Free

I am thankful:

~ for Cooper and Samantha having a fantastic week at camp. They made/reconnected with friends and had more fun than I can even describe. Sam said it was the best week of her life! So thankful for this wonderful opportunity.

~ for a wonderful evening with friends Chris and Lindsay and Coby Tate. Our kids just dote on Coby and love him to pieces.

~ and for the rest of the kids having a great week at home and at Ignite Day Camp.

Crazy Hair Day
Silly Sock Day

And the MOST EXCITING NEWS OF ALL, is that we got a NEW SISTER THIS WEEK!!!! Our sweet Zoe girl asked Jesus into her heart on Wednesday!!! She and I have had some good talks over the past few weeks, so I knew her little heart was stirring. Well all the great talks and prayers during Ignite were the perfect environment for that spark to burst into a flame! She expressed interest about getting saved to one of her leaders, who then spend the whole next day praying for her. When they met up the next day at Family Fun Night, they prayed together, and Zoe gave her heart to Jesus! What a beautiful beginning to her new life in Christ. With her brown eyes just shining, Zoe told me, “I just knew I wanted to be free and I wanted to live forever with Jesus in heaven.” The children’s director approached me afterwards, and actually arranged to come over to the house and do a video interview of Zoe’s testimony as an encouragement to others.

Speaking on camera was a big challenge for our shy girl, but she was super brave and did a beautiful job of sharing her story. We are so proud of her. Zoe’s story is at the end of this video highlighting the fun at Ignite.

~ for the daily joys of finding new treasures in our garden.

~ for a bright sunshiny project. Mid-week I hit some bumps, and was just struggling personally. I decided I wanted to throw my energy into a quick little DIY makeover. When we moved to this house, of course we were excited about the pool. But I promise you I was EQUALLY excited that there was an outdoor bathroom to accompany the pool! A pool bathroom is just a game-changer. Well our pool bathroom has been functional but absolutely not cute.

And I was ready to change that. This whirlwind makeover took less than 48 hours: first brightening it with a clean blank slate of our favorite Alabaster white paint on EVERY SURFACE, then adding a cheerful retro design in a modern muted palette, and finally a hand lettered encouragement from the Word of God was just the finishing touch it needed. Literally painting the sun brought much needed LIGHT into my tired heart.

To me, white paint is almost like magic. It can brighten and transform almost any space.

~ for tasty black bean and corn salsa, flavored with jalapeños, avocado, cilantro, and lime.

~ for 4th of July fireworks with such fun neighbors. I do love a good fireworks show.

~ for my sweet friend who surprised me with festive ColorStreet adhesive nail art delivered to my door. Thank you Jacquie!!

~ for a wonderful day spent with friends and family. We laughed and swam and laughed some more and ate the most delicious food until we could hardly move. Tatum K joyfully wished everyone, “Happy Forf-a-La-Jiiiiy!”

And we loved on each other. Because July 3 is not just the day that precedes Independence Day. July 3 is a very important, if somewhat under-promoted holiday: it’s our Alan’s birthday. And it’s his first birthday in heaven since he received his ultimate healing last July. There were many sweet Alan memories shared and lots of tearful hugs. We are all thankful that he is whole and healed and free and rejoicing, and we know he is laughing that loud belly laugh with Jesus and has probably got everybody up there into wearing shiny white original Reeboks and MAKING SURE EVERYBODY knows it’s his birthday. But our July celebration was too quiet without our favorite long-haired dragon-tatted sweetheart. Nobody loved quite like Alan. We all miss him so much.

I’m thankful to be free. I’m thankful for the nation I live in and the freedoms I enjoy that so many do not. But oh, the freedom that I have in Jesus. I am so thankful that I am free to live and love and fail and forgive and be forgiven. I am free from who I once was, and free to be the new creation that I was always intended to be. I am free to love my husband and my children and know that while I am so far from perfect, I was perfectly chosen for them by their perfect Father whose perfect love will never fail them even if I do. I am free to leave my hands open, and trust a trustworthy God with my life and all my questions and the situations that try to steal my joy away. I am thankful to be free.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1)

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Galatians 5:13-14)

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”(John 8:36)

Simple Moments

I am thankful:

~ for the simple moments. For a hot cup of coffee and Jesus at the start of my day. For crisp, freshly laundered white sheets. For elephant ears in my backyard and cheerful red caladiums in their pots. For so many people to hug every morning and kiss every night. Lord, give me eyes to see the beauty in the simple moments that so easily could be missed.

~ for Colton’s latest “adventure.” The commercial construction company he works for assigned him to a new project, a business remodel in Albuquerque, New Mexico! With less than 24 hours notice, he had to head out on the 10 hour drive, and the project is expected to last a month! Very overwhelming, but such a big step for him and a wonderful opportunity. We are so proud of him.

~ for my cute little nightly sleepwalker. We left Sawyer’s door hinge squeaky on purpose, so we hear when he comes out. Usually we help him find the restroom and direct him back to his room. But sometimes I find this. He laughed until he cried when I showed him this picture in the morning.

~ for our silly dogs. They are so much fun.

~ for my puzzle-master kids. They started and finished this in ONE DAY. Like less than 5 hours I think. 500 pieces are just too easy.

~ for a fun evening at the Cattle Barron’s Little Wranglers event. We saw several of Sawyer’s warrior friends, and hung out with Chismo, the painting pony.

~ for a message at church that was right to the point and right on time.

~ for the cutest little teeny tiny praying mantis.

~ for a good evening frying up chicken fried steaks with friends.

~ for my husband. He is so easy to celebrate. Our life is far from perfect. We have walked through many trials, and wrestled through pain and heartbreak time and time again. But this man is as steady as they come. He works hard, harder than anyone I have ever seen. He even works hard AFTER work TO RELAX! He has very high expectations and standards, and models how to reach them. He never fails to make me laugh, whether he’s teasing me or making up his own vocabulary that makes PERFECT SENSE. He loves deeply, sacrificially, and never ever puts himself first. He seeks the Lord in everything, and is not afraid to stand up for what is right. His kids will never ever wonder if they were loved by their dad. And every single day, they see the way he loves their mother. They see the way he honors me and cares for me and serves me as if it’s his most important job. I’ve never met a better man.

Love when we work side by side

I wish I could pick and choose the bright spots and leave the rest. But that’s not real. Life is messy and some parts are really hard. But living in Christ, we have to cling to the promise that our best days are always before us. God is at work, refining and strengthening our faith, deepening our relationship with Him. There is purpose in it all. So whatever season we are in; whether we are skipping in the sunshine, crying in the rain, or agonizingly dragging ourselves across the desert, we just have to hold on to Jesus and take the next step. And however hokey that sounds, it really is that simple.

He’s that good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (Deuteronomy 10:21)

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs 16:9)

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalms 121:1-3)

Rejoicing

I am thankful:

~ to joyfully report that Cooper is doing AMAZING! The first week out of the hospital he dealt with a lot of headaches and some back pain, but they are all gone now, GLORY TO GOD! He says he feels back to normal! There are still many holes in his memory. He has no memory of the first 24 hours of symptoms/hospital, and the last month is very foggy. But long term memory is intact, and he is retaining new memories. WE ARE SO THANKFUL!! Thank you so much to everyone who prayed and helped our family!

So much has gone on over the last 3 weeks: mostly 187 million end-of-school events, so I will just let my pictures tell the story…

Tatum K’s first terrified trip to the dentist
X-rays
The wonderful hygienists at Boozer Dentalworks won her over by the end
Josh’s latest home project
Sawyer used the nail gun to finish the bottom trim all by himself because he could fit behind the building…
But mom and dad had to squeeze in to trim out the top!
This charming little cottage, aka “the Pool House” will house the lawnmower, garden tools, and pool chemicals and accessories.
Help from Colton and the dogs
Adding shingles that match our house
A wonderful morning on 5/8 representing Gold Network of ETX at the LukeStrong Run in Palestine (later this afternoon was when Cooper got sick and went to the hospital…I still can’t believe that was all in one day!)
Posters of kids all over East Texas who have fought cancer
Superhero Cape-decorating station
Nerf War!
Sawyer was given his first devotional book, which he sat down and immediately began to read❤️
We love Miss Cherie and Mr. Dwayne. The Grumbles family pour their lives into others to honor the memory of their son Luke.
Samantha: 6th Grade Crud Wars, an epic food fight on the playground (chocolate syrup, fruity cereal, whipped cream, and flour)
I come prepared for the car ride with a plastic tablecloth
End of year awards for Sawyer and Gavin. Thankful for a LESS MESSY event
Cheering at Fresh 15 race with Gold Network/Grace Community volunteers
Kora: 5th Grade Crud Wars
Zoe’s End of Year Grace’s Races
Gavin: 4th Grade Crud Wars
First Day/Last Day of School – they are growing up way too fast
Shower bar broke, so Sawyer fixed it, all by himself
A BIG change happened just last night…
SOMEBODY is transitioning to a BIG GIRL BED!
Amazingly, she did great!
Somebody else had a MAJOR “FIRST” also, but I’m going to leave you hanging for now…my heart can’t take any more tonight!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 9:1-2)

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” (Psalms 104:33-34)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalms 103:1-5)

Blink

In a blink of an eye, everything can change. Not the Mother’s Day I expected. In the hospital with one of my babies, with terrifying symptoms and more questions than answers. Please pray for our son, Cooper. He’s been through a nightmarish ordeal over the last 2 days. He is improving and we believe we are headed in a good direction toward total healing and answers to our questions. I have no energy to share any more details. Josh and I feel like we have been sleepwalking through our worst nightmare all over again. We are all ok, and God is faithful. I will update as I am able.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Hear my cry, O God; Attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I call unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”(Psalms 61:1-2)

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)