Training Wheels and Laundry Baskets

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful day celebrating our beautiful Samantha turning 12!  How in the world is the little fuzzy headed muffin that captured our hearts the moment we laid eyes on her 12?????  Samantha has the biggest and most tender heart.  She is a born little mama, and wears Tatum on her hip constantly.  She is spunky and sassy and quick-witted, and entering the “tween” phase has made her even more ANIMATED.   She enjoyed her menu of choice: Nacho Supreme Hamburger Helper and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she baked her own chocolate cake with tie-dyed icing.  

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~ for a lovely day off school on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.   Carson Grace and one of her roommates came home for a day, so it was a treat to have them here.  

~ for the sweetest photo shoot with my oldest and youngest daughters.  Tatum K is the spitting image of baby Carson Grace, and seeing them together fills my heart with such joy. 

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~for the seasons that I know will not last forever…the seasons where in the middle of my shower, the door opens and a little voice says, “Mama, I want to snuggle wif you.”  Or when that same little voice says, “Mama, pray for the chocolate on my leg!”

~ for a powerful expression of intercessory prayer for a special couple needing healing in our church.  They are pillars of our Body, and beautiful, godly examples of humble leadership, Christ-centered marriage, and quiet strength.  

~ for a crazy week of home makeover DIY projects.  Josh had a week of vacation that he needed to use up, so he had planned a “stay-cation” with a list of several projects to get done around the house.  Why, WHY didn’t I think about what that meant for me?  I’ve been married to this man for a LOOOONG TIME, and HIS projects are almost always OUR projects.  I am AMAZED by all he (and we) got done!  He repainted the trim all the way around our house and both garage doors.  In 2 days!  Ripped out the cumbersome and non-functional built-in cabinet in our laundry room.  Designed and built me 2 reclaimed wood double-bay laundry sorters on casters to my specifications.  Built a shelf from a massive, stunning slab of wood we’ve been saving for years, and installed a galvanized hanging rod.  Ripped out the countertops and replaced them with custom reclaimed wood butcher block. Replaced the broken light fixture.  And I caulked and repainted the laundry room and cabinets, repainted our dingy mudroom and added a fun pop of color on the door.  Our laundry room and mudroom are two of the most hard-working rooms in our home, so it is so awesome to have them updated and more functional for our family.

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~ for the extended quality time with my Love this week. We enjoyed checking out a new place, Jimmy’s Egg. (Gina Sue treated Tatum K and I to breakfast there last week, and it was SO YUMMY that we had to take Dad!)  It was THE BOMB!  And we finished off our FD’s gift certificate with an at home date.  Tatum K crashed both “dates” (and ate half my food both times) but she’s cute enough, we really didn’t mind.  Bear also thought he should be invited…

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~ for an exciting next step… on-camera interviews for a professional promo video we are creating for Gold Network of East Texas.  We have so many dreams and plans stirring in our hearts for GNET in 2020 and the upcoming years.  It still blows my mind that less than 6 years ago, Tyler Gold Run and Gold Network of East Texas didn’t exist!  What a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to serve East TX childhood cancer community, and to see the network of families leaning on one another.  

~ for a hearty cooked-by-Dad breakfast. 

~ for another thrilling milestone: Sawyer learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!  He just hopped on and took right off!  Josh talked to him at bedtime about how much he has loved teaching each of his kids how to ride their bike.  That moment of pure joy when the balance kicks in and they soar away on their own. And of course, with Sawyer every new accomplishment is emotional and mind-blowing.  No milestones are small or taken for granted.  We just can’t believe Sawyer is alive and thriving and turning into a big kid in front of our very eyes.  Thank You Jesus!  (We did end the day with the inevitable skinned knee and big tears.  It’s all part of growing up!  Check out that shirt, though!)

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~ for SUNSHINE!!!!  We have had so many days upon days of rain and gloom, I was in desperate need of blue skies and sun!  Do you start to feel your soul get tired during gloomy weather?

It was a great week having Josh home.  He truly is my favorite person to spend time with, my very best friend.  We laughed tonight thinking that it seems like the longest week ever because we packed so much into it.  Parts of the week were surprisingly hard though.  We really are “GIDDYUP” and “WHOA.”  He pushes me.  Challenges me.  All these renovation projects came out of nowhere and really threw me for a loop.  I’m a pack rat, he’s a cleaner-outer.  He pushed me to go through a couple stacks I had sitting around.  (My piles drive him crazy.  And it drives ME crazy when he tosses things out without checking with me.)  He brought up the idea of building the laundry sorters I’d been wanting (which of course I was thrilled about, but I didn’t know anything else was coming), and 5 minutes later he put a caulk gun in my hand and started ripping the cabinet off the wall. (Oh.  So we’re DOING this!? You mean TODAY!?  Like…RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Ok then.)  The intensity and change of routine actually launched me into a pretty massive anxiety attack over THE STUPIDEST details.  If I remember correctly, it involved chicken sandwiches and some laundry baskets full of crap.  Good.  Grief.  It’s laughable now.  But in the moment, it was real and frustrating and suffocating and lonely.  But God.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  And now, I look at the freshly updated rooms, especially the laundry room, and it’s just…AWESOME!  It’s so much better than I ever could have envisioned.  It’s more than I asked for.  And Josh worked hard to make it happen, BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  He doesn’t spend any time in that laundry room.  He didn’t do it because HE wanted it.  He did it to bless ME.  And to get it done, he had to push me a little.  I’m so thankful that God knows what we need better than we do.  He chose Josh for me because he knew my “Whoa” would hold me back from so much in life, and that I NEEDED some “Giddyup.”  (And of course, Josh needs a little “Whoa” from time to time, so he doesn’t fly straight off the rails).  God uses my husband and my kids to teach me about the height and width and depth of His Love.  God loves us so far beyond our self imposed limitations.   He ABSOLUTELY gives us more than we can handle, but never more than He can handle.  Sometimes He pushes us.  And it is ALWAYS for a purpose…  He has things in store for us so far beyond what we have ever asked for or imagined.  Because He LOVES US.  So we have to see past anxiety and laundry baskets and chicken sandwiches that try to rob us of that joy.  And we will never experience the joy that feels like flying if we don’t take off the training wheels.  Even if we skin our knees.  Because flying is worth it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

To it Not Through it

I am thankful:

~ for the most adorable Kindergarten talent show!  Sawyer and his class wowed us with their variety of talents: from zooming around the auditorium on bikes and scooters to dog training and cartwheels, this is one talented group!  Leading up to this event, Sawyer had a hard time narrowing down his choice.  Finally, he settled on playing (I use the term “playing” loosely) his ukulele from his Hawaiian Make-a-Wish trip.  HOWEVER, said uke was in ROUGH shape.  So I promised Sawyer I would take it to a music store to see if it could be fixed.  You have never seen a little guy SO EXCITED as Sawyer was as he watched the gentleman at the guitar store repair and completely restring his beloved ukulele.   And the man was so kind and so touched by Sawyer’s enthusiasm that he did it all free of charge!  (And in the interest of FULL DISCLOSURE, let me just also say, the ukulele got repaired on Monday.  Monday was ALSO the day that I finally looked at the calendar and found out that the Talent Show was on WEDNESDAY.  So Sawyer basically had one afternoon after school to get ready for his talent.  Serious Mom Fail.  But GOD.  Thankful for God’s great grace.)

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~ thankful that I FINALLY got a 2020 calendar so I can get my schedule in order!  (If I missed something already, please don’t tell me!)

~ for a great visit with our sweet Miss Lindsay and baby Coby Tate.  I have been needing some good CHOCOLATE SUGAR!!!  Oh, he is just the sweetest, happiest boy!

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~ that Josh had a work day in Marshall and was able to meet Carson Grace for a Taco Bell date!  And so thankful that she has had a great first week back at school!

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~ for a COMPLETED PUZZLE!  It took us 3 1/2 weeks, but we WOULD NOT BE DEFEATED.  998 pieces of 1000.  Perhaps one day we will successfully finish a puzzle without losing ANY pieces.  Right now that seems like a lofty, unattainable goal.  We are taking a break from puzzles for a while.  

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~ for football exciting enough to get even ME interested!  So fun to root for a local hero.  Let’s go Chiefs!

~ for ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven.  

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~ for a successful week for Giddyup & Whoa.  New products, new orders, and new custom work.  We are getting great feedback on our new website.  And so excited to have 2 upcoming local sale opportunities.  We will have items for sale at the Vintage & Co Valentine Pop-up Shop February 6-8 in Tyler, and I will be working a space at the Laurel & Cotton POP-up Shop March 27-28 in Bullard (this is the one benefitting Gold Network of East Texas.)  So grateful for the support of our little family business.  And for my cute and ever-eager youngest model, “Mama!  Pitcha me!”

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~ for an over-the-top celebration for the most joyous of occasions.  Our friend and Gold Network Hero, Addie Leigh turned 5!  And what could be better than turning five? How about triumphantly finishing cancer treatment!!!??  NOW THAT is cause for celebration!  I’m talking bounce houses, food trucks, snow cones, face painting, and a balloon artist!  Addie Leigh and her family have just recently moved into their new home, which had been an intensive renovation, and the setting was perfect for a fresh new start for the whole family.  Everything, even the weather Saturday, a bright day of sunshine after days upon days of dreary drizzle, was like a refreshing gift of HOPE.  My favorite moment of the day (besides seeing beautiful, spunky Addie Leigh frolicking with her friends, shining from the inside out) was when I was chatting with Tami, Addie Leigh’s mom.  She was talking about how busy things had been building up to this special day.  She said she had to get through the party before she could think about anything else.  But as soon as she said it, she quickly corrected herself. “I want to soak this up and ENJOY IT!  This is something to celebrate!  This is not something I want to just GET THROUGH!  I have reminded myself that I wanted to GET TO this day, not get THROUGH IT!”  Her words absolutely INSPIRED me. 

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What a beautiful perspective.  How many times do we get so sidetracked by the details and busywork that we MISS THE JOY???  What a waste.  Lord, help me to enjoy the journey AND the destination.  Even through the hard, let my eyes look for You, and learn all You have for me along the way.  Help me to be a wife and friend and mama that is PRESENT.  

Let’s BE PRESENT and love each other well this week.  Whatever is on the horizon, whatever you are working toward, whatever challenge you are facing…let’s get TO IT, not just through it.  God is good, and He is faithful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalms 113:2-3)

He Will Make a Way

I am thankful:

~ for the clean slate of January around my house.  All the Christmas decor is neatly stored away in the attic until next year, and everything feels brighter and more open.  

~ for kids going back to school.  They were ready, and so was Mom. 

~ for a mini living room refresh.  Christmas gift cards provided a new rug and floor lamp that make the room cozy and inviting.  Of course, because this is REAL LIFE, we’d had the rug for EXACTLY 2 HOURS when our dog had a MOST UNFORTUNATE accident in the middle of it. 

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~ that FINALLY after SIX DAYS of REPEATED MOST UNFORTUNATE accidents ALL OVER MY HOUSE, our dog is over whatever made him sick. 

~ for Sawyer’s first time to receive a Character Quality award at Chapel.  He got one in JrK last year, but in that grade, awards are given in the classroom.  This time, he got to hear his name called (it’s always kept a surprise) and walk up on the stage in front of the whole school to receive an award from the Principal and Vice Principal.  It sure was special to see those little legs and that curly head march up all those stairs and shake their hands!  And I love that he was recognized for “Contentment.”  He really is such a great sport and is (usually) happy with whatever circumstance he is in.  

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~ for Josh’s new favorite dish to cook: roasted chicken quarters smothered with onions and peppers.  Slow cooked all day, it is just completely delicious!

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~ for Walmart grocery pickup, so I can get my groceries in my pajamas in the rain!

~ for an encouraging and productive Gold Network of ETX meeting.  Our team is growing and I am SO EXCITED about what we have planned for this year!  More details to come soon…

~ for Gavin’s bright, inquisitive mind.  He is always asking questions and figuring things out.  He found a game with letter tiles and spelled “ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  I think I corrected 3 letters, otherwise he had gotten it right!

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~ for my darling husband who understands me.  He barely batted an eye when I told him I needed to drive across town at 9 o’clock at night to pick up a curbside treasure pile I saw listed on Facebook.  BIG TIME SCORE!  (I knew it would be gone if I waited until morning).

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~ for an exciting opportunity for worlds to collide! I found out this week that a local boutique was hosting a Pop up Shop and had chosen to benefit Gold Network! When the shop owner and I realized we had mutual friends, we were thrilled, and she invited Giddyup&Whoa to be a vendor at her sale! So I have another sale to prepare for, AND it will benefit GNET! Is that not AWESOME!!??

~for my sweet dad who CLAIMS to have turned 71 today.  I told him he must be counting wrong, because that sure does sound awful old.  He agreed.

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~ for these past weeks with my girl home.  It’s like we suddenly realized just this weekend that she was leaving us again. We soaked up some last minute quality time: watched movies together, made favorite meals, she painted with the Littles, went on a walk. We went out to eat as a family, which we never ever do (I mean seriously, can you blame us?).  She chose Posado’s. So over chips and salsa and soft serve ice cream, we laughed and loved on each other. Today we loaded up everything and drove her back to college.  I miss her already.  I pray for her to remember who she is and Whose she is and that she learns as much about herself as she does in her classes.

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~ for the most encouraging worship and testimony mid-week service at church.   One after another, people rushed to the stage to share what God was doing in their lives and in their hearts.  Testifying of healing.  Testifying of His faithfulness.  My sweet 8-year-old niece, Kate, got up to share her simple, powerful testimony.  “I have celiac disease.  When I was in the hospital, Jesus was there.  And He told me, “”Don’t be afraid.””

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~ for BREAKTHROUGH.  Josh and I have been praying through some things, some personal struggles, that have weighed heavily on our hearts.  Actually SEVERAL pretty major prayer concerns.   And I have to admit we have both been in a place of discouragement.  This week…one of them just…BROKE.  We were asking for a change, and God did it.  Not AT ALL in the way we were expecting or asking for.  It was an INTERNAL change instead of EXTERNAL.  But that internal heart readjustment was a game changer in every way.  The best part was how God used the healing in one area to reignite my faltering hope in the other areas I’ve been praying about.  He spoke into my heart that He “will make a way where there is no way.”  He reminded me of His goodness and His faithfulness…which of course have been there all along.  I can look back and mark testimony after testimony after testimony of Jesus knocking our socks off over the years with answers to prayers that were so far superior to what we asked Him for.  So why do I let myself forget that?  Why do I whine and fret and impatiently doubt Him when my answer doesn’t come fast enough?  I know I have an enemy that’s betting on me to fail, but why don’t I stake my life on the knowledge that My God is on my side, and will never be defeated?  Thank You, Father, for the reminder of Your unending Love and unfailing Faithfulness.  Even this evening on the way back home from dropping Carson Grace back at school, I was crying silently, wrestling with fear and sadness and anxiety (AGAIN??!!) when I heard soft singing in the seat behind me.  Sawyer, buckled in his carseat, just looking out the window, singing to himself, not even knowing he was singing to ME,  “Savior, He can move the mountains…my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save.  Forever, author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave…”

I have so much going on right now, if I take the time to list it all, I can guarantee an instant anxiety attack.  Not even joking.  But God.  He is the God of my calendar, of my lists, of my responsibilities.  He knows the tiny prayers I don’t even verbalize and the gut wrenching cries of my heart that wake me up in the middle of the night. He is the Provider of my energy and health and courage and grace.  And I know it’s not all going to play out perfectly.  Some things are going to fall apart, I’m going to forget to do something, and I’ll make a ton of mistakes along the way.  But God.  If I let Him, He will make beauty out of my messes.  And anything that goes right will be BECAUSE OF HIM, and He will get all the glory, AS HE SHOULD!  

What are you asking God for?  Do you trust Him enough to ASK BIG?  Do you trust Him enough to WAIT?  Do you trust Him enough to LET GO?  I’m sure trying…

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (Psalms 18:30-33)

“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)

“God is with us / God is on our side / He will make a way / Far above all we know, far about all we hope / He has done great things / Lifted up He defeated the grave / raised to life / Our God is able / in His Name we overcome / for the Lord our God is able”  (“God is Able,”  Hillsong Worship)

 

Happy “New Day”

I am thankful:

~ for a staggering honor and privilege: I wrote a check from Gold Network of ETX for TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  We donated $10,000 to Dr. Ted Laetsch at Children’s Hospital to support his cutting edge research projects for improved cures and therapies for childhood cancer.  Dr. Laetsch was on Sawyer’s oncology team, so the donation is even more meaningful.  We are so grateful for the funds raised through Tyler Gold Run and and generous donations from the community to help Gold Network do what we do.  Our primary focus will remain local family support, but we will always donate toward childhood cancer research in hopes that one day our GNET mission will become obsolete!  Until then, we press on.  We have exciting new dreams brewing for the upcoming year…more information coming soon!

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~ for laid back schedule-free days on break.  The kids have painted, baked cookies, learned new tricks on the trampoline, decorated a gingerbread house, and we have made a TINY dent in the HARDEST PUZZLE IN THE WORLD. IMG_1986.JPG

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~ for a manageably fun-enough New Years.  We stayed home.  Ate chili.  “Nice Mom” showed up and let the kids stay up until 10 and played with  sparklers in their pjs.  Then mom, dad, and Bigs stayed up to watch the ball drop just to say we did.   But it felt really important to me that the first thing we did in 2020 was to pray together as a family.  It was simple, sweet, and I will treasure it always. 

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~ for traditional black eyed peas, buttery roasted cabbage, and steaming hot sweet cornbread on New Year’s Day.  

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~ for a Starbucks gift card and a Starbucks right around the corner from our house!  Bear was glad he rode along, they gave him a “Pup-puccino!!”

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~ for a fun overnight sleepover for Gavin to Uncle Justin and Aunt Gina’s.  He had the feast of his dreams and had 24 blissful hours as an only child!  A trip to Kilgore to explore the East Texas Oil Museum and a mile-high loaded cheeseburger were the perfect fit for our inquisitive boy.

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~ for a joyful dream-come-true for dear friends.  Before brave 10 year old cancer warrior Luke went to be with Jesus in 2018, his dream was for his beautiful husky Scout to become a therapy dog.   This week, that dream came true!  Scout went through the rigorous testing to become certified, and PASSED!   Now Scout will be able to bring joy and smiles to kids in the hospital and continue sharing Luke’s legacy, bringing glimmers of beauty from the unspeakable pain his mom and dad and brother are walking through.  You can read more about Luke and his family’s unshakable faith and generosity here. https://lukestrong.org/

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~ for an exciting new venture for G&W: we launched our new website, www.giddyupandwhoa.com!  We’ve been praying about this for a while, and decided to make the leap in hopes of growing our business.  We also were super blessed with a new connection for old wood.  We have had our eye on a large section of damaged fence for months, and this week I worked up the courage to stop by the house and ask for it.  I was met by the sweetest gentleman who was delighted to have the fence hauled off, even taking my card for when he tears more of it down! Finds like those are the best! IMG_6067.JPEG

Josh has created some beautiful new reclaimed wood decor pieces in addition to a fresh batch of signs, so we are ready for a great year!  It’s amazing to me that we started this journey by tiptoeing onto social media last year at Thanksgiving.  Excited to see where the Lord takes us.  We even included a link to Sunday Gratitude on the G&W website.  Amazing to see different pieces of our dreams begin to braid together. 

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~ for the opportunity to reflect on the past decade.  I always get a little moony at the turn of the new year…to me it’s just natural to look back and take stock, and that process always proves emotional for me.  Looking back not just a year but a decade was pretty staggering.  I’ll spare you the in-depth play by play, but 10 years ago we only had 4 children, were going through the process of our first adoption, and Josh was self employed, remodeling and flipping houses.  We often look back and say that that was the season we thought we could tie a bow on our picture perfect little family with our beautifully God-ordained adoption story as the crescendo of our testimony.  BUT GOD.  In the infinite wisdom of our Father, we had no idea what was coming.   We never dreamed of car wrecks and ATV wrecks and fostering.  Never dreamed Josh and I would go from completely disagreeing about whether or not to grow our family to getting on the same page, only to walk through the heartbreak of losing a baby, then adopt 3 and have 2 more!  We would never have imagined cancer.  Cancer changed EVERYTHING.  I don’t even recognize that family from 10 years ago.  But out of the wreckage also came beauty.  A front row seat for miracles.  For excruciating grace.  So many wonderful, life-changing relationships born in and outside the hospital.  The Gold Run and Gold Network, opening doors to share hope with people all over.   And God has entrusted us with the stewardship of all these remarkable children in our family… gifts that I didn’t even ask for because I couldn’t have dreamed them up…  And even if New Year’s resolutions are hokey and empty, I appreciate the crisp, fresh air that comes with the turn of the calendar page, like the warmth of sunrise after a dark night.  My Father’s arms are always open.  And with renewed passion, I will seek to love Him with more of my heart this year.  And serve Him more and myself less.  Oh Lord, the cry of my heart is to let go and trust You.  So if I WAS going to have a resolution, that would be it.   But I think that has to be more of a New Day’s Resolution.  EVERY DAY.

Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“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 6:33-34)

“We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:19)

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

 

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I am thankful:

~ for one if my favorite Christmas traditions: our trip to Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve.   We load our bus with the most delicious home-cooked spread of food and drive to Dallas, to give smiles and thanks to the dedicated nurses caring for the kids who are too sick to be home for Christmas.  Even though it’s been years now, we have promised to never forget those frightening days.  Josh at home with 7 kids missing their mama.  And 12 month old Sawyer and I in the hospital.  We had known we would be in the hospital that Christmas.  He was in a particularly harsh phase of his leukemia treatment, and needed close monitoring.  But Christmas Eve he had taken a turn for the worse, spiking a high fever, and his nurses watched him like a hawk.   I’ll never forget the way they tended to him, and to me all through the night.  I remember watching the clock turn midnight, and crying in the dark room lit by a blinking IV pole as I wished my sick baby Merry Christmas.   BUT GOD.   I couldn’t have done it without those nurses, those angels on this earth.  They lay their lives down and are gone from their own families to take care of hurting children, and they do their very best to bring joy into a scary and sad place.  I love going back (for a quick trip and not to stay) to tell them Sawyer’s story, and give them a fresh breath of Christ-ordained, thriving, 6 year old, curly-headed HOPE. IMG_20191224_144050514_Original.jpgIMG_1498.JPGIMG_1501.JPG 

~ for a quick, fun visit with Aunt Dinah.  Sawyer picked Slims Chicken for lunch, and then she and I visited while I tackled my holiday baking and trashed my kitchen from one end to the other. 

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~ for beautiful weather to deliver baked goodies to our wonderful neighbors.  We are so blessed!IMG_1459.JPG

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~ for a wonderful, messy, overstimulating, joyful, chaotic, noisy Christmas.  For too much delicious food: spicy, cheesy jalapeño crawfish chowder, tart/sweet cherry pie, caramely sweet monkey bread, and chocolate-coffee-salted-caramel birthday cake for Jesus.  For Andes mints that make me think of Grandma Grace.  And Great Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters that are now my kids’ favorite.  For tums and stretchy pants.  For new Christmas jammies for everyone and a new ornament each.  For the sweetness of each of us reading Luke 2 verse by verse…and how the powerfully tender words feel more tender and more powerful on Christmas morning.  For a second round of too-much-everything and 14 cousins to play with.  It was an extra noisy Christmas with robots and transformers and Elsa microphones and walkie talkies and laser tag.  I’m also thankful that batteries do not live forever. IMG_1544.JPG

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~ for the fullness in my heart at having all my children together.  I learned when Sawyer got sick that I couldn’t take it for granted.  But life moved on, the crisis passed, and I realized that I still did sometimes.  But now comes another paradigm shift: they really are growing up.  Colton’s living on his own, Carson Grace is 18 and in college.  Soon enough they will start having their own families and may not always be around.  How I treasure these fleeting moments with all these faces around my table and piled up on my couch. 

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~ for my husband’s dedication and work ethic.  Even after working 65+ hours a week at his “real job,” then building signs and caring for our home in his “spare time,” AND being Dad to 9 kids….he is grinding out his real estate courses, one after another, even amidst the chaos of our home environment.   So proud of him.   Even squeezed in a much needed date with him this week! 

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~for the signature throaty growl of my daughter’s hauntingly beautiful voice and her guitar coming from her bedroom.  Oh, how I’ve missed her and that sound.  

~ for 4 little and not-so-little girls that still let me dress them alike.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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~ for the fresh grace to keep going even when it’s hard.  Tatum K, while just as cute as she can be, continues to challenge us daily with her fiery temperament.  Her latest challenge is NOT SLEEPING.  She is taking hours to settle down to sleep, most of that spent screaming violently at the top of her lungs, anything from “I want my MAAAAAMAAAAA!” to “I want PIZZZZZZAAAAAAA!” to “Tickle my BAAAAACKKKKK!!!!”  And then sometimes she is waking up and doing it all again for hours in the middle of the night.  Makes for a tired mama, especially after days on end. 

~ for days when I wake up to sweet artwork left beside my bed.  Parenting this many children usually feels a lot like whack-a-mole, and there is many a night that I go to bed feeling like a very defeated worst-and-meanest-mama-in-the-whole-wide-world.  But by some stretch of miracle, my kids don’t seem to think so!  Thank You Father for the NEW MERCIES EVERY MORNING!

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It’s that groggy limbo week between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone I talk to seems drained and wiped out and nobody is sure what day it is.  I find myself with a little bit of the blues…flattened by the steamroller of the packed schedule over the past few weeks.  And emotionally flattened as well.  Just a lot going on in my heart these days.  Anybody else feel flattened?  (FLATTENED, not FATTENED.  Although that certainly feels applicable as well…)

My weary heart dragged me to the church this morning.  Physically and spiritually drained and exhausted, I couldn’t even make my voice form the words of the songs.  So I just sank to my knees and let the worship and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit wash over me.  

“Worthy of every song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe

We live for you.  We live for you…”

The words and the percussion pounded into my chest, beating the melody into my heart as I sang and prayed and worshipped and wept.  

“I will build my life upon Your Love 

It is a firm foundation.  

I will put my trust in You alone

And I will not be shaken.”  

Lord, I’ve seen You do miracles with my own eyes.  I KNOW and I BELIEVE that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.  Help me to trust in You: that You are WORKING, that You are PRESENT, and that You are SOVEREIGN.  Remind me that You care about the needs I bring to you.  Line up my desires with Yours so that I want what You want for me instead of what I want for me.  Help me to remember TRUTH when my circumstances try to trip me up.  Help me unclench my fists and my feeble attempts to take control.  Renew in me a deep love for Your WORD.  Fill me with Your LOVE so I can pour it out. 

Give me endurance for the race You have set before me.  It is the race You made me for.  

Don’t lose heart.  He is FOR YOU.  Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)

Tiny Little Moments

~ thankful that I’ve learned at least a couple of lessons over the 20+ years of parenting.  For some unforeseeable reason,  I thought it was a great idea to potty train Tatum this week. She talks about going on the potty and seemed super interested. She’s so bright, I figured that she was ready.  In case you think that my 20 year experience of parenting resulted in a successful potty training session, let me quickly correct you.  After two days of trying, I my experience let me know that this child is not going to be potty trained anytime soon.  The only thing that ended up in the potty was Daddy Pig. 

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~ for the raw beauty of the brilliantly colored fall leaves Kora collected for me.  

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~ for the simple, graceful sight of a family of deer beside the road.  And of course, thankful that they did not run in front of my car!

~ for the AWESOME NEWS that our beloved Uncle Alan has successfully completed his treatment for throat cancer, and that he got to triumphantly RING THAT BELL!  We rejoice in the past, present, and future healing by the Lord!  BUT GOD!!

~ for a wonderful evening with our small group from church.  We are such a diverse group…but everyone is just real and kind and we have the best time sharing life with each other.  And this week we truly had a feast: a smorgasbord of breakfast treats!  At the end of the evening, I’m not sure which was more full, my heart or my belly.

~ for Sawyer’s unbridled delight in creating his Super Turkey for his kindergarten class project.  Each child has to “disguise“ their turkey so it doesn’t get eaten for Thanksgiving.

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~ for my new basket wall.  I’ve had the plan brewing for a long time now, and been building a collection of round baskets for months.  On large item pickup week, I was thrilled to score a stack of exactly the baskets I had been looking for, and then this week I found the last few I needed.  So fun to add a fresh design element to a space. 

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~ for such an exciting season for Giddyup & Whoa. We had a good showing at the Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale last week, and we have two more shows coming up in the next few weeks.  I’ve been painting my little hands off, and Josh has built me another big stack to work on.  And ornaments on top of that!  Can you believe it’s only 50 days until Christmas?  Keep us in mind as you plan for those meaningful one-of-a-kind gifts.

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~ for warm coats, cozy hats, and an insulated gallon jug of hot chocolate to get us through the 33° temps at Cooper’s football game.  We shivered through all 4 quarters, and although the Cougars didn’t come out with the win, we were thankful to get to cheer them on. 

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~ for the comforting crackle of the fireplace.  Oh how we all love a fire in the fireplace!

~ for irreplaceable moments dreaming together with my husband and asking God for big things. 

~ for unexpectedly encouraging words from a kind friend.   It’s so easy to focus on powering through the tasks of the day without so much as glancing up or around.  Do you ever get to the end of your day and realize you never SAW anyone else.  Even if you were surrounded, did you truly SEE anyone?  Or did you wonder if anybody saw YOU?  Think of what a difference it could make if we each took the time to SEE (REALLY SEE) at least one person around us and speak a kind word to them.  A simple complement.  A blessing. Ask about their day and actually listen to their answer.  Sometimes people cross our paths unexpectedly, and what a blessing when they choose to take the time to spread some light around.  I want to challenge myself to do that more.  

~ for grocery day.  So thankful to have my fridges full, mostly of milk.

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~ for November 1!  November 1 is one of my favorite days of the year for two reasons. Number one, because it means Halloween is finally over.  I’m sorry to be a party pooper, but I cannot stand Halloween (sorry not sorry).  And I’m always so grateful when that stuff is out of the stores and off all of the Netflix lineups.  Secondly, it’s the first day of a favorite family tradition: the Thankful Game.  We have a huge group email comprised of family and friends who have become family, and we each  share our gratitudes for each day.  I love getting to hear what’s on each of my children’s hearts, and to hear what everyone else is thankful for.  It’s such an encouragement.   Thank you Grandmommy, for starting, cultivating, and expanding this wonderful tradition!

~ for a wonderful and encouraging meeting with dear friends regarding the future of Gold Network of East Texas.  We have exciting new vision about expanding our team and reaching more families impacted by the nightmare of Childhood Cancer.  It still blows me away that the Network has grown from 3 families to more than 60.  I never could have dreamed that my baby would have cancer.  But that from the worst days of our lives would be born a ministry and organization that could make a difference to so many people. And I’m so humbled and grateful that the Lord has moved on so many hearts to help us continue to reach out.  Great is Thy Faithfulness. 

~ for the most mind-blowingly delicious meal: a succulent roasted chili relleno stuffed with gulf shrimp, Monterey Jack cheese, street roasted corn, mushrooms, and asparagus on a bed of cilantro lime rice.  WOWZA!  

~ for awesome family pictures from the photo shoot a couple weeks ago!  Lauren did the most amazing job and we are all thrilled!  

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~ for tiny little moments.  Josh and I say regularly how we have learned not to take for granted ORDINARY LIFE.  That’s what Sunday Gratitude is about. Finding beauty in the tiny and mundane things of life that we sometimes overlook.  I looked in the rearview mirror at Tatum K in her car seat on our way to pick up kids after school.  She was bleary-eyed were half closed from being awakened from her nap, hair a fuzzy, tousled mess, and just the faintest hint of a smile.  She took my breath away.  How did God know I needed this baby girl?  I’m grateful for the everyday: looking at dozens of kids’ worksheets, listening to their reading.  Being greeted every morning with half a dozen hugs and a big hairy dog.  The times when my teen actually tells me about his day and then asks me about mine, or when my grown kids take the time to text or FaceTime.  The tiny little moments are when life happens.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what we’re worried about or scrambling for…we are so rich.  We are so blessed.  

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I just hope to encourage you to look around for the tiny little moments that you are thankful for instead of the 1001 nagging frustrations that crowd their way to the front.  Looking at life through a lens of gratitude truly has the potential to change everything.  And most of the big things we give thanks for…are made up of a million tiny little moments.  God is always at work, in the tiny things and the big ones, and when we finally begin to acknowledge WHERE OUR BLESSINGS COME FROM, we can truly begin to understand how deep and how long and how wide is His Love for us.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:10-13 NIV

God is in the Ring

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful awesome trip to Dallas to deliver the abundant bounty of toys that you all generously donated to the Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive! I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t think we were going to even meet last year‘s number. A week before delivery day, we had about 800 toys. And $300 to spend. A number isn’t what it’s about. I know that. And 800 toys is a lot of toys. But I am so amazed at how God worked in so many hearts over the last week. We collected more than 700 more dollars and ended up with over 1600 toys!  Every hour another donation would come in. It just blew my mind!  And I had the neatest experience at the Dollar Tree in Tyler.  I went in with $400 to spend, and found out that since it was our first time registered as a tax exempt nonprofit, we got 10% off our purchase.  So that gave me almost another hundred dollars to spend! It was so fun!  I’ve never bought so much in my life, filled up 3 buggies! The receipt was as long as Samantha is tall!  All the toys just barely managed to fit, crammed into our bus. I was thankful that the 4 “Middles” were able to spend the day with their cousins, because there was literally no room for them in the car!  So I made the trip with just Sawyer and Tatum K.  We were met at valet at Children’s Hospital by 2 child life staff members with giant rolling bins, which we filled to overflowing!  Sawyer delighted in pushing and pulling them to the elevators and then he gleefully assisted in stocking the shelves.  He quickly learned which bins were for which toys, and chattered nonstop as he worked.  It brings me such joy to see him happily giving things away.  He knew none of those toys were for him, that they were all for his friends.  A sweet little girl came to pick out her prize after a hard, exhausting day of chemotherapy. The same age as Sawyer, she was completely bald and it was clear that she felt miserable. She picked out a baby doll, and then Sawyer picked out a second prize for her, which brought a tiny smile.  Seems like yesterday that Sawyer was the one weak and frail. Sawyer has prayed for his little friend Charlie every day since.  A million thanks to everyone who helped with this blessing.

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For the best bonus to an already great day.  We drove around the corner from the hospital and met our precious nurse and now dear friend, Brittney, for lunch. We haven’t seen her in several months because our appointments didn’t line up with her schedule, and now she has an additional job: Mama to a beautiful two-month-old baby boy!  It’s absolutely amazing to see her as a mama. I’ll never forget meeting Brittney and sawyer’s hospital room in the early weeks of his trip treatment. She knelt with me to pray before administering his chemotherapy.  She became my sister immediately and a favorite.  I remember thinking what an she was an expert seasoned nurse she was, and I didn’t find out until years later that she was brand new, and she admitted to being terrified that day.  It’s so beautiful the way the Lord purposely braids people into our lives that will change us forever.

~ for the most incredible neighbors! One day I got a knock on the door and a neighbor had a donation for Gold Network. They had wanted to come to the Gold Run but were crazy busy. So they just wanted to make a donation to support. Another day, another knock on the door. A different neighbor had 4 large Bruno‘s pizza left over from a party they were having!  Have you ever?  We are so blessed in our neighborhood.

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~ for the miraculous power of prayer.  Monday, an article was published by the New York Times regarding an impending shortage of the cornerstone chemotherapy drug for childhood cancer, Vincristine.  Tuesday, social media was buzzing with the news, and a couple local moms contacted the Dallas hospital, and received the report that the shortage was not expected to affect our kids.  But Wednesday.  Wednesday our own sweet Hero, Jase went to Dallas for his routine monthly chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.  And he was not given his scheduled dose of Vincristine.  His family was understandably livid and very concerned.  HOW CAN CRITICAL DRUGS THAT WE DEPEND ON TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES NOT BE AVAILABLE????  So we all used the only 2 tools we knew to use: the power of social media to incite people to apply the greatest power tool of all – the power of PRAYER.  People everywhere were praying.  And at the end of that all-day clinic visit, doctors came back to Jase’s family AND GAVE HIM HIS MEDICINE!!!!!  The very same thing happened with several other patients that day!  And shortly thereafter, a press release was issued stating that the drug company responsible was expediting the production of Vincristine several weeks sooner than previously scheduled.  We are so grateful that Jase received the life-saving medicine that he needed, but we ask for continued prayers that this crisis does not happen again.  Every type of childhood cancer requires Vincristine for treatment.  Our kids MUST have access to the drugs they need to LIVE!

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~ for the remarkable convenience of online grocery shopping! I was skeptical at first, wondering if I would get good produce, or if they would accurately fulfill my shopping list.  But I have been very pleased with the service I’ve received from all 3 grocery stores that I have to use.  Now a task that used to take me all day can be completed in less than two hours.  It’s truly a game changer, especially with a family our size.  

~ for kids who love to help!

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~ for a super productive week of Giddyup & Whoa sign painting.  I cranked out 7 signs for the upcoming Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale.  If you are local, you MUST come check it out!  They have the most wonderful collection of unique vintage and refurbished items, and beautiful handmade merchandise as well. This year they’ve even added a different food truck each day to make it an even greater experience!  Check them out Wednesday through Saturday!

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~ for a tasty and free food truck lunch hosted by our mortgage company for customer appreciation.  Tatum K entertained the crowd with her street dancing, and the juicy fried fish hit the spot!

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~ for a very special birthday!  Cooper turned 15 this week!  How in the world is my sweet, blue eyed mess of a  Coopy a 15 year old?  We feasted on his menu of choice: biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon, and rich chocolate cake.   Love that kid!  (He also played a great football game this week).

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~ for an amazing photographer that bravely and expertly tackled the gargantuan task of capturing a picture of Nana and Pop and ALL 23 GRANDCHILDREN!  We have been adopted into an amazing extended family here in Tyler, and it is one rowdy bunch, ranging from age 20 down to 5 months!  The photographer, Lauren Ashley, not only got the prized whole family picture, but each individual child, every family, and all the couples!  All in one hour!  She is a MACHINE!  I can’t wait to see how the pictures all turned out!  (These pics are just snapshots from my phone)

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More than anything this week, I am thankful for God’s Mighty Hand.  I talked last week about how overwhelming the pace and the pressures of life can be.   Well it’s not letting up.  It’s been a rough week as far as my anxiety goes, and we’ve been hit with brutal punches to the gut from out of nowhere.  That really is what it feels like sometimes.  Like a fighter in a ring getting HAMMERED.  Only there’s no timer, no bell.  No break to let you catch your breath.  Just hit after hit sending you reeling against the ropes.  Sometimes the hit looks like it’s big enough to destroy you.  

But God.  

No matter what is going on, I know He’s with me.  I know He’s fighting the battle for me, in front of me, behind me, and IN ME.  He built me for this battle.  He has prepared me for it.  If I’m in it, it’s because He has a plan for the battle and a plan for me.  He is the God that holds my children.  He holds their hearts and their future.  He has a plan for their lives as they find their way.  And every trial that comes our way will be used for our good and for His glory.  And when things look like they can’t ever be ok, I will turn my eyes to Him.   When I can’t take one more step, He will carry me.  When my heart is broken, He will hold me.  

It’s a big week for Casa Rucker, and we are counting on God to do some incredible things.  Will you please pray for us?  I look forward to sharing many great praise reports in next Sunday’s Gratitude!

Love one another, seek Jesus, and GIVE HIM PRAISE!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Psalms 56:1-4 

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” Exodus 14:14