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)

Merry Real and Imperfect Christmas

I am thankful:

for a wonderful Christmas.

I will never forget what it was like to be in a hospital at Christmas with my baby. Away from my husband and the rest of our kids. And he was so sick, running fever for unknown reasons, nurses coming in and out all through the night monitoring him. Countless tests being run to try to find a potential source of infection. I don’t think at the time I understood how precarious his health really was. At his point in his cancer treatment, babies could take a turn and things could spiral in an instant. Every year at Christmas, I am taken back to those moments.

Christmas at Children’s Hospital 2014
Christmas morning on C6

BUT GOD.

This year we did ALL THE THINGS. Baked. Decorated cookies. Passed out treats to the neighbors.

Loved on puppies. Watched all our favorite Christmas movies. Wore matching pajamas. Stayed up too late cooking and baking and stuffing stockings on Christmas Eve.

We read Luke 2 on Christmas morning. Feasted on all our favorite foods: spicy crawfish chowder, pumpkin pie, gooey caramel monkey bread, sausage bread, and deep fried turkey. Opened more gifts than we needed.

The “Purple Girl with the Pink Hair” from The Greatest Showman
Big brother Colton teaching Gavin and Sawyer how to set up their new baseball card collections
Lots of new puzzles this year, including a custom 1000 piece of our family beach photo

It was more than I could have ever dreamed.

Trust me, it wasn’t perfect. Kids fought. Puppies pooped more than one would think possible. Tatum K hardly slept. Birdie ate half Jesus’ birthday cake.

I wiped out on one of the boy’s hoverboards on the driveway and cracked my skull so bad I almost knocked myself out. We missed people who weren’t with us. And plenty of people who we love were hurting. Really hurting. Our pictures make it look like our life is perfect. It’s not. Remember, what is shared here is a snapshot, a highlight reel. Christmas isn’t always magical, for us and for anyone else, and that’s something that’s always heavy on my heart.

But God.

Emmanuel, God with us. With us in our joy. With us in our pain. With us always us if we allow him to be. It’s ok to not love every moment of Christmas. It’s ok to admit that the chaos and the togetherness and the unrealistic expectations make us anxious. It’s ok if be honest when there is some raw pain mixed in with our joy. And it’s ok to allow ourselves to experience joy even when we are hurting. Joy and pain can and often do coexist. It’s ok to be real. The King of Kings came to earth in a lowly stable. He was Glorious, the Answer, the Savior, welcomed by angels. But I bet the barn still stank.

Gold Network of East Texas had the awesome privilege of donating $10,000 to Dr. Sam John of Childrens Health/UT Southwestern to help fund his groundbreaking pediatric cancer research. Even more meaningful because Dr. John was one of Sawyer’s doctors all throughout his treatment.

We were disappointed not to be able to do an in-person check presentation, but grateful for Dr. John and Sawyer to be reunited via Zoom.

He told us that inspiring survival stories like Sawyer’s are a huge driving force behind the research his team does. We also missed our beloved tradition of delivering a home cooked meal to our oncology nurses on Christmas Eve due to COVID regulations. But we compromised by catering a nice Mexican fiesta for them on Christmas Day. We will always be grateful to these angels on earth for pouring their lives out for children battling cancer, even sacrificing their own family time to serve these hurting families.

We were tickled to receive pics and videos from some of our families who surprised their kiddos with a Christmas puppy. They had their first vet visit on Christmas Eve, and they all got a clean bill of health. One more week until they go to their fur-ever homes.

First vet visit for 11 pups
Puppy surprise
Puppy surprise

I’m thankful and exhausted. I have a painful knot on the back of my head from my fall, and I’m pretty sure there’s still some puppy poop on my leg. I’m thankful that this crazy year is almost over, and I’m thankful to know that no matter what highs and lows are ahead, that Emmanuel will meet me there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. And Merry Christmas. The real and imperfect kind.

“I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”” (Lamentations 3:20-24)

Weary but Rejoicing

Iam thankful:

~ for my incredibly thoughtful husband! When he warns me, “I’m setting my tools up in the garage, and you CAN’T COME OUT HERE!” I always know it’s gonna be something good. This time it was the most awesome, Mr. Giddyup original paint caddy! I teased him that he built it for himself, because he’s sick of my brushes and paint laying EVERYWHERE. Either way, it’s a win-win!

~ for an amazing night of high school football playoffs. So exciting to see TWO teams we love competing (not against each other, different divisions) for the top title. We cheered on the Carthage Bulldogs to their historic 8th State Championship, and then cheered for our beloved Coach Chris and the Lindale Eagles. Lindale may not have come away with the top score on the official scoreboard, but they had a triumphantly victorious and inspiring season. So incredibly proud of the Eagles and their fearless leader!

~ for sweet Zoe’s 3rd Grade Christmas Play. She sang a beautiful solo and the whole play was absolutely adorable!

~ for the fastest, least painful family Christmas photo in Rucker history. My Big kids LOATHE taking pictures. It generally takes bribery, coercion, and threats of bodily harm to get it done. They tolerate it, because they know they don’t have a choice, but it’s never a very pleasant occasion. This week’s attempt was a MOST UNLIKELY scenario. There was only ONE DAY that Carson Grace didn’t have to work. It HAPPENED to be a rainy day so Colton could drive in from his job. We met at 4 o’clock when the kiddos all got out of school. Sounds perfect, right? EXCEPT, Cooper had to be at his job (up Broadway Ave. in bumper to bumper Christmas traffic) at 4:30!! The kids all quickly changed their clothes, dashed to their spots, and I snapped the picture! Just like that! We were done at 4:06! It was historic! (Tune in next week for the winning shot!)

~ for p-p-pajama day at school.

~ for Cooper crushing his finals and treating mom to a Bahama Bucks date.

~ for donuts + The Grinch for breakfast, just because.

~ for beautiful heavenly glories spotted by the kids on the way home.

~ for Gavin doing a fantastic job as the Toastmaster in his 4th Grade class. So proud of him!

~ for a pedal-to-the-medal, paint-til-your-fingers-fall-off, a LOT more Giddyup-than-Whoa week! I completed 6 signs this week (including the big whopper I mentioned last week), and I only have ONE MORE project to complete before Christmas! Grateful for a busy season, and grateful for a rest!

~ for a special visit with our Kilgore-Hallsville-Carthage-Houston family. It was a different location this year, but the love and the good food and the warm fellowship was the same! Such a blessing to gather and love on one another.

~ and for a fun surprise visit from Uncle Mike and Kenedy!! We have had fun coloring and playing dress up and looking at Christmas lights. It is always so special to have them with us.

~ the puppies are growing and changing and getting cuter every day. They. Are. SO. BIG! It looks completely absurd when they tackle poor Mama Birdie to nurse…it looks like that are devouring her! They are now consuming 13 pounds of puppy food a week, and producing roughly 496 pounds of poo each day. Keeping the pups and their pen clean is a nonstop endeavor. Just two more weeks til they go to their forever families. I can’t deny looking forward to the reprieve, but I’ve already shed some tears when I think about saying goodbye. They truly have 11 large pieces of my heart.

The pace has been relentless, between the painting and the puppies and the poop, and I’m not going to lie, I am WEARY. My emotions have been more fragile and raw than usual. I never know what is going to be a trigger. Missing loved ones, looking at decorations that I used when we were in the hospital, the birthdays of two grandmothers who never met, but shared a birthday and both made a lasting imprint on our family and my heart. I’m overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with all I have on my plate. Overwhelmed by the weight of so many needs and struggles and hurts in the lives of people that I love. Overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the love He lavishes on me every single day, even when I fall on my face.

I am weary. But I rejoice. The joys and the sorrows and the precarious tension between them are present all year round, but something about Christmas brings all these things to the forefront and shines a spotlight on them. Maybe the season of Advent, the waiting season of preparation for the birth of Savior is an annual appointment for us to reevaluate and sift through what His coming really means to us. It means we have great expectations, yet He always comes in the most unexpected way. It means that waiting, even the most excruciating waiting, is critical to our transformation from death to life.

We are weary. Yet we rejoice. We wait. He is coming. Emmanuel, God with us. He is here.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”(Romans 8:19)

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”(Revelation 21:4-7)

Unraveled

I am thankful:

~ Thankful that there are some really spectacularly good people in this world. There’s so much junk going around, and I think we are all disappointed by people on a daily basis, especially in the traditional and social media. But this week I got some awesome reassurance in humanity. Cooper, our third born, the one who just had his 16th birthday, was out hanging out with friends last week and lost his wallet. Now the kid never ever ever ever EVER has money, but of course that week he had just gotten paid for a job AND had his birthday, so he was LOADED! What timing to lose everything. He left his information with store personnel at the places he had been, but especially since he didn’t even have a drivers license, there was very little hope. Until two days later I got an email. Someone walking in the store found: first his money, then his wallet. They opened it up and found Cooper‘s school ID, and contacted the school, who forwarded the lady’s information to me so I could reach out to her.

She then went out of her way to package up the wallet and spent $8 to mail it back to Cooper. And not a dollar was missing! Cooper’s joy at its return was priceless, and he was quick to say, “That was the LORD!”

~ for an unlikely family favorite: loaded taco salad. I heap the MOST GIGANTIC bowl on earth, and we all eat every last bite!

~ and for a new favorite snack. Cape Cod sweet and spicy jalapeño chips. I’m not usually a spicy chip fan, but the sweet counterpoint in these is SO TASTY! We (mostly I) MAY have bought 3 bags this weekend! I can’t stop!

~ for the glimpse of a glorious sunrise.

~ for the opportunity to cast my vote. As most of us feel, it’s more important than ever not to take this privilege/responsibility for granted. And thankful for the efficiency and convenience of early voting and a polling location close to our house. Tatum K and I were in and out in about 20 minutes.

~ for some rollicking family UNO games.

~ for my sweet kids that gathered the neighbors’ roses off the ground and brought them to their mama. They still saw beauty left to enjoy.

~ for a new recipe and the opportunity to surprise my sweetheart. About a month ago, for the first time EVER, my sweet husband snapped a picture of a dessert on a magazine cover and sent it to me. “Doesn’t this sound AMAZING?” Well, I kept the thought in my back pocket until this week. Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars did not disappoint. And the look on Josh’s face was PRICELESS. He was so tickled that I remembered.

~ for “catching” sweet Sam reading her Bible.

~ for a wonderful evening celebrating the best reason to celebrate: Sawyer’s buddy Jase completing his 3 1/2 year cancer treatment! We took a drive out to the family’s newly built dream farmhouse, toured their stunning custom home, and got our fill of fellowship, including snuggles with the sweetest baby kittens and French bulldog puppies. We enjoyed the brisk weather around the campfires, and were introduced to their family tradition: the fine art of roasting biscuits over a fire. It was a wonderful night to celebrate a brave boy and the goodness of God!

Isn’t that such a great list of things to be thankful for!? Then WHY do I let get myself completely UNRAVELED over worries – over the things that God’s NOT DONE with??? ONE WOULD THINK I HAD LEARNED BY NOW.

It’s not as if I hadn’t lived through a miracle or two…

I think about how when I was a little girl You surrounded me, Lord. How I was pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned. BUT GOD. I think about how You showed me Your glory and Your love even when I didn’t know it was You, Lord. I think about the way You had a plan for my life even though I messed up over and over and over again, and I did absolutely everything wrong and backwards. You were so good to me. Obviously so much better than I ever deserved. Even in my darkest lost days You never left me. I think about the way You inextricably weaved Your plan and braided people into my path that nudged me in the right direction, whether they were negative or positive influences…You used for good with the enemy intended for evil. I think of how I met my husband two days after I moved to Texas, 1000 miles from home, all by myself with nothing but a Penske truck, a clock radio, a game boy, and three cats. I think of the way You wouldn’t let him give up on me just the way You didn’t give up on me. I think of the way You made me a mom. It was so far outside MY plan. BUT GOD. You meant for me to be a mother. And You gave me such a beautiful son. And You knew my deep-seated fears about being the mother of a daughter. But You gave me a daughter, (and eventually 4 more!) because you had a plan to bring beauty out of brokenness. I think about when I was the pregnant with Cooper and his sonogram showed several serious abnormalities in his heart and brain. How we agonized, watching all those issues sonogram after sonogram. BUT GOD. Because when he was born, he was PERFECT, all the abnormalities were GONE. You have walked us through bumps in our marriage, You have enlarged our hearts individually and together, and added beautiful children to our family in the LEAST EXPECTED WAYS. You have brought us to our knees and to the end of ourselves time and time again. Difficult relationships, finances, leaps of faith. Anxiety. Pain. Through better and worse, sickness and health. Losing a baby through miscarriage. Cancer. Launching a nonprofit. Starting a business. I could list the miracles of how You have carried us, story by story that I myself have LIVED for HOURS.

YOU. ARE. FAITHFUL.

Lord, keep the miracles You have done ever in front of my eyes so I don’t lose heart for the miracles I am still asking You for. I still get so scared. So impatient. BUT YOU ARE NOT DONE. You’re not done with me, with my marriage, with my kids. Thank You for being infinitely more patient with me than I am with You.

Whatever you are praying for, friends, He hears you. He is working and His Way is BEST and His timing is PERFECT.

Don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:23-26)

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24)

God of Hope

I am thankful:

~for a hilarious dream come true. When you are six years old, most of your life hinges on some truly pivotal moments: the loosening and pulling of teeth. For some it comes with anguish and terror. But for Sawyer, it is his greatest mission. He had a particular for tooth #3. He has been BEGGING to have his tooth tied to a doorknob. Finally we gave in (we had worried it would hurt, but he assured us he would be SO BRAVE.) Well he was, and that sucker flew right out! It was shocking and hysterical. He was thrilled.

~ for a day to reflect on the tremendous bravery of the men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. With all the social unrest we see around us today, it was especially poignant to remember the way our country set aside our differences and pulled together in a time of such deep tragedy. And so very thankful for the dedicated first responders who choose to put others’ lives before their own, and who run TOWARD danger instead of away from it. None of our kids are old enough to remember, but we teach them about what that day means to our country. We remember.

~ for fluffy homemade biscuits, farm fresh eggs, and smokey slab bacon (especially the batch I made with brown sugar and cayenne).

~ for two challenging but beautiful G&W projects in the works.

~ for the long-awaited return of FOOTBALL! I never thought I’d say that, it’s never really been my thing. But man, it makes my man happy! And I realize how I’ve missed it in the background of our weekends and evenings. Feels good to have some “normal” back!

~ for fun Go GOLD care packages delivered or mailed to our East Texas HERO families. How I wish we could have met together in person, but I’m glad we could at least send them something special so they could Go GOLD at home or school. We have T-shirts available if you’d like to Go GOLD with us! (Email to order)🎗🎗🎗

Shirts available Youth XS – Adult 2X – $20 (email info@goldnetworkoet.com to order)

~ for the first participants of Virtual Tyler Gold Run. SuperHERO Liam and his family gathered to support him and all his warrior friends. So special. I remember meeting Liam’s family when he was first diagnosed, and I have watched him CRUSH every obstacle in his way.

He’s just a remarkable kid. They all are. Having a front row seat to witness the incomparable spirit of these children is COMPLETELY LIFECHANGING. Remaining entrenched in the childhood cancer world is excruciating. These are all my babies. Another diagnosis. Another relapse. Another heart shattering loss. Another day of not understanding why I have my Sawyer boy while another mama’s arms are achingly empty. But the pain keeps me motivated. To keep fighting. To keep advocating. To keep reaching out. And watching the miracles is EXHILARATING! Liam rode his bicycle this weekend! Corbin played his first football game, when years ago his doctors told him he WOULD NEVER play any sports! BUT GOD!! We celebrate the victories together, pray for one another, lift each other up and share HOPE. Please prayerfully consider registering for Virtual Tyler Gold Run. Registration is way down from years’ past, which of course is understandable for a virtual event instead of live. It has been a hard year for everyone. But the need for support for these families is greater than ever. Every registration is a donation that supports local families, contributes to dedicated pediatric cancer research, and provides a tangible show of support to the brave children and their families walking through their worst nightmare. You can walk or run, or just register as a donation and get a great T-shirt as a bonus! You can register and participate any time this week. Registration closes at 11:59pm on September 19. www.tylergoldrun.com

And this week, I’m so grateful for unmistakable hints from the Lord. I am working on a sign for one of my neighbors, and the Scripture she requested was Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I started working on the sign, and got a text from another friend who placed an order. I jotted down the information and didn’t think much about it. Until I looked up the scripture reference. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Then this morning as our family gathered together for virtual church in our living room, what do you think the Scripture was for the children’s ministry lesson this morning? “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I hear you Lord.

That is truly the cry of my heart this week. Help me to empty myself of my baggage, my selfishness, my anxieties, my idols, and let You fill me to overflowing with Your joy and peace that never pass away. Thank You for Your Word that continually refreshes and refines.

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (Psalms 62:5)

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalms 71:14)

July, Part 2

Remember how I said I hated July? And how we prayed for no more bad news?

I hate July.

Right before we were headed for vacation we got a FaceTime call from Josh’s big brother Alan in Houston. Alan had battled the past few years through a heart attack, surgical complications, extended infection, and then cancer. Which then metastasized. He called to tell us that his doctors were now giving him 6 months to a year to live. We cried together on the phone, and told each other how much we loved one another, and made grand plans to seize life and live big while there was time.

Two weeks later Alan got pneumonia while we were at the beach. It quickly worsened and he was put on a ventilator. And then, all of a sudden, he was just gone. July 28, Alan woke up healed in the arms of Jesus.

That very same day, our Cooper started running 101.7° fever. And again the next day. We isolated him to his room, and felt it was time to take him to be tested for COVID 19. The real life possibility of having the dreaded coronavirus in our home, infecting our children, potentially forcing Josh to miss 14 days of work, and the fear of how the virus could affect Sawyer is one that I had not let myself face. Cleaning and sanitizing supplies are still unavailable in the stores, and wearing masks and self-isolating inside our home triggered my heart back to the terrifying days of trying to keep Sawyer safe when he had a nonexistent immune system. Especially yet again in July, when grief scars are aching and emotions are already raw and ragged.

But the immediate real life reality was almost more than we could bear.

Due to the possibility of coronavirus exposure, none of us could attend Alan’s funeral.

Losing someone you love so much and not having the opportunity to say goodbye is a different kind of pain. We missed out on the comfort that comes from gathering together, mourning together, and celebrating together. We know that one of Satan’s favorite tactics is to isolate us from the safety of a flock so he can attack. He is very good at this.

Grief + fear + anxiety + anger + isolation is a rough combo. I will admit that I don’t think we have handled it very gracefully.

The funeral was a beautiful celebration of Alan’s life and the goodness of God. Josh had sent in a video testimonial that was played at the service in addition to many heartfelt tributes from family and friends, and we were sent a video of the whole thing so we could watch it together at home.

After 5 days of continuous fevers, we got Cooper’s test result back this morning, and it was NEGATIVE! Of course we are so thankful. However, we are still required to continue our quarantine because of the possibility of a false negative. So we just feel stuck.

Stuck in quarantine.

Stuck in isolation.

Stuck in grief.

Somewhat relieved but not completely.

It’s better but not better.

I don’t share this to garner a bunch of sympathy for myself. We are beyond blessed. But this is just where I’m at, I’m working my way through it, and I have promised that this blog would be a place of honesty and transparency, a picture of real life and not just a one-sided highlight reel. And I also know I’m not the only one who feels like this. Our circumstances may be different, but I’m certain many can relate to feeling stuck, disappointed, uncertain, and overwhelmed during this strange season of life.

Even in my current state of feeling stuck and disappointed and sad, I remain 100% confident of God’s sovereignty and His goodness. I am thankful for my marriage and my family and my kids. I am thankful for the perfect cup of coffee and the nest of baby birds on my back porch. I’m thankful that I had Alan as a brother by marriage and a brother in Christ, and that this world is not the end. I’m thankful that no matter what it feels like or how bad this life gets, there is unspeakable joy ahead.

And the funny thing about July…it was Alan’s favorite. His birthday was July 3. And NOBODY loved his birthday more than Alan. He demanded celebration and accolades of epic proportions, and proclaimed that all the festivities of July 4 were just an extension of his birthday party. See Alan was a MASTER of loving lavishly, and you couldn’t help to love him back. And July 28, he exited this broken world and entered the VERY BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE when he stepped into Glory. So it isn’t really fair for me to hold on to that grudge. Because I know it’s not about me or how I feel. It’s all about Jesus.

Please join me in prayer for Alan’s wife, his children, his Momma, and all the people who loved him so much. He was a big man with a big laugh and big love, and there is a big hole here without him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

Wheelbarrow 40th birthday parade
Stealing Aunt Gina’s camera and taking silly selfies was Alan’s specialty
Chicken dancing at Thanksgiving

“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.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:1-7)