Hope, Joy, and Generosity

What a jam-packed week!  I was just so whupped at the end of last week, really had the wind knocked out of me.  So much heaviness.  And you know what… none of those circumstances have changed. But even those sad, harsh realities are overshadowed by the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He keeps pouring out His goodness.  His mercies really are new every morning. 

I am thankful:

~ the best testimony of all – Sawyer the Warrior had a PERFECT checkup at his quarterly ACE Oncology appointment, and our brave boy remains CANCER FREE!  Thank You Jesus!!!   As usual, Sawyer hopped up in Miss Sharon’s phlebotomy chair all by himself and laughed while she drew his blood. 9016C527-90CE-45D8-8B8F-27A8CBD0826A.JPGBB0774A4-7AD1-450B-8757-8F8CB23820BD.JPG

I am always freshly astounded and in awe of the courage of this incredible boy.  His appointment went smoothly, and once the labs came back with the “all clear,” Josh and I were finally able to breathe again.   That part never gets easier.  Every time they draw his blood, we wait to hear the best news or the worst news.  BUT GOD.  This visit we packed in lots of extra-special visits on top of the clinic appointment.  Josh and I were joined by my friend and Gold Network of East TX co-creator, Paula Kimmey, to present a check from GNET for $10,000 to an acclaimed pediatric oncologist from Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ted Laetsch, to assist funding his groundbreaking CAR-T therapy which uses genetically modified immune cells to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Gold Network Photo 2.JPG9DD02FBC-58F9-4066-BC27-23CCE5E25B5C.JPG

Not only were we THRILLED to present this check to fund research at our own hospital (that’s about as LOCAL as it gets!), but it was even more meaningful because Dr. Laetsch was on the team of oncologists that cared for Sawyer when he was treated for Infant ALL!  What a surreal full-circle moment!   We also delivered a New Diagnosis Survival Kit to one of the new families we learned of last week, and we were introduced by a nurse to YET ANOTHER East Texas family – that makes 3 new diagnoses just last month.  Sawyer was able to meet the girl, several years his senior, and smiled sweetly at her in her hospital bed and told her simply, “Be brave!”  What an ambassador of HOPE! 

~ for a delicious, yet oddly romantic, candlelit lunch at Campisi’s.  We ordered from there several times while in the hospital, but had never been to the restaurant, so it was the perfect place to celebrate a great day.  Their BBQ chicken pizza is THE BOMB!  (Sawyer was not a fan, he stuck with cheese.)58B2E3C1-54CE-440E-8429-90A4879FD2D9.JPG

~ for Aunt Gina, who ran the morning and afternoon Rucker bus route while we were gone to Dallas and spent the day with Hurricane Tatum K.  And for her delicious gift of homemade Amish friendship bread for breakfast!IMG_20200224_112050147_Original.jpgIMG_4064.JPG

~ for a pretty successful first week of Intro-to Potty-Training with TK.  She is excited to use her little potty chair and has had only a couple of unfortunate mishaps in her pink Peppa Pig panties.  She is very proud of herself and never lets me forget her Skittles. IMG_4098.JPGIMG_4119.JPGIMG_4120.JPG

~ for sweet Zoe, who received the “Joyfulness” Award at chapel.  Love to see those brown eyes sparkle.   Her name means “life,” and I pray she always lives a life full of the JOY of the Lord. IMG_4073.JPG

~ for a lovely evening of fellowship prompted by some pretty exciting conversations.  We’ve been talking a lot about heaven lately, and one day last week Sawyer enquired, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus?  Do they get to go to heaven?” What a question!  I explained to him that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, and that that’s why it’s so important that we share the gospel with people who haven’t heard it.  And then he replied, “I REALLY want to go to heaven!  But I know it’s important that I really understand before I can ask Jesus into my heart…”

The rest of the conversation went like this

“Well, you have to believe in Jesus”

“I do!”

“You have to want Him to be your boss.”

“I dooo!”

“You have to want to serve Him your whole life.”

“I DOOOOO!”

You can only imagine this mama‘s heart.  We told Sawyer that maybe it would be a good idea for him to think of some more questions and sit down and talk about them with our pastor, Brother Joe.  He immediately hopped up excitedly, “Can we write them in a notebook?  I can’t read… but will you write down my questions for me, Mama?”

So of course I did.  When I told Sawyer that usually people make an appointment to meet Brother Joe at his office to talk, he promptly replied, “Nope!  I want him to come to our house.  For dinner.”  So that’s exactly what we did.  Brother Joe and Miss Becky came over, and we had a great visit.  Sawyer had some incredible questions: “Why did God want to make us?” and “Why doesn’t God make us obey him?”  That night at bedtime, he said it made him happy that Brother Joe and Miss Becky had come over for dinner.  He said “I liked asking him my questions,” and things have been left at that for now.   We will let Sawyer take the lead, and follow up when he brings it up again.  I never want to push or manipulate God’s perfect timing.  I’m excited about all the things that the Lord is stirring up and storing and building in his honest, tender, loving heart.  I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for him.

~ for Brother Joe and Miss Becky being extremely gracious in eating the meal we lovingly prepared for them.  Fried catfish.  Ask me if either Josh or I have ever fried catfish before.  It was on sale so we had wanted to try it.  It’s always a FABULOUS IDEA to cook a dish you’ve never attempted before for guests.  At least the brownies were good.  

~ for a tremendous progress on the refresh in Carson Grace‘s room / my studio.   Josh and I finished the herringbone wood-block backsplash and added some bright pops of color and gold for personality.  We had one wall with some sheet rock damage, so we created a fun and functional galvanized magnet board.  We still have some paint touch up to do, but for all practical purposes, the room is complete!  Carson Grace FaceTimed with me to check it out, and she is excited to get home and see it in person.  I look forward to sharing the space with her.  I love having a creative place to create!IMG_4275.JPGIMG_4282.JPGIMG_4178.JPGIMG_4268.JPGIMG_4269.JPGIMG_4283.jpg

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~ for the wonderful opportunity to attend Generosity Tyler, an event hosted by Jasper Ventures designed to encourage and inspire living generous lives.  I have to admit that I arrived at the event pretty much swallowed up by anxiety.  I felt very out of my element, very inadequate, and very overwhelmed.   I sat in my car in the parking lot for a while, taking my anxieties honestly to the Lord.  He reminded me who I am in Him, and that there is no need to ever be anyone else. It was a lovely event.  Paula and I heard testimonies from people who shared how they have personally been stretched and have experienced a paradigm shift on what it means to be biblically generous.  How the Lord wants us to be so generous WITH OUR LIVES that people find it shocking.  We had some great conversations with the people at our table and ate some delicious food. And at the end of the event, the generous hosts of Generosity Tyler generously gifted us the beautiful floral centerpieces from all the tables for our upcoming event!  I left so amazingly inspired and encouraged. IMG_4179.jpgIMG_4177.jpg

~ for a surprising, y’all-are-going-to-shake-your-heads-and-call-us-insane new addition to our Tribe.  Meet Birdie. IMG_2301.JPGIMG_3792.JPGIMG_4253.jpgIMG_4264.JPG

If you need me this week, I’ll be potty training a puppy and a 2 year old, sending my Freshman off on a camping trip with his class, and prepping for and hosting a Gold Network dinner for 100 guests.   Can’t wait to share all about it.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the hurting people around us: the newly diagnosed, the ones who have lost and are losing loved ones, the ones who may be keeping their pain hidden from anyone.  Let’s walk in joy, hope, and generosity this week!

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)

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

But God

I am thankful:

~for cute/sweet conversations overheard….

Sawyer, “Mama!  Tatum is jumping on me and squashing me and I can’t breathe!”

Tatum K “I sowwy Sasa.”

Sawyer, “It’s ok Tatum.  I’ll always love you.”

~ for a couple beautiful days of sunshine!  It was so refreshing to get outside and breathe deep in the crisp air and take a walk again!

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~ for a great excuse for a sweet treat.  February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a day set aside to raise awareness for childhood cancer.  Often during cancer treatment, kids lose their appetite. The chemo makes food taste terrible and kids day nauseated day in and day out. Sometimes the only thing that sounds good or might bring a smile is some ice cream. So why not ice cream for breakfast? We join in to encourage kids who are fighting cancer, to celebrate with kids who have completed their treatment, and to remember the friends who were taken from us too soon.  What a blessing to have friends from all over who joined in and shared their pictures with us.   Thank you all so much. 

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~ for yet another birthday at our house – mine!   I had a great day, lots of sweet messages from friends and family, homemade cards from the sweetest kids on the planet, a heavenly breakfast date with my sweetheart (and Tatum K of course), and a surprise coffee date with Colton!   I was blessed beyond measure.   Oh, and one of my highlights was getting the GOLD sneakers I’ve been dreaming of for a LONG TIME!!!  And a new gold coffee cup!  (Is there a theme here?)IMG_4005.JPG

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~ for the kindness of Grace Community School.  The GCS HOSA Club (Health Occupations Students of America, or Future Health Professionals) recently held a drive at the high school to collect the items we give in our New Diagnosis Survival Kits.  We are so thankful for the HOSA students for organizing and the students for donating!

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~ for amazing progress on Carson Grace’s room/my studio.  The Murphy bed turned out great, and we (after 79,358 problems and equipment malfunctions) got the whole room sprayed a fresh, bright Alabaster white.   I got inspired and started playing around with some stain colors and ended up loving the way the headboard turned out; and Josh did an amazing job on the reclaimed wood countertop.  It’s so fun working on a new project together, and we are reminded of how much we enjoy the process of dreaming up a design and then knocking it out.  

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~for a beautiful opportunity for our girls to give a praise offering to the Lord. Samantha and Kora are a part of the Psalm 149 Dance Team at church, preteen girls learning the art of worship dance.  The team is even taught by a young teenager who once danced in this group when she was younger.  It was an honest and sweet outpouring of love for the Lord, and their performance at church this morning was so beautiful. 

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~ for 15 years of memories.   We sorrowfully said goodbye to a precious member of our family this week, our 15-year-old pug, Cricket.  He’s been the best dog and has been through it all with us.  He was our first family dog when we just had three kids.  He survived the great Rucker Population Explosion of 2013, and was a bright source of joy for us throughout the journey of cancer.   He has rapidly deteriorated over the past few months, and I began to think the only thing keeping him alive was his sheer hatred of our new-er dog, Bear.  We are thankful that he is no longer suffering, and we will lovingly remember him always, but there is a stinky, snuffy-nosed, Cricket-shaped place that hurts in all our hearts right now. 

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The words from the song I shared last week still resonate in my head… “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working.  Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.  You never stop, You never stop working.  You never stop, You never stop working.”  No matter what’s going on, there are ALWAYS blessings to count.  That’s what Sunday Gratitude is about.  

 But this week has been one blow after another.

A dear friend got a devastating health news.   

Another friend had troubling findings on her sonogram.  

A suffering mother anxiously longs for her healing by graduation to heaven. 

Not one, but TWO new children were diagnosed with cancer here in Tyler.   

And another family got the only news worse than “your child has cancer.”  The words, “There’s nothing more we can do.”

 BUT GOD.I say that a lot, both here on the blog and in real life.What does that even mean anyway? BUT GOD. It means He really IS the answer to every question. 

Father God, I am out of pretty words.  My heart is broken and bleeding and sad.   I am hurting for my friends.  I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why babies have to get sick and suffer.  I hate cancer.   Oh, how I hate cancer.  I don’t understand why some people get healed on this earth and some people don’t.   But I do know with everything inside me that You are FULLY GOOD.   I believe that You have a good plan that is better than mine.  And I believe that You hold me when I’m sad and mad and confused and anxious and furious and falling apart.  AND I BELIEVE THAT THIS WORLD IS PASSING AWAY AND WE WILL ONE DAY LIVE A GLORIOUS LIFE WITH YOU IN HEAVEN!  And there will be NO MORE SORROW AND NO MORE PAIN!  How I long for that day!  Until then, Father God, please hold my friends close.  Give them Your supernatural peace that defies all logic.  Give them grace breath by breath to walk through their circumstances.  Surround them with friends who bring Your comfort.  Show us how to help them in real life, practical ways.  If it’s Your will to heal on this earth – HEAL!!!!  To You be all the glory!!!!  And if it’s Your will to heal them in heaven, let it be bathed in Your infinite mercy, and help us to trust in Your timing.  Jesus COME!

Please pray for the hurting people all around you.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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

““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    (Romans 8:37-39)

We hope

I am thankful:

~ for momentum! One more beam down! It’s tiring, backbreaking work, and such a mess, but I’m (thankfully) still in love with the results, and the end is in sight… (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, read about it here).

~ for the deep, heart to heart conversations with my 2 year old. Tatum, “ mama can I have a snack?

Me “ do you want an orange?

No! I want a snack!

Ok, then what DO you want?

An ORANGE!

~ for cheerful fresh tulips brightening my table.

~ for healing! We have all been taking our turns with THE CRUD over the last couple of weeks…intermittent fevers, coughs, runny noses. Last weekend, Sawyer’s cough intensified, and he woke up Monday with a fever. We don’t mess around with anything when it comes to him, and fevers set this mama on high alert, so we were at the pediatrician’s office at 8:30am.

Dr. Everett definitely suspected that he could be in the early stages of developing pneumonia, but we agreed to just watch him closely before jumping forward to any meds. So he missed 2 days of school, and we had a couple pretty rough nights, but Jesus protected Sawyer, and he got better instead of worse! Glory to the Lord! He’s still a little weak, and tires easily, but I told him if he rests well tonight, he’ll finally be allowed to run at recess again. He is SO READY. He told me he’s been being the soccer goalie at recess, and “I’m so terrible at it Mama.” And I think the rest of us are ALMOST well also.

~ for the opportunity to participate in another Vintage & Co.  Jodi does the most amazing job of curating her collections of beautiful and unique vintage finds. It’s always an honor to be able to add a few Giddyup & Whoa pieces to her sales.

~ for the simple little things that bring such joy to my kids. Like pancakes for dinner. You would have thought it was the finest gourmet cuisine ever cooked. I bet they each thanked me 6 times.

~for my kiddos’ sweet and innocent prayers at midweek service. They prayed for healing for everyone who was sick, prayed for their older siblings to make good choices and to “stay on God’s path,” and one of them prayed simply, ”Dear God, help me to obey and have self control.” How it blesses me to hear them learning to talk to their Heavenly Father, and believe that He hears them.

~ for another fun and simple DIY Goodwill makeover. Love those 99¢ finds!

~ for a great time celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. He was turning 50, so the theme of the party was “OLD.” I love Sawyer’s interpretation…

~ for Carson Grace having the opportunity to sing Beethoven’s 9th with her ETBU Concert Choir this weekend. It was a huge concert, and we weren’t able to be there; but so grateful that Grandmommy, Uncle Justin, and Aunt Gina were able to go support her (and fill her up with some much needed Whataburger.)

~ for the sound of the rain against my window, especially when I’m snug in my bed.

~ for my cuties that just happened to end up looking like little Valentines for church. How are they growing up so fast?

~ for an AWESOME evening at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT group. The concept was conceived from our trips to Lighthouse Family Retreat, when all the kids would go play and swim, and the parents would gather for a small group time called Common Ground. All these moms and dads from various walks of life, different faith backgrounds, a variety of diagnoses… but all of us had the worst thing in common. We all had a child with cancer. And we pretty much instantly became family. We listened to each other’s stories and we cried and we prayed for one another. And we encouraged one another. And we laughed. The connections were real and deep and unexpected and life-changing. It gave us so much hope. Josh and I had no idea how much we were thirsting for relationships with this specific community of people. And we just knew we had to try to bring something like it in Tyler. Last night we had seven pediatric cancer families around our table. We feasted on food from Oliveto and laughed and talked and ate and cried. And it was pure gold.

Our work with Gold Network of East Texas keeps us pretty entrenched in the childhood cancer world, even though Sawyer is now 3 years off treatment. (That fact is staggering to me). We celebrate all that God has done, and yet we are still continually learning what life-after-cancer means for us. And every day, I am still talking about cancer, and still thinking about cancer. We haven’t left cancer behind. Representing GNET, I am speaking with cancer families daily. I follow their updates and pray for them. I work on Gold Network event planning, manage the website, and almost daily update social media with announcements or post about childhood cancer awareness. It’s always at the forefront of my thoughts and day to day activities. But in such a different context from 3 or 4 or 5 years ago. But all it takes is to listen to one of our GNET parents begin to talk about that terrible, earthshaking moment when everything changed in their life… and I’m right there again. Sitting in a pediatric exam room on a red vinyl cough with a greenish-white baby in my arms, seeing Dr. Everett come in and close the door behind him with a look on his face like someone had kicked him in the stomach with a steel-toed boot. It never goes away. I see all these families and the pained seared in their eyes. Forever changed. Some of them are giving their brave kids toxic meds every day and praying for the cancer to go away. Some of them, like us, have graduated from the treatment routine, and pray against long term side effects and for the cancer to stay away forever. And some of them have said goodbye to their child, and now they wait, and now the hope they pray for is for the day they will be reunited with their child. It never goes away.

EVERYONE is walking through something. The loss of a child. Caring for an aging parent. A strained marriage. A prodigal child. Struggles at work. Chronic pain. Addiction. Loneliness. Anxiety. PTSD. And the world screams at us from 2 camps: either DO MORE! GET YOURS! CRUSH THE COMPETITION! YOU DESERVE TO RISE! Or on the other extreme: SLOW DOWN! TAKE CARE OF YOU! SELF CARE! YOU DESERVE A BREAK!

We all just need Jesus. Because none of us want what we REALLY deserve. We know the mess we truly are inside: the brokenness, the selfishness, the depravity. But He loves us anyway, right where we are. But even though the gift of salvation is FREE, it does have a cost. We have to say “no” to something to say “yes” to Him.

Saying “yes” to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean our circumstances will change. Sometimes they do. Often they do not. But our PERSPECTIVE changes. And we don’t have to walk alone ever again. Because of Jesus, we are promised that the end of the story is good.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thanks for reading the thoughts I’m musing tonight. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and there’s heaviness weighing on my heart. BUT GOD. Because of Him, I pray with so much hope. Unspeakable joy is COMING.

Have a good week friends. Reach out to somebody who could use a little hope.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Momentum

I am thankful:

~ for MOMENTUM.  Josh got started on all those projects last week (Click here if you missed them), and just kept right on going.  The laundry room refresh was so great…but he still wasn’t satisfied.  Monday he came home from work and started putting up a white subway tile backsplash!  It turned out SO BEAUTIFUL!   I genuinely LOVE going in there to do my laundry now!  

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~ Josh’s momentum inspired me to get back on scraping my beams!  That daunting project has been on the back burner for MONTHS, but I got back at it this week.  It’s going a lot slower because I am doing all the scraping by hand instead of using the planer (planer is just TOO LOUD for Tatum K and Bear ).  But I am going to PRESS ON!

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~ for a nice emerging tradition: Colton joining us for dinner on Monday nights.  It’s typically his day off so it has been working well with his schedule, and we all just love having him with us.  He enjoys having a mom-cooked meal and it does my heart good to have him home just for a minute. 

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~ for Tatum K’s bright and unpredictable personality.  That spicy girl keeps me on my toes, and keeps me laughing every day. 

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~ for Gavin’s amazingly bright mind and creativity.  He is gobbling up the WWII for Kids book he got for Christmas, and is always sharing what he is reading in it.  He spent one afternoon creating his own “military code” inspired by something he read in the book, and got totally into writing coded messages.  Can’t wait to see what God does with that brilliant mind of his. 

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~ for one of the most joyful and long-awaited days I can even imagine.  Our beloved friends Chris and Lindsay finalized the adoption of their beautiful SON, Coby Tate.  They have prayed to be parents for years, waited patiently and impatiently on the Lord, walked through agonizing heartbreak, and finally…FINALLY, the cries of their heart were answered BEYOND MEASURE!  This is the absolutely most blessed and fortunate little boy.  He hit the jackpot with the most loving parents on the planet.  Thank You God, for Your faithfulness that is always right on time!

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~ for the delicious decadence of a juicy C Rojo’s Wayagu burger and indulgent sweet potato truffle fries.  I have been craving this burger for over a week, but we couldn’t ever catch the truck before they ran out of food!  It was WORTH THE WAIT!  SO GOOD!!!!

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~ for the opportunity to see Kora give her speech to her class during their Toastmasters presentation.  Her eyes just sparkle when she sees that I am there in the audience. 

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~ for lots of special Giddyup & Whoa pieces in the works.  We have a few items going to the Vintage & Co Valentine’s Pop Up Shop coming up this week, February 6-9.  If you are local, be sure to stop by.  Jodi and her team have impeccable taste, and they always put together the best collections of unique vintage finds. IMG_3021.JPG740F7D3A-F3A1-4C3E-9B9D-AC603ABB5B56.JPG

~ for the best Goodwill find in a long time: an awesome, unique coffee table!  It was in bad shape: a blotchy, marred finish and layers of spilled glitter all over it, but it was crying out to be revamped.  We gave it a good sanding and a bleach bath, and then I tried my hand at homemade liming wax for the first time.  I am completely in love with the end result!  I actually “rescued” a little desk out of a dumpster this morning (still in my bathrobe, no less) and I can’t wait to give it a makeover!

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~ for another weekend of having Carson Grace and her roommate here.  I miss her so much when she’s gone, and it just fills my heart to have her here even for a couple of days.  And it’s my prayer that she gets her “tank” full when she comes home.  

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~ I’m thankful that when I backed out of my garage, not realizing that the garage door was partially down, I banged into it JUST A LITTLE, and barely dented the door instead of tearing it down completely. 

~ for a fun night of food, fellowship, and football.  East Texas has had SuperBowl fever with local hometown hero Pat Mahomes, Jr. being the talk of the press across the nation.  So it was more fun than ever to have a house full of friends and “FRAMILY” to watch the game and cheer the Chiefs to victory.  I can’t remember the last time I saw (and ate) so much good food, from spicy wings to juicy pulled pork; hot, cheesy cheese dip and rich, creamy banana pudding!  I think the food was the star and the football was the bonus!  

So many blessings, so much to give thanks for…but in all honesty, this has been a TOUGH WEEK personally.  Parenting is NO JOKE.  This stuff is Capital “H” Hard.  And I know most of you are nodding your heads right now.  Because life is full of lots of good if you choose to look for it, but positive outlook or not, life is also just plain HARD.   Often I feel like I get going in a good rhythm, get through to one of the kids, get the house organized…and then, “whack-a-mole!”  Everything falls apart.  Back to square 1, or even worse.  It’s just always something.  Parenting was hard this week: we had to work through some not-very-fun stuff and say some difficult “no”s.  But the Lord keeps pressing the word “momentum” on my heart.  The simple definition of  momentum is “mass in motion.”  And the larger the mass and the faster the motion, the more momentum is created.  Josh’s large vision and fast progression created MOMENTUM…it inspired us to GET moving and KEEP moving.  But most of the time, it’s so easy to just waffle, or drift.  Why is is SO HARD to gain and maintain POSITIVE MOMENTUM? And so easy to lose it…or even worse, pick up negative momentum? I know it’s partially because of our sinful, selfish, lazy nature…it’s just in there, whether we admit it or not. Most of the time we’d rather sidestep the hard work it takes to get moving and keep moving. But we also are subject to the negative impact of the world around us, and the enemy of Light that actively seeks to stumble us. WE CANNOT BE PASSIVE because negativity will pull us down.  When things are hard at home. Or work.  Or with the kids.  If we passively have a “good day” and it’s followed by a “rough day,” we don’t ever get anywhere.  But instead, we have to fight to press forward: through the hard AND through the “blah.” I just feel burning in my heart the challenge to PRESS IN AND PRESS ON.  UNDETERRED.  I am not by any means talking about muscling through in my own strength.  I just mean pressing in to God in trust and in prayer when things get hard instead of slinking away and throwing my hands up.  I’m not giving up!  My “mass” of faith and hope is going to keep growing and gaining speed and creating positive MOMENTUM.  When we have a rough day, I’m going to look to Jesus and believe that He is good, and He is working, and He is with me in the trial.  And together we will press on.   I’m going to scrape these beams. I’m going to raise all these kids.  I’m going to serve my husband.  And I’m going to fall on my face and make a zillion mistakes along the way.  BUT GOD! Because I’m going to keep getting back up and keep not quitting.  And by the grace of God, one day I will look back and thank Him for the perfect purposes He had for every piece.  (I’m absolutely preaching to myself here, but I hope it encourages someone else out there…)

Let’s build up some positive, Jesus-inspired MOMENTUM this week, and love others well. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:13-14)

“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:8-9)

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)

Autopilot OFF

~ for the most astounding surprise I could never have imagined.  My DAD showed up on my doorstep!!!!  I was born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, and all my family still lives up in that region.  Life never ceases to be busy on both sides, we have constantly been adding more children, and then there was STUPID CANCER.  So although we regularly keep in touch, somehow it has been more than 12 years since I’ve seen my dad!!!!  That means he hadn’t even MET SIX OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN!  What a treasure to get to introduce my dad and stepmom, and to show them around our home and our city.  I’m so proud of my kids, they are so full of love and share it without hesitation.  They showed out and entertained, drew pictures and crawled in laps.  We had a wonderful concentrated visit, and then Dad and Jennifer were right back in their car for the 14 hour drive north.  I tried to talk them into staying, but it was just a whirlwind spur of the moment trip, and they had spring chores to get back to.  However surprising, however brief, I am so utterly amazed and thankful for the wonderful visit, and for such a special memory for my kids.  

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~ for God’s mighty hand of protection, and those moments of gravity when we get a glimpse of how much worse things could have been without Him.  Thank You Lord for Your Mercy.  Carson Grace sang a wonderful song today for offering, “Remember,” by Lauren Daigle.  Hard times will inevitably come, but we have to take the time to remember all the ways He has shown himself faithful.  You can enjoy her song here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LHJ4AQgROY 

~ for our first trip to the library of the summer. I’m so thankful that my kids still enjoy it.  They love fun books and they LOVE the experience of so many choices at the library.  This time we came home with lots of superheroes, Barbie, American Girl, and backyard bird books. Now, to keep track of them all and return them on time….

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Our new hummingbird feeder is just like the one in Sawyer’s library book!

~ for the toilet in our guest bathroom.  It has experienced multiple degrees of brokenness over the last several months, and it has been a real hassle.  This week, Josh fixed it – like FOR REAL fixed it.  You can now go in that bathroom and do what you need to do in there, with FULL CONFIDENCE that the commode will perform its intended purpose.  And I’m just absolutely thrilled about it!

~ for steady work for Giddy Up & Whoa.  We’ve done several signs for graduation and Mother’s Day, and even for a mortgage company as closing gifts.  I’ve been thankful to paint at least a little almost every day. 

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~ for the brilliantly colored cardinal families that dwell in our backyard. They flit back and forth all day, and chatter to us every morning.  And for Sawyer’s enthusiasm for our new hummingbird feeder.  He read about hummingbirds in his new book, and helped mix up the nectar and hang the feeder.  Looking forward to birdwatching this summer!

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~for a fun outing at the shooting range for Cooper. 

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~ for a beautiful weekend spent in and by the pool. It’s getting hot…and the kids (and Bear) are LOVING the cool water.  We’ve worked so hard back there over the last year and a half….ripping out shrubs, hauling rocks, staining and repairing the fence, resurfacing the aged decking….it is such an amazing transformation.  It was nice before, but now it is truly an oasis.  Tatum K has gotten her first taste of the water, and she loves to (swim) “WEEM!  I weem, Mama!”  I can tell she will be a little water bug like the others.  Josh and I still cannot believe how blessed we are to live in this home, and look forward to sharing it with our kids and their friends for years to come.  

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It’s nice to have some lazy days.  Our schedule has been pretty open, few appointments or plans.  Especially after the breakneck pace at the end of school, it’s refreshing to have a reprieve.  Josh and I were reminded today how we don’t take “nothing days” for granted any more.   When you’ve spent any significant length of time in a hospital, or separated from the ones you love by trauma, there’s nothing more refreshing than a “normal” day at home.  But I can already tell it’s time to get into a routine.  Embracing our “normal” days doesn’t necessarily have to mean mindless coasting.  I remember when it dawned on me one time, you can’t coast anywhere but down.  You’ll never get better, stronger, or wiser on autopilot.  Growth takes effort.  And even if continued growth wasn’t the goal…you can’t even MAINTAIN status quo without effort!  Skillfully sculpted muscles atrophy, the sparkling blue pool turns murky green, the meticulously manicured lawn becomes a wilderness.  And I need to remind myself of the truth I want my kids to learn: WORK IS GOOD!   Of course, rest is good too, critically important in fact, but like anything else, it’s all about balance.  Body, mind, and spirit need training and exercise to stay sharp. Our family just needs a little structure to our day, some punctuation.  And as much as I hate to admit it, that extra hour of sleep in the morning doesn’t yield a more rested, more patient mama.  Getting up and investing that hour in the Word does.  And then in turn, investing that return into reading to my kids, swimming with my kids, LISTENING TO MY KIDS.  I can already tell a negative impact in our home from one week of unstructured cruise control.  Time to turn off auto pilot, set an alarm, dig into God’s Word, and launch into our days with purpose, instead of just letting the day run us over.  Of course we will have spontaneous days, days with unexpected detours.  Some days will be wildly successful and others will be a dismal failure.  But I know we will enjoy the journey more if we stay the course with a balance of consistency and flexibility.  So we will give it a go this week. 

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Let’s love on purpose this week!  Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”  Psalm 77:11-14

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.””  Joshua 4:4-7

Risen

I am thankful that even though the beginning of this week started off ROUGH, it got better and ended GLORIOUS!

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Happy Easter from the Rucker Tribe!

Sawyer woke up Monday morning feeling bad.  Really bad.  His first words were, “Mama…my lungs hurt when I ‘breave.’”  Well I surely didn’t like the sound of that!  I laid hands on him and prayed over him right away, observed that he didn’t have fever, and encouraged him to eat some breakfast and drink some milk.  I knew he had coughed a lot over the night, and hoped he would feel better with some warm oatmeal in his throat.  But after just one bite, he laid his little curls down on the counter and said quietly, “Mama, I don’t sink I should go to school.”   That is completely out of character for Sawyer.  He absolutely LOVES school, and never wants to stay home.  So I tucked him back in bed.  He immediately fell fast asleep, and I immediately called for a pediatrician appointment, fearing a recurrence of pneumonia.  At his appointment, all appeared normal.  Still no fever, no breath sounds indicating pneumonia… but with every breath, Sawyer clutched his chest.  Even when Dr. Everett would distract him and get him giggling, he would double over and grab his chest, right over his heart.  This was enough concern to the doctor that he felt a chest X-ray was warranted to rule out pneumonia or pneumothorax (collapsed lung).  So from the pediatrician to the imaging facility we went.  That in itself was stressful enough, not to mention dragging a cranky five-year-old and an even crankier two-year-old from one waiting room to another, with no pre-prepared keep-busy activities or snacks….we were all stretched PRETTY THIN after 2 1/2 hours.  But the receptionist was very kind and brought out clipboards with paper and pens, and that got my grumpy loves over the hump until Sawyer got called back.  The X-ray itself was quick and easy, Sawyer had no anxiety at all, and it was a far more peaceful experience than his last X-ray years ago (having to be strapped down as a toddler).  Then came the agonizing WAIT for results.  BUT GOD.  We finally got a call after 5pm that the X-ray was clear (HALLELUJAH!) of pneumonia and pneumothorax, but that there was some irritation on the lung lining (pleurisy) in the area corresponding to his pain.  Long, stressful day, but so very thankful for excellent care and good news.  (And Sawyer is now feeling great!  Thank You Jesus for protection and speedy healing!)

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~ for a fun but far-too-short visit from “Cousin” Jen (dear friend who has crossed the threshold and become family).  She came all the way from Dallas to watch Cooper and Carson Grace’s games this week!  So fun cramming in a visit and catching one another up on life. 

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~ for an emotionally charged morning celebrating the GCS Senior class.  The Seniors walked the halls of the elementary school in their caps and gowns, with the young students lined up giving them all high-fives.  I can imagine how big and grown up the Seniors looked to the little kids, but to all the parents looking on, those were our babies.  Only yesterday, Carson Grace was in her kindergarten class, with a little custom stool under her tiny feet because she couldn’t reach the floor.  Now she is graduating in a few short weeks.  

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~ for Gavin’s character quality award, Enthusiasm.   Such a fitting award, as G-Man is exactly that: bright, creative and overflowing with enthusiasm.  He is always questioning, always creating, always learning.  The Lord has an incredible future for this boy. 

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~ that I intercepted the less-than-flattering time-lapse video that my darling Tatum K filmed of me in the dressing room at Old Navy before she texted it to someone!!!!!  

~ for a hopping week for Giddyup & Whoa!  Finished 2 custom orders and 7 more pieces for the Gresham Barn Sale!  Vintage & Co. even featured us on their page!  Busy sign week means not much progress on the beams…but I know they’re waiting for me, a project literally hanging over my head….

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~ for a fun and tasty lunch with a friend.  So grateful for sisters to lean on and to do life with. 

~ that every bad day comes to an end.  Some days just stink.  Not life-or-death cancer days…just run of the mill, cranky, overtired kids + cranky, overwhelmed mama + a to-do list a mile long = YUCK.  You know when you park the car and each of the children exit the vehicle with an, “I’m sorry Mama,” that it’s been a rough day.  But thank You Lord for new mercies every morning!

~ for a fun-packed Easter weekend: school holiday, sleepovers, ice-cold swimming, a much-needed date night, yard work, egg hunts, Easter baskets, Resurrection rolls for breakfast, powerful worship service and message, lunch with all the cousins, cake! and pie! and WAAAAY too much candy! I am thankful for every single time I get to be with all our children together…even if it wasn’t until the very end of the day (Colton had to work).  I don’t take it for granted any more. 

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~ most of all, I’m so thankful for the miracle of Easter.  That Jesus, pure and sinless, willingly chose the Cross for my sin and for yours.  Friday and Saturday we grieve for all He endured.  But Sunday.  Sunday!  Sunday morning is what it’s all about!  The stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty, and JESUS IS ALIVE!   Death couldn’t hold our Savior, and thanks to Him, it can’t hold me!   No matter what we endure on this earth, if we chose Jesus, we are promised to live in eternity with Him!  There is no day more worthy of celebrating, flipping over backwards with all-surpassing JOY than today!  HE IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!!

Please hold dear Georgia and the Crim family in your prayers.  She had her first brain surgery a few weeks ago, and she will begin her first round of chemotherapy this Tuesday.  

Thank You Jesus for New Life.  Thank You that the Light will ALWAYS overcome the darkness. 

And thank you all for giving thanks with me. 

“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.”  Luke 24:5-8

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””  Matthew 28:18-20