Build

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

October 2017

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

We are building a house in the country!

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

But as of now…there is no house.

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

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

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

So buck up buttercup!

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

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

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

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Ride

I am thankful:

~ for the one who made me a Mama 23 years ago.

How is my baby boy so grown? It was fun to celebrate him, and feast on his consistent annual menu of choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and confetti cake.

~ for more good baseball. (And is it ok if I’m also thankful that the end of the season is in sight?)

~ for my favorite Farmer’s Market salad from Piada Italian Street food. Even if I almost had to share it…

~ for an amazing morning with Sawyer the Warrior representing Gold Network of East Texas at the Annual LukeStrong Race in Palestine.

It’s such a special event, honoring the brave children fighting cancer and their families. I met some incredible people and left with wet eyes and a full heart. Sawyer had a blast playing games and shooting Nerf guns, and proudly told everyone all day what he had had for breakfast: 2 1/2 donuts and a snow cone. Love going to these events with my amazing miracle boy.

~ for a lovely day in Carthage swimming and being blessed by Gina and Justin. They outdid themselves, BBQing the most delicious chicken, accompanied by a tasty salad and the most decadent array of desserts. They spoiled us!

~ for a lovely low-key Mother’s Day with my Loves. A ZINGER of a Sunday sermon, Rounders for lunch, and then more swimming for the kids. I’m so blessed.

~ oh, and one more thing…

SURPRISE!

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride…

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

Breathe In

I am thankful:

~ for generous givers on East Texas Giving Day. Gold Network of East Texas received more than $600 in donations!

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

~ for the triumphant successful completion of our largest Giddyup & Whoa order to date! We were commissioned by our high school to create 67 handpainted reclaimed wood signs for the parents of the 2022 graduating class!

It was an intense effort of measuring, cutting, sanding, building, sanding again, field painting, handlettering, and watercoloring each one.

Then each was stamped with GW and wrapped with our signature twine and tag!

Phew! What a fun challenge! Thankful that even though I received the order with only 20 days to have them completed, I actually beat my deadline by 3 days!

~ for a fun visit with Aunt Gina and Uncle Justin, who made the trip to Tyler and helped Josh and I divide and conquer to attend the 2 baseball games + 1 Spring Concert we had…all at 7pm on the SAME NIGHT! I was thankful to get to see Zoe’s concert and catch most of Gavin’s game,

but SO DISAPPOINTED that I missed witnessing Sawyer running OUT OF HIS SHOE and scoring a run BAREFOOT!!! (Thankful that Samantha got pictures!)

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for Sir Gavin the Knight of the House of Rucker having an awesome Medieval Feast with his 5th grade class.

~ for priceless time with our Gold Network ETX HERO couples at our CONNECT Support Group. Beautiful fresh flowers, delicious BBQ, and decadent desserts set the stage for a time of loving on these families through whatever stage of the cancer journey they are in. How we love our time with them!

~ for a special treat for the boys: Colton’s birthday gift to his dad was tickets for the 5 of them to the Texas Rangers game! What an awesome day! Even came away with a W!

~ that I got to enjoy a sweet time with my girls while the boys were away. After church we enjoyed stuffing our faces at Olive Garden! Restaurant dining is a rare treat for our bunch, so they were THRILLED!

~ for a husband who loves me right where I am. In my struggles. In my mess. In my doubts. In my fears. He lovingly leads our family, and I’m so grateful I can trust him completely, because I know his trust is in the Lord. There are big changes brewing on the horizon for our Tribe, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. But there’s no adventure I wouldn’t risk with him. My “Whoa” would sure miss out on a lot if it wasn’t for his “Giddyup!”

But I don’t always FEEL adventurous and excited about change. Sometimes my emotions and fears and anxieties take over and I’m, well…the word “basketcase” comes to mind. BUT GOD. I calm my heart by returning my eyes from the waves to my Savior. And I give thanks for the little blessings that surround me. Hugs and kisses and coffee and silly dogs and silly kids and coffee and the smell of candles and fresh laundry and coffee.

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

Eventually, we will make it victoriously across the finish line. And we won’t even care if we lost a shoe along the way.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

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

Stretching

I am thankful:

~ for a safe spot to weather the latest rash of East Texas storms!

~ for Gavin’s school project: using fractions in a recipe, and cooking a treat to bless the custodial staff at the school. He chose one of his great grandmother’s recipes. So fun! And what an awesome assignment!

~ for awesome spring evenings at the ballpark.

~ for the opportunity to snuggle some of Bear and Birdie’s puppies! It’s so awesome when we get to see them!

~ for a heartwarming, long-awaited reunion. Years ago Sawyer made a special friend at the Lighthouse Family Retreat for cancer families in Florida. One of the families serving had a daughter named SAWYER! They were instant fast friends because of their names, even though she was several years older.

We were thrilled to find out that Sawyer and her family lived in Fort Worth! They made the trip to Dallas several times to see our Sawyer at his oncology checkups, but it’s been at least a couple years.

Well last week I got a call that their family was camping at Tyler State Park, and they wanted to get the Sawyers back together. I kept the secret, and asked MY Sawyer if he remembered his Lighthouse friend. His eyes lit up when I asked if he’d like to make her a card to send in the mail. He quickly set to work, and asked me, “Mama, how do you spell, ‘I miss you so much and I hope we can see each other soon’?” My heart sang! We met at C Rojos, and Sawyer and Sawyer were SO EXCITED to see each other! Our families had the most wonderful, if way to short, visit! I love the connection they have!

~ for a great day at the Vintage & Co Spring Barn Sale Preview Day. Each sale they do an Early Bird Day with an admission charge that benefits their charity of choice. This time they chose Gold Network of East Texas! What an awesome blessing! Tatum K was my trusty assistant. But more than once, she frighted guests by popping out from under my table!

~ for a wonderful evening watching Kora and her classmates 6th Grade production of “How I Became a Pirate.” She did such a great job, and had so much fun.

~ for one of Sawyer’s self-proclaimed “Best Days of My Life.” The beloved “Creature Teacher came to visit their class! Baby kangaroo, lemur, and a python were just a few of the animals they got to meet up close and personal. I LOVE the pictures captured of Sawyer’s excitement!

~ for the amazing milestone, Tatum K taking her admissions assessment to start Kindergarten at GCS in the fall! How is my littlest peanut so big!? She was tearful that morning, “I’m afraid to be wif-out you, Mama!” But she calmed down and had fun with the teacher. What is my mama heart to do!?

We are in such a season of stretching in our family. The kids are quite literally stretching, growing out of their clothes and shoes almost daily. But more than the physical stretching, we are in a place where God is causing each of us to be stretched out of our comfort zone in about 17 million directions. I have definitely come to the realization that I am NOT A FAN OF STRETCHING. But I know it’s necessary. And I know it’s good. There is not much growth that happens when we are comfortable or still. It’s an awesome lesson to talk through with the kids, and even more awesome (not really) to see how much still I need the very same lesson myself.

When my faith is sifted back down to a mustard seed, I see more clearly than ever my need for a Savior. I’m nothing without Him. BUT GOD! Because WITH Him, and Him in me, all things truly are possible. So grateful for the beautiful and terrifying adventure He has in store! And even though I’m not always a fan of the process of stretching and growing…I know the best is yet to come. I don’t want to stay where I am. So let’s get to stretching…

Are YOU willing to be stretched?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

~ for baseball, baseball, and MORE BASEBALL. (And finally got to see Samantha play softball!) It’s a busy season with constant practices and back to back games, but we are loving it.

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

~ for wonderful friends who walk beside me in good times and bad. What a blessing not to walk alone.

~ for 2 special birthdays this week! First we got to celebrate Josh: a down home Southern meal of mashed taters and country fried steak. And yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing of course!

And then the self proclaimed Birthday Princess herself, Miss Tatum K, who was very proud to turn 5!

After much back and forth, she settled on a menu of homemade pizza, salad, and CHIPS! And for her dessert, she remained true to her love of both sweets: confetti cake and lemon pie.

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

If you are new-ish around here, back when Tatum K was a baby, she would chant and beg for cake and pie in her high chair, banging the tray with a fork in each fist like a little pirate. And when I asked her if she wanted cake or pie for her 2nd birthday, without blinking an eye, she replied, “YES!” So it’s been cake AND pie ever since! Love that spicy girl!

2021
2020
2019

~ for a Giddyup and Whoa order of epic proportions! We have an order for 67 signs, due in 2 weeks! It’s all hands on deck around here!

~ for a successful kickoff of our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Oncology Clinic Toy Drive.

We have several drop off locations across East Texas, and will be collecting until May 15. A small toy, craft, or gift card is such a small thing to us, but such a blessing to kids of all ages going through cancer treatment. Just a tiny incentive to make them smile through the hard. We were blessed to benefit from a Camp Gladiator Super Saturday this week. An amazing workout group collected toys and funds to support the toy drive. You can drop toys at any of our locations, or give online at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate and we’ll do the shopping for you!

Current drop off locations (looking for more!!):

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

Big Daddy’s Stereo 2624 Bill Owens Pkwy Longview, TX 75604

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

Village Salon 1118 W. Panola St., Carthage, Tx 75633

Serenity Salon & Spa 2500 East End Blvd. North Marshall, TX 75670

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

Kingdom Veterinary Clinic 15051 County Rd 1103, Flint, TX 75762

I was so encouraged during my Bible reading this morning. As so often is the case, I read a Scripture for like the millionth time, and it suddenly stood out to me like never before. In 1 Chronicles, David is talking to his son Solomon about the monumental task of building the temple, and he says, ““Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” I read it again and again. I told Josh, “If this is not our family motto, I don’t know what is!” It’s really that simple. Be strong and courageous, and DO THE WORK. We have to be willing to work. Everything isn’t always going to just fall into place. We all have to do hard things. Make hard choices. Make hard changes. We can’t sit idly by and watch as life passes us by. BUT GOD! The Scripture goes on to encourage, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20). We do not labor alone or in vain. He is with us always. He sees. He cares. He has a plan. But He expects us, COMMANDS US, to do the work, to put our hands to the plow. To extend ourselves expectantly, knowing that He is moving with us. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me. We personally are in a season right now where it is time to be brave and do the work. He is faithful. And I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:17-18)

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalms 143:8)

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (2 Samuel 22:29-34)

Heavy

I am thankful for so much this week. God is good. I have a whole list of blessings and funny stories. I could share pictures of our family and tell you what we’ve been up to.

But my heart is heavy.

We have so many cancer families in crisis right now.

One sweet girl who endured cancer treatment as an infant and had two joy-filled healthy years, now has relapsed. She recently received a bone marrow transplant from her daddy. This week they both shaved their heads.

One handsome young man is battling cancer through his senior year of high school. He was recently diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a crippling degeneration of his joints caused by the poison prescribed to save his life. He’s been a football and baseball player all through school, and he is finishing his high school career in a wheelchair.

Another precious middle school girl is also battling an aggressive cancer and the dreaded avascular necrosis. Not only is she in a wheelchair and facing continual rare side effects, now the AVN is attacking her wrists. Doctors have never seen this before, and there is little that can be done. At 13 years old, this is her reality.

A beautiful teen went for her routine oncology checkup, only for the scans to reveal several new spots and areas of concern.

And just this week, one of our Hero families, parents of a 3 year old brain cancer survivor, took one of the little siblings to the pediatrician with some concerns. The news they received was unthinkable. She has the same brain tumor as her sister.

How? How can this be?

I just don’t even know what to say, except to ask you all to pray. I know God sees. I know He loves all of these children more than we can even imagine, and hates to see them suffer. I know He has a plan. I’m thankful that I know this world is not our home, and our best days are ahead.

So we pray. We lean on one another. We hold fast to Jesus. And we continue to give thanks. Because no matter what, He is still good, and He is still bigger.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:17-18)

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” (Psalms 107:8-9, 14-16, 29-31)

Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

~ for the great privilege to have the freedom to vote. Tatum K and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a friend and candidate. It was such a sweet time with my girl. And when we went inside to vote, she even got to cast my ballot!

~ for a fun and different sign challenge. A dear friend has opened a new birthday party venue, and she asked me to create a sign for her…probably A YEAR AGO! I had started it right away, but almost immediately developed a creative block. I can do lettering or paint solid colors blindfolded and asleep. But a bright, multicolored, whimsical piece was more like the paintings I did 20 years ago, when I used to paint name canvases for children’s rooms and colorful teachers’ chairs. But this week I finally got inspired, and laid down layer upon layer of blended color, then fine-tuned the lettering, and finally finished with all the tiny details and GLITTER! Such a fun project!

My poor dogs

~ for God’s provision and the Body of Christ in action. One afternoon, I was sitting in traffic at a long red light, totally zoning out, when a tap on my window startled me to death! A school dad had hopped out of his car to alert me that our rear bus tire was low. Like REALLY LOW.

I pulled over and sent a picture of it to Josh, who sent me straight to the tire shop. Not the afternoon I had planned: 4 of my school kids plus Tatum K plus one kiddo who had stayed home from school sick (and those two of course had no shoes on because they were not expecting to get out of the car) PLUS two extra kiddos I had for the afternoon! So that’s 9 of us basically filling EVERY SEAT of the waiting room! But what a miracle that we made it there – the mechanic found a 3 inch screw in my tire! They took great care of us, and we are so grateful for a good ending to an eventful afternoon.

~ thankful for another great hibachi dinner on the flat top. Colton tried his hand at it this time. Fried rice with veggies, chicken, and shrimp…delish!

~ for a great evening of worship and teaching at a local women’s conference. I was invited by a friend, and several ladies were going from our church, but I really battled whether I actually wanted to go. My anxiety always flares up when I have to get out of my comfort zone in social settings, and I rarely attend any event that takes me away from my husband and kids. I just like to be home with my people. But God just keep drawing me, and I knew I was supposed to push past my comfort, and that I was supposed to go. I sat in my car for several long minutes before I worked up the courage to go inside, and endured some awkwardness as I entered the crowded foyer filled with groups of ladies chatting. My heart wedged somewhere between my throat and my armpit. But I found some friends to sit with, and when worship began, I closed my eyes tightly and turned my focus to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Almighty who made me and loves me unwaveringly as His child. And I was swept into the Throne Room. The teaching that followed was powerful, convicting, and inspiring. I left feeling awakened and challenged. What a gift.

~ for a fun, early morning cheering Josh on at the Fresh 15K race. We parked at the halfway point until he ran by, and then made our way to the finish line to cheer him in. So proud of him!

I’ve been pretty open here with my personal struggle with anxiety. It’s been a dark and ugly battle, crippling at times. But I am able to say with great joy, I see a brightening light at the end of this very long and lonely tunnel. I have heard the phrase over and over in my mind recently, “coming out of the dark.” I’m so grateful to feel a little stronger, a little lighter, and a little more capable. But I know that no matter how I feel or how I have ever felt, the Lord has walked with me faithfully all along. In my weakness, He is strong. He pours through all the gaping holes in me, and uses me even though I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give. What an awesome God we serve!

Whatever you find yourself walking though, whether you feel yourself coming out of the dark or smack dab in the middle of it, be encouraged. He’s behind you and before you and on every side. And darkness won’t last forever.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,”(Psalms 107:13-15)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” (Micah 7:7-8)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1)

We Pray

I am thankful:

~ for “Breakfast Day” aka Dad’s day off, with Tatum K. Roost (a new restaurant for us) was great, with perfect coffee and tasty red skillet potatoes.

~ for Colton and Cooper being awesome big brothers, taking Samantha, Gavin, and Sawyer to practice their softball/baseball skills.

~ for the best time ever at our second Gold Network of East Texas HERO Hangouts. This time we took 67 cancer kids/siblings/and families to the movies! We bought out an entire theatre for a private showing of Sing2, and we packed almost every seat!

It never ceases to make my heart explode to see these amazing kids just getting to be kids! It’s so awesome to see connections among the cancer kids, among the siblings, among the parents. Their resilience and quiet strength is completely inspiring.

Even though my thoughts and my heart are heavy, I have to acknowledge and appreciate the intensely sharpened focus on how much I truly have to be thankful for, the simple yet profound gifts that I must never take for granted. My Love, who is also my best friend, who leads our family boldly and with great courage and unwavering faith. Unsolicited hugs from my not-so-Littles. For my Bigs who now CHOOSE to come home and spend time with us, even when they don’t have to. For nights like tonight when everyone is excited about the meal: they just DEVOURED two 9×13 pans of chicken pot pie. For our health, and the miraculous physical and spiritual healings we have experienced firsthand over and over again. Never having to worry about food in the pantry and gas in my car. A safe home. A neighborhood that is truly a family in every way. For spiritual mentors who have poured into me and continually encourage my growth. The freedom to worship God openly and speak the Name of Jesus without fear.

It’s heartbreaking to read the headlines. I hate to watch the news, but it’s too pressing, too important to remain uninformed. We pray for the people who are hurting, terrified, people who have lost everything.

I feel powerless. But I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe God’s Church is alive and reaches across every ocean and every language. I believe we were made for a time such as this, and that we are called to raise up our children as Warriors for Jesus, and that they are arrows created to be launched out to reach farther than we could ever go ourselves.

I don’t know what’s coming next. (BUT GOD)

I know The One who does, and I am His.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalms 56:1-4)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

~ for a safe and cozy home when the Texas cold snap hit. The region was fully prepared for a shut-down: paper products, milk, and bottled water shelves stood bare at every grocery store, and school was cancelled for two days. The two hours of freezing drizzle we actually got in Tyler was slightly anticlimactic, but at least we were prepared! We enjoyed hot chocolate and our fireplace. And a mile-long coloring book!

Texas blizzard

~ for NEXT LEVEL grilled-cheesing, on the flat top of course! Dad cooked all 18 grilled cheese (standard lunch for our crew) in 4 minutes flat!

~ orchid update – now she’s just showing off!

~ for a new toy for Bear and Birdie. We’ll see how long this one lasts!

We are getting used to being a puppy-less household once again. I have found Birdie whining at closed doors and searching for her babies several times. But she seems to be settling back into her silly, playful self. And I love how much Birdie and Bear love each other. They really are best friends and sweethearts.

~for a handy sous chef in training.

~ for a fun salvage project in progress. Friends dropped off a couple curbside rescues a few weeks ago, and I’ve been working on a makeover. I love giving new beauty to something that has been written off as garbage. It’s such a beautiful reminder of what Jesus has done for me. Aren’t we all works in progress, always hoping for ANOTHER second chance? Waiting expectantly for God to bring beauty from our mess?

Primer coat…finish yet to be revealed!

~ for fluffy mashed potatoes and maple cayenne glazed carrots.

No great revelations this week. Today, I remain a work in progress myself. Still waiting. Still praying. Still anxious. Still expecting. Still learning. Still failing. Still trying.

There’s still plenty that I don’t understand. But that’s ok. I know The One who does. And I’m reminded again and again that there is an order to all things.

God’s not finished.

So I’m thankful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thess 5:16-18)

Well Done

I am thankful:

~for an outstanding evening of football and a triumphant win for the Chiefs and hometown boy Patrick Mahomes. I’ve lost my voice!

~ for a wonderful 14th birthday celebration for sweet and beautiful Samantha. She is such a blessing: so bright and kind and helpful with EVERYTHING. She started her day with a stack of chocolate chip pancakes, then Slims for lunch, and her tasty menu-of-choice: savory roast beef and provolone French dip sandwiches with au jus and sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, followed by an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. She is easy to celebrate.

~for more and more beauty unfolding as my lovely resurrected orchid gracefully and gradually blooms a little more every day. I love watching its story unfold.

~ for successfully accomplishing the monumental task of taking 9 puppies + 2 grown doodles to the vet for their checkup! It was a circus to be sure, but they all got a clean bill of health from our friends at Faith Veterinary Clinic! Ready for homes THIS TUESDAY!

~for a wonderful evening with our HERO families at our quarterly GNET CONNECT Caregiver Support Group. We dined on delicious Abuelos fajitas and my favorite side dish, papas, and the most decadent desserts from Brookshire’s bakery. But we FEASTED ON FELLOWSHIP. There is such encouragement found among people who truly understand the hardest season of your life because they’ve walked it too. I treasure that time.

~ for a celebration of a life well lived. Donna Youngblood is a fixture in our family. She has taught Samantha, prayed us through Sawyer’s pregnancy, our adoptions, and his cancer diagnosis; taught Kora, then Gavin, then Zoe, and prayed through all of Sawyer’s treatment AND Tatum K’s pregnancy and arrival. A fabulous seamstress and embroiderer, she made a custom birthday shirt for Sawyer each year. She walked us through it all, faithfully on her knees.

I just found this text today! What a faithful prayer warrior!
Tatum K got one too!

Then, the amazing moment, covered in more prayers than anyone ever could imagine finally came to fruition: Sawyer the Warrior was going to start school and be in her Jr. Kindergarden class. In June that summer preceding the start of the school year, Donna let me know that her classroom description had changed slightly, and that she would be teaching the younger 4 year olds, with a slightly modified curriculum more suited to their age. The other Jr.K classes would cover additional material at a quicker pace. Sawyer was already 5, and she wanted me to know in case we wanted to switch him to another class. This was the text I sent her.

I texted her again right before the school year started…

What a wonderful year he had!

He stayed healthy, only missing class for his scheduled oncology appointments in Dallas. He made sweet friends and learned more every day, from phonics to Spanish to countless songs and Scripture verses. She laughed along with him as an accomplice when he pranked his classmates with a cardboard cake for April Fools’ Day.

And he. LOVED. His precious teacher.

Donna was patient with my bruised and battered over-protective Mama heart, and loved all of us so well. She attended Tyler Gold Run every year with her precious “Grands,”

With her sweet grands

and when Sawyer was in her class, he walked the 3 mile route with her!

Talk about a heart-exploding display of God’s miraculous works! We all looked forward to and planned the day that Miss TK would be in her class. In fact, I deliberately made the decision to keep Tatum K home this year AFTER checking with Donna to make sure she wasn’t retiring. TK and I always visited Mrs. Youngblood when we were at the school for a hug and a smile. We exchanged hugs and encouragements last Friday morning.

Monday afternoon, without warning, God took Mrs. Youngblood home. When I got the news, I forgot how to breathe. How could this be? She was so healthy. So young (61). SO ALIVE! But it was true, and there was no shortage of ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that she had leapt from her earthly body with eagerness directly into the arms of Jesus, and heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” A life well lived.

I prayed all day about what telling the children would look like. The older kids heard the news through the grapevine at school. BUT GOD. When I walked to pick up Sawyer from his class at the end of the day and hugged tight his sweet Second Grade teacher (who was a very, very dear friend of Donna’s, and was truly heartbroken), she whispered to me, “He doesn’t know. He’ll get to hear it from his Mama.” So we walked hand in hand to the car, and I told him the news, and I watched his little face fall and his heart break into a million pieces.

We’ve all talked a lot this week about Mrs. Youngblood in our household, about how loved she was and how much she loved. About where she is and why she wouldn’t ever trade it for anything. About how God is always good and always right, and that one day she’ll greet each one of us with her bright smile and we’ll all worship together. And without these heartbreaking losses, those life-giving conversations would never take place.

Tatum K is distraught, and can’t imagine who her teacher will be. Each of the children have had their tearful moments, and we’ve had lots of long, tight hugs. Donna was my friend. I miss her and I still can’t believe she won’t be smiling at me at the end of the hall. I want to love my babies like she loved them, like Jesus loves them. Even in her death, the seeds God gave her to plant are watered with our tears and continue to grow.

Well done. See you soon, my friend. Praying for your Sweetheart, your sons and their families, and the countless lives you have touched along the way.

Let’s love one another well this week.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.” (Psalms 34:1-3)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:3-6)