Impossible

I am thankful:

~ for this handsome too-grown-up boy and his new haircut.

I hinted at it last week, but it was too new for me to fully process. I know it sounds ridiculous to be so dramatic about a simple haircut…but my cancer mama friends understand. When you’ve had a child that loses their hair during cancer treatment, hair becomes A REALLY BIG DEAL. Sawyer’s fine, straight baby hair grew back super curly and perfectly matched his vibrant personality.

Those soft curls nestled into the crook of my neck every night for years. I stroked those little curls while I waited for him to wake up after every spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy. Those curls would get sweaty when he got fevers, and I would know it was time to pack up and head to the Dallas ER.

I just loved his thick head of hair and everything it represented. It was like another badge of honor he had earned. But he was ready for a new “do” and I knew I had to let go. It was hard to watch. And Josh admitted it was very hard for him to do the haircut. But we are both so proud of him. Isn’t he just the stinkin’ cutest?

His first glimpse of himself…

~ for a fun day trip to Longview to pick up our final load of Toy Drive toys and to visit Aunt Dinah. Although our visits are never long enough, we managed to squeeze in a pizza party, fun in and out of the rain with her sweet neighbors, treasure hunting in her beautifully wooded backyard, and assisted her in testing whether or not her bathroom’s frosted glass window was frosted ENOUGH. We had a great day.

~ for the MOST AWESOMELY EPIC TOY HAUL! Our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive was a fabulous success thanks to the many businesses and individuals who gave so generously. Not only did we collect hundreds of toys at each donation location, we were blessed with more than $1100 to go shopping with! Paula and I had a blast shopping for toys and gift cards with the donated funds.

All together, we collected 2,229 toys, a huge growth from last year. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO GAVE!

We are blown away with your kindness, your support, and your generosity. We took all the seats out of our bus, leaving a spot for Sawyer, and turned it into Toy-Delivery-Mobile.

What a fun job that was! Of course, with current COVID-19 restrictions, we were not allowed to actually physically stock the CCBD Prize Closet like we have in years past, but we were met in front of Children’s Hospital by the Child Life Team. They greeted us with 2 large, industrial rolling bins, and I gleefully advised them, “I think you’re going to need MORE!” We ended up filling 4 bins to overflowing.

The Team was thrilled with the donation, and amazed by the quality of the toys you all collected. And our wonderful social worker, Diane, who has been by our side since Sawyer was diagnosed with leukemia at just 7 months old, was amazed to see him now: tall and handsome, with his new glasses and new haircut. She just couldn’t believe it.

~ thankful for sweet Aunt Gina who chauffeured us for the day, and encouraged me to override Sawyer’s lunch suggestion (Buccees of course). Instead we tried a new-to-us spot, Rodeo Goat, and enjoyed the MOST DELICIOUS burgers and fries.

~ also thankful for these delicious dark chocolate salted caramels. You can see I was not able to restrain myself from opening them even long enough to take a picture (see the empty space at the top of the canister?) Gina Sue gave them to me on Wednesday. And it is POSSIBLE that they MAY HAVE been GONE BY SATURDAY….possibly.

~ for a wildly successful mission yard sale at church last weekend, and a wonderful treasure that was clearly meant for me.

~ for an awesome afternoon at church helping decorate for next week’s upcoming Vacation Bible School. The kids have loved it every summer, and are so excited to be meeting again this summer!

~ for a great first week for Tatum K in her big girl bed! I thought she’d get up 8475 times a night, but amazingly enough, she never has! In fact, it seems that it has not clicked that she is PHYSICALLY ABLE to get out of the bed by herself. Instead, she SCREAMS AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, “MAMAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” any time she needs anything or in the morning when she wakes up. Also surprisingly, she hasn’t ever fallen out. So we graduated to the next level, from the mattresses on the floor to her actual bed with a frame. So cute.

I had a good wake up call this week. It can be so tempting to look at the hurts in our lives. To wrap up in a blanket of hurt and surround yourself with your disappointments. Isn’t it funny/sad how our eyes instinctively seek out a flaw. We do that with our lives. We look for the holes. The lack. We see what’s missing instead of what’s there. Let-downs, disappointments, broken relationships, people we miss. People who were never there in the first place. But today I sat in my chair and the Lord lavishly poured His love over me. He showed me all the things He has given me. All the people he has braided into my path. He lovingly reminded me of all the ways He has made up for what I lack. People who have loved abundantly when they didn’t have to. BUT GOD.

What would happen if we consistently focused our eyes on our abundance instead of our lack?

What are you praying for that to you looks unanswered? What looks impossible? I am loving the song “Rattle” by Elevation Worship. “Since when has ‘impossible’ ever stopped You?” I know so many people walking through such hard trials, and they are so beaten down and discouraged. But we, the people of God, believers in Christ, HAVE TO BELIEVE that He is WORKING WHEN WE CAN’T SEE! We shouldn’t be living like the ones who have no hope! Do we really believe it? Do we really believe Him? And do we LIVE LIKE WE BELIEVE HIM? The beat from that song pounded upon my chest, and I could physically feel its resonating in my heart. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD. He hears every prayer. He is working, for His glory and for our good. He is working in the dark, working beneath the surface. So much of what He is doing we cannot see. So we foolishly think nothing’s happening. We are so arrogant and impatient with God, second-guessing His ways and His actions (or the appearance of inaction.) I promise you I am preaching to MYSELF here. I have situations that I have worried myself half to death over, and I have begged God over and over to move. But I have to remind myself that He cares more than I care, and He knows more than I know. And His timing is ALWAYS perfect. And the stretching and refining that only comes through waiting is JUST AS important (if not more so) than the answer itself.

What is your “impossible?”

Think again. He’s not done yet...

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””(Matthew 19:26)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”(Exodus 15:2-3)

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“My God is able to save and deliver and heal and restore anything that He wants to / Just ask the man who was thrown on the bones of Elisha if there’s anything that He can’t do / Just ask the stone that was rolled at the tomb in the garden what happens when God says to move…”

This is the video for the song, “Rattle.” May it bless you and encourage you as it has me. https://youtu.be/xrAdbH28gIg

Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful, thriving garden! Looks like the new soil and new plants are actually going to make it! Sawyer planted sunflowers this week, and eagerly checks daily for signs of sprouting.

~ for a wonderful presentation from Gavin and his 4th grade classmates at their Spring Concert. Gavin was so proud to be chosen to sing a solo, and he performed it beautifully. Their worship was pure and innocent and SO POWERFUL, and I know it was so pleasing to the Lord.

~ for my dear friend having a wonderfully successful mission yard sale to raise money for their ministry to Uganda (check out Rock of Living Waters. The Lord is doing great things!) Despite their one day sale being a dreary, rainy day, they raised almost $5000! And after their sale, they had so much left over, they donated it to TCF for our mission yard sale happening later this month! My DARLING HUSBAND wanted to kill me for volunteering him to pick it all up…it filled EVERY INCH of an Aaron’s box truck, which we had to load and THEN UNLOAD at the church. (“The Giddyup” & “The Whoa” switched roles for a couple brief hours that day, but we got through it, and order has once again been restored.)

~ and Tatum K was in her glory at that yard sale. I told her she could choose a treasure, and Little Miss stomped from one end of the tent to the other in her rain boots, with a trash bag in her hand. She found her 2 princess puzzles, a princess bubble kit, a Hello Kitty doll, a new dress 3 sizes too big, and the most beautiful princess dress up high heels that she had ever seen.

Considering that day I had already dragged her, in the pouring rain, to Home Depot, Home Goods, Sam’s Club, ALDI, At Home, Walmart, and Lowe’s…she deserved some treasure! It was a big day for Bitsy Girl.

~ for the opportunity to celebrate our firstborn‘s birthday. Colton, the beautiful black haired, once-chocolate-now-green-eyed baby, the one who made me a mama, turned 22 today. We have gone through hell with him, and with great joy have come out the other side. We are so proud of the man he is becoming, and grateful for the relationship that has been rebuilt over the last few years. Celebrating him is a true celebration. A food-lover after my own heart, his menu never disappoints: crescent chicken (a savory chicken and cream cheese mixture baked in a crescent roll pocket), sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and a tower fluffy cream puffs. Tatum K approved of his “ba-zert.”

~ for my husband’s Giddyup spirit. He decided the front of our house needed a little bench in a spot that had been an awkward little flowerbed. So of course, he drove straight to Home Depot and bought the cedar he needed, and came home and built a bench – all after a an 11-hour day at work. He finished it up and had it in place a little before 11pm. That man always blows my mind. We don’t call him Mr. Giddyup for nothing!

Kid tested and approved!

~ for good progress on my makeover projects. I’ve been busy with other things, and the weather has been uncooperative, so nothing is done, but I’m excited about the pieces I’ve been working on.

~ for an outstanding response to the Gold Network of ETX Toy Drive! These pictures are just SOME of the donations you have given! This is the first year we have had multiple business drop off locations, and the first year other pediatric cancer families have really gotten involved, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I can’t wait to finish gathering all the toys from the drop off locations, go shopping with the remaining donated funds, and count how many toys have been collected! What an amazing blessing for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic!!

It’s been a hard week. I often describe my parenting style as professional Whack-a-Mole.

There’s always a fire to put out. Always a crisis. I mean, statistically the kids CAN’T all be doing great at the same time. But mercifully, we have never had everybody doing terrible all at once either. Thank God for that. But there’s also the part of me that says, “you’re not even walking through cancer anymore. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OVERWHELMED. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH TERRIBLE TRIALS! SUCK IT UP!” Anybody else talk to themselves like that?

I’ve definitely felt discouraged this week. If you’ve ever seen the goofy picture of someone feverishly trying to sweep the shore while the ocean waves pound, crashing again and again…that’s what it feels like.

I feel like I’m constantly fighting a losing battle. Something will come out of nowhere, and I just throw my hands up and wonder, “what am I even doing?” I mentioned that to Josh this afternoon, shaking my head. He hugged me tight and held me close, and he said quietly and tenderly in my ear, “turn your music on.” He had mentioned that last week in Small Group, and it had surprised me that he had noticed that particular detail. He had said to the group, “I can always tell when I come home and the worship music is blaring… I know it’s been a rough day.” But it really is true: there is power in praise. There is power in worship. There is power in speaking the name of Jesus. So this afternoon I turned on the speaker and was instantly meant by the words, “By Your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…” Thank You Jesus for the comforting power of the Holy Spirit, and for Your Presence. You have promised that You would never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to abide with You, and keep You as our first resource instead of our last resort. I know the trials You allow are refining gifts, sanding me and shaping me, keeping me humbled on my knees where I belong. And thank You for new mercies every morning, for each one of us!

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you will look for the good. Even in the darkest days of my life, God was with me. Don’t lose heart. And when you think it’s all about to fall apart, turn your music on.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

Good Hard

I am thankful:

~ for the opportunity for my kids to use their gifts + their hearts. Gavin sat on the front porch and drew our neighbor’s car. But it is so much more special, because it is the car of their son who passed away just over a year ago, and Gavin wanted to give them his picture. Love his tender heart.

~ for Zoe’s character quality award in chapel this week: Creativity. Look at those sparkling brown eyes. She loves knowing she has made us proud.

~ for a long-overdue visit with a dear friend and sister. Our visits are never long enough or often enough, but we pack in the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of what’s been going on in our lives, and I always walk away from our time so encouraged.

~ for the great privilege of Gold Network of East Texas being chosen by Jodi and her team at Vintage & Co as the charity partner for their Spring Barn Sale. A team of us worked the admission table on Early Bird Day, and it was an extra treat to run into one of our very own HEROES: sweet Georgia! She loves vintage shopping and had found her own treasures that day!

I also had the privilege of painting a sign for a dear friend‘s baking business featured at the sale. I LOVE painting on unique salvaged pieces, so this charming punched tin pie safe was a treat for me!

~ for Sawyer’s school project: flourishing grass seed! He decided it needed a haircut!

~ for the grace and endurance I needed for a manic marathon Friday! This Friday was grocery day, which means tackling three grocery stores across town, loading and unloading before kids get out of school at 1. That’s a normal routine every other week for Tatum K and I, so it’s no big deal. Except of course that this week was a torrential downpour and lightning storm. AND it was Gavin’s turn to give his demonstration speech at school.

AND across town at the middle school, Kora was a queen in the much lauded annual 5th grade Medieval Feast.

By some miracle, I managed to get to everything, but I was a soaked, soggy, exhausted mess by the end of it all. Thankfully, many good memories were made, and even MORE thankfully, Dad brought home Rounders for dinner!

~ for a great Friend’s Day at church. Friend’s Day is a trademark of our church’s history: a relaxed picnic on the grounds, good food, good music, and good time connecting with friends, old and new. Josh’s and my first every visit to TCF 21 years ago was on a Friend’s Day. I’ll never forget it. We were so nervous to be showing up to a church service with our little 10 week old baby, and we were all dressed up in our Sunday best to try and look like we had it all together. We walked into the sanctuary and everyone there was dressed in shorts and T-shirts, ready for a picnic! We sat in the back and scurried away as soon as the service was over. Today was wonderful, several testimonies shared about the lavish love and faithfulness of God, bright sunshine, and a pie contest! I entered Josh’s favorite lemon icebox pie, but the grand prize of the day went to a most delicious pecan pie.

Also a staple at Friend’s Day is a blood drive. Josh and I try to give blood whenever we can, because we have seen Sawyer’s life saved time and time again with the blood transfusions he received throughout his cancer treatment. I was so bummed today when I tried to sign up to donate, but realized I didn’t have my purse and ID with me. Cooper, my one who is squeamish and hates needles, came up to me and said, “I’m ready. I want to do it. Will you come with me?” I was so proud to listen to him talk to the phlebotomist as she prepped him, “I know that helping the person who really needs this blood is a lot more important than any fear I have.” He did so great. And then Josh gave too. So proud of my Loves.

Saturday night we had our Gold Network ETX caregiver support group, CONNECT. It was our first meeting in over a year. When I first sent out the invitation, I was thrilled with the eager response I received – people were HUNGRY to get together. We catered a beautiful fajita feast from Abuelos, and I filled the table with bright and happy fresh spring flowers.

We had families drive in from all over East Texas, 18 people in all, several new to the group. We ate and we talked and laughed and got to know one another. And then we shared our stories. About our kids. About our journeys through our worst nightmares. People opened up about how lonely they had been, how hard it was to accept help, and how much it meant to them to be able to speak freely with other parents who understood the language of childhood cancer. At the end of the night, dad’s were exchanging phone numbers, we prayed together, and everyone went home with a restaurant gift card for a date night out. It was an emotionally exhausting evening, but we felt so incredibly humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of all these precious lives through Gold Network. And to give all glory to God, that He had walked this journey with us, and had opened our eyes and our hearts through the terrible trial of Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis. What a picture of beauty from ashes. I never would have chosen to walk this path, to see my child suffer in so many ways. But God had a purpose so much greater that we never dreamed of during all those hard, hard years. It is still very painful and draining to stay so entrenched in the childhood cancer world. Every new diagnosis, every harsh side effect or relapse pierces my heart as if it was my own child. But it fuels the desire to press in to the Lord more deeply, and to fight for these precious children and their families. It is hard, but it is a good hard. If you’d like to partner with us, you can register for the Tyler Gold Run 5K or 10 coming up in September, at www.tylergoldrun.com Or we currently have our annual Toy Drive for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Check Facebook or Instagram for toy dropoff locations around East Texas, or donate at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate If you make a tax deductible donation online, you can select a particular program you’d like to support: the support group, care packages, toy drive, our clinic call-in meal program, or to the general fund to be used as needed. We are so honored to be able to serve the childhood cancer community in this way, and so very grateful for your support.

As always, it was a hard week, a busy week, an exhausting week. We had highs and lows, successes and lots of failures. It’s not a fairytale. But more and more, I’m learning to be thankful for the hard. It’s where I learn the most. It’s where I come to the end of my facade and get real with God. It’s were real life happens.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

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

Choose Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for Zoe‘s American History Hall of Fame at school. Each student in the 3rd grade reads several biographies of American historic figures, and they choose one to portray. Zoe chose a family favorite: Laura Ingalls Wilder. She dressed the part of a pioneer girl and delivered her speech eloquently. So proud of her and so fun to watch her program.

~ for the opportunity for the kids to work hard together. They tackled the remaining fence panels as a team, and got rewarded by Dad for being such a great help.

~ for the kickoff of our annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive. We are excited to have several new drop off locations around East Texas: Aaron’s on Broadway in Tyler, Pace Insurance Agency and RDA Pro-Mart in Longview, and Village Salon in Carthage Tx. We are collecting small toys for all ages to stock the Prize Closet at the Dallas Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Kids come to the clinic for procedures, chemotherapy, and checkups, enduring needle sticks and painful and nauseating treatments, and sometimes getting a little trinket at the end of that visit is the only bright spot in their day. We launched the toy drive after Sawyer had gone for an appointment and went to pick a prize out of the nearly empty closet, and the best thing he could find was a roll of craft ribbon. These kids deserve better. Toys will be collected through the end of April, or monetary donations can be made for us to purchase toys at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate.

~ for a generous and thoughtful donation from my friend Meredith at My Minky Co. She creates top quality handsewn minky puppies, kittens, and elephants, as well as stunningly beautiful baby and adult minky blankets. She donated two huge bags of the stuffed animals for the hospital kids. And a special prize for Tatum K. Many people may not know that Meredith is the only person in Texas I’ve known longer than Josh. When I moved to Tyler to manage the Buckle, she worked for me. How was that 23 years and a lifetime ago? So proud of the way she has grown to use her amazing giftings and talents.

~ for good old fashioned family fun. The kids had more fun being silly and creative with an empty box. Kora worked on her hand embroidery, and Samantha sweetly read books to Tatum K. Why do we even buy toys? It fills my heart up when we find joy in the simple things.

~ for doggy apparel to assist in the FULL TIME JOB of puppy prevention. While we DO intend to raise more litters of miniature goldendoodles, we know it’s in the best interest of Birdie’s health for her to wait awhile between litters. Let me just say, the instinct to procreate is STRONG!

~ for a fun weekend for Samantha, who was invited by friends to attend Fuel, a weekend youth retreat. She spend 2 nights away from home and had a fantastic time of fun, Bible teaching, and fellowship. How is this girl getting so grown up?

~ for a Spring re-fresh! We have added a new raised bed garden for our vegetables this year, and have potted some new plants and cheery red geraniums in the back yard. Come on sunshine!

~ for ANOTHER breakfast date! Tatum K had chosen to go to the donut shop for her Spring Break mom date, but she has been asking and asking to “go to Jimmy’s Egg wif Daddy.” So on Josh’s day off, we did just that!

~ for our first al fresco feast of the season. Dad’s mouthwatering burgers did not disappoint, and buttered, toasted Hawaiian buns took them to the next level. It was so wonderful to gather together in the cool, comfortable evening weather.

Spring is here. The dogwoods and redbuds have exploded into bloom amid the drab, grey, leafless trees. Hints of green are emerging from beneath the desolate frost-burned shrubs, and even a few brilliantly hued azaleas have valiantly burst forth where we thought no life was left. BUT GOD.It’s a picture of HOPE. New life overcoming. It’s so encouraging, a reminder that no matter fiercely a storm ravages, and the devastation it may leave behind, there is ALWAYS HOPE.

I read a devotional a few weeks ago that has resonated in my heart ever since. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it was phrased in a way that spoke to me afresh. We become what we focus on. It’s just the same as the adage “you are what you eat:” eat healthy, be healthy. Eat junk, come junk. Take in garbage (physically, mentally, or spiritually) and you will reap those benefits, and if you take in godly encouragement, worship music, read your Bible, you will be transformed to be more like Jesus. We’ve all heard it a thousand times.

But something about how it was said this time. You become what you focus on. If you focus on your problems, YOU WILL BECOME A PROBLEM. If you focus on your blessings, YOU WILL BECOME A BLESSING. And that’s really what Sunday Gratitude is all about. 7 years ago, when life as I knew it was crumbling, separated from my family, living in the hospital while my baby was fighting for his life, God told me to thank Him. To lift my focus from myself and my circumstances and seek out the blessings sparkling in the rubble. Writing Sunday Gratitude became an exercise in discipline, no matter what was going on. Trust me, there is plenty more going on behind the scenes in our lives that I’m not able to write about. We have had a million more ups and downs since then, but the blessings are ALWAYS THERE. From the high highs to the lowest lows and the everyday in-betweens, Jesus has never left. I just have to be willing to take the time to look for Him. And be willing to testify of His faithfulness. It’s a choice. I choose blessing.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Snowed In

I don’t know how to describe this week. Most of you blog readers are here local in East Texas, so you experienced the Great Freeze yourself. And those from the North are well accustomed to the trials that come with an abrupt and harsh winter storm. How can it be that all of this happened in SEVEN SHORT DAYS? The snow started falling last Sunday, it froze that night, and everything spiraled from there. One week later, most of the snow that turned our lives upside down is already gone! How can we see temps of -6° and 60° in the same week? Our family fared remarkably well compared to so many of our friends and neighbors. We never lost electricity, which means we never had to go without the comfort and convenience of heat and cooking. We were only without running water for a short 2 days. Even then, we had plenty of bottled water to drink and water available from our pool to flush our toilets. The icy road conditions kept the kids and I at home, although Josh braved them a few times to go to his job. So far, the only damage we have discovered is one burst pool line and most of our landscaping. We were mildly inconvenienced, but never in danger or seriously affected, unlike so many others across the state who have been displaced, have incurred thousands of dollars in damage to their homes, and others who have even lost their lives.

But it certainly has been an opportunity to practice gratefulness. I have been encouraged and inspired by the way I have seen neighbors helping neighbors and strangers coming alongside families in need. In a season where the world seems upside-down, and where everyone seems forced to take a stance or a side in opposition to someone else, THERE IS STILL SO MUCH GOOD!!! THERE IS SO MUCH KINDNESS!!!

So my list of “thankfuls” this week is very simple.

I am thankful for my hardworking husband who lays his life down for his family. I am thankful for the way he loves me and makes me feel loved whether I ACT lovely or not. I’m thankful that he hears and obeys the Lord and puts the first things first, and that he is such a wonderful example for his kids of a strong, godly MAN’S MAN.

I didn’t know Cooper snapped this picture of us when we went on a walk together.
I love it so much.

I am thankful for each one of my children, thankful for the family God built out of lots of broken pieces into something supernaturally beautiful. I am thankful that they are all so different but so uniquely bright and full of love. And thankful that Sawyer survived cancer and is here with us. And I am thankful for the humbling privilege and honor of being their mother.

February 18 was Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a day to honor childhood cancer warriors.

I’m thankful these kids, who have all been born and raised in the South, got to experience one whole week of snow life. They bundled up in layers, played outside with the neighbor kids until they couldn’t feel their fingers, and had more fun in the frozen fresh air than they will probably ever experience again in their childhood.

And for my adorable husband who, we have discovered, turns into a fascinated 7 year old when it snows. He could often be found throughout the day staring at the snow, measuring the snow, and on multiple occasions, dragged me OUT OF BED to come look at the SIZE OF THESE FLAKES.

I am thankful for our warm, comfortable home. I’m thankful Josh and I love to work on it together and that we never stop dreaming. And I’m thankful Project Month was done before the storm, when it would have been impossible to make a quick run to the hardware store for supplies whenever we needed.

I am thankful for RUNNING WATER. I am thankful for the conveniences of hot water, washing machines, dishwashers, showers, and toilets. We all take these things for granted so easily until suddenly we no longer have access.

I’m thankful for a pantry, refrigerator, and freezer full of more food than we need. Lord let me be grateful for the abundance of choices we take for granted every day.

I’m thankful for first responders, linemen, healthcare workers, and truck drivers that leave their families and brave the elements so that others can have what they need. I’m thankful for the kindness and generosity of those who opened their homes, donated food and water, gave blood, and helped people who ran off the roads.

I am thankful for all of our wonderful neighbors who check in on everyone else and help each other anyway they can.

But do you know what? I had EVERY ONE OF THOSE THINGS last week and the week before.

When I took my first shower after having 2 days of no water, huddled under the meager dribble of low water pressure, it felt GLORIOUS. A week ago, I probably would have complained that it was the worst shower ever. So what made that shower feel so wonderful?

GRATITUDE.

When you are forced to do without, you learn a new level of appreciation. But that appreciation will quickly fade if you don’t keep the attitude of gratitude.

It’s sounds cheesy. But it’s so true. And you know what? I’M THANKFUL FOR CHEESE! I’m thankful for the moments when God simplifies a concept down, and I can relearn it in the brand new, refreshing perspective of childlike faith!

I feel like I have been given a great gift. The gift of fresh eyes of gratefulness for the bounty of blessings around me. And as I tell my kids almost every day, and now I repeat as a reminder to myself, we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

Lord help us to be thankful. But not just surface level / lip service / dinner-time prayer thankful. A deep rooted, genuine thankfulness that changes the way we live our lives. Give us eyes to see the blessings around us, and the people around us that we need to share with. Let us hold THINGS loosely with open hands and make more room in our hearts for Him and for His people.

Please pray for the state of Texas, and the many people who are still dealing with various hardships. But God…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:11-13)

Marinating

I am thankful:

~ for Snow Much Fun! The “blizzard” on Sunday led to a Snow Day on Monday for most of East Texas, and it was GLORIOUS! The snow lingered most of the day, the sun was shining, and the rare sight of the white blanketed Texas countryside was just beautiful. The kids bundled up from head to toe and made more snowballs and played with neighbors and rolled around in it until they were soaked through. I did as much laundry in those 2 days as I do in a week! (and believe me, that is saying a lot!) But it was the perfect opportunity to come inside and snuggle up by the fire with some hot cocoa. It will be a story we will tell for years to come.

~ for my hardworking husband. He works all day at his “real” job, and then comes home ready to work on projects. We have lots of home improvement plans to do when he takes a week of vacation next month, but MR. GIDDYUP just can’t wait that long. So far he has replaced two ceiling fans, installed a pendant light, replaced two non-functional lights with SUPER-FUNCTIONAL track lighting, built and modified the barstools that I ordered that were the wrong size, and replaced all the lightbulbs that needed to be updated to LED. Sometimes the “giddyup” in him drives me crazy, but I’m so grateful for how hard he works to take care of us.

2017 – realtor.com pictures of our master bedroom when we bought our home
Mistakingly ordered BARSTOOL height instead of COUNTER height…
Mr. Giddyup was undeterred
And now they are perfect!

~ that our supersized bus for our supersized family can also be converted to use as a cargo van. The seating is completely modular and can be removed as needed to utilize the space. While the kiddos were at school, we loaded up on all the materials we will need for our upcoming projects.

Tatum K had a big time at Home Depot. It made me think of all the times I would go to hardware and farm implement stores with my Dad when I was little. I thought it was the most amazing place on the planet. So much to see, and I had no idea what any of it was. But I knew my dad knew, and I knew he would take care of me, so I was as carefree as can be!

~ for the official close of the puppy chapter for now. Our very last puppy, Red Boy, now named Oakley, finally went home to his forever family yesterday. It was very hard to say goodbye, as we have all fallen in love with the little fella.

But it made us feel great to know that two boys got the best surprise of their life yesterday afternoon. Our puppy families have been so kind to share pictures and videos of their babies with us. They are all so loved.

~ for one spicy little girl who FINALLY pooped on the potty for the first time. I don’t want to celebrate a victory of the war just yet, but I will revel in finally winning one battle.

~ for a yummier-than-expected healthy dinner, a loaded homemade cauliflower crust pizza and fresh salad.

~ for a fun, if way-too-short visit with Aunt Gina. Whenever we get the chance, we catch up on each others’ news, have some good laughs, and she always blesses me with friendship bread and Starbucks. So thankful for my sister.

~ for an amazing donation! Josh’s company, Aaron’s Inc, has a corporate donation program, and this year made a MOST GENEROUS donation of $5000 to Gold Network of East Texas. It was an honor for Paula and I to meet for a check presentation at Josh’s store this week.

~ for our first Sunday back to in person church service. Our little fellowship was hit hard with COVID-19 over the last couple months, and nearly everyone in leadership fell ill and was forced to quarantine. What a blessing to be back in the building together joined in worship. I know that the church is not a building, and I know God doesn’t live only there. But there’s nothing like it when we gather together in His name.

~ for Tiny Uno. Seriously, is anything cuter than Tiny Uno?

~ for friends to pray for and for friends who pray. And for the edification that comes when we testify to one another.

~ for good football (Go Chiefs!) and mouthwatering marinated chicken and carne asada fajitas with cilantro lime rice and fresh homemade salsa.

I remember writing about this once a long time ago, but it came to mind again tonight. Marinating. We use a marinade to tenderize meat or to add flavor. The longer something sits in a marinade, the more it absorbs it and the more it changes. It takes on the flavor of the marinade’s ingredients and in some cases the acidity of a marinade actually cooks the meat. We take on the flavor of what we soak ourselves in. The longer we marinate, the more we are changed. What are you marinating in? Are you spending your time soaking in social media? How many hours a day do you find yourself steeping in the barrage of headlines from your favorite news broadcaster or podcast? Or are you immersing yourself in God’s Word? Reveling in worship? Are you surrounding yourself with believers who testify of His faithfulness and spur one another on in good works? If you look at the ingredients of your marinade, are they what you want to taste like? Are they what you want to become? These are the thoughts that have been cycling through my mind as I try to pull away from old bad habits and try to establish new ones. What am I marinating in, and what am I becoming? And how does what I am becoming impact others, especially my husband and my children? Am I becoming better or bitter? I want to soak myself in Jesus, abide in Him, and be transformed to become a little more like Him every day. Imagine what would happen if we turned off the news and turned on our praise music and just worshipped instead of worried. I know it’s not really that simple. Or is it? All I know is it couldn’t hurt. I don’t want bitterness. Or fear. Or comparison. Or selfishness. Or divisions. I want more Jesus. So I need to spend more time with Him. And that’s the bottom line. Let’s encourage one another this week. And marinate in the goodness of God.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.””(Luke 10:38-42)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (IICorinthians 3:17-18)

Welcome New Year

I am thankful:

~ for a fun trip to our favorite Tex-Mex spot, Papacitas. We pretty much go out to eat as a WHOLE FAMILY about once a year, so it’s a pretty big deal. Even though I wish it was something we could do more often, mostly I’m thankful that it’s such a treat for our kids, one they don’t take for granted because we do it all the time.

~ and I had forgotten to show my super cute Bear and Birdie Christmas ornaments that are a favorite on our tree.

~ for the after-Christmas buzz of new paints and trampoline tricks and hoverboards and puzzles and games. We had beautiful weather days and cabin-fever yucky days. And not many pictures because we were just living life with both hands AND because Mama was busy picking up puppy poop.

~ for the wonderful day of celebration when our dear leukemia warrior friend Jase aka “Hulk Strong” had his port removal surgery this week! His surgery was uneventful, and he has recovered well at home. This is such a major milestone marking the official end of treatment for a cancer survivor, fraught with lots of BIG mixed emotions. So thankful Jase has done so well, and praying that he can move past this chapter and have the carefree childhood his family has dreamed of. BUT GOD!

~ for the end of an era. This puppy pillow was a birthday gift for Sawyer when he turned 2.

In the thick of cancer treatment, it traveled back and forth to overnight hospital stays, and at home, it was used in his bed – a twin mattress on the floor in our master bedroom. Sawyer NEVER ONCE slept through the night until he turned 4, and most nights I slept with him. On the floor. With the puppy pillow. I was surprised to find that the puppy pillow was actually a pretty terrific shape for neck support. 5 years have gone by, and I have used that silly pillow every night. Well, this week we got new bedding: hotel quality sheets and quilt that feel like heaven! I’m SO EXCITED. And I got a new neck support pillow that prompted me to retire the puppy pillow once and for all. Now if only I could ACTUALLY SLEEP…

~ for a rollicking New Year’s Eve at Casa Rucker. We ate chicken strips, had a very serious gingerbread house decorating contest (judged by Dad and Cooper),

and then an intense Trouble tournament.

Our sweet friend Miss Karen brought us a delicious white chocolate raspberry Nothing Bundt Cake.

We played with sparklers in the driveway (which is still a bit of a battle for me…growing up in Minnesota where fireworks are illegal, I had ever been around them. Fireworks displays were put on strictly by firemen on July 4, and that was it. So the concept of letting teenagers fire off bottle rockets and giving sparklers to babies is a little unsettling for me, even after 20 years in Texas.) But the kids had a blast and it was such a fun end to this crazy year. We even made it to midnight.

~ for our tasty Southern traditional New Year’s Day meal of sweet buttered cornbread, savory roasted cabbage, and blackeyed peas.

~ for 11 puppy baths! Those little stinkers were ready for one! What an event that was!

Today was puppy pickup day. All day, every 30 minutes we had another thrilled/nervous/or-combo-of-both family show up at the door to pick up their new baby. I will replay those “awwws” and squeals of excitement over and over. The first in-person meeting for many. The first hold. First hug. First puppy snuggle and wet puppy kisses. So many sweet moments. Billy, Nola, Mango, Julie, Rambo, Dexter, Maddie, Bo, Dugan, and Charlie went to their homes amid lots of smiles and wagging tails.

But definitely heart wrenching for us to say 10 goodbyes one after another. It was hard on the kids, but we had lots of great talks about how loved the puppies will be at their new homes and what a blessing it is for us to share in their joy. AND we get to enjoy a little extension of the joy for a couple more weeks: we are puppy-sitting for 2 weeks while the last little pup’s family is on vacation. It will be fun to experience ONE puppy for a little while, even though we know that goodbye will be even harder. We LOVE BIG in this house. Just can’t help it.

Sawyer has spent most of the day in the kennel with this pup

I have to admit I have a new sense of optimism. Freshness. Excitement. Maybe that’s the thrill of hope of a weary world rejoicing that the song talks about? Even if January 1 is just a turn of a calendar page, and just another day, it’s still a fresh start to a new year. I’m up for all the clichés this year. I’ve RE-started my diet and fitness plans. I’ve RE-started my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. I want to try to be more organized. More transparent. A better communicator. Goals are good, and January is as good a time to start as any. And I know lots of my good intentions will fizzle or flop. But I also know that’s not where my worth lies. Jesus will meet me in my successes and my failures, and neither will make Him love me any more or any less. My number 1 goal is that I would look more like Jesus in 363 days than I do today. I have lots of hopes and dreams for Gold Network of East Texas. And some exciting prospects and possibilities for Giddyup & Whoa. Josh and I have numerous home projects planned, trips in mind, and hopefully even MORE PUPPIES (after a good LONG break). But we hold all of these things in open hands, knowing that God’s plans, however unpredictable, are ALWAYS so much better than ours. We just want what He wants, for our family, for our marriage, for our future. Whatever comes, we will do it WITH HIM, FOR HIM, IN HIM.

2020 has been a complicated year. Lots of loss, lots of pain, lots of conflict. But God is a master of bringing beauty from ashes. I hope we learn from our own and others’ mistakes, hope we appreciate more the things we used to take for granted, and that we value relationships more than ever before. I hope we glean the blessings that have come along the way, life a little slower, or at least a little more intentional. And that we take those lessons into this new year having grown in both wisdom and compassion. I know I have had time with my kids that I never would have had any other way. I learned that I will never fulfill my dream of being a math teacher or story problem writer. And I have learned afresh that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”(Psalms 37:5)

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Merry Real and Imperfect Christmas

I am thankful:

for a wonderful Christmas.

I will never forget what it was like to be in a hospital at Christmas with my baby. Away from my husband and the rest of our kids. And he was so sick, running fever for unknown reasons, nurses coming in and out all through the night monitoring him. Countless tests being run to try to find a potential source of infection. I don’t think at the time I understood how precarious his health really was. At his point in his cancer treatment, babies could take a turn and things could spiral in an instant. Every year at Christmas, I am taken back to those moments.

Christmas at Children’s Hospital 2014
Christmas morning on C6

BUT GOD.

This year we did ALL THE THINGS. Baked. Decorated cookies. Passed out treats to the neighbors.

Loved on puppies. Watched all our favorite Christmas movies. Wore matching pajamas. Stayed up too late cooking and baking and stuffing stockings on Christmas Eve.

We read Luke 2 on Christmas morning. Feasted on all our favorite foods: spicy crawfish chowder, pumpkin pie, gooey caramel monkey bread, sausage bread, and deep fried turkey. Opened more gifts than we needed.

The “Purple Girl with the Pink Hair” from The Greatest Showman
Big brother Colton teaching Gavin and Sawyer how to set up their new baseball card collections
Lots of new puzzles this year, including a custom 1000 piece of our family beach photo

It was more than I could have ever dreamed.

Trust me, it wasn’t perfect. Kids fought. Puppies pooped more than one would think possible. Tatum K hardly slept. Birdie ate half Jesus’ birthday cake.

I wiped out on one of the boy’s hoverboards on the driveway and cracked my skull so bad I almost knocked myself out. We missed people who weren’t with us. And plenty of people who we love were hurting. Really hurting. Our pictures make it look like our life is perfect. It’s not. Remember, what is shared here is a snapshot, a highlight reel. Christmas isn’t always magical, for us and for anyone else, and that’s something that’s always heavy on my heart.

But God.

Emmanuel, God with us. With us in our joy. With us in our pain. With us always us if we allow him to be. It’s ok to not love every moment of Christmas. It’s ok to admit that the chaos and the togetherness and the unrealistic expectations make us anxious. It’s ok if be honest when there is some raw pain mixed in with our joy. And it’s ok to allow ourselves to experience joy even when we are hurting. Joy and pain can and often do coexist. It’s ok to be real. The King of Kings came to earth in a lowly stable. He was Glorious, the Answer, the Savior, welcomed by angels. But I bet the barn still stank.

Gold Network of East Texas had the awesome privilege of donating $10,000 to Dr. Sam John of Childrens Health/UT Southwestern to help fund his groundbreaking pediatric cancer research. Even more meaningful because Dr. John was one of Sawyer’s doctors all throughout his treatment.

We were disappointed not to be able to do an in-person check presentation, but grateful for Dr. John and Sawyer to be reunited via Zoom.

He told us that inspiring survival stories like Sawyer’s are a huge driving force behind the research his team does. We also missed our beloved tradition of delivering a home cooked meal to our oncology nurses on Christmas Eve due to COVID regulations. But we compromised by catering a nice Mexican fiesta for them on Christmas Day. We will always be grateful to these angels on earth for pouring their lives out for children battling cancer, even sacrificing their own family time to serve these hurting families.

We were tickled to receive pics and videos from some of our families who surprised their kiddos with a Christmas puppy. They had their first vet visit on Christmas Eve, and they all got a clean bill of health. One more week until they go to their fur-ever homes.

First vet visit for 11 pups
Puppy surprise
Puppy surprise

I’m thankful and exhausted. I have a painful knot on the back of my head from my fall, and I’m pretty sure there’s still some puppy poop on my leg. I’m thankful that this crazy year is almost over, and I’m thankful to know that no matter what highs and lows are ahead, that Emmanuel will meet me there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. And Merry Christmas. The real and imperfect kind.

“I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”” (Lamentations 3:20-24)

Less but More

I am thankful:

~ for the astounding miracle of Sawyer turning 7! Seven. It takes my breath away.

I just never ever let myself picture him as a 7 year old. I didn’t dare. Sawyer’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive THE DAY on the day he was diagnosed with leukemia at 7 months old. BUT GOD. He had a less than 40% chance of surviving to age 5. BUT GOD. I can’t even type these words without the tears taking over. Now this miracle boy is 7! He is bright and active and doing all the things the doctors warned us he likely would not be able to do. BUT GOD! It’s so hard for me to treat him like a “normal kid.” To let go and let him be in germy, “virus-y” crowds, let him ride his bike and scooter in the street, and climb trees… And equally hard for me to get onto him like a normal kid: to not let him get away with murder, to not overlook whining or pouting, and to not favor him over his siblings. I can’t even explain how hard that is. I think about how much he has been through and how many times we almost lost him, and the rules and my resolve flies out the window. But I know overindulgence is the worst thing for him, and I remind myself that God didn’t deliver Sawyer only for him to grow up to become an entitled, spoiled-rotten little punk. He had a great birthday: donuts for breakfast, a mom/dad/Tatum K lunch date at school, and his menu-of-choice for dinner was homemade French bread pizzas, homemade mac and cheese, and chocolate cake with orange (colored, not flavored) buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for allowing me to love Your boy for seven whole years!

~ for a wonderful and unexpected blessing. A local homeschool coop did a raffle ticket fundraiser and chose Gold Network of East Texas as the charity beneficiary. I was blessed to receive the donation of $122.25! And even better, I got to receive the donation from my sweet friend/sister!

~ for a long-overdue visit from sweet Aunt Dinah! She treated us to yummy Braum’s ice cream, and got her fill of kiddo hugs and puppy snuggles.

~ for Cooper’s first week of work at Chick-fil-A! Doesn’t he look so handsome?! So far he is loving it and learning more each shift. So proud of him.

~ for Gavin’s 4th grade Colonial Trades Day presentation. His group represented Colonial wheelwrights. He did a great job researching and reciting his part. He is such a bright boy. And he looked so handsome in his many-times-recycled costume. Over the last 10 years, the same embroidered vest and flouncy old lady blouse from Goodwill has been the attire for a Colonial merchant, missionary Hudson Taylor, Colonial barrel maker, and now a wheelwright!

~ for the hilarious pics I discover when I wake up from an accidental nap to realize that Sawyer has taken my phone. Nothing like taking selfies with your mom when she’s asleep.

~ for the blessing of a continued BUSY season for Giddyup & Whoa. We had a successful Barn Sale, and I got to participate in a home bazaar with some friends this weekend. Orders have continued to steadily pour in almost every day, keeping Josh and I hustling at the saw and paintbrushes. We are so excited and grateful that our small family business is growing. We love getting our kids involved. And we love bringing life to the vision our customers request! I can’t wait to eventually share pictures of some of the AWESOME Christmas gifts I’m working on!

~ for THE MOST WONDERFUL evening with my Love. For the first time in about 13 million years, we were able to slip away to do some Christmas shopping and go out to dinner. Like a REAL DATE! No kids. No puppies. It. Was. AWESOME! We got lots of our shopping done, and then OVER-indulged in a dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse! I thought I’d have to be rolled out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow, but I did not regret one bite!

Another week of puppy-ing under our belt. Sweet pups are now 3 weeks old, and growing and changing every day. Eyes are all open, they are all walking, and trying to find their little puppy barks. And they are LOUD!

The Golden Girls
The Golden Doods

Today was Day 1 of introducing puréed solid food. What a slop-fest! Josh built an adorable feeding station with little bowls, but man, those pups were all over the place! They walked through the food, ate it off their feet and off each other! It was quite a sight!

It’s so fun to see their personalities develop as they start to play with one another, and we have LOVED seeing several families fall in love with their puppy-to-be. It’s more work than we ever dreamed, but still so much fun. I apologize in advance if I bump into you in person and am wearing a questionable odor…I am trying hard not to look/smell like the zookeeper I FEEL LIKE! Josh got to work one day this week after being home for lunch, and it was a few hours before he realized that he was wearing a PUPPY SURPRISE on his pants! **Just a few pups still available.

As always, December has the potential for a month overflowing with too much of everything: an overburdened calendar, an aching bank account, and complete and utter exhaustion. Completely lacking in joy. What a tragedy to get so distracted by a counterfeit Christmas and completely miss the presence of Christ. I wrestle with it every year. Complicated emotions, emotional baggage, unrealistic expectations of others and of myself…it’s not hard to end up in the weeds. Maybe it’s the added element of the puppies and/or sign orders, but I have definitely felt a pull this year to SIMPLIFY. I want to DO LESS activities, but instead do things that MEAN MORE. I want to really get into the presence of the Lord. Get close to His heart. And share that with my kids. I want to soak in the beauty and wonder that comes from really grasping what Christ has done for us. And I just really want to love on my people.

Lord, fix my wandering eyes on You. Don’t let my get so distracted by empty busy-ness that I miss YOU.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; For behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God! For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory].” (Luke 1:46-49 AMP)