged and attentive, and cheered her heart out for her teammates. She had the very best attitude. So proud of our sweet girl.

Friday was Operation Balloon Transfer + my standard bi-weekly trip to 3 grocery stores! We were thankful to be able to share our beautiful custom balloon arch with Aneesa’s school for their Go GOLD supply drive.

That evening we enjoyed a special takeout meal from the couch while cheering on the Carthage Bulldogs to another win!

Saturday marked 22 years since I married my best friend. It feels like a lifetime and a minute at the same time. I still can’t believe the journey we have been on since 2 clueless kids dove headfirst into a hurricane.

I wonder if we would have been brave enough to do it if we had known what was in store. BUT GOD. He knew that in the very center of that hurricane we would find HIM. I’m so incredibly thankful we have each other through every high and every low. We have literally grown up together, becoming a couple and a family and Christ followers all at once. This year’s anniversary was spent doing yard work, household chores, swimming with the kids, and family movie night. (12 Mighty Orphans – great movie, inspiring story, but my darling children learned quite a few “new words” I’m afraid.) It’s not always glamorous and romantic. But it’s thick and thin, tried and true, leaning hard on one another when neither of us have the strength to stand on our own. Sometimes we carry one another. Sometimes we drag each other. Sometimes we are toe to toe and both refuse to move. But 22 wonderful/terrible/exhilarating/exhausting years later, we are still here, loving each other and never letting go. Thank You Jesus. ( And today we slipped away kid-free not once but TWICE for lunch and dinner!)

I’m thankful for strength and endurance that is not my own. For the 87,653 to-do lists and reminders on my phone. For my faithful co-laborer Paula who calms the storms in my brain and makes sure we don’t miss anything. For Gina Sue who helped me from dawn til way past dark on Tuesday keeping me sane and hydrated and making sure all my babies were taken care of. For those who lift up Gold Network in prayer. For individuals and schools and businesses Going Gold. For my husband who surprised me with gold Birkenstocks for September. For 30 straight days of gold outfits. For my family. For blue skies and hope that is always ahead. For my little miracle survivor HERO that takes my breath away when I stop to think about all he has been through.

For a sovereign God who sees all that is broken in this world, and will one day finally set it all to right once and for all.

We are just 2 short weeks from Tyler Gold Run. Please consider participating in some way. Runner? Register! Not a runner or not local? Register as a GoldDreamer, supporting with a donation (and you get the tshirt!). We also need lots of volunteers on and before Race Day. We started this race in 2015, and we had a HERO table with 9 frames on it.

At Go GOLD Tyler this week, we displayed our 80+ HEROES on three 4 foot x 8 foot walls. And they are literally filled absolutely to capacity. Not room for one more frame.

We have added 20 families to our network in the last 2 years. I can’t tell you how this rips up my heart. All these children need us more than ever. In the time it has taken you to read this blog post, at least 2 more families lives have been changed forever.

Will you help?

www.tylergoldrun.com

In the midst of the trials and brokenness, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

Ready…Set…Go GOLD!

I am thankful:

~ for signing bookmarks, lost lunches, forgotten water bottles, and jeans that are too small overnight. For bug collections , memory verses, book covers, and pungent PE uniforms. We are in full swing!

~ for Tatum K’s long, beautiful hair that has never known a trim. I will admit, it’s getting a little hard to manage. This week after a particularly harrowing encounter with the hairbrush, she informed me, “Mama, I want a haircut. But ONLY cut it from the BOTTOM!” (Daddy said no.)

~ for sweet Samantha who is now a proud member of the 7th grade volleyball team! She’s so excited.

~ for little fun moments and activities sprinkled throughout our days.

Doesn’t everybody have a Chia Chewbacca?

~ for so much fun doing school with Tatum K. I have been so surprised by how eager she is to learn! Every day when she gets up, she asks what we are going to learn today, and runs to get a Bible so we can start there. And I’m learning how to give myself grace and that with a 4 year old, learning can be organic and unstructured. We count our food, we find letters on the mail, and sing songs and read books. I’m so proud of my little student!

~ for some really wonderful Giddyup & Whoa signs coming out of the shop. It’s been pretty quiet for a while, but all of a sudden we got BUSY! Including a first for me: 2 signs in Spanish for a classroom! It was a fun challenge, but I was terrified I would misspell something because I had no idea what they said!

It is GOLD SEASON. And it’s been 2 years since we’ve had any in-person events, so I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do everything. BUT GOD. He has given me energy and grace that are not my own. And I look at all the pictures of these amazing kids, and it gives me the strength I need to press on through. The bus is sporting her festive gold polka dots, gold purse out and ready, and gold apparel ready for the next 30 days. Ready, set, GOLD!

I’m so excited about our event on the Square August 31. Go Gold Tyler is our kickoff event for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We have booked a live jazz trio, food trucks, and a wonderful evening for our HERO families and their supporters. Please join us if you are local. August 31, 6:30-8:30 pm on the Tyler Downtown Square.

I’m in a season where I am CONSTANTLY reminded that nothing is within my control.

Nothing.

I mean yes, I am responsible for my behavior, my words, my conduct, my actions.

But the things I worry about? No control. And I guess I’m supposed to know that already, but if I ever did know that, I’ve long since forgotten.

BUT GOD.

He sees. He sees the horrors taking place all across our world. He sees innocent lives lost, and unspeakable injustices, and genuine evil.

He sees the things that keep me awake at night, the things that rattle me to my core. And this week, in the midst of trial and frustration and heartbreak, He has reminded me that nothing escapes His attention. He cares about me. He cares about people all over the world. He hears my prayers, whether I can force the broken words from my lips or not.

AND HE IS MOVING.

He is working in the dark. He is drawing hearts to Himself. He is mending broken hearts. He is building His Kingdom living stone by living stone.

And I will remind myself every day: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Don’t lose heart friends. Keep praying.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13:1-2, 5-6)

“P” is for Perspective

I am thankful:

~ for a good, crazy week. We made it through locker days and meet the teacher days and 18 more trips to Office Depot and orientations and back to school parties. And that was just Monday and Tuesday! I’ve got 2 at new campuses this year, so we toured and made sure they could find their way and understand their schedules.

Then it was finally time for the first day of school. New shoes, favorite outfits, bulging backpacks, and sleepy smiles. We got our traditional first day picture on the porch, but back a little bit, because the rain was absolutely pouring. (It overflowed our pool!)

As I got Tatum K dressed to take the kids to school in her new favorite jumper (wif a pocket!) and then watched Samantha do her hair in long pigtails, I was inspired for her first day of Pre-K. The letter “P” of course! God gave us lots of Puddles to Play in. We visited the Police station, where she gave the letter P a hug, and then had a Princess Picnic with all P foods. We had so much fun together.

No problem officer … we are just hugging the letter “P”

Before all the “P-Party” began, we started our day at the feet of Jesus. I told Tatum K that we need to always start with the most important part. We read the story of Creation from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and by the end, she could answer all my questions.

“In the beginning, what was there?”

“Nuffing. But God was there.”

“And what did He say?”

“Let there be light!”

“And then what did He make?”

“The sand and the sea and the trees and birds and all the animals and EVERYTHING!”

“And He made 2 people, what were their names?”

“Adam and Even.”

It was a Perfect first day.

Everyone had a great first day. We celebrated with a special snack and burgers for dinner. I assured the kids that we wouldn’t be maintaining this grand lifestyle every day. But first days are extra special.

~ for such kindness from the Lord on such an emotionally charged day. Even if I am, to a certain degree, glad to send the kids back to school, it’s still genuinely hard to let them go. They are growing up before my very eyes and I can feel the time slipping away. And as we all know, the world’s gone mad. So letting go of my most precious gifts is so so hard. Wednesday morning I got up extra early and when I opened up my Bible app, I was so encouraged.

I was even more encouraged because I knew what shirt Sawyer had chosen and laid out for himself to wear for his first day.

And look above his head❤️

In that moment, I felt so seen and held and loved by my Heavenly Father. I already knew, but I needed reminding: He’s got my babies.

~ for continued “P” fun with Tatum K during the rest of the week.

~ for my special bracelets.

I wear my “it is well” bracelet every day. It is hand stamped brass, made by a childhood cancer mama who lost her beautiful girl only 12 days after her leukemia diagnosis. It reminds me to not lose heart on my hard days. God is always good, and always faithful. And if that broken mama can still say “it is well,” then so can I. And I recently was given one of the original “Praying for Baby Sawyer Rucker” bracelets. There aren’t many left, and the only one left in our house is broken. So when a sweet boy offered to give me his, I broke. I didn’t even try to stop the tears that came flooding. And the 3rd is a handmade leather bracelet from my mom. All three meaningful and beautiful in different ways.

~ for excitement brewing about our upcoming Gold Network ETX events coming up. Go GOLD Tyler is in just over a week, and Tyler Gold Run, 1 month. It’s CRUNCH TIME! Phone calls, emails, bookings, appointments, supplies…it’s NON STOP. So very thankful for the people helping behind the scenes.

~ for one of our most important, most critically needed events: CONNECT. Every few months, we host a gathering in our home for cancer moms and dads. To talk, to share, to laugh and cry together. We always cater in a delicious meal (this time Stanley’s World Famous BBQ!) and just spend time sharing our stories and leaning on one another. I love these families with my whole heart, and seeing them CONNECTING WITH EACH OTHER brings me so much joy.

I did hit a snag this week (several actually, but I’m just going to share about one.)

Every year we share a video featuring all our amazing warrior children from across East Texas. It is so emotional for everyone, but also very special. I can’t even tell you how many hours I put into this thing. I am NOT a tech savvy person, but I have (with MUCH trial and EVEN MORE error) taught myself how to build websites and graphics and videos for Gold Network, Tyler Gold Run, and Giddyup and Whoa. I originally created this video for the very first Go GOLD Tyler back in 2016, and I’ve updated and added to it each year. So, it’s time to start working on it this year, with so many new families to add.

The video is gone.

Sure, its on YouTube. I can WATCH it. But the editable file I’ve used to update is is gone. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE.

I began to panic, thinking of the hours and weeks of work it has taken over 6 collective years. How could I possibly start from scratch and have it done?

I frantically searched file after file and location after location on our computer. Then I looked at my bracelet. “it is well.” And I took a deep breath and began gathering pictures and starting a brand new project.

I have a million pictures of these children. And millionS of pictures of my own child.

I started finding picture after picture after picture. And as I looked at them, really looked at them: children in the hospital, some bald, some healthy, and some who have gone to be with Jesus…my perspective began to shift. I looked at these brave beautiful warriors smiling through their pain. And I have a second grader who wasn’t supposed to be here. BUT GOD! And I was freshly reminded that a stupid video is just a stupid video. What matters is fighting for these precious ones.

I still hope I get it done. I hope we line out all our details and that the events are successful. But none of that really matters. What matters is that our eyes and our anchors are fixed in Jesus. And that we love on all these families wherever they are in their journey.

Let’s love one another well, friends, and focus on the things that really matter. And those AREN’T THINGS!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Back to School CRAY

I am thankful:

~ first and foremost, SO THANKFUL to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE!!! GLORY TO THE LORD! Wednesday Sawyer, aka the Bravest Boy in the Whole Wide World, had his 6 month follow up appointment with his Oncologist and his ACE (After Cancer Experience) doctor in Dallas. It’s always an emotionally charged and exhausting day. So many triggers attached to going to the hospital down the all too familiar highway, and each time the same uneasy feelings build up as we prepare for either the best day or the worst day of our lives. But Sawyer never ever sees it that way. He’s THRILLED to go to the hospital.

One day he will be so embarrassed that he played on this like it was a dump truck

He loves to see so many of his favorite people (and his story so well known, it’s like he’s the little mayor of Children’s Hospital!)

Dr. Winick taught Sawyer how to use an ophthalmoscope, and then let him examine her

He knows he gets one on one time, extra snacks, gets McDonalds for breakfast and Whataburger for lunch (EVERY. TIME. His choice.)

And he knows he gets to go home with a toy. He doesn’t see the day as scary or stressful at all. What an amazing gift from God! As usual, he hopped right up in the phlebotomist’s chair, chatted and laughed with Miss Sharon as she placed the needle in his arm, and then cheerfully drew his own blood! I will never stop being amazed at the maturity and bravery of my 7 year old. It just blows my mind.

It is always such a blessing to see the wonderful doctors and nurses who so lovingly cared for Sawyer, and many of them hugged him (and me) especially tight this visit.

They have such an unbelievably hard job, and it has been a rough season of many hardships for them. Several of them took a deep breath and said, “I needed this dose of hope today.” Sawyer is a healthy 7 year old against all odds. No one thought he’d survive, let alone be THRIVING. BUT GOD.

I will never ever ever stop praising Him for the countless miracles He has done in Sawyer’s life. I do pray that one day I will not feel so overwhelmed with dread every time we go back. But I do know that Jesus will meet me with grace in those moments, no matter how I handle them.

~ thankful for our sweet Aunt Gina who finally got to join us for Sawyer’s appointment!

Hospital policy has limited us to only one caretaker, so I’ve been making the trip alone the last few times. Gina Sue had gone with me almost EVERY APPOINTMENT since about my 3rd trimester with Tatum K (when I realized that having contractions while barreling down the interstate at 75 miles an hour was probably not the best idea.) She has been a faithful prayer warrior, chauffeur, encourager, and the provider of the bottomless bag of snacks for almost 5 years now, rising at an appallingly early hour to drive FROM CARTHAGE TO TYLER, pick us up, and THEN DRIVE FROM TYLER TO DALLAS. AND BACK AGAIN. She’s such a blessing and a wonderful help and support. She knows I’m weary and that the day is always hard for me, and she goes out of her way to take care of me. I’m so thankful she’s my sister.

~ and thankful for this bag.

At our house, this bag can only mean one thing.

Aunt Gina makes the yummiest friendship bread, and it’s the kids’ favorite breakfast. They always know what’s in the bag when they see it. And it ain’t soap!

~ thankful for Colton being back from Albuquerque and spending his few days off with us. He was super helpful during my back-to-school-supplies-madness, and helped me divide up the list and track down every orange folder with pockets and brads, white polymer eraser, and broad tipped yellow and blue highlighter on the supply lists. And then we tried out a great new coffee spot in town, Crema. DELICIOUS!

~ for “decent” store-bought pimento cheese turned FAB with a few ingredients at home to jazz it up. I’m very particular when it comes to pimento cheese.

~ for a super fun day swimming with sweet school friends.

~ for Whataburger chocolate malts to celebrate August Tonight.

~ for this year’s sharp new Tyler Gold Run t-shirt design created by our graphic artist. I’m so excited for a different look this year.

Our Gold Network of East Texas events are coming up so quickly, it’s making my head spin. With no in-person events last year, I feel a little rusty at remembering what all I have to do! It is SO BUSY!!! Go GOLD Tyler, our event on the Downtown Square to kickoff Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is coming up August 31.

It’s such a special event, honoring all our families: on treatment, completed treatment, or who have lost a child to cancer. Our HERO wall with all our kids’ pictures grows every year, which is so heartbreaking. But watching the kids and their families walk the gold carpet is so inspiring, and the still over the crowd as the families release balloons for their loves who were taken too soon is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. Read more about Go GOLD Tyler here.

And Tyler Gold Run is just 5 short weeks away! Where did summer go!!?? We are praying all goes as planned to have our race in person this year, and we are just so excited about this year’s 10k•5k run! Registration is open at tylergoldrun.com And if you are out of state or not a runner, we have the GoldDreamer option, to donate and be a part of our event right where you are. You even get the tshirt! I hope you’ll join us.

~ thankful that our pool toy box isn’t any deeper.

~ thankful for a really awesome visit with some really awesome friends. Some friends are just truly LIFE-GIVING. You know, the kind that you leave feeling so refreshed and lifted up. Find you some friends like that. And better yet, try to BE that kind of friend to somebody.

The kids start back to school on Wednesday. And the pre-crazy is in full swing. We have meet the teacher/locker day/orientation/swim parties back to back to back. 11th grade, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and 2nd, across 4 campuses.

As much as we all love summer, we are ALL ready for this season to change. I’m always so happy to have the kids come home for summer. And I’m equally happy to send them back to school. To everything there is a season. But believe it or not, I will miss them when my house is quiet. But I just may enjoy a little quiet too. And I’ll still have my spicy Tater home for one more year. I want to soak up every minute with my girl, and not rush her off to grow up and away. She is excited to start “Pre-skoo wif my mama.”

Time continues to run away, and there’s no stopping it. My goal for this school year is to take it all in, not sweat the small stuff, press through even when I’m overwhelmed, and be my kids’ biggest cheerleader. I know these years are hard, but they are the moments I will never get back again. And I’m reminded that “hard” doesn’t always mean “bad.” We are all learning and growing and God is at work. I’m so thankful for His perfect grace and redeeming love. May we all look more like Him next May than we do today.

Even in the midst of all the crazy, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

Plains

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “Brother Joe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Golden

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

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

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

God of Hope

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hear you Lord.

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

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

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

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