It is Well (and we almost are)

Ugh.  

I would say that was the theme of this week. 

We had so much fun last Sunday celebrating Sawyer’s birthday.  Tatum K had started running a fever off and on.  When her fever went up, it knocked her out.  But then when Motrin kicked in, she was bouncing off the walls.  So we didn’t think much of it. 

Little did we know. 

Monday evening was a nice night celebrating Cooper at the GCS Football Banquet.  It’s hard to believe he’s already completed his Freshman football season!  AND, we had the BEST barbecue cooked by his Coach.  Tatum K continued to run fever off and on.  And I noticed by the end of the evening, my head had started pounding, and I felt so, so tired. 

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Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train.  Tatum was still running fever, and Gavin was barking like a seal.  

Wednesday, Zoe got it.  Then Thursday, Cooper.  And Tatum K and I never got better.  Only worse.  We all just laid around, moaning occasionally.  Washing hands and reapplying hand sanitizer until our skin was raw.  Tatum didn’t eat all week.  Maybe 4 carrots and few bites of Fruit Loops.  Trust me, I tried everything. 

By some miracle SAWYER DID NOT GET SICK!!!!  And neither did Samantha, Kora, or Josh!  GLORY TO THE LORD!   (Colton and Carson Grace don’t know how very blessed they are not to be living at home this week!)  I honestly cannot remember EVER being this sick.  I get colds every year: it doesn’t matter if Mom gets sick – life still keeps rolling and I have to roll with it.  With whatever-in-the-world-this-was, THERE WAS NO ROLLING.  And to top it off, Tatum rested so much during the daytime, she stopped sleeping at night.  EVERY. NIGHT. THIS WEEK, she was up a MINIMUM of 10 times.  No sleep for sick mama.  No wonder I couldn’t get better. 

BUT GOD!  No matter what, no matter how sick, no matter how rough the week was, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for!  

So here we go!

~ for the delicious BBQ at the football banquet.

~ that I had been able to get the house decorated for Christmas BEFORE the sickness hit.  Not only would it not have gotten done, but it made the house cheery and festive to brighten up our hard week.  Our house was just MADE for Christmas. IMG_0723.jpg

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~ for the children’s sweet prayers for their Mama and their siblings.  They were the absolute best sports on the planet, and did their best to help around the house.  Sawyer was devastated that he couldn’t hug me, so he had to make due with hugging my leg.  They all offered so much grace and kindness to their sickly and not-very-gracious mama.  I tried not to be grumpy, but failed miserably.  

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~ for good snuggles from poor little Tatum.  It was clear how awful she felt – she was not her spicy self at all as the week progressed.  All she would do was croak, “Mama, I lay wif you.”

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~ for a FEAST delivered to our doorstep!  When I opened the door and saw all the tasty food, I could hear the choirs of angels singing!  Slim Chickens never tasted so good!  THANK YOU Karen!!!

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~ for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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~ for the most wonderful Advent Devotional.  Even as sick as most of us were, I’m grateful that we chose to end each day on the sweetest note.  We ended every single night  with the Word of God and pointed to Jesus.  That’s really the only thing I got right all week.  But thankfully, it’s the ONLY THING that matters.  Glory to His Name.  You can find the devotional here.  (Thanks so much for sharing it, Jen!)

~ that Josh was able to attend (and video for me) Kora’s 4th Grade Colonial Trade Days presentation, where she portrayed a Leather-worker.  

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~ for Bear being the most adorable and photogenic Christmas dog ever.  (And for Tatum who had to show me that she could sit as nicely as “Bear Boy”). 

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~ for my amazingly talented, creative, and hardworking husband who built signs for our orders this week AND created several new items available from Giddyup & Whoa.  I just love everything he builds!

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~ for HEALING!  As of Saturday, we are all fever-FREE, and on the road to feeling better.  I still have ZERO energy, but it’s such an improvement from how I did feel. 

~ that Josh and I are both up to date on our tetanus shots!  I stepped on a rusty nail on our street that pierced my foot through my sneaker, and Josh narrowly missed cutting off his thumb, but sustained a wide flesh wound.  Thank You Lord, for Your MERCIES! 

Have you used the feature on Spotify that tells you your “Most Played Song of the Year?”  So many people have been sharing it, I was curious.  I can’t even remember what it told me for 2019, but then the feature went backward several more years.  When my “Most Played Song of 2015” popped up, it took my breath away.  “Bye Bye Bye,” by NSYNC.  For those of you who are new here, that was Sawyer’s favorite song when he was a baby, and I played it for him OVER AND OVER in the hospital.  2015 was a really hard year:  we started January in the ICU after a terrifying narcotic reaction, and then later that year we had lots of long hospital stays due to side effects and infections. BUT GOD. Gives a little perspective on one week of RELATIVELY MILD illness in the comfort of my home.  (Oh, and my “Most Played Song of 2016?”  “Rise Up,” by Andra Day.  Thank You Jesus!)

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I am ready for a FRESH NEW WEEK!   How about you?

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalms 116:7)

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” (Psalms 3:3-4)

Thank Full

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful, JAM-PACKED break. Most days the weather was great, and the kids enjoyed running around and playing outside. They raked leaves into piles and delighted in jumping in them. When they found that we didn’t have enough leaves, they were more than happy to visit our neighbors and gather THEIR leaves and bring them to our house!

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~for the absolute best kitchen helpers in all the land.  My sous chefs were raring to go, and what they lacked in expertise they made up for with enthusiasm.

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~for even a little time with my Girl home from college.  Way too short of a visit, but thankful just the same.

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~for sweet moments with my Love.  We have our ups and downs like anybody else, and sometimes we bicker and get on each other‘s nerves.  But most of the time, the love we have is everything you could ask out of a sappy movie.  I love driving down the road, holding my babies hand, singing Garth Brooks’ songs to one another.  It is delightfully nauseating.

~for online shopping.  I just don’t have it in me to get out there and box the crowds for the best deals.  I can’t even express how grateful I am to be able to find what I need while sitting on the couch and have it shipped right to my door.  

~for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We always drive to Carthage and spend the day with family.  The children cherish all the traditions, and their excitement is so contagious.  This year we had an even larger crowd than usual: I love how everybody feels at liberty to invite more people along…and everyone is TRULY WELCOME.  I don’t think anybody every feels like they are an “extra.”  They just BELONG.  And it’s truly the most fun gathering you can imagine. We are a lively bunch, with our chicken and turkey hats, our pumpkin Olympics complete this year with a reverent and very formal coronation of the Pumpkin Queen, and chicken dancing in the front yard next to the highway (punctuated with frequent honks from passers by).  There’s just  SO.  MUCH.  JOY.  We ate until we were completely uncomfortable, and then we made another plate.  Once that was ram-crammed down into our bellies, then it was time for PIE.  The food was fantastic, but it’s the fellowship that defies explanation.  I’m so grateful to be in the company of so much love.  Such special memories. 

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~ for the soft glow of Christmas lights, a fire in the fireplace, and my snuggly $4.99 blanket from Aldi.

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~ for the very best curbside find yet: the 9 foot Christmas tree (in original box) I picked up on large item trash week earlier this year.   We put up the tree and with just a little finessing, all the original lights are functioning!  Whoever threw this tree away, THANK YOU!  We decked our halls this weekend, and everything is bright and festive.  Josh even built me a custom reclaimed wood tree collar (gotta add a little Giddyup & Whoa, of course!)  The kids love seeing their favorite ornaments and decorations come out of the boxes.  They hear the stories of Grandma Grace’s handpainted nativity and Granny’s Christmas village.   We hung our new ornaments from this summer’s trip to Lark Toys in Minnesota and the Laura Ingalls museum in Wisconsin.  And Tatum K just points at everything and chirps again and again, “May-we Cwis-mas!!!”  (We’ll see how much of it she breaks before the season is over.)

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And today, what I’m most grateful for is a curly headed, blue eyed little boy, because today he turned 6.   Six years old.  I can’t even say it without crying. 

IMG_0639.JPGIt doesn’t matter how normal life is, how long he’s been a happy kindergartener, how normal he looks.  It still takes my breath away when I stop and think about everything Sawyer has been through.  From almost losing his life to organ failure the day he was brought by ambulance to Children’s, to the life and death battle he fought against cancer as a baby, the toxic reaction to meds, narcotic overdose and withdrawal, and then countless unidentified infections and bizarre complications along the way… but you’d NEVER EVEN KNOW IT.   The faint white port scar on his chest and the curly hair that used to be straight are the only physical indicators left behind to hint that he has a medical history.  I don’t know why Sawyer is the way he is, why his light shines so bright and why he loves so big.  I just know he amazes me and that it feels like a tremendous responsibility to shepherd such a child.  I don’t know how old he is going to grow to be, or what he is going to do in his lifetime (my heart still guards itself against looking too far ahead), but I know he is very very special.  And I am thankful for every. single. moment.  And I’m thankful for a very low-key, normal-just-like-every-other-kid-in-the-tribe birthday: no party, just donuts for breakfast and menu of choice for dinner: pizza, mac-and-cheese, and chocolate cake that he helped me bake.  He wasn’t an honored guest of the police department, and nobody surprised him with a trip to Hawaii.  He got Legos and a hot wheels track and some clothes.  Just like a regular kid.  And that’s kind of hard on Mom and Dad, because quite honestly, we think he deserves a parade every day (I mean, DOESN’T HE?)  But what a gift that Sawyer, even after all he has been through, gets to live a normal life and be a normal kid.  Normal maybe.  But nonetheless, an EXCEPTIONAL WALKING MIRACLE.  Glory to God!IMG_0606.JPG

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Happy December.  My mission this month is to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter how busy life gets.  And remember why we have anything to celebrate.   

(And just for the record: I love ALL my kids. Each one of them is incredibly unique and special and I’m in awe that God has entrusted me with stewarding so many of His treasured creations. I’ve said it before, I’m the most blessed Mama in all the world. I will spend my life doing my best to point them all to Jesus and love them all well.)

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Not Qualified

~ for a week full of dreams.  Josh and I are dreaming big dreams about a lot of things.  I have no idea what the Lord has in store, but I LOVE having this wonderful man to dream with. 

~for a great Giddyup & Whoa week. Our Christmas items did well at the Barn Sale, and I participated in my first artisan mini market.  It’s one thing to drop my things off at the barn, quite a different thing to set up a display and man it for five hours.  Josh built the perfect rustic display panels, I got a credit card swiper, a receipt book for taking orders, printed me up some cute shopping bags…  For the first time ever, I actually felt like a little store!  It was surreal and terrifying.  But once we got it all put together, it was great.  It was so fun. The market was outside, 42°, and completely in the shade all day… So I was a Giddyup-and-Whoa-sicle by the end of it.  I met some terrific people, sold several signs and lots of ornaments, got a bunch of custom orders, and lots of people took my card. I feel like it was good exposure and hopefully it will lead to more work.  Even though I’ve been painting for years, today marks exactly one year since we launched our Instagram account and took the step out in faith to put our business dream out there.  It has truly been a blessing to our family to have steady orders coming in.  We pray God continues to bless it and open doors for us to grow!  Keep us in mind when you are finishing up your Christmas shopping!

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~ for warm, fluffy spiced ginger bread right from the oven.

~ for such a fun morning attending Samantha’s 5th Grade History Wax Museum.  Each student had to choose a historical figure, read a biography about them, and then dress up as that person and pose. Samantha chose Marie Antoinette. (I personally think she chose it because she knew her prop could be a cake.)  I ordered a tall coiffed white wig, but it did not arrive in time.  So at the last minute, we had to improvise: I ratted her hair and fashioned it around a washcloth to give her a giant bouffant updo.  We powdered her face and added a mole… She looked lovely!

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~ for Sawyer’s “Fanksgiving” Feast!  This boy has been is so excited that his feast was coming up, it’s all he has talked about.  His class had prepared a darling program with scriptures and songs and of course, the CUTEST pilgrim and Indian costumes.  Each child was given an Indian name, and Sawyer’s was “Brave Warrior.”  He proudly donned our family’s traditional Fanksgiving Feast attire – the handmade costume I made for Colton’s Feast (hastily crafted the night before that feast, mind you!)  Never did I dream we would still be using it 15 years and 8 kids later!  I also wonder exactly how many times I have heard the song, “Super Turkey” over the years…

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Friends, I have to tell you…sometimes writing these journals is such a battle.  I always ask the Lord to show me what to share, to help me see the blessings.  I truly desire for this blog to be a vessel of encouragement, and an offering of worship to the Lord.  Because He is worthy.  But sometimes…sometimes I’m just stuck.  Or I’m right in the middle of learning a hard, very personal lesson, and it’s difficult to put words to it.  This has been one of those weeks.  I’ve been hit hard with discouragement.  I’ve been freshly reminded how unqualified I am in so many ways.  How in the world am I raising NINE CHILDREN?  I don’t know if I’m qualified to raise a CAT.  I have no qualifications to run a nonprofit organization.  Or a small business.  Or to sit here and write a blog to encourage anyone.  I mean, who am I?  I know where I have come from.  I’ve been a mess.  A liar.  A thief.  A harlot.  A drunkard.  Selfish. Guilty.  Empty.  Ashamed.  Lost. 

BUT GOD. 

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I don’t need to be reminded who I once was.  I know EXACTLY what I’ve done.  And so does Jesus.  He has loved me since before He created me, before He laid the foundations of the earth.  He has forgiven me and redeemed me and called me His own.  He has washed me white as snow and given me a new identity and a new name.  I am UNASHAMED.  And that will never be taken from me.  And all that is not to say that I am SOMEBODY….but I am somebody’S.  I AM HIS.  So when attacks come, I will hold fast to the promises that I know are true.  That “Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has SET YOU FREE from the law of sin and death.”  And when I feel my flesh quake, and I start to doubt, I can call out, both to Jesus Himself and to faithful saints in Christ, and they will pray for me and speak words of life and truth to me, reminding my head what my heart already knows.  I am who He says I am.

I hope you know this for yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been.  There is NOTHING that the Lord doesn’t long to forgive you for and free you from.  The price Jesus Christ paid on the cross was enough.  Enough to cover EVERY SIN.  

Maybe I’m not qualified.  But I am a Child of the King, and He is faithfully refining me every single day.  And even if I’m not where I hope one day to be, I’m thankful that I’m not where I used to be.  And I can live with that. 

May each of you have a joyful, grace-soaked Thanksgiving this week, however it is you will spend it.  I’m very conscious that the holidays can be very hard for some people.  Broken relationships, missing loved ones, difficult memories.  I encourage you to reach out to someone you know may be hurting this week.  An encouraging word goes a long way. 

Let’s love one another well this week.  Let our words bring life and healing instead of tearing down.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  (Colossians 1:10-14)

“I am chosen, not forsaken.  I am who You say I am.  You are for me, not against me.  I am who You say I am.  I am who You say I am.  Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.  I’m a child of God, yes I am!”  (Who You Say I Am, Hillsong Worship)

Adoption

I am thankful:

~ for our beautiful Samantha, who received an award at Chapel for the Character Quality of Honesty. She is bright and beautiful and smart and so grown up for her age. So very proud of her. 

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~ for discovering the most amazing donut shop!  There were about 1 million choices, but Tatum settled in on a frosted doughnut rolled in Froot Loops while I dove into a maple glazed donut smothered with bacon.  LIFECHANGING!

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~ for amazingly fast shipping. I’ve been looking for a fuzzy fleece pullover for one of the kids, but the store didn’t have the size we needed. So I placed the order online. I couldn’t believe it when it arrived at my door the next morning! How do they do that???

~ for a truly terrific chewy, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

~ for a quick midweek visit with Gina Sue. We did our best to catch up on each other‘s news, and she treated me to delicious comfort Starbucks coffee and friendship bread.  Love our time together. 

~ for new friends and for the most delicious baby snuggles. 

~ for the nervous excitement of 2 Giddyup & Whoa sales this week.  The Vintage & Co “Christmas in the Country” sale is Wednesday through Saturday, and The Market at Harvey Hall is Saturday.  I’ve been painting, wood burning, tagging, and photographing NONSTOP (usually with Bear at my feet and Tatum K hanging on my back).  So thankful for the opportunity to do what I love to do, and hope that the Lord continues to bless our efforts.  

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~ for TRUTH.  I’m thankful that I know that I know that I KNOW the promises in Scripture.  The promise that God will never leave me nor forsake me.  The promise that this world is not my home.  The promise that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.  Because my flesh fails me.  My eyes look around and see chaos and storms and I take my eyes off Jesus and start to sink into the sea of fear.  Anxiety has been raging this week.  Like always, the assaults come out of nowhere, without warning or cause.  But no matter how paralyzed I FEEL, I KNOW THE TRUTH.  I know that Jesus see me, that He is right there with me, and that everything is going to be ok.  I speak His Name. And even though it’s not magic, and it doesn’t instantly squash an anxiety attack, I believe in the POWER in the Name of Jesus.  I know He is more real than anything I feel and anything I fear.  HALLELUJAH. 

And this week I am freshly thankful for adoption.   November is Adoption Month, and this Sunday our church had a special service honoring the MANY families in our Body who are adult adoptees, foster and adoptive parents, and their support systems, as well as sharing information about the foster care crisis in our nation.  It was so emotional to hear from adults reliving their experiences: being adopted and raised by a loving family from infancy, or the pain of being removed from biological parents and placed in foster care.  We saw a family dedicate their newly adopted son, alongside their MASSIVE extended family, which included biological kids, siblings, adopted siblings, grandparents, more adoptees…it. was. AWESOME.  Beautiful.  God-breathed.  I’m so thankful to be a part of a church that actively believes in and has chosen to cultivate a culture of adoption.  Not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to lay our lives down for one another.   And that might mean taking a meal to a foster family, or providing respite care.  Something as simple as texting a word of encouragement or as practical as calling in pizzas could be just the glimmer of hope a very tired mom or dad desperately needs. 

I’ve always been drawn to adoption.  Many times in my youth, I found myself welcomed into other families.  I was always on the fringe, a little lonely, a little lost, and God braided people into my life at just the right times.  And that is exactly what God does for us when we become a part of His family.  He takes the lost and the lonely, and He gives us a new name, a new identity, a place to belong.   And we become sons and daughters. Heirs.  I think it was really good for my children to see how many other adoptees were around them today, of all ages.  I think (I hope) it made them feel extra special to be recognized.  Adoption is always complicated, because it always involves loss.  But we love because God loved us first, and I truly believe that when we keep Christ in His proper place: at the head and at the center, adoption can bring the unexpected beauty from the most broken of places.  We still have lots of broken places in our family, lots of healing still being worked out.  But God.  And no matter what my eyes see, I believe that His plan is good.  He is working on the hearts of each of my children, and on mine.  I am thankful that I am the most blessed mama in the whole wide world.  Remind me that Lord, when so many times I forget. 

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Try to love on a foster or adoptive family this week.  They need it. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  (John 14:18)

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “ Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-17)

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “ Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”  (Galatians 4:4-7)

 

Seasons

I am thankful:

~ for 2 sweet quick visits with 2 different dear friends before they move away.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to people you love.  But seasons are always changing and you just pray that you can find a way to stay connected regardless of location.  Tatum had a great time playing with a friend, and later having a delicious breakfast of diced tomatoes and chocolate milk!

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~ for the stunning color of the fall leaves.  People say Texas doesn’t really get seasons.  And while the foliage may not be as electric nor the temperatures quite as brisk as in the north and northeast, I think East Texas is beautiful in the fall.  I love the drop in temperatures, pulling out the boots and sweaters, and the crackle of a fire in the evenings.  To me, the autumn season was the ideal choice for scheduling Thanksgiving: leaves change and fall, colder weather makes us want to cuddle closer, we hunger for the warmth of nostalgic comfort foods…it’s a season built for looking around at our surroundings and seeking to give thanks. 

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~ for a extra special week for Kora.  Her class presented the Chapel program, a Tribute to Veteran’s Day.  It was an inspiring and reverent program, and all the students did a beautiful job with their songs and recitations.  Then as a part of her classroom’s weekly Toastmasters presentation, she gave her original speech.  Big week for our girl.  She delights in having her turn in the spotlight, and nothing makes her light up more than seeing Mama and Daddy smiling from the audience.  So proud of her. 

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~ for the rare opportunity to surprise my girl!  Carson Grace invited us to a special event as a part of her music major program, Student-led Night of Worship.  Unfortunately, she invited us about 22 hours before the program.  I let her know we were very proud of her, but told her how difficult it would be to make arrangements to get all the way to Marshall the next evening, especially on a school night.  But as soon as I got off the phone with her, I got to work planning those details.  Even that evening, as we were on the road to Marshall, I continued to text her and tell her that we loved her and were praying that the service would go well (true statements).  When we showed up at the recital hall (you can imagine, a Tribe of Littles is quite a spectacle on a college campus, so we weren’t hard to spot), she saw us and burst into tears.  I’m so thankful we made it a little early so she had time to get herself together before taking the stage with her worship team.   What a blessing to see our beautiful daughter, singing unto the Lord with her peers.  It was just awesome.  After her set was over, she joined us in the audience, and squeezed me so hard…it felt great to know how much it meant to her that we were there.  It was an incredible night worshipping together, and even the Littles totally got into it, clearly blessed by the presence of the Lord. IMG_9530

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~ for lots of progress in preparation for our 2 upcoming Giddyup & Whoa sales: Vintage & Company’s “Christmas in the Country” and The Market.  Josh has been building and building for me, and I paint every chance I get.  The kids love being a part: helping design, paint, and construct; and they are always eager to “model” for me.  So thankful for the opportunity to create together as a family, and hopeful that we are coming into a busy season for the business. 

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~ for successfully surviving the last (and coldest, and WETTEST) JV football game of the season!  Armed with our blankets, scarves, gloves, and hot chocolate, the Littles and I made it to halftime, and left Dad, Colton, and Brooke to cheer Coop on to the bitter end.  I love watching him play, so I’m sad to see the season end, but I WILL NOT miss shivering in the bleachers with 875 whining kids. 

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~ for our furry, floppy muppet dog, Bear, who turned 1 today!  He has been such a fun addition to our crazy Tribe. 

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~ for relaxing evenings, chilling and watching the Cowboys.  Ok fine.  If you know me, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about football. I can barely keep my eyes on Cooper’s jersey to see where he is on the field at his games.  I can get into sports when I know personal stories about the players, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to follow.  BUT. I love my husband.  And my husband loves to watch the Cowboys.  So I love to be near my husband while he watches the Cowboys.  I paint or write, and I cheer when he cheers.  We’ve got a system down. 

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~ for a weekend with our girl home from college.  We enjoyed a RARE laid back weekend devoid of a schedule.  Carson Grace got to sleep in, we ran some errands, ordered some much-needed glasses for both of us, and spend the evening watching Lion King all together. 

~ for unexpected blessings.  One of the reasons Carson Grace came home for the weekend was because she had been invited to be a guest vocalist at the church of one of her professors.  The church was in Athens, and we decided to load up the whole Tribe and go with her.  Carson Grace of course did an absolutely wonderful job sharing her song, and blessed the heart of the Lord and every parishioner in attendance.  But it was clear the moment we got there that the He had a very specific purpose for our family visiting that church.  The pastor (who teaches voice part time at ETBU, and was the one who invited Carson Grace) and his wife have recently taken in 4 foster children.   Recently as in 3 weeks ago.   I looked into that mama’s tired tired eyes and knew exactly what she was feeling.   Oh, how vividly O remember the pain of that season, of those raw first weeks. Josh and I were able to share our foster/adopt story and listen to where they are in theirs.   We could relate to one another on such a strikingly similar level, and there was such hope in that.   After church was over, our 2 families went for pizza, and the adults visited as much as we could while juggling kid plates, refilling cups, wiping noses and wiping spills…  We sat there and told the stories we have told so many times.  Stories of broken beds, and heads cracking through windows.  Stories of getting locked out of the house by 3 toddlers and of the end of life as we then knew it.  BUT GOD.   Because the kids from those stories are gone.  They really are.  I can’t think of a day when I was more proud of my children.  As we were telling those stories with the grownups, OUR kids were loving on THEIR kids.  Our little girls were chatting it up with their girls, and have already declared that they are friends who can’t wait to see each other again.  Their little guy and Sawyer had been in Sunday school class today that morning, so they were tickled to buddy up at lunch.  And Carson Grace and Cooper were kind and conversational with their quiet and reserved 16 year old boy.  It was beautiful.  I’m not even bothering to hold back my tears as I write this tonight, with the images fresh on my mind.  I ache thinking of all that these precious children have gone through, more than anyone even knows about.  They have been shifted around and let down by the ones who they trusted to keep them safe, and so many others after that.  I can only imagine how broken and scared and confused they are.  And I know how shell shocked those foster parents are right now.  Everything about their life has changed overnight.  And they are holding on for dear life, clinging to Jesus, desperately trying to be obedient to whatever He asks them to do.   I’m so grateful that we got to meet this family today, and ask that you would join me in praying for them.  They need it.  And I’m so grateful that the Lord used this day to show me afresh how far our beautiful children have come, and the beauty that shines from the ashes of their story.  Their story is one of brokenness and loss and pain, and a story of love and redemption and healing and hope. And today I got to see them ministering.    Thank You Father for fresh eyes to see the miracle of New Life. 

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you remain securely anchored into Christ.  When things are bad, hang on.  Jesus is holding you, He is fighting for you, and He will never leave you.  And this season won’t last forever.   And if you are in a sweet season, a season of plenty, of peace – set that anchor DEEP.  Study His Word, seek God’s heart, pour into the lives of others.  Invest wisely in eternity during seasons of peace, because that season will end too.  And we never know what’s ahead.  We just know that our best days are still to come.  Which season are you in?  Who can you encourage this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)

Tiny Little Moments

~ thankful that I’ve learned at least a couple of lessons over the 20+ years of parenting.  For some unforeseeable reason,  I thought it was a great idea to potty train Tatum this week. She talks about going on the potty and seemed super interested. She’s so bright, I figured that she was ready.  In case you think that my 20 year experience of parenting resulted in a successful potty training session, let me quickly correct you.  After two days of trying, I my experience let me know that this child is not going to be potty trained anytime soon.  The only thing that ended up in the potty was Daddy Pig. 

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~ for the raw beauty of the brilliantly colored fall leaves Kora collected for me.  

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~ for the simple, graceful sight of a family of deer beside the road.  And of course, thankful that they did not run in front of my car!

~ for the AWESOME NEWS that our beloved Uncle Alan has successfully completed his treatment for throat cancer, and that he got to triumphantly RING THAT BELL!  We rejoice in the past, present, and future healing by the Lord!  BUT GOD!!

~ for a wonderful evening with our small group from church.  We are such a diverse group…but everyone is just real and kind and we have the best time sharing life with each other.  And this week we truly had a feast: a smorgasbord of breakfast treats!  At the end of the evening, I’m not sure which was more full, my heart or my belly.

~ for Sawyer’s unbridled delight in creating his Super Turkey for his kindergarten class project.  Each child has to “disguise“ their turkey so it doesn’t get eaten for Thanksgiving.

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~ for my new basket wall.  I’ve had the plan brewing for a long time now, and been building a collection of round baskets for months.  On large item pickup week, I was thrilled to score a stack of exactly the baskets I had been looking for, and then this week I found the last few I needed.  So fun to add a fresh design element to a space. 

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~ for such an exciting season for Giddyup & Whoa. We had a good showing at the Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale last week, and we have two more shows coming up in the next few weeks.  I’ve been painting my little hands off, and Josh has built me another big stack to work on.  And ornaments on top of that!  Can you believe it’s only 50 days until Christmas?  Keep us in mind as you plan for those meaningful one-of-a-kind gifts.

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~ for warm coats, cozy hats, and an insulated gallon jug of hot chocolate to get us through the 33° temps at Cooper’s football game.  We shivered through all 4 quarters, and although the Cougars didn’t come out with the win, we were thankful to get to cheer them on. 

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~ for the comforting crackle of the fireplace.  Oh how we all love a fire in the fireplace!

~ for irreplaceable moments dreaming together with my husband and asking God for big things. 

~ for unexpectedly encouraging words from a kind friend.   It’s so easy to focus on powering through the tasks of the day without so much as glancing up or around.  Do you ever get to the end of your day and realize you never SAW anyone else.  Even if you were surrounded, did you truly SEE anyone?  Or did you wonder if anybody saw YOU?  Think of what a difference it could make if we each took the time to SEE (REALLY SEE) at least one person around us and speak a kind word to them.  A simple complement.  A blessing. Ask about their day and actually listen to their answer.  Sometimes people cross our paths unexpectedly, and what a blessing when they choose to take the time to spread some light around.  I want to challenge myself to do that more.  

~ for grocery day.  So thankful to have my fridges full, mostly of milk.

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~ for November 1!  November 1 is one of my favorite days of the year for two reasons. Number one, because it means Halloween is finally over.  I’m sorry to be a party pooper, but I cannot stand Halloween (sorry not sorry).  And I’m always so grateful when that stuff is out of the stores and off all of the Netflix lineups.  Secondly, it’s the first day of a favorite family tradition: the Thankful Game.  We have a huge group email comprised of family and friends who have become family, and we each  share our gratitudes for each day.  I love getting to hear what’s on each of my children’s hearts, and to hear what everyone else is thankful for.  It’s such an encouragement.   Thank you Grandmommy, for starting, cultivating, and expanding this wonderful tradition!

~ for a wonderful and encouraging meeting with dear friends regarding the future of Gold Network of East Texas.  We have exciting new vision about expanding our team and reaching more families impacted by the nightmare of Childhood Cancer.  It still blows me away that the Network has grown from 3 families to more than 60.  I never could have dreamed that my baby would have cancer.  But that from the worst days of our lives would be born a ministry and organization that could make a difference to so many people. And I’m so humbled and grateful that the Lord has moved on so many hearts to help us continue to reach out.  Great is Thy Faithfulness. 

~ for the most mind-blowingly delicious meal: a succulent roasted chili relleno stuffed with gulf shrimp, Monterey Jack cheese, street roasted corn, mushrooms, and asparagus on a bed of cilantro lime rice.  WOWZA!  

~ for awesome family pictures from the photo shoot a couple weeks ago!  Lauren did the most amazing job and we are all thrilled!  

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~ for tiny little moments.  Josh and I say regularly how we have learned not to take for granted ORDINARY LIFE.  That’s what Sunday Gratitude is about. Finding beauty in the tiny and mundane things of life that we sometimes overlook.  I looked in the rearview mirror at Tatum K in her car seat on our way to pick up kids after school.  She was bleary-eyed were half closed from being awakened from her nap, hair a fuzzy, tousled mess, and just the faintest hint of a smile.  She took my breath away.  How did God know I needed this baby girl?  I’m grateful for the everyday: looking at dozens of kids’ worksheets, listening to their reading.  Being greeted every morning with half a dozen hugs and a big hairy dog.  The times when my teen actually tells me about his day and then asks me about mine, or when my grown kids take the time to text or FaceTime.  The tiny little moments are when life happens.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what we’re worried about or scrambling for…we are so rich.  We are so blessed.  

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I just hope to encourage you to look around for the tiny little moments that you are thankful for instead of the 1001 nagging frustrations that crowd their way to the front.  Looking at life through a lens of gratitude truly has the potential to change everything.  And most of the big things we give thanks for…are made up of a million tiny little moments.  God is always at work, in the tiny things and the big ones, and when we finally begin to acknowledge WHERE OUR BLESSINGS COME FROM, we can truly begin to understand how deep and how long and how wide is His Love for us.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:10-13 NIV

The Investment

So…this week we did a thing.  I asked you to pray for our big week, and it’s clear that you did!  

Monday morning, Josh and I said “goodbye” to our babies.  And drove to Dallas.  And got on an airplane.  And by that afternoon, we were sitting on a beach in Mexico. 

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Last month we celebrated 20 years of marriage, and we made a commitment that we couldn’t let that milestone pass by without a special trip.  (But we had to make it through our busy September first!)  During the first half of our marriage, we dated regularly and we took several trips to the Caribbean.  A white sand beach has always been our favorite place.  The last time we took a trip together, just us two, was 10 years and 5 kids ago.  Life happened.  A miscarriage, 3 adoptions, and a pregnancy happened all inside 13 months.  Then cancer happened.  The day our marriage turned 15, we weren’t even in the same city.  Josh was home with 7 kids and I was in the hospital fighting for our baby’s life.  Within the last 5 years we have launched a non-profit, a 5K race, and a small business.  Taking a trip to the beach has not been on our radar for a decade. 

So this week we took 5 whole days just to ourselves.  We sat on the glistening sand and listened to the crash of the waves.  We snorkeled every day in crystal clear water with literally hundreds of fish.  We drank the best lattes we have ever had under the lush cover of giant palms.  We held hands.  We got up when we wanted to and didn’t watch the clock all day.  We LAUGHED. We prayed together on the beach and thanked God for our marriage and for blessing us with so many incredible children and the most remarkable life.  We told our story to young couples and old couples.  And we kissed a lot. 

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Oh, and we went deep sea fishing and caught some giant fish and I got sick as a dog and puked my guts out for hours.  It wasn’t ALL poetry. 

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Meanwhile, Aunt Gina Sue, resident fearless superhero, was commander in chief at the homestead.  Who accepts the challenge of 5 days of caring for 7 kids????  (For those reading who don’t know us personally, there ARE actually 9 kids, but 2 are grown and out of the house).  Gina did an amazing job.  (Understatement of the year). The house ran like a well-oiled machine, AND everyone had fun!  She took them on outings and treated with fun snacks every day… I think it was a vacation for them from Mom and Dad!  (Maybe not so much of a vacation for Gina herself.  We are hoping she still speaks to us by Thanksgiving.)  Seriously, she did the impossible, and no matter what challenges she encountered, she did it with such grace, with the unflinching support of Uncle Justin.  We could not be more grateful.  (We also are VERY AWARE of the focused fervent prayers they both prayed for our safe return!)IMG_9116 2.jpg

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Sawyer celebrated the 50th Day of School with Coke floats and a sock hop!

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Marriage is hard.  Raising kids is hard.  Life. Is. HARD.  There’s never a good time to get away.  There’s never enough money.  But God.  He makes a way when there is no way.  He brings beauty out of ashes and streams in the desert.    Josh and I can both say in all honesty that our marriage is better now than it was a decade ago, or even at the very beginning.  We have been through hell.  We have screwed up and hurt one another and let each other down.  We have argued about big things and about nothing.  We have wasted time over absolute garbage.  And then we have picked up the pieces and moved on.  We have apologized and we have forgiven.  We have picked at each other and laughed until we cried.  We are best friends that get on each other’s nerves but we would choose each other every time.  

Friends, I beg of you: Invest.  Invest where it counts.  This world is scary and life is short.  Josh and I have learned that everything can change in an instant.  Every THING you love can be taken away.  And there’s ALWAYS going to be another crisis.  We have to invest in our marriages.  Invest in our kids.  Invest in the lives of others.  These investments are truly ACTS OF WORSHIP.  I could never begin to thank the countless people who have invested in Josh and I over the years, pouring into us with love and encouragement and TIME.  I also know that we are blessed beyond measure, and that not everyone can take a trip to Mexico.  Trust me, it was a great stretch and a sacrifice for us.  My anxiety tried to ruin the trip before it ever began, and 101 things came up that could have squashed the whole plan.  But God.  I know it was so important for us.  An INVESTMENT.  So even if you just go on a walk together; or if it means staying up an extra 30 minutes after the kids go to bed to spend time alone on the couch….it’s WORTH IT.  When life gets hard (and stays hard), sometimes we wrap up in our hurt, and we believe that lie that “no one else understands.”  Or that we shouldn’t “bother” anyone with “our junk” because “they have enough of their own stuff going on.” (Sound familiar?)  THAT IS SUCH A CROCK!  That is satan’s tool to try to keep us trapped in shame and loneliness, isolated and disconnected from one another.  We are STRONGER WHEN WE ARE CONNECTED!  And we are UNSTOPPABLE when that connection is ROOTED IN CHRIST!  We have to pull together instead of pulling away.  See the needs of others instead of focusing on ourselves.  That goes for our marriages and all our other relationships.  The more we pour into one another, the greater the return.  59372532050__FA4ED520-2905-4A5B-985B-E20243DEE656.JPGIMG_9114 2.JPGIMG_9097.jpg

So I am thankful for :

White sand, great coffee, and time with my best friend.  I’m thankful for impossibly blue skies and impossibly clear water.  I’m thankful for God’s limitless creativity in nature.  I’m thankful for tears cried on the beach while asking God for BIG things for my husband and for my family.  Thankful for the sound of the waves crashing that I tried my best to memorize, and for technology that allowed me to video it so I can play it any time I want to transport myself to our place for a moment.  For people who love my kids as they were their own, even though there’s a million of them.  For the sweetest kids in the whole world that blanketed our bed with “welcome home” cards.  And I’m thankful to be home on American soil with my babies underfoot, my own bed, unlimited safe drinking water, and the ability to eat dinner without using a can of OFF.  I am thankful that stuffed iguanas are WAY cuter than real ones. I have renewed appreciation for my mountains of laundry and my big brown bus full of noisy kids and my shaggy dog and 87,000 things going on and the sound of LAUGHTER.   I am freshly reminded that even though it’s relentlessly, exhaustingly HARD, I LOVE MY LIFE and I wouldn’t trade it.   Lord, keep me in the place of humble gratitude for all you have entrusted to me. 

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Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 )