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)

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)

God With Us

I am thankful:

~ for my favorite view…a bazillion stockings on the fireplace, soft, twinkling lights on the tree and new mantel decor this year. I spy a refurbished treasure salvaged from my roadside adventures.

October “Treasure Week”

~ for how excited the kids are to draw each other‘s names for our sibling “Secret Christmas Buddy” gift exchange.

~ for Carson Grace starting her new job this week, as a sales lead at Aeropostale. How crazy for my girl to start a job in retail clothing just like I did at her age. She’s learning a lot: retail at Christmas is no joke.

~ for the cutest puppies in all the land.

They are doing great. We learned how to feed them their transitional semi-liquid food by trial and LOTS OF ERROR. Josh upgraded his feeding center, and they are finally getting the hang of it.

Some have it more figured out than others

They are visibly growing and changing every day. I can’t believe they are 4 weeks old today, and that THEY ALL HAVE HOMES! It makes me so happy to think of how much joy they will bring to so many families. For now we are enjoying all the sweet puppy breath and snuggles.

~ for all the help when putting a project together. ALLLLLL the help.

~ for exhilarating high school football playoffs. Even though a televised game is a weak substitute for the in-person electric energy of a brightly lit roaring stadium on a Friday night, the necessity of these broadcasts now enables so many more people to get to watch games they would not be able to attend (including us!). This week we were excited to see the Carthage Bulldogs secure ANOTHER trip to the state championship in their division. AND we were beside ourselves as we watched the nailbiting comeback of the Lindale Eagles, as they soared in for a victory and ticket to their state championship. Coach Chris Cochran and his wife Lindsay and sweet Coby Tate are family to us, and we could not be more proud of this well-deserved victory for them and their boys.

~ for Samantha’s very first acting gig! She and her 6th Grade Drama class presented the play, “Too Wrapped up for Christmas,” and did a fantastic job. While Sam said acting “isn’t really her ‘THING,’” she said she had a great time. How are these babies growing up so fast!?

~ for SO MANY PROJECTS underway for Giddyup & Whoa! I have continued to get new orders daily, and I’m painting and wood burning as fast as my little fingers can go! It’s always such a blessing to meet another customer and see them pleased with their sign. I still have many projects to complete for Christmas gifts, so I am HUSTLING. I have one particularly intimidating order…a MASSIVE 7 footer. I call this part of the season “the Christmas Crunch.”

~ for all our favorite memory-laden Christmas decorations. Grandma Grace’s nativity and handmade felt ornaments.

The well-loved Fisher Price nativity, that never seems to have all its pieces at one time (it’s usually missing Mary, and several times we have lost Baby Jesus. We replaced the angel one year, but we are still short 2 wisemen.) This little snowman and puppy combo was a Hallmark classic. Our sweet Granny Lucy bought it when Cooper was a baby, 16 years ago. We have loved pulling it out every year and listening to its cheery jingle bark song.

It traveled with me to Dallas when Sawyer was in the hospital at Christmastime two years in a row.

One year it stopped working, and I researched how to clean battery connections, and then painstakingly swabbed the connectors with white vinegar. By some miracle it worked, resurrecting the Christmas cheer. And now Tatum K loves it. It reminds me of Granny and always makes me smile.

Another favorite tradition is celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with Grandmommy. She spends so much time and thought putting together gifts for the children, and we love the excitement of singing each verse of the song and opening a gift each night.

Traditions mean so much to me. Always have. I think back on spending Christmas at Grandma Grace’s house…the ornaments and nativity that I loved so much when I was little, and the sparkling Christmas tree made from her jewelry that would mesmerize me for hours. I remember her card table set up with the poinsettia tablecloth, serving up orange 7up punch with her pretty crystal cups, mixed nuts, homemade Chex mix, and ALWAYS a little tray of Andes mints. At my other grandparents house, we would celebrate on Christmas Eve in their cozy basement, with a big spread of food, including my favorite peanut clusters, and often we would have a White Elephant gift exchange. I remember the year I was so greedy that I chose THE BIGGEST present, and it ended up being a huge and hideous velvet painting of an ocean, and my 8 year old self was DEVASTATED.

I hope one day my grown kids will tell their families about reading Luke Chapter 2 and eating monkey bread and sausage bread. I hope they explain all the stories attached to each of the ornaments they got each Christmas Eve, and how EVERY YEAR I would pretend to surprise them with “opening ONE present early” – always new Christmas pajamas. I hope they love pulling out Granny’s singing snowman and Aunt Dinah’s Christmas village. And I hope they’ll find their own special traditions that will become meaningful to their families.

Is Jesus at the center? It sounds like such a cliché, but do we have room for Him? Is there room in the busy-ness, between the Amazon orders and the holiday baking and the Christmas party-ing, is there any margin in our lives to sit at His feet? We pray and ask Him all year long to use us, but when it comes down to it, do we leave any room for what He actually intended to use us for: to listen to a friend who is lonely, to give to a stranger who is hurting, to forgive that family member who has hurt us?

I feel like most of us have gone through a lot this year, and we are all processing things differently. We may not be celebrating all our same traditions in the same way this year, but the Most Important Thing is still the same, and can’t be taken away by national mandates or quarantines. Emmanuel. God With Us. Wherever we are, He is there if we leave room for Him.

Let’s not lose Jesus this year.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

““Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(Isaiah 41:10)

Plains

I am thankful:

~ for a great week of swag pick up for Tyler Gold Run. I worked with some of the most wonderful volunteers on the planet, and got to see some of my favorite people, even if just behind a mask. So thankful for the incredible support for our virtual event this year, and looking more forward than ever to our (hopefully) in-person event next year!

~ for Sawyer having the opportunity to share the pledges at Chapel. This is a simple privilege that could easily take for granted. Lord, may I never cease to see the miracle in front of my eyes when I see the things the Lord has allowed him to do.

~ for steaming, zesty tortilla soup on the first day of fall.

~ for a full trashcan of hair trimmed from Birdie! She is still a big, puffy orange pom pom dog, but she looks fresh as a daisy with her trim!

~ for more good laughs. During virtual church this morning (yes, we stayed home this week. Josh had to work, and I was not up to a solo effort keeping the 6 little people quiet without children’s church.) Tatum K pointed to our pastor on the tv and said,

“That’s my favorite guy. What’s him name?”

I said, “Brother Joe.”

“Yeah, Brudder Joe. He says he loves me”

And for post it notes. Especially ones that make me giggle like this…

~ for incredibly steady Giddyup & Whoa opportunities! I don’t know that I’ve ever had 18 projects underway all at once before! I am up to my eyeballs in reclaimed wood, and I absolutely love it! The Vintage and Company Fall Barn Sale is coming up in a couple weeks, so if you’re local be sure to come check it out. I have some really special treasures in store. And Jodi‘s collections never disappoints!

~ for my sweet husband coming home with my absolute favorite lunch: a decadent wagu burger and truffle fries from C Rojo‘s.

~ for Tatum K tenderly caring for her “babies.” (Last week it was acorns. This week it’s snails.)

~ for our amazing HERO friend, Aneesa, who has DONE IT AGAIN! You may remember her from last September, when she wrote a letter to her middle school principal asking the school to Go Gold. This year she is a freshman at a new school, Early College High School, and she approached her new principal with the same proposition. They agreed and did a supply drive, collecting items for our parents’ survival kits and the clinic toy closet. They gathered an impressive assortment of items and an additional cash donation of over $400 for Gold Network of East Texas! The principal assured me that this would be a yearly event! Way to go Aneesa!

~ I missed mentioning last week, I was thankful for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season! It never disappoints. Thank you, Gina Sue!

~ for the opportunity to watch some exciting Carthage high school football with some pretty stoked fans.

Some weeks are just kind of a grind. No big trials, just the basic mindless cycle of wash – rinse – repeat. Little snags. Irritations that pile up. Revolving to-do list. Our kiddos have recently settled into an unpleasant pattern of incessant bickering with one another, which sets my nerves constantly on edge. One child will have a great day while another one (or 4) are falling apart. I have a lot of plates in the air to keep spinning, and I’m never sure when I might just trip on a random Lego or dinosaur and send them all flying. BUT GOD. He’s the God of the mountains and the valleys. He’s also the God of the plains. The God of the hallway. The God of the in-betweens. He’s with me in the dark nightmare of cancer and in the jubilation of a baby girl born with a perfect heart. And he’s with me when my life is a treadmill of full laundry baskets and bickery kids and snail babies. He’s steady and faithful when I am not. He’s patient when I lose my cool. He’s full of love when my tank is empty. I’m so thankful that He pours into me according to the abundance of His faithfulness and not according to my capacity for faith. Where are you this week? The mountain? The valley? Or the plain? Let Him meet you there. Press on, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalms 143:8)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

“Come all you weary / Come all you thirsty / Come to the well that never runs dry / Drink of the water / Come and thirst no more / Come all you sinners / Come find His mercy / Come to the table / He will satisfy / Taste of His goodness / Find what you’re looking for / For God so loved the world that He gave us / His one and only Son to save us / Whoever believes in Him will live forever” “God So Loved” by We the Kingdom

Golden

I am thankful:

~ for good laughs from the littlest Littles. One morning Tatum K was particularly snuggly and was all curled up in my lap. I whispered in her ear, “I love you.” She turned my face toward her mouth and whispered into my ear, “I love donuts.” Honesty is good, my dear.

And Sawyer asked his dad in all seriousness, “Dad, is it TRUE that safe drivers save 40%?”

~ for a long-awaited dream come true. I have wanted to deck out our family bus for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for a long time. I’ve even looked into having a wrap put on it. (Josh said no). So a good compromise that I could still get excited about, I decked it out in custom magnetic gold polka dots! I was so tickled when they came in the mail, and I was able to surprise Josh and the kids. Makes a statement to be sure! GO GOLD!!

~ for my new throw pillows. Maybe a silly thing to be thankful for, but 40 days ago I thought I was making a simple Etsy purchase. I didn’t realize the Etsy shop was in Guiyang, China. I have watched the tracking on these BLESSED pillows twice a day for FORTY DAYS. I did a little happy jig when they arrived this week.

But then I did have to laugh. You know those annoying “extra” Instagram people who match their pets to their house? I looked at my pillows and had to just shake my head. This was NOT intentional.

~ for the sweetest support from the kiddos. You know your kids are all in on the mission of going gold when you find these all over the house.

~ for the kids and my first Sunday back at in-person church. I can’t say it was easy for me. I struggle with social anxiety anyway, and quarantine and isolation have only amplified my tendency to withdraw. But I’m thankful for the loving leadership of my husband. It was time. It was good to be back in God’s house worshipping with His people. And as a double blessing, (don’t you just love a double blessing?) the church was hosting a blood drive. So Josh and I both got to donate blood. Giving blood means a lot to us. Sawyer received more blood transfusions than I can count. So often it ALMOST wasn’t even a big deal any more. But I will never forget the time Sawyer needed platelets, so we took him to the hospital for a transfusion. But they didn’t have the specific blood he so desperately needed. (The platelets were eventually located and flown in from out of state). It was a terrifying feeling to realize that I could not take for granted that my baby would always be able get the life-saving transfusion he needed. So today I t felt good to give.

~ for a fun night hosting 30 teenagers for our church youth swim party. For good burgers and hotdogs and yummy junk food and for kids that did not mind that the pool was NOT WARM!

~ for the sweetest time with Samantha at a 6th grade Mother/Daughter Tea. We got all doodled up and had fancy girlie snacks while encouragement was shared about growing up, letting go, friendships, and being set apart for God’s purposes. Each girl was given their own fine china plate inscribed with 2 Timothy 2:21,“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” How is this beautiful girl turning into a lovely young lady before my very eyes? Someone turn back the clock…

~ and most of all, I’m thankful for a very different, very special Virtual Tyler Gold Run. It was so difficult to be forced to make the decision to not have an in-person event. It’s our largest event, our largest fundraiser, and last year’s race was SO EPICALLY AWESOME! But obviously this year has been a crazy one of taking steps back and slowing down and trusting God when we don’t understand. But can I just say that the support we saw for this year’s virtual event KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF!!! You registered! You donated!!! Every day the numbers went up, and I was freshly amazed, encouraged, and humbled that you believe in the mission and ministry of Gold Network of East Texas. The week was a different kind of busy leading up to Saturday, fielding phone calls and emails, 6 social media postings a day, and 5 tv/web interviews. For a virtual event, it sure took a lot of real-life in-person WORK! BUT GOD!

We love the support from favorite local new anchor Blake Holland from KLTV. After our interview, he asked for a sign to put in his yard.

Saturday came, and the weather was PERFECT: bright, crisp, and refreshing. Sawyer and Jase’s 1st grade class walked together to honor them, and the Lord had put it on my heart to walk for ALL our Gold Network HEROES. So I wrote their names all on race bibs that we either wore or had displayed on our wagon. It was so special to have them all with us, and to know that we were honoring their lives and their fights no matter what. Nobody can take that away from us.

We had a great turnout for our little group at the park, and the sweetest time of prayer over Sawyer and over Jase, who will compete his 3 year course of treatment for leukemia next month. Although I missed EVERYTHING about in-person Tyler Gold Run: the crowd, the volunteers, the HEROES and their families, the hundreds of people in our shirts and race bibs, the pounding of the drum line and the electric excitement in the air…there was a special sweetness about our quiet walk. And what a blessing that for the first time in 6 years, I got to participate!

SuperHEROES Sawyer and Jase with their SUPER teacher, Ms. Benscoter
Co-founder, right hand, and dear friend, Paula Kimmey
The first time I have gotten to actually participate

And it was also awesome to know that Virtual Tyler Gold Runs were taking place all over Tyler! And not just Tyler: Jacksonville, Bullard, Lindale, Longview, Sulphur Springs, even in Colorado and Tennessee!

Blake and his fiancé Erika did their 10k at the park
Tyler Gold Run for Sophie the Brave in Downtown Tyler
Tyler Gold Run in Carthage
Tyler Gold Run in Colorado
Tyler Gold Run in Dallas

I’ve said from the very beginning, before we did ONE THING, that the only way any of this could happen is if God breathed life into it. AND HE HAS!!! Over and over again! And we have to continue to believe (and to walk out that belief in real life) that God has a plan ordained for Gold Network of East Texas, and lay down our woefully incomplete plans in exchange for His perfect one. As long as He continues to provide the grace, and as long as East Texas families need our support, we are going to continue raising funds and raising our voices for the childhood cancer community! Thank you for GOING GOLD with us. We can’t wait to see what God opens up for us in the coming year!!! If you missed your chance to register, you can make a donation any time at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate

Click here to enjoy a video of SOME of Virtual Tyler Gold Run 2020. (Be sure to to tag us if you share any other pictures on social media #tylergoldrun2020)

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice. A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.(Proverbs 16:7-9)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Glimmers of GOLD

We are another week in, and so far things are rocking and rolling. The kids are all loving school, and our routines are growing more and more familiar. God’s mercies are new every morning, and I’ve felt His comforting presence so near every day. It’s been good for me to get back into the practice of “Thank You Therapy,” thanking God for all the blessings I can think of THE MOMENT I wake up, before I even open my eyes. Thank you so much to those who have faithfully covered us in prayers – I can feel them!

I am thankful:

~ for the peaceful stillness of the morning when I come out to the navy blue sky only pierced by one bright morning star. I love to have my coffee and start my day with Jesus here.

~ for perfectly perfect avocado toast.

~ for a God-soaked exercise in humility. Oh, how He loves…

~ for my carefully cataloged boxes of hand-me-downs. So exciting to find treasures “from the box!”

~ for our first sweet and tasty watermelon of the summer – FINALLY! We’ve had one flavorless dud after another! Thank you Sara!

~ for a good lookin kid with a good looking frog!

~ for a fabulous find – someone replacing their fence along my route to the school. So after dropoff one morning, Tatum K and I scooped up a busload of gorgeous reclaimed wood!

~ for a great late night surprise: Carson Grace popped in from college! And Colton was in town for the weekend, so for a few precious hours, we had our whole tribe back home in the nest. Good for Mama’s heart.

~ for technology that allows us to worship with Carson Grace at her church in Longview and also with our home church.

~ for the best possible compromise in a tough situation. Tuesday is September 1, and we should be gathering on the Downtown Square of Tyler to honor our Gold Network of East Texas HEROES and their families and kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. With concerns related to Covid 19, with heavy hearts, we made the difficult decision to cancel the event. This is one of our most meaningful and personal events, and I am so disappointed to be missing out on the irreplaceable fellowship of our HERO families. In lieu of gathering together this year, we are sending out Gold care packages to our families, so they can GO GOLD wherever they are. We have designed a sharp new T shirt that will be a great way to raise awareness, and a VERY LIMITED quantity of sizes are available for purchase (YouthXS-2X). If you would like to purchase a shirt ($20), send an email to info@goldnetworkoet.com with the sizes you would like, and we will reply with detailed payment information. Free local pickup and $5 shipping available.

Go GOLD T shirts available $20
Go GOLD Tyler 2019

~ for the support we have seen for Virtual Tyler Gold Run 2020. We are excited to have so many of our HERO families registered, and how they are sharing the event with their friends and neighbors. It is certainly uncharted territory for us, and difficult to know what to expect. But I’m doing everything I can to promote this year’s unique event, posting on social media 3 times a day, sending out emails, and introducing our brave HERO kids. WE ARE NOT GIVING UP! Childhood cancer is not going away. 2 of our HEROES were hospitalized this week, and we added 3 more new families to our Network. Every time I look at Sawyer, I see the miracle that he is. And I think about what life used to be like when we lived in the hospital, asking God for one more day. And then I think about what life would be like today if things had turned out differently. BUT GOD. My heart is in the childhood cancer world. These families need support, need encouragement, need to be reminded that they are not alone. Will you pray about what God would have as your part? Can you come alongside with a one time donation by registering for Tyler Gold Run? Would you want to support our Clinic Call-in Program, where we provide meal delivery on treatment days for our families, by giving a monthly donation? Would you select Gold Network of East Texas as your charity of choice when shopping on AmazonSmile, so that Amazon will make a donation to us when you shop? Would you pray for us? GNET is an offering to the Lord: we hold it with hands open, asking Him to lead us where He would have us go, and we surrender it all to Him. We seek to be a blessing and a light. Join us in GOING GOLD this September. Wear GOLD! Carry GOLD accessories. Change your social media profile picture. Start a conversation about childhood cancer. Awareness is the place where change begins.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15)

July

I am thankful:

~ for Aldi groceries delivered right to my front steps. Game changer.

~ for refreshing Kona Ice on a sweltering hot day.

~ for a huge undertaking that will be well worth it in the long run. We have amassed a fortune in other peoples’ trash, i.e. reclaimed wood from the side of the road. Panels upon panels upon panels of barnwood and fencing stacked up along the side of our house. Every time we have an order, step one is the beat down of deconstructing and prepping the wood for building. This week Josh and I and the kids took on the task of stripping ALL the panels apart and removing all of the old rusty nails, creating a much better system for organizing and storing this beautiful wood. Now it is ready to go whenever we have a sign order. It was a backbreaking job in 100° weather and blazing sun, but after six hours, it was complete!

~ for good old fashioned hard work with our kids. They have their daily chores, and usually are eager to jump in and help mom and dad with whatever other projects we have going on. But we also have some really good laughs along the way. Near the end of the wood project, Sawyer was wilting, and started asking, “Can I just skip THIS ONE nail, Dad? Do we have to do ALL these boards?” Josh replied quickly and firmly, “Son, do you know what your last name is? When your last name’s Rucker, you work hard, you do it right, and you don’t quit until the job’s done.” A little bit later Sawyer piped in again, “Hey Dad. Maybe we could change our last name…”

~ for fresh haircuts. Thankfully, the “Home Salon” is our norm anyway. Dad has always cut the boys and mom cuts the girls.

~ for surprisingly tasty homemade cauliflower crust pizza.

~ for sweet, compassionate Sawyer who spent 30 minutes protecting a tiny ant from the dogs so it could safely carry a piece of food “home to its family.”

~ for a lovely tea party with Tatum K and Birdie. Birdie adored her princess dress, and happily gobbled down all the party treats. They both need to work a bit on their formal table manners.

~ for CHEESE BALLS. That’s right, if you have followed along on our journey, you know that cheese balls can only mean one thing…

VACATION! We literally buy cheese balls only once a year, and the kids know exactly what it means when they see them come through the door. We have a trip planned to a beach house in Galveston next week. It’s been hard to get excited about it because I’ve been guarding my heart just in case it gets canceled (like everything else has all year.) But as of now, everything looks to be a go. Our plans are just to drive down and continue our self quarantine at the house…but at least it will be a change of scenery, and at least it will be ON THE BEACH!

I have to confess. I have a problem with July. Six years ago in July, sitting in an ER at Children’s Hospital with my baby in my arms, I heard the word CANCER for the first time. The following July, Sawyer developed severe complications from a combination of viruses that landed him in the hospital for weeks. The next July we were at the Lighthouse Family Retreat in Florida when I got the call from my doctor that pathology reports came back confirming that I had malignant melanoma.

July is not my favorite. My flesh and my enemy know it, and the fiery darts have my name on them at the very turn of the calendar page. I find myself emotional at the drop of a hat, ultra irritable, attacked by unpredictable anxiety, not to mention battling constant headaches and chronic pain. Anxiety and fear don’t play fair. They want me to focus on the panic that rises up every year on these hard anniversaries. They want to cripple me with the pain of reliving the past and distort my outlook on both the promises of the future and the present joys of today. And the current dismal scenery of rioting and injustice and sickness and death everywhere is NOT HELPING me.

I wish I had wise words about it. I wish I had a victorious story of how healthy and faith-filled I am. Truth is, I’m a mess. I have totally blown it with each of my kids over the past few days, and I’ve been a ball of grouchiness and nerves. I’m annoyed, frustrated, and embarrassed at feeling stuck in this trap. AGAIN.

BUT GOD.

I may be back in this stupid trap, but my Father is with me. He loves me and He encourages me – LITERALLY FILLS ME WITH COURAGE – and He holds me when I cry in the dark. And every time I fall and disappoint myself again, He reaches His mighty right hand to me and says, “Let’s try again baby girl.”

I know He is growing me, allowing me to be pressed and sanded for my good and for His glory. I know it will pass. I know He’s holding me close and He won’t ever leave me. I know He will birth something beautiful from the ashes of all the shattered July’s that have come and gone.

I pray for a wonderful salty, sand-kissed week away with my Loves next week (I could pray for “relaxing”, but with 9 kids, that’s a not really even a goal). I pray that Sawyer’s Cancerversary and the days leading up to it will come and go with more thanksgiving than anxiety. I pray for health and safety for our Tribe as we venture out for the first time in months. I pray for no more bad news this July. But if not, He is still good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

Here’s a song that really ministered to me this week. I hope it blesses you. https://youtu.be/R8oxVCFGsgY

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24)

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms….In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:11-12, 16)

A Square

Has anyone else felt completely confused and/or defeated this week?

“It’s not ok to say nothing.”

If you DID say (or post) something, somebody might have told you it was the wrong thing.

You should’ve said….

“You have to POST this….”

Then, if you did, “WHY did you do THAT? What are you trying to PROVE?”

Posting Scripture was often met with the response that it was a misuse of the context or else it was twisted into something negative.

Social media was a lose/lose this week.

I felt bullied. I felt like every single thing I did/said/posted/didn’t post needed an explanation and/or disclaimer.

Am I defined by a square? By crafting the perfect caption that sums up my beliefs and everything I stand for?

Part of me felt like it was just hopeless. The hate. The hurt. The injustice. The division. The name calling. It’s never gonna end. There is no RIGHT answer.

But there is. The right answer is always Jesus! The right answer is always that I must decrease so that He may increase. The right answer is always to love your neighbor as yourself, whoever that neighbor may be. The right answer is always that Light casts out darkness. And one glorious day it IS going to end.

I think some of the wisest words I’ve heard (outside Scripture) came from Anna on Frozen 2. “Just do the next right thing.”

And I want to try to do more of that. Whether it shows up on social media or not.

I am thankful:

~ for the Lord’s protection. Gavin and Sawyer were playing outside, and Sawyer was about to go potty “country boy style” outside when Gavin noticed something at his feet. At first, Sawyer didn’t believe it was real, but Gavin convinced him and the two boys ran screaming inside. “Snake!” Mama had to get brave with my rubber boots and long shovel, and put an end to the snake, which turned out to be a 2 foot long copperhead! I’ve never killed a snake before. I felt a little bit like She-Ra Warrior Princess and a little bit like passing out. When I think about what could have happened if Gavin hadn’t noticed it, or if Sawyer had reached down to grab it… BUT GOD.

~ for Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones. Isn’t that just the flavor of summer?

~ for a great, HOT week at the Barn Sale. Wednesday was Early Bird Day, and the admission fees were donated to Gold Network of East TX, so I worked at the table selling admission tickets and sharing about our programs. I met some fabulous people, and so many were kind and super generous. The sale went on through Saturday, and I was thrilled to sell more than half the Giddyup & Whoa signs I had painted! Double blessing!

~ for Carson Grace turning 19. How? How can my Princess Peanut be 19 years old??? She had a great time being celebrated by her friends, and she squeezed in a window for us to have her birthday dinner. We all love her birthday, because she has such great taste: BBQ chicken legs, pickled cucumber and tomato salad, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and ice cream cake. Her meal was a celebration in itself! But in all seriousness, I am excited to see what the Lord opens up for and in her this year. She is such a bright light, I know she has so much shining to do for Him!

~ for cool, refreshingly sweet and tart lemon icebox pie. It didn’t last long.

~ for a few more treats from our garden, including a teensy bitsy carrot.

~ for successful completion of the next, highly stressful stage of our gradual kitchen reno. We busted up and ripped out the final slab of dark granite from our island. The next day, a freighter dropped off its replacement: a 500 pound 8 foot long maple butcher block. The driver asked how long it would take for us to get it inside and installed. Josh confidently assured him it would be in place that night. We enlisted the help of a neighbor, and josh and I and Cooper CAREFULLY slid the massive slab onto a flat dolly, wheeled it into the house, and hoisted all 500 pounds of it onto the island. That process went much more smoothly than I had envisioned in my mind. But then came the real challenge. To measure, re-measure, and measure AGAIN to confirm the opening Josh would have to CUT out of that beautiful butcher block for our range. No do-overs. No margin for error. Man, we were calling out to Jesus for sure! But as always, Josh was meticulous and BOLD, and he cut the hole perfectly in one shot. So happy with how it turned out.

Let’s love one another well this week. Less time staring at screens and more time looking into the actual eyes of actual people. Let’s not throw darts or dodgeballs, but engage in active listening and compassion. Let’s admit when we’re wrong and forgive when we’re wronged. And pray for the healing that our nation so desperately needs to start in our own homes and in our hearts.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. Y’all are truly such a blessing.

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

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

“Just do the next right thing

Take a step, step again

It is all that I can to do

The next right thing

I won’t look too far ahead

It’s too much for me to take

But break it down to this next breath, this next step

This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night

Stumbling blindly toward the light

And do the next right thing

And, with it done, what comes then?

When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again

Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice

And do the next right thing”

(“The Next Right Thing” Kristen Bell)

Seasons

I am thankful:

~ for 2 sweet quick visits with 2 different dear friends before they move away.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to people you love.  But seasons are always changing and you just pray that you can find a way to stay connected regardless of location.  Tatum had a great time playing with a friend, and later having a delicious breakfast of diced tomatoes and chocolate milk!

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~ for the stunning color of the fall leaves.  People say Texas doesn’t really get seasons.  And while the foliage may not be as electric nor the temperatures quite as brisk as in the north and northeast, I think East Texas is beautiful in the fall.  I love the drop in temperatures, pulling out the boots and sweaters, and the crackle of a fire in the evenings.  To me, the autumn season was the ideal choice for scheduling Thanksgiving: leaves change and fall, colder weather makes us want to cuddle closer, we hunger for the warmth of nostalgic comfort foods…it’s a season built for looking around at our surroundings and seeking to give thanks. 

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~ for a extra special week for Kora.  Her class presented the Chapel program, a Tribute to Veteran’s Day.  It was an inspiring and reverent program, and all the students did a beautiful job with their songs and recitations.  Then as a part of her classroom’s weekly Toastmasters presentation, she gave her original speech.  Big week for our girl.  She delights in having her turn in the spotlight, and nothing makes her light up more than seeing Mama and Daddy smiling from the audience.  So proud of her. 

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~ for the rare opportunity to surprise my girl!  Carson Grace invited us to a special event as a part of her music major program, Student-led Night of Worship.  Unfortunately, she invited us about 22 hours before the program.  I let her know we were very proud of her, but told her how difficult it would be to make arrangements to get all the way to Marshall the next evening, especially on a school night.  But as soon as I got off the phone with her, I got to work planning those details.  Even that evening, as we were on the road to Marshall, I continued to text her and tell her that we loved her and were praying that the service would go well (true statements).  When we showed up at the recital hall (you can imagine, a Tribe of Littles is quite a spectacle on a college campus, so we weren’t hard to spot), she saw us and burst into tears.  I’m so thankful we made it a little early so she had time to get herself together before taking the stage with her worship team.   What a blessing to see our beautiful daughter, singing unto the Lord with her peers.  It was just awesome.  After her set was over, she joined us in the audience, and squeezed me so hard…it felt great to know how much it meant to her that we were there.  It was an incredible night worshipping together, and even the Littles totally got into it, clearly blessed by the presence of the Lord. IMG_9530

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~ for lots of progress in preparation for our 2 upcoming Giddyup & Whoa sales: Vintage & Company’s “Christmas in the Country” and The Market.  Josh has been building and building for me, and I paint every chance I get.  The kids love being a part: helping design, paint, and construct; and they are always eager to “model” for me.  So thankful for the opportunity to create together as a family, and hopeful that we are coming into a busy season for the business. 

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~ for successfully surviving the last (and coldest, and WETTEST) JV football game of the season!  Armed with our blankets, scarves, gloves, and hot chocolate, the Littles and I made it to halftime, and left Dad, Colton, and Brooke to cheer Coop on to the bitter end.  I love watching him play, so I’m sad to see the season end, but I WILL NOT miss shivering in the bleachers with 875 whining kids. 

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~ for our furry, floppy muppet dog, Bear, who turned 1 today!  He has been such a fun addition to our crazy Tribe. 

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~ for relaxing evenings, chilling and watching the Cowboys.  Ok fine.  If you know me, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about football. I can barely keep my eyes on Cooper’s jersey to see where he is on the field at his games.  I can get into sports when I know personal stories about the players, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to follow.  BUT. I love my husband.  And my husband loves to watch the Cowboys.  So I love to be near my husband while he watches the Cowboys.  I paint or write, and I cheer when he cheers.  We’ve got a system down. 

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~ for a weekend with our girl home from college.  We enjoyed a RARE laid back weekend devoid of a schedule.  Carson Grace got to sleep in, we ran some errands, ordered some much-needed glasses for both of us, and spend the evening watching Lion King all together. 

~ for unexpected blessings.  One of the reasons Carson Grace came home for the weekend was because she had been invited to be a guest vocalist at the church of one of her professors.  The church was in Athens, and we decided to load up the whole Tribe and go with her.  Carson Grace of course did an absolutely wonderful job sharing her song, and blessed the heart of the Lord and every parishioner in attendance.  But it was clear the moment we got there that the He had a very specific purpose for our family visiting that church.  The pastor (who teaches voice part time at ETBU, and was the one who invited Carson Grace) and his wife have recently taken in 4 foster children.   Recently as in 3 weeks ago.   I looked into that mama’s tired tired eyes and knew exactly what she was feeling.   Oh, how vividly O remember the pain of that season, of those raw first weeks. Josh and I were able to share our foster/adopt story and listen to where they are in theirs.   We could relate to one another on such a strikingly similar level, and there was such hope in that.   After church was over, our 2 families went for pizza, and the adults visited as much as we could while juggling kid plates, refilling cups, wiping noses and wiping spills…  We sat there and told the stories we have told so many times.  Stories of broken beds, and heads cracking through windows.  Stories of getting locked out of the house by 3 toddlers and of the end of life as we then knew it.  BUT GOD.   Because the kids from those stories are gone.  They really are.  I can’t think of a day when I was more proud of my children.  As we were telling those stories with the grownups, OUR kids were loving on THEIR kids.  Our little girls were chatting it up with their girls, and have already declared that they are friends who can’t wait to see each other again.  Their little guy and Sawyer had been in Sunday school class today that morning, so they were tickled to buddy up at lunch.  And Carson Grace and Cooper were kind and conversational with their quiet and reserved 16 year old boy.  It was beautiful.  I’m not even bothering to hold back my tears as I write this tonight, with the images fresh on my mind.  I ache thinking of all that these precious children have gone through, more than anyone even knows about.  They have been shifted around and let down by the ones who they trusted to keep them safe, and so many others after that.  I can only imagine how broken and scared and confused they are.  And I know how shell shocked those foster parents are right now.  Everything about their life has changed overnight.  And they are holding on for dear life, clinging to Jesus, desperately trying to be obedient to whatever He asks them to do.   I’m so grateful that we got to meet this family today, and ask that you would join me in praying for them.  They need it.  And I’m so grateful that the Lord used this day to show me afresh how far our beautiful children have come, and the beauty that shines from the ashes of their story.  Their story is one of brokenness and loss and pain, and a story of love and redemption and healing and hope. And today I got to see them ministering.    Thank You Father for fresh eyes to see the miracle of New Life. 

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you remain securely anchored into Christ.  When things are bad, hang on.  Jesus is holding you, He is fighting for you, and He will never leave you.  And this season won’t last forever.   And if you are in a sweet season, a season of plenty, of peace – set that anchor DEEP.  Study His Word, seek God’s heart, pour into the lives of others.  Invest wisely in eternity during seasons of peace, because that season will end too.  And we never know what’s ahead.  We just know that our best days are still to come.  Which season are you in?  Who can you encourage this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)