Board by Board

I am thankful:

~ for a fun-filled birthday for our Zoe! This sweet brown-eyed girl turned 11 with quite the special day. She started with Z-shaped pancakes, then to the mall for EARS PIERCED!!!

Lunch was an obvious choice: Zoe’s Kitchen, of course, followed by frozen yogurt for dessert.

Her requested dinner menu: tacos, beans and rice, and a fancy homemade chocolate cake topped with Oreos. She proclaimed it the best birthday ever.

~ for our first farm “crop” doing well. We laugh when we look back at our very strategic planting technique.

Back in June

~ for these puppies! They literally get cuter EVERY DAY! It’s so fun watching their little personalities emerge. They are now 5 weeks old, and soon to be ready for their forever families. We still have several available, message me if you’re interested. And if you’re not, please spread the word!

Summer is winding down, and the days are counting down until the kids go back to school. They are all excited to see their friends and meet their teachers, if not for the actual “school” element itself. But the #1 MOST EXCITED is Miss Tatum K. She has her backpack and lunch box and new cup and crayons, and she is RARING TO GO!

What am I going to do without my little spunky sidekick??? (I’ve already told her that I’m going to cry on the floor and eat donuts all day. So if I’m not answering my phone…)

We are truly enjoying our time out at the farm. We are out there working nearly every day, board by board. It’s a slow process, but more and more I think it’s supposed to be.

As much as I would like to ding-it-all-done overnight, I really do like the slower pace.

I like watching my kids learn from their dad.

I like working with them side by side, and knowing that they will forever remember that they built this barn with their own hands. I can imagine them showing the barn to their own kids one day, pointing at the nail they shot or the board they cut.

I loved hosting dinner out in the fresh air (ok, it was still 95°) for the first time tonight. Grilled pork chops and potato salad just taste better outside, with friends, and after a hard days work.

I know that along with every board we hang as we build this barn, God is building me, building each one of them. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but tonight my heart is full.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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 3:17)

“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 3:17)

His Best

I am thankful:

~ for 8 healthy puppies! Bear and Birdie had their third litter last week, and we are up to our eyeballs with the round-the-clock puppy routine! Follow G&W Goldendoodles on Facebook for available puppies and the cutest updated pictures of these little sweeties.

~ for the most delicious Abuelos and Villa Montez dinner dates with my Love.

~ for the older kids having an amazing week at Pine Cove, and the youngers having a blast at VBS.

The girls had fun with Crazy Hair Day

~ for a full week of family, farm, and fireworks!

Barn foundation repairs in progress
Fans installed
All lit up!
More framing
Kora is learning how to be quite the carpentry hand
Tic tac toe up high

~ for an unexpected treat: an evening at Splash Kingdom followed by our first trip to Canton’s iconic Dairy Palace! I sure do love me a good lazy river!

Life is good, hot, and busy. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day to day that I find myself running on fumes. Operating in my own strength instead of His, and that is a recipe for burnout and discouragement. How in the world could I find myself battling anxiety again when life is going great? It doesn’t matter how much GOOD is going on…without God first, I miss His BEST.

Thank You Jesus for lovingly guiding my heart when I start to get lost.

And to all of you, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.” (Psalms 116:5-6)

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

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

BUSY!

I am thankful:

~ for a whirlwind week full of hard work and fun! Literally not one single day or evening free.

~ for being able to celebrate our Carson Grace turning 21. We know God has incredible plans for her life, and we can’t wait to see how He uses her.

~ for a wonderful full week of VBS. The big kids served with old and new friends, and the younger kids attended with old and new friends. We sang and played and worshipped and ate together, and it was an absolutely exhausting week packed with fun. So grateful for our wonderful church.

~ for lots of sweat equity out on the farm. Mowing, chain sawing, junk hauling, and briar clearing.

We work hard and get dirty and sweaty side by side with our kids, and it’s awesome to slowly see our vision come to life.

Found quite the snake skin!

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some poison ivy, on both arms and my EYELID, so that meant a call in to the doctor for some high dose steroids, and I’m NOT GREAT at not scratching! Just part of the process, I guess. This weekend we added some essentials to make it feel really like home: popsicles, a stereo, and a coffee pot of course!

~ for a fun night at American Cancer Society’s Little Wranglers event. Everyone’s favorite was the petting zoo!

~ and for an incredible day back at Globe Life Field representing Gold Network ETX as guests of Derek Holland’s 60 Feet 6 Foundation at the Celebrity Softball Classic. We may not have known many of the “celebrities,” but the event was top notch.

We were greeted as VIPs, escorted onto the field through the players entrance, and Sawyer received a custom Sawyer the Warrior official team jersey.

The whole family enjoyed touring the dugouts and the field, running the bases, and meeting various athletes, actors, artists, and military veterans. We enjoyed an endless buffet in a private suite and met other pediatric cancer families. It was a truly unforgettable day.

~ for the sight of happy, dirty kids living their best lives.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalms 145:3-7, 21)

Goodness of God

I am thankful:

~ for God’s goodness through one of THE MOST HECTIC weeks of our life.

~ for making it through the last grueling stages of packing/loading/cleaning.

Poor dogs were scared to death, thought we were leaving them behind, so they wouldn’t get off the truck!
All hands on deck to transport Giddyup & Whoa to its new location!

~ for a decadent meal break brought to you by Ruby’s

~ for yet another rite of passage, the food fight extraordinaire: 4th grade Crud Wars for Zoe. Can’t believe we have another elementary school graduate! On to Middle School!

~ for end of year parties and last days of school for Sawyer, Zoe, Gavin, Kora, and Sam! Back to back to back. Thankful for all the friends who helped me get everybody everywhere. And SUPER thankful that out of all the places I had to be at the same time on Wednesday, I only messed up one item on my list…forgetting to pick up 2 of my kids at the correct time. Thankful for gracious teachers who didn’t shame me for picking up kids FORTY FIVE MINUTES LATE! And Cooper breezed through his finals, and now we have a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR!

~ for successful closings on selling our house and purchasing our land. And for thel glorious feeling of being 100% DEBT FREE! How is this all even real?

~ for a sweet, sweet friend who brought a delicious dinner so we could have a floor picnic, our last meal in the old house.

First Day, October 2017
Last day, May 2022

~ for a perfect night for a baseball game – smack dab in the middle of moving night! Josh kept loading while I took the kids to Sawyer’s last game. Didn’t realize until it was too late that all Tatum K’s shoes were on the moving truck!

~ for as peaceful as possible transition to our new casa. It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. We are going to learn to trim out non-essentials and get ultra-creative with storage and personal space. Here’s to FAMILY TOGETHERNESS at its finest!

Yard needs a little work…

~ for the sweetest neighbors in all the land. We have had a truly wonderful almost-six years at our house, and the kids and parents and grands have all become family.

The sweetest gift from our neighbors

~ for a sweet morning date with my Love at our new favorite place…

~ for the BEST DAY EVER out at the farm-to-be. How exciting to take down the For Sale sign and cut off the old padlock!

It was surreal to realize it’s really ours! I can’t express the explosions that were happening in our hearts as we held each other’s hands tightly and drove through that gate as a family. We are completely humbled and grateful and in awe. Josh gathered us all together before we started to thank the Lord for the gifts He has given us, for the dream and the vision He planted in our hearts. He prayed that we would all “be strong and courageous and do the work,” together as a family, and that the whole journey would be an offering to glorify His Name.

We picnicked and picked wild blackberries and spent the day clearing out the barn and exploring.

The kids found treasures and oddities galore. And they actually all worked really hard!

~ for great news! Sawyer got 2nd Place in the Lego competition! Thank you to all who voted!

So very thankful for God’s perfect, purposeful timing. We had been eager to close on everything earlier and get things rolling, but He didn’t line it up that way. Closing on the last day of school and moving the very next day was ABSOLUTE MAYHEM, but it also meant that we did not have to navigate one single day of school from the new house. I can scarcely imagine how challenging that would have been.

Lord, we lay all these dreams at Your feet. We are Yours. The land is Yours. To You alone the glory.

And we THANK YOU! Oh, the adventures that lie ahead…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:1-3)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalms 24:1)

“I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God” (“Goodness of God” by Bethel Music)

Build

I am thankful:

So I know I dropped a bomb last week. But first things first…

Sawyer asked Jesus into his heart to be his Lord and Savior! We are REJOICING! He asked us lots of questions, and we asked him lots of questions, and it is abundantly clear that he knows exactly what he is doing and why. What rejoicing there is in heaven!

Now, on to our other news. It’s been a long and complicated road with lots of twists and turns, but it finally looks like it’s actually going to happen. We are moving!

I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, we’ve been thinking the same thing ourselves. WHY!? We love our house and our neighborhood so much. We have worked so hard on it to get it just exactly the way we wanted, and it’s just so perfect for us. Almost 6 years ago we asked the Lord for this, and He delivered BIG TIME.

October 2017

But we are entering into a new season with lots of fear and lots of trembling, but also lots of excitement. And He has shown us that the time to leap is now.

We are building a house in the country!

We found a breathtaking 10 acre tract of land, and the kids are all-a-flutter, choosing names for pet chickens, thinking about pygmy goats, and barn cats, ATV riding, and even a horse!

But as of now…there is no house.

That means a pit stop in a QUAINT (aka TEENSY WEENSY, as in less than HALF the size of our current home) rent house for the next year while the farmhouse is built. All I can say is, in the beginning, Josh tried to convince me that ALL 10 of us could live for a year IN AN RV. So I’m BEYOND THANKFUL for a 4 bed, 2 bath rent house! It’s an ADVENTURE!

On every level, this change is bittersweet. We have had moments of unbridled excitement and we’ve had lots and lots of tears. It’s getting really really real. Rooms are emptying daily as we take loads to the rent house, we had a massive yard sale yesterday, clearing out 87,000 pounds of JUNK. Seriously, how could we POSSIBLY have so much STUFF!?

I have personally gone through the gamut of emotions. Fear. I hate change. Sadness. I love this house and never wanted to move. Fear again. What if our building plans fall through? What if something terrible happens? What if we regret this decision? Sadness again. The kids are going to miss their neighbor friends so much, as are Josh and I. Discouragement. The rent house is so tiny, we are going to be on top of each other and drive each other nuts. This is going to be the loooongest year ever. Sadness again. My painstakingly scraped beams. The brick floors. THE POOL! But somehow, I know it’s right. And I am CONVINCED that God has a purpose for us in our new little house in our new little neighborhood, even if it’s temporary. He’s planting us there to be a light and a blessing. And MY ATTITUDE will set the tone for the attitudes of my children. If I’m sour and negative, they will be too. I want to BUILD (our family, our kids, our literal physical house) not tear down!

So buck up buttercup!

In the midst of our reservations about the unknown, we are clinging to what God has shown us along the way. The exhortation in His Word that spoke so loudly and so clearly to both of us. Be strong and courageous and do the work. So that’s where we’re at right now.

We are grateful for your prayers, particularly this week. God’s timing often makes us simultaneously laugh and cry. Within the next 5 days we will close on selling our house, close on buying our land, spend our last night in this house, first night in the rent house, and the kids will have their last day of 11th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade, along with all the end-of-school activities that go along with that.

One last thing on the topic of BUILDING – Sawyer is participating in a childhood cancer Lego Building Challenge this week. Starting tonight, you can visit https://www.buildingsmiles.org and vote for his Lego creation. One vote per day. Sawyer’s entry is #16 in the under 10 age division. So fun!

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

Thank you for walking along with our family on this crazy journey. We are so grateful for all of your love and support and prayers. Looking forward to sharing this wild ride with you over the next year, and filled with expectant hope to see all that God will unfold along the way. We are not just building a house. He is building something in us, and with us. It’s not going to be easy, but IT IS going to be GOOD! Let’s GO!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”(Proverbs 14:1)

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:5-6)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. 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.” (1Chronicles 28:20)

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)

We Love

I am thankful:

~ for a wild, non-stop week! If you’ve been around Sunday Gratitude for a while, you know that when Josh, aka Mr. Giddyup, is on stay-cation, it’s THE BUSIEST week of the year for me. 984,752,938,475 projects on his list, and he’s been checking off boxes one after another. The man doesn’t know how to sit down, and when he’s on a roll, I don’t get to sit down either. It’s TRULY EXHAUSTING, but I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. Wisest investment we could ever make.

~ thankful for at least one thing on the list that involved sitting down: breakfast date with Tatum K. She insisted on her favorite spot, Jimmy’s Egg (and we’ve learned that sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to let her have her way).

~ for the power of paint! After 4 years of ignoring the blah-blah beige in our girls’ room upstairs, we finally pulled the trigger to wake it up with a bright palette of color. The girls had no idea I was working on it, and were surprised and tickled when they came home from school Tuesday to Phase 1, a colorful freeform wall mural…

Before we started…
Blah blah beige
Let’s color!

Phase 2 (Wednesday) was a bright fresh coat of my favorite white on the dingy beige walls and a taupey griege on the built-ins and trim.

Before
After

~ for God’s protection. Gavin and Sawyer share a room with a twin-over-queen loft bed that Josh built back around 2010 when Colton and Cooper first started sharing a room. Josh went in Tuesday night to say goodnight to the boys, when he noticed that the entire loft was leaning treacherously. When he inspected the bed more closely Wednesday morning, we were horrified to discover that several bolts were snapped and the back leg was splintered. It’s truly a miracle that Gavin had not come crashing down and crushed Sawyer. BUT GOD!

But dismantling the loft created an “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” scenario. The boy’s room was the final room in our house that had not been refreshed by paint. It was navy and light blue, and had worked well enough for their room that it could be left alone. But the already worn paint job had significantly weathered after 4 years of my boys.

Time to finally update the paint! Not a project we had planned for this week, but there was no more putting it off. I went with my favorite grey tone that I already had on hand. While I knocked the paint out (which incredibly only took one coat, even over navy blue!) Josh, on the spot, designed and built matching twin headboards from the salvaged loft lumber, complete with the old stickers and hand drawn graffiti from our 4 boys over the past 12 years.

I decided at the last minute to add a few stripes for a little extra style, and we pulled out our boxed up sports memorabilia that had decorated our game room at our last house.

Birdie and Bear enjoyed the extra ventilation
Dad’s collection, plus many special signed pieces from when Sawyer was in the hospital

I’ll wait until next week for full reveal once their new bedding arrives. Best of all, this 7-hour-total refresh cost next to nothing! We re-purposed what we already had, and after selling the old queen mattress on Facebook Marketplace, that money covered the cost of the new bedding! Not bad for a completely unexpected, spontaneous makeover! Gavin and Sawyer are THRILLED!

Phase 3 of the girls’ room was a quick color burst around the window to tie it all together. Phase 4-yet-to-come will be the least impressive, lots of touchup and second/third coats on the builtins.

~ for the most delicious breakfast feast. Mom and Dad teamed up on the new griddle to cook up 2 pounds of bacon, 2 dozen eggs, and 2 dozen fluffy pancakes…in MINUTES! Why does everything taste so much better cooked outside?

~ for a new plant baby!

~ for kids who make me laugh. Lord, thank You for sending laughter when I need it the most.

Which does she need worse: ACTUAL rollerskates, or A BATH!?
Most adorable Valentine’s box
Googly eyes on EVERYTHING

~ for a very special birthday: Kora is a brand new teenager! She had a great day, starting with her favorite breakfast of Donut Shop pigs in the blanket.

Always a helper, she helped Dad make her menu-of-choice, smashburgers, as well as her ice cream bar birthday cake. And her day felt extra special with all the SuperBowl hype in the air. It was such a fun day celebrating our sweet, beautiful girl.

~ in addition this week on his stay-cation, Josh replaced a broken shower door with a beautiful new one, replaced a leaky bathroom faucet, restained our backyard fence, installed a new door on Cooper’s studio, fixed the boys’ closet, reinforced the girls’ bunkbeds, fixed a broken drawer, took Gavin and Sawyer to batting practice (they are both super excited to start their first year of Little League baseball), built a custom Giddyup&Whoa order, and had a great family movie night watching “American Underdog,” the inspirational Kurt Warner story (HIGHLY RECOMMEND). Any further explanation needed as to why he is called Mr. Giddyup???

~ for one of our kids’ very favorite nights of the year: the Father-Daughter Valentine’s Dance. It is absolutely adorable how seriously our girls take this event. They spend HOURS on their outfits and hair, and their eyes just sparkle when their sweet Daddy comes to the door. Always with roses for his daughters, earnestly asking each one if they will join him on a date. It is beautiful, and I know they feel so loved. This year was extra special, because it was the first year Tatum K was old enough to attend, so for the first time ever, Dad had ALL FIVE DAUGHTERS on his arm. Just look at them! My heart just melted.

Not to be outdone, I was tickled to spend the evening with ALL MY BOYS! I don’t know if this has ever happened. If so, it’s been years. They took me on a date: dessert FIRST at Braums, and then to Texas Roadhouse.

Gavin had his first steak, and Sawyer got a lesson from Colton on how to eat fried pickles. What a treat! It would be tough to say who had more fun that evening: the boys, the girls, or Mom and Dad. My heart is full. We are so blessed.

So many blessings. So much to be thankful for. And all glory to God for redeeming two lost souls, and building this super-sized potpourri of a family. We are a beautiful mess, figuring it all out as we go, holding on tight to Jesus and to one another along the way. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. In fact it’s completely exhausting pretty much 99.9% of the time, but I’ll never stop thanking my Father for this path He set me on.

Thanks for following along on this crazy ride. I’m thankful you’re here.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”(Psalms 126:3)

Patience

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful birthday for our beautiful Zoe girl. She turned 10 this week – DOUBLE DIGITS BABY!!! Zoe is such a sunshine girl. She usually stays pretty quiet, but her brown eyes sparkle with joy bubbling on the inside. She had a great day starting out with blueberry waffles with whipped cream and sprinkles, friends over to swim, pizza for lunch, and family birthday dinner with her menu of choice: taco salad and chocolate cake with white icing and yellow sprinkles.

~ for friends who pray. Like REALLY PRAY. And for steps, even baby steps, in the right direction. And the right direction is ALWAYS TOWARD YOU, JESUS.

~ for Sam’s Club Fried Pickles and Ranch dip. Haven’t tried it? Go. NOW!

~ for one of my very favorite salads: avocados and fresh tomatoes tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Simple and delicious.

~ for possibly the best “find” of my life. I stumbled upon this vintage map cabinet on Facebook Marketplace, and my heart jumped out of my chest. I am a sucker for anything with lots of drawers or cubbies, and I have had my eye out for a piece like this for years, but they were always WAY out of budget. This piece was a steal because it was in rough shape and the owner clearly just wanted it gone.

As soon as she arrived, I got started on her transformation. I lost track of how many coats of stripper I used to cut through slate blue, red, orange, black, and olive green paint.

The green was really beautiful, and I almost stopped at that point.

But I just couldn’t let it go. I just had to see the original wood. So another couple layers of stripper, a light sanding, and a couple coats of straight commercial bleach, and we were blown away!

We replaced the top (a piece of brightly painted plywood depicting a portion of the 12 days of Christmas) with reclaimed pine shelving that I alternately sanded and bleached repeatedly, added industrial casters, and repaired one side’s damaged veneer.

And now she is a SHOW STOPPER! I’m in LOVE! And the hours and hours of sweat equity make it all the more special. What BEAUTY was hidden beneath all those layers! It was a lot of work, and so so messy, but so so worth it.

~ for our first Sunday family dinner with EVERYONE HOME in a very, VERY long time. Colton is back from his month-long work assignment in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Carson Grace was home, Cooper finally didn’t have a schedule conflict…our Tribe, all together, around our giant table, breaking bread together. We didn’t even interrupt our fellowship to take a picture. Thank You Jesus for these moments that I used to take for granted when they were small.

~ for a Holy Spirit inspired, anointed Word preached in obedience, and as always, right on time. We went to church this morning, just like we always do. The message is always great, our pastor and guest preachers are always terrific, and are faithful to share Truth based in Scripture. But this morning, from the opening slide, it hit me right between the eyes, and pierced straight to my heart.

Patience.

The concept of patience isn’t new, isn’t revolutionary, and is a pretty expected theme for most of us. It’s always needed, and almost everyone wishes they were better at it. As Christians, we joke about how we have learned the hard way to STOP PRAYING FOR PATIENCE, because we know God cultivates and refines our patience through exasperating situations that require a level of patience that can only come by practice.

But where I’m at personally right this moment, I recognized the voice of my Father in those words. I have certain situations that have been the focus of my most fervent daily prayers. And, as I referenced last week with my very late blog post, there was a breakthrough. A REAL BREAKTHROUGH! Glory to God! He made a way where there was no way. He birthed a stream in the desert. But I was reminded that this first step, this miraculous breakthrough, is just the beginning of a very long road. And it’s so easy to look at with my own eyes and be completely discouraged before we even start. BUT GOD. NOTHING is too hard for Him. And He NEVER feels weak or discouraged. I have to be patient with the process and trust His plan and His timing, and remember that that waiting is one very important piece that cannot be bypassed or left out.

And, maybe even more importantly, the Lord reminded me that I have to be patient with myself. He’s still working on me. Still refining me. I guess I still need a few more coats of stripper and some sanding. I see my countless areas of weakness, of selfishness, of laziness, of pride. I hate my flaws. I am supposed to be strong, and people THINK I AM. I am embarrassed by the weakness of anxiety. And sometimes I even think, “If I’m honest about it, and humble myself publicly, surely I’ll be delivered from it.” But instant healing hasn’t come. And isn’t it an amazingly complicated trap that weakness and pride can become so woven together. I know it’s a process, and I know how I would encourage anyone else in my shoes. But somehow it’s so hard to extend that grace to myself. But I’m not refining myself, that’s Jesus. I’m not healing myself, that’s Jesus. And His healing, refining, restorative work is taking place in His perfect timing. And like a beautiful piece of music, the rests and pauses are as integral to the piece as the notes themselves. A story with no punctuation or a paper with no margins would be unintelligible. I MUST BE PATIENT WITH MYSELF AND WITH GOD’S PROCESS. There is beauty beneath the layers. It’s a lot of work, and so so messy, but so so worth it.

He is faithful. And I am encouraged.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

“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)

Not Finished

I am thankful:

~ to be home. We had a great trip and it was awesome getting to see so many of our family and friends. But after more than 40 hours of perpetual family togetherness in the car, we are OVER traveling.

~ for a bushel of juicy red ripe tomatoes waiting for us when we got home. We have been living off BLTs.

~ for waking up our first morning back home to one of my favorite sounds: the gentle rumble of a Texas thunderstorm.

~ that I am finally caught up on my laundry after no less than 7 loads of vacation laundry.

~ for crisp buttered toast with my Grandma’s blueberry rhubarb jam.

~ for a pic and a text from a friend saying that Cooper is great at his job.

~ for an experiment that paid off. We love love LOVE the brick floors that we painstakingly laid ourselves 2 years ago, but we have found them hard to clean. Josh had the bright idea of bringing in his pressure washer with the spinner brush attachment. We knew it would either be a success or an epic failure and flood. After a couple test spots and the addition of a mountain of towels and the shop vac, Josh got a good system going. It was A LOT of water, but the floors look amazing again! Great job, babe!

~ for the humbling honor and privilege of sharing my testimony at an intimate gathering of young moms at a pregnancy resource center. I’ve gotten more and more comfortable sharing about our childhood cancer nonprofit, about our personal journey through childhood cancer with Sawyer, and about our family’s adoption experiences. But it’s been a long time since I’ve shared with a group my raw personal experience as a lost, scared single girl faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

It was very emotional. But such an incredible story of God’s sovereign, redemptive Hand. I was thankful to share my story of hope with these young ladies, each with their own backgrounds, their own trials, their own stories. But each one of us the SAME: loved and valued and seen by our Heavenly Father.

That testimony just took place earlier this evening, and it was the perfect way to end an emotionally taxing week. I still hate July because we always get sick every year and because of losing Alan and missing him and because Cancerversary doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Don’t get me wrong, I look at Sawyer and am completely overwhelmed with gratitude that he is healthy and well and cancer free. He is truly a miracle in every way, and I thank God for him every single day.

You can read my Facebook Cancerversary post here.

But looking back on that terrible day still has a shocking, staggering weight to it. This year it was the days leading up to July 23rd that were the worst. I couldn’t stop thinking about the days before we first heard the word “cancer.”

I always say we never saw the freight train coming. Those were the last days before we were branded forever with the identity of “cancer parents.” When the anxiety starts to rage, it begins with a heaviness in my chest. Like a deep dull burning ember. A heavy heavy weight in my heart muscle that crushes, suffocates, until I physically remind my lungs to breathe because they seem to have forgotten how to work. Then a sharp stab. Between my ribs, piercing, twisting, paralyzing my entire chest. Can’t breathe, can’t move, can’t think.

But then the guilt comes. I don’t get to fall apart: my child is healthy. We are not in the hospital. He survived. We are a success story. We got our miracle. Get over it and move on. Nobody wants to hear about your anxiety. I mean come on, it’s been 7 years for heaven’s sake.

I recently found a new Facebook page, “Off Treatment, Now What?” The moment I started reading, I was met by entry after entry, “I don’t know where I fit…“ “I don’t know how to talk to my friends who have lost a child…” “Why do I have such a hard time sleeping?…” “Why am I still struggling? Does it ever get any better?”

I resonated with all these people, but why didn’t it encourage me? Why did my stomach start to turn and my breathing suddenly speed up so fast? Why did I just want to run away?

I know that I always tell other cancer moms be kind to themselves. I’m trying to be kind to myself, but it’s hard. I’m tired of falling apart. I’m tired of feeling stuck, and like I am held together with chewing gum, scotch tape, and paper clips. I don’t know if reading these other stories made me acknowledge that I’m not as healed as I like to think I am? BUT GOD.

When I find myself in the midst of a breakdown, when I feel that downward spiral tugging, I remind myself that my anchor is set. God is faithful, and He won’t let go. I know He has a purpose for every single detail, every piece of our testimony, from the earliest days with Colton to all the things we struggle with today. Our story is still being written. And it’s for our good and for His glory. As much as I wish I was past all my hang ups, I’m thankful that I know that I know that I KNOW He’s not finished with me yet.

Whatever your story, whatever your struggles, He’s there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭73:26‬)