Wild Ride

I am thankful:

~ for the one who made me a Mama 23 years ago.

How is my baby boy so grown? It was fun to celebrate him, and feast on his consistent annual menu of choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and confetti cake.

~ for more good baseball. (And is it ok if I’m also thankful that the end of the season is in sight?)

~ for my favorite Farmer’s Market salad from Piada Italian Street food. Even if I almost had to share it…

~ for an amazing morning with Sawyer the Warrior representing Gold Network of East Texas at the Annual LukeStrong Race in Palestine.

It’s such a special event, honoring the brave children fighting cancer and their families. I met some incredible people and left with wet eyes and a full heart. Sawyer had a blast playing games and shooting Nerf guns, and proudly told everyone all day what he had had for breakfast: 2 1/2 donuts and a snow cone. Love going to these events with my amazing miracle boy.

~ for a lovely day in Carthage swimming and being blessed by Gina and Justin. They outdid themselves, BBQing the most delicious chicken, accompanied by a tasty salad and the most decadent array of desserts. They spoiled us!

~ for a lovely low-key Mother’s Day with my Loves. A ZINGER of a Sunday sermon, Rounders for lunch, and then more swimming for the kids. I’m so blessed.

~ oh, and one more thing…

SURPRISE!

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride…

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

Breathe In

I am thankful:

~ for generous givers on East Texas Giving Day. Gold Network of East Texas received more than $600 in donations!

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

~ for the triumphant successful completion of our largest Giddyup & Whoa order to date! We were commissioned by our high school to create 67 handpainted reclaimed wood signs for the parents of the 2022 graduating class!

It was an intense effort of measuring, cutting, sanding, building, sanding again, field painting, handlettering, and watercoloring each one.

Then each was stamped with GW and wrapped with our signature twine and tag!

Phew! What a fun challenge! Thankful that even though I received the order with only 20 days to have them completed, I actually beat my deadline by 3 days!

~ for a fun visit with Aunt Gina and Uncle Justin, who made the trip to Tyler and helped Josh and I divide and conquer to attend the 2 baseball games + 1 Spring Concert we had…all at 7pm on the SAME NIGHT! I was thankful to get to see Zoe’s concert and catch most of Gavin’s game,

but SO DISAPPOINTED that I missed witnessing Sawyer running OUT OF HIS SHOE and scoring a run BAREFOOT!!! (Thankful that Samantha got pictures!)

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for Sir Gavin the Knight of the House of Rucker having an awesome Medieval Feast with his 5th grade class.

~ for priceless time with our Gold Network ETX HERO couples at our CONNECT Support Group. Beautiful fresh flowers, delicious BBQ, and decadent desserts set the stage for a time of loving on these families through whatever stage of the cancer journey they are in. How we love our time with them!

~ for a special treat for the boys: Colton’s birthday gift to his dad was tickets for the 5 of them to the Texas Rangers game! What an awesome day! Even came away with a W!

~ that I got to enjoy a sweet time with my girls while the boys were away. After church we enjoyed stuffing our faces at Olive Garden! Restaurant dining is a rare treat for our bunch, so they were THRILLED!

~ for a husband who loves me right where I am. In my struggles. In my mess. In my doubts. In my fears. He lovingly leads our family, and I’m so grateful I can trust him completely, because I know his trust is in the Lord. There are big changes brewing on the horizon for our Tribe, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. But there’s no adventure I wouldn’t risk with him. My “Whoa” would sure miss out on a lot if it wasn’t for his “Giddyup!”

But I don’t always FEEL adventurous and excited about change. Sometimes my emotions and fears and anxieties take over and I’m, well…the word “basketcase” comes to mind. BUT GOD. I calm my heart by returning my eyes from the waves to my Savior. And I give thanks for the little blessings that surround me. Hugs and kisses and coffee and silly dogs and silly kids and coffee and the smell of candles and fresh laundry and coffee.

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

Eventually, we will make it victoriously across the finish line. And we won’t even care if we lost a shoe along the way.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

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

Stretching

I am thankful:

~ for a safe spot to weather the latest rash of East Texas storms!

~ for Gavin’s school project: using fractions in a recipe, and cooking a treat to bless the custodial staff at the school. He chose one of his great grandmother’s recipes. So fun! And what an awesome assignment!

~ for awesome spring evenings at the ballpark.

~ for the opportunity to snuggle some of Bear and Birdie’s puppies! It’s so awesome when we get to see them!

~ for a heartwarming, long-awaited reunion. Years ago Sawyer made a special friend at the Lighthouse Family Retreat for cancer families in Florida. One of the families serving had a daughter named SAWYER! They were instant fast friends because of their names, even though she was several years older.

We were thrilled to find out that Sawyer and her family lived in Fort Worth! They made the trip to Dallas several times to see our Sawyer at his oncology checkups, but it’s been at least a couple years.

Well last week I got a call that their family was camping at Tyler State Park, and they wanted to get the Sawyers back together. I kept the secret, and asked MY Sawyer if he remembered his Lighthouse friend. His eyes lit up when I asked if he’d like to make her a card to send in the mail. He quickly set to work, and asked me, “Mama, how do you spell, ‘I miss you so much and I hope we can see each other soon’?” My heart sang! We met at C Rojos, and Sawyer and Sawyer were SO EXCITED to see each other! Our families had the most wonderful, if way to short, visit! I love the connection they have!

~ for a great day at the Vintage & Co Spring Barn Sale Preview Day. Each sale they do an Early Bird Day with an admission charge that benefits their charity of choice. This time they chose Gold Network of East Texas! What an awesome blessing! Tatum K was my trusty assistant. But more than once, she frighted guests by popping out from under my table!

~ for a wonderful evening watching Kora and her classmates 6th Grade production of “How I Became a Pirate.” She did such a great job, and had so much fun.

~ for one of Sawyer’s self-proclaimed “Best Days of My Life.” The beloved “Creature Teacher came to visit their class! Baby kangaroo, lemur, and a python were just a few of the animals they got to meet up close and personal. I LOVE the pictures captured of Sawyer’s excitement!

~ for the amazing milestone, Tatum K taking her admissions assessment to start Kindergarten at GCS in the fall! How is my littlest peanut so big!? She was tearful that morning, “I’m afraid to be wif-out you, Mama!” But she calmed down and had fun with the teacher. What is my mama heart to do!?

We are in such a season of stretching in our family. The kids are quite literally stretching, growing out of their clothes and shoes almost daily. But more than the physical stretching, we are in a place where God is causing each of us to be stretched out of our comfort zone in about 17 million directions. I have definitely come to the realization that I am NOT A FAN OF STRETCHING. But I know it’s necessary. And I know it’s good. There is not much growth that happens when we are comfortable or still. It’s an awesome lesson to talk through with the kids, and even more awesome (not really) to see how much still I need the very same lesson myself.

When my faith is sifted back down to a mustard seed, I see more clearly than ever my need for a Savior. I’m nothing without Him. BUT GOD! Because WITH Him, and Him in me, all things truly are possible. So grateful for the beautiful and terrifying adventure He has in store! And even though I’m not always a fan of the process of stretching and growing…I know the best is yet to come. I don’t want to stay where I am. So let’s get to stretching…

Are YOU willing to be stretched?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

“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)

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

~ for baseball, baseball, and MORE BASEBALL. (And finally got to see Samantha play softball!) It’s a busy season with constant practices and back to back games, but we are loving it.

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

~ for wonderful friends who walk beside me in good times and bad. What a blessing not to walk alone.

~ for 2 special birthdays this week! First we got to celebrate Josh: a down home Southern meal of mashed taters and country fried steak. And yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing of course!

And then the self proclaimed Birthday Princess herself, Miss Tatum K, who was very proud to turn 5!

After much back and forth, she settled on a menu of homemade pizza, salad, and CHIPS! And for her dessert, she remained true to her love of both sweets: confetti cake and lemon pie.

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

If you are new-ish around here, back when Tatum K was a baby, she would chant and beg for cake and pie in her high chair, banging the tray with a fork in each fist like a little pirate. And when I asked her if she wanted cake or pie for her 2nd birthday, without blinking an eye, she replied, “YES!” So it’s been cake AND pie ever since! Love that spicy girl!

2021
2020
2019

~ for a Giddyup and Whoa order of epic proportions! We have an order for 67 signs, due in 2 weeks! It’s all hands on deck around here!

~ for a successful kickoff of our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Oncology Clinic Toy Drive.

We have several drop off locations across East Texas, and will be collecting until May 15. A small toy, craft, or gift card is such a small thing to us, but such a blessing to kids of all ages going through cancer treatment. Just a tiny incentive to make them smile through the hard. We were blessed to benefit from a Camp Gladiator Super Saturday this week. An amazing workout group collected toys and funds to support the toy drive. You can drop toys at any of our locations, or give online at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate and we’ll do the shopping for you!

Current drop off locations (looking for more!!):

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

Big Daddy’s Stereo 2624 Bill Owens Pkwy Longview, TX 75604

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

Village Salon 1118 W. Panola St., Carthage, Tx 75633

Serenity Salon & Spa 2500 East End Blvd. North Marshall, TX 75670

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

Kingdom Veterinary Clinic 15051 County Rd 1103, Flint, TX 75762

I was so encouraged during my Bible reading this morning. As so often is the case, I read a Scripture for like the millionth time, and it suddenly stood out to me like never before. In 1 Chronicles, David is talking to his son Solomon about the monumental task of building the temple, and he says, ““Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” I read it again and again. I told Josh, “If this is not our family motto, I don’t know what is!” It’s really that simple. Be strong and courageous, and DO THE WORK. We have to be willing to work. Everything isn’t always going to just fall into place. We all have to do hard things. Make hard choices. Make hard changes. We can’t sit idly by and watch as life passes us by. BUT GOD! The Scripture goes on to encourage, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20). We do not labor alone or in vain. He is with us always. He sees. He cares. He has a plan. But He expects us, COMMANDS US, to do the work, to put our hands to the plow. To extend ourselves expectantly, knowing that He is moving with us. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me. We personally are in a season right now where it is time to be brave and do the work. He is faithful. And I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:17-18)

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalms 143:8)

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. “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.” (2 Samuel 22:29-34)

Our Peace

I am thankful:

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

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

~ for the smell of fresh baked cookies.

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

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

Birdie and Bear love to watch baseball practice

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

Sawyer and Sophie in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

We Pray

I am thankful:

~ for “Breakfast Day” aka Dad’s day off, with Tatum K. Roost (a new restaurant for us) was great, with perfect coffee and tasty red skillet potatoes.

~ for Colton and Cooper being awesome big brothers, taking Samantha, Gavin, and Sawyer to practice their softball/baseball skills.

~ for the best time ever at our second Gold Network of East Texas HERO Hangouts. This time we took 67 cancer kids/siblings/and families to the movies! We bought out an entire theatre for a private showing of Sing2, and we packed almost every seat!

It never ceases to make my heart explode to see these amazing kids just getting to be kids! It’s so awesome to see connections among the cancer kids, among the siblings, among the parents. Their resilience and quiet strength is completely inspiring.

Even though my thoughts and my heart are heavy, I have to acknowledge and appreciate the intensely sharpened focus on how much I truly have to be thankful for, the simple yet profound gifts that I must never take for granted. My Love, who is also my best friend, who leads our family boldly and with great courage and unwavering faith. Unsolicited hugs from my not-so-Littles. For my Bigs who now CHOOSE to come home and spend time with us, even when they don’t have to. For nights like tonight when everyone is excited about the meal: they just DEVOURED two 9×13 pans of chicken pot pie. For our health, and the miraculous physical and spiritual healings we have experienced firsthand over and over again. Never having to worry about food in the pantry and gas in my car. A safe home. A neighborhood that is truly a family in every way. For spiritual mentors who have poured into me and continually encourage my growth. The freedom to worship God openly and speak the Name of Jesus without fear.

It’s heartbreaking to read the headlines. I hate to watch the news, but it’s too pressing, too important to remain uninformed. We pray for the people who are hurting, terrified, people who have lost everything.

I feel powerless. But I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe God’s Church is alive and reaches across every ocean and every language. I believe we were made for a time such as this, and that we are called to raise up our children as Warriors for Jesus, and that they are arrows created to be launched out to reach farther than we could ever go ourselves.

I don’t know what’s coming next. (BUT GOD)

I know The One who does, and I am His.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalms 56:1-4)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

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

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

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

BUT GOD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Well Done

I am thankful:

~for an outstanding evening of football and a triumphant win for the Chiefs and hometown boy Patrick Mahomes. I’ve lost my voice!

~ for a wonderful 14th birthday celebration for sweet and beautiful Samantha. She is such a blessing: so bright and kind and helpful with EVERYTHING. She started her day with a stack of chocolate chip pancakes, then Slims for lunch, and her tasty menu-of-choice: savory roast beef and provolone French dip sandwiches with au jus and sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, followed by an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. She is easy to celebrate.

~for more and more beauty unfolding as my lovely resurrected orchid gracefully and gradually blooms a little more every day. I love watching its story unfold.

~ for successfully accomplishing the monumental task of taking 9 puppies + 2 grown doodles to the vet for their checkup! It was a circus to be sure, but they all got a clean bill of health from our friends at Faith Veterinary Clinic! Ready for homes THIS TUESDAY!

~for a wonderful evening with our HERO families at our quarterly GNET CONNECT Caregiver Support Group. We dined on delicious Abuelos fajitas and my favorite side dish, papas, and the most decadent desserts from Brookshire’s bakery. But we FEASTED ON FELLOWSHIP. There is such encouragement found among people who truly understand the hardest season of your life because they’ve walked it too. I treasure that time.

~ for a celebration of a life well lived. Donna Youngblood is a fixture in our family. She has taught Samantha, prayed us through Sawyer’s pregnancy, our adoptions, and his cancer diagnosis; taught Kora, then Gavin, then Zoe, and prayed through all of Sawyer’s treatment AND Tatum K’s pregnancy and arrival. A fabulous seamstress and embroiderer, she made a custom birthday shirt for Sawyer each year. She walked us through it all, faithfully on her knees.

I just found this text today! What a faithful prayer warrior!
Tatum K got one too!

Then, the amazing moment, covered in more prayers than anyone ever could imagine finally came to fruition: Sawyer the Warrior was going to start school and be in her Jr. Kindergarden class. In June that summer preceding the start of the school year, Donna let me know that her classroom description had changed slightly, and that she would be teaching the younger 4 year olds, with a slightly modified curriculum more suited to their age. The other Jr.K classes would cover additional material at a quicker pace. Sawyer was already 5, and she wanted me to know in case we wanted to switch him to another class. This was the text I sent her.

I texted her again right before the school year started…

What a wonderful year he had!

He stayed healthy, only missing class for his scheduled oncology appointments in Dallas. He made sweet friends and learned more every day, from phonics to Spanish to countless songs and Scripture verses. She laughed along with him as an accomplice when he pranked his classmates with a cardboard cake for April Fools’ Day.

And he. LOVED. His precious teacher.

Donna was patient with my bruised and battered over-protective Mama heart, and loved all of us so well. She attended Tyler Gold Run every year with her precious “Grands,”

With her sweet grands

and when Sawyer was in her class, he walked the 3 mile route with her!

Talk about a heart-exploding display of God’s miraculous works! We all looked forward to and planned the day that Miss TK would be in her class. In fact, I deliberately made the decision to keep Tatum K home this year AFTER checking with Donna to make sure she wasn’t retiring. TK and I always visited Mrs. Youngblood when we were at the school for a hug and a smile. We exchanged hugs and encouragements last Friday morning.

Monday afternoon, without warning, God took Mrs. Youngblood home. When I got the news, I forgot how to breathe. How could this be? She was so healthy. So young (61). SO ALIVE! But it was true, and there was no shortage of ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that she had leapt from her earthly body with eagerness directly into the arms of Jesus, and heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” A life well lived.

I prayed all day about what telling the children would look like. The older kids heard the news through the grapevine at school. BUT GOD. When I walked to pick up Sawyer from his class at the end of the day and hugged tight his sweet Second Grade teacher (who was a very, very dear friend of Donna’s, and was truly heartbroken), she whispered to me, “He doesn’t know. He’ll get to hear it from his Mama.” So we walked hand in hand to the car, and I told him the news, and I watched his little face fall and his heart break into a million pieces.

We’ve all talked a lot this week about Mrs. Youngblood in our household, about how loved she was and how much she loved. About where she is and why she wouldn’t ever trade it for anything. About how God is always good and always right, and that one day she’ll greet each one of us with her bright smile and we’ll all worship together. And without these heartbreaking losses, those life-giving conversations would never take place.

Tatum K is distraught, and can’t imagine who her teacher will be. Each of the children have had their tearful moments, and we’ve had lots of long, tight hugs. Donna was my friend. I miss her and I still can’t believe she won’t be smiling at me at the end of the hall. I want to love my babies like she loved them, like Jesus loves them. Even in her death, the seeds God gave her to plant are watered with our tears and continue to grow.

Well done. See you soon, my friend. Praying for your Sweetheart, your sons and their families, and the countless lives you have touched along the way.

Let’s love one another well this week.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.” (Psalms 34:1-3)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:3-6)

Blessed to be a Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for a dream come true for Samantha. She has recently fallen in love with all things equestrian: all she wanted for Christmas was cowgirl boots and cowgirl clothes (since she knew we couldn’t get her an actual horse). One of big brother Colton’s friends invited her to his horse farm, and she had the best time of her life! (Zoe got to tag along.)

~ for Tatum K’s darling little playhouse. She loves her cozy new spot, and spends most of her time inside it. You can definitely find her there for breakfast and lunch, listening to the birds!

~ for the great honor and privilege of presenting our beloved Dr. Sam John at Children’s with a check for $10,000 from Gold Network of East Texas to further his ongoing cutting edge pediatric cancer research project. Dr. John holds a special place in our hearts from the earliest days of Sawyer’s cancer treatment, so it means so much to be able to support his research now. Dr. John shared that Sawyer’s successful treatment has been an inspiration for his continued passion for research of infant leukemias, and when presented with the Gold Network check, he said “I know this check is also backed with countless prayers, and that means a lot.” What a blessing for him to get to see Sawyer as a happy, healthy 8 year old!

You can barely see Dr. John in the laptop. We laughed that Sawyer was actually holding HIM for a change!
2014
Dr. John and Sawyer the Warrior, 2016
2018

~ for fire-side puzzling on our nifty new puzzle table. Even if our family Christmas puzzle is apparently too hard for everyone else in the family except me, and I’m pretty much doing it by myself.

~ for a quiet New Year’s Eve with the fam: pizza for kiddos, couch date with Longhorn steakhouse for Mom and Dad. Late night field trip for ice cream sundaes in pjs, and a sparklers in the driveway. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ for a traditional tasty start to 2022: savory blackeyed peas, roasted cabbage, brown sugar glazed ham, and buttery sweet cornbread, followed by a trip to the movies with the whole Tribe to see Sing 2 (I highly recommend!)

~ for the cutest, cuddliest puppies in all the land! We are having so much fun watching Bear and Birdie’s babies as they grow each day. They have started eating soft food, and are getting more and more playful. We still have available pups if you know anyone looking.

~ for hilarious virtual reality fun, from the international space station to the mountains of Peru to the gnarliest rollercoasters you can imagine!

~ for 101 ways to play with a stick. Why in the world did we buy toys for Christmas????

Are you a resolution person? People either love them or hate them. I know it’s kind of hokey to put off making necessary changes in your life until a certain day, but what’s the harm? I love the turn of the calendar page, and the fresh feeling that comes with the New Year. A fresh start. Fresh opportunity. Fresh potential. After the constant indulgence and unrelenting pace of the holidays, our overloaded senses crave a reset. The Christmas finery/clutter gets put away, and in the space left behind seems like fresh breathing room. Fresh margin. It may seem silly, but why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt this New Year? A good habit has to start sometime, and January 1 is as good a day as any. Or January 2. Or the 15. Why not just try? How about challenging yourself? Don’t write yourself off as a quitter before you even try. Give yourself some credit AND SOME GRACE!I’ve got lots of goals for this year, lots of dreams and things I want to do better. But mainly I just want to love well and look more like Jesus on December 31 than I do today. We are so blessed. And I know we’ve been blessed so we can be a blessing to others along the way.

Friends, we need your prayers. Our precious HERO friend, Bristell, has relapsed. After bravely battling Infant AML, victoriously surviving a bone marrow transplant, and celebrating almost 3 joyous years of remission, the unthinkable has happened. Four year old Bristell is back at Children’s as her care team creates a treatment plan for this next battle, and her precious mom and dad and new baby sister are reeling with broken hearts as they try to wrap their minds around this unexpected blow. No 4 year old should have to face cancer, let alone a second time. Will you please pray for this dear family, and stand with us as we bear up under this burden beside them? I will link their personal GoFundMe here if you would like to donate directly to Bristell.

Sawyer the Warrior and Bristell Brave

This is the grim reality for parents of a child who has battled cancer. The fear remains. Maybe it’s way in the back of the closet or tucked away in the deepest reaches of consciousness. But somewhere, although no one ever speaks about it, there is the cold pang of dread that hiding in there somewhere, a malignant cell was missed, a dormant trigger that will reawaken, and when we least expect it, our tenuously duct-taped world will suddenly implode again. This is life as a cancer parent.

But God.

In Him we hope. In Him we believe there is still good in the world, and better yet, that this world is not all there is for us. We know that Jesus heals. We have seen it. And more importantly, we have seen HIM.

And because of Him, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thank you for lifting your prayers for Bristell and her family. And thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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 43:18-19)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Traditions

I am thankful:

~ for a special birthday. Our miracle boy, Sawyer the Warrior, turned 8!

Every milestone still takes my breath away. We never dared dream he would go to second grade, or excel at school, or LIVE TO BE EIGHT YEARS OLD! BUT GOD! What a blessing and a miracle he is! He had a great day: donuts for breakfast, Slim’s Chicken lunch at school with Mom, Dad, and Tatum K, and his birthday menu – lasagna, pickles, and chocolate cake with orange colored salted caramel buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for preserving the life of this boy. We will never stop giving You all the glory.

~ for a great Giving Tuesday for Gold Network of East Texas. We were so blessed by generous donations, and received more than $1600 to support our deserving local families impacted by childhood cancer. THANK YOU to all who donated.

~ for a fun week for Cooper: being asked to a dance, and getting chosen at work to be the Chick-Fil-a Cow for a local Christmas parade. He had a blast!

~ for the opportunity to watch Zoe and her classmates at their Colonial Trades Day presentation. Zoe was captivating as a colonial soap maker.

~ for a much-needed visit with a dear friend.

~ for traditions. I finally got the tree lights fixed and ornaments hung.

I love those moments with the kids, as they each delight in finding their special ornaments from each year. We laugh and tell the same stories over again.

Can you spot Bear and Birdie?

I tell of the year when our budget was so tight that Colton, Carson Grace, and Cooper’s only ornaments and gifts came from the Dollar Store, and I had given Josh a construction paper heart with our picture on it.

We talk about the first Christmas in the hospital when Dad drove the bus packed with kids and presents to Dallas so we could be together in the waiting room. So many memories on that tree.

The nostalgic decorations are my favorite. I remember as a child, gazing at the lights and ornaments on Grandma Grace’s tree, her brightly colored hand sewn felt animals and delicately tatted snowflakes.

I was captivated by her 1970s handpainted plaster Nativity and the sparkling Christmas tree created with her vintage costume jewelry mounted on black velvet.

Now I love the red and green metal Tonka dump truck that was my dad’s when he was a boy, and watching Tatum K play with the plush singing snowman from Hallmark that Granny Lou gave Cooper when he was a baby.

I love our matching embroidered stockings that I painstakingly collected over the years, all lined up on our mantle.

And I wonder which traditions my children will remember the most fondly, and which ones they will carry on with their own families. Will they celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas and sing the song each night? Will they treasure my Willow Tree nativity? Will they roll out sugar cookies to deliver to their neighbors and make Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters and my monkey bread and spicy crawfish corn chowder only once a year?

I hope I get to experience traditions with my grown children and their families one day. I hope we laugh together and tell the same stories over and over. I hope they look back on their childhood with warm memories of a house filled with love and the presence of Jesus.

Christmas isn’t always sweet and magical, and not all the memories are good. Important moments are almost always impacted by the people we miss and those painful memories that have left a stain and a scar. But if we purpose ourselves to focus on the hope that is before us, we can rise above the hurts and disappointments and rest in the love of our Savior. He is making all things new, and the day is coming when the stories of Baby Jesus born in a stable will pale before the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace Himself.

Thank You Jesus for the promised joy that is coming.

PS. No puppies yet! Stay tuned…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)