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)
~ for Samantha having the most incredible opportunity to go and shadow her cousin, Emma, at her job at an equestrian facility.
Sam has had horse fever for a while now, and our plans for country living have amplified them BIG TIME. But we of course need to make sure she understands how much hard work, sacrifice, and commitment horses are before we get in over our heads. This was a great first opportunity for her to spend some real time with real horses. And let me just say…she is SMITTEN! So thankful for this wonderful opportunity. And Emma is a tremendously patient and gifted teacher!
~ for the unexpected blessing of a dinner date with my Love and Colton! Best steak ever, also!
~ for a fun, if WAY TOO SHORT, visit from sweet Grace.
~ for a great trip to the public library to get everyone set up for their school summer reading assignments
…and for the EXQUISITE hour each day when everyone is reading SILENTLY, and I get to spend time with my new hobby – grown up paint-by-numbers! My sweet friend wanted to make sure I had a creative outlet while we take our hiatus from Giddyup & Whoa, and this project has been just the ticket!
~ for tremendous progress on my latest farm project – clearing thorn-vine-choked crepe myrtles. These poor shrubs were completely smothered, and little by little, I have fought to set them free.
I’m pretty sure this thicket has been the main source of my poison ivy or oak, so I’m thankful to be almost done! I am also on my THIRD DOSE of steroids, and the worst of the rash is clearing up. I’m SO READY to be done with that!
~ for icy cold watermelon and hot gas station pizza!
~ for watching my husband be the best dad. He’s so intentional with both our boys and our girls, teaching them tips and skills. Our girls have helped frame the barn and tend the burn pile, and Gavin had a mowing lesson this week.
~ for three happy kids who got dropped off for a glorious week at Pine Cove Summer Camp. Cooper, Samantha, and Kora were so excited for this amazing opportunity, and it was a family affair to brave the sweltering Texas heatwave to get them set up with their cabins and bunk mates. I would say it will be a quiet week without them, but I know better! I know they will have a wonderful time, and I pray they press into all that the Lord has for them in this perfectly appointed setting.
~ for a most welcome surprise: a visit from our dear neighbor (from 2 neighborhoods ago) Mr. Stockton. We were sad many years ago when he moved to Houston, but have been glad to keep in touch every now and then. We got a call that he was in town and wanted to “see his kids,” and it just blessed us to pieces.
~ for the sweetest neighborhood friendships.
~ for country sunsets. I can’t get enough of them.
Friends, will you please join me in praying for our precious HERO friend, Bristell? At just 4 years old, she is facing her THIRD battle with cancer. News of her recent relapse devastated her family, and they were initially told they were out of options. BUT GOD. He opened a door for a clinical trial in Houston, and she was enrolled in 24 hours. Let’s lift up this incredible little girl and her family!
More reminded than ever this week that life is a gift. Relationships, connections, causal interactions, all have purpose. Split second turning points: choose to be curt or be kind. Or to be kind or be QUIET. For better or worse, we impact those around us in big and small ways. Are we building or tearing down? We always have the choice to be humbly grateful or grumbly hateful. And both postures are contagious. Let’s be Light in this dark world.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:12-16)
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)
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.
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)
I am thankful for so much this week. God is good. I have a whole list of blessings and funny stories. I could share pictures of our family and tell you what we’ve been up to.
But my heart is heavy.
We have so many cancer families in crisis right now.
One sweet girl who endured cancer treatment as an infant and had two joy-filled healthy years, now has relapsed. She recently received a bone marrow transplant from her daddy. This week they both shaved their heads.
One handsome young man is battling cancer through his senior year of high school. He was recently diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a crippling degeneration of his joints caused by the poison prescribed to save his life. He’s been a football and baseball player all through school, and he is finishing his high school career in a wheelchair.
Another precious middle school girl is also battling an aggressive cancer and the dreaded avascular necrosis. Not only is she in a wheelchair and facing continual rare side effects, now the AVN is attacking her wrists. Doctors have never seen this before, and there is little that can be done. At 13 years old, this is her reality.
A beautiful teen went for her routine oncology checkup, only for the scans to reveal several new spots and areas of concern.
And just this week, one of our Hero families, parents of a 3 year old brain cancer survivor, took one of the little siblings to the pediatrician with some concerns. The news they received was unthinkable. She has the same brain tumor as her sister.
How? How can this be?
I just don’t even know what to say, except to ask you all to pray. I know God sees. I know He loves all of these children more than we can even imagine, and hates to see them suffer. I know He has a plan. I’m thankful that I know this world is not our home, and our best days are ahead.
So we pray. We lean on one another. We hold fast to Jesus. And we continue to give thanks. Because no matter what, He is still good, and He is still bigger.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:17-18)
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” (Psalms 107:8-9, 14-16, 29-31)
~ for a dream come true for Samantha. She has recently fallen in love with all things equestrian: all she wanted for Christmas was cowgirl boots and cowgirl clothes (since she knew we couldn’t get her an actual horse). One of big brother Colton’s friends invited her to his horse farm, and she had the best time of her life! (Zoe got to tag along.)
~ for Tatum K’s darling little playhouse. She loves her cozy new spot, and spends most of her time inside it. You can definitely find her there for breakfast and lunch, listening to the birds!
~ for the great honor and privilege of presenting our beloved Dr. Sam John at Children’s with a check for $10,000 from Gold Network of East Texas to further his ongoing cutting edge pediatric cancer research project. Dr. John holds a special place in our hearts from the earliest days of Sawyer’s cancer treatment, so it means so much to be able to support his research now. Dr. John shared that Sawyer’s successful treatment has been an inspiration for his continued passion for research of infant leukemias, and when presented with the Gold Network check, he said “I know this check is also backed with countless prayers, and that means a lot.” What a blessing for him to get to see Sawyer as a happy, healthy 8 year old!
~ for fire-side puzzling on our nifty new puzzle table. Even if our family Christmas puzzle is apparently too hard for everyone else in the family except me, and I’m pretty much doing it by myself.
~ for a quiet New Year’s Eve with the fam: pizza for kiddos, couch date with Longhorn steakhouse for Mom and Dad. Late night field trip for ice cream sundaes in pjs, and a sparklers in the driveway. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
~ for a traditional tasty start to 2022: savory blackeyed peas, roasted cabbage, brown sugar glazed ham, and buttery sweet cornbread, followed by a trip to the movies with the whole Tribe to see Sing 2 (I highly recommend!)
~ for the cutest, cuddliest puppies in all the land! We are having so much fun watching Bear and Birdie’s babies as they grow each day. They have started eating soft food, and are getting more and more playful. We still have available pups if you know anyone looking.
~ for hilarious virtual reality fun, from the international space station to the mountains of Peru to the gnarliest rollercoasters you can imagine!
~ for 101 ways to play with a stick. Why in the world did we buy toys for Christmas????
Are you a resolution person? People either love them or hate them. I know it’s kind of hokey to put off making necessary changes in your life until a certain day, but what’s the harm? I love the turn of the calendar page, and the fresh feeling that comes with the New Year. A fresh start. Fresh opportunity. Fresh potential. After the constant indulgence and unrelenting pace of the holidays, our overloaded senses crave a reset. The Christmas finery/clutter gets put away, and in the space left behind seems like fresh breathing room. Fresh margin. It may seem silly, but why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt this New Year? A good habit has to start sometime, and January 1 is as good a day as any. Or January 2. Or the 15. Why not just try? How about challenging yourself? Don’t write yourself off as a quitter before you even try. Give yourself some credit AND SOME GRACE!I’ve got lots of goals for this year, lots of dreams and things I want to do better. But mainly I just want to love well and look more like Jesus on December 31 than I do today. We are so blessed. And I know we’ve been blessed so we can be a blessing to others along the way.
Friends, we need your prayers. Our precious HERO friend, Bristell, has relapsed. After bravely battling Infant AML, victoriously surviving a bone marrow transplant, and celebrating almost 3 joyous years of remission, the unthinkable has happened. Four year old Bristell is back at Children’s as her care team creates a treatment plan for this next battle, and her precious mom and dad and new baby sister are reeling with broken hearts as they try to wrap their minds around this unexpected blow. No 4 year old should have to face cancer, let alone a second time. Will you please pray for this dear family, and stand with us as we bear up under this burden beside them? I will link their personal GoFundMe here if you would like to donate directly to Bristell.
This is the grim reality for parents of a child who has battled cancer. The fear remains. Maybe it’s way in the back of the closet or tucked away in the deepest reaches of consciousness. But somewhere, although no one ever speaks about it, there is the cold pang of dread that hiding in there somewhere, a malignant cell was missed, a dormant trigger that will reawaken, and when we least expect it, our tenuously duct-taped world will suddenly implode again. This is life as a cancer parent.
In Him we hope. In Him we believe there is still good in the world, and better yet, that this world is not all there is for us. We know that Jesus heals. We have seen it. And more importantly, we have seen HIM.
And because of Him, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
Thank you for lifting your prayers for Bristell and her family. And thanks for giving thanks with me.
““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
~for a special birthday – Cooper turned 17! How in the world!? Cooper is the most amazing young man: kind and funny and smart and insanely creative. Everyone enjoyed his delicious birthday menu of crescent chicken, roasted sweet potato rounds, pickled cucumber salad, and banana pudding for dessert. He’s easy to celebrate.
~for a relaxed 5 day Fall Break. We enjoyed taking it easy, playing outside in perfect weather, and for family movie night, “Harry and the Hendersons.”
~for richly colored beautiful fresh flowers on my table.
~ for the honor of Gold Network of ETX being in the company of 30 local nonprofits who were selected as beneficiaries of the Brookshire Grocery Company Fresh 15. We enjoyed attending the check presentation ceremony this week.
~for Key lime pie for breakfast
~for pumpkin bagels and pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread and pumpkin candles and pumpkin everything.
~for the silliest little monkey that brings so much joy to every day. She loves to eat breakfast on the front steps where she can listen to the birdies.
You never know what she’ll come up with next. Even though we are not doing a structured school day every day, (and don’t worry, I’m not one bit worried about it. She’s four and she’s bright and she’s learning every day) my bitsy Tatum K amazes me with her quick wit and her eagerness to learn. So grateful for this season with my girl.
~ for a special night at our GNET quarterly CONNECT caregiver support group. This unique opportunity for our cancer parents to gather over a meal and share openly is just so remarkable. It’s life-giving.
~ for a much needed belly laugh first thing in the morning. I walked outside early this week and the hazy dawn sky was dotted with fluffy tufts of clouds.
Immediately I saw a vivid picture in my mind: years ago when our temporary houseguest, Rosie the pug, ate up all our patio cushions and then sat proudly in the midst of the poly cotton she had shredded.
~for behind-the-scenes editors and prayer warriors and encouragers who help when they don’t have to.
~ for an inspirational homecoming. Our precious neighbor suffered a sudden and completely unexpected burst brain aneurysm. He has spent the last 6 months in the hospital, and today, miracle of miracles, he came back home! He was greeted by family and friends and half the neighborhood, and our boys escorted the car on their bicycles. Once he was settled inside, we gathered together to give all glory to God and to pray for his continued healing and for his devoted wife.
We lost a friend and HERO mama this week. Jennifer Green, single mom to HERO Lucas and little brother Jase, passed away yesterday after a fierce monthlong battle with Covid. GNET is a family, we love hard and we hurt deeply. There are so many trials in this life that we can just never understand, and this is one of them. But God. But God. But God. I will share information on her memorial and how to donate toward her boys for those who feel led to make a donation.
I’m also thankful that on Monday, a foolish mishap was not as bad as it could have been. Any of you every use a kitchen mandoline? If you HAVE, I know you are already wincing as you picture what you expect happened…. For those of you who don’t know about this revolutionary gadget, a mandoline is a slicer with an impeccably sharp stationary blade, perfect for creating uniform slices (sweet potato rounds, for instance).
I’ve always wanted one, but they are usually pretty expensive. You can imagine how jazzed I was to find one at Goodwill a while back. The problem with buying thrifted kitchen tools is that you don’t get any instructions, and you can’t know for sure if you have all the parts. I had no idea I was missing a critically important element, the hand protector (shown above). I will spare you the gory details, but let’s just say the blade was set at 3/8”, and there’s that much missing forever from the side of my thumb AND the opposite side of my hand.
Right hand/dominant hand/painting hand of course. It’s been a challenging week with pain, bandaging, and limitations, compounded by frustration with myself for such an unnecessary injury. But I’m truly thankful that it wasn’t worse, thankful for a professional nurse housecall (no stitches needed, because there was nothing to stitch!), thankful it didn’t happen to one of the children (rest assured, the demon-slicer was promptly disposed of by my husband), and that the wounds are healing pretty quickly.
Against my will, I have been forced to slow down this week and JUST “BE.” I wouldn’t have chosen it, didn’t really have time for it, wasn’t happy about it. But by the end of the week, I got more rest. Had more snuggles on the couch with my girl. Spent more time in the Word. Allowed my big kids to step up and help more. Felt exceptionally loved and cared for as each one of them prayed for me. In the midst of pain and frustration, I received an unexpected gift.
Try to slow down a little (BEFORE you’re forced to). Don’t forget to look for blessings amid the rubble. And take it from me, don’t buy deathly sharp instruments secondhand.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:2-3)
“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.” (Psalms 73:28)
““Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”” (Psalms 46:10)
What a week. I’m sorry for the vague/abrupt post last week with no follow up, but I’ve just genuinely been too overwhelmed/exhausted to post until now. Cooper is doing so much better, glory to the Lord. We are not exactly sure what his long-term recovery will look like, but we are hopeful and filled with great anticipation for all the Lord will do. And overwhelmed with gratitude at the many miracles He has done already. So let me explain how we got here. Settle in, because it’s a long story.
Saturday, our plan was to drive to Carthage to spend the day with family celebrating Mother’s Day. Cooper woke up with a headache, but we didn’t think it was any big deal. We made the drive and sat outside visiting. All was normal.
And at some point, Cooper started feeling worse and went and laid down in the guest room. A little bit later, he threw up. Our thought was, “Oh great. We have brought the stomach bug to the whole family. Aren’t we lovely.” In the interest of not spreading any more germs, we set Cooper up in his isolation station: a comfy patch of grass under a shade tree in the front yard. He already said he felt a little better after having thrown up, and said he wondered if it was food poisoning instead of a bug. He had gone out to eat with friends the night before. I periodically checked on him, making sure he had water, making sure he wasn’t getting sicker. And he said he felt back to 90%. But at some point, everything went South. The next time I went out to check on him, he looked up at me and said, “Where are we? None of this looks familiar.” Cooper has a reputation in our family as the funny guy. He’s been a funny guy at home. The funny guy at work. The funny guy at school. He’s got a great sense of humor, but like most young boys, doesn’t always have the discernment on the proper time and place to be funny. So I automatically assumed he was messing with me. I scolded him for concocting a crazy and not-even-slightly-believe-able story. But Cooper wasn’t playing. He didn’t recognize Gina‘s yard, and assured me that he had no memory of how we got to Carthage. As I pressed for more answers, he didn’t remember going out with friends the night before… For that matter, he didn’t seem to have any memory of the last month. Long term memory was intact. He knew everyone in our family, named all his siblings, knew where he worked and all about his music. But everything in the last month was gone. Not only that, he was asking the same questions over and over, “What day is it?” “Where am I?” “Do I keep falling asleep?” “Have I asked this question before?” By the time we could give the answers, he had already forgotten the questions, and would restart the process all over again. His memory seemed to be re-setting every three minutes or so. I can’t explain how baffling and terrifying it was. Could this be caused by extreme dehydration? Had he had a stroke? What if the memory loss was permanent? Did he have a brain tumor? As you can probably surmise, what we have been through with Sawyer had a great impact on how we processed this sudden crisis. We immediately went straight to the worst case scenarios in our mind. We no longer have the luxury of thinking, “cancer could never happen to us.” Instead, our hearts pounded as our minds raced with thoughts that screamed what we couldn’t allow ourselves to speak out loud, “Is this really happening to us AGAIN?”
Josh and Colton raced Cooper back to the Tyler ER. This is Miracle Number 1. I had wanted Colton to ride with us to Carthage. He had errands to run, and decided to drive himself separately. This was a huge blessing in the long run, because Josh and Colton were able to rush Cooper to Tyler immediately without having to wait and gather everyone else up. The rest of the family knew little of what was going on. All they knew was that Cooper wasn’t feeling great and was staying away so as not to get anyone else sick. They had no idea things had taken a turn and that something serious was going on. No one else had witnessed his frightening behavior. And what could I tell them? I had no explanation. As I had done countless times again and again since Sawyer’s diagnosis, I entered into an eerie stillness and quiet peace from the Lord. There was no freaking out. No tears. No panic. I was instantly a quiet soldier taking care of whatever had to be done so I could get to my son. The kids finished eating their dinner, cleaned up the pool toys, loaded the bus, and I got on the road to drive what felt like 10 million miles to get to my boy. And you better believe I turned my music on. The entire way to Tyler, I had one hand on the wheel and one hand raised to heaven. I praised God for who He was and who He is and for whatever He was going to do through this trial. Trust me, that was NOT ME. I am not that full of faith. I was not OK. But God was in control and He held my shattering heart in His hand. Battle mode. It’s indescribable unless you have been there and experienced it. I got the kids settled at home with Carson Grace, and Colton‘s girlfriend Brooke came to the house and drove me. Another blessing. I didn’t have to walk into that hospital alone. By the time I arrived, Cooper had already had a chest X-ray, urinalysis tox screen, lots of bloodwork drawn, EKG, and a head CT. He still was asking the same questions over and over, and repeating the same few things he could remember: “I work at Chick FilA, I make music, I have a studio at my house.” The exact same short conversation more than 200 times. Thankfully, at this point all tests have come back normal. The doctors were mystified. Cooper was admitted to the hospital and transported to a room around 1 AM. Josh went home to be with the children, and I stayed with Cooper. It was surreal settling into another vinyl recliner next to another hospital bed and IV pump with another of my children.BUT GOD.
Sunday morning brought a visit from the on-call pediatrician who, equally mystified, scheduled an EEG, MRI and spinal tap. We had already ruled out several things: tox screen confirmed there were no substances or drugs in his body, EKG had ruled out anything triggered by the heart arrhythmia we already knew he had, x-rays showed no blood clots in his lungs, CT showed no large masses or tumors. An EEG would look for disruptions in brainwave activity, MRI was looking for strokes, smaller tumors, or bleeds, and spinal tap would show anything abnormal in his spinal fluid. By this time Cooper had been pumped full of fluids and his personality was returning.
He had finally stopped asking the same repeated loop of questions. But his brain was still very foggy and many holes remained in his memory. After five horrific failed attempts at an unsedated spinal tap, I said “ENOUGH,” and Cooper was finally taken to a procedure room where he received general anesthesia and a successful spinal tap. Mama Bear was NOT PLEASED. Watching my son moan and cry out in pain while grinding his face into a pillow and gripping my hands so tightly I thought they might break was unbearable. BUT GOD.
Next came 2 MRIs which came back normal. Even though the spinal taps were excruciating and infuriating, we are truly thankful, because the spinal fluid was what finally yielded an answer.
Abnormal lymphocytes found in the fluid. Of course the word “lymphocytes” sent another shock wave of panic through Josh and I, but the doctor quickly assured us that that did not mean cancer. It meant an infection. A virus from who-knows-where that was able to cross the barrier from the blood into the spinal column and cause brain inflammation, which then resulted in Cooper’s altered mental status and short term memory loss. Viral meningoencephalitis. And the treatment? There is none. The virus simply had to run its course. Thankfully, the fluids had done a good job of flushing it out of his system. And of course most importantly, Mighty God had His hand on Cooper. We still spent one more night in the hospital for observation and awaiting an official confirmation of the diagnosis from the neurologist Monday morning. She did confirm it, and that coupled with Cooper’s remarkable improvement bought him a ticket home Monday afternoon.
We couldn’t believe it. So much happened in such a short time. Such a sudden and terrifying onset of symptoms, and yet less than two full days later he seemed like himself. He was very weak, still somewhat foggy and a little confused, and as you can imagine, 6 spinal taps make for one heck of a backache. Looking back now a week later, we realize we overestimated how well he was doing.
He felt terrible all day Tuesday and landed back in the ER that night with an excruciating spinal headache. But a repeat CT showed that everything looked fine, and we were reassured that spinal headaches are common after one spinal tap, let alone six. Since then, Dr. Mom has strictly enforced rest and scheduled pain meds to stay ahead of the pain. I have given him three words each day to remember and recall to me throughout the day (sunflower/elephant/83), to monitor his ability to retain short-term memories. So far so good. He has slowly improved every day. Friday was supposed to be his last day of school, and he really wanted one last chance to see his friends before summer. He assured me he was up for it. With a pounding heart, I left him at the school that morning. After about two hours, he called me to come get him. But I was so proud that he tried, pleasantly surprised that he lasted that long, and pleased that he wasn’t too proud to call me when he’d had enough.
If you’ve hung in there long enough to get to the end of all this, let me close with a precious story that blessed me beyond measure. Cooper had told me weeks ago that he had ordered me a gift for Mother’s Day, but that he was sorry it would not make it on time, “but trust me, you’re gonna LOVE IT.” When we pulled into the driveway Monday afternoon from the hospital, he went straight to the mailbox and cheered, holding up an envelope. (He remembered!) That evening, after all the children gave me their handmade Mother’s Day cards, he presented me with that envelope. Inside was a decal he had custom designed for my gold coffee mug. “but God”
Thankfulness and joy to the Lord washed over my aching heart as I stared at the sticker. God knew. God knew the terrifying dark valley we would walk through with Cooper. And He never left us. He never left Cooper. He never left my shattered PTSD cancer-fearing heart as I sat in a hospital with my child. What a good, good Father. Hallelujah.
Thank you so much to all who called, texted, visited, brought meals, helped with kids, and lifted us in prayer. You have truly been the hands and feet of Jesus. We are all still a bit shell-shocked and exhausted from all that has happened in just a few short days, but we are amazed how, in the midst of the crisis, Josh and I experienced tender moments of bonding and closeness and even unexpected joy and laughter with Cooper and with Colton, who rose up, devotedly never leaving his brother’s side.
We rejoice in Cooper’s recovery, and we give God all the glory for carrying us through.
“And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”” (Exodus 33:14)
“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)
““The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”(Exodus 15:2-3)
I’m thankful for a little spicy three-year-old in my lap snuggling and making faces and asking me to tickle her leg.
For lots of Giddyup & Whoa creations built, in process, and delivered.
For the sweet families that send us updates about Birdie and Bear’s puppies. They are growing up so fast, and are just the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen!
For my newest cute little plant, a dainty creeping wire vine. Who knew you could ORDER PLANTS OFF ETSY!?
For Cooper’s new obsession with “Chay-moe-ME-lay” tea.
For a full house for the first time in over a year. It seems like forever since we’ve hosted a small group for church. Small groups have been home to us over the last 20 years. It’s where we’ve been discipled, been fed physically and spiritually, where we’ve built relationships. We have worshipped together, prayed together, laughed together. We’ve worked through conflict and wrestled through questions together. The groups have changed so many times over the years, from 5 or 6 families to 1 or 2, to the mega group that numbered 50+ attendees, with 29 kids under 12. Last night we had 4 families with our collective 20 kids. Not even gonna lie: it was overwhelming. It was loud, kids were insane, and sensory overload for my anxiety. But it was so good. It’s why God gave us this home: to have a space of open doors and open hearts for loving on people. Kingdom investment. We are excited for this new season of stretching. We knew it was time.
For hand-me-downs. Thank you hand-me-downs for keeping me from having naked kids.
For walks at sunset.
For fun finds at Goodwill.
For my sweet boy I found hiding in the warm towels fresh out of the dryer.
For a sweet movie that the kids and I stumbled upon by accident: “Safety,” inspired by the true story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey, who became legal guardian of his little brother while still in college. It was a perfectly timed, God-ordained opportunity to talk through some questions a couple of our children had about foster care. As they grow into their tween and teen years, there have been more questions…deeper questions, the kind of questions that make my stomach hurt. Lord Jesus, help me tell my babies the truth with the right words given to me by only You. Help me to be a safe place for them, and give them the courage to ask their questions instead of stuffing them down inside. And fill them so completely with Your Love that they don’t have to doubt that they belong. I trust that the moment they need You the most, You will be right there.
This week a sweet friend asked how they could pray for me, and I said “that I would not lose heart and not grow weary trying to pour into all my kids.” It’s a daunting responsibility. Impossible really. BUT GOD. In myself, I don’t have a chance. But I have to remind myself – DAILY, if not multiple times a day – that HE saw fit to entrust Josh and I with each one of these incredible blessings, and that His grace is enough. And I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m never going to quit trying to get it right-er than the time before. And what I want to remember about that day, the day my friend asked how she could pray for me, was that that day my kids REALLY needed me. We talked through some really hard stuff, we had some extra hugs after a big owie, we prayed some really raw prayers. Had some looong talks. Any one of their needs would have been big enough to overwhelm a day. But stacked together and multiplied? WAY too much. BUT GOD! God knew what was coming THAT DAY, and He put me on my friend’s heart. And He knew she’d be faithful, both to reach out to me, AND to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH AND PRAY.
HE. IS. FAITHFUL. And He is ALWAYS RIGHT. ON. TIME.
Thank You, Jesus, for walking with me.
And thanks for giving thanks with me.
“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalms 32:6-8)
“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5)
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
“I’m changed by Your mercy Covered by Your peace I’m living out the victory Doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat You’ve walked me through fires Pulled me from flames If You’re in this with me I won’t be afraid When the smoke billows higher, oh and higher, and it feels like I can barely breathe I’ll walk through these fires ‘Cause You’re walking with me”“Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr
~ for a big, big, BIG week for Sawyer. Tuesday was one of the most highly anticipated and celebrated events in a GCS First Grader’s year: a 30+ year tradition, the performance of Little Bo Peep. All of our kids have been in it, as have cousins, and with multiple performances for each of them, I personally have watched the play no less than 17 times. But the sweet story of Bo Peep asking all the other nursery rhyme characters for help finding her lost sheep, never ceases to touch my heart. And it was truly surreal to see Sawyer on that stage, that he again reached a milestone that we never dated dream of for him. BUT GOD! He was the cutest little mischievous Georgie Porgie, and he teased those poor little girls beautifully. My heart exploded.
He also had so much fun the very next day celebrating the 100th day of school. The 1st graders made projects and enjoyed various activities all day. So much fun in one week!
~ for a quick catch-up with Aunt Gina, and the delivery of a tasty Grandmommy self portrait!
~ for the cutest little matching sisters. Same same!!
~ for yummy, ooey gooey chicken wings with “BARBIE” SAUCE.
~ for ALL THE HELPERS. I definitely had more fun watching Josh and the kids build this storage unit than the football game tonight.
~ for another productive week of DIY projects. Josh has instructed me that last week was PRE-pre-vacation, and this week and weekend has been pre-vacation. The ACTUAL vacation starts TOMORROW. This week Cooper started getting his studio set up, moving in his equipment and mounting professional soundproofing panels. The panels go up with tiny map pins, and we have used ALL the black map pins in the city of Tyler, so the rest of that project is on hold until more pins arrive via Amazon. Josh laid carpet tiles and baseboards, and installed double doors, also fitted with soundproofing. What a cool space for creating!
The girls’ bathroom was dingy and greatly in need of updating and repair: water damage, broken tile, leaky faucet, and a shower door that fell off at least once a week. We tackled it with full force this week.
Josh had already repaired all the drywall, including closing up the hole from a dated medicine cabinet, and the new tile floors had been installed. After 2 coats of Alabaster on the walls, trim, and ceiling, I was overjoyed that the last bit of the drab yellow that was in so many rooms of this house was FINALLY GONE. The soft, creamy white brightens the space and lifts the ceiling so much!
I got the cabinets painted and helped Josh hang the new mirror and build and install the shower doors.
Next came WALLPAPER! After 20 years and 3 houses with terrible wallpaper, I can’t believe I actually wanted to put it in my house! But I fell in love with the idea of doing an accent wall, and it seemed like a great place to do something fun. I changed my mind no less than 837 times during the planning process, but I’m completely thrilled with where we landed.
Josh replaced the leaky faucet with a new matte black fixture, and we are so happy to mark all of that off the project list! I have a couple small details and touch up to finish, so this is still not the FINAL reveal, but we are SO SO CLOSE! We are thankful that our girls have a bright and pretty space to get ready for their day each morning. I’m so excited to have Josh home this week, to work together doing what we love to do.
~ for the power of prayer and the joy of the Lord. I talked last week about so many people I love who are wrestling through hard things. Unspeakably hard things. I have spent more hours in prayer this week than I have in a long time, just talking to the Lord about what is going on and asking Him to move in mighty ways. AND HE HAS! Every problem hasn’t gone away, and every trial hasn’t disappeared, but I have seen people walk through fire and come out on the other side. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen hope where there should have been none. I’ve seen supernatural self control and grace under pressure. I’ve seen grieving coexist with joy. And I have also seen and heard some heaven thundering prayers come out of the mouths of my children, especially my spicy little Tatum K. Let me tell you about Annie.
If you follow my social media, you’ve already heard that Annie is a beautiful 4 month old baby girl. She was born with a congenital heart defect, and underwent open heart surgery January 29. Annie has had complications during and after surgery, survived drastic lifesaving measures and spent 7 days being kept alive by an ECMO machine. AND BY JESUS. Every. Single. Day we watched another miracle unfold through Annie. Today they took her off the ECMO machine, and she will be closely monitored until her doctors decide she is ready for her NEXT surgery, which will be to install a permanent pacemaker. Annie’s story has captured our hearts, though we have never even met her, and she has people praying all over THE WORLD. I set her picture as the lock screen on my phone, so that every time I open it up, I pray for her. And Tatum K has become SO INVESTED in Baby Annie. She has prayed over and over, “Jesus heal Baby Annie and her broken heart and make her feel better and be happy. Annie loves God and I just love her. Your turn to pray, Mama.” After one of her prayers, she asked me to play her favorite song, “Raise a Hallelujah.” I turned it on, and Tatum suddenly cried out excitedly, “MAMA!!!! This song can heal Annie’s broken heart!” PLEASE pray for Baby Annie, and for her parents and big brother. And keep praying for the people around you that you know are struggling. And don’t stop bringing your own burdens and worries to the Lord. We ALL have them, so why do we waste so much energy trying to make it look like we have it all together? Having Annie’s picture on my phone has me praying all day long (yeah, I’m probably on my phone more than I should be), and she’s been my reminder to keep praying for all the others on my prayer list over and over.
And prayer changes us.
That’s half the miracle.
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desire of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:28-30)
~ for a very happy birthday for a beautiful new teenager. Sweet Samantha had her birthday this week, and she is SO EASY to celebrate. Samantha Lucy’s name means “Listener that Brings Light,” and she lives up to that name in every way.
She is a joy and a blessing and such a help. It seems like she has grown up into a young lady overnight. She enjoyed her favorite chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, a lunch delivery at school, and her birthday dinner menu of choice: grilled ham and muenster sandwiches with avocado ranch, Pringles, and fruit salad.
Well-known in our household to be avocado OBSESSED, she got avocado cards from all her siblings, avocado socks, and original avocado painting, even avocado sheets to go with her new (more grown-up) bedding. We are so proud of the young woman she is becoming, and wait with great expectations for all that God has for her.
~ for a terrific maiden voyage on the potty train for Tatum K! I don’t want to be prematurely confident, but since starting wearing panties last Saturday, she has only had one accident! She’s so excited and proud of herself. We took a field trip to Target to pick out new Elsa Days-of-the-Week panties, and boy, she tells EVERYBODY about them, and she has been singing her original song, “let’s poop poop poop on the potteeeeey” loudly for all to hear (including in Target).
~ for the undisputed champion of all sandwiches, Stanley’s famous Mother Clucker smoked chicken sandwich, topped with a fried egg and peppery candied bacon on pillowy jalapeño cheese sourdough bread. There is no photo. I couldn’t restrain myself long enough before I devoured it.
~ for the loveliest flowers from our neighbor.
~ for a fantastic evening with my Tribe: great football, a new Giddyup & Whoa project on my easel, and steaming hot meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies.
~ for a busy week well spent. As I mentioned last week, Josh has had lots of projects planned for his vacation, but in true Giddyup fashion, he can’t stand to wait. Last week he did the ceiling fans and the mattresses and light fixtures and the barstools. This week he gave me a Christmas gift that I never would’ve asked for…he hired a crew to finish scraping my beams. If you’ve been following along with the Sunday Gratitude blog for a while, you may remember that a little over a year ago I started the painstaking process of hand scraping the massive oak beams in our great room (find that blog post here). I killed 2 sanders and a planer and shredded all 10 of my knuckles in the process of scraping 11 beams, and work halted right before Covid hit last March. Talk about a work in progress…
With just 4 left to go, I just plain ran out of gas. When Josh told me he wanted to bless me with having it done, it was tough to receive. I felt like I was admitting defeat. It was my baby. My project. My Everest to conquer. But I’d begrudgingly swallowed my pride, and this week two strong young fellas simultaneously scraped those beams nonstop for 10 hours and got the job done. They did a fantastic job, and Part B on the project will be painting the dingy cream colored ceilings with a fresh crisp coat of alabaster white to match our walls. We’ve wanted this done since the day we moved into this house 3 1/2 years ago, and we are so excited. I’m so thankful to have a husband who loves me so much.
But of course, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all Josh got done. The next two projects that will be running concurrently will be a deep refresh in our girls bathroom and the conversion of a non-functional, hardly-used dressing area into a recording studio for Cooper (aka Davvec)!
He is beyond excited about having this space and has been saving his money from his various jobs to buy all his musical and recording equipment, as well as the soundproofing medium to cover all the walls. Although this sounds like extravagant use of space, it will easily be converted two a super useful storage closet when Cooper is done and moves out. We are excited to support his dreams and reward his hard work and dedication.
The bathroom was already in bad repair when we moved here, and it’s gotten plenty of wear since then. This will be a fun reno, and Step One was closing off the doorway into that dressing area (Cooper’s studio) and relocating it to the hallway. Josh did an impeccable job of placing the new door and matching the existing trimwork, and he did it with lightning speed!
There is so much left to do, it’s a never ending cycle of owning a home. ESPECIALLY when you are into the DIY world. But we will tackle it all together. One of Josh and my very favorite things to do together is to work on projects. We love the entire process: dreaming together, researching options, the excitement of committing to a project, and then the troubleshooting, prep work, and the execution. It’s not always pretty. We have plenty of bumpy moments, failures, miscommunications, and start-overs. We don’t always understand one another because we process things so differently, and we sometimes drive each other crazy. Thankfully, we get generally get back on track quickly and we can laugh at ourselves. We have learned most of our skills by watching a lot of YouTube and by making a lot of mistakes. But our favorite is watching the work in progress, watching the transformation take place, and then finally getting to enjoy the return on lots of sweat equity once the project is done. I love the feeling of collapsing in the bed beside him after we have both worked our tails off. We love bragging on each other’s efforts. And most of all, I love that our kids have always grown up watching their mom and dad work side by side literally building a life for them.
I want to close tonight by sharing a testimony about a friend. This is one of the most amazing miracles I have ever encountered, and I just have to TESTIFY! After a process of learning to hear and obey the Lord, and through a series of events too remarkable to deny, he is undergoing surgery to donate his kidney to save a life tomorrow. PLEASE watch this video and be blessed by Tim’s story. (Watch video HERE)
And please lift him and his family in prayer as they try to rest tonight, preparing themselves for a truly life-changing day tomorrow. Lord, you know we are all works in progress, and YOU are the One doing the hard work. May we give You free reign to do the work on and in us that needs to be done. And may we draw so near to Your heart that we don’t flinch when You ask us to give. Or to go. Or to let go. What a Promised Land opens up when we say, “Yes Lord!”
Thanks for giving thanks with me.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8)
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)
“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Chisholm)