Light

I am thankful:

~ 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.

Before…

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.

2016
2018
2022

~ 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)

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

BUSY!

I am thankful:

~ for a whirlwind week full of hard work and fun! Literally not one single day or evening free.

~ for being able to celebrate our Carson Grace turning 21. We know God has incredible plans for her life, and we can’t wait to see how He uses her.

~ for a wonderful full week of VBS. The big kids served with old and new friends, and the younger kids attended with old and new friends. We sang and played and worshipped and ate together, and it was an absolutely exhausting week packed with fun. So grateful for our wonderful church.

~ for lots of sweat equity out on the farm. Mowing, chain sawing, junk hauling, and briar clearing.

We work hard and get dirty and sweaty side by side with our kids, and it’s awesome to slowly see our vision come to life.

Found quite the snake skin!

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some poison ivy, on both arms and my EYELID, so that meant a call in to the doctor for some high dose steroids, and I’m NOT GREAT at not scratching! Just part of the process, I guess. This weekend we added some essentials to make it feel really like home: popsicles, a stereo, and a coffee pot of course!

~ for a fun night at American Cancer Society’s Little Wranglers event. Everyone’s favorite was the petting zoo!

~ and for an incredible day back at Globe Life Field representing Gold Network ETX as guests of Derek Holland’s 60 Feet 6 Foundation at the Celebrity Softball Classic. We may not have known many of the “celebrities,” but the event was top notch.

We were greeted as VIPs, escorted onto the field through the players entrance, and Sawyer received a custom Sawyer the Warrior official team jersey.

The whole family enjoyed touring the dugouts and the field, running the bases, and meeting various athletes, actors, artists, and military veterans. We enjoyed an endless buffet in a private suite and met other pediatric cancer families. It was a truly unforgettable day.

~ for the sight of happy, dirty kids living their best lives.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalms 145:3-7, 21)

Summer

I am thankful:

~ for the unparalleled overwhelming Love of Jesus that has poured out among the hurting families in our church. Thank you for the prayers, and please keep them coming!

~ for walks in our new neighborhood.

We’ve met some kind neighbors and are gradually settling in. Hanging up some familiar decor makes it feel more like home.

~ for a great morning shopping with Paula for toys for the Gold Network Children’s Hospital Oncology Prize Closet. We are wrapping up the Toy Drive, and went shopping with an amazing $1000 that had been generously donated. I’ll be gathering the donated toys from all our drop-off locations around East Texas, and I CANNOT WAIT to see how many toys you helped us collect! THANK YOU to all who donated!

~ for lots of progress on the farm!

Brush hogging✔️

Excavator✔️

Electricity on in the barn✔️

Water on✔️

Chainsaw lesson✔️

Cleaning up the barn slab✔️

Rides on the new mower✔️

I can’t express the joy Josh and I are feeling as we work hard side by side with our kids and slowly bring out the true beauty of this neglected little piece of land. When we spend the day out there, we leave exhausted, dripping with sweat, scratched up from thorns, and covered in grit…and truly, absolutely, remarkably HAPPY.

~ for our first glorious sunset.

~ for an amazing day for our 3rd HERO Hangouts outing. We were able to take 55 childhood cancer warriors, siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends to a Texas Ranger baseball game!

Amazing tickets, parking, ballpark food, Blue Bell ice cream, and a WIN made for a fabulous day! It fills my heart with such joy to be able to gather these incredible families together for a fun day that has NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER!

I had the opportunity to share testimonies with a few people at the stadium, and they were truly blessed. Thank You Lord for Gold Network ETX, and the favor You have poured out on us. Out of our very worst nightmare You birthed a vessel of blessing to so many, and we will be forever grateful.

~ for our first LIVESTOCK acquisitions for the farm! We hope they will help us keep the mice, rats, and snakes at bay! Meet Bo, Luke, and Daisy!

~ for a great first night at VBS. Kids are having a blast.

What a kickoff to summer. I know this is one we will always remember.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”(Psalms 113:3)

Goodness of God

I am thankful:

~ for God’s goodness through one of THE MOST HECTIC weeks of our life.

~ for making it through the last grueling stages of packing/loading/cleaning.

Poor dogs were scared to death, thought we were leaving them behind, so they wouldn’t get off the truck!
All hands on deck to transport Giddyup & Whoa to its new location!

~ for a decadent meal break brought to you by Ruby’s

~ for yet another rite of passage, the food fight extraordinaire: 4th grade Crud Wars for Zoe. Can’t believe we have another elementary school graduate! On to Middle School!

~ for end of year parties and last days of school for Sawyer, Zoe, Gavin, Kora, and Sam! Back to back to back. Thankful for all the friends who helped me get everybody everywhere. And SUPER thankful that out of all the places I had to be at the same time on Wednesday, I only messed up one item on my list…forgetting to pick up 2 of my kids at the correct time. Thankful for gracious teachers who didn’t shame me for picking up kids FORTY FIVE MINUTES LATE! And Cooper breezed through his finals, and now we have a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR!

~ for successful closings on selling our house and purchasing our land. And for thel glorious feeling of being 100% DEBT FREE! How is this all even real?

~ for a sweet, sweet friend who brought a delicious dinner so we could have a floor picnic, our last meal in the old house.

First Day, October 2017
Last day, May 2022

~ for a perfect night for a baseball game – smack dab in the middle of moving night! Josh kept loading while I took the kids to Sawyer’s last game. Didn’t realize until it was too late that all Tatum K’s shoes were on the moving truck!

~ for as peaceful as possible transition to our new casa. It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. We are going to learn to trim out non-essentials and get ultra-creative with storage and personal space. Here’s to FAMILY TOGETHERNESS at its finest!

Yard needs a little work…

~ for the sweetest neighbors in all the land. We have had a truly wonderful almost-six years at our house, and the kids and parents and grands have all become family.

The sweetest gift from our neighbors

~ for a sweet morning date with my Love at our new favorite place…

~ for the BEST DAY EVER out at the farm-to-be. How exciting to take down the For Sale sign and cut off the old padlock!

It was surreal to realize it’s really ours! I can’t express the explosions that were happening in our hearts as we held each other’s hands tightly and drove through that gate as a family. We are completely humbled and grateful and in awe. Josh gathered us all together before we started to thank the Lord for the gifts He has given us, for the dream and the vision He planted in our hearts. He prayed that we would all “be strong and courageous and do the work,” together as a family, and that the whole journey would be an offering to glorify His Name.

We picnicked and picked wild blackberries and spent the day clearing out the barn and exploring.

The kids found treasures and oddities galore. And they actually all worked really hard!

~ for great news! Sawyer got 2nd Place in the Lego competition! Thank you to all who voted!

So very thankful for God’s perfect, purposeful timing. We had been eager to close on everything earlier and get things rolling, but He didn’t line it up that way. Closing on the last day of school and moving the very next day was ABSOLUTE MAYHEM, but it also meant that we did not have to navigate one single day of school from the new house. I can scarcely imagine how challenging that would have been.

Lord, we lay all these dreams at Your feet. We are Yours. The land is Yours. To You alone the glory.

And we THANK YOU! Oh, the adventures that lie ahead…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:1-3)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalms 24:1)

“I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God” (“Goodness of God” by Bethel Music)

Build

I am thankful:

So I know I dropped a bomb last week. But first things first…

Sawyer asked Jesus into his heart to be his Lord and Savior! We are REJOICING! He asked us lots of questions, and we asked him lots of questions, and it is abundantly clear that he knows exactly what he is doing and why. What rejoicing there is in heaven!

Now, on to our other news. It’s been a long and complicated road with lots of twists and turns, but it finally looks like it’s actually going to happen. We are moving!

I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, we’ve been thinking the same thing ourselves. WHY!? We love our house and our neighborhood so much. We have worked so hard on it to get it just exactly the way we wanted, and it’s just so perfect for us. Almost 6 years ago we asked the Lord for this, and He delivered BIG TIME.

October 2017

But we are entering into a new season with lots of fear and lots of trembling, but also lots of excitement. And He has shown us that the time to leap is now.

We are building a house in the country!

We found a breathtaking 10 acre tract of land, and the kids are all-a-flutter, choosing names for pet chickens, thinking about pygmy goats, and barn cats, ATV riding, and even a horse!

But as of now…there is no house.

That means a pit stop in a QUAINT (aka TEENSY WEENSY, as in less than HALF the size of our current home) rent house for the next year while the farmhouse is built. All I can say is, in the beginning, Josh tried to convince me that ALL 10 of us could live for a year IN AN RV. So I’m BEYOND THANKFUL for a 4 bed, 2 bath rent house! It’s an ADVENTURE!

On every level, this change is bittersweet. We have had moments of unbridled excitement and we’ve had lots and lots of tears. It’s getting really really real. Rooms are emptying daily as we take loads to the rent house, we had a massive yard sale yesterday, clearing out 87,000 pounds of JUNK. Seriously, how could we POSSIBLY have so much STUFF!?

I have personally gone through the gamut of emotions. Fear. I hate change. Sadness. I love this house and never wanted to move. Fear again. What if our building plans fall through? What if something terrible happens? What if we regret this decision? Sadness again. The kids are going to miss their neighbor friends so much, as are Josh and I. Discouragement. The rent house is so tiny, we are going to be on top of each other and drive each other nuts. This is going to be the loooongest year ever. Sadness again. My painstakingly scraped beams. The brick floors. THE POOL! But somehow, I know it’s right. And I am CONVINCED that God has a purpose for us in our new little house in our new little neighborhood, even if it’s temporary. He’s planting us there to be a light and a blessing. And MY ATTITUDE will set the tone for the attitudes of my children. If I’m sour and negative, they will be too. I want to BUILD (our family, our kids, our literal physical house) not tear down!

So buck up buttercup!

In the midst of our reservations about the unknown, we are clinging to what God has shown us along the way. The exhortation in His Word that spoke so loudly and so clearly to both of us. Be strong and courageous and do the work. So that’s where we’re at right now.

We are grateful for your prayers, particularly this week. God’s timing often makes us simultaneously laugh and cry. Within the next 5 days we will close on selling our house, close on buying our land, spend our last night in this house, first night in the rent house, and the kids will have their last day of 11th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade, along with all the end-of-school activities that go along with that.

One last thing on the topic of BUILDING – Sawyer is participating in a childhood cancer Lego Building Challenge this week. Starting tonight, you can visit https://www.buildingsmiles.org and vote for his Lego creation. One vote per day. Sawyer’s entry is #16 in the under 10 age division. So fun!

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

Thank you for walking along with our family on this crazy journey. We are so grateful for all of your love and support and prayers. Looking forward to sharing this wild ride with you over the next year, and filled with expectant hope to see all that God will unfold along the way. We are not just building a house. He is building something in us, and with us. It’s not going to be easy, but IT IS going to be GOOD! Let’s GO!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”(Proverbs 14:1)

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:5-6)

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

Back to School CRAY

I am thankful:

~ first and foremost, SO THANKFUL to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE!!! GLORY TO THE LORD! Wednesday Sawyer, aka the Bravest Boy in the Whole Wide World, had his 6 month follow up appointment with his Oncologist and his ACE (After Cancer Experience) doctor in Dallas. It’s always an emotionally charged and exhausting day. So many triggers attached to going to the hospital down the all too familiar highway, and each time the same uneasy feelings build up as we prepare for either the best day or the worst day of our lives. But Sawyer never ever sees it that way. He’s THRILLED to go to the hospital.

One day he will be so embarrassed that he played on this like it was a dump truck

He loves to see so many of his favorite people (and his story so well known, it’s like he’s the little mayor of Children’s Hospital!)

Dr. Winick taught Sawyer how to use an ophthalmoscope, and then let him examine her

He knows he gets one on one time, extra snacks, gets McDonalds for breakfast and Whataburger for lunch (EVERY. TIME. His choice.)

And he knows he gets to go home with a toy. He doesn’t see the day as scary or stressful at all. What an amazing gift from God! As usual, he hopped right up in the phlebotomist’s chair, chatted and laughed with Miss Sharon as she placed the needle in his arm, and then cheerfully drew his own blood! I will never stop being amazed at the maturity and bravery of my 7 year old. It just blows my mind.

It is always such a blessing to see the wonderful doctors and nurses who so lovingly cared for Sawyer, and many of them hugged him (and me) especially tight this visit.

They have such an unbelievably hard job, and it has been a rough season of many hardships for them. Several of them took a deep breath and said, “I needed this dose of hope today.” Sawyer is a healthy 7 year old against all odds. No one thought he’d survive, let alone be THRIVING. BUT GOD.

I will never ever ever stop praising Him for the countless miracles He has done in Sawyer’s life. I do pray that one day I will not feel so overwhelmed with dread every time we go back. But I do know that Jesus will meet me with grace in those moments, no matter how I handle them.

~ thankful for our sweet Aunt Gina who finally got to join us for Sawyer’s appointment!

Hospital policy has limited us to only one caretaker, so I’ve been making the trip alone the last few times. Gina Sue had gone with me almost EVERY APPOINTMENT since about my 3rd trimester with Tatum K (when I realized that having contractions while barreling down the interstate at 75 miles an hour was probably not the best idea.) She has been a faithful prayer warrior, chauffeur, encourager, and the provider of the bottomless bag of snacks for almost 5 years now, rising at an appallingly early hour to drive FROM CARTHAGE TO TYLER, pick us up, and THEN DRIVE FROM TYLER TO DALLAS. AND BACK AGAIN. She’s such a blessing and a wonderful help and support. She knows I’m weary and that the day is always hard for me, and she goes out of her way to take care of me. I’m so thankful she’s my sister.

~ and thankful for this bag.

At our house, this bag can only mean one thing.

Aunt Gina makes the yummiest friendship bread, and it’s the kids’ favorite breakfast. They always know what’s in the bag when they see it. And it ain’t soap!

~ thankful for Colton being back from Albuquerque and spending his few days off with us. He was super helpful during my back-to-school-supplies-madness, and helped me divide up the list and track down every orange folder with pockets and brads, white polymer eraser, and broad tipped yellow and blue highlighter on the supply lists. And then we tried out a great new coffee spot in town, Crema. DELICIOUS!

~ for “decent” store-bought pimento cheese turned FAB with a few ingredients at home to jazz it up. I’m very particular when it comes to pimento cheese.

~ for a super fun day swimming with sweet school friends.

~ for Whataburger chocolate malts to celebrate August Tonight.

~ for this year’s sharp new Tyler Gold Run t-shirt design created by our graphic artist. I’m so excited for a different look this year.

Our Gold Network of East Texas events are coming up so quickly, it’s making my head spin. With no in-person events last year, I feel a little rusty at remembering what all I have to do! It is SO BUSY!!! Go GOLD Tyler, our event on the Downtown Square to kickoff Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is coming up August 31.

It’s such a special event, honoring all our families: on treatment, completed treatment, or who have lost a child to cancer. Our HERO wall with all our kids’ pictures grows every year, which is so heartbreaking. But watching the kids and their families walk the gold carpet is so inspiring, and the still over the crowd as the families release balloons for their loves who were taken too soon is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. Read more about Go GOLD Tyler here.

And Tyler Gold Run is just 5 short weeks away! Where did summer go!!?? We are praying all goes as planned to have our race in person this year, and we are just so excited about this year’s 10k•5k run! Registration is open at tylergoldrun.com And if you are out of state or not a runner, we have the GoldDreamer option, to donate and be a part of our event right where you are. You even get the tshirt! I hope you’ll join us.

~ thankful that our pool toy box isn’t any deeper.

~ thankful for a really awesome visit with some really awesome friends. Some friends are just truly LIFE-GIVING. You know, the kind that you leave feeling so refreshed and lifted up. Find you some friends like that. And better yet, try to BE that kind of friend to somebody.

The kids start back to school on Wednesday. And the pre-crazy is in full swing. We have meet the teacher/locker day/orientation/swim parties back to back to back. 11th grade, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and 2nd, across 4 campuses.

As much as we all love summer, we are ALL ready for this season to change. I’m always so happy to have the kids come home for summer. And I’m equally happy to send them back to school. To everything there is a season. But believe it or not, I will miss them when my house is quiet. But I just may enjoy a little quiet too. And I’ll still have my spicy Tater home for one more year. I want to soak up every minute with my girl, and not rush her off to grow up and away. She is excited to start “Pre-skoo wif my mama.”

Time continues to run away, and there’s no stopping it. My goal for this school year is to take it all in, not sweat the small stuff, press through even when I’m overwhelmed, and be my kids’ biggest cheerleader. I know these years are hard, but they are the moments I will never get back again. And I’m reminded that “hard” doesn’t always mean “bad.” We are all learning and growing and God is at work. I’m so thankful for His perfect grace and redeeming love. May we all look more like Him next May than we do today.

Even in the midst of all the crazy, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25)

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

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

Patience

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful birthday for our beautiful Zoe girl. She turned 10 this week – DOUBLE DIGITS BABY!!! Zoe is such a sunshine girl. She usually stays pretty quiet, but her brown eyes sparkle with joy bubbling on the inside. She had a great day starting out with blueberry waffles with whipped cream and sprinkles, friends over to swim, pizza for lunch, and family birthday dinner with her menu of choice: taco salad and chocolate cake with white icing and yellow sprinkles.

~ for friends who pray. Like REALLY PRAY. And for steps, even baby steps, in the right direction. And the right direction is ALWAYS TOWARD YOU, JESUS.

~ for Sam’s Club Fried Pickles and Ranch dip. Haven’t tried it? Go. NOW!

~ for one of my very favorite salads: avocados and fresh tomatoes tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Simple and delicious.

~ for possibly the best “find” of my life. I stumbled upon this vintage map cabinet on Facebook Marketplace, and my heart jumped out of my chest. I am a sucker for anything with lots of drawers or cubbies, and I have had my eye out for a piece like this for years, but they were always WAY out of budget. This piece was a steal because it was in rough shape and the owner clearly just wanted it gone.

As soon as she arrived, I got started on her transformation. I lost track of how many coats of stripper I used to cut through slate blue, red, orange, black, and olive green paint.

The green was really beautiful, and I almost stopped at that point.

But I just couldn’t let it go. I just had to see the original wood. So another couple layers of stripper, a light sanding, and a couple coats of straight commercial bleach, and we were blown away!

We replaced the top (a piece of brightly painted plywood depicting a portion of the 12 days of Christmas) with reclaimed pine shelving that I alternately sanded and bleached repeatedly, added industrial casters, and repaired one side’s damaged veneer.

And now she is a SHOW STOPPER! I’m in LOVE! And the hours and hours of sweat equity make it all the more special. What BEAUTY was hidden beneath all those layers! It was a lot of work, and so so messy, but so so worth it.

~ for our first Sunday family dinner with EVERYONE HOME in a very, VERY long time. Colton is back from his month-long work assignment in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Carson Grace was home, Cooper finally didn’t have a schedule conflict…our Tribe, all together, around our giant table, breaking bread together. We didn’t even interrupt our fellowship to take a picture. Thank You Jesus for these moments that I used to take for granted when they were small.

~ for a Holy Spirit inspired, anointed Word preached in obedience, and as always, right on time. We went to church this morning, just like we always do. The message is always great, our pastor and guest preachers are always terrific, and are faithful to share Truth based in Scripture. But this morning, from the opening slide, it hit me right between the eyes, and pierced straight to my heart.

Patience.

The concept of patience isn’t new, isn’t revolutionary, and is a pretty expected theme for most of us. It’s always needed, and almost everyone wishes they were better at it. As Christians, we joke about how we have learned the hard way to STOP PRAYING FOR PATIENCE, because we know God cultivates and refines our patience through exasperating situations that require a level of patience that can only come by practice.

But where I’m at personally right this moment, I recognized the voice of my Father in those words. I have certain situations that have been the focus of my most fervent daily prayers. And, as I referenced last week with my very late blog post, there was a breakthrough. A REAL BREAKTHROUGH! Glory to God! He made a way where there was no way. He birthed a stream in the desert. But I was reminded that this first step, this miraculous breakthrough, is just the beginning of a very long road. And it’s so easy to look at with my own eyes and be completely discouraged before we even start. BUT GOD. NOTHING is too hard for Him. And He NEVER feels weak or discouraged. I have to be patient with the process and trust His plan and His timing, and remember that that waiting is one very important piece that cannot be bypassed or left out.

And, maybe even more importantly, the Lord reminded me that I have to be patient with myself. He’s still working on me. Still refining me. I guess I still need a few more coats of stripper and some sanding. I see my countless areas of weakness, of selfishness, of laziness, of pride. I hate my flaws. I am supposed to be strong, and people THINK I AM. I am embarrassed by the weakness of anxiety. And sometimes I even think, “If I’m honest about it, and humble myself publicly, surely I’ll be delivered from it.” But instant healing hasn’t come. And isn’t it an amazingly complicated trap that weakness and pride can become so woven together. I know it’s a process, and I know how I would encourage anyone else in my shoes. But somehow it’s so hard to extend that grace to myself. But I’m not refining myself, that’s Jesus. I’m not healing myself, that’s Jesus. And His healing, refining, restorative work is taking place in His perfect timing. And like a beautiful piece of music, the rests and pauses are as integral to the piece as the notes themselves. A story with no punctuation or a paper with no margins would be unintelligible. I MUST BE PATIENT WITH MYSELF AND WITH GOD’S PROCESS. There is beauty beneath the layers. It’s a lot of work, and so so messy, but so so worth it.

He is faithful. And I am encouraged.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1-2)

I Still Know

I am thankful:

~ for morning Bible time with my kids. I love their open hearts, and how they honestly pray for the people they care about. They never stop asking.

~ for two days in a row of short-but-sweet visits with Aunt Gina. This pic is of her being entertained by a Tatum K Original Song.

~ for YouTube videos. I’m grateful that so often I can look up the answers to my random questions. This week learned how to repair my crumbled blush compact with rubbing alcohol. Isn’t that handy?

~ for the opportunity to mail out Christmas in July gifts from Gold Network of East Texas to our on-treatment families. We have more families than ever before, having added 11 newly diagnosed kids this past year. It is heartbreaking every time we hear of another diagnosis. But I am more THANKFUL THAN EVER before that THE NETWORK IS WORKING! People know who to reach out to when they hear the news. And nurses and cancer families are reaching out to get these families connected immediately! It’s the worst club that no one would ever want to be a part of, but I am so incredibly grateful that we can ensure that no one will walk it alone. This week Sawyer helped me put Christmas stickers on our cards and get them ready to go out to the families, and together we prayed over each one. It fills my heart to see him have the opportunity to serve his “friends.”

~ for a fun painting birthday party for the girls to attend with friends. They had so much fun. I love that they jump at any chance to create and be creative. And they are all so talented!

~ for our latest, super-challenging puzzle, a bald eagle from the National Eagle Center in MN, gifted by Great Grandma. It was so hard, I did 93% of it by myself. The challenge eclipsed my time, taunting me to be completed. I spend WAY too much time on it this week, but FINALLY I was victorious.

But the victory was hollow, as somehow we are MISSING ONE PIECE. What a kick in the gut.

How you taunt me, o elusive missing piece

~ for a productive week of accomplishing our first round of back-to-school preparations. I’ve been sifting through the mountains of new and old school emails, tracking down summer math and reading assignments for each of the kids, and checking off each box that they complete. We made another trip to the library for the books we still needed, and we are almost done with everything! Only 17 more days of summer! Where did it gooooo?????

~ and for one more box checked, this one a fun one! New shoes all around! Does anything inspire more joy than spanking new school shoes? We had multiple fashion shows to celebrate the occasion. And man these kids are getting some BIG OLE FEET!!

~ for my new shirt, which I hope to make my new motto.

~ that I know God hears. Even in those times when I can’t even make my mouth form the words. He hears the cry of my heart. Because He’s my dad.

I woke up this morning knowing that it was August 1 and that July was finally over. That sounds so dumb and dramatic, but it’s just been such a battle. all. stinking. month. And I know it really doesn’t have a thing to do with the calendar. But I’ve just been in such a stuck funk that I haven’t been able to shake. Anxiety is such a trendy buzzword these days, and it feels like such a copout to throw it out there as an excuse. But it’s a real thing, and it doesn’t play fair. But God.

I still believe. And I still know.

And even though it has nothing to do with the calendar, I’m going to remember August 1, 2021. I’m going to remember why Sunday Gratitude didn’t get finished until the wee hours on Monday.

Because God cracked open my stifling, fog-filled vault and showed me a glimmer of hope. A literal breakthrough.

“Since when has ‘impossible’ ever stopped You? This is the sound of dry bones rattling… This is the praise makes a dead man walk again…”

Whatever it is that you’re asking Him for. Keep waiting. Keep trusting. He’s coming.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace…. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans‬ ‭8:6, 11‬)