Do-Overs

I am thankful

~ for the most divine Stanley’s “Mother Clucker,” tender smoked turkey piled high on a buttery jalapeño cheddar sourdough bun, topped with a fried egg, candied bacon, guacamole, and spicy peppery barbecue sauce.

~ for Rodeo Day. My little first grade cowboy has been looking forward to Rodeo Day for no less than a month. Every day was another day on the countdown: “18 days until Rodeo Day,” “only 14 more sleeps until Rodeo Day!” “I can’t wait until bedtime, because then tomorrow is only one week until Rodeo Day!” It is all he has thought walked slept and dreamed about. We were blessed to be able to borrow all the different garb and gear to transform Sawyer the Warrior into Sawyer the Cowboy,

and I am delighted (and relieved) to report that the long awaited, highly lauded Rodeo Day lived up to the hype. Sawyer had a blast roping calves, milking cows, and scooping cow patties. He ended his epic day with a picnic on the open range and an ice cold Dr. Pepper of course!

~ that Little Sister got to have her tiny taste of Rodeo Day as well. sawyer had talked it up so big, she couldn’t help but get excited. She got all dolled up with her braids and vest, and when we made a quick stop at mama’s favorite place before arriving at the school (Goodwill of course) what do you think she found? BRAND NEW “COW BOOTS” JUST HER SIZE! Cardboard inserts still inside, never worn. She couldn’t have been more proud.

~ for such a fun day for the boys, going to the zoo with Colton and Brooke.

~ and that the girls and I had a lovely day together, celebrating Aunt Katherine and Baby Cousin-on-the-way, Russell! So fun to get all dressed up together to celebrate a baby!

~ for sweet mornings with Tatum K’s new favorite way to start the day: breakfast on the front steps “listening to da bids.”

~ for a new makeover project. I love a good find. I’m planning on re-doing one of our rooms, and I’ve been on the hunt for a small scale vintage dresser. I scored big with a Facebook Marketplace bargain, but it definitely needs WORK.

We picked it up this afternoon, and this is how far she has come after 4 hours and 3 coats of stripper.

The dresser to me is such a picture of the journey of a life. It started out one way, created for a purpose, intricately hand crafted, beautifully stained. Then it went through a season of change (a cultural change, style change, lifestyle change) with a coat of paint. Who knows how many layers of paint it went through as styles, tastes changed. Maybe it was repainted to cover wear, to cover chips, coffee rings. And now it looks like a piece of junk to a lot of people. But it’s EXACTLY what I’ve been searching for, and I’m excited to give it a do-over so it can be beautiful and useful again.

Don’t we all need a do-over sometimes?

We are on our THIRD do-over with our garden. We put in a new raised bed this spring, replacing an existing flowerbed to make better use of our backyard space. We hired out the project, and the contractor filled the bed with organic garden soil, ready to be planted. We have loved having a little garden every year, and were excited to plant our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and melons. That was over a month ago. And NOTHING has grown. The tomato plants look stunted and a funny color, and none of the other plants have grown at all.

Josh and I were shocked when we realized, “THERE AREN’T EVEN ANY WEEDS GROWING!” Something HAD to be wrong with the soil. So of course, we googled it. It sounded like a phosphorus deficiency, and the remedy is adding bone meal to the soil. So Josh dug up each plant carefully, generously sprinkled in bone meal, mixed up the soil, and replanted everything. We watered and watched. Nothing. So we called a friend who is a master gardener, who suggested that there was TOO MUCH organic material in our garden, causing the PH to be off, and to try adding LOTS of regular old bags of topsoil. So today, while I was in the driveway stripping down that dresser, Josh and the big boys toted bag after bag of top soil to the bag yard. Yet again, he uprooted every plant, replacing some with new, and salvaging others. Hopefully, third time’s the charm.

It would be a lot easier to just give up. Do-overs take time, they take patience, and they are USUALLY MESSY! But aren’t we all thankful that God is the absolute Master of the do-over? We’ve all messed up big enough, or enough times that it would be easier to give up. But our loving Father never does. His mercies are new every morning, and He stands at the ready for us to take advantage of a fresh start.

I have prayers that I’ve been praying that I don’t see the answer to. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

I have friends who are hurting, walking through hard, heartbreaking trials. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

I am not the person or the mama or the servant that I want to be. I’m praying for a do-over. God is not done. He is always working.

Where in your life do you need a do-over? Whatever looks hopeless, broken, dead, or too far gone…remind yourself, God is not done. He is always working.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

“But GOD ’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.” (Isaiah 30:18 MSG)

How NOT to Rest on Your Vacation

I am thankful:

~ for the glorious report that Baby Annie came through her pacemaker surgery BEAUTIFULLY, and every single day this week has made great strides toward healing, BLOWING THE DOCTORS’ MINDS. Her mama and daddy have finally been able to hold her again, and she has been able to lose many of her lines and tubes. She has a long road of healing ahead, but this brave, strong little fighter is a MIRACLE!

~ and for a different kind of miracle. My Uncle Stan (technically Josh’s uncle. But he’s mine now too) has wrestled through health battles for many years, from cancer to debilitating chronic pain. He has been bed-bound and on hospice care for the last 4 years, but he and his devoted wife have weathered these storms side by side. Stan didn’t ever follow any of the expectations or timelines set forth by any of his doctors or hospice nurses, the eternal comeback kid. But this time, Jesus let Stan know that it was finally time to rest easy. The Lord gave the immediate family, the closest inner circle of loved ones, the priceless gift of meaningful conversations and goodbyes in his last days. Then they were all together in the presence of the Holy Spirit as Stan stepped into Glory, finally whole and healed, free from sorrow and pain FOREVER. It’s really hard to grieve when we know he’s finally FREE.

~ we enjoyed a trip over to Kilgore to visit Colton at his job site of the Dairy Queen he is building. We are so proud of him. And so good to stop by and get some hugs from Aunt Polly and our cousins too.

~ for Josh’s vacation. He works so hard and such long hours, and has a ton of stress, so it is our favorite time of year when he gets a respite to do what he loves to do. Now, the man DOES NOT know how to REST. So on his vacation, he works TWICE AS HARD as he does at his job. But he does get to sleep in and enjoys the freedom of choosing how to spend his time. He loves to build and work on projects. He loves to spend time with us and enjoy our afternoon coffee together. He loves to eat good food and spoil us. So this week we did a lot of all that.

~ so that means I’m thankful for ANOTHER exhaustingly productive week of DIY-ing with my Love. His vacation is my vacation. And since he likes to work on his vacation, that means I get to WORK too. So let me go on the record to say this has been the LEAST RELAXING vacation of all time. (Although Josh says I said that after his vacation last year as well!) This week maybe seemed more tiring than the previous 3 weeks of projects because A) we did the most fun projects first and these were the last ones on our list, and B) since it was finally the “official” vacation, for the first time we felt the pressure to have all the projects completed by an unofficial “deadline” (TODAY). So this week we tackled:

Sheetrocking up the door in the hall bathroom. When we bought our house, this bedroom had a private bathroom, which of course it not functional for our Tribe.

Our first stage of remodeling was to cut a doorway in the hallway and Josh built/installed a custom reclaimed wood barn door. We painted the walls and cabinets and framed out the wall mirror at that time as well.

But there was still a door into Sawyer/Tatum’s room. A 60 square foot room is TOO SMALL for TWO DOORS! I was thrilled to have the doorway walled up finally.

Then we got the bathroom repainted and Sawyer and Tatum’s room painted as well. And just in case you have the impression that our house is always perfect and clean and “just so,” let me show you some REAL LIFE pictures in the midst of that project.

Under the dresser!
Where Sawyer rubs his grubby feet on the wall beside his bed!

We also painted the walls, ceiling, trim, and doors in the hallway outside the girls’ bathroom, and hung new lights.

Before
Before

Another long-awaited project was to repair/mask a curved wall in our master bathroom with cracked and dimpled sheetrock.

We’ve had lots of ideas, but finally settled on textured wallpaper. That project actually went pretty quickly once we got the hang of it (ha, see what I did there!?) I was a little disappointed that you can still see most of the imperfections on the wall through the paper, but I’m planning to try out some paint techniques to hopefully disguise it a little more.

We wanted to change the glass in our front door from the dated leaded-glass panels. We asked a glass installer for an estimate and he said it couldn’t be done. Undeterred, Josh simply decided to do it himself! He carefully removed the trim pieces from each panel, traced the openings to create templates of the glass, and ordered the individual panels from a local glass company.

It was a messy, nerve-wracking project, and of course the glass came in as the temperatures were dropping, so it was SO COLD to have a front door without glass, even for a short time. But in a matter of about an hour and $100, this small project made a major impact on the appearance of our home. Replacing the door would have cost thousands. I love how brave and handy my husband is!

And of course we had Giddyup & Whoa orders to work on as well…

~ that our goofy dog survives her goofiness. Birdie is notorious for eating ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING: 2 birthday cakes, puzzle pieces, stuffed animals, dozens of pairs of panties, and socks. During our remodeling projects, Birdie consumed insulation, dropped screws, a piece of the bathroom baseboard, and almost ate A RAZOR! Thankfully we got it away from her in time.

~ for TWO special birthdays this week. Kora turned 12 and Gavin turned 11. These two are fun to celebrate. Their eyes just sparkle when they feel special. They are eager and grateful recipients, and they both love to bring others into their celebrations. We had made plans to surprise the kids on their Winter Break with a big celebration at the end of Josh’s vacation by actually taking a little mini trip to Dallas for the weekend. But the crazy arctic weather set in, and we had to cancel and come up with a new plan. So we just did our best to have a super-duper fun weekend at home. We started with a movie on Friday at the local movie grille (a first for all the younger kids) followed by cocoa by the fire. Saturday was Kora’s cinnamon roll birthday breakfast, birthday lunch, arts and crafts, sliding on ice, seafood restaurant for dinner, and homemade fudge brownies à la mode. And then “Gavin-tine’s Day” began with sausage, eggs, and heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes for brunch, build-your-own pizzas + macaroni and cheese (from the box) + salad and banana pudding for dinner, and we finished the double-decker-vacation/birthday-celebration marathon by BRIEFLY frolicking in the FREEZING snow flurries before bed.

I had a moment during one of our projects this week. We’d had some bumps with a couple of our kids, and some tough conversations, and I was feeling weary. Weary from working. Weary from feeling my age. Weary from the perpetual battles of parenting. And I just felt discouraged all of a sudden. It hit me like a tidal wave, and I could feel the undertow trying to pull me all the way under. But even as I felt that discouragement, I recognized it as a trap. I turned on my favorite worship playlist and started talking to the Lord. Just like I talked about last week, nothing about my circumstances changed…except me. It was like engaging with the presence of the Lord shook me out of that fog. I can do all things through He who strengthens me. It’s not all on me. He is Lord of my life and Lord of my kids’ as well. And He is the source of my joy. Not a house that looks the way I want, or kids that look like they are doing good, or even a fantastic marriage. MY HOPE IS IN HIM. And nothing is going to take that away!

Prayers for all down here in the South who are facing the bitterly cold weather and treacherous conditions so out of the norm for our areas. We plan to hunker down and wait for the next crazy turn (temps in the 60s expected next week!)

Keep loving on one another. And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Psalms 40:1-3)

The Gift of Perspective on a Crummy Day

I am thankful:

~ that I found the bag of frozen corn that the kids put away IN THE PANTRY after only three days instead of a week.

~ for a big impact from a fast and inexpensive project. It took me 15 minutes to switch out the hardware on these cabinets. I love the more modern touch, and these were a great Amazon find for less than $2 a piece.

~ for a mostly successful week of potty training with Tatum K. She is proud as punch in her big girl panties, and beams with pride when she is rewarded.

~ for one of my best Goodwill “hauls” of all time. Cute fuzzy cardigan, brand new good yummy candle in amber glass jar, some handmade pottery, and two additions to my basket wall. The big score was the $150 Pottery Barn blanket in pristine condition! All for $10! I love the thrill of the hunt!

~ for lots more done around the casa this week. The living room ceiling got a bright coat of fresh white paint to match our walls. The newly scraped beams, now rustic and beautiful, with the crisp white paint between them did wonders to brighten the room and lift the ceiling.

Josh made lots of progress texturing his drywall patches, and I painted the studio. We found unexpected hidden plumbing behind the built in drawers, and Josh had the brilliant idea to flip it around to add a utility sink in the garage! (Won’t that be helpful for our next litter of pups!?) Josh also built shelving and a fantastic reclaimed wood desk.

The “before“
Demo Day
Unexpected plumbing….wonder what “No No” means?
Supervising my work
Bear approves

I’m excited for Cooper to have such a cool space that will also be a functional storage space for me as well.

Lots of prep work in the girls bathroom. Josh repaired water damage on one wall and removed the bent and leaky shower door. The stained, stinky carpet and the cracked marble floors are gone! The beautiful new tile floor went in on Thursday, and I expect that this week we will make good progress on that little makeover!

Before…
Testing out cabinet paint colors…

In the midst of all the DIY projects, Josh still made time to build our Giddyup & Whoa orders, and I made good progress on some really pretty signs. Can’t reveal them yet though… Stay tuned!

Many have been asking for an update on my friend Tim, but I just had to wait until they were ready to share. The surgery took place as scheduled on Monday, and the procedures all went very well. He spent one night in the hospital and was able to be discharged the very next day! Glory to God! Although he is still in quite a bit of pain, and having some trouble resting, he is recovering well. And they have been in communication with the kidney recipient, and she is doing great and her new kidney is functioning as it should! What a miracle! All glory to God!

One day this week I had a crummy day. Nothing devastating, just a lot of annoyances stacked up on one another. Rude drivers in traffic, poor customer service at a store, mouthy kids, a hand-wash-only coffee cup ruined in the dishwasher, an accidentally Cajun (aka BLACKENED) dinner… We’ve all had THAT DAY. But at the end of it, I thought about the the VERY WORST part of my day: that I had connected with two more families newly diagnosed with cancer. I thought back on those terrifying days and weeks at a time spent confined to the hospital. The mingled numbness and panic as I sat on a vinyl chair praying for my baby and trying to wrap my mind around this new life that I didn’t want. I may not have missed the mouthiness of my kids, but I would have given anything to wrap my arms around them, or for a burned meal and literally any coffee cup in my own house. I thought about Sawyer, loving life, happy and loud and doing all the things we never dared hope he would do. And NONE of the crummy baloney mattered. AT ALL. It’s all in your perspective.

Several dear friends are wrestling with some serious health problems and anxiously awaiting test results to try to find some answers. A precious family said goodbye to their beloved godly matriarch last week. They rejoice knowing where she is for eternity, knowing they will see her again, and thankful she is finally free from pain. But it still hurts so deeply. Others have been suffering in their earthly bodies for a long time and long for their heavenly healing. Bitterness fracturing a family that should be loving on one another. Lonely kids that need a home. A mama misses her baby. A brave, sweet cancer warrior facing potentially devastating and lifelong complications from the treatment that is saving her life. A baby girl fighting for her life, while her mama and daddy sit begging God to heal her.

Lord, help me keep my eyes on You and to regularly check my perspective. When I fall into the familiar patterns of murmuring and complaining, WAKE ME UP. When Jesus got ready to teach the people, the Bible says “when He saw the crowds He was moved with compassion…” But first He SAW THEM. We can’t see people unless we LOOK.

Lord, give me eyes to see, a heart of compassion, and willingness to do whatever You ask of me.

And may we never stop asking for miracles and testifying of Your Goodness.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” (Psalms 42:4-5)

Wait

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. So grateful to have all my kids in one place for the first time in a long time. We took our traditional large group picture, competed fiercely in our Annual Pumpkin Olympics, danced the chicken dance wearing our chicken hats, undeterred by honking of horns from cars passing by, and ate until our stretchy pants were to their limit, and then we started on the pies.

The Pumpkin Queen and Pumpkin Princess

But I’d be lying if I said it was the best Thanksgiving ever. Because Alan wasn’t there. Alan was always at the center of everything. Always the most hilarious with his pumpkin antics, losing his pants during the chicken dance, and no one could ever match his love for pie. There was a big hole without him. But we’re thankful that he is healed and with Jesus, and we are thankful that we could be together to love one another through our sadness. And we are thankful that although we must wait for now, one day before long we will once again all feast together in the presence of the Lord. And it was a great reminder not to waste one day with the ones you love.

Thanksgiving 2019

~ for how hard-working Cooper has become. Instead of a traditional lazy teenager, he is working so hard at everything he does. He is dedicated to his music. His grades in school are terrific. He spent last weekend cleaning out our elderly neighbors’ gutters, and helps his dad every weekend with maintenance for our neighborhood HOA. Not only that, he got his first real job: he had his first day of training at Chick-fil-A! He will be serving up Preachers Poultry here in Tyler, so you’ll have to swing through and see him. It will be his pleasure!

~ for two fun new puzzles. One down, one well underway. And for stacks and stacks of new paper and art supplies. Aunt Nicki keeps us stocked. Is there anything more fun than a crisp new 64 pack of Crayolas and a sparkling new coloring book?

~ for another great day with family fellowshipping over food and football, this time a Carthage playoff game. Lots of loud and laughing and love.

~ for fresh jubilation as I put up our beautiful 9 foot Christmas tree that I found on the side of the road last year! Still the best find EVER! And for my sweet husband who hunted all over town to find the one remaining box of clear white twinkle lights.

~ for my DARLING HUSBAND and firstborn (who BOTH despise heights) who spent hours in the cold on top of VERY HIGH ladders putting up our house Christmas lights.

~ for a successful Week 2 of Operation Bazillion Puppies. We have relocated their enclosure to the master bathroom, so at least now I am back in my bed! (Glory Hallelujah!) The pups and their Mama did well on their first road trip to Carthage for Thanksgiving.

We are definitely getting into a puppy-ing routine. But it is still a wearying cycle of helping Birdie nurse every two hours including through the night, mixing puppy formula, sterilizing bottles, bottle feeding, and cleaning up puppy poop (SO. MUCH. POOP!) We clearly greatly underestimated the amount of work it would take to have a house with 13 dogs that DOES NOT SMELL LIKE HOUSE WITH 13 DOGS! Overwhelming is an understatement. But the upside is that the puppies get sweeter and fatter and cuter every day. Their hair is getting thicker and we are finally starting to have some little puppy eyes peeking out. The kiddos can’t get enough of them and each one has their personal favorite. For those who have asked, we still have some puppies available.

Today was the first Sunday of Advent. Just like everything else, for me at least, I feel it more deeply this year. All Creation really is groaning. We are all waiting for something. Are we waiting with dread and anxiety? Or with hopeful expectation? I’m reminded every day that hope is a choice, and peace is a Person. Every day I have to choose to wait on the Lord, to wait on His promises, and to wait WITH HIM. Let us not be so blinded by what we see around us that we miss the TRUTH that is to come that CANNOT BE TAKEN FROM US if we abide in Christ. What are YOU waiting for?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:22-25)

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

Full of Thanks

I am thankful:

~ for all the people throwing away their pumpkins as they switch to their Christmas porch decorations for the season. Those pumpkins are now on MY porch awaiting the Pumpkin Olympics!

~ for Sawyer’s 1st Grade Thanksgiving Feast. Proudly adorned in his Native American garb, he sang his little turkey songs with his class and feasted on chicken strips and mashed potatoes. The same standard Thanksgiving pageantry taking place in schools all across the nation. But I know my fellow cancer moms and other moms of medically complex children will be able to relate: this falls into the category of “I never let myself dream of him getting to do this…” All my kids have done the same programs and sung the same songs. But we never knew if Sawyer would. BUT GOD. And when my little feather-clad kiddo proclaimed Psalm 100, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations…” I didn’t even try to hold back the tears. Thank You Jesus, for the life of this boy!

~ for the perfect bite of homemade pimento cheese on a wheat thin.

~ for Kora’s 5th Grade Wax Museum. Her class portrayed a living history museum beginning with Adam and Eve, spanning through Bible times and as current as Princess Diana. Kora chose Mother Theresa, and did a beautiful job. A tablecloth and blue painters tape never looked so holy!

~ for a perfect fall day of raking and bagging leaves. And what do you HAVE to do before you can bag them? You MUST jump in them of course!!! But what do you do if you DON’T HAVE ENOUGH leaves at your house???? Why, you BRING YOUR NEIGHBORS’ LEAF PILES TO YOUR HOUSE, of course!!! Problem solved!

~ for a good week for Giddyup & Whoa at the “Christmas in the Country” Barn Sale. The weather was perfect and I think people were excited to get out and support local small businesses. We’ve had so many wonderful local orders, and we are so grateful. Keep us in mind if we could create a special gift for you.

~ for way-too-loud family dinners full of the world’s worst knock knock jokes, and for a long-overdue evening of food and friends and fellowship.

~ for the most awesome friends who bring you dinner when you have a super-sized litter of puppies!

~ for surviving Week One of Puppy Life. This stuff is no joke! We’ve never done anything like this before, and I see why not many people go into the puppy business! I thought I was tired after staying up with Birdie all night as she labored last Saturday/Sunday. Watching Birdie become a mom has been an incredible thing. The instincts that God built in to her, from the delivery process, cleaning her pups, gathering them together, nursing and grooming them all…it’s just amazing! She is an awesome mother to her babies! But there are just SO MANY OF THEM!

She’s physically incapable of nursing them all at once, so I have to keep track of who has and hasn’t eaten, and rotate them. And then supplement with puppy formula. Every. Two. Hours. And then just the logistics of making sure none of them get stepped on, rolled on, or crushed. I have slept every night on the floor of the puppy pen since last Saturday. When Josh and I say goodnight, we laugh that I am spending yet another night “in the doghouse.”

And of course there is the concern of whether or not Birdie can make enough milk to nourish them all, so today I brewed up a batch of my Mother’s Milk herbal tea and mixed it with chicken broth to help support her milk supply. I never knew how taxing the job of a canine midwife/nanny would be! It’s truly a round-the-clock job. BUT, the puppies are all thriving and growing and are just the cutest things you’ve ever seen. It was super helpful to get them each their own color-coded collars to identify them. We are noticing their little individual behavior patterns and are better able to track feedings. We have a color-coded name chart: the girls are Disney Princesses and the boys are the crew from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. OF COURSE. All the kids are smitten, and they love watching them grow.

So yeah.

13 dogs.

9 kids.

3 turtles.

1 cat.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

What a ride. Thank You Jesus for this crazy, messy family to do life with. It’s rarely easy, and sometimes the hard seems WAY TOO HARD. Even though I try to be really transparent and honest on this blog, I’m sure you understand that there are many other layers that I don’t talk about. Lots of other things going on that are less picturesque. But Lord, help me keep my eyes on You. Help me give thanks IN all things, if not necessarily FOR all things. Because You are good, and You are faithful. And You are always working.

Wherever this week may find you, may your Thanksgiving be a time of Giving Thanks. Because there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalms 100)

Tiptoe

I have to be honest and say that I still feel very alone. But I feel very surrounded by the Lord. He has wrapped me in so much kindness. I don’t feel like anyone can relate to my particular physical or emotional circumstances, but that’s ok. God knows me intimately, He loves me unfailingly, and He walks with me tirelessly.

Tiptoeing outside the quarantine bubble for the first time this week was very hard. Things were familiar and eerily unfamiliar at the same time. Faces of friends, parents, and teachers we have loved for years were now behind a mask or a face shield. Hallways were quieter than usual but still closer contact than we’ve had for months. BUT GOD.

We met and conquered each mountain. Sophomore Ipad training, 6th grade locker day and Middle School tour,5th grade locker day and Middle School tour, Elementary Meet the Teacher and supply drop off for grades 1, 3, and 4. Time after time in the middle of conversations, my raw emotions would rise up, and I could feel my muffled voice begin to quiver, and my eyes above my mask begin to well up with tears. And every time, my poorly concealed weakness was met with such kindness.

More than anything, what pushed me to move forward the most was the enthusiasm and complete lack of fear or reservation of all my kids. They were just straight up so excited to get back to school (and I am NOT entertaining the thought that any percentage of that excitement desire to get away from me.) All day Tuesday, Sawyer kept asking what time it was. “I want it to be bedtime, so I can go to bed and then when I wake up it will be SCHOOL!” They miss their friends. They miss their activities. They miss NORMAL. Don’t we all?

So we did all the things. Labeled all 7,463,726 supplies. Packed all the lunches (with surprise Lunchables). Hung out all the backpacks. Laid out the new clothes and shiny new tennis shoes and masks. Favorite Martha White blueberry muffins for breakfast.

I posted this picture on the first day of school. My friend Melissa from Laurel & Cotton had released her BOLD lion T-shirt design about a month ago, and I messaged her right away, “I want that one!” But the more I thought about it, the less bold I felt, and I couldn’t really imagine myself wearing the shirt. But suddenly I knew I DID need that shirt – for Sawyer. I don’t know anybody more bold than him.

So I ordered the BOLD lion shirt for Sawyer and “Overwhelmed by Jesus” for me. Never has their been a more appropriate pairing of shirts for an occasion as those two for the first day of school. (And for the record, when I showed Sawyer his new shirt, he was SO EXCITED about it, he chose it for his first day of school outfit without any prompting from me.)

I’m definitely ok but not ok. But it doesn’t matter if I am ok. God is FAITHFUL. He sees me as I really am: broken and held together with paper clips and chewing gum, and doesn’t turn away. I dropped off my babies (after we all had our foreheads scanned in the parking lot). And as we drove away, Tatum K patiently waited for me to stop bawling. She and I had a donut date at our favorite spot, and then we went to Home Depot to buy a new plant. Several thoughtful friends called and texted to check on me, which was so kind. Tater and I spent the day cuddling and crying and praying and watching the clock. I’ve never appreciated a quiet house less.

But when 3 o’clock FINALLY arrived, I’ve never been so ready to get my hands on my kids. They had all had a great day, and all shared every detail all at the same time. They told all their stories over cups of Andy’s Frozen Custard, and then they all washed and sanitized and changed clothes and got ready to do it all again the next day.

God was so faithful and kind to LOVE SO LAVISHLY this week.

~ Carson Grace had a great first week, acing a couple quizzes, auditioning for and MAKING the ETBU Chapel Praise Team, as well as being chosen for a paid position on the Worship team at Oakland Heights Baptist Church.

~ Colton is loving his new job and learning a TON. His business cards came in so he feels “official.” He came over this weekend before he heads back out of town for his next project. Grateful to be in this season where he is choosing to come spend time with us and share his life with us when he doesn’t HAVE to.

~ for the FINAL PIECE of the kitchen remodel: our light fixture that has been back-ordered since April. I had my heart set on it, and I’m so glad I waited. I love how it completes the kitchen transformation! Thankful it is DONE! (Now what project to start on next???)

~ for a restaurant-inspired recipe that I tried to recreate: roasted poblano peppers stuffed with creamy cheese, succulent shrimp, asparagus, and grilled corn. Not your grandma’s stuffed peppers. UNBELIEVABLE!

~ for the sweetest neighborhood kids (not just mine) who held a lemonade stand for charity, and chose to donate to Gold Network! They sat in the sweltering heat and even went door to door to invite “customers” (vital since we all live at THE VERY END of a DEAD END street!) And then my sweet neighbor sat with them and gave them a lesson an stewardship and accountability when raising money for a charity, and the kids all prayed over the money before they counted it. They raised $80! What a blessing!

~ for continued support of Gold Network of East Texas as we have made the difficult decision to convert this year’s Tyler Gold Run to a Virtual Race. We just have to err on the side of caution as we face the unknown, especially as we serve immune compromised kids. The BEST part about the run being Virtual, is that ANYONE can participate from ANYWHERE! If you are local, we will have a pickup to give out medals and T-shirts, but if you are farther away, we can mail it to you! I encourage you to prayerfully consider registering, because our HERO kids and their families need your help more than ever. Unfortunately, #cancerisntcanceled. Every 3 minutes another family hears the life-shattering words “your child has cancer.” Kids all over East Texas and the world are taking chemotherapy every day, spending their childhood in and out of hospitals, and dealing with long term side effects from the toxic treatments used to save their lives. And 1 out of every 5 children diagnosed with cancer will not survive, leaving a gaping hole in a family that will never ever be the same. That’s why we created Gold Network of East Texas: to support families impacted by childhood cancer during their darkest days and then every day afterward. Once a hero, always a hero. You can register or donate at www.tylergoldrun.com

Today I am grateful for a successful three days of school down, and for a peaceful weekend with my Loves back home. It did feel good to have some of the old familiar routines that added margin to each day, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a weekend that actually felt like a weekend. I am grateful that I don’t have to have all the answers, because I am held by the One Who Does.

Wherever you are, whatever highs or lows you are walking through, He is there. May we rest in that. May we rest in Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“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 4:16-18)

The Light

I am thankful:

~ for the sweetest time with the kids doing our morning Bible time out on the front porch in the cool of the morning. We talked about looking for the blessings. And my heart was completely overwhelmed looking at all the blessings cuddled around me and the way their hearts are so open.

~for pool-soaked pruny piggies.

~ for ice cold juicy watermelon.

~ for steady Giddyup & Whoa orders. I’ve been a busy bee sanding, staining, lettering, and water coloring. It’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to be creative and add to our family’s income, and the kids love helping!

~ for the first juicy and delicious tomatoes from our little garden. To me, there is nothing more absolutely delicious than a salted fresh tomato. Heaven on a plate. They even got me craving fried green tomatoes!

~ for streaming television. I know I’m not alone in my opinion that there is very little redeemable programming on TV these days. But the streaming services have allowed us to introduce our kids to some of our nostalgic favorites. The girls have been enjoying Little House on the Prairie, and the boys are now obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Imagine having those 2 theme songs constantly playing through your head!

~ for super fun and functional finds. A local school was getting rid of old classroom tables and chairs. After a good scrubbing they were perfect for my Littles to snack and color. At first I wasn’t sure if Tatum K would allow anybody else sit at “HER TABLE”, but she finally eased up a bit.

~ for the next steps of the kitchen project. I gave the walls, ceiling, trim, and doors a coat of crisp, creamy white paint, freshening the dingy beige, and brightening the whole space. Then, after three weeks of temporary plywood paneling countertops, our quartz was finally installed this week! It was a fascinating process to watch, and we are just thrilled with how they turned out. Finally almost done…

Two more precious children, Hope and Jacob, went to heaven on Friday. Cancer had ravaged their childhood, and it does bring some comfort to know that they are whole and healed in the arms of Jesus now instead of suffering. But that doesn’t take away the steel-toed boot kick to the gut. I’ll never understand. BUT GOD. Please lift up these devastated families who will never be the same.

All of the chaos and unrest swirling around everywhere continues to scream for my attention. The pain, the death, the hate, the virus. It makes me think of Jesus in the boat with his disciples. He was asleep and his disciples were terrified. And with a Word, He stilled the storm. He stilled the wind. He stilled the waves. And then I think about Peter calling out to the Lord, when he was standing upon the water. When he took his eyes off Jesus, and looked instead at the wind and the waves, he freaked out and began to sink. Now, I wouldn’t say that I’ve actually been freaking out, but I know my eyes have not stayed where they belong. And I know that Jesus doesn’t only want to calm the storms around me, he wants to calm the storms inside me. He’s asking me to trust Him. He’s asking me to model that for my kids. He’s asking me to love my neighbor. I remember the quote from Mother Teresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” It starts with me. It starts in my house. It starts with me loving my neighbor. It starts with me being more patient with my kids and loving them the way Christ loves me. Jesus, You are the Light of the world. And no matter how bleak things get, the darkness will never, EVER win. No matter how small, the tiniest spark cuts through darkness. And I see it. I see Light. I see Hope. I see it in my kids. Thank You Jesus.

Let’s be the light.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:29-33)

“They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”” (Luke 8:24-25)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Back to Normal

I am thankful:

~ for the highly anticipated tapering off of Virtual Learning here at Rucker Academy. Carson Grace and Cooper officially wrapped up their Freshman year of college and high school last week. Monday was Sawyer’s last day. He celebrated his Virtual Kindergarten Graduation with a drive through ceremony on Tuesday. He had the very best attitude, and it was special and memorable.

Tuesday was Samantha and Kora’s last day, AND their last day of elementary school. 5th grade traditionally “graduates” from elementary, but our school is moving 4th grade to the new Middle School Campus next fall, so it was a transition for Kora as well. 4th graders had a drive through to receive their completion certificates, and then an hour later, 5th graders had their own drive through ceremony to receive Elementary School Diplomas. We all enjoyed a Pokey O’s treat in between the two.

Wednesday was Gavin and Zoe’s last day of school, officially closing out our year. We now have a College Sophomore, High School Sophomore, 6th grader, 5th grader, 4th grader, 3rd grader, and a 1st grader. And what better way to celebrate the end of school?

But with an Aloha Drive Through on Thursday of course!!!! It was fun to see ALL our beloved teachers and support staff, even if we couldn’t give the hugs they so richly deserve! I let our principal know that I WOULD NOT be seeking employment, just in case she had planned to call on me to fill a math teacher position. (I wonder if there is good money in the story problem writing field?)

~ for one blissful day of nothing. No drive throughs. No papers. No zoom meetings. No “Mama, can you check this?” I sat. I drank coffee. They played. It was glorious.

~ for the kindest surprise blessing on my front porch. THANK YOU Jennifer and Janet!

~ for a glorious double rainbow that stretched directly over our house. Oh Lord, thank You for being faithful to remind us of Your promises.

~ for my Laundry Wizard tools: bleach, peroxide, Windex, and a toothbrush; for the times when a little girl scribbles all over her sheets. Or when a big girl sets down her iron on her bed.

~ for the cutest, tiniest little red bell pepper from our garden. And the cutest, tiniest little spicy pepper holding it.

~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week. I’ve been trying to keep up with the orders that keep coming in.

Very pleased with these new projects, and excited that the Vintage & Co. Gresham Barn Sale has been RESCHEDULED for June 3-6! Looking SO FORWARD TO IT! And for the most wonderful added blessing, Jodi has chosen Gold Network of East Texas as the local charity beneficiary for their Preview Day!!! We are so honored and grateful. We continue to connect with our families who are traveling to Dallas for chemotherapy or follow up appointments, one almost every day. We are so blessed when people from the community believe in what we do and want to help support these deserving families during the hardest season of their lives.

~ for an awesome afternoon with my Love. We were invited by a friend of a friend of a friend to salvage some gorgeous wood from a demo’ed building. It was a pretty good drive, so we decided to make a date of it. After church, Carson Grace and Cooper watched the Littles and we hit the road. I love this picture.

You know we love our coffee. Well our His and Hers coffee cups haven’t been side by side in a cup holder in a hot minute. We turned on some classic rock, drank our coffee, and held hands. We stopped on our way out of town to pick up THE BEST chicken,

and then just enjoyed being out of the house and ALONE TOGETHER. We got a small truckload of GORGEOUS and PERFECTLY CHIPPY 100 year old reclaimed wood, and then topped the afternoon off with some ice cream. The sun-soaked drive through the picturesque countryside was beautiful and filled up a place in my heart that I didn’t even realize needed filling.

The grip of quarantine is loosening, businesses have begun reopening, and lots of people are chomping at the bit to be back to normal.

Ugh. Just the phrase makes my stomach hurt.

I’m not panicky. I’m not actually afraid of the virus. My anxiety has been surprisingly relatively minimal through all this. I can’t really explain it, I just don’t feel peaceful about everything going back to normal.

And I wrestle with that every day. Because does that mean I don’t have faith? Does that make me controlled by the government? Does that make me a mindless rule follower?

I don’t think it does. I think it means I’m human.

Everyone is different. Everyone processes this stuff differently. And I know that a big part of the reason I feel the way I do is because of what we have walked through with Sawyer.

When you hear the words, “your child has cancer,” there’s a physical reaction. It changed every part of me. It changed my DNA. In a lot of ways, I genuinely believe it changed me for the better in the long run. I love deeper. I see life’s colors brighter. I absolutely KNOW with every fiber in me that God is fully God and fully love and fully good.

But it’s changed me in other less endearing ways. I’m changed because I have held my baby dozens of times while propofol was pumped into his body, causing him to go limp in my arms, and handed him over to doctors, while I left the room for him to have spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies. I have held my baby and watched him unresponsive to a sternal rub, and watch a code team swarm in and set to work to care for him. I have spent weeks in isolation in a hospital room with my son, away from the rest of my family, because of a combination of simple cold viruses. During that season of personal quarantine, I turned down dozens of invitations to gatherings for myself and my children because of concern for Sawyer’s immune system. Social distancing is a lot more lonely and isolating when no one else is doing it. But there was never a question of “would we or wouldn’t we.”

So a highly contagious virus, whether or not it may be “exaggerated by the media,” “just a bad cold, “has a “good survival rate” and “rarely affects children” is something I don’t take lightly. This season of sheltering in place has triggered a protective Mama Bear instinct. I will repeat: I AM NOT AFRAID. I know that God is God and we all have a number of days that we will live, and He is in charge of that, not me. I can’t keep Sawyer (or any of them for that matter) in a bubble or protect them from life. But I just do not have a peace about my family jumping right back into “normal” life and crowds and public contact again just yet.

And it’s OK if you do. I’m not imposing anything about how I feel on anybody else. You do you. And let’s all just be kind.

The “normal” I AM excited about is that I am NOT A MATH TEACHER. I’m excited about popsicles and watermelon and homemade ice cream. I’m excited about sleeping in and floating in the pool and roasting hotdogs and Tuesdays with Tatum K. I’m excited about more drinking coffee and holding hands and dreaming with my Love. I’m excited for the thrill of the hunt, whether it’s “treasure” on the side of the road or the newly elusive treasure, toilet paper. I’m excited for a million zillion loads of laundry and 2 shaggy dogs and a house bursting full of people that simultaneously make me thankful and exhausted.

And I’m excited to discover all the blessings Jesus has prepared for us along the way.

There are a lot of people I love who are really hurting right now. Maybe you are too. Let’s press into our Father and lift up one another. There may not be one single thing we can do to take away somebody’s pain. But we can listen. We can pray. And we can be kind. Let’s be good at that this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.” (Psalms 73:28)

Is This for Real?

Life looks so different overnight.  For all of us.  I think we thought it was a fluke.  I know I did.

It’s not a fluke.

We are really here.  This is really happening.

I have run the gamut of emotions.  One minute I am full of faith and ready to stand tall in the face of fear.  And the next minute I feel as though I can’t breathe.  If I see one more outbreak map or curve, or one more picture of all the empty shelves at Walmart, I’m going to flip.  What’s going to happen to my family?  To Sawyer?  To my parents and my grandparents and all the people I love?

Sound familiar?

But in the midst of this trial, this unrecognizable, crazy-cakes Twilight Zone world we are living in: I see so much good.  Parents are spending time with their kids.  Families are eating together.  People are cooking and crafting and making one another laugh.  Churches are rising to the occasion and learning new ways to spread the love and hope of Jesus.  Doctors and nurses are going into battle every day to take care of the masses.  Teachers are bending over backwards to teach parents how to be teachers at home.  

I’ve considered setting up a LiveStream from my house to let all of you see what life is like at my house.  I am sure we could be quite a source of entertainment.  Quarantine with 8 kids and 2 puppies is no joke.  We’ve had some shining moments and some epic fails.  Especially considering we are basically breaking the Law of Less than 10 just by being a family…over here living a life of a fugitive!

I am thankful:

~ for my kids.  Guys, my kids are amazing!  I am so incredibly proud of them.  They have been so flexible and positive this week as we have navigated these uncharted waters.  They have all been eager to “do school,” and have helped one another and helped me all along the way.  Samantha will read with Sawyer, and Gavin will answer math questions with Zoe, while Kora is keeping Tatum K entertained.  Trust me, I recognize that this has been an unusual week, and that the novelty will wear off sooner or later (probably sooner) and it will likely get much harder.  But THIS WEEK, this week they have been such a blessing!IMG_5201IMG_5205IMG_5356IMG_5541

~ for walks.  Fresh air is so healing to me.  To us all. IMG_5177.JPG

~ for timing.  I cannot express how thankful I am that I was able to squeeze all those breakfast dates in with each of my children before the world shut down.  That feels like a lifetime ago.

~ for Sophie the Brave Day, March 19.  It came right on time this year.  What a better time to force myself to think outside the box, think outside these walls, and think about others instead of ourselves.  I haven’t been sleeping at all this week, and the ideas came flooding in at 2-3am Wednesday night.  As soon as we got up, the kids got started making thank you signs and notes while I baked cookies.  We put our video together and then packaged up the treats and headed out to deliver.  To the police station.  To the grocery store.  To our schools.  Dropped off cash at Starbucks with notes about Sophie for the baristas to give out with the coffees.  The roads were quiet and the kids didn’t get to get out and take any pictures with our deliveries, so it was a different kind of day.  But still, they were all so excited to be spreading love and kindness amidst such bleak surroundings.  The world needed some Sophie Love that day.  And I know lots of others were doing similar things around town and beyond as well.  You can see our #DOMOREFORSOPH video here.IMG_5522.JPGIMG_5517.JPGIMG_5519.JPGIMG_5503.JPG

~ for awesome neighbors.

~ for friends who have checked in on us.

~ to hear from some of our HERO families.  Everyone I have spoken with is doing mostly ok.  In this situation, am so thankful for the technology available to stay connected remotely.  We just have to guard our eyes and our hearts as to what we are watching and sharing.

~ for the opportunity to paint and be creative.  I was able to finish and deliver 3 meaningful Giddyup & Whoa signs this week.  A watercolor family tree to a mama who has lost 2 children, a tribute to a beloved son, and a family sign built from gorgeous reclaimed wood salvaged from their father’s store.  What an honor to be entrusted with such special projects.IMG_5004.JPGIMG_5002.JPGIMG_5598.jpg

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Carson Grace has enjoyed getting creative, too!

~ for a fun Saint Patrick’s Day.  We wore green of course, had green oatmeal with green sprinkles, and with our lunch enjoyed green veggie straws and green grapes.  It was nice to have something light-hearted to celebrate.  Isn’t it refreshing to appreciate the simple things?  Thanks for the goodie box, Grandmommy!IMG_5225.JPGIMG_5325.JPG

~ for a new puzzle, and all the time in the world to finish it.  We shall see if we can actually  complete one with ALL the pieces.IMG_5568.JPG

~ for a night around the fire pit roasting hot dogs and eating ice cream. IMG_5464.JPG

~ for the children’s love of music and worship.  We’ve been starting every morning with Bible study and prayer time together, each one in turn reading through the Scriptures, and we are all memorizing 1 Corinthians 13.  They (unlike me) still know what day it is every day, so on Tuesday they got a little sad to realize they were missing Chapel at school.  SO WE DID CHAPEL!  I pulled up some of their favorite kids’ praise videos on YouTube, and we had the best time of singing and praising and dancing!  Like for almost 2 hours!  It.  Was. AWESOME!IMG_5218.JPGIMG_5566.JPGIMG_5227.JPG

~ for our little garden!  It was perfect timing to pick up our vegetable seedlings and seeds and work together to plant.  Some were more horrified than others to learn that we were spreading cow manure in the garden bed.  Tatum K was very confused that her tomato plants did not IMMEDIATELY produce her favorite food. IMG_5372.JPGIMG_5387.JPGIMG_5399.JPGIMG_5454.JPG

~ for coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

~ for a keyboard from the church for Carson Grace to borrow for her now-online ETBU music classes.  I love listening to her play. 

~ for greatly improved handwashing hygiene.  Unfortunately, that seems to be directly proportional to the lack of personal hygiene on mom’s part.  It is rare that I get out of my pajamas and even more rare for me to shower.  In fact, when I did shower, dry and style my hair, and put on actual clothes, the kids all stopped in their tracks and asked, “WHERE are YOU going????”  It was good to feel like a human again, even with nowhere to go.

~ for online streaming from our church.  And other churches.  What an awesome opportunity to get to “visit” each others churches in addition to supporting our local body.  I so love that so many people are rising up and problem-solving and finding new ways to encourage one another in the Lord.

~ for homemade banana muffins.  And chocolate ice cream.  And for grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I am praying we can maintain our rationing with all the comfort-food-binging.  The kids are LOVING trying “new” foods.  And by “new,” I mean brand names…they have really never had anything other than store brand groceries their whole lives, so now they are amazed by Yoplait yogurt and Kelloggs Rice Krispies.IMG_5635.JPG

~ for empty playgrounds, duck ponds, and hiking trails right around the corner from our house.  Cooper and Gavin have had fun fishing in the creeks and lakes.IMG_5280.JPG IMG_5639.JPG

~ for the kids’ great attitudes about the “homeschool” I threw together for last week.  In addition to the random “lessons” I gave them, they watched cool livestream videos from zoos all over the country, and then all got to choose an animal to research.  At the end of the week, they each gave a presentation to the family.  We were all amazed at all the new things we learned about crawfish, white tigers, zebras, king cobras, sharks, and llamas.  I was genuinely proud of the time and effort they put into their presentations.  

~ for a much-needed “date night” with my Love.  Josh and I had a date planned weeks ago.  Then Sawyer got sick.  Then Spring Break was busy.  We took for granted that we would get to it eventually.  Then the world as we knew it imploded.  But we still had the gift card we had been saving, and we decided to jump on it while restaurants were still serving carryout food.  So we got the Littles to bed and enjoyed a candlelit steak dinner outside.  The food was perfect, absolutely delicious.  But more than that, we had minute to just BE.  To just be in love and tired and honest and a little scared, but together.  

I don’t think I have any profound or inspiring words tonight.  This is hard.  Scary.  Confusing.  Right now, Josh still has a job, but like so many others, there is no job security, and there seems to be a new development every day.  His is certainly not an “essential” business.  The prospect of being unemployed with 8 kids at home (and the 9th who just lost his job and will have no means to support himself) is daunting to say the very least.  It is scary not to be able to order the groceries that I now realize I had completely taken for granted.  What looks like a stockpile is a normal grocery trip for my family, so the maximum quantities allowed don’t even meet my family’s basic needs.  Sawyer is fine, but his weakened immune system makes him so susceptible to every illness it is hard not to worry.  The rest of the kiddos are doing great, although a couple of our adopted ones are struggling with all the uncertainties and changes to their routine.  I recognized it today when we were having church in our living room.  Wide eyes, shaky hands, tense jaws.  Change has always been challenging for our adopted kids… they have been through so many hard and dramatic changes in their early years, and some of those changes came with lots of pain and loss.  It is scary for them to sense that their world has lost its familiar margins and that even mom and dad aren’t sure what is going to happen next, and that triggers old emotions for them that they don’t understand.  Tomorrow I embark on the uncharted path of homeschooling 6 children.  I am incredibly grateful for the dedication our wonderful school has poured into preparing the material for our kids and formatting it basically overnight into a vehicle that we can deliver.  But obviously I don’t feel prepared for this, and feel completely inadequate as a teacher, especially to so many at once.  But I also know we are all in the same boat, and that we will A) figure it out as we go and B) none of it is critical.  I do have it in perspective.  But all the while I sit here and type about how “in perspective” I have it, I still wrestle with oppressive anxiety about all these details individually and collectively.  Lots of tears when no one is looking.  Lots of deep breaths and giving myself the same reminder that I give Sawyer when he is struggling with his own anxiety….(Breathe in Jesus, slow and deep….breathe out the “yucky thoughts.”)  I hear my voice reassuring my kids, and my voice sounds like it’s coming from somebody else.  

BUT GOD.

He is with us.  He is here.  He will never leave us.  All His promises are true.  He has OVERCOME.  He is ETERNAL, and all the rest of this will pass.  We can trust Him.  We WILL GET THROUGH THIS, one way or the other.  

I don’t know how anyone is getting through this without Jesus.  If you have not trusted Him as your Savior – now is the time!  You have everything to lose without Him AND everything to gain with Him!  DON’T WAIT ANOTHER DAY!  This world has nothing to offer but MORE UNCERTAINTY and confusion.  But when you surrender yourself to the Maker of heaven and earth, you can rest knowing that in Him, you are safe, and loved, and you have a Home for eternity.  He is ready for you, and He loves you so much.

If you are a Believer already – this is our day.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Do you really trust Him?  Do you believe He is still good when everything around you is falling apart?  What if it gets worse before it gets better?  What will we say about Him then?  People are watching us, watching our reactions.  Are we sharing with others: our faith, our food, our toilet paper?  What is our conduct like in the grocery store?  Do we trust in the government?  In our self sufficiency?  Or is our trust securely anchored where it belongs?

This is what we are going to do this week at Quarantine de Rucker.  We are going to stay home.  We are going to “do school” the best we can.  We are going to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer.  We are going to love on each other even when we are sick of all the togetherness.  And we are going to trust in Jesus and thank Him every day.  And we will continue to wash our hands until all our skin falls off.

I am praying for you.  We will get through this.  Don’t lose heart.  Make it a daily practice to count the blessings around you…they are there if you look.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord will be kind over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”  (Zechariah 14:9)

““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart.”” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Vision

I am thankful:

~ for those sweet moments that make me laugh.  Tatum was crying, but was trying to settle herself down when her nose started running. Horrified, she started crying harder, “Mama!!!  Now my NOSE is CRYING!”  That girl keeps me on my toes.IMG_4507.JPG

~ for a better-than-expected first week with new puppy, Birdie.  She is sweet, and Bear is getting used to her…he is alternately playful and annoyed.   She is sleeping much better and more tuned-in to potty training than Bear was when we first got him.  She’s certainly doing better on the potty train than Miss Tatum K.  I guess perhaps Mama is a little more motivated with the dog…the puppy’s accidents aren’t contained by a diaper, and Tatum is at least slightly LESS likely to poop on my rugs….IMG_4313 2IMG_4524

~ for some of the most beautiful wood we’ve ever worked with as Giddyup & Whoa.  It is truly the prettiest, chippiest, most awesome wood, and it’s so special to the family we are making signs for.  Such an honor to be entrusted with their memories. 896D690F-D861-41FC-A14D-00296B1DD3EE.JPGIMG_4631.JPG

~ for Cooper being home safe from an incredible trip to Camp Eagle in West Texas.IMG_4636.JPGIMG_1380 2.JPG 

~ for AWESOME new GO GOLD t-shirts.  Go check out Laurel & Cotton to get yours.  Thank you so much to Melissa Vance for your heart to help our HERO families!IMG_4484.jpg

~ for another new and beautiful dream realized.  Last September after Tyler Gold Run, Josh and I started talking about how badly we want more people to understand the vision of Gold Network of East Texas.  Over the last 5 years, we have focused on reaching every family we could find, and raising funds by asking the local businesses we know to be race sponsors.  But we have come to realize that focusing on Tyler Gold Run is so short-sighted.  MOST people don’t want to hear about a race.  MOST people aren’t interested in being a race sponsor.  But I genuinely BELIEVE that if MOST people hear about these families, about the reality of childhood cancer, and about the incomparable bravery of these kids, that they will get on board with us and we just might change the world.   So we decided we wanted to have a dinner.  We envisioned inviting friends and family and others from the community to our home and just sharing our hearts.  When we started making a list, I told Josh that I thought it MIGHT be too big for our house.  To which he replied, “I don’t care!  I’ll stand on the table and talk!”  But as it all actually began to unfold, we decided to book the Foundry, a downtown coffee shop with additional venue space.  We reserved the middle floor which held 78 people, and we prayed that we weren’t being overly optimistic.   We booked a professional videographer, booked a caterer, booked a cellist, and called it the Vision Dinner.  And a week before the event, we had to move our reservation to the 3rd floor, because we had OUTGROWN  the capacity!   The Vision Dinner was Tuesday evening, and it was SO SPECIAL!  We heard from several of our Hero moms and from brave 8th grader and Ewing’s Sarcoma survivor, Aneesa, who read her inspiring letter to her school principal asking her school to Go Gold.  We shared what GNET had done over the past 5 years and our vision for the future.  I looked out at the crowded room of kind, supportive faces around the carefully decorated gold and black tables and felt as though my heart would burst.  I even had the special blessing of having Colton there: he had lined up several of his friends from work who all VOLUNTEERED their time to be our head servers. GNET received many donations that night, but more importantly, I genuinely believe eyes were opened and hearts were touched. _MDJ6866_Original_MDJ6975_Original_MDJ7030_Original_MDJ7108_Original_MDJ7168_OriginalIMG_20200303_181013276_OriginalIMG_20200303_182059657_Original

I will never forget that night. 

~ for the times when the Lord tells me to trust my gut.  Wednesday evening, Sawyer started complaining of a headache and sore throat.  Thermometer revealed 101° fever.  We gave him some Motrin and tucked him in to bed, fighting the inevitable anxiety that creeps in when he runs fever.  Years of conditioning to head straight to the hospital for a temp higher than 100.4° is hard to let go of.   We know the unlikelihood of fever meaning cancer relapse, and we know viruses come and go, and they just have to run their course.  Next morning, 103°.  I gave lots of fluids and Sawyer did not resist being confined to his bed.  That evening, his fever spiked back up to 104° and a rash began to spread across his chest and back.  Sawyer looked at himself and said, “Mama, I look like salami!”  IMG_4554.jpgI still tried not to overreact.  I know rashes can pop up with fevers.  But I just couldn’t shake my concern.  I was able to get the VERY LAST appointment for Friday afternoon at the pediatrician.   And am I ever grateful that the Lord wouldn’t let me let it go: sweet boy tested positive for strep throat and scarlet fever! IMG_4562.jpgI hate to think how sick he could have gotten if we had waited until after the weekend!  BUT GOD!  With antibiotics, the fever quickly subsided, and after a day he was released from quarantine.  Salami Boy is still pretty spotty and itchy, but the maddening red rash is improving and his sore throat is gone.   And thankfully no one else shows signs of getting sick.  Thank You Jesus! IMG_4609.jpg

~ for gloriously good news for my friend after terrifying news, an agonizing waiting period, and a very serious surgery.   Praying for healing mercies as she turns the page on a scary chapter. 

~ I am thankful for the GOAL of Daylight Savings Time, and I know I will enjoy lighter, brighter evenings this summer.  BUT TONIGHT I AM MISSING THAT HOUR AND I AM SO VERY TIRED. 

~ for the wide open schedule of Spring Break ahead.  Praying for lots of grace and patience and getting along with one another and sunshiny days for playing outside. 

My heart is so sad tonight.  Another innocent child was lost to cancer.  Two in a month.  Two more families that should be watching their babies grow up, and instead, they can only wonder what might’ve been.   And yet another family I love is on a trip to soak up some last memories with their sweet little one before they have to say goodbye.  Father God, I love You and I trust that You are good, even though no part of me can understand.  Help me to fix my eyes on You and not on the chaos and brokenness of my surroundings. 

Hold close the ones you love.  Please visit our newly updated website www.goldnetworkoet.com to see the phenomenal video.  If you are moved to give, please do so.  Or contact me about getting involved.  Childhood cancer is not going away.  Help us do more for families living their worst nightmare. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalms 90:12)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;” (Job 19:25)