God is in the Ring

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful awesome trip to Dallas to deliver the abundant bounty of toys that you all generously donated to the Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive! I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t think we were going to even meet last year‘s number. A week before delivery day, we had about 800 toys. And $300 to spend. A number isn’t what it’s about. I know that. And 800 toys is a lot of toys. But I am so amazed at how God worked in so many hearts over the last week. We collected more than 700 more dollars and ended up with over 1600 toys!  Every hour another donation would come in. It just blew my mind!  And I had the neatest experience at the Dollar Tree in Tyler.  I went in with $400 to spend, and found out that since it was our first time registered as a tax exempt nonprofit, we got 10% off our purchase.  So that gave me almost another hundred dollars to spend! It was so fun!  I’ve never bought so much in my life, filled up 3 buggies! The receipt was as long as Samantha is tall!  All the toys just barely managed to fit, crammed into our bus. I was thankful that the 4 “Middles” were able to spend the day with their cousins, because there was literally no room for them in the car!  So I made the trip with just Sawyer and Tatum K.  We were met at valet at Children’s Hospital by 2 child life staff members with giant rolling bins, which we filled to overflowing!  Sawyer delighted in pushing and pulling them to the elevators and then he gleefully assisted in stocking the shelves.  He quickly learned which bins were for which toys, and chattered nonstop as he worked.  It brings me such joy to see him happily giving things away.  He knew none of those toys were for him, that they were all for his friends.  A sweet little girl came to pick out her prize after a hard, exhausting day of chemotherapy. The same age as Sawyer, she was completely bald and it was clear that she felt miserable. She picked out a baby doll, and then Sawyer picked out a second prize for her, which brought a tiny smile.  Seems like yesterday that Sawyer was the one weak and frail. Sawyer has prayed for his little friend Charlie every day since.  A million thanks to everyone who helped with this blessing.

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For the best bonus to an already great day.  We drove around the corner from the hospital and met our precious nurse and now dear friend, Brittney, for lunch. We haven’t seen her in several months because our appointments didn’t line up with her schedule, and now she has an additional job: Mama to a beautiful two-month-old baby boy!  It’s absolutely amazing to see her as a mama. I’ll never forget meeting Brittney and sawyer’s hospital room in the early weeks of his trip treatment. She knelt with me to pray before administering his chemotherapy.  She became my sister immediately and a favorite.  I remember thinking what an she was an expert seasoned nurse she was, and I didn’t find out until years later that she was brand new, and she admitted to being terrified that day.  It’s so beautiful the way the Lord purposely braids people into our lives that will change us forever.

~ for the most incredible neighbors! One day I got a knock on the door and a neighbor had a donation for Gold Network. They had wanted to come to the Gold Run but were crazy busy. So they just wanted to make a donation to support. Another day, another knock on the door. A different neighbor had 4 large Bruno‘s pizza left over from a party they were having!  Have you ever?  We are so blessed in our neighborhood.

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~ for the miraculous power of prayer.  Monday, an article was published by the New York Times regarding an impending shortage of the cornerstone chemotherapy drug for childhood cancer, Vincristine.  Tuesday, social media was buzzing with the news, and a couple local moms contacted the Dallas hospital, and received the report that the shortage was not expected to affect our kids.  But Wednesday.  Wednesday our own sweet Hero, Jase went to Dallas for his routine monthly chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.  And he was not given his scheduled dose of Vincristine.  His family was understandably livid and very concerned.  HOW CAN CRITICAL DRUGS THAT WE DEPEND ON TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES NOT BE AVAILABLE????  So we all used the only 2 tools we knew to use: the power of social media to incite people to apply the greatest power tool of all – the power of PRAYER.  People everywhere were praying.  And at the end of that all-day clinic visit, doctors came back to Jase’s family AND GAVE HIM HIS MEDICINE!!!!!  The very same thing happened with several other patients that day!  And shortly thereafter, a press release was issued stating that the drug company responsible was expediting the production of Vincristine several weeks sooner than previously scheduled.  We are so grateful that Jase received the life-saving medicine that he needed, but we ask for continued prayers that this crisis does not happen again.  Every type of childhood cancer requires Vincristine for treatment.  Our kids MUST have access to the drugs they need to LIVE!

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~ for the remarkable convenience of online grocery shopping! I was skeptical at first, wondering if I would get good produce, or if they would accurately fulfill my shopping list.  But I have been very pleased with the service I’ve received from all 3 grocery stores that I have to use.  Now a task that used to take me all day can be completed in less than two hours.  It’s truly a game changer, especially with a family our size.  

~ for kids who love to help!

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~ for a super productive week of Giddyup & Whoa sign painting.  I cranked out 7 signs for the upcoming Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale.  If you are local, you MUST come check it out!  They have the most wonderful collection of unique vintage and refurbished items, and beautiful handmade merchandise as well. This year they’ve even added a different food truck each day to make it an even greater experience!  Check them out Wednesday through Saturday!

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~ for a tasty and free food truck lunch hosted by our mortgage company for customer appreciation.  Tatum K entertained the crowd with her street dancing, and the juicy fried fish hit the spot!

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~ for a very special birthday!  Cooper turned 15 this week!  How in the world is my sweet, blue eyed mess of a  Coopy a 15 year old?  We feasted on his menu of choice: biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon, and rich chocolate cake.   Love that kid!  (He also played a great football game this week).

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~ for an amazing photographer that bravely and expertly tackled the gargantuan task of capturing a picture of Nana and Pop and ALL 23 GRANDCHILDREN!  We have been adopted into an amazing extended family here in Tyler, and it is one rowdy bunch, ranging from age 20 down to 5 months!  The photographer, Lauren Ashley, not only got the prized whole family picture, but each individual child, every family, and all the couples!  All in one hour!  She is a MACHINE!  I can’t wait to see how the pictures all turned out!  (These pics are just snapshots from my phone)

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More than anything this week, I am thankful for God’s Mighty Hand.  I talked last week about how overwhelming the pace and the pressures of life can be.   Well it’s not letting up.  It’s been a rough week as far as my anxiety goes, and we’ve been hit with brutal punches to the gut from out of nowhere.  That really is what it feels like sometimes.  Like a fighter in a ring getting HAMMERED.  Only there’s no timer, no bell.  No break to let you catch your breath.  Just hit after hit sending you reeling against the ropes.  Sometimes the hit looks like it’s big enough to destroy you.  

But God.  

No matter what is going on, I know He’s with me.  I know He’s fighting the battle for me, in front of me, behind me, and IN ME.  He built me for this battle.  He has prepared me for it.  If I’m in it, it’s because He has a plan for the battle and a plan for me.  He is the God that holds my children.  He holds their hearts and their future.  He has a plan for their lives as they find their way.  And every trial that comes our way will be used for our good and for His glory.  And when things look like they can’t ever be ok, I will turn my eyes to Him.   When I can’t take one more step, He will carry me.  When my heart is broken, He will hold me.  

It’s a big week for Casa Rucker, and we are counting on God to do some incredible things.  Will you please pray for us?  I look forward to sharing many great praise reports in next Sunday’s Gratitude!

Love one another, seek Jesus, and GIVE HIM PRAISE!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Psalms 56:1-4 

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” Exodus 14:14 

Pure Gold

I’m still taking it all in.  This week was a doozy. The schedule was absolutely relentless.  The tasks, insurmountable.  I needed at least twice as many hours in every day.  BUT GOD. Miracle by miracle , it all got done.  Not a day went by that I didn’t see His Hand orchestrating beauty and life.  Though the generosity of strangers.  Through the kindness of friends.  Through the support of the Body of Christ. 

Tuesday: got to share at Elementary Chapel about how BIG God’s miracles are, and how He used our prayers for Sawyer’s life to multiply into a mission and a ministry to children in our area and around the world. 

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Friday: GCS Go GOLD Football Game

We honored the 9 GCS families (that we know of) directly impacted by Childhood Cancer.  Some have completed treatment, some graduated and off doing well.  Some are with Jesus.  And one is still receiving treatment.  The three current GCS students led the football team onto the field. 

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Saturday: Tyler Gold Run

THANK YOU JESUS FOR PERFECT WEATHER!!!  We had a little rain Friday, and a cool front blew in (“cool” for Texas September).  The setup at the new location was a huge improvement, and the 6am crew of volunteers were hustling from the get go!   By the time the sun was up, we were rocking and rolling, and the park began to fill up with people.  More and more faces: strangers, onlookers, runners, supportive friends and family and classmates, and our honored guests – the Hero families that are the whole reason we were there.  There were inflatable dinosaur costumes and tutus, tiny puppies and big dogs, teams in customized matching t-shirts and a sea of Gold in every direction.  I still can’t believe it was all real.  A literal dream come true.  There were at least 600 in attendance, including more than 300 runners and at least 27 of our Hero families. 27!!!  I still have no idea how much money we raised, but just the awareness raised and the community of support becoming more firmly established as a presence that is NOT GOING AWAY…I truly could not be happier with how it all turned out.  I will never forget watching so many of the miracle children triumphantly crossing the finish line. Or the brave and broken moms and dads who walked or ran in honor of their child whose race was completed at the gates of heaven instead of on the brick streets of Tyler. I could go on for days to list all the different connections I made with people, or that I heard about from others.  The touching stories I heard and wonderful families I met.  God smiled on us that day. IMG_7411 2.jpg

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I can’t help reflect on the progression of the last five years.  In 2015 and 2016, Sawyer was still heavily in the midst of treatment. His immunity was so fragile, he was unable to even attend the race that he inspired.  In 2017, he was stronger, had just completed treatment, and Josh ran the race with him in the stroller.  Last year, he amazed everyone by walking the entire 5K with his teacher and classmates.  What an incredible miracle and testimony of God’s goodness!  This year he told me he didn’t want to do the 5K race.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t disappointed. But I wasn’t going to make him do it.  I knew he’d enjoy just being there and seeing all his friends.  But as the morning went on, and as my duties started to ease up, I headed to the finish line to cheer on friends and Heroes as they ran in.  And what I found stopped me in my tracks.  It was my boy.  Smiling at the finish line handing out waters to the runners as they completed their race.  It was almost too much for my heart to handle.  Such a picture of our journeys…. sometimes we are the one in the midst of the battle. The one being served. The one too sick, too weak, too entrenched in the trial to participate.  And that is our season to be still.  Other times the Lord carries us.  He does the heavy lifting, and we are just along for the ride.  And sometimes it’s our turn to walk. To put our own feet on the pavement and carry our own weight. To walk, and keep walking even when we’re tired.  And He is beside us the whole way. And then there are seasons when it’s not our turn. When our job is to be faithful to see the needs of others. To offer a cold drink of water to someone else who is thirsty. To refresh others as we have been refreshed. Nobody told Sawyer to hand out water.  I know he’s just a little kid, and little kids like to help. I know he doesn’t see it as a spiritual thing at all. But I also know that there is something uniquely special about him. And I know that more than just in the physical sense, he knows what it’s like to be thirsty.  I don’t think I have ever been more proud of my son.  

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Saturday night: Tyler Junior College Game

Our Gold Network kids were invited to be honored guests of the TJC Apache football team. We were invited into the locker room where the team chaplain prayed for them and prayed for the team, and then the kids were allowed to run the team out onto the field.  So thankful to have 4 families represented.  It was awesome.

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Sunday: Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour

Sawyer was honored as a blood product recipient. Our dear friend and pastor’s wife, Becky is riding across the state of Texas with his name on her back. I know she is thinking of him and praying for him all the way. The opening ceremony at Tyler Christian fellowship this morning was incredibly moving. The stories shared by so many families of organ recipients and organ donors and blood product donors and recipients was just absolutely incredible.  You can watch the video of our portion of the program here.

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The Tyler Gold Run may be over, but September is not. Kids are still being diagnosed every day. Federal research dollars are still at less than 4%. Cancer and the treatment for it continues to take our children before they’ve even had the chance to live. I hope you choose to be inspired to GO GOLD in some small way. Thank y’all for your continued love and support.

And thank you for giving thanks with me.

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”  Proverbs 11:25

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” Matthew 25:35

 

 

Back to School Daze

I am thankful:

~ to be DONE BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING.  It only took me 3,647,447,262 trips to 78,226 stores to get what everyone needed. 

~ for our wonderful, kind teachers at Grace Community School, and how thrilled each of the children are with the classroom they were placed in.  I love the aroma of eagerness and hope at the beginning of the school year.  There is just so much promise: new friends, new skills, new adventures.  There are few things that thrill my kids more than strapping on a brand spankin’ new pair of tennis shoes and a 86 pound bulging backpack to go see friends they have missed all summer and meet their teachers.  

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~ for a good first day of school.  Everyone popped out of bed with a grin, gobbled up fresh baked banana muffins for breakfast, and doodled up in their favorite outfit to start off their new year.  (I may have chosen Sawyer’s shirt…)  We read our morning devotional, like always, and prayed over our day and our family and our teachers, like always.  Josh headed off to take Cooper to his first day of high school while I walked into the elementary school with 6 of my babies.  And walked out with just one.  I’m infinitely grateful for a school filled with people who love Jesus and love our family, and who give a whole lot of grace to this mama who has a very hard time letting go.  But God.  

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~ and as if that were not enough, Wednesday was the day to drive Carson Grace back to ETBU, this time for good.  Tatum K and I made the drive with her, and when we arrived, the dorm was HOPPING!  When we moved her into her dorm before her mini-mester 2 weeks ago, there were just a handful of students on campus.  But this week was Tiger Camp, ETBU’s Freshman Welcome Week.  All of Carson Grace’s suite-mates were there, and it was great to meet them and their parents.   I can already tell they are a really special group.  We did the few last updates to her room, went on a quick grocery run, and a hurried Subway lunch, as I had to rush back to Tyler in time to pick up Littles from school.  This meant I didn’t get to participate in the parent part of Tiger Camp, attending the first Chapel service of the year with Carson Grace.  But I know God’s timing is better than mine, and I trust that it was best for me to get on the road when I did.  Oh, it was so hard to drive away.  I could tell though, that she was excited and ready.  Much more so than the first time we dropped her off, all alone in the dorm.  This time her room and the campus were already familiar, and she was surrounded by classmates ready to dive in right beside her.  Hard hard for Mama, not so much for my girl.  And that’s how it’s supposed to be, praise God. IMG_5764.jpg

She has sent lots of pictures since Wednesday: scavenger hunts, team challenges, and community service projects.  She’s making lots of friends and looks like she’s loving it.  She and her camp group went to a local church this morning together, and classes start bright and early in the morning.  Proud of her.  But I sure do miss my girl.  I’ve spent a lot of time in her room this week, thinking about her, praying for her.  (I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying….)

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~ for traditions.  If you know me, you know I’m big on traditions.  Every year on the first day of school, we go to our very favorite snow cone shack in Tyler, Shivers.  Tatum K shared her piña colada snow cone with me…she loved her “pink-alada”!

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~ for kind friends.  Thoughtful friends.  For old and new friends.  For truth-telling-even-when-it-hurts friends.  For tried-and-true, gone-through-the-ringer, here-for-the-mountains-and-the-valleys friends.  

~ for steady Giddy up & Whoa work.  I truly love to paint, and our little home business is such a blessing to our family.  And I needed the diversion.  Thursday was even harder than Wednesday with the kids gone.  On the first day, taking Carson Grace to Marshall took the whole day.  I was too busy to think about anything. (WHICH WAS MERCY).  Thursday was a different story.  It was a different kind of quiet.  Not a TRUE quiet, because Tatum K is a wild little fireball and a constant chatterbox.  I know this year will be a sweet time with just my Tater Tot at home.  But for now, the empty house is echoey.  Too much space.  As much as my Tribe drives me crazy and I’m always exhausted with their questions and their squabbles and their needs…they are MY PEOPLE.  And I miss them when they’re gone.  So anyway, it was a blessing to have 5 sign orders that needed my attention during Tatum’s naptime.  And I’m pleased to say I got them all done!

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~ for a good evening and meal with Colton.  The Littles were thrilled to swim with him and climb all over him.  Always good to spend some time with my boy. 

~ for a nice start to our Gold Network Toy Drive for the prize closet at Children’s Hospital.  A group of sweet ladies all went out and purchased nearly 100 toys and donated them in honor of one of their friend’s birthdays!  What a great idea!  Last year we donated more than 1400 toys to Children’s.  We are collecting toys through the month of September.  

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~ for excitement brewing over all our upcoming Gold Network events.  August 29 is Go Gold Tyler, our annual Childhood Cancer Awareness night on the Tyler Downtown Square.  I’ve been reaching out to our cancer families and have been thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive response!  It is so special to have all these Hero families together.  And then Tyler Gold Run is coming up September 21.  For our big 5 year celebration (how can it be 5 years!?) we are thrilled to have added a 10k route and moved to a new, larger park.  I am always amazed at how our friends and family and the community rise up in support of all these brave kids and their families.  Please consider being a part of these special events, or donating toward the cause. 

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IMG_5513.jpg~and this is just INCREDIBLE!  One of our Hero families has a cousin who is an amazing artist.  She created an original watercolor painting and has DONATED IT FOR AUCTION TO GOLD NETWORK!!!  This priceless painting takes my breath away.  Please check out the auction and bid or donate if you feel led.  The auction is open until August 29.  Click here for details.

~for good baseball memories with my Love.  Josh is one of the biggest Texas Rangers fans that has ever lived, and he has passed this passion on to his family.  I learned early in our marriage that if I was going to have any quality time with my husband from April until October, I needed to learn to speak baseball.  So I asked a few questions, and it was his greatest delight to teach me the ins and the outs of the game.  So this week, it was very special to glue ourselves to the TV screen to watch a momentous milestone for our all time favorite player, Josh Hamilton, as he was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.  Josh is one of the greatest talents to have ever played the game, but we love him because of his story.  He has battled drug and alcohol addiction for his entire career, and although he found salvation in Jesus Christ, he has continued to fall back into those self-destructive patterns.  But seeing him back on the field, hugging his old teammates, and hearing his bold and honest speech that gave all glory to the God who continued/continues to love him in the midst of his failures….we cried our eyes out.  It. Was. Awesome.  He closed his 14 minute speech with these words of encouragement for when we get knocked down, “Don’t you dare stay down. The God of the universe sent His Son to die so that we have the right to GET BACK UP IN JESUS!”

Our friend Harold needs your prayers.  He was allowed to go home from the hospital Wednesday, only to have hydrocephalus symptoms return Thursday, causing his parents to rush Harold back to Dallas for his FIFTH surgery.  Please pray for healing and wisdom for the team of doctors treating him.  And for grace and strength for his precious family.  Thank you for continuing to lift up the parents and family of sweet Lucas, who went to heaven last week.  Someone I love is recovering from a dreadful injury, and 3 family members are battling cancer.  So many people hurting.  Oh how I hate cancer.  Jesus come….

Friends, life is hard. It is hard and good and beautiful and horrible and excruciating and glorious.  Live well.  Love large.  Give freely.  Forgive.  See people.  Pray for one another.  Share Jesus.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””  John 13:34-35

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

Ready or not…

I should have expected it. Last week I boldly proclaimed to the world how thankful I am. How thankful I am for my lively mess of a family and the perfectly imperfect.  Why should it surprise me that Monday morning I’d be hit on all sides with utter chaos: squalling siblings, mouthy teens, and a maniacal 2 year old terrorist.  I was attacked full force from every direction.  And man, I fell right smack off my thankful mountain.  I know that’s real life: highs and lows and not-so-pretty-or-poetic emotions.  BUT GOD.  Oh how thankful I am that God doesn’t turn His back on me every time I fail.  And that His goodness is not contingent on my faithfulness.  WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE!  

But when all is said and done, He gives me the grace to get back up when I fall on my face.  I get to tell my kids I’m sorry and we all get a do-over.   New mercies every morning.  And every week. 

I am thankful:

~ for more end of school fun.  Our final FINAL day of school was Wednesday!  It is surreal to see Sawyer completing his first year of school.  I don’t take these “firsts and lasts” for granted.  Every time he reaches another milestone, I never fail to see that frail, white little baby.  BUT GOD!  He knew this day was coming even when all we could see was death in every direction.  Thank you Jesus for the last five years!  And we will be thankful for all the rest you will give us!  I pray Sawyer lives to be a strong, healthy, old old man who never tires of telling the story of how Jesus healed-ed him. 

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Our beloved Mrs. Youngblood

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“Mama, what are the other ribbon colors?  I want to pray for God to heal ALL the people with cancer.”

~ for nail polish remover.  I used a whole bottle to clean up Tatum K and the carpet where she painted her “Pretty toes Mama!  I MESSY!”

~ for my 2 kiddos recognized for Perfect Attendance!  Way to go Kora and Gavin!

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~for the remarkable kindness and generosity of friends.

~ for good news.  Our friend Mason got his port removed after completing leukemia treatment, Baby Lucas got wonderful news from his oncologist, and sweet Georgia is home from her latest stay in the hospital.  God, You are so good.  Thank you, faithful prayer warriors, for praying; please keep lifting up all these precious families. 

~ for at least a couple lazy days.  No alarms to set, no plans on the calendar. We enjoyed our walks, kids swam in the icy pool until their lips turn blue, and we laughed as Bear eagerly dove in after them, showing off his swimming skills. 

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~for Carson Grace and the Cougars safe trip down to Houston for their next softball playoff game.  They battled through and played their best, but this time didn’t come away with the win.  But what a great season!

~ for the way all my kids love music.  They are always singing along with the radio behind me in the car, making up songs, or singing on their own at home.  This week a favorite came on, “I’m a Child of God,” and Sawyer said, “Mama!  I just love this song so much!  I just HAVE to Praise Him!”  I can only imagine how this blesses the Father’s heart. 

~ for the eagerly anticipated, fast and furious arrival of my latest BEAUTIFUL NIECE, Josey Dean! What a little sugar!!!

And Saturday was the biggest day; a day of so much joy but also bittersweet tears. My girl, my Carson Grace, my heart.  How can my baby be graduating high school?  I remember picking out her first day of school clothes from the toddler department.  I remember the tiny wooden stool that her teacher had built for her because her little legs dangled from the desk and couldn’t reach the floor. I remember crying as she graduated from Kindergarten, then from 5th grade, then 8th.  I blinked. Tiny crocs and Mary Jane’s were replaced by Vans and impossibly high heels.  My memory hasn’t faded from her baby days, because all I have to do is look at Tatum K, her carbon copy. Saturday, my beautiful girl put on that cap and gown and proudly received her diploma.  She fought for it: high school wasn’t easy for her on any level.  But she did it, and we are so proud.  We even had the excitement of a tornado warning and mandatory evacuation in the middle of the ceremony, but she made it!  We ended the evening with burgers and watermelon and friends crowded in the kitchen, celebrating our girl.  

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~ and then a wonderful baby shower for my precious friends Chris and Lindsay, as they prepare their hearts and home for their baby boy on the way.  They are such treasures, and I am so ready to watch them step into the role they were MADE FOR as Mama and Daddy!

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As you may well imagine, it’s slightly terrifying to face being home with all these kiddos for the summer.  I’m so ridiculously outnumbered.  But thankfully they haven’t figured that out yet.  I am trying to find a balance between high hopes and realistic expectations for the upcoming weeks: lots of swimming, walks, trips to the library, and some good healthy brain exercise.  We’re gonna eat popsicles and ride bikes and Cooper’s going to teach me how to flip on the trampoline.  And I’m gonna love my babies the very best I can.  I’m gonna soak up these last precious weeks of having Carson Grace home before she leaves for college.  I’m going to press into Jesus.  I’m going to pray with my kids and play with my kids.  I’M GONNA FINISH SCRAPING THOSE BEAMS.  It’s going to be a glorious mess, but we are going to do it together. 

Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:1-2 

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:14-17

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 

Unexpected

I am thankful:

~ last week I forgot to report the wonderful news that my dear friends from Mississippi who had traveled to Dallas for work and then found themselves TRAPPED in the ICU at Children’s Hospital finally got to GO HOME!  Ian improved enough to be moved from ICU to the general Oncology floor, and then they had the long tedious wait for ANC to rise enough for docs to feel confident that he was well enough to make the 8 hour drive home.  But after a FULL WEEK unexpectedly stuck in an unfamiliar hospital 500 miles away, they made it back safely to the comfort of their home and the rest of their children!  So very thankful for Jesus’ healing, for the supernatural grace He gave them to endure the waiting, and for “my” awesome nurses who (no surprise) went out of their way to love on this family and make their stay as comfortable as possible.  They are the real life Dream Team folks!!!  No nurses better will you find!  

~ this week we had the great privilege of celebrating Sophie the Brave’s 4th birthday with “Do More for Soph Day.”  I wrestled with it a lot more than I anticipated.  It brought up really hard emotions.  Spreading unexpected joy and blessings around was sweet, but was sharply contrasted with the very present reality of wishing she was here for her Mama to hold, here to blow out the candles on her cake and be sassy.  It took my breath away at times.  Sawyer, Tatum K and I had fun picking out little gifts at the store for the ones on our hearts, and we talked about Sophie all day long.  Sawyer said, “I’m so glad Sophie is happy with Jesus, but I know her Mama is sad.”  He also said he thinks she’s on Jesus’ lap having birthday cake.  We made several stops and deliveries, and after picking up kids we did some more!  Honestly, that part was exhilarating.  I’ve never paid for the order of a car behind me in a drive thru before – now THAT was fun!  It was so refreshing to serve.  We get tunnel vision, so conditioned to focus on our mindless mundane routines, that we forget there’s a big world out there full of hurting people. I noticed it when I was at the store later in the week during my bi-weekly grocery haul. Tatum K was in the buggy, happily munching her goldfish and blissfully chirping, “Hi friend,” to everyone she saw.  But everyone else around us just looked…beaten down.  Faces expressionless.  Downtrodden.  Sleepwalking.  Her smile lit up the place.  So often that’s the case, if you smile at someone, they are likely to smile back. BUT SOMEBODY HAS TO SMILE FIRST!!!  You just never know what someone’s going through. I have had plenty of sleepwalker days.  I’ve had many days when I was the one with no smiles to give.    But if you find yourself ABLE to be a light…GO AHEAD AND SHINE!

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~ for God giving me an extra measure of grace on Sophie Day to bless one more person: my son.  Cooper had a track meet (yes, he does baseball AND track!).  I rarely make it to track meets, because they are so long and the events so spread out.  And he is always such a great sport about it. But even though we’d already had a full and utterly exhausting day, I knew how much it would mean to him if I was there.  The weather was perfect, so I packed up our dinner and chairs and headed to the school.  Cooper told me his event would be around 6:45.  Of course, he didn’t end up running until 8:30!!!  It was the longest 2 hours of all time with my whiny, cranky past-their-bedtime entourage.  But he ran, we cheered, and then we headed home (we DID NOT stay for his NEXT race, which ended up being at about 10:25pm).  And on my way home, I received this text from Cooper, “Thanks for coming Momma. It really meant a lot.  I love you.”  That was MY favorite blessing of the day. 

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~ for Free Cone Day at DQ.  Always thankful for those rare unexpected opportunities to come out looking like “Nice Mom.”  She doesn’t show up too often.  

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~ for an unexpected midday knock on the front door. Colton popped in just to say “hi” and have lunch with his mom.

~ so proud of our Sam, who did an outstanding job as ToastMaster in her fourth grade class this week.

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~ for two special Giddyup &Whoa signs completed and delivered this week.

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~ thankful to have survived my marathon Friday. Toastmasters at 8 AM, a long-overdue breakfast date with a friend, three back-to-back grocery stores, mountain of groceries loaded in-car-out-of-car-and-put-away, kids picked up from school at 1pm, three dozen cupcakes baked, dinner-on-the-go cooked and packed up, and finally loaded up the Tribe for a softball game at 5. Don’t get me wrong, they were all blessings, every single one. But this mama was WIPED!  Almost inevitably, the anxiety monster really assaults when my to-do list is longer than my leg.  When I have lots on “my” list to accomplish, it all starts to swarm before my eyes and my mind gets overwhelmed.  So as the thoughts raced out of control and fingers of panic began to squeeze my chest, I just reached out to the Lord and begin to pray aloud in the car.  It’s not magic, I wasn’t just instantly delivered… but He always gives grace upon grace, and He got me through my day (and even most of my list.)

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~ for thrilling news from a dear friend. After a long time of seeking the Lord and waiting, they received a life-changing phone call.  They were chosen as adoptive parents, and their new baby was about to be born!  Not even knowing if they would bring home a boy or a girl, they hopped on a plane and flew across the country.  And that was not the only uncertainty…there is always the chance that the birth mom will change her mind. But God had a plan.  And now their dreams of becoming parents have come true…tonight they are home with their baby girl.  My heart overflows!  Prayers for them as they settle into their new life, and prayers for the unspeakably selfless birth mother who made the hardest choice.  Glory to the Lord!

~ for the blessing of hosting a sweet, sweet baby shower at our home with some of my dear sisters.  What a blessing to come alongside a family and love like Jesus!  That is what my church family is best at!   

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~ for the surreal blessing of Carson Grace being asked to sing her original song for special music at church.  There is no greater blessing than to see your children stepping into their God-ordained gifts. 

As I close this longer-than-usual Sunday Gratitude, I hope you’ve made it this far.  I ask for continued prayer for Baby Lucas, still in the early stages of his cancer treatment.  And this week, a new prayer request.  Another GCS family received the unexpected crushing news that their beautiful daughter had a brain tumor.  She has had her first surgery, which the doctors consider a success, but the road ahead is long and terrifying.  Her name is Georgia, she’s 4 years old, and she is still currently in the Pediatric ICU at Children’s awaiting pathology reports that will dictate the treatment plan.  Friends, let’s carry this family boldly to the throne of the Father, and ask for abundance of grace and healing for their precious baby girl.  I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again.  Oh how I hate cancer, but oh, how I love Jesus. 

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Pray for Georgia

Embrace the unexpected, the good and the bad.  God is the God of all of it.  Unexpected good is treasure.  Unexpected bad… well, we are reminded of our need for a Savior, our need for grace, our need for one another.  

Thank you for giving thanks with me.  

“It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:13-18