Training Wheels and Laundry Baskets

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful day celebrating our beautiful Samantha turning 12!  How in the world is the little fuzzy headed muffin that captured our hearts the moment we laid eyes on her 12?????  Samantha has the biggest and most tender heart.  She is a born little mama, and wears Tatum on her hip constantly.  She is spunky and sassy and quick-witted, and entering the “tween” phase has made her even more ANIMATED.   She enjoyed her menu of choice: Nacho Supreme Hamburger Helper and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she baked her own chocolate cake with tie-dyed icing.  

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~ for a lovely day off school on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.   Carson Grace and one of her roommates came home for a day, so it was a treat to have them here.  

~ for the sweetest photo shoot with my oldest and youngest daughters.  Tatum K is the spitting image of baby Carson Grace, and seeing them together fills my heart with such joy. 

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~for the seasons that I know will not last forever…the seasons where in the middle of my shower, the door opens and a little voice says, “Mama, I want to snuggle wif you.”  Or when that same little voice says, “Mama, pray for the chocolate on my leg!”

~ for a powerful expression of intercessory prayer for a special couple needing healing in our church.  They are pillars of our Body, and beautiful, godly examples of humble leadership, Christ-centered marriage, and quiet strength.  

~ for a crazy week of home makeover DIY projects.  Josh had a week of vacation that he needed to use up, so he had planned a “stay-cation” with a list of several projects to get done around the house.  Why, WHY didn’t I think about what that meant for me?  I’ve been married to this man for a LOOOONG TIME, and HIS projects are almost always OUR projects.  I am AMAZED by all he (and we) got done!  He repainted the trim all the way around our house and both garage doors.  In 2 days!  Ripped out the cumbersome and non-functional built-in cabinet in our laundry room.  Designed and built me 2 reclaimed wood double-bay laundry sorters on casters to my specifications.  Built a shelf from a massive, stunning slab of wood we’ve been saving for years, and installed a galvanized hanging rod.  Ripped out the countertops and replaced them with custom reclaimed wood butcher block. Replaced the broken light fixture.  And I caulked and repainted the laundry room and cabinets, repainted our dingy mudroom and added a fun pop of color on the door.  Our laundry room and mudroom are two of the most hard-working rooms in our home, so it is so awesome to have them updated and more functional for our family.

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~ for the extended quality time with my Love this week. We enjoyed checking out a new place, Jimmy’s Egg. (Gina Sue treated Tatum K and I to breakfast there last week, and it was SO YUMMY that we had to take Dad!)  It was THE BOMB!  And we finished off our FD’s gift certificate with an at home date.  Tatum K crashed both “dates” (and ate half my food both times) but she’s cute enough, we really didn’t mind.  Bear also thought he should be invited…

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~ for an exciting next step… on-camera interviews for a professional promo video we are creating for Gold Network of East Texas.  We have so many dreams and plans stirring in our hearts for GNET in 2020 and the upcoming years.  It still blows my mind that less than 6 years ago, Tyler Gold Run and Gold Network of East Texas didn’t exist!  What a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to serve East TX childhood cancer community, and to see the network of families leaning on one another.  

~ for a hearty cooked-by-Dad breakfast. 

~ for another thrilling milestone: Sawyer learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!  He just hopped on and took right off!  Josh talked to him at bedtime about how much he has loved teaching each of his kids how to ride their bike.  That moment of pure joy when the balance kicks in and they soar away on their own. And of course, with Sawyer every new accomplishment is emotional and mind-blowing.  No milestones are small or taken for granted.  We just can’t believe Sawyer is alive and thriving and turning into a big kid in front of our very eyes.  Thank You Jesus!  (We did end the day with the inevitable skinned knee and big tears.  It’s all part of growing up!  Check out that shirt, though!)

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~ for SUNSHINE!!!!  We have had so many days upon days of rain and gloom, I was in desperate need of blue skies and sun!  Do you start to feel your soul get tired during gloomy weather?

It was a great week having Josh home.  He truly is my favorite person to spend time with, my very best friend.  We laughed tonight thinking that it seems like the longest week ever because we packed so much into it.  Parts of the week were surprisingly hard though.  We really are “GIDDYUP” and “WHOA.”  He pushes me.  Challenges me.  All these renovation projects came out of nowhere and really threw me for a loop.  I’m a pack rat, he’s a cleaner-outer.  He pushed me to go through a couple stacks I had sitting around.  (My piles drive him crazy.  And it drives ME crazy when he tosses things out without checking with me.)  He brought up the idea of building the laundry sorters I’d been wanting (which of course I was thrilled about, but I didn’t know anything else was coming), and 5 minutes later he put a caulk gun in my hand and started ripping the cabinet off the wall. (Oh.  So we’re DOING this!? You mean TODAY!?  Like…RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Ok then.)  The intensity and change of routine actually launched me into a pretty massive anxiety attack over THE STUPIDEST details.  If I remember correctly, it involved chicken sandwiches and some laundry baskets full of crap.  Good.  Grief.  It’s laughable now.  But in the moment, it was real and frustrating and suffocating and lonely.  But God.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  And now, I look at the freshly updated rooms, especially the laundry room, and it’s just…AWESOME!  It’s so much better than I ever could have envisioned.  It’s more than I asked for.  And Josh worked hard to make it happen, BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  He doesn’t spend any time in that laundry room.  He didn’t do it because HE wanted it.  He did it to bless ME.  And to get it done, he had to push me a little.  I’m so thankful that God knows what we need better than we do.  He chose Josh for me because he knew my “Whoa” would hold me back from so much in life, and that I NEEDED some “Giddyup.”  (And of course, Josh needs a little “Whoa” from time to time, so he doesn’t fly straight off the rails).  God uses my husband and my kids to teach me about the height and width and depth of His Love.  God loves us so far beyond our self imposed limitations.   He ABSOLUTELY gives us more than we can handle, but never more than He can handle.  Sometimes He pushes us.  And it is ALWAYS for a purpose…  He has things in store for us so far beyond what we have ever asked for or imagined.  Because He LOVES US.  So we have to see past anxiety and laundry baskets and chicken sandwiches that try to rob us of that joy.  And we will never experience the joy that feels like flying if we don’t take off the training wheels.  Even if we skin our knees.  Because flying is worth it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5: 6-7)

To it Not Through it

I am thankful:

~ for the most adorable Kindergarten talent show!  Sawyer and his class wowed us with their variety of talents: from zooming around the auditorium on bikes and scooters to dog training and cartwheels, this is one talented group!  Leading up to this event, Sawyer had a hard time narrowing down his choice.  Finally, he settled on playing (I use the term “playing” loosely) his ukulele from his Hawaiian Make-a-Wish trip.  HOWEVER, said uke was in ROUGH shape.  So I promised Sawyer I would take it to a music store to see if it could be fixed.  You have never seen a little guy SO EXCITED as Sawyer was as he watched the gentleman at the guitar store repair and completely restring his beloved ukulele.   And the man was so kind and so touched by Sawyer’s enthusiasm that he did it all free of charge!  (And in the interest of FULL DISCLOSURE, let me just also say, the ukulele got repaired on Monday.  Monday was ALSO the day that I finally looked at the calendar and found out that the Talent Show was on WEDNESDAY.  So Sawyer basically had one afternoon after school to get ready for his talent.  Serious Mom Fail.  But GOD.  Thankful for God’s great grace.)

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~ thankful that I FINALLY got a 2020 calendar so I can get my schedule in order!  (If I missed something already, please don’t tell me!)

~ for a great visit with our sweet Miss Lindsay and baby Coby Tate.  I have been needing some good CHOCOLATE SUGAR!!!  Oh, he is just the sweetest, happiest boy!

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~ that Josh had a work day in Marshall and was able to meet Carson Grace for a Taco Bell date!  And so thankful that she has had a great first week back at school!

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~ for a COMPLETED PUZZLE!  It took us 3 1/2 weeks, but we WOULD NOT BE DEFEATED.  998 pieces of 1000.  Perhaps one day we will successfully finish a puzzle without losing ANY pieces.  Right now that seems like a lofty, unattainable goal.  We are taking a break from puzzles for a while.  

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~ for football exciting enough to get even ME interested!  So fun to root for a local hero.  Let’s go Chiefs!

~ for ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven.  

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~ for a successful week for Giddyup & Whoa.  New products, new orders, and new custom work.  We are getting great feedback on our new website.  And so excited to have 2 upcoming local sale opportunities.  We will have items for sale at the Vintage & Co Valentine Pop-up Shop February 6-8 in Tyler, and I will be working a space at the Laurel & Cotton POP-up Shop March 27-28 in Bullard (this is the one benefitting Gold Network of East Texas.)  So grateful for the support of our little family business.  And for my cute and ever-eager youngest model, “Mama!  Pitcha me!”

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~ for an over-the-top celebration for the most joyous of occasions.  Our friend and Gold Network Hero, Addie Leigh turned 5!  And what could be better than turning five? How about triumphantly finishing cancer treatment!!!??  NOW THAT is cause for celebration!  I’m talking bounce houses, food trucks, snow cones, face painting, and a balloon artist!  Addie Leigh and her family have just recently moved into their new home, which had been an intensive renovation, and the setting was perfect for a fresh new start for the whole family.  Everything, even the weather Saturday, a bright day of sunshine after days upon days of dreary drizzle, was like a refreshing gift of HOPE.  My favorite moment of the day (besides seeing beautiful, spunky Addie Leigh frolicking with her friends, shining from the inside out) was when I was chatting with Tami, Addie Leigh’s mom.  She was talking about how busy things had been building up to this special day.  She said she had to get through the party before she could think about anything else.  But as soon as she said it, she quickly corrected herself. “I want to soak this up and ENJOY IT!  This is something to celebrate!  This is not something I want to just GET THROUGH!  I have reminded myself that I wanted to GET TO this day, not get THROUGH IT!”  Her words absolutely INSPIRED me. 

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What a beautiful perspective.  How many times do we get so sidetracked by the details and busywork that we MISS THE JOY???  What a waste.  Lord, help me to enjoy the journey AND the destination.  Even through the hard, let my eyes look for You, and learn all You have for me along the way.  Help me to be a wife and friend and mama that is PRESENT.  

Let’s BE PRESENT and love each other well this week.  Whatever is on the horizon, whatever you are working toward, whatever challenge you are facing…let’s get TO IT, not just through it.  God is good, and He is faithful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalms 113:2-3)

He Will Make a Way

I am thankful:

~ for the clean slate of January around my house.  All the Christmas decor is neatly stored away in the attic until next year, and everything feels brighter and more open.  

~ for kids going back to school.  They were ready, and so was Mom. 

~ for a mini living room refresh.  Christmas gift cards provided a new rug and floor lamp that make the room cozy and inviting.  Of course, because this is REAL LIFE, we’d had the rug for EXACTLY 2 HOURS when our dog had a MOST UNFORTUNATE accident in the middle of it. 

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~ that FINALLY after SIX DAYS of REPEATED MOST UNFORTUNATE accidents ALL OVER MY HOUSE, our dog is over whatever made him sick. 

~ for Sawyer’s first time to receive a Character Quality award at Chapel.  He got one in JrK last year, but in that grade, awards are given in the classroom.  This time, he got to hear his name called (it’s always kept a surprise) and walk up on the stage in front of the whole school to receive an award from the Principal and Vice Principal.  It sure was special to see those little legs and that curly head march up all those stairs and shake their hands!  And I love that he was recognized for “Contentment.”  He really is such a great sport and is (usually) happy with whatever circumstance he is in.  

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~ for Josh’s new favorite dish to cook: roasted chicken quarters smothered with onions and peppers.  Slow cooked all day, it is just completely delicious!

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~ for Walmart grocery pickup, so I can get my groceries in my pajamas in the rain!

~ for an encouraging and productive Gold Network of ETX meeting.  Our team is growing and I am SO EXCITED about what we have planned for this year!  More details to come soon…

~ for Gavin’s bright, inquisitive mind.  He is always asking questions and figuring things out.  He found a game with letter tiles and spelled “ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  I think I corrected 3 letters, otherwise he had gotten it right!

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~ for my darling husband who understands me.  He barely batted an eye when I told him I needed to drive across town at 9 o’clock at night to pick up a curbside treasure pile I saw listed on Facebook.  BIG TIME SCORE!  (I knew it would be gone if I waited until morning).

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~ for an exciting opportunity for worlds to collide! I found out this week that a local boutique was hosting a Pop up Shop and had chosen to benefit Gold Network! When the shop owner and I realized we had mutual friends, we were thrilled, and she invited Giddyup&Whoa to be a vendor at her sale! So I have another sale to prepare for, AND it will benefit GNET! Is that not AWESOME!!??

~for my sweet dad who CLAIMS to have turned 71 today.  I told him he must be counting wrong, because that sure does sound awful old.  He agreed.

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~ for these past weeks with my girl home.  It’s like we suddenly realized just this weekend that she was leaving us again. We soaked up some last minute quality time: watched movies together, made favorite meals, she painted with the Littles, went on a walk. We went out to eat as a family, which we never ever do (I mean seriously, can you blame us?).  She chose Posado’s. So over chips and salsa and soft serve ice cream, we laughed and loved on each other. Today we loaded up everything and drove her back to college.  I miss her already.  I pray for her to remember who she is and Whose she is and that she learns as much about herself as she does in her classes.

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~ for the most encouraging worship and testimony mid-week service at church.   One after another, people rushed to the stage to share what God was doing in their lives and in their hearts.  Testifying of healing.  Testifying of His faithfulness.  My sweet 8-year-old niece, Kate, got up to share her simple, powerful testimony.  “I have celiac disease.  When I was in the hospital, Jesus was there.  And He told me, “”Don’t be afraid.””

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~ for BREAKTHROUGH.  Josh and I have been praying through some things, some personal struggles, that have weighed heavily on our hearts.  Actually SEVERAL pretty major prayer concerns.   And I have to admit we have both been in a place of discouragement.  This week…one of them just…BROKE.  We were asking for a change, and God did it.  Not AT ALL in the way we were expecting or asking for.  It was an INTERNAL change instead of EXTERNAL.  But that internal heart readjustment was a game changer in every way.  The best part was how God used the healing in one area to reignite my faltering hope in the other areas I’ve been praying about.  He spoke into my heart that He “will make a way where there is no way.”  He reminded me of His goodness and His faithfulness…which of course have been there all along.  I can look back and mark testimony after testimony after testimony of Jesus knocking our socks off over the years with answers to prayers that were so far superior to what we asked Him for.  So why do I let myself forget that?  Why do I whine and fret and impatiently doubt Him when my answer doesn’t come fast enough?  I know I have an enemy that’s betting on me to fail, but why don’t I stake my life on the knowledge that My God is on my side, and will never be defeated?  Thank You, Father, for the reminder of Your unending Love and unfailing Faithfulness.  Even this evening on the way back home from dropping Carson Grace back at school, I was crying silently, wrestling with fear and sadness and anxiety (AGAIN??!!) when I heard soft singing in the seat behind me.  Sawyer, buckled in his carseat, just looking out the window, singing to himself, not even knowing he was singing to ME,  “Savior, He can move the mountains…my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save.  Forever, author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave…”

I have so much going on right now, if I take the time to list it all, I can guarantee an instant anxiety attack.  Not even joking.  But God.  He is the God of my calendar, of my lists, of my responsibilities.  He knows the tiny prayers I don’t even verbalize and the gut wrenching cries of my heart that wake me up in the middle of the night. He is the Provider of my energy and health and courage and grace.  And I know it’s not all going to play out perfectly.  Some things are going to fall apart, I’m going to forget to do something, and I’ll make a ton of mistakes along the way.  But God.  If I let Him, He will make beauty out of my messes.  And anything that goes right will be BECAUSE OF HIM, and He will get all the glory, AS HE SHOULD!  

What are you asking God for?  Do you trust Him enough to ASK BIG?  Do you trust Him enough to WAIT?  Do you trust Him enough to LET GO?  I’m sure trying…

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“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.” (Psalms 18:30-33)

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

“God is with us / God is on our side / He will make a way / Far above all we know, far about all we hope / He has done great things / Lifted up He defeated the grave / raised to life / Our God is able / in His Name we overcome / for the Lord our God is able”  (“God is Able,”  Hillsong Worship)

 

Happy “New Day”

I am thankful:

~ for a staggering honor and privilege: I wrote a check from Gold Network of ETX for TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  We donated $10,000 to Dr. Ted Laetsch at Children’s Hospital to support his cutting edge research projects for improved cures and therapies for childhood cancer.  Dr. Laetsch was on Sawyer’s oncology team, so the donation is even more meaningful.  We are so grateful for the funds raised through Tyler Gold Run and and generous donations from the community to help Gold Network do what we do.  Our primary focus will remain local family support, but we will always donate toward childhood cancer research in hopes that one day our GNET mission will become obsolete!  Until then, we press on.  We have exciting new dreams brewing for the upcoming year…more information coming soon!

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~ for laid back schedule-free days on break.  The kids have painted, baked cookies, learned new tricks on the trampoline, decorated a gingerbread house, and we have made a TINY dent in the HARDEST PUZZLE IN THE WORLD. IMG_1986.JPG

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~ for a manageably fun-enough New Years.  We stayed home.  Ate chili.  “Nice Mom” showed up and let the kids stay up until 10 and played with  sparklers in their pjs.  Then mom, dad, and Bigs stayed up to watch the ball drop just to say we did.   But it felt really important to me that the first thing we did in 2020 was to pray together as a family.  It was simple, sweet, and I will treasure it always. 

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~ for traditional black eyed peas, buttery roasted cabbage, and steaming hot sweet cornbread on New Year’s Day.  

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~ for a Starbucks gift card and a Starbucks right around the corner from our house!  Bear was glad he rode along, they gave him a “Pup-puccino!!”

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~ for a fun overnight sleepover for Gavin to Uncle Justin and Aunt Gina’s.  He had the feast of his dreams and had 24 blissful hours as an only child!  A trip to Kilgore to explore the East Texas Oil Museum and a mile-high loaded cheeseburger were the perfect fit for our inquisitive boy.

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~ for a joyful dream-come-true for dear friends.  Before brave 10 year old cancer warrior Luke went to be with Jesus in 2018, his dream was for his beautiful husky Scout to become a therapy dog.   This week, that dream came true!  Scout went through the rigorous testing to become certified, and PASSED!   Now Scout will be able to bring joy and smiles to kids in the hospital and continue sharing Luke’s legacy, bringing glimmers of beauty from the unspeakable pain his mom and dad and brother are walking through.  You can read more about Luke and his family’s unshakable faith and generosity here. https://lukestrong.org/

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~ for an exciting new venture for G&W: we launched our new website, www.giddyupandwhoa.com!  We’ve been praying about this for a while, and decided to make the leap in hopes of growing our business.  We also were super blessed with a new connection for old wood.  We have had our eye on a large section of damaged fence for months, and this week I worked up the courage to stop by the house and ask for it.  I was met by the sweetest gentleman who was delighted to have the fence hauled off, even taking my card for when he tears more of it down! Finds like those are the best! IMG_6067.JPEG

Josh has created some beautiful new reclaimed wood decor pieces in addition to a fresh batch of signs, so we are ready for a great year!  It’s amazing to me that we started this journey by tiptoeing onto social media last year at Thanksgiving.  Excited to see where the Lord takes us.  We even included a link to Sunday Gratitude on the G&W website.  Amazing to see different pieces of our dreams begin to braid together. 

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~ for the opportunity to reflect on the past decade.  I always get a little moony at the turn of the new year…to me it’s just natural to look back and take stock, and that process always proves emotional for me.  Looking back not just a year but a decade was pretty staggering.  I’ll spare you the in-depth play by play, but 10 years ago we only had 4 children, were going through the process of our first adoption, and Josh was self employed, remodeling and flipping houses.  We often look back and say that that was the season we thought we could tie a bow on our picture perfect little family with our beautifully God-ordained adoption story as the crescendo of our testimony.  BUT GOD.  In the infinite wisdom of our Father, we had no idea what was coming.   We never dreamed of car wrecks and ATV wrecks and fostering.  Never dreamed Josh and I would go from completely disagreeing about whether or not to grow our family to getting on the same page, only to walk through the heartbreak of losing a baby, then adopt 3 and have 2 more!  We would never have imagined cancer.  Cancer changed EVERYTHING.  I don’t even recognize that family from 10 years ago.  But out of the wreckage also came beauty.  A front row seat for miracles.  For excruciating grace.  So many wonderful, life-changing relationships born in and outside the hospital.  The Gold Run and Gold Network, opening doors to share hope with people all over.   And God has entrusted us with the stewardship of all these remarkable children in our family… gifts that I didn’t even ask for because I couldn’t have dreamed them up…  And even if New Year’s resolutions are hokey and empty, I appreciate the crisp, fresh air that comes with the turn of the calendar page, like the warmth of sunrise after a dark night.  My Father’s arms are always open.  And with renewed passion, I will seek to love Him with more of my heart this year.  And serve Him more and myself less.  Oh Lord, the cry of my heart is to let go and trust You.  So if I WAS going to have a resolution, that would be it.   But I think that has to be more of a New Day’s Resolution.  EVERY DAY.

Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

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

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

 

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I am thankful:

~ for one if my favorite Christmas traditions: our trip to Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve.   We load our bus with the most delicious home-cooked spread of food and drive to Dallas, to give smiles and thanks to the dedicated nurses caring for the kids who are too sick to be home for Christmas.  Even though it’s been years now, we have promised to never forget those frightening days.  Josh at home with 7 kids missing their mama.  And 12 month old Sawyer and I in the hospital.  We had known we would be in the hospital that Christmas.  He was in a particularly harsh phase of his leukemia treatment, and needed close monitoring.  But Christmas Eve he had taken a turn for the worse, spiking a high fever, and his nurses watched him like a hawk.   I’ll never forget the way they tended to him, and to me all through the night.  I remember watching the clock turn midnight, and crying in the dark room lit by a blinking IV pole as I wished my sick baby Merry Christmas.   BUT GOD.   I couldn’t have done it without those nurses, those angels on this earth.  They lay their lives down and are gone from their own families to take care of hurting children, and they do their very best to bring joy into a scary and sad place.  I love going back (for a quick trip and not to stay) to tell them Sawyer’s story, and give them a fresh breath of Christ-ordained, thriving, 6 year old, curly-headed HOPE. IMG_20191224_144050514_Original.jpgIMG_1498.JPGIMG_1501.JPG 

~ for a quick, fun visit with Aunt Dinah.  Sawyer picked Slims Chicken for lunch, and then she and I visited while I tackled my holiday baking and trashed my kitchen from one end to the other. 

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~ for beautiful weather to deliver baked goodies to our wonderful neighbors.  We are so blessed!IMG_1459.JPG

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~ for a wonderful, messy, overstimulating, joyful, chaotic, noisy Christmas.  For too much delicious food: spicy, cheesy jalapeño crawfish chowder, tart/sweet cherry pie, caramely sweet monkey bread, and chocolate-coffee-salted-caramel birthday cake for Jesus.  For Andes mints that make me think of Grandma Grace.  And Great Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters that are now my kids’ favorite.  For tums and stretchy pants.  For new Christmas jammies for everyone and a new ornament each.  For the sweetness of each of us reading Luke 2 verse by verse…and how the powerfully tender words feel more tender and more powerful on Christmas morning.  For a second round of too-much-everything and 14 cousins to play with.  It was an extra noisy Christmas with robots and transformers and Elsa microphones and walkie talkies and laser tag.  I’m also thankful that batteries do not live forever. IMG_1544.JPG

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~ for the fullness in my heart at having all my children together.  I learned when Sawyer got sick that I couldn’t take it for granted.  But life moved on, the crisis passed, and I realized that I still did sometimes.  But now comes another paradigm shift: they really are growing up.  Colton’s living on his own, Carson Grace is 18 and in college.  Soon enough they will start having their own families and may not always be around.  How I treasure these fleeting moments with all these faces around my table and piled up on my couch. 

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~ for my husband’s dedication and work ethic.  Even after working 65+ hours a week at his “real job,” then building signs and caring for our home in his “spare time,” AND being Dad to 9 kids….he is grinding out his real estate courses, one after another, even amidst the chaos of our home environment.   So proud of him.   Even squeezed in a much needed date with him this week! 

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~for the signature throaty growl of my daughter’s hauntingly beautiful voice and her guitar coming from her bedroom.  Oh, how I’ve missed her and that sound.  

~ for 4 little and not-so-little girls that still let me dress them alike.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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~ for the fresh grace to keep going even when it’s hard.  Tatum K, while just as cute as she can be, continues to challenge us daily with her fiery temperament.  Her latest challenge is NOT SLEEPING.  She is taking hours to settle down to sleep, most of that spent screaming violently at the top of her lungs, anything from “I want my MAAAAAMAAAAA!” to “I want PIZZZZZZAAAAAAA!” to “Tickle my BAAAAACKKKKK!!!!”  And then sometimes she is waking up and doing it all again for hours in the middle of the night.  Makes for a tired mama, especially after days on end. 

~ for days when I wake up to sweet artwork left beside my bed.  Parenting this many children usually feels a lot like whack-a-mole, and there is many a night that I go to bed feeling like a very defeated worst-and-meanest-mama-in-the-whole-wide-world.  But by some stretch of miracle, my kids don’t seem to think so!  Thank You Father for the NEW MERCIES EVERY MORNING!

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It’s that groggy limbo week between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone I talk to seems drained and wiped out and nobody is sure what day it is.  I find myself with a little bit of the blues…flattened by the steamroller of the packed schedule over the past few weeks.  And emotionally flattened as well.  Just a lot going on in my heart these days.  Anybody else feel flattened?  (FLATTENED, not FATTENED.  Although that certainly feels applicable as well…)

My weary heart dragged me to the church this morning.  Physically and spiritually drained and exhausted, I couldn’t even make my voice form the words of the songs.  So I just sank to my knees and let the worship and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit wash over me.  

“Worthy of every song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe

We live for you.  We live for you…”

The words and the percussion pounded into my chest, beating the melody into my heart as I sang and prayed and worshipped and wept.  

“I will build my life upon Your Love 

It is a firm foundation.  

I will put my trust in You alone

And I will not be shaken.”  

Lord, I’ve seen You do miracles with my own eyes.  I KNOW and I BELIEVE that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.  Help me to trust in You: that You are WORKING, that You are PRESENT, and that You are SOVEREIGN.  Remind me that You care about the needs I bring to you.  Line up my desires with Yours so that I want what You want for me instead of what I want for me.  Help me to remember TRUTH when my circumstances try to trip me up.  Help me unclench my fists and my feeble attempts to take control.  Renew in me a deep love for Your WORD.  Fill me with Your LOVE so I can pour it out. 

Give me endurance for the race You have set before me.  It is the race You made me for.  

Don’t lose heart.  He is FOR YOU.  Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I am thankful:

~ for innocent children who aren’t afraid to ask the questions we all wonder.  “Mama? What is piggy pudding? And why do they want it so bad?”  “And what does pa-rum-pum-pum-pum MEAN?”

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~ for a sweet night of fellowship with our Tyler Christian Fellowship elders, deacons, and wives.  And for pumpkin bread pudding with warm salted caramel sauce.

~for the sweetest Christmas play at the school.  Zoe and Gavin brilliantly executed their parts in “It Happened in the Country.”  Gavin even had his first little solo and did a great job.  I love seeing them so excited to share their hard work with us.

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~ for GPS.  Tyler is famous for its holiday traffic jams, and the GPS on my phone was able to pinpoint the trouble areas and reroute me.  Even though it took me miles out of the way, it was undoubtedly faster than the direct route.  I would still be sitting on Broadway…

~ for human Christmas party ping pong.  I pinged and I ponged my way through five simultaneous Christmas parties at opposite ends of the elementary school.   They had Christmas movies, toilet paper snowman building, cookie decorating, and pancakes in pajamas. The kids all had a ball and then that was that!  They are all officially home for Christmas! 

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We are now enjoying lounging around, living room football, and binge-watching Disney plus.   And we finished our puzzle.  Sadly, Tatum and Bear ate 7 pieces, so we didn’t get the full victorious satisfaction. 

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~ for the dollar store.  Love me some dollar store when it’s time to shop for Christmas stockings for 9 kids!

~ for the absolutely MOST DELICIOUS slow-cooked, fall off the bone, flavor-LICIOUS ribs on the planet.  Drew, you are a BBQ ARTIST!!!!

~ for encouragement from the Lord: through His Word, His Voice, and His people.  It brings such comfort to know that my Heavenly Father sees me and cares about every detail of my life, and that He is WORKING IN AND THROUGH every trial to refine me and make me more like Him.  It’s so incredibly hard to stop trying to control everything.   Even though my mind knows that I don’t have ANY POWER to control anything anyway, I still waste so much energy fighting for it.  I can’t control Sawyer’s health, or whether or not his cancer will return.  I can’t control what others think of me or whether or not they love and accept me.  I can’t control my children’s choices or their relationship with the Lord.  And sometimes that makes me feel so empty and powerless and just plain hopeless.  

But God. 

An empty vessel.  Cracked and broken.  The perfect vessel for the Lord to pour into and fill to overflowing.  Every crack in me allows Jesus to shine through more.  If I am empty, there’s more room for Him.  I’m not trying to say that I just radiate Jesus everywhere I go.  Or that I am moping around sad and hopeless.  I’m just increasingly aware that God’s power shines through my weakness WHEN I LET HIM.   I am more useful in my honest brokenness than I could ever dream to be in any artificial“I’ve-got-it-all-together-ness.”  

My life feels kind of out of control.  But that’s ok.  Because my Perfect Father has a Perfect Plan for all the details.  And I don’t have to know what’s next, because I know who’s in charge and I KNOW THE ENDING.  The story will end with Jesus on the Throne and every knee bowed.  Glorious. 

 We eagerly count down the days until Christmas, and those who are Christ-followers celebrate the birth of the Messiah.  “Jesus IS the reason for the season.”  

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But it’s so much more. 

Jesus is more than the baby in the manger.  More than a miracle that wowed some shepherds in the middle of the night.   HOPE was born.   The REMEDY for our brokenness.  FREEDOM for the captives.  He came to walk among us, to turn religion on its head, and teach us what LOVE looks like. 

So wherever you are in the midst of your Christmas busy-ness, MAKE SOME ROOM.  As you shop in the madness of stores or fight your way through traffic, look around.  See the exhausted checkout clerk.  Or the frazzled mother dragging her kids out of the toy aisle.  If you are breaking your back to get your baking done, your house spotless, and fretting about the relatives that you are not looking forward to seeing this year…take a deep breath and think about the families who will spend Christmas in the hospital or who would give ANYTHING for one more Christmas with their mom, or their dad, or their husband, or their child.   Let’s ungrit our teeth and unclench our hearts and pour Jesus on each other instead.   Spend more time than money.  Give less stuff and more of ourselves.  This Christmas might not be perfect, but it will never be this Christmas again.

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Christmas in the hospital, 2014

   

Let’s love one another well this week.  Merry CHRISTmas!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””  (Luke 2:10-14)

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

The Biggest Little Things

I am thankful:

~ for HEALING!  The Rucker Tribe has survived the Great Flu of 2019.  Oh, we still have some sniffles, snuffles, and coughs.  And sleep is still hit or miss (mostly miss).  But it is a vast improvement over last week to say the VERY LEAST.  Thank You JESUS!  And thank you to all of you for reaching out with your kind words and encouragements.

~for all the funny little memories at Christmastime.  For the kids’ love of EVERY Christmas song, and how they sing out with all their hearts.   I love that Tatum K doesn’t know who Santa is.  She just points when she sees a picture or an inflatable and says, “look mama! It’s a May-wee Cwis-mas boy!”  We have had fun running errands together, she’s my little buddy while kiddos are at school.  She attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so stinkin’ cute in her little boots and messy bun.  At this store she found slippers that matched her little sherpa jacket, so she had to give them “a lovey.”  Oh Lord, let her stay my sweet tiny Tater. 

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~ for puzzles.  I forget how fun puzzles are.  

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~ for a wonderfully special occasion worthy of celebration: Grandmommy’s 70th birthday!  Aunt Polly hosted the gathering, and we feasted on brisket and chips and dips and a charming custom purse cake topped with FON-DANT.  We all laughed and made Grandmommy cry, and celebrated the legacy of the lovely, godly lady we all love so much.  

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~ as always, Grandmommy’s birthday also marks the start of the greatly anticipated tradition: 12 Days of Christmas.  Each night we gather and sing the song, and then open our thoughtful treat and take our picture.  The kids absolutely love the whole process, and I am so thankful for all the work that Grandmommy puts into it all.  These are memories that will last forever.  I am a sucker for traditions, and it fills my heart to see the smiles of my babies beside the tree.  Day 1 was sticker page nativities.  And you have never seen such joy as they each diligently worked on decorating their own paper.

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~ for such a fun Christmas party with our small group from church.  The adults had organized a rowdy (and rather cut-throat) white elephant gift exchange.  The kids were very intrigued by the idea (I mean, OBVIOUSLY they saw a bunch of gifts and wanted some) so I quickly gathered items from around our house to put together a white elephant exchange for them. None of them had ever played it before, so it was a little challenging.  Sawyer ended up with the dud gift: a ladies bracelet and a coupon.  He was NOT IMPRESSED.  Nor was he gracious about being disappointed.  There were tears.  Everyone else had fun though.  I’m thankful for such a fun group.  As you can see, I was in a PARTICULARLY FESTIVE mood.

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~ for a new-to-me treat:  baked crescent rolls filled with melted chocolate chips and drizzled with powdered sugar glaze.  Just STOP IT!

~ for last minute Giddyup & Whoa orders.  you can imagine how tight the budget gets with nine kids at Christmas time. Even though our focus is definitely not on spending a lot on extravagant gifts, all the expenses just all add up faster than the deposits.  Every order is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for the way God provides!  It is such an honor to be trusted with bringing to life special mementos for people.  

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~ for amazing and inspiring connections.  I got a sign order this week from a lady I did not know.  She had taken my card at the show at the Foundry several weeks ago and just now contacted me.  She came to the house to pick up her order, and we had the best conversation!  She is also a mother of 9, and we have several  common friendships.  Such a small world.  The sign she had me do for her was so unique and personal, my very favorite kind of sign to paint.  A saying with personal meaning that you’re just not going to find hanging in Hobby Lobby.  She had asked me to paint “Love is the Tuesdays.”  It’s a lyric from the song, “Tuesday’s,” by Jake Scott, and it was a gift for her husband.  She encouraged Josh and I to listen to the song, which we did later that evening.  The song is advice given by a father to a young man who is asking to marry his daughter.  “No it’s not Hollywood son ’cause troubles will come / But it’s the best decision you’re ever gonna make / And you’ve got my blessing but just hear this lesson / Twenty-seven years and all I’ve got to say / Is it’s not just picture perfect dancing in a white dress / It’s not just rainy days where nothing stops the fighting / It’s not just highs and lows and champagne toasts / I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days or the worst days / Love is the Tuesdays”

Isn’t that just the truth?  Love is the everyday moments that happen in between the highs and the lows.  So blessed by the song and touched by the sentiment behind the sign order. 

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~ for an amazing accomplishment for my INCREDIBLE HUSBAND!  A few weeks ago he took the step of faith to enroll in an online real estate course, and this week he completed the first class and ACED his first exam!   So proud of this remarkable man of mine and excited to see what doors God will open down the road!

~ for the kids’ DARLING Christmas program at church.   From our Tribe, we had scintillating portrayals of an angel, King Herod, and Caesar Augustus, as well as 2 eloquent narrators.  There is something so pure about seeing the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes and lips of children.  And even seeing how beautiful and grown up Samantha and Kora are.  Zoe sparkling in her tinsel halo.  Sawyer, serious as can be, sternly barking out his line, and Gavin’s dramatic death on stage.  Even Tatum K’s spontaneous interruptions asking when it would be “cookie time.”  It was just so very special.  

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Before the Children’s Program, Becky the Children’s Pastor, asked the audience to pause.  I LOVED how she said it.  “Let’s just pause a moment to make some room.  We can’t appreciate a gift we are given if we don’t take the time to realize how much we NEED that gift.”  Advent is the season of waiting.  Waiting expectantly for the birth of the King.  Waiting longingly for His Return.  But do we have room?  Are we too busy and distracted by the cares of this world?  By how many friends/followers/likes we can accumulate?  By having the Pinterest-perfect porch display, ugly sweater, or charcuterie board?  By buying the perfect gift to outdo what we gave last year?  

Quieting our heart is hard.  Waiting is hard.  What are you waiting on?  What prayer are you praying that has not yet been answered?  My heart aches with the weight of some of the things I wait for, long for.   But I know God sees me.  I know He cares about the things and the people I’m asking Him for.  He saw the needs of the people of Israel.  He had a plan to meet those needs.  He has a plan to fulfill every need.  But for now, we wait.  Creation is groaning for our Coming King.  We ache for healing, for reconciliation, for restoration.  We cry out to Him for a Breakthrough.  And sometimes every single thing our eyes see looks like failure.  Hopeless.   But the God of Hope is working when we cannot see.  And thankfully, His power is not contingent on our faith.  I thank God for that every day.  Because my faith feels so small and my vision falls so short.  But God.  So whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t lose heart.  

He is working.  

He is coming. 

And He’s always right on time. 

So let’s pause a moment.  And let’s make some room for Jesus in our hearts and our schedules this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:13-14)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-19, 22-25, 28)