Most Wonderful Time…or not

I am thankful:

~ for lots of sweet moments this week…

Out of nowhere. NOWHERE. For no reason at all, relentless waves of anxiety violently attacked. I felt fiery stabs through my heart and hundreds of pounds of weight pressing on my chest forcing the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. Silent tears began to well as the radio began to mock, “it’s the most won-der-ful tiiiiime of the yeeeeear…” And I knew even in that moment that I’m not alone in this. So many people are hurting and struggling right now. The sensory overload. Family drama. Money stress. Social anxiety. Loneliness. Loss. Anxiety sucks. PERIOD.

BUT GOD.

He truly is Emmanuel, God With Us.

EL ROI, the God Who Sees

Yahweh-Jireh, LORD will provide.

He is faithful in the good. He is faithful in the hard. He is faithful in that agonizing divide between the good and the hard.

Whether your week has been great or the best part of your week is knowing that it’s almost over, HE IS FAITHFUL.

Count your blessings.

Be somebody’s blessing.

And keep on trucking.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”” (Genesis 16:13)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalms 119:114)

“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)

Pure Gold

I am thankful.

For God’s favor.

For kindness.

For people who are generous with their time, their gifts, and their resources.

For fellowship.

For new friends and old friends.

THANK YOU to everyone who came to Tyler Gold Run, who donated, who volunteered, who helped behind the scenes, and who prayed. You have truly made a difference by going gold.

September is almost over. Our mission is not.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

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

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:23-25)

All Systems GOLD

I am thankful:

~ for a delicious traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for a crisp, fresh new candle.

~ for my new diffuser running nonstop with eucalyptus oil.

~ for new Tyler Gold Run shirts! Always exciting to open the boxes and see the latest design. And it doesn’t hurt that I have the cutest models in all the land!

~ for a week of all things GOLD: hours of putting out Tyler Gold Run signs, Run Committee meeting, radio interview, speaking to 3rd graders about Gold Network and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,

and for the arrival of my long-awaited custom GOLD glitter chucks!

~ for the conquering of an IMPOSSIBLE SATURDAY. Talk about a day when we needed a few clones! We had one sister with a cross country meet in Longview at 8am. One sister with a volleyball tournament in Gladewater at 8:15am.

And mom had Tyler Gold Run swag bag filling in Tyler at 9am.

SuperDad expertly shuttled the girls where they needed to be, and the rest of the Tribe helped me. Then we headed to the barn to hang sheet metal for 9 hours! Days like that harshly remind me of my age. But God!

My sentiments exactly. #relatable

~ for wonderful fellowship with dear friends at church and afterwards. What an awesome gift.

We are all systems GOLD this week. Speaking to schools, several interviews, last minute details, coordinating volunteers, and every big and small detail leading up to our 8th Annual Tyler Gold Run 5K. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years! What a ride!

2015
2017
2018
2021

We’ve learned so much and met the most incredible people along the way. I will never understand why Sawyer got cancer, but I will never stop thanking God for the undeniable beauty He brought from those painful ashes. You can learn more about Gold Network of East Texas or register for the run here. Local or not, runner or not, you can make a donation at any time via our website. Do it for Sawyer. Do it for Bristell. Do it for Sophie. Do it for all the children around the world who need someone to stand up and say that kids with cancer need better care and more funding. Together we can make a difference.

Hope to see lots of you Saturday!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Too Short to Waste

I am thankful that this life is not all there is.

This week one of our brave and beautiful HEROES finished her battle and leapt with joy into the arms of Jesus.

Bristell, aka Bristell Brave, fought cancer not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. Her parents and her doctors did everything they could, but her cancer was aggressive and devastating.

Today her family celebrated her short but inspiring, joy-filled life and laid her earthly body to rest. Family, friends, and her fiercely loyal Tribe of supporters wore orange (the ribbon color for leukemia) to honor the memory of the vivacious little princess that we had all fallen in love with.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate cancer?

I look at my boy, with inextricably intertwined gratitude and guilt for his healing. I think of how many friends he has lost. Micah, Anna Luisa, Sophie, Ceely, Lucas, Noah, Harold, Brock, Luke…

But oh, how I love Jesus.

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The ONLY door to life everlasting, where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more cancer.

Please pray for Bristell’s family. They know she’s whole and healed and dancing with Jesus. But there will always be a gaping Bristell-sized hole in their hearts until they are reunited one day.

Love your people well. This life is short. Too short to waste. Trust Jesus as your Savior before it’s too late.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (Psalms 119:49-50)

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Hurt

I am thankful:

That I can come to Jesus with my hurts and my questions and my anger and my fears and my disappointments and my confusion.

And He loves me there.

As a part of the Body of Christ, when part of us hurts, we all hurt.

The events in Uvalde have left us stunned and aching. We don’t understand WHY or HOW. So we hold one another and we pray. And we ask God to show us how we can help.

Closer to home, our church has suffered a crippling loss. Our pastor’s youngest son, a vibrant husband and father in the prime of his life, was tragically killed in a car accident Wednesday morning. This is the second tragic death among their 5 sons. The shock and grief are paralyzing. We don’t understand WHY or HOW. So we hold one another and we pray. And we ask God to show us how we can help.

https://gofund.me/b10f1ecc

So this week I’m not going to share what I ate that was yummy or all that we got done this week.

I’m thankful to be surrounded by a Body that loves Jesus and His people well.

I’m thankful that this broken world is just a pit stop on our way home where we belong.

I’m thankful for an anchoring hope that will not pass away.

Let’s love one another well this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)

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

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah” (Psalms 61:1-4)

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14)

Well Done

I am thankful:

~for an outstanding evening of football and a triumphant win for the Chiefs and hometown boy Patrick Mahomes. I’ve lost my voice!

~ for a wonderful 14th birthday celebration for sweet and beautiful Samantha. She is such a blessing: so bright and kind and helpful with EVERYTHING. She started her day with a stack of chocolate chip pancakes, then Slims for lunch, and her tasty menu-of-choice: savory roast beef and provolone French dip sandwiches with au jus and sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, followed by an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. She is easy to celebrate.

~for more and more beauty unfolding as my lovely resurrected orchid gracefully and gradually blooms a little more every day. I love watching its story unfold.

~ for successfully accomplishing the monumental task of taking 9 puppies + 2 grown doodles to the vet for their checkup! It was a circus to be sure, but they all got a clean bill of health from our friends at Faith Veterinary Clinic! Ready for homes THIS TUESDAY!

~for a wonderful evening with our HERO families at our quarterly GNET CONNECT Caregiver Support Group. We dined on delicious Abuelos fajitas and my favorite side dish, papas, and the most decadent desserts from Brookshire’s bakery. But we FEASTED ON FELLOWSHIP. There is such encouragement found among people who truly understand the hardest season of your life because they’ve walked it too. I treasure that time.

~ for a celebration of a life well lived. Donna Youngblood is a fixture in our family. She has taught Samantha, prayed us through Sawyer’s pregnancy, our adoptions, and his cancer diagnosis; taught Kora, then Gavin, then Zoe, and prayed through all of Sawyer’s treatment AND Tatum K’s pregnancy and arrival. A fabulous seamstress and embroiderer, she made a custom birthday shirt for Sawyer each year. She walked us through it all, faithfully on her knees.

I just found this text today! What a faithful prayer warrior!
Tatum K got one too!

Then, the amazing moment, covered in more prayers than anyone ever could imagine finally came to fruition: Sawyer the Warrior was going to start school and be in her Jr. Kindergarden class. In June that summer preceding the start of the school year, Donna let me know that her classroom description had changed slightly, and that she would be teaching the younger 4 year olds, with a slightly modified curriculum more suited to their age. The other Jr.K classes would cover additional material at a quicker pace. Sawyer was already 5, and she wanted me to know in case we wanted to switch him to another class. This was the text I sent her.

I texted her again right before the school year started…

What a wonderful year he had!

He stayed healthy, only missing class for his scheduled oncology appointments in Dallas. He made sweet friends and learned more every day, from phonics to Spanish to countless songs and Scripture verses. She laughed along with him as an accomplice when he pranked his classmates with a cardboard cake for April Fools’ Day.

And he. LOVED. His precious teacher.

Donna was patient with my bruised and battered over-protective Mama heart, and loved all of us so well. She attended Tyler Gold Run every year with her precious “Grands,”

With her sweet grands

and when Sawyer was in her class, he walked the 3 mile route with her!

Talk about a heart-exploding display of God’s miraculous works! We all looked forward to and planned the day that Miss TK would be in her class. In fact, I deliberately made the decision to keep Tatum K home this year AFTER checking with Donna to make sure she wasn’t retiring. TK and I always visited Mrs. Youngblood when we were at the school for a hug and a smile. We exchanged hugs and encouragements last Friday morning.

Monday afternoon, without warning, God took Mrs. Youngblood home. When I got the news, I forgot how to breathe. How could this be? She was so healthy. So young (61). SO ALIVE! But it was true, and there was no shortage of ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that she had leapt from her earthly body with eagerness directly into the arms of Jesus, and heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” A life well lived.

I prayed all day about what telling the children would look like. The older kids heard the news through the grapevine at school. BUT GOD. When I walked to pick up Sawyer from his class at the end of the day and hugged tight his sweet Second Grade teacher (who was a very, very dear friend of Donna’s, and was truly heartbroken), she whispered to me, “He doesn’t know. He’ll get to hear it from his Mama.” So we walked hand in hand to the car, and I told him the news, and I watched his little face fall and his heart break into a million pieces.

We’ve all talked a lot this week about Mrs. Youngblood in our household, about how loved she was and how much she loved. About where she is and why she wouldn’t ever trade it for anything. About how God is always good and always right, and that one day she’ll greet each one of us with her bright smile and we’ll all worship together. And without these heartbreaking losses, those life-giving conversations would never take place.

Tatum K is distraught, and can’t imagine who her teacher will be. Each of the children have had their tearful moments, and we’ve had lots of long, tight hugs. Donna was my friend. I miss her and I still can’t believe she won’t be smiling at me at the end of the hall. I want to love my babies like she loved them, like Jesus loves them. Even in her death, the seeds God gave her to plant are watered with our tears and continue to grow.

Well done. See you soon, my friend. Praying for your Sweetheart, your sons and their families, and the countless lives you have touched along the way.

Let’s love one another well this week.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.” (Psalms 34:1-3)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:3-6)

The After

My thoughts this week are a little different, so bear with me…

September is over. It is truly the busiest season of my life. As you may well imagine, life with 9 crazy kids, 2 rowdy dogs, a nonprofit, and a small business is going to be busy year round. But Gold Network’s pivotal events in September and the daily seeking out of opportunities to promote Childhood Cancer Awareness Month have turned into a full time job.

And then, all of a sudden, the calendar page turns and September is over.

So many ask me, “Are you recovering? Getting rest finally? Are you glad it’s all finally done so your life can go back to normal?” And the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”

For many reasons, this September was exceptionally hard for me. It hit me this week how this whole abrupt halt after a season of intensity is such a mirror of the perceived “end” of our cancer journey.

During treatment, there is no letup. Clinic, port access, labs, chemo &/or radiation, therapies, in the car, fevers, ER, back in the car, isolation, neutropenia, lose the hair, regrow the hair, lose the hair again, spinal taps, scans, bone marrow biopsies, nausea, steroid rage, pain, insomnia, more fevers, more ER visits, more hospital stays, more chemo, another 200 miles on the interstate…. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s just what life looks like for the months or years on treatment.

People observe from the outside, “That looks really intense.“ “I don’t know how you do it.“ We don’t know either. But we don’t have a choice. (Although I DO actually know how we do it…His Name is JESUS.)

And for some, the cycle never ends. Some children have chronic or recurrent cancers that never go away. They stay on chemo indefinitely, and are closely monitored by specialists. Others have significant impairment from their cancer (or more often, their treatment) and they must endure life-altering long term therapies, surgeries, and/or disabilities.

And then there are the friends we’ve lost.

That pain never goes away. The loss never goes away. The hole never goes away.

But for many of us, cancer treatment comes to an end. There’s a party at the hospital, a bell is rung, and people change our label from “warrior” to “survivor.” Ding-dong-DONE! Everybody celebrates a hard-fought victory, and now we can all get on with our lives.

But is it really that simple? As simple as the turn of a calendar page?

I can only speak for myself. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) that simple for me. Treatment felt like being on a terrifying tightrope for three years, surrounded by a coaches and trainers and safety harnesses and a net on every side. And when treatment is over, all the safety gear and nets are packed up and put away and everyone goes home from the circus, but you’re left up there on the tight rope. Alone.

Some of “your people” aren’t your people anymore. There’s no more meal train, no more T-shirts, no more support bracelets. Everyone else’s life has moved on, and honestly, you’re GLAD for them! You wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, and you’re glad they can’t understand the silent screaming that still wakes you up at night. What if the cancer comes back? What if the doctors missed something? Where did that bruise come from? How do you know if his platelets are low? Does he look pale? You’re supposed to be trusting God, but you feel helpless and terrified. Not to mention how the most random “nothing” can send you spiraling and gasping for breath.

And what of the other casualties from this war that’s over-except-that-it’s-not? What’s the condition of your extended family? Your marriage? Your other kids? How are your finances? Did you take care of yourself while you were fighting for the life of your child?

All I’m trying to say is that it’s never really over. We march on because we have to. We turn the page of the calendar and put our yard signs back in the garage. The polka dots come off the bus, and the gold shoes go back on the shelf until next year.

Everybody’s walking through something. Everyone goes through their own personal refining fire and comes out changed. Not everybody walks with a limp that you can see. Some people suffer inside and you would never know it. So we have to be kind to one another. It’s OK if their healing process doesn’t look like yours. Not everybody can just “get over it”(whatever their “IT” is). Extend more grace than you think they deserve. Ask good questions. And then LISTEN. Instead of telling someone you’re going to pray for them, PRAY FOR THEM! Everyone is looking for the right place to take their broken pieces.

Love people well. Your people and other people’s people. And let’s help one another carry our broken pieces to Jesus.

I will give thanks to the Lord as long as I have breath in my lungs. He has never left me. In the crisis. In my questions. In my wrestling. In the waiting. In the after. He is FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:17-18)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

To Have And to Hold, Through Life and Through Gold…

I’m not sure if we could have packed more into a week if we tried.

Monday was filled from sun up to sundown with last-minute errands, emails, and phone calls preparing for Go Gold Tyler.

Tuesday – we had the remarkable honor of attending the Smith County Commissioners’ Court session to witness the reading of a resolution officially declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Smith County! This is a historic event, spearheaded by fellow East Texas cancer mom, Kalish Boyd. We had several HEROES and their families in attendance, and it was truly a moment I will never forget.

⁃ then 2 simultaneous news interviews with local television networks.

Real life…
Heroes getting to be kids!

⁃ at lunch I was invited to speak at a student assembly at our young HERO-turned-activist, Aneesa’s school. Once again she appealed to her school administrators and arranged for a GO GOLD in September event and care package supply drive. So incredibly proud of her.

⁃ then it was Go time! GO GOLD TIME that is! Our team descended upon Tyler’s Downtown Square, transforming it with a Midas touch of GOLD! Gold bows, gold banners, gold balloons, and our glittering gold carpet. It all came together beautifully, and we had a wonderful turnout. Live jazz, food trucks, sparkly face paint, and so many HERO families…

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see our families and honor their courage. There is something so powerful when we stand together and raise our voices for all our children. Thankful to have 23 HERO families in attendance. And thankful that we had good media coverage as well, with 2 more TV interviews as well as the local paper. The more the word gets out, the more we can make a difference for these deserving families! View this year’s HERO video here.

Wednesday – mostly a day of recovery, paying invoices and reorganizing supplies, punctuated with lots more emails and phone calls. That evening Tatum K and I got to represent Gold Network ETX at our local Kendra Scott store who hosted a give-back event for us. Our glitter-girl HERO Georgia and her mom and YaYa joined us, and the little girls had the BEST TIME sorting through jewels and modeling their gold gear! It was a girlie golden evening to the max!

Thursday – the morning started with me sharing at GCS Middle School chapel. It was a sweet program, with powerful worship, and a very attentive group. So special for me to be with Kora, Gavin, and Samantha and their classmates. Tatum K was a little restless as my forever-day-after-day-gold-sidekick, so I quietly promised her a donut prize as a bribe for sitting quietly. We went to our favorite spot, Donut Delight, home of the decadent maple-bacon donut. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

⁃ then that evening was Samantha’s first volleyball game! B Team was not scheduled to play, but there were several A Team out with illness, so B Team dressed out. Although we were disappointed that Sam didn’t get to play, I could not have been more proud of her. She stayed fully engaged and attentive, and cheered her heart out for her teammates. She had the very best attitude. So proud of our sweet girl.

Friday was Operation Balloon Transfer + my standard bi-weekly trip to 3 grocery stores! We were thankful to be able to share our beautiful custom balloon arch with Aneesa’s school for their Go GOLD supply drive.

That evening we enjoyed a special takeout meal from the couch while cheering on the Carthage Bulldogs to another win!

Saturday marked 22 years since I married my best friend. It feels like a lifetime and a minute at the same time. I still can’t believe the journey we have been on since 2 clueless kids dove headfirst into a hurricane.

I wonder if we would have been brave enough to do it if we had known what was in store. BUT GOD. He knew that in the very center of that hurricane we would find HIM. I’m so incredibly thankful we have each other through every high and every low. We have literally grown up together, becoming a couple and a family and Christ followers all at once. This year’s anniversary was spent doing yard work, household chores, swimming with the kids, and family movie night. (12 Mighty Orphans – great movie, inspiring story, but my darling children learned quite a few “new words” I’m afraid.) It’s not always glamorous and romantic. But it’s thick and thin, tried and true, leaning hard on one another when neither of us have the strength to stand on our own. Sometimes we carry one another. Sometimes we drag each other. Sometimes we are toe to toe and both refuse to move. But 22 wonderful/terrible/exhilarating/exhausting years later, we are still here, loving each other and never letting go. Thank You Jesus. ( And today we slipped away kid-free not once but TWICE for lunch and dinner!)

I’m thankful for strength and endurance that is not my own. For the 87,653 to-do lists and reminders on my phone. For my faithful co-laborer Paula who calms the storms in my brain and makes sure we don’t miss anything. For Gina Sue who helped me from dawn til way past dark on Tuesday keeping me sane and hydrated and making sure all my babies were taken care of. For those who lift up Gold Network in prayer. For individuals and schools and businesses Going Gold. For my husband who surprised me with gold Birkenstocks for September. For 30 straight days of gold outfits. For my family. For blue skies and hope that is always ahead. For my little miracle survivor HERO that takes my breath away when I stop to think about all he has been through.

For a sovereign God who sees all that is broken in this world, and will one day finally set it all to right once and for all.

We are just 2 short weeks from Tyler Gold Run. Please consider participating in some way. Runner? Register! Not a runner or not local? Register as a GoldDreamer, supporting with a donation (and you get the tshirt!). We also need lots of volunteers on and before Race Day. We started this race in 2015, and we had a HERO table with 9 frames on it.

At Go GOLD Tyler this week, we displayed our 80+ HEROES on three 4 foot x 8 foot walls. And they are literally filled absolutely to capacity. Not room for one more frame.

We have added 20 families to our network in the last 2 years. I can’t tell you how this rips up my heart. All these children need us more than ever. In the time it has taken you to read this blog post, at least 2 more families lives have been changed forever.

Will you help?

www.tylergoldrun.com

In the midst of the trials and brokenness, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

Ready…Set…Go GOLD!

I am thankful:

~ for signing bookmarks, lost lunches, forgotten water bottles, and jeans that are too small overnight. For bug collections , memory verses, book covers, and pungent PE uniforms. We are in full swing!

~ for Tatum K’s long, beautiful hair that has never known a trim. I will admit, it’s getting a little hard to manage. This week after a particularly harrowing encounter with the hairbrush, she informed me, “Mama, I want a haircut. But ONLY cut it from the BOTTOM!” (Daddy said no.)

~ for sweet Samantha who is now a proud member of the 7th grade volleyball team! She’s so excited.

~ for little fun moments and activities sprinkled throughout our days.

Doesn’t everybody have a Chia Chewbacca?

~ for so much fun doing school with Tatum K. I have been so surprised by how eager she is to learn! Every day when she gets up, she asks what we are going to learn today, and runs to get a Bible so we can start there. And I’m learning how to give myself grace and that with a 4 year old, learning can be organic and unstructured. We count our food, we find letters on the mail, and sing songs and read books. I’m so proud of my little student!

~ for some really wonderful Giddyup & Whoa signs coming out of the shop. It’s been pretty quiet for a while, but all of a sudden we got BUSY! Including a first for me: 2 signs in Spanish for a classroom! It was a fun challenge, but I was terrified I would misspell something because I had no idea what they said!

It is GOLD SEASON. And it’s been 2 years since we’ve had any in-person events, so I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do everything. BUT GOD. He has given me energy and grace that are not my own. And I look at all the pictures of these amazing kids, and it gives me the strength I need to press on through. The bus is sporting her festive gold polka dots, gold purse out and ready, and gold apparel ready for the next 30 days. Ready, set, GOLD!

I’m so excited about our event on the Square August 31. Go Gold Tyler is our kickoff event for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We have booked a live jazz trio, food trucks, and a wonderful evening for our HERO families and their supporters. Please join us if you are local. August 31, 6:30-8:30 pm on the Tyler Downtown Square.

I’m in a season where I am CONSTANTLY reminded that nothing is within my control.

Nothing.

I mean yes, I am responsible for my behavior, my words, my conduct, my actions.

But the things I worry about? No control. And I guess I’m supposed to know that already, but if I ever did know that, I’ve long since forgotten.

BUT GOD.

He sees. He sees the horrors taking place all across our world. He sees innocent lives lost, and unspeakable injustices, and genuine evil.

He sees the things that keep me awake at night, the things that rattle me to my core. And this week, in the midst of trial and frustration and heartbreak, He has reminded me that nothing escapes His attention. He cares about me. He cares about people all over the world. He hears my prayers, whether I can force the broken words from my lips or not.

AND HE IS MOVING.

He is working in the dark. He is drawing hearts to Himself. He is mending broken hearts. He is building His Kingdom living stone by living stone.

And I will remind myself every day: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Don’t lose heart friends. Keep praying.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13:1-2, 5-6)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)