Our Peace

I am thankful:

~ for a decadent breakfast at my all time favorite place, First Watch on “Breakfast Day” with Dad and TK. Their pillowy waffles and spicy maple cayenne bacon are what I dream about.

~ for an awesome week for Cooper on Go Week. Each GCS High School grade goes on a different class trip, and Juniors spent the week touring historical sites from Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee back to Dallas. Such an amazing opportunity.

~ for the smell of fresh baked cookies.

~ for an awesome sunshine- soaked day at the ballpark. The UT Tyler Patriot Baseball Team held a “Strike Out Childhood Cancer “ game, and invited Gold Network of ETX families to be honored at the game. 14 year old osteosarcoma survivor, Corbin Glasscock, threw out the first pitch. It was a special day!

~ for Spring Break. Excited for a laid back week with the kids. No real plans, no schedule, just freedom from watching the clock. Lots of baseball practices and sunshine I hope.

Birdie and Bear love to watch baseball practice

~ for the life and legacy of our friend, Sophie. Sawyer only met Sophie once at the hospital, but they bonded instantly and he talked about her constantly.

Sawyer and Sophie in 2017

She was a spunky and sassy and I think Tatum K would have been crazy over her. Sophie was stolen from her family by lymphoma in 2018 before her 3rd birthday. This Saturday she will celebrate turning 7, but in heaven with Jesus instead of here with her Mama and Daddy and little brother. Her incredible family has purposed to make her birthday a day of celebration and encouragement, a day to spread kindness and the love of Jesus in Sophie’s memory. They will take a massive toy donation to Children’s in Dallas to share joy with other kids in their battle. You can donate directly to Sophie’s mom, Shelby here www.paypal.me/ShelbySkiles. Or you can just find a way to spread kindness on March 19. Buy someone’s coffee. Make a meal for a sick friend. #domoreforsophie Happy birthday, sweet girl. We won’t ever forget.

This week I’ve just been super conscious of the stirring God is doing in my heart. I shared last week about feeling like I was at the beginning of coming out of the dark season of oppressive anxiety. I’ve continued to seek the Lord’s leading daily, and have experienced a closeness and a refreshing in His presence. My circumstances and my biology have not changed. Every problem and anxiety is still right there waiting for me, waiting to trip me up, waiting to steal my joy. But I am healthier than I once was. Stronger. I physically feel the armor of the God protecting my heart and my mind.

I was really struck by this Scripture in a new way this week. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We may think of PEACE as being passive, the absence of conflict. I never thought about the PEACE OF GOD BEING A GUARD. Jesus is our peace, and He is actively protecting us. Watching over our hearts and minds, if we only will give thanks and ask.

There is so much stirring in my heart…what lies ahead I can scarcely imagine. But I’m thankful for this corner I’ve turned. Doesn’t mean I don’t still have my struggles, hard days, dark days. But instead of feeling like I am sleepwalking, I am alive. Instead of a spectator, I am engaged and ready to put my hands to the plow.

That’s something I learned from Sophie. Life is hard. God is bigger.

May you be encouraged, literally FILLED WITH COURAGE, this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:14-17)

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalms 34:3-4, 14-15)

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

~ for Rucker birthday season in full force. We celebrated Kora last Sunday,

and the Gavin is our Valentine’s Boy. He had a great day, starting with heart shaped pancakes (of course),

pizza for lunch, and taco salad and ice cream cake.

And today was my turn! A surprise latte from Colton, lots of thoughtful birthday wishes, a delicious salad from Piada for lunch, afternoon nap, and then a FEAST of Ruby’s authentic quesadillas

and my favorite homemade-salted-caramel-sauce-soaked-coffee-infused-chocolate-cake-topped-with-Heath-bits.

With all my Loves here at home. I couldn’t dream of anything better. Thank You Lord, for this family that I don’t deserve.

Samantha made me a “BUT GOD” bracelet 💛
Tatum K said, “You have one more present, Mama!”

~ for Sawyer’s chapel character quality award: Generosity. Sawyer has such a loving and generous heart, the fact that he was chosen for this award was no surprise.

~ for a favorite special tradition: February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a special day when Gold Network of East Texas partners with families and friends all over to raise awareness of childhood cancer. We eat ice cream to support kids battling cancer, celebrate the survivors, and to honor the memory of our friends we lost too soon. We enjoyed a sweet treat as a family, and then we shared ice cream with Sawyer’s class at school (as well as his warrior classmate, Jase, and another HERO friend, Matthias).

Josh took ice cream to work to his team, Grandmommy organized an ice cream social at her school in Carthage, and pictures flooded in from all over East Texas from HEROES and their supporters. What an incredible community to be a part of!

~ for our first attempt at hibachi on the griddle. Chicken and veggie fried rice was a hit!

~ for the boys’ room finally completed! These boys are so excited: freshly updated room, baseball practices underway (we have a National and an Astro), and just the excitement of trying something new. It’s going to be so busy but such a fun season.

~ for a long-awaited project completion. Our master bath was one of our first makeovers when we moved into this house. Wall to wall carpet, dingy mustard walls and ceilings, discolored cabinetry, and a most unusual round wall with lots of sheetrock damage.

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

Last year’s stay-cation brought a new light fixture and textured paintable wallpaper in hopes of disguising the unsightly wall blemishes. But then I hit a quite literal design “wall.” I wasn’t sure what color to paint, and was not at all satisfied with how the wall looked. But this week I bit the bullet and went BOLD with a deep, almost black, charcoal in a matte finish.

And we LOVE IT! The wall dents and cracks are finally almost indistinguishable, and I’m digging the unexpected high contrast color. You’ve come a long way, baby!

~ for God’s protection. As you can well imagine, laundry is a neverending battle at our house. Picking up clothes, hanging up towels, sorting bins, stain spotting, soaking, washing, what to dry, what to hang, fluffing wrinkles, folding, figuring out who in the world each item belongs to, and then putting it all away…it is a round the clock, full on enterprise. Both machines are pretty much running constantly. This week was no different, but when i pulled a load out of the dryer, I thought it smelled bad. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I’m notorious for my inability to smell bad odors, so I was really questioning myself. The more I smelled each piece of the dry laundry, the more I decided it all smelled like smoke. I didn’t see anything amiss, but even with the dryer off for the rest of the day, the acrid scent got worse and worse. When Josh got home, we inspected the inside and the back of the dryer. Checked the vent for clogs or lint buildup. Nothing. But when he opened up the dryer, we couldn’t believe it. There were INCHES of lint inside the machine – and all of the underbelly was black – the whole inside of the dryer had been ON FIRE! Yet somehow, miraculously, it had self-extinguished!!! There is absolutely no explanation for this. BUT GOD!

BUT GOD!

~ for Mr. Giddyup and his brilliant mind for construction. We were certainly not planning to do a laundry room makeover, but that was suddenly on the agenda this week.

Laundry room before we purchased the house
Demo in 2020
New paint & reclaimed wood countertop

We made the switch from our top loaders to front load machines, and the coordinating pedestals were one serious back order, not to mention PRICEY. So of course, Josh built a completely custom built in platform that tied in seamlessly with our existing cabinetry (and the custom reclaimed wood countertop he had installed last year).

I think the whole project from start to finish (from taking the first measurement to both the washer and dryer running) took less than 10 hours! His talent and “giddyup” truly amazes me.

~ and now I’ve never been so thankful to be back in my laundry room! An unexpected three day laundry hiatus (and multiple loads that had to be re-washed) makes for a SERIOUS EVEREST of stinkiness! But the new and improved setup is super functional and efficient, so I’m ALMOST caught up.

It’s a wild season, and I won’t lie and say it’s all glorious. Some days are still a battle to hold fast to the joy of the Lord. But every single day, I open my eyes and thank Him. Every day I remind myself that His plan, His purpose, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His grace, His love is forever true.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalms 105:1-4)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“While there’s breath in my lungs, I will praise You, Lord. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing. The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (“Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective)

Ask

I am thankful:

~ for healing. Thank you so much for all the calls, texts, messages, and most of all the prayers. My hand has healed incredibly quickly and is doing far better than I ever could have expected. I’m hoping to be back to painting this week.

~ for leftover steak for the perfect steak tacos.

~ for sweet finds on my camera roll like this…

~ for a new favorite. Colton has been trying to introduce us to the authentic Mexican cuisine from Rubys. He finally treated us for lunch this weekend and it was easily an instant favorite. Absolutely divine.

~ for the best kitchen helpers.

~ for 200 letters: edited, re-edited, printed, folded, stuffed, and stamped. It’s been quite a task, but I’m excited to mail out an update to friends who have supported Gold Network of East Texas. We have awesome things on our hearts for 2022. Can’t wait to share more.

~ for the teeniest, tiniest baby ladybug we have ever seen.

~ for cool rain and warm sunshine. I love them both.

~for the blessing of being able to get the groceries we need. This week it took three hours and four stores, but we got it done. Couldn’t do it without my best little helper.

~ for the first day cold enough to wear a sweater!

~ for my own personal baking challenge! I have the honor of baking cupcakes for a precious couple, and I tried out my recipes so they could come and have a cake tasting. I enjoyed creating some different flavors, and am now armed and ready for the task of baking and decorating 200 more!

~ for good news and answered prayer for two dear sisters each walking through their own hard hard battles.

~for a fresh breath of hope. Sometimes we pray so hard and so long that we wonder if God will ever hear or if things will ever change. I found myself face to face with my own unbelief…that I have started doubting God. And He washed over me afresh that He is always working. Breakthrough is coming. He hasn’t forgotten.

This week I’ve been thinking about what it means to ASK. I woke up Monday morning and my YouVersion Scripture of the day was Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Do we ask? I mean, REALLY ASK for what really matters? We bless our food and say our bedtime prayers and ask God to bless us when we need something. We lift up our friends when they are going through hard times, and we pray for peace in the midst of trouble. So maybe we do “ask”but do we DARE to ASK BIG? Do we ask that the cancer be gone? Do we ask for radical change? Do we ask that the blind would see again and that the prodigal would run back home? Somebody told me this week, “Ask for what you want.” DARE WE actually do that? Isn’t that greedy? Foolish? Naive? Presumptuous?

The thing is, we have a good and perfect Father who already knows what we need, what’s TRULY BEST for us. And because He’s a perfect Dad, we can ask Him ANYTHING without fear, knowing He will give us HIS BEST. That doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want, or even what we ask for. But we will get HIS BEST. So why not ASK? For in the faith, in the confidence, in the boldness that comes from asking, He continues to guide and refine our hearts, shaping our minds and desires to become more like His. We literally have NOTHING TO LOSE.

What’s your big ask? Do you dare?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3)

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Romans 8:32)

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (Psalms 84:11-12)

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)