Testify

I am thankful:

~for a bountiful garden. The change in soil fixed our problem, and our garden is going crazy! We literally have hundreds of tomatoes on our plants ripening, and I cannot wait to eat them all! Sunflowers stretching up, baby strawberries, baby bell peppers, and vines growing and crawling everywhere!

~ for a fresh new palm tree on the patio. Let’s see if I can keep this one alive…

~ for catching sweet sister moments.

~ for a colorful plate of happiness.

~ for a victoriously completed puzzle with, by-nothing-short-of-a-miracle, no missing pieces!

~ for another section of fence painting ALMOST completed. Loving the updated look, but the blazing Texas sun is brutal.

~ for a bright fresh coat of paint on the pool deck. It’s a beat down to do, but makes such a difference!

~ after nearly painting myself to death this week (at one point, I literally PRIED the paintbrush from my hand, and my cramped fingers STAYED IN THE POSITION from holding the brush!) I was thankful for a quiet and relaxing soak in a fragrant eucalyptus bubble bath. At least for a few minutes it was relaxing…

Ahhhh, a relaxing bath in the peace and quiet
But then I got company

~ for the kids having a truly wonderful week at VBS. All the volunteers did an amazing job, and the kids had the best time. It was Tatum K’s first experience with “PTS,” and she was a lot more timid than I expected. Lots of tears and clinging to Mama.

But she made it, and somehow wanted to go back each day. I nominated myself “VBS BUS” of the neighborhood, and most of our neighbor kids went with us each evening. Our family even won a prize for bringing the most guests. Such a fun and exhausting week for the kids.

It was strange not working at VBS. One evening I helped with serving dinner, but otherwise I just dropped the kids off each night. I wrestled with feeling guilty over it, but God had something else planned for me this week during my nightly 2 hours without kids. I had random but very purposely-appointed, God-ordained get togethers each evening. I know this timing was no accident. Last week and starting off this week, I was not in a very good place. As much as I purposed myself to refocus my eyes and heart from my circumstances to my Savior, I was failing. I wasn’t sleeping. Anxiety was fierce and persistent. I felt hollow and alone.

BUT GOD.

One night was the refining gift of back-breaking labor with my Love, ripping out our now-dilapidated planter boxes/poles that we built for our backyard string lights when we first moved here. They were cute as a bug when we built them, and we LOVE our string lights, but the boxes did not weather well,

2018

so Josh came up with a better plan to replace them with aluminum poles behind our fence. Unfortunately, that meant re-stringing the lights and hauling off the 250 pound blocks of solid concrete we had set them with. No small task.

But we got it done and rewarded ourselves with a decadent steak dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. I can’t remember the last time we had an ACTUAL date. This was a good week for that one-on-one time.

Anyway, on my other evenings with my various activities, it was interesting that each time, I was put in a position to share parts of my testimony. Over and over, I was asked questions. How and where I grew up. How I met Jesus. How Josh and I did everything out of order in our relationship. Our adoptions. Cancer. So many stories.

So many amazing stories of God’s faithfulness and perfect timing.

It was no accident that God had perfectly timed these appointments on a week when I was feeling empty and low and defeated. I could have filled my time serving at VBS and had a great time, distracted from those feelings. OR, I could have had a peacefully child-free quiet home to sit in, and I would have squandered that precious time either mindlessly staring at Netflix or maybe wrapping myself up in my hurt and letting my anxiety completely wreak me.

BUT GOD didn’t let me.

A timely gift from a dear friend

Instead, He got me out of my comfort zone and asked me to tell my story. He asked me to TESTIFY. He knew that I needed to be reminded afresh of all He has done. TRUE MIRACLES. And not just a couple miracles. MIRACLE AFTER MIRACLE AFTER MIRACLE. As I told my stories, I felt as if I were hearing them for the first time. Hearing with brand new ears the things God had told me. The things He had taught me. The times when He gently held me, spared me, protected me. The times when He lovingly challenged me, stretched me, broke me and tenderly put me back together.

I was amazed.

And encouraged.

And refreshed.

WE HAVE TO TELL OUR STORIES. We know that we as Believers are called to testify: to glorify the Lord and to encourage others, but it encourages US TOO! It reminds us of where we once were, and how amazing our Father is. Oh, that we would not forget. Help us remember that no matter how small our mustard seed of faith, He made that mustard seed and planted it. And He planted it TO GROW. To be buried in the earth looks and feels and smells like death. But God BIRTHS LIFE!

What story can you share to remind yourself that God knows what He’s doing?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:25-27)

“and said to them, “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 4:5-7)

“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.”” (Psalms 77:11-12)

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 9:1-2)

A Puzzle and a Fence

I am thankful:

~ for the brave men and women who gave their lives serving this country so that we can enjoy so many freedoms today. May we never forget that our freedom isn’t free.

photo by Marvin D. Lynchard

~ for a fun day spent swimming with cousins and stuffing our faces with watermelon and amazing brisket and homemade ice cream. So much fun we didn’t take a single picture!

~ for the kids’ excitement over going to the library. My bunch as a rule are not avid readers, but they love to GO ANYWHERE, and the novelty of so many choices is always fun.

~ for a hard day’s work with my Love. But man, we are not as young as we used to be, and our bodies are literally falling apart.

~ for the gift of hot pizza after a long day.

~ for cool rain on my face and the sound of thunder.

~ for somebody who knows I love Buccees salted caramels.

~ for my littles who aren’t so little anymore, but still snuggle with me. I’m blessed with very affectionate children, and I absolutely adore it.

~ for the most beautiful little nephew who made his entrance this week! Meet Russell!!

~ for the genuine and kind young man Cooper has grown into. Seriously, that kid blows my mind.

~ for a Sunday nap with my dogs.

~ for a freshly painted fence.

Our fence needed a facelift

~ for morning Bible time with the kids. I love starting our day together in the Word. And I got each of them their own journal to write down their thoughts and prayer requests, so they can look back later and reflect on all that God has done from their own point of view.

~ for progress on a really awesome, but REALLY HARD puzzle.

I laughed that this week I spent my “free time” doing the puzzle and painting the fence: 2 measurable tasks that (UNLIKE PARENTING) have a clear ending point, can be successfully COMPLETED, and involve inanimate objects that cannot talk back to me. I needed to spend time with a puzzle and a fence.

It should have come as no surprise after making a bold proclamation ( in last week’s blog) that I would focus on my blessings instead of my lack, and that nothing is too hard for God, that I would be met with fiery darts and a gut check for my faith.

Life. Is. Hard.

And messy.

And loving Jesus does not give me a pass from all the hurt.

But it does give me HOPE. And I’m so thankful that NO MATTER HOW I FEEL, HE IS ALWAYS GOOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WORTHY OF PRAISE.

HIS FAITHFULNESS IS NOT CONTINGENT ON MY FAITH.

Storms come. Hurts. Wounds. Failures. Disappointments. Loss. Life isn’t always easy or kind.

BUT GOD.

He is still good.

I’m weak and empty. HE is GOD.

I’m flawed and selfish. He is HOLY.

My VERY BEST attempts at love are so limited. HE IS LOVE.

I’m out of answers. HE is THE ANSWER.

So today I am spending my energies on thanking Him for all He has done, and all He is doing, and all He is going to do.

Whatever storm or valley you are in the midst of, He is there with you.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“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 8:38-39)

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalms 139:7-12)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kid tested and approved!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

New Vision

Sawyer handed me an envelope from his backpack. I scanned it quickly and saw he’d had the standard vision screening by the school nurse. “Hey bub,” I told him as he crawled up beside me on the couch, “it looks like we need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.” “Glasses!!??” he exclaimed. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and his sparkling eyes suddenly started to fill with tears. “I don’t WANT glasses!!”

Change is hard. And it can be hard to wrap your mind around a paradigm shift, even just a seemingly minor one. I even got a little teary that evening when I talked to Josh about it. We both wear glasses and contacts, and know that life is just a little easier without having to deal with them. Even though we were both sure that the vision issues were simple and hereditary, it was impossible not to think about the chemotherapy drugs that listed vision loss as a side effect. I remembered wrestling with Sawyer as a tiny infant to apply eye drops every 4 hours round the clock when he was taking high dose cytarabine. But Josh and I held one another and thought back to those days, and we praised God that all we were facing was glasses for a beautiful 7 year old. To God be the glory!

Fast forward to the eye appointment. Sawyer’s reservations were completely forgotten.

He cheerfully hopped in the chairs for each different eye test, asked 7 billion questions, tried on several pairs of frames, and once the appointment was over, he asked more times than I can count, “HOW MANY MORE DAYS until MY GLASSES get here????” He went from nervous disappointment to impatient excitement almost overnight.

After two excruciating weeks of waiting, (thanks Snow-pacalypse 2021), I pulled up to the eye place and Sawyer squealed, “Are they finally here?” You’ve never seen a kid more excited. And once those tiny cute little glasses were placed on his little freckly nose, you’ve never seen a kid stand more proud. And better yet, “Wow! I really can see better!” Isn’t he so handsome?

To add some tasty icing to the cake, during the snow shut in, we had watched all the Superman movies with the kids. As soon as Sawyer climbed in the car with his glasses on, Tatum K yelled, “You look like Clark Kent!” He has latched onto that persona BIG TIME. Sawyer the Warrior has always been a superhero to us.

How often do we trip ourselves up and rob ourselves of clear vision because of fear and preconceived ideas? How often are we short sighted, in every sense of the word, instead of being willing to look for God‘s way, which is always SO MUCH BETTER?

Apparently this is something the Lord is really trying to drive home with me, because it keeps coming up. And when God repeats Himself, it means He’s NOT. KIDDING.

I’ve been looking for a certain vintage piece for our home for a LOOOONG time: a rustic wooden chicken nesting box. I’ve seen them in other people’s decor and fell in love. Little drawers and cubbies are just my favorite, and I’ve been hunting for a piece like this for YEARS. They are hard to find, and invariably WAY out of budget.

Photo: Instagram @yellowprairieinteriors

As Josh and I look for new pieces, and as our taste and the needs of our family change, we are often getting rid of STUFF. It’s always a challenge because, true to our nicknames, Giddyup (Josh) and Whoa (me), we RARELY agree. Josh would throw anything away in a minute and I would keep everything forever because if either a sentimental attachment or the nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, we would need “that thing” again one day. Anybody relate? Which side of the line do you land on?

So I have this dresser. It was mine as a kid, and my Grandpa Henry built it. The corners of the top were roughly rounded, and I knew the marks were from where I had actually chewed on it as a child. (I know, I guess I had problems, what can I say.)

Grandpa Henry was married to my Grandma Grace, and he passed away when I was 8 years old. My old dresser made lots of moves with me as I grew up, eventually being used by Colton until he moved out, and then was passed down to Cooper. It wasn’t in great shape any more. The finish was worn, the drawers had grown a little warped and were tough to slide. Josh and Cooper both said it was time to say goodbye.

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ACTUALLY BROKEN. It was still FUNCTIONAL. And it was so special to me.

But Josh had his mind made up. There was a better storage solution for Cooper’s closet that would free up floor space in the bedroom. But he also loves me, and is so considerate, and he knew how much having a piece of my Grandpa meant to me. He told me he was going to take the dresser apart so it wouldn’t take up so much space, but that he would save the wood until we found a special project for it.

I cried. (I really am a mush pot).

I think the dresser parts have been sitting around for about a year.

Until one day about a week ago when Josh came to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I have an idea that I think you’re gonna like. What if I build your nesting box out of your Grandpa’s dresser?”

I cried again.

Before I could even wipe my leaky eyes, he was out in his shop with the saw going. As always, I had strict instructions to stay out until he was done. “NO PEEKING!”

Maybe an hour later, he was ready for the grand reveal.

It. Was. Perfect.

Exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly made to fit our space. And handmade by the man that I love with wood from a special piece of history from a man that had meant the world to me as a little girl. And yes, I cried again.

When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me even more history about my dresser. He said, “I think Dad made it for the master bedroom in the old house after he and Ma were married, with home-sawn oak from here on the farm, so around 1945 is my guess. Dad liked to work with wood and usually had a project going.” Then it had been handed down from my Grandma to my Dad, and eventually to me. I couldn’t love that old wood more!

I love this piece. I love the function and warmth it adds to our hallway, and I love all the stories connected to it.

But first, I’d had to let go of the dresser.

I started with something that meant a lot to me, but it really wasn’t working anymore. I had to be willing to let it go and embrace a change. And when I finally did, I got something I REALLY wanted, and it turned out even better than what I had ever dreamed of.

Can we really do that?

Can we let go of our familiar and comfortable routines that we have built around ourselves, and allow God to dismantle them? Are we willing to trust that He actually has something better for us? And are we actually willing to WAIT for whatever that is, as long as it takes?

I don’t know what God has in store. But I know one thing. I know there’s more to this story than a pair of glasses and an old dresser. He’s been nudging me about a few things that I’m pretty certain he’s asking me to let go of. It may not be easy, but I know I want what He has for me more that whatever poor substitute I’m clinging to.

I don’t want to cling to ANYTHING but HIM.

I hope whatever season you find yourself in, that this encourages you. Let it go, and let your eyes open to His vision. I’m thankful that if we are willing (and sometimes even when we are not) God will speak to us through the most ordinary and unexpected ways.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

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

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Snowed In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRATITUDE.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Praying

I am thankful:

~ for a big, big, BIG week for Sawyer. Tuesday was one of the most highly anticipated and celebrated events in a GCS First Grader’s year: a 30+ year tradition, the performance of Little Bo Peep. All of our kids have been in it, as have cousins, and with multiple performances for each of them, I personally have watched the play no less than 17 times. But the sweet story of Bo Peep asking all the other nursery rhyme characters for help finding her lost sheep, never ceases to touch my heart. And it was truly surreal to see Sawyer on that stage, that he again reached a milestone that we never dated dream of for him. BUT GOD! He was the cutest little mischievous Georgie Porgie, and he teased those poor little girls beautifully. My heart exploded.

He also had so much fun the very next day celebrating the 100th day of school. The 1st graders made projects and enjoyed various activities all day. So much fun in one week!

We found a 💯on the way to school!

~ for a quick catch-up with Aunt Gina, and the delivery of a tasty Grandmommy self portrait!

~ for the cutest little matching sisters. Same same!!

~ for yummy, ooey gooey chicken wings with “BARBIE” SAUCE.

~ for ALL THE HELPERS. I definitely had more fun watching Josh and the kids build this storage unit than the football game tonight.

~ for another productive week of DIY projects. Josh has instructed me that last week was PRE-pre-vacation, and this week and weekend has been pre-vacation. The ACTUAL vacation starts TOMORROW. This week Cooper started getting his studio set up, moving in his equipment and mounting professional soundproofing panels. The panels go up with tiny map pins, and we have used ALL the black map pins in the city of Tyler, so the rest of that project is on hold until more pins arrive via Amazon. Josh laid carpet tiles and baseboards, and installed double doors, also fitted with soundproofing. What a cool space for creating!

The girls’ bathroom was dingy and greatly in need of updating and repair: water damage, broken tile, leaky faucet, and a shower door that fell off at least once a week. We tackled it with full force this week.

Where we started…

Josh had already repaired all the drywall, including closing up the hole from a dated medicine cabinet, and the new tile floors had been installed. After 2 coats of Alabaster on the walls, trim, and ceiling, I was overjoyed that the last bit of the drab yellow that was in so many rooms of this house was FINALLY GONE. The soft, creamy white brightens the space and lifts the ceiling so much!

Oh the transformative power of PAINT!

I got the cabinets painted and helped Josh hang the new mirror and build and install the shower doors.

This mirror was the piece I was most excited about. What a dramatic change!
Putting the shower door together
Clean and beautiful. And it WON’T FALL OFF!

Next came WALLPAPER! After 20 years and 3 houses with terrible wallpaper, I can’t believe I actually wanted to put it in my house! But I fell in love with the idea of doing an accent wall, and it seemed like a great place to do something fun. I changed my mind no less than 837 times during the planning process, but I’m completely thrilled with where we landed.

My original design ideas

Josh replaced the leaky faucet with a new matte black fixture, and we are so happy to mark all of that off the project list! I have a couple small details and touch up to finish, so this is still not the FINAL reveal, but we are SO SO CLOSE! We are thankful that our girls have a bright and pretty space to get ready for their day each morning. I’m so excited to have Josh home this week, to work together doing what we love to do.

Always my shadow…

~ for the power of prayer and the joy of the Lord. I talked last week about so many people I love who are wrestling through hard things. Unspeakably hard things. I have spent more hours in prayer this week than I have in a long time, just talking to the Lord about what is going on and asking Him to move in mighty ways. AND HE HAS! Every problem hasn’t gone away, and every trial hasn’t disappeared, but I have seen people walk through fire and come out on the other side. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen hope where there should have been none. I’ve seen supernatural self control and grace under pressure. I’ve seen grieving coexist with joy. And I have also seen and heard some heaven thundering prayers come out of the mouths of my children, especially my spicy little Tatum K. Let me tell you about Annie.

If you follow my social media, you’ve already heard that Annie is a beautiful 4 month old baby girl. She was born with a congenital heart defect, and underwent open heart surgery January 29. Annie has had complications during and after surgery, survived drastic lifesaving measures and spent 7 days being kept alive by an ECMO machine. AND BY JESUS. Every. Single. Day we watched another miracle unfold through Annie. Today they took her off the ECMO machine, and she will be closely monitored until her doctors decide she is ready for her NEXT surgery, which will be to install a permanent pacemaker. Annie’s story has captured our hearts, though we have never even met her, and she has people praying all over THE WORLD. I set her picture as the lock screen on my phone, so that every time I open it up, I pray for her. And Tatum K has become SO INVESTED in Baby Annie. She has prayed over and over, “Jesus heal Baby Annie and her broken heart and make her feel better and be happy. Annie loves God and I just love her. Your turn to pray, Mama.” After one of her prayers, she asked me to play her favorite song, “Raise a Hallelujah.” I turned it on, and Tatum suddenly cried out excitedly, “MAMA!!!! This song can heal Annie’s broken heart!” PLEASE pray for Baby Annie, and for her parents and big brother. And keep praying for the people around you that you know are struggling. And don’t stop bringing your own burdens and worries to the Lord. We ALL have them, so why do we waste so much energy trying to make it look like we have it all together? Having Annie’s picture on my phone has me praying all day long (yeah, I’m probably on my phone more than I should be), and she’s been my reminder to keep praying for all the others on my prayer list over and over.

Prayer works.

God listens.

And prayer changes us.

That’s half the miracle.

Keep praying.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desire of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

~ for a very happy birthday for a beautiful new teenager. Sweet Samantha had her birthday this week, and she is SO EASY to celebrate. Samantha Lucy’s name means “Listener that Brings Light,” and she lives up to that name in every way.

She is a joy and a blessing and such a help. It seems like she has grown up into a young lady overnight. She enjoyed her favorite chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, a lunch delivery at school, and her birthday dinner menu of choice: grilled ham and muenster sandwiches with avocado ranch, Pringles, and fruit salad.

Well-known in our household to be avocado OBSESSED, she got avocado cards from all her siblings, avocado socks, and original avocado painting, even avocado sheets to go with her new (more grown-up) bedding. We are so proud of the young woman she is becoming, and wait with great expectations for all that God has for her.

~ for a terrific maiden voyage on the potty train for Tatum K! I don’t want to be prematurely confident, but since starting wearing panties last Saturday, she has only had one accident! She’s so excited and proud of herself. We took a field trip to Target to pick out new Elsa Days-of-the-Week panties, and boy, she tells EVERYBODY about them, and she has been singing her original song, “let’s poop poop poop on the potteeeeey” loudly for all to hear (including in Target).

~ for the undisputed champion of all sandwiches, Stanley’s famous Mother Clucker smoked chicken sandwich, topped with a fried egg and peppery candied bacon on pillowy jalapeño cheese sourdough bread. There is no photo. I couldn’t restrain myself long enough before I devoured it.

~ for the loveliest flowers from our neighbor.

~ for a fantastic evening with my Tribe: great football, a new Giddyup & Whoa project on my easel, and steaming hot meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies.

~ for a busy week well spent. As I mentioned last week, Josh has had lots of projects planned for his vacation, but in true Giddyup fashion, he can’t stand to wait. Last week he did the ceiling fans and the mattresses and light fixtures and the barstools. This week he gave me a Christmas gift that I never would’ve asked for…he hired a crew to finish scraping my beams. If you’ve been following along with the Sunday Gratitude blog for a while, you may remember that a little over a year ago I started the painstaking process of hand scraping the massive oak beams in our great room (find that blog post here). I killed 2 sanders and a planer and shredded all 10 of my knuckles in the process of scraping 11 beams, and work halted right before Covid hit last March. Talk about a work in progress…

I spy Tatum K under the ladder…

With just 4 left to go, I just plain ran out of gas. When Josh told me he wanted to bless me with having it done, it was tough to receive. I felt like I was admitting defeat. It was my baby. My project. My Everest to conquer. But I’d begrudgingly swallowed my pride, and this week two strong young fellas simultaneously scraped those beams nonstop for 10 hours and got the job done. They did a fantastic job, and Part B on the project will be painting the dingy cream colored ceilings with a fresh crisp coat of alabaster white to match our walls. We’ve wanted this done since the day we moved into this house 3 1/2 years ago, and we are so excited. I’m so thankful to have a husband who loves me so much.

But of course, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Josh got done. The next two projects that will be running concurrently will be a deep refresh in our girls bathroom and the conversion of a non-functional, hardly-used dressing area into a recording studio for Cooper (aka Davvec)!

He is beyond excited about having this space and has been saving his money from his various jobs to buy all his musical and recording equipment, as well as the soundproofing medium to cover all the walls. Although this sounds like extravagant use of space, it will easily be converted two a super useful storage closet when Cooper is done and moves out. We are excited to support his dreams and reward his hard work and dedication.

The bathroom was already in bad repair when we moved here, and it’s gotten plenty of wear since then. This will be a fun reno, and Step One was closing off the doorway into that dressing area (Cooper’s studio) and relocating it to the hallway. Josh did an impeccable job of placing the new door and matching the existing trimwork, and he did it with lightning speed!

There is so much left to do, it’s a never ending cycle of owning a home. ESPECIALLY when you are into the DIY world. But we will tackle it all together. One of Josh and my very favorite things to do together is to work on projects. We love the entire process: dreaming together, researching options, the excitement of committing to a project, and then the troubleshooting, prep work, and the execution. It’s not always pretty. We have plenty of bumpy moments, failures, miscommunications, and start-overs. We don’t always understand one another because we process things so differently, and we sometimes drive each other crazy. Thankfully, we get generally get back on track quickly and we can laugh at ourselves. We have learned most of our skills by watching a lot of YouTube and by making a lot of mistakes. But our favorite is watching the work in progress, watching the transformation take place, and then finally getting to enjoy the return on lots of sweat equity once the project is done. I love the feeling of collapsing in the bed beside him after we have both worked our tails off. We love bragging on each other’s efforts. And most of all, I love that our kids have always grown up watching their mom and dad work side by side literally building a life for them.

I want to close tonight by sharing a testimony about a friend. This is one of the most amazing miracles I have ever encountered, and I just have to TESTIFY! After a process of learning to hear and obey the Lord, and through a series of events too remarkable to deny, he is undergoing surgery to donate his kidney to save a life tomorrow. PLEASE watch this video and be blessed by Tim’s story. (Watch video HERE)

And please lift him and his family in prayer as they try to rest tonight, preparing themselves for a truly life-changing day tomorrow. Lord, you know we are all works in progress, and YOU are the One doing the hard work. May we give You free reign to do the work on and in us that needs to be done. And may we draw so near to Your heart that we don’t flinch when You ask us to give. Or to go. Or to let go. What a Promised Land opens up when we say, “Yes Lord!”

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8)

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Chisholm)

Marinating

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Steadfast

I am thankful:

~ that I was only halfway to school when I heard Sawyer’s voice come from behind my shoulder in the car, “Um, mama… I forgot my shoes.”

~ for our Birdie girl’s birthday. What a year she has had! She joined our family, got married, and had 11 babies before turning 1!

~ for the blessing of tasty AND healthy options this week. We enjoyed delicious lean steaks (ok maybe cooked in some butter) and my favorite homemade healthy vegetable dip.

~ for the freshness that comes from putting away the Christmas decor and doing the first deep clean of the year. Everything looks brighter. Maybe a little bare at first, but it’s like a welcome pause after the constant overstimulation of the senses during the holidays. At first I always feel a little sad when I take down our favorite festive decorations, when all the nativities and the ornaments and stockings and the sparkle have been wrapped up and stored away until next year. But there is a fresh beauty in the spaces between. I’m always inspired to mix things up a little, to try a different arrangement, update a few pieces. Replacing a mattress that’s had a hole for…I-don’t-even-know-how-long. Changing up an old mirror with a little spray paint. Trading out a space age, rattling ceiling fan. January is the start of PROJECT TIME at Casa Rucker! We have some exciting projects planned for the next few months.

~ for a fun family movie night and the most hilarious Tatum K lookalike. (Check out Sophie on Rise of the Guardians.)

~ for a fun week with our temporary puppy. Red Boy, as we call him, referencing his color-coded id collar, is a sweetheart. He plays hard with the big dogs (we wonder if he has the concept that they are his parents), and has done a remarkable job with potty training. He has a most unusual favorite spot in the house. We will enjoy loving on him for one more week.

~ for a self proclaimed “best day of my life” for Sawyer. It suddenly dawned on me this week as he was struggling to buckle himself into his car seat with his bulky puffer coat. HE. IS. SEVEN. And is still riding in a high back car seat with a 5 point harness (the exact same seat Tatum K rides in). It was time, and I just hadn’t realized it. So while kids were at school, I purchased a new booster, and traded it for his old one. When he got in the car at pickup, you would have thought I had handed him tickets to Disneyland. “A booster seat! Mama! Thank you SO MUCH! This is the favorite gift I’ve ever gotten!” Immediately after school, he was invited to a laser tag birthday party at a local park. When I picked him up from the party, he was a tired, disheveled, frozen and oh-so-happy boy. Brown and green war paint smeared on his cheeks, a nose red from the cold, and tongue stained blue from Gatorade, he hopped into his new seat with a wide grin and said, “this is the best day of my LIFE! Well, the 2nd. The BEST day was the day I was done with cancer.” Oh my heart. Thank You God for the life of this beautiful shining light of a boy!

~ for the most glorious SNOW DAY! Here in Texas this is a highly accoladed event! I’m pretty sure we haven’t had any measurable snow in about 3 years. When the kids spotted the faintest hint of a flurry out the window this morning during our virtual church broadcast, they were beside themselves, and soon they were cheering at the meager white dust on our yard. The snowfall got heavier and steadier, and even to this Minnesota girl, it was magical. Huge white flakes falling and blanketing every surface – the kids say it looks like Narnia! Today they have built snowmen, had snowball fights, made snow angels, and did all the snow things you can pack into one afternoon.

Neighbors played outside, we snuggled with cocoa by the fire, we took breaks to warm up and dry out the sopping wet clothes, and then went back out for another round. Snow in the south is such a delightful oxymoron. Several times throughout the day we had to clean the snow off our palm trees to keep them from snapping. The kids were haphazardly bundled in multiple layers of pajamas and soggy hats and gloves that didn’t fit. And the initial jubilation of playing in the long-awaited snow lasted about as long as it took a snowflake to melt on their little Texas noses, quickly turning to whiny pink cheeked popsicles asking, “how do you know if you have frostbite?”

Dad and the big kids tried their hand at sledding down the snowy street on a cookie sheet: failed miserably, but hilarious to watch. Coop topped off our evening with a Polar Plunge into our pool!

Today was definitely my favorite day of the year. (As of 11 pm, it’s STILL coming down in giant flakes, we have gotten about 5 inches, and school is unsurprisingly cancelled tomorrow.)

The climate of our nation is insane. The devastating events on Wednesday were heartbreaking, and there is so much uncertainty about what may come next. It’s not hard to fall into the taps of anger, bitterness, division, and fear. But I’ve been so settled in my spirit. I mean, don’t misunderstand, I’m sad. I’m shocked. But I just know that God knew all this was coming, and that you and I were MADE for such a time as this. We, the Church, have been warned that trials were coming. That we will be targeted. That a day will come when we will be called to rise up in defense of the Gospel to a degree we have never experienced before. It’s time to dig deep and make a decision who we really are and what we really believe. Not what our parents told us to believe. Not what our preachers, or our Bible study teachers, or the social media influencers told us to believe. It’s time to get into God’s Word and read what HE SAID. IT’S TIME TO PRAY. It’s time to build our house on the Rock and set our anchors deep, because the STORMS ARE COMING. It’s time to ready ourselves. It’s time to teach our children to read their Bibles and that they can talk to God FOR REAL – ANY TIME, ABOUT ANYTHING, and that He hears them. It’s time to teach them to be kind to the lonely and to stand up for truth. It’s time to love our neighbors, especially the ones who are different from us. It’s time to pray for our enemies. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to WAKE UP BECAUSE IT’S FIXIN’ TO GET REAL.

During at-home worship, this song pounded into my heart.

“I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken!”

I’ve been open about it. I’m prone to anxiety. I worry. I think about cancer EVERY DAY. BUT GOD. I don’t want to puff up and act like I’ve got all the answers. I don’t know what I’m going to feel like tomorrow. But all I know is that TODAY…today my heart is steadfast. Many things are uncertain. But I KNOW what’s coming.

JESUS IS COMING.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““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. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)

““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33)

Tiptoe

I have to be honest and say that I still feel very alone. But I feel very surrounded by the Lord. He has wrapped me in so much kindness. I don’t feel like anyone can relate to my particular physical or emotional circumstances, but that’s ok. God knows me intimately, He loves me unfailingly, and He walks with me tirelessly.

Tiptoeing outside the quarantine bubble for the first time this week was very hard. Things were familiar and eerily unfamiliar at the same time. Faces of friends, parents, and teachers we have loved for years were now behind a mask or a face shield. Hallways were quieter than usual but still closer contact than we’ve had for months. BUT GOD.

We met and conquered each mountain. Sophomore Ipad training, 6th grade locker day and Middle School tour,5th grade locker day and Middle School tour, Elementary Meet the Teacher and supply drop off for grades 1, 3, and 4. Time after time in the middle of conversations, my raw emotions would rise up, and I could feel my muffled voice begin to quiver, and my eyes above my mask begin to well up with tears. And every time, my poorly concealed weakness was met with such kindness.

More than anything, what pushed me to move forward the most was the enthusiasm and complete lack of fear or reservation of all my kids. They were just straight up so excited to get back to school (and I am NOT entertaining the thought that any percentage of that excitement desire to get away from me.) All day Tuesday, Sawyer kept asking what time it was. “I want it to be bedtime, so I can go to bed and then when I wake up it will be SCHOOL!” They miss their friends. They miss their activities. They miss NORMAL. Don’t we all?

So we did all the things. Labeled all 7,463,726 supplies. Packed all the lunches (with surprise Lunchables). Hung out all the backpacks. Laid out the new clothes and shiny new tennis shoes and masks. Favorite Martha White blueberry muffins for breakfast.

I posted this picture on the first day of school. My friend Melissa from Laurel & Cotton had released her BOLD lion T-shirt design about a month ago, and I messaged her right away, “I want that one!” But the more I thought about it, the less bold I felt, and I couldn’t really imagine myself wearing the shirt. But suddenly I knew I DID need that shirt – for Sawyer. I don’t know anybody more bold than him.

So I ordered the BOLD lion shirt for Sawyer and “Overwhelmed by Jesus” for me. Never has their been a more appropriate pairing of shirts for an occasion as those two for the first day of school. (And for the record, when I showed Sawyer his new shirt, he was SO EXCITED about it, he chose it for his first day of school outfit without any prompting from me.)

I’m definitely ok but not ok. But it doesn’t matter if I am ok. God is FAITHFUL. He sees me as I really am: broken and held together with paper clips and chewing gum, and doesn’t turn away. I dropped off my babies (after we all had our foreheads scanned in the parking lot). And as we drove away, Tatum K patiently waited for me to stop bawling. She and I had a donut date at our favorite spot, and then we went to Home Depot to buy a new plant. Several thoughtful friends called and texted to check on me, which was so kind. Tater and I spent the day cuddling and crying and praying and watching the clock. I’ve never appreciated a quiet house less.

But when 3 o’clock FINALLY arrived, I’ve never been so ready to get my hands on my kids. They had all had a great day, and all shared every detail all at the same time. They told all their stories over cups of Andy’s Frozen Custard, and then they all washed and sanitized and changed clothes and got ready to do it all again the next day.

God was so faithful and kind to LOVE SO LAVISHLY this week.

~ Carson Grace had a great first week, acing a couple quizzes, auditioning for and MAKING the ETBU Chapel Praise Team, as well as being chosen for a paid position on the Worship team at Oakland Heights Baptist Church.

~ Colton is loving his new job and learning a TON. His business cards came in so he feels “official.” He came over this weekend before he heads back out of town for his next project. Grateful to be in this season where he is choosing to come spend time with us and share his life with us when he doesn’t HAVE to.

~ for the FINAL PIECE of the kitchen remodel: our light fixture that has been back-ordered since April. I had my heart set on it, and I’m so glad I waited. I love how it completes the kitchen transformation! Thankful it is DONE! (Now what project to start on next???)

~ for a restaurant-inspired recipe that I tried to recreate: roasted poblano peppers stuffed with creamy cheese, succulent shrimp, asparagus, and grilled corn. Not your grandma’s stuffed peppers. UNBELIEVABLE!

~ for the sweetest neighborhood kids (not just mine) who held a lemonade stand for charity, and chose to donate to Gold Network! They sat in the sweltering heat and even went door to door to invite “customers” (vital since we all live at THE VERY END of a DEAD END street!) And then my sweet neighbor sat with them and gave them a lesson an stewardship and accountability when raising money for a charity, and the kids all prayed over the money before they counted it. They raised $80! What a blessing!

~ for continued support of Gold Network of East Texas as we have made the difficult decision to convert this year’s Tyler Gold Run to a Virtual Race. We just have to err on the side of caution as we face the unknown, especially as we serve immune compromised kids. The BEST part about the run being Virtual, is that ANYONE can participate from ANYWHERE! If you are local, we will have a pickup to give out medals and T-shirts, but if you are farther away, we can mail it to you! I encourage you to prayerfully consider registering, because our HERO kids and their families need your help more than ever. Unfortunately, #cancerisntcanceled. Every 3 minutes another family hears the life-shattering words “your child has cancer.” Kids all over East Texas and the world are taking chemotherapy every day, spending their childhood in and out of hospitals, and dealing with long term side effects from the toxic treatments used to save their lives. And 1 out of every 5 children diagnosed with cancer will not survive, leaving a gaping hole in a family that will never ever be the same. That’s why we created Gold Network of East Texas: to support families impacted by childhood cancer during their darkest days and then every day afterward. Once a hero, always a hero. You can register or donate at www.tylergoldrun.com

Today I am grateful for a successful three days of school down, and for a peaceful weekend with my Loves back home. It did feel good to have some of the old familiar routines that added margin to each day, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a weekend that actually felt like a weekend. I am grateful that I don’t have to have all the answers, because I am held by the One Who Does.

Wherever you are, whatever highs or lows you are walking through, He is there. May we rest in that. May we rest in Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18-19)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)