Bloom

I am thankful:

~ that all our sweet puppies have found their Forever Families! Raising puppies is so fun; they are so cute and sweet. But it is SO MUCH WORK! The hours, the poop, the feedings, the expense…there is a lot more to it than cuddling puppies and taking cute pictures (although that part is really fun!). But it is truly a side JOB we have undertaken in order to pay off debt, so getting the puppies sold is very, very important. Saying goodbye to the babies will be bittersweet. In just a week and a half, the pups will head to their families, from Chicago to Round Rock, and we know they are all going to bring their families so much joy!

~ for savory ham and muenster sliders on buttery sweet Hawaiian rolls.

~ that I FINISHED. THE. PUZZLE!!!! Josh has issued a mandatory waiting period before I am allowed to start another one. I think he feels a little neglected when I get sucked into a puzzle.

~ for Zoe doing a terrific job in her role as ToastMaster in her 4th grade class. Public speaking does not come naturally for her, so I’m so proud of her courage and hard work to push herself outside her comfort zone.

~ for a great day off with my Sweetheart and my Mini Me. We enjoyed a long over-due breakfast date, trying out Jucy’s for the first time. We were definitely impressed with everything, from their fluffy pancakes and savory sausage to their cold and delicious orange juice.

~ for unexpected treasure. Aunt Dinah found some pictures from a visit back in 2007 that I had never seen. What a blast from the past! I have such photogenic children.

I have this orchid. If you’ve been here at Sunday Gratitude a while, you might remember last March when Josh surprised me with a big “just because” basket of beautiful eucalyptus bath goodies and a stunning orchid.

Now let me tell you something. I love plants. I have been collecting them for a few years now.

And let me tell you something else. I CAN KILL SOME PLANTS. I’ve always had a pretty black thumb. I underwater. I overwater. I leave them in the wrong pot for too long. I’ve killed the plants that are labeled “easy care,” or “hard to kill.” I just don’t really know what I’m doing.

Most of the plants I have had success with are hardy, low light plants like pothos and ivy. So when I received my orchid, I was not very optimistic. Orchids are notorious for being temperamental and hard to care for. And just a week or so, sure enough, all the blooms turned brown and fell off. I knew it. I had committed another murder.

The leaves at the bottom were still green, so I kept the plant. I cut off the long, stately stem that had held the lovely, short-lived blooms, and left it in the window, a daily reminder of my incompetence as a gardener. A month or so later, I noticed a baby leaf peeking out of the pot, and I was so excited! The plant wasn’t dead after all! Even if it never bloomed again, at least it wasn’t a complete loss!

Recently, months later, I noticed a tall green stalk. I hadn’t even noticed it growing, just suddenly saw it one day. No way… could it be? Sure enough, as I continued to inspect the stem day after day, I began to see tiny growths along the top. BUDS!? My orchid was not only ALIVE, it was growing and preparing to BLOOM! From a seemingly dead plant, another failure, to a beautiful symbol of hope and beauty and new LIFE! What joy to watch the gradual transformation and eagerly anticipate the beauty to come.

I have found so much encouragement from watching this resurrecting orchid. How many of us have looked at a situation through eyes of disappointment, discouragement, and defeat? Hopeless. Dead. But what if God is still stirring in places we can’t see? What if life is hidden beneath the surface? What if beauty is waiting to spring forth when we least expect it? I know I have areas in my life where I desperately long to see resurrected LIFE. Things that look hopeless and dead to me. BUT GOD. He is always working, sifting, refining, loving, fighting, redeeming, restoring, healing, forgiving, drawing. Growth takes time. Healing takes time. Restoration takes time. Even if we have a bad track record, He is working in and through us. Even if things look bleak and hopeless, BEAUTY IS COMING. I didn’t grow the orchid because of my wealth of knowledge and careful attendance. GOD grew it IN SPITE OF MY LACK. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And God gives both lavishly. What a refreshing reminder. Look for beauty emerging this week…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,” (Psalms 92:12-14)

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:27-31)

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I am thankful:

~ for the fun annual tradition of 12 Days of Christmas gifts. Grandmommy loves to spend her birthday sharing with others, and it was no accident that God hand-picked it to fall exactly 12 days before Christmas! She goes to such great lengths to come up with creative and thoughtful gifts for everyone to open each night, and we have the best time singing the song, reading Christmas trivia, and taking turns opening gifts each night.

~ for the last round of Christmas concerts, programs, parties, and events. There’s been something every day! Anyone else want to recommend we take half these events and do them in say…April?

Kora’s Middle School Choir Concert
Sawyer’s 2nd Grade Christmas Play

~ for my darling husband, who combed the swarming aisles of Walmart for over an hour to find the last solitary pack of Christmas treat bags in the city for me. That’s a good man.

~ for last minute G&W holiday projects.

~ for our twice a year trip to the dentist successfully completed! Tatum K was terrified last time, but this visit was greatly improved! 7 kids at the dentist in the middle of December is no joke!

~ for Pajama Day/Christmas Party Day/Last Day of School before Christmas Break. Somehow it seems too early, but we are really here, just a week out! Glad to have my loves all home.

~ for round 2 of cranberry bliss bars. They have been such a hit they have definitely been added to the holiday rotation.

~ for a fun day celebrating with family at our annual “Kilgore Christmas Party”…but since hostess-with-the-mostest, Aunt Polly has moved from Kilgore to her newly completed, stunningly beautiful home in Carthage, we had to update the name to “Aunt Polly’s Jolly Holiday.” We feasted on delicious snacks and the warmest fellowship. It’s always hard missing the ones who aren’t with us, but I thing it makes us spend the time loving on each other a little tighter.

Aunt Nikki surprised Josh, gifting one of Uncle Alan’s beloved bass guitars, and brought some, I guess we’d have to call them “vintage,” handheld video games that he’d kept for the kids. So special.

~ for cozy socks, yummy hot chocolate, and rowdy games of spoons.

~ for sweet puppy snuggles. Birdie’s pups are growing every day, and they are just the most precious little things. After 12 days of sleeping with them on the closet floor, I am beyond thankful that they are big enough to graduate to their next stage of care: a pen in our bathroom! That means I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!! Wahoo!!!

It’s still a constant battle to keep eyes on the Savior instead of all the STUFF. I can feel when I start slipping. After a steady diet of donuts, cookies, and candy canes, the maniacal frenzied chorus of “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” on REPEAT becomes markedly less cute. Especially in the car. After the 7th time. I’m a little less patient with a certain 4 year old who skipped her nap yet AGAIN. But I have really purposed myself this month to do regular heart checks. I’ve been listening to Rend Collective on repeat, “Though the tears may fall, my song will rise My song will rise to You / Though my heart may fail, my song will rise My song will rise to You / While there’s breath in my lungs I will praise you, Lord…The joy of the Lord is my strength The joy of the Lord is my strength In the darkness, I’ll dance In the shadows, I’ll sing The joy of the Lord is my strength”

My joy is not found in, nor is it subject to, my circumstances. My moods come and go, His faithfulness does not. Our family has so much going on, both for public eyes and privately in our hearts, and it would be so easy to give in to the waves that doggedly try to pull me under. BUT GOD. Trust me, I get tired of fighting for peace. Doesn’t that sound like such an oxymoron? Fighting for peace? But that’s exactly what we must do. There’s a constant war, and war is what it wants. Anxiety, division, hatred, fear, unrest, discontentment. But when we fight against those things and instead anchor ourselves to the steady, immovable Father, we can see the irritations and distractions for what they really are. Traps. I’m not trying to say I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m handling things so great right now. But I have a strong sense that I know where I COULD BE emotionally/spiritually right now, compared to where I actually am. And I’m thankful for Jesus’ grace and His leading. This broken world is not my home. This life is not all there is. I truly have strength and joy in His Presence that no one can steal. And I’m hanging onto that for dear life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms‬ ‭34:14‬)

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John‬ ‭14:27‬)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Traditions

I am thankful:

~ for a special birthday. Our miracle boy, Sawyer the Warrior, turned 8!

Every milestone still takes my breath away. We never dared dream he would go to second grade, or excel at school, or LIVE TO BE EIGHT YEARS OLD! BUT GOD! What a blessing and a miracle he is! He had a great day: donuts for breakfast, Slim’s Chicken lunch at school with Mom, Dad, and Tatum K, and his birthday menu – lasagna, pickles, and chocolate cake with orange colored salted caramel buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for preserving the life of this boy. We will never stop giving You all the glory.

~ for a great Giving Tuesday for Gold Network of East Texas. We were so blessed by generous donations, and received more than $1600 to support our deserving local families impacted by childhood cancer. THANK YOU to all who donated.

~ for a fun week for Cooper: being asked to a dance, and getting chosen at work to be the Chick-Fil-a Cow for a local Christmas parade. He had a blast!

~ for the opportunity to watch Zoe and her classmates at their Colonial Trades Day presentation. Zoe was captivating as a colonial soap maker.

~ for a much-needed visit with a dear friend.

~ for traditions. I finally got the tree lights fixed and ornaments hung.

I love those moments with the kids, as they each delight in finding their special ornaments from each year. We laugh and tell the same stories over again.

Can you spot Bear and Birdie?

I tell of the year when our budget was so tight that Colton, Carson Grace, and Cooper’s only ornaments and gifts came from the Dollar Store, and I had given Josh a construction paper heart with our picture on it.

We talk about the first Christmas in the hospital when Dad drove the bus packed with kids and presents to Dallas so we could be together in the waiting room. So many memories on that tree.

The nostalgic decorations are my favorite. I remember as a child, gazing at the lights and ornaments on Grandma Grace’s tree, her brightly colored hand sewn felt animals and delicately tatted snowflakes.

I was captivated by her 1970s handpainted plaster Nativity and the sparkling Christmas tree created with her vintage costume jewelry mounted on black velvet.

Now I love the red and green metal Tonka dump truck that was my dad’s when he was a boy, and watching Tatum K play with the plush singing snowman from Hallmark that Granny Lou gave Cooper when he was a baby.

I love our matching embroidered stockings that I painstakingly collected over the years, all lined up on our mantle.

And I wonder which traditions my children will remember the most fondly, and which ones they will carry on with their own families. Will they celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas and sing the song each night? Will they treasure my Willow Tree nativity? Will they roll out sugar cookies to deliver to their neighbors and make Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters and my monkey bread and spicy crawfish corn chowder only once a year?

I hope I get to experience traditions with my grown children and their families one day. I hope we laugh together and tell the same stories over and over. I hope they look back on their childhood with warm memories of a house filled with love and the presence of Jesus.

Christmas isn’t always sweet and magical, and not all the memories are good. Important moments are almost always impacted by the people we miss and those painful memories that have left a stain and a scar. But if we purpose ourselves to focus on the hope that is before us, we can rise above the hurts and disappointments and rest in the love of our Savior. He is making all things new, and the day is coming when the stories of Baby Jesus born in a stable will pale before the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace Himself.

Thank You Jesus for the promised joy that is coming.

PS. No puppies yet! Stay tuned…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Wonder

I am thankful:

~ for a week full of warm holiday smells: cinnamon and sweet potatoes, cranberries and cedar, cloves and pumpkin.

~ for a successful, if INTENSELY STRESSFUL, first attempt deep frying a turkey. We have heard so many horror stories of fires and explosions, so we had the fire extinguisher at the ready. After a multiple generous injections of creole butter, and a 50 minute bath in boiling peanut oil, we had a gloriously golden brown, crispy skinned bird! It was delicious!

Fire extinguisher at the ready

~ for a lovely Thanksgiving with all my kids together. We enjoyed spending the days laughing and stuffing our faces with family, complete with our favorite traditions, dancing the chicken dance and competing fiercely in the Pumpkin Olympics before the reigning Pumpkin Queen. It was a day of feasting and thanking the Lord for His faithfulness. There were beloved faces missing from around our table, but we did find comfort knowing they were together at the best celebration of all.

Pumpkin Olympics
Chicken Dance

~ for pumpkin pie for breakfast.

~ for Round 2 of the festivities, this time at our house. We pulled out all the leftovers and watched the broadcast of the Carthage Bulldogs playoff game. Sadly they did not come away with the win, but the fellowship was top notch.

~ for coconut cream pie for breakfast.

~ for a wonderfully successful Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa this season! I sold out of 2 restocks of ornaments and all but 3 signs. Thank you for supporting our small business!

~ for cherry pie for breakfast.

~ for the start of our holiday decorating. It’s so exciting to pull out the tubs and bags and get out all the Christmas greenery and sparkles. I did a quick little upcycle with two trash finds today. I cut off the top of a rusted old steamer trunk and dry brushed it with some white paint for a “new” tree base.

And then a salvaged headboard became a new sign for our mantle. I don’t often make a sign that I get to keep, so this one is a treasure.

Josh did a fantastic job on the lights on the house, braving yet again his aversion to heights. We’ve got a long way to go, burned out lights, rearranging and ornaments to hang, but it was a good start and is looking cheerful and festive. I’ve always felt like this house was just MADE for Christmas.

Even Bear is ready! Birdie, not so much. She is expecting puppies in the next week or so. Poor girl is tired and uncomfortable.

I love watching the holidays through the eyes of my children. The awe and wonder. The unfiltered joy. I’m not sure when that starts to change, but for most of us, it has at some point. We are impatient with the long lines at the stores and the bumper to bumper traffic. We are irritated when what we want is not in stock or if the shipping isn’t overnight and free. Parties are obligations we’d really rather skip and the preparations seem a hassle instead of a blessing.

I want to step back into the wonder.

I want to delight in the twinkle of the lights and how they are reflected in my kids’ eyes.

I want to look at my Grandma’s decorations and remember them in her home and how special she always made me feel.

I want to prepare my heart for the Advent, and eagerly await the coming of my Lord.

I want to look past the irritations and the stress and and the disappointments and the hard, and hold fast to the unsurpassable JOY that is mine.

Lord, help me find true rest in You, in the joy of Your presence and the freedom of surrender. Let me trust You with it ALL, especially the pieces that I think I can’t let go of.

Thank you for reading, for choosing to follow along with our family’s story. I’m always so encouraged by your kind words.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalms 59:16-17)

“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Even When it’s Hard…

This week I’m thankful for the little stuff.

I’m thankful for a sleepy girl with tangled up hair crawling into my lap for snuggles. (And a beautifully healed lip/chin I might add).

For a beautiful box of the best tacos.

For a cozy sweater when the weather’s cool enough, even if I change into a tank top after lunch.

For a new vacuum that REALLY SUCKS. (Like it’s supposed to)

For a most realistic Leonardo Da Vinci, who was known for having the most captivating dimples of the 15th Century.

5th Grade Wax Museum

I’m thankful that I sold almost every single sign and ornament at the Barn Sale! Leftovers will be available Saturday at Vintage & Co Christmas Open House!

For the smell of roasting chicken.

For hot coffee that’s waiting for me when I wake up, and the first cup in the quiet stillness of the morning.

For hard lessons and good talks and God’s amazing grace that covers our shortcomings.

For a whole week off with my kiddos home from school.

I realized this week, this is the first time in 18 years that I have not attended a school Thanksgiving feast or program. The emotional mushpot that I am, I shed some tears, thinking of all my little Indians short, indigenous individuals, the same cute songs about turkeys and pies, and the well-loved costumes that we have used year after year.

But I’m thankful.

I’m thankful because it means my babies are growing up. That they got to do those special rights of passage when they were little, and that by God’s hand, now they are too big for them.

And thankful for the memories of so many sweet Thanksgivings gone by.

Just like the old adage, “is the glass half full or half empty,” everything is in our perspective. Thankful for the laundry because it means we have clothes to wear. Thankful for the mountain of dirty dishes because of the food that was on the plates. Thankful when the Word or the Spirit pierces my heart, because it reassures me that my heart has not turned to stone. Even thankful for the unspeakable pain that comes from grieving, because it proves how deeply we love.

We have to take the bitter with the sweet. And keep looking for the sweet in front of us. And remembering the sweet that was. And believe that sweet is coming.

Because He IS coming….

And we have to keep giving thanks, even when it’s hard.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““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)

“O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalms 34:3-4)

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18-19)

A Paintbrush in my Hand

I am thankful:

~ for a fun, albeit way too short visit with Aunt Gina.

~ for Sawyer’s Native American clothes pin project for school. Fun to do this project each time I have a second grader.

~ for the Word of God, the comfort and refining it brings every time I open it up.

~ for the joy it brought to hear of one of Gold Network of East Texas’ programs at work. If you’ve been here since Sawyer’s treatment, you may remember that he spent lots of time in an inflatable-pool-turned-playpen at the hospital. It’s where he took his first steps.

Sawyer, 2014

When we created GNET, we began stocking the social worker with pools and portable pumps to distribute to cancer babies in the hospital. “Sawyer’s Just Keep Swimming Program.” I saw this photo on an INTERNATIONAL online support group this week, and I recognized it instantly.

New friend, 2021

Sure enough, when I messaged her, I found that she was in Dallas at Children’s. We quickly connected and exchanged information. A day later, I received this email from our beloved social worker at the hospital.

GLORY TO THE LORD! What a beautiful blessing to be a part of!

~ for a special Happy Birthday for our Bear Boy. We got him a new collar and a new toy.

The toy lasted 1 hour and 14 minutes. Completely destroyed.

I picked up a replacement toy after school. Bear and Birdie ripped it open and ate the squeaker out in about 4 hours, but they are still getting some amusement out of what’s left of it.

~ for a wonderful day off with my Love. He’s off every other Wednesday, and the past few times we have had a breakfast date, trying out various local eateries. This has been a favorite of Tatum K. She loves and frequently asks to visit Jimmy’s Egg, which we visited several weeks ago. The other restaurants were new to her, and she had her own unique names for them: Happy’s Fish House = “Happy Face” and First Watch = “Sky Watch”. After some not-so-good breakfasts (MAJOR understatement), we finally had our PERFECT breakfast at “Sky Watch,” complete with a light and pillowy waffle and decadent, savory candied “Million Dollar Bacon.”

~ for an awesome evening of football for Josh and the boys who traveled to Athens for the first Carthage Bulldogs playoff game.

Us girls had a cozy evening back home with a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

~ for the most productive Giddyup & Whoa week I think I’ve ever had! I’ve been behind on my projects because of my hand, so I have a lot of catching up to do. On top of orders, I’ve got the Barn Sale this week AND another sale the first week of December. So Josh and I both buckled down and got to work. He cranked out 15 signs in ONE AFTERNOON,

and I painted or stained the base coat on all of them, and completed 8 Christmas signs plus two custom orders.

Lots of ornaments on deck in the next couple days, and then more custom orders. If you are local, be sure to check out Vintage & Co Christmas in the Country. Jodi and her team curate the most charming and unique collection of vintage holiday decor, gorgeous furniture, and one of a kind finds. It’s such an honor to be a part of her sale.

Christmas in the Country: November 17-20

It felt good to have a brush in my hand. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Painting is such a part of me. I really haven’t been doing very well personally. My anxiety has been raging out of control, and I’ve been discouraged, struggling to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of the waves. And I was amazed to see how peaceful I felt as I got back into my zone.

~ thankful for a smooth resolution to a rough afternoon. Tatum K tripped and fell at church, and sliced herself under her lip on a stool. When I got to her, she was hysterical and splattered with blood. Once I got her calmed and cleaned, I was relieved to see that the cut was very superficial. But its location was not good: prime for her to bend her lip and pop it open. Almost 2 hours later it was still oozing down her chin. So to the ER we went. Much to my surprise, we were the only patients in the waiting room, and were seen immediately. We got fantastic care, and the doctor was able to glue Tatum’s wound with no pain or trauma. And little missy was such a trooper…after the glue was applied, she was told to lay perfectly still for 4 minutes. You have never seen a more still little Rapunzel statue in all your life! I was so proud of her. She skipped happily into the house when we got home and showed off her glued lip and her hospital bracelet. So thankful.

I loved the illustration in church today that giving thanks is like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger you get. I have been feeling really weak in a lot of ways, and I know I need to be strengthening my thankfulness muscles. God is good, y’all. Don’t doubt Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He sees the end result that our perspective can never see. Press on. Press in. Rediscover something that brings you joy. Serve somebody else. Take a walk. Turn your music up loud and SING. And when you fall down, when you screw up, when you lose it and find yourself flat on your face… scrape yourself back up again. And thank Jesus.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done…” (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)

Giving Thanks

I am thankful:

~ for handwritten birthday lists. I’m gonna keep this one forever.

~ for the best Target sidekick.

~ for the first fire of the season.

~ for Gavin’s uniquely beautiful handcrafted art project. This boy LOVES TO CREATE!

~ for an awesome and terrifying endeavor: being the baker for a wedding. Am I am baker? No way! Do I do weddings? Guess again! Have I ever made and decorated 200 cupcakes? Not even close! But it was a labor of love and a fun project.

~ for a wonderful, life-giving afternoon spent with a dear friend. And for friends who you can call and rant to FOR AN HOUR just because you need to!

~ for in-home haircuts! And for Tatum K’s very first! 1 whole inch off the very tip of her Rapunzel-esque mane!

~ for the most hilarious food choices for our pups. Birdie has had a poor appetite recently, so dedicated-dog-dad Josh has been trying out new options. The names crack me up, but Birdie is definitely a fan!

~ for the most wonderful day kicking off our latest Gold Network of East Texas program: HERO Hangouts. We are scheduling various outings and get-togethers for our HERO kids and their families, and yesterday we took a group of 44 to Yesterland Farm in Canton, TX. It was the perfect fall day: glorious sunshine and crisp-but-not-too-cold weather.

What a joy to observe these incredible kids getting to be kids, laughing and riding rides with their parents and siblings. Parents got to know each other, and so did our cancer warriors.

During lunch several parents noticed a table of kids sitting together, various ages, all from different families. As we began to overhear their conversation, we all grew quiet.

“Have you ever had an IV? Mine went here.”

“Yeah, but I have a port.”

“Did you have a tumor? I had my tumor out when I was 3, and now I’m 15…”

What an amazing and rare gift for these brave, beautiful children to be able to sit down and speak freely with other kids who have had similar experiences. After many years of feeling alone and different, to be completely normal with peers that “get it.” There wasn’t a dry eye at the neighboring parent table. But thankfully the rest of the day was filled with innocent joy and laughter. And I loved getting to spend a wonderful day with my own family as well! Thank You Jesus for this ministry!

It’s November, and with November comes the Thankful Game. It’s been a family tradition for years, a daily group email to share what we are each thankful for. It’s a wonderful reminder to count our blessings. That’s really the whole point of this blog. I started it during the hardest, darkest, most frightening season of my life because I knew if I didn’t focus on thanking God, I would spiral straight down into a dark pit of hopelessness. Even though my life is so different now, nearly 8 years later, I’m still counting my blessings. Not because I’m so healthy and spiritual. No, it’s because I HAVE TO. That dark season knocked the wind out of me and changed me forever. At any given moment, I find myself again on the precipice of crippling fear and discouragement. Against my will, waves of anxiety drag me under. When I worry, I go straight to the worst case scenario. It’s so easy to find myself swallowed by self-destructive patterns and negativity. BUT GOD! He is always with me. He has never left. He was with me when cancer tried to steal my baby, destroy my family, and break my marriage. He’s been with me in every trial and heartbreak since then. He’s been guiding and protecting and refining and loving me every step of the way. And no matter what life looks like, He is worthy of praise. Even if all I can find to be thankful for is my cup of coffee, I have to thank Him. Because that thankfulness opens up the door for healing. There is more to be thankful for than we can ever even fathom, and we could never properly express appropriate gratitude for all He does for us.

But it’s still worth trying to.

At Yesterland Farm yesterday, Josh and I watched Sawyer climb a 30 foot rock wall. It took him a moment to select a spot and find his footing. Then he effortlessly scaled that tower, grasping and pushing himself triumphantly to the top. We just stood there, choking back tears, watching a carefree, normal, HEALTHY kid with no limitations. No one else could have imagined him as a frail, transparent infant or the limp little toddler unconscious after his 10th spinal tap. How can I possibly still allow myself to doubt my Father?

No matter what we face, He is worthy. He is good. Thank Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1)

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes].”(James 1:17)

Chopped

I am thankful:

~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.

Tracing and then writing her name…and this is her FIRST ATTEMPT!

~ 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.

2018

~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)