Build

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

October 2017

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

We are building a house in the country!

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

But as of now…there is no house.

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

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

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

So buck up buttercup!

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

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

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

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1Chronicles 28:20)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

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

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

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

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

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

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

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

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

2021
2020
2019

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

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

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

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

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

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

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

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

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

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (2 Samuel 22:29-34)

Diving into Spring!

I am thankful:

~ for a simultaneously full and relaxed Spring Break with my Loves. The long-awaited sunshine warmed me from the inside out.

~ for tart and refreshing key lime pie to celebrate Pi Day! (3.14) Bear and Birdie got a good sniff, but didn’t get to share. (Although upon examining my photo, I spy something that looks suspiciously like whipped cream on Bear’s mustache…)

~ for our long-standing tradition of Spring Break Breakfast Dates with Mom. One-on-one time is a precious commodity, and these brief stolen moments are so special. I know how much I love going, but it surprised and blessed me to see how much each of the kids valued it as well. They eagerly leapt out of bed when it was their turn, voluntarily dressed in favorite outfits, and agonized over their restaurant choices. Best week of my year. (I’m exhausted and FULL!)

~ for a donut as big as Tatum K’s leg!

~ for a fun day visit with Grandmommy and Aunt Gina. We visited and laughed and caught up on each other. Our whole Tribe journeyed to Jucy’s for delicious burgers, fried pickles, and beans. The kids enjoyed the pool, and then Grandmommy treated our kids and half the neighborhood to fully loaded banana splits! What a fun day!

~ for green-stained smiles from green-dyed oatmeal on St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody got pinched!

~ for the most darling “gold” shirts for me and my girls. Thanks Gina Sue!

Came across these while spring cleaning, and stopped in my tracks. While on treatment for leukemia, Sawyer took zofran for nausea around the clock. Every 6 hours for pretty much 3 solid years. And hydrocodone regularly for the intense bone pain and neuropathy that would wake him screaming multiple times every night. I truly can’t believe we all survived that nightmarish season. BUT GOD! Thank You Jesus for our amazing miracle boy!

Feeling so very thankful tonight. For my precious kids that are so incredibly unique, and so thoughtfully and precisely chosen by God for our unique family. For my husband and best friend who pushes me way past my limits and stretches me out of my comfort, in such a maddening and loving and growth-inspiring way. He is SO the Giddyup to my Whoa, and we balance and ignite one another. There’s no one else I’d rather dream crazy dreams with.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “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)

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalms 65:8)

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” (Psalms 127:3-5)

Our Peace

I am thankful:

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

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

~ for the smell of fresh baked cookies.

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

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

Birdie and Bear love to watch baseball practice

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

Sawyer and Sophie in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

We Pray

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

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

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

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

BUT GOD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

We Love

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

Before
After

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ for a new plant baby!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

Giving Thanks

I am thankful:

~ for handwritten birthday lists. I’m gonna keep this one forever.

~ for the best Target sidekick.

~ for the first fire of the season.

~ for Gavin’s uniquely beautiful handcrafted art project. This boy LOVES TO CREATE!

~ for an awesome and terrifying endeavor: being the baker for a wedding. Am I am baker? No way! Do I do weddings? Guess again! Have I ever made and decorated 200 cupcakes? Not even close! But it was a labor of love and a fun project.

~ for a wonderful, life-giving afternoon spent with a dear friend. And for friends who you can call and rant to FOR AN HOUR just because you need to!

~ for in-home haircuts! And for Tatum K’s very first! 1 whole inch off the very tip of her Rapunzel-esque mane!

~ for the most hilarious food choices for our pups. Birdie has had a poor appetite recently, so dedicated-dog-dad Josh has been trying out new options. The names crack me up, but Birdie is definitely a fan!

~ for the most wonderful day kicking off our latest Gold Network of East Texas program: HERO Hangouts. We are scheduling various outings and get-togethers for our HERO kids and their families, and yesterday we took a group of 44 to Yesterland Farm in Canton, TX. It was the perfect fall day: glorious sunshine and crisp-but-not-too-cold weather.

What a joy to observe these incredible kids getting to be kids, laughing and riding rides with their parents and siblings. Parents got to know each other, and so did our cancer warriors.

During lunch several parents noticed a table of kids sitting together, various ages, all from different families. As we began to overhear their conversation, we all grew quiet.

“Have you ever had an IV? Mine went here.”

“Yeah, but I have a port.”

“Did you have a tumor? I had my tumor out when I was 3, and now I’m 15…”

What an amazing and rare gift for these brave, beautiful children to be able to sit down and speak freely with other kids who have had similar experiences. After many years of feeling alone and different, to be completely normal with peers that “get it.” There wasn’t a dry eye at the neighboring parent table. But thankfully the rest of the day was filled with innocent joy and laughter. And I loved getting to spend a wonderful day with my own family as well! Thank You Jesus for this ministry!

It’s November, and with November comes the Thankful Game. It’s been a family tradition for years, a daily group email to share what we are each thankful for. It’s a wonderful reminder to count our blessings. That’s really the whole point of this blog. I started it during the hardest, darkest, most frightening season of my life because I knew if I didn’t focus on thanking God, I would spiral straight down into a dark pit of hopelessness. Even though my life is so different now, nearly 8 years later, I’m still counting my blessings. Not because I’m so healthy and spiritual. No, it’s because I HAVE TO. That dark season knocked the wind out of me and changed me forever. At any given moment, I find myself again on the precipice of crippling fear and discouragement. Against my will, waves of anxiety drag me under. When I worry, I go straight to the worst case scenario. It’s so easy to find myself swallowed by self-destructive patterns and negativity. BUT GOD! He is always with me. He has never left. He was with me when cancer tried to steal my baby, destroy my family, and break my marriage. He’s been with me in every trial and heartbreak since then. He’s been guiding and protecting and refining and loving me every step of the way. And no matter what life looks like, He is worthy of praise. Even if all I can find to be thankful for is my cup of coffee, I have to thank Him. Because that thankfulness opens up the door for healing. There is more to be thankful for than we can ever even fathom, and we could never properly express appropriate gratitude for all He does for us.

But it’s still worth trying to.

At Yesterland Farm yesterday, Josh and I watched Sawyer climb a 30 foot rock wall. It took him a moment to select a spot and find his footing. Then he effortlessly scaled that tower, grasping and pushing himself triumphantly to the top. We just stood there, choking back tears, watching a carefree, normal, HEALTHY kid with no limitations. No one else could have imagined him as a frail, transparent infant or the limp little toddler unconscious after his 10th spinal tap. How can I possibly still allow myself to doubt my Father?

No matter what we face, He is worthy. He is good. Thank Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1)

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes].”(James 1:17)

Behind the Scenes

The week after Tyler Gold Run is a recovery week. Like a blood sugar crash after a sugar overdose. I’m so grateful for another great event, and for the world’s best team of volunteers. I’m also tremendously grateful that it’s DONE! This week has been thank you notes, social media posts, sorting event photos, closing out invoices, picking up race signs… Still BUSY, but behind-the-scenes busy. All the stuff that has to get done, but the stuff that no one else really knows about.

Everybody has their own personal behind-the-scenes.

The private prayer request you don’t share.

The little issues that add up, the inner struggles, the embarrassing circumstances, the pain that you can’t put into words. Maybe you feel awkward, alone, ashamed.

We all have our own STUFF we don’t bring up in general conversation.

BUT GOD…

One morning this week I sat in the wee hours with just my coffee and the Lord. My behind-the-scenes were weighing heavily on me, and I was talking to Him about it when finally I raised my head. I’m never up that early, and I couldn’t remember ever seeing the world so black. But piercing the darkness, were more stars than I’ve ever seen, certainly right here in town. Tiny flashes of light, too many to number. I was reminded, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalms 147:4)

And I knew that morning, at that moment, those stars were for me. I needed a physical picture of how infinite He is, of His majesty, of the vastness of His creation. I simultaneously felt so small and insignificant yet so very SEEN.

He made all those stars. But He also made me.

He is God of the universe and the God of my details.

He knows my needs and cares, even (and especially) the ones I can’t bring my lips to say out loud.

I don’t have a lot to say this week; I’m just overwhelmingly grateful to my sovereign Father who loves perfectly, in the big things and the small.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” (Psalms 147:5)

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (Psalms 139:1-5)

Light

I am thankful:

~ for an low key uneventful Labor Day.

~ for a cute Homecoming “ask.”

~ for a great time sharing with the GCS 2nd graders. It’s so awesome that TWO SUPERHEROES, Sawyer and his HERO buddy Jase, are in the same grade and class, and the 2nd grade teachers are collaborating on a class project making posters to support their classmates and promote Tyler Gold Run. So proud of them all!

~ for a great volleyball week for Samantha. She got to play in Thursday’s games and they came away with a victory! Then this weekend was her first tournament. Although I was not able to attend, I had several moms taking pictures for me, and keeping me posted on how the team was doing. Sam had her first opportunity to serve, and did a great job! After a full day of play, GCS took second place in the tournament. She had a blast! So proud, and so glad she’s enjoying herself. It doesn’t seem like she should be this grown-up.

~ for the best helpers in the land. I love that my kids just jump right in on Gold Run activities. They all love to help and they know this is just what our family does in September. They have helped sort metals, carry boxes, model T-shirts, fill race bags… I pray no one reports me for breaking child labor laws.

This became a new favorite photo shoot location

~ for continued traction as we prepare for Tyler Gold Run ON SATURDAY!! I have canvassed the city, putting up signs and posters, asking for donations, and finishing up all the details. My mind is a frantically flashing ticker tape of items to check off my lists.

Numbers aren’t where I’d like them to be, but I know God is Lord of all, and we trust Him with the details and the outcome. It’s all His anyway! There’s still time to register and to spread the word, and we have many opportunities for volunteers as well. It’s going to be a wonderful day to remember, and you won’t be sorry you chose to be a part. www.tylergoldrun.com

~ thankful for faithful friends who pray. This week I have had multiple people reach out and encourage and/or pray for me. I’m thankful for the God who sees me, and the faithful saints who listen and obey His promptings. You never know but that you might be the answer to someone’s prayer today. Give us ears to hear, Lord.

~ thankful to have my WHOLE TRIBE together for dinner and for church. It’s been too long.

I’ve been running on low fuel this week. Low on energy. Low on grace. Anxious. Discouraged. My eyes on circumstances instead of the Savior.

That’s a good indication that my focus is off, and that I’m operating (poorly) in my own strength instead of trusting Jesus.

I needed to be reminded.

He is good.

He is RIGHT.

He is faithful.

His way is better than mine.

He is working when I can’t see.

He sees me.

He sees the ones I worry about.

And no matter what happens, all the above statements are STILL TRUE.

I sat with my coffee this morning and took this picture.

What a beautiful visual of light breaking through. It always does and it always will. Darkness comes back, even blots out the light. But inevitably, Light will always pierce the darkness and overtake it.

I can’t do everything. I can’t make everything go ok. I can’t fix all the problems or ensure good outcomes. But God.

He knows. He sees. He loves. HE WINS.

Whatever you’re walking through, whatever you’re asking for…don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”(II Corinthians 4:6)

“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)

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)