Weary but Rejoicing

Iam thankful:

~ for my incredibly thoughtful husband! When he warns me, “I’m setting my tools up in the garage, and you CAN’T COME OUT HERE!” I always know it’s gonna be something good. This time it was the most awesome, Mr. Giddyup original paint caddy! I teased him that he built it for himself, because he’s sick of my brushes and paint laying EVERYWHERE. Either way, it’s a win-win!

~ for an amazing night of high school football playoffs. So exciting to see TWO teams we love competing (not against each other, different divisions) for the top title. We cheered on the Carthage Bulldogs to their historic 8th State Championship, and then cheered for our beloved Coach Chris and the Lindale Eagles. Lindale may not have come away with the top score on the official scoreboard, but they had a triumphantly victorious and inspiring season. So incredibly proud of the Eagles and their fearless leader!

~ for sweet Zoe’s 3rd Grade Christmas Play. She sang a beautiful solo and the whole play was absolutely adorable!

~ for the fastest, least painful family Christmas photo in Rucker history. My Big kids LOATHE taking pictures. It generally takes bribery, coercion, and threats of bodily harm to get it done. They tolerate it, because they know they don’t have a choice, but it’s never a very pleasant occasion. This week’s attempt was a MOST UNLIKELY scenario. There was only ONE DAY that Carson Grace didn’t have to work. It HAPPENED to be a rainy day so Colton could drive in from his job. We met at 4 o’clock when the kiddos all got out of school. Sounds perfect, right? EXCEPT, Cooper had to be at his job (up Broadway Ave. in bumper to bumper Christmas traffic) at 4:30!! The kids all quickly changed their clothes, dashed to their spots, and I snapped the picture! Just like that! We were done at 4:06! It was historic! (Tune in next week for the winning shot!)

~ for p-p-pajama day at school.

~ for Cooper crushing his finals and treating mom to a Bahama Bucks date.

~ for donuts + The Grinch for breakfast, just because.

~ for beautiful heavenly glories spotted by the kids on the way home.

~ for Gavin doing a fantastic job as the Toastmaster in his 4th Grade class. So proud of him!

~ for a pedal-to-the-medal, paint-til-your-fingers-fall-off, a LOT more Giddyup-than-Whoa week! I completed 6 signs this week (including the big whopper I mentioned last week), and I only have ONE MORE project to complete before Christmas! Grateful for a busy season, and grateful for a rest!

~ for a special visit with our Kilgore-Hallsville-Carthage-Houston family. It was a different location this year, but the love and the good food and the warm fellowship was the same! Such a blessing to gather and love on one another.

~ and for a fun surprise visit from Uncle Mike and Kenedy!! We have had fun coloring and playing dress up and looking at Christmas lights. It is always so special to have them with us.

~ the puppies are growing and changing and getting cuter every day. They. Are. SO. BIG! It looks completely absurd when they tackle poor Mama Birdie to nurse…it looks like that are devouring her! They are now consuming 13 pounds of puppy food a week, and producing roughly 496 pounds of poo each day. Keeping the pups and their pen clean is a nonstop endeavor. Just two more weeks til they go to their forever families. I can’t deny looking forward to the reprieve, but I’ve already shed some tears when I think about saying goodbye. They truly have 11 large pieces of my heart.

The pace has been relentless, between the painting and the puppies and the poop, and I’m not going to lie, I am WEARY. My emotions have been more fragile and raw than usual. I never know what is going to be a trigger. Missing loved ones, looking at decorations that I used when we were in the hospital, the birthdays of two grandmothers who never met, but shared a birthday and both made a lasting imprint on our family and my heart. I’m overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with all I have on my plate. Overwhelmed by the weight of so many needs and struggles and hurts in the lives of people that I love. Overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the love He lavishes on me every single day, even when I fall on my face.

I am weary. But I rejoice. The joys and the sorrows and the precarious tension between them are present all year round, but something about Christmas brings all these things to the forefront and shines a spotlight on them. Maybe the season of Advent, the waiting season of preparation for the birth of Savior is an annual appointment for us to reevaluate and sift through what His coming really means to us. It means we have great expectations, yet He always comes in the most unexpected way. It means that waiting, even the most excruciating waiting, is critical to our transformation from death to life.

We are weary. Yet we rejoice. We wait. He is coming. Emmanuel, God with us. He is here.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”(Romans 8:19)

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”(Revelation 21:4-7)

God With Us

I am thankful:

~ for my favorite view…a bazillion stockings on the fireplace, soft, twinkling lights on the tree and new mantel decor this year. I spy a refurbished treasure salvaged from my roadside adventures.

October “Treasure Week”

~ for how excited the kids are to draw each other‘s names for our sibling “Secret Christmas Buddy” gift exchange.

~ for Carson Grace starting her new job this week, as a sales lead at Aeropostale. How crazy for my girl to start a job in retail clothing just like I did at her age. She’s learning a lot: retail at Christmas is no joke.

~ for the cutest puppies in all the land.

They are doing great. We learned how to feed them their transitional semi-liquid food by trial and LOTS OF ERROR. Josh upgraded his feeding center, and they are finally getting the hang of it.

Some have it more figured out than others

They are visibly growing and changing every day. I can’t believe they are 4 weeks old today, and that THEY ALL HAVE HOMES! It makes me so happy to think of how much joy they will bring to so many families. For now we are enjoying all the sweet puppy breath and snuggles.

~ for all the help when putting a project together. ALLLLLL the help.

~ for exhilarating high school football playoffs. Even though a televised game is a weak substitute for the in-person electric energy of a brightly lit roaring stadium on a Friday night, the necessity of these broadcasts now enables so many more people to get to watch games they would not be able to attend (including us!). This week we were excited to see the Carthage Bulldogs secure ANOTHER trip to the state championship in their division. AND we were beside ourselves as we watched the nailbiting comeback of the Lindale Eagles, as they soared in for a victory and ticket to their state championship. Coach Chris Cochran and his wife Lindsay and sweet Coby Tate are family to us, and we could not be more proud of this well-deserved victory for them and their boys.

~ for Samantha’s very first acting gig! She and her 6th Grade Drama class presented the play, “Too Wrapped up for Christmas,” and did a fantastic job. While Sam said acting “isn’t really her ‘THING,’” she said she had a great time. How are these babies growing up so fast!?

~ for SO MANY PROJECTS underway for Giddyup & Whoa! I have continued to get new orders daily, and I’m painting and wood burning as fast as my little fingers can go! It’s always such a blessing to meet another customer and see them pleased with their sign. I still have many projects to complete for Christmas gifts, so I am HUSTLING. I have one particularly intimidating order…a MASSIVE 7 footer. I call this part of the season “the Christmas Crunch.”

~ for all our favorite memory-laden Christmas decorations. Grandma Grace’s nativity and handmade felt ornaments.

The well-loved Fisher Price nativity, that never seems to have all its pieces at one time (it’s usually missing Mary, and several times we have lost Baby Jesus. We replaced the angel one year, but we are still short 2 wisemen.) This little snowman and puppy combo was a Hallmark classic. Our sweet Granny Lucy bought it when Cooper was a baby, 16 years ago. We have loved pulling it out every year and listening to its cheery jingle bark song.

It traveled with me to Dallas when Sawyer was in the hospital at Christmastime two years in a row.

One year it stopped working, and I researched how to clean battery connections, and then painstakingly swabbed the connectors with white vinegar. By some miracle it worked, resurrecting the Christmas cheer. And now Tatum K loves it. It reminds me of Granny and always makes me smile.

Another favorite tradition is celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with Grandmommy. She spends so much time and thought putting together gifts for the children, and we love the excitement of singing each verse of the song and opening a gift each night.

Traditions mean so much to me. Always have. I think back on spending Christmas at Grandma Grace’s house…the ornaments and nativity that I loved so much when I was little, and the sparkling Christmas tree made from her jewelry that would mesmerize me for hours. I remember her card table set up with the poinsettia tablecloth, serving up orange 7up punch with her pretty crystal cups, mixed nuts, homemade Chex mix, and ALWAYS a little tray of Andes mints. At my other grandparents house, we would celebrate on Christmas Eve in their cozy basement, with a big spread of food, including my favorite peanut clusters, and often we would have a White Elephant gift exchange. I remember the year I was so greedy that I chose THE BIGGEST present, and it ended up being a huge and hideous velvet painting of an ocean, and my 8 year old self was DEVASTATED.

I hope one day my grown kids will tell their families about reading Luke Chapter 2 and eating monkey bread and sausage bread. I hope they explain all the stories attached to each of the ornaments they got each Christmas Eve, and how EVERY YEAR I would pretend to surprise them with “opening ONE present early” – always new Christmas pajamas. I hope they love pulling out Granny’s singing snowman and Aunt Dinah’s Christmas village. And I hope they’ll find their own special traditions that will become meaningful to their families.

Is Jesus at the center? It sounds like such a cliché, but do we have room for Him? Is there room in the busy-ness, between the Amazon orders and the holiday baking and the Christmas party-ing, is there any margin in our lives to sit at His feet? We pray and ask Him all year long to use us, but when it comes down to it, do we leave any room for what He actually intended to use us for: to listen to a friend who is lonely, to give to a stranger who is hurting, to forgive that family member who has hurt us?

I feel like most of us have gone through a lot this year, and we are all processing things differently. We may not be celebrating all our same traditions in the same way this year, but the Most Important Thing is still the same, and can’t be taken away by national mandates or quarantines. Emmanuel. God With Us. Wherever we are, He is there if we leave room for Him.

Let’s not lose Jesus this year.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

““Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

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

Less but More

I am thankful:

~ for the astounding miracle of Sawyer turning 7! Seven. It takes my breath away.

I just never ever let myself picture him as a 7 year old. I didn’t dare. Sawyer’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive THE DAY on the day he was diagnosed with leukemia at 7 months old. BUT GOD. He had a less than 40% chance of surviving to age 5. BUT GOD. I can’t even type these words without the tears taking over. Now this miracle boy is 7! He is bright and active and doing all the things the doctors warned us he likely would not be able to do. BUT GOD! It’s so hard for me to treat him like a “normal kid.” To let go and let him be in germy, “virus-y” crowds, let him ride his bike and scooter in the street, and climb trees… And equally hard for me to get onto him like a normal kid: to not let him get away with murder, to not overlook whining or pouting, and to not favor him over his siblings. I can’t even explain how hard that is. I think about how much he has been through and how many times we almost lost him, and the rules and my resolve flies out the window. But I know overindulgence is the worst thing for him, and I remind myself that God didn’t deliver Sawyer only for him to grow up to become an entitled, spoiled-rotten little punk. He had a great birthday: donuts for breakfast, a mom/dad/Tatum K lunch date at school, and his menu-of-choice for dinner was homemade French bread pizzas, homemade mac and cheese, and chocolate cake with orange (colored, not flavored) buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for allowing me to love Your boy for seven whole years!

~ for a wonderful and unexpected blessing. A local homeschool coop did a raffle ticket fundraiser and chose Gold Network of East Texas as the charity beneficiary. I was blessed to receive the donation of $122.25! And even better, I got to receive the donation from my sweet friend/sister!

~ for a long-overdue visit from sweet Aunt Dinah! She treated us to yummy Braum’s ice cream, and got her fill of kiddo hugs and puppy snuggles.

~ for Cooper’s first week of work at Chick-fil-A! Doesn’t he look so handsome?! So far he is loving it and learning more each shift. So proud of him.

~ for Gavin’s 4th grade Colonial Trades Day presentation. His group represented Colonial wheelwrights. He did a great job researching and reciting his part. He is such a bright boy. And he looked so handsome in his many-times-recycled costume. Over the last 10 years, the same embroidered vest and flouncy old lady blouse from Goodwill has been the attire for a Colonial merchant, missionary Hudson Taylor, Colonial barrel maker, and now a wheelwright!

~ for the hilarious pics I discover when I wake up from an accidental nap to realize that Sawyer has taken my phone. Nothing like taking selfies with your mom when she’s asleep.

~ for the blessing of a continued BUSY season for Giddyup & Whoa. We had a successful Barn Sale, and I got to participate in a home bazaar with some friends this weekend. Orders have continued to steadily pour in almost every day, keeping Josh and I hustling at the saw and paintbrushes. We are so excited and grateful that our small family business is growing. We love getting our kids involved. And we love bringing life to the vision our customers request! I can’t wait to eventually share pictures of some of the AWESOME Christmas gifts I’m working on!

~ for THE MOST WONDERFUL evening with my Love. For the first time in about 13 million years, we were able to slip away to do some Christmas shopping and go out to dinner. Like a REAL DATE! No kids. No puppies. It. Was. AWESOME! We got lots of our shopping done, and then OVER-indulged in a dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse! I thought I’d have to be rolled out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow, but I did not regret one bite!

Another week of puppy-ing under our belt. Sweet pups are now 3 weeks old, and growing and changing every day. Eyes are all open, they are all walking, and trying to find their little puppy barks. And they are LOUD!

The Golden Girls
The Golden Doods

Today was Day 1 of introducing puréed solid food. What a slop-fest! Josh built an adorable feeding station with little bowls, but man, those pups were all over the place! They walked through the food, ate it off their feet and off each other! It was quite a sight!

It’s so fun to see their personalities develop as they start to play with one another, and we have LOVED seeing several families fall in love with their puppy-to-be. It’s more work than we ever dreamed, but still so much fun. I apologize in advance if I bump into you in person and am wearing a questionable odor…I am trying hard not to look/smell like the zookeeper I FEEL LIKE! Josh got to work one day this week after being home for lunch, and it was a few hours before he realized that he was wearing a PUPPY SURPRISE on his pants! **Just a few pups still available.

As always, December has the potential for a month overflowing with too much of everything: an overburdened calendar, an aching bank account, and complete and utter exhaustion. Completely lacking in joy. What a tragedy to get so distracted by a counterfeit Christmas and completely miss the presence of Christ. I wrestle with it every year. Complicated emotions, emotional baggage, unrealistic expectations of others and of myself…it’s not hard to end up in the weeds. Maybe it’s the added element of the puppies and/or sign orders, but I have definitely felt a pull this year to SIMPLIFY. I want to DO LESS activities, but instead do things that MEAN MORE. I want to really get into the presence of the Lord. Get close to His heart. And share that with my kids. I want to soak in the beauty and wonder that comes from really grasping what Christ has done for us. And I just really want to love on my people.

Lord, fix my wandering eyes on You. Don’t let my get so distracted by empty busy-ness that I miss YOU.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; For behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God! For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory].” (Luke 1:46-49 AMP)

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)

BUCKLE UP!

Well it’s been a monumentous week at Casa Rucker.

We DO have so much to be thankful for!”

I am thankful:

~ for beautiful weather for a successful grocery shopping day, at ALL THREE STORES!

Store #1
Store #2
Store #3

~ for Gavin and his class performing an moving and inspiring Veterans Day program at chapel. Obviously it was more meaningful this year than ever before. Listening to the patriotic words of our forefathers who pioneered the way for freedom highlighted our need today to press in through prayer and faith so we don’t lose those freedoms that were so hard fought for. And Gavin also had a solo which was just beautiful. You can watch the program here.

~ for the awesome opportunity to attend an amazing event. Long time Texas Rangers fans, our family are big-time fans of Derek Holland, the former star Rangers pitcher. I had the chance to meet him years ago during Sawyer’s treatment when the team visited Children’s Hospital.

Around that time, Derek made a special connection with another childhood cancer warrior and created his own nonprofit organization… The 60 Foot 6 Foundation, named for the distance from the pitchers mound to the plate. The young boy bravely battled cancer, and rallied back after several close calls, but did eventually pass away. Over the years Derek has raised funds and generously supported the childhood cancer community. Earlier this year, I connected with the executive director of his foundation, and she invited our family to be guests of Derek to his fundraising concert in Fort Worth this week. What an amazing night! We enjoyed fantastic music from the über talented Fort Worth artist Josh Weathers, got to meet some other childhood cancer families, and hear Derek’s moving personal testimony of the life-changing impact his young friend had on him. And of course, we got to meet Derek! Like REALLY meet him. He and Sawyer bonded quickly, with Derek saying, “this kid is the cutest!”

We so enjoyed his down-to-earth demeanor, and his charge to the crowd to “not wait until this (childhood cancer) affects you personally…Do something NOW to support these kids!” I also loved this exhortation, “We need to stop spending so much time comparing ourselves to each other and start comparing ourselves to what we did yesterday.” There were some unbelievable silent auction items and prize drawings, and although we did not win anything, another attendee who DID win gave his prize to Sawyer! An engraved Ian Kinsler bat!

Sawyer was over the moon, and has hardly put it down since. He has proclaimed that he wants it mounted “in a frame with glass” in his room! It was such a special, memorable night, and my hope and dream is that it COULD be a door that God could open for Gold Network of East Texas and 60 Feet 6 Foundation to collaborate on more projects in the future. We’ll see!

And the news of the day: last Sunday’s shotgun wedding was just in time! Birdie had her puppies this morning!

Not 3.

Not 5.

Not 8.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!!!!

Mama and pups are all doing well. Birdie has been an amazingly attentive mother, and I’m telling you, they are THE CUTEST things you’ve ever seen. A first litter of eleven is pretty much unheard of, and we have never done this before, so it is definitely a daunting undertaking. I was up with Birdie all night as she labored, and have stayed by her side pretty much all day to make sure nobody gets stepped on, crushed, or misses a feeding. I am continually counting little heads over and over – reminds me of taking Littles to the pool. And we are also supplementing with bottles just to be sure all the puppies get enough nutrition. OVERWHELMING? Maybe just a tad. Are we INSANE? Probably. But the kids are all thrilled, and I know they’ll all pitch in. Colton spent the day helping any way he could, including cooking dinner! These are the kind of memories I’m thankful to be making with them all. And we’re not afraid of hard work. (Ok, I might be a TINY BIT AFRAID THIS TIME.)

Soooo, that being said…anybody want to give a pretty amazing Christmas gift? These sweet babies are all for sale and will be ready for their forever homes just after the first of January. We’ve had a lot of interest in them already, but we definitely had more than we were expecting! (Miniature goldendoodles are a WONDERFUL breed, hypoallergenic, non-shedding, and fantastic with kids.) Bear and Birdie are the BEST DOGS!

So this week, in between school Thanksgiving feasts, 5th grade wax museum, and the regular tasks of our Jumbotron Tribe, I have “Christmas in the Country” at the Gresham Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa to get ready for (November 18-21),

and 11 puppies to tend to (and feed every 2 hours round the clock!) JESUS HELP!

I cannot believe I have 9 kids and 13 dogs. I have become THAT LADY.

My hands are full, but my heart is FULLER. Ain’t nobody got time for grammar with this much going on!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. BUT GOD!!

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭126:3‬)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬)

Come Together

WHAT A WEEK, HUH?

I don’t know about you, but I am EXHAUSTED. But, in times of trial, in times of questioning, it’s more important than ever that we CHOOSE GRATITUDE. Training our eyes to seek out and focus on the simplest blessings around us makes all the difference.

I am thankful:

~ For Taco Tuesdays and steaming hot charro beans fresh from the instant pot.

~ For quiet mornings at home on repeat: Tatum K + dogs + paints + The Greatest Showman.

~ for fun neighbors to hike and explore with.

~ For sweet helpers in the kitchen.

~ For Carson Grace having a spontaneous weekend road trip with her roommates to do some hiking in the beautiful hills of Oklahoma.

~ For an exciting week for Cooper. He has been super into music for about 3 years, and has been producing his own beats and songs on software on our home computer. He has created a makeshift (almost) soundproof recording studio in the pool bathroom, and spends hours editing his songs. He recently purchased a self-production media kit, and this week he released his first single on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. His artist name is Davvec, and the single is “Reminiscing.” It may not be your taste in music, but we are so proud of Cooper, of his drive, his talent, and his commitment to becoming an artist. He created every element from scratch on his own! Give him a listen! https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/davvec/reminiscing

~ For Colton taking his little sisters out to dinner. This special time with their big brother was off-the-charts exciting for the girls, and they all had a blast. I love that he wanted to spend time with them.

~ For exciting news that we have been anxiously awaiting to announce. We had an intimate backyard wedding this week. To be honest, it was a shotgun wedding. The newlyweds are expecting their first litter any day now.

Look at those smiles!

~ For a special time at church this morning sharing part of our fostering and adoption testimony for National Adoption Month. It was a meaningful and encouraging service, highlighting the various ways people can make a difference in the lives of the innumerable children in the foster care system. I’m so thankful the Lord opened our eyes and our hearts to adoption, and for the family He hand picked for us, a family I far too often take for granted. You can find more information on how you can help at http://bethelightetx.com

For many of us, it’s been a long, stressful roller coaster of a week. I know that I know that I know that God is in control. He is high above all earthly authority and supersedes every government. He is Lord and King of all. And I know He is sovereignly on His throne and not rattled by all that goes on around us. I know all this. I’m confident of all this. But somehow, as I sat and watched the election coverage, watching the states turning colors and the consultants making their predictions and speculations…my heart began to pound. I could hear it in my ears. I could feel it in my forehead. Peoples’ angry reactions and insults and tantrums were making me physically sick. I’ve never been affected this way by politics before, and it just really sent my anxiety off the charts. So much hate and ugliness attacking from both sides, I just felt so grieved that our nation had come to this. And even as I could physically feel my peace being sucked out of me, it was like I couldn’t tear myself away from it. BUT GOD. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who guards my heart when I don’t do it myself, and he encouraged me and turned off the television and tucked us into bed. And as the drama dragged out day after day, I would feel the tension rise up again, but I was reminded over and over of God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. He has a plan for our nation, and He WILL BE GLORIFIED. I love this picture I took on the morning of November 3 of Gavin and his classmates.

Four innocent 10-year-olds with no agenda, who love their country just because it is THEIR country, raising and saluting our nation’s flag just because it is the right thing to do. At this point, it doesn’t really matter who we voted for. It’s time to come together to honor and pray for our nation, to honor and pray for our president, to honor and pray for each other. It’s time to stop throwing stones and taking sides and start coming together so we can be a nation that our children can continue to be proud of. And for those who have claimed Jesus as Lord, it’s rubber-meets-the-road time…to walk out with our feet the trust in Him we have proclaimed from our mouths, and to conduct ourselves in a way that honors Him (speaking to myself here).

GOD IS FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men….Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.” (Psalms 33:12-13, 20-22)

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

Awake

I am thankful:

~ for the first cozy fire of the season. We LOVE a fire! And fresh baked pumpkin muffins.

~ for my first Burger Warehouse burger. What a treat!

~ for the joy in my kids’ voices when they run inside calling, “Mama! You HAVE to come look at the sky!!” May I never take for granted the privilege of seeing the wonder of God’s creation through their eyes.

~ for Colton’s first groundbreaking ceremony for a new commercial construction project with his company.

Colton, second from the left

~ for the opportunity to attend Gavin’s 4th grade Toastmasters speech. He told the story of crashing his big brother’s bike and earning 7 stitches. Gavin was a natural in front of his class, speaking clearly and confidently. So proud of him.

~ for the perfect autumn weather for an evening stroll.

~ for HOPE: a first tiny step in the right direction for a long-standing prayer request.

~ for God’s care and provision over every detail. Monday at lunch, I asked God for work for Giddyup & Whoa. We had gotten caught up on orders, and our schedule was open. (Which is NOT a good thing for a small business.) WITHIN THE HOUR, I got an order through our website for 12 handpainted ornaments. An hour later, an order for 9 more. And this week I got additional orders for 10 more signs! Glory to the Lord! If you need me, I’ll be in the studio! And if you need a unique and meaningful gift for Christmas, Josh and I would love to create a special piece for you. But get your order in early! Thank you for supporting small businesses. Target and Amazon don’t care about your order, but the small shops you support DO! It genuinely makes a difference for our families.

~ for the cool blessing of seeing our oldest work with his dad to help us get all these signs built.

~ for 20+ years of friendship. When Josh and I came to the Lord, it was such a season of firsts. New marriage, new faith, new baby. And we had the incredible blessing of going through all those firsts with some really special couples. Further along in their faith, they discipled us and ministered to us, answered our questions, and taught us about Jesus just by living their lives openly and inviting us along. We were all growing our families for the first time in that season, and it was the most awesome time of fellowship and eating together and staying up way too late with a room full of pack-and-plays full of not-really-sleeping babies in the next room. Our kids all had built-in best friends from birth. Then life had twists and turns and changes. Job changes, more kids, address changes, blessings, and tragedies. We don’t hang out every weekend anymore, haven’t for years. But the love is the same, we treasure the memories, and we give thanks when we have the opportunity to get together again.

2004 – I remember thinking that this group was a TON of kids! But it’s actually LESS CHILDREN than I have in my family alone now! Since this picture, we have collectively added 9 more children to our families.

~ for my favorite fall tradition: the Thankful Game! Our family has a giant group email thread for sharing big and small thankful thoughts each day. I don’t know how many years we have been doing it, but as long as I can remember. I love hearing everyone else’s perspectives, and the feeling of connection regardless of location. And the kids LOVE to participate, and it’s so fun to hear what they thank God for. It helps us get back to an attitude of gratitude.

I’ve been really convicted this week of my own laziness. It’s so easy to get into a routine and set the auto pilot. Get up each day, do all the things, lather, rinse, repeat. Check all the boxes. Looking busy instead of looking for Jesus. Skimming on the surface without going deep. But God. This week I feel as if I’ve been shaken awake from being half asleep. I heard my voice giving someone counsel that I was needing to hear myself. It’s time to wake up. Eyes up. Off my worries. OFF MYSELF. No more sleepwalking. No more tuning out. More of Jesus, less of me.

Are YOU awake?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must become greater; I must become less.”” (John 3:30)

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17)

Unraveled

I am thankful:

~ Thankful that there are some really spectacularly good people in this world. There’s so much junk going around, and I think we are all disappointed by people on a daily basis, especially in the traditional and social media. But this week I got some awesome reassurance in humanity. Cooper, our third born, the one who just had his 16th birthday, was out hanging out with friends last week and lost his wallet. Now the kid never ever ever ever EVER has money, but of course that week he had just gotten paid for a job AND had his birthday, so he was LOADED! What timing to lose everything. He left his information with store personnel at the places he had been, but especially since he didn’t even have a drivers license, there was very little hope. Until two days later I got an email. Someone walking in the store found: first his money, then his wallet. They opened it up and found Cooper‘s school ID, and contacted the school, who forwarded the lady’s information to me so I could reach out to her.

She then went out of her way to package up the wallet and spent $8 to mail it back to Cooper. And not a dollar was missing! Cooper’s joy at its return was priceless, and he was quick to say, “That was the LORD!”

~ for an unlikely family favorite: loaded taco salad. I heap the MOST GIGANTIC bowl on earth, and we all eat every last bite!

~ and for a new favorite snack. Cape Cod sweet and spicy jalapeño chips. I’m not usually a spicy chip fan, but the sweet counterpoint in these is SO TASTY! We (mostly I) MAY have bought 3 bags this weekend! I can’t stop!

~ for the glimpse of a glorious sunrise.

~ for the opportunity to cast my vote. As most of us feel, it’s more important than ever not to take this privilege/responsibility for granted. And thankful for the efficiency and convenience of early voting and a polling location close to our house. Tatum K and I were in and out in about 20 minutes.

~ for some rollicking family UNO games.

~ for my sweet kids that gathered the neighbors’ roses off the ground and brought them to their mama. They still saw beauty left to enjoy.

~ for a new recipe and the opportunity to surprise my sweetheart. About a month ago, for the first time EVER, my sweet husband snapped a picture of a dessert on a magazine cover and sent it to me. “Doesn’t this sound AMAZING?” Well, I kept the thought in my back pocket until this week. Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars did not disappoint. And the look on Josh’s face was PRICELESS. He was so tickled that I remembered.

~ for “catching” sweet Sam reading her Bible.

~ for a wonderful evening celebrating the best reason to celebrate: Sawyer’s buddy Jase completing his 3 1/2 year cancer treatment! We took a drive out to the family’s newly built dream farmhouse, toured their stunning custom home, and got our fill of fellowship, including snuggles with the sweetest baby kittens and French bulldog puppies. We enjoyed the brisk weather around the campfires, and were introduced to their family tradition: the fine art of roasting biscuits over a fire. It was a wonderful night to celebrate a brave boy and the goodness of God!

Isn’t that such a great list of things to be thankful for!? Then WHY do I let get myself completely UNRAVELED over worries – over the things that God’s NOT DONE with??? ONE WOULD THINK I HAD LEARNED BY NOW.

It’s not as if I hadn’t lived through a miracle or two…

I think about how when I was a little girl You surrounded me, Lord. How I was pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned. BUT GOD. I think about how You showed me Your glory and Your love even when I didn’t know it was You, Lord. I think about the way You had a plan for my life even though I messed up over and over and over again, and I did absolutely everything wrong and backwards. You were so good to me. Obviously so much better than I ever deserved. Even in my darkest lost days You never left me. I think about the way You inextricably weaved Your plan and braided people into my path that nudged me in the right direction, whether they were negative or positive influences…You used for good with the enemy intended for evil. I think of how I met my husband two days after I moved to Texas, 1000 miles from home, all by myself with nothing but a Penske truck, a clock radio, a game boy, and three cats. I think of the way You wouldn’t let him give up on me just the way You didn’t give up on me. I think of the way You made me a mom. It was so far outside MY plan. BUT GOD. You meant for me to be a mother. And You gave me such a beautiful son. And You knew my deep-seated fears about being the mother of a daughter. But You gave me a daughter, (and eventually 4 more!) because you had a plan to bring beauty out of brokenness. I think about when I was the pregnant with Cooper and his sonogram showed several serious abnormalities in his heart and brain. How we agonized, watching all those issues sonogram after sonogram. BUT GOD. Because when he was born, he was PERFECT, all the abnormalities were GONE. You have walked us through bumps in our marriage, You have enlarged our hearts individually and together, and added beautiful children to our family in the LEAST EXPECTED WAYS. You have brought us to our knees and to the end of ourselves time and time again. Difficult relationships, finances, leaps of faith. Anxiety. Pain. Through better and worse, sickness and health. Losing a baby through miscarriage. Cancer. Launching a nonprofit. Starting a business. I could list the miracles of how You have carried us, story by story that I myself have LIVED for HOURS.

YOU. ARE. FAITHFUL.

Lord, keep the miracles You have done ever in front of my eyes so I don’t lose heart for the miracles I am still asking You for. I still get so scared. So impatient. BUT YOU ARE NOT DONE. You’re not done with me, with my marriage, with my kids. Thank You for being infinitely more patient with me than I am with You.

Whatever you are praying for, friends, He hears you. He is working and His Way is BEST and His timing is PERFECT.

Don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:23-26)

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24)

More Than a Pie

I am thankful:

~ for another special birthday. Cooper turned 16. Man, I just can’t believe he’s gotten so grown. He is growing up before our eyes, into such a bright, handsome young man. So proud of him. Enjoyed his feast of choice tonight: a stuffed burrito bar with homemade queso and salsa and a triple layer chocolate cake.

~ for a fun long weekend for Fall Break. We enjoyed the cooler weather and bright sunshine, spent one day with sweet friends, and another day catching up with Aunt Gina. Nothing fancy, but just good time together.

~for a spectacularly beautiful coconut cream pie. It was a beautiful snack. And a beautiful breakfast. And beautiful over and over until it was gone. And this pie was made with so much love, and the heart behind it made it so much more than just a pie. Nobody else can understand. But oh, it was so much more than a pie.

~ for a wonderful quarterly oncology checkup for Sawyer. We rejoice that he remains CANCER FREE! It was a physically and emotionally exhausting day PACKED with special moments. You can read the details of our day here. Or on Facebook

~ one of the highlights of our trip to the hospital was the privilege of celebrating Sawyer’s best buddy as he had his last hospital chemo treatment! We are so proud of you, Jase!

~ another highlight was stopping at the wonderland that is Buc-ees. Always a favorite. And of course, that’s where I get my very favorite treat…

~ while Sawyer and I were in Dallas, Tatum K had a day at home with Daddy. She helped him with some plumbing repairs and kept him laughing all day. If you watch my “Tuesdays with Tatum K” Instagram stories, you understand. She has been saying all week, “I like to fix toilets wif you, Daddy!”

~ for a slug day. The day AFTER clinic I’m SO DEPLETED. Tatum K and I stayed in our pjs all day and did NOTHING. NOTHING.

~ for perfect weather for a successful Fall Barn Sale this week. So thankful that Giddyup & Whoa can be a part of this awesome event.

~ for the blessing of being in church with ALL my kids for the first time since I can remember.

What you imagine church is like with Tatum K… doesn’t she just look like an angel playing quietly with her little jungle animals?
What church is ACTUALLY LIKE with Tatum K

~ for another delicious feast: Colton and Brooke cooked brunch for us! It’s one thing that they are enjoying learning to cook, but it’s quite an undertaking for them to cook for 15 people! Sausage and onion quiche, mini pigs in a blanket, and toasted hash browns! So impressed! And so thankful for the time we spend together.

Life is still hard. Complicated. Heartbreaking. Relentless. It feels like we gain ground one day only to lose it all the next. Eternal whack-a-mole. And some days I feel like I’m grounded and handling things gracefully, while other days I am floundering flat on my face. But God. I cling to the promise of new mercies every morning, and that “even when I don’t see it, You’re working…even when I can’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop, You never stop working.” He cares about everything we care about. He loves the ones we love and worry about. I give thanks for the grace to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One prayer on top of another. I’m so thankful for the glimpses we get of prayers being answered, renewing our hope for the ones that to us may look like we are just spinning our wheels. We’re NOT just spinning our wheels, friends. Every big and small thing we do matters. Every act of faith and every sacrificial offering of love leaves an imprint. And sometimes something as simple as a pie is so much more than a pie.

Lord, give us eyes to see what will be, instead of only what is today. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you….being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭1:3, 6‬)

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
‭‭(Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬)