Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful, thriving garden! Looks like the new soil and new plants are actually going to make it! Sawyer planted sunflowers this week, and eagerly checks daily for signs of sprouting.

~ for a wonderful presentation from Gavin and his 4th grade classmates at their Spring Concert. Gavin was so proud to be chosen to sing a solo, and he performed it beautifully. Their worship was pure and innocent and SO POWERFUL, and I know it was so pleasing to the Lord.

~ for my dear friend having a wonderfully successful mission yard sale to raise money for their ministry to Uganda (check out Rock of Living Waters. The Lord is doing great things!) Despite their one day sale being a dreary, rainy day, they raised almost $5000! And after their sale, they had so much left over, they donated it to TCF for our mission yard sale happening later this month! My DARLING HUSBAND wanted to kill me for volunteering him to pick it all up…it filled EVERY INCH of an Aaron’s box truck, which we had to load and THEN UNLOAD at the church. (“The Giddyup” & “The Whoa” switched roles for a couple brief hours that day, but we got through it, and order has once again been restored.)

~ and Tatum K was in her glory at that yard sale. I told her she could choose a treasure, and Little Miss stomped from one end of the tent to the other in her rain boots, with a trash bag in her hand. She found her 2 princess puzzles, a princess bubble kit, a Hello Kitty doll, a new dress 3 sizes too big, and the most beautiful princess dress up high heels that she had ever seen.

Considering that day I had already dragged her, in the pouring rain, to Home Depot, Home Goods, Sam’s Club, ALDI, At Home, Walmart, and Lowe’s…she deserved some treasure! It was a big day for Bitsy Girl.

~ for the opportunity to celebrate our firstborn‘s birthday. Colton, the beautiful black haired, once-chocolate-now-green-eyed baby, the one who made me a mama, turned 22 today. We have gone through hell with him, and with great joy have come out the other side. We are so proud of the man he is becoming, and grateful for the relationship that has been rebuilt over the last few years. Celebrating him is a true celebration. A food-lover after my own heart, his menu never disappoints: crescent chicken (a savory chicken and cream cheese mixture baked in a crescent roll pocket), sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and a tower fluffy cream puffs. Tatum K approved of his “ba-zert.”

~ for my husband’s Giddyup spirit. He decided the front of our house needed a little bench in a spot that had been an awkward little flowerbed. So of course, he drove straight to Home Depot and bought the cedar he needed, and came home and built a bench – all after a an 11-hour day at work. He finished it up and had it in place a little before 11pm. That man always blows my mind. We don’t call him Mr. Giddyup for nothing!

Kid tested and approved!

~ for good progress on my makeover projects. I’ve been busy with other things, and the weather has been uncooperative, so nothing is done, but I’m excited about the pieces I’ve been working on.

~ for an outstanding response to the Gold Network of ETX Toy Drive! These pictures are just SOME of the donations you have given! This is the first year we have had multiple business drop off locations, and the first year other pediatric cancer families have really gotten involved, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I can’t wait to finish gathering all the toys from the drop off locations, go shopping with the remaining donated funds, and count how many toys have been collected! What an amazing blessing for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic!!

It’s been a hard week. I often describe my parenting style as professional Whack-a-Mole.

There’s always a fire to put out. Always a crisis. I mean, statistically the kids CAN’T all be doing great at the same time. But mercifully, we have never had everybody doing terrible all at once either. Thank God for that. But there’s also the part of me that says, “you’re not even walking through cancer anymore. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OVERWHELMED. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH TERRIBLE TRIALS! SUCK IT UP!” Anybody else talk to themselves like that?

I’ve definitely felt discouraged this week. If you’ve ever seen the goofy picture of someone feverishly trying to sweep the shore while the ocean waves pound, crashing again and again…that’s what it feels like.

I feel like I’m constantly fighting a losing battle. Something will come out of nowhere, and I just throw my hands up and wonder, “what am I even doing?” I mentioned that to Josh this afternoon, shaking my head. He hugged me tight and held me close, and he said quietly and tenderly in my ear, “turn your music on.” He had mentioned that last week in Small Group, and it had surprised me that he had noticed that particular detail. He had said to the group, “I can always tell when I come home and the worship music is blaring… I know it’s been a rough day.” But it really is true: there is power in praise. There is power in worship. There is power in speaking the name of Jesus. So this afternoon I turned on the speaker and was instantly meant by the words, “By Your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…” Thank You Jesus for the comforting power of the Holy Spirit, and for Your Presence. You have promised that You would never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to abide with You, and keep You as our first resource instead of our last resort. I know the trials You allow are refining gifts, sanding me and shaping me, keeping me humbled on my knees where I belong. And thank You for new mercies every morning, for each one of us!

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you will look for the good. Even in the darkest days of my life, God was with me. Don’t lose heart. And when you think it’s all about to fall apart, turn your music on.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

Choose Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for Zoe‘s American History Hall of Fame at school. Each student in the 3rd grade reads several biographies of American historic figures, and they choose one to portray. Zoe chose a family favorite: Laura Ingalls Wilder. She dressed the part of a pioneer girl and delivered her speech eloquently. So proud of her and so fun to watch her program.

~ for the opportunity for the kids to work hard together. They tackled the remaining fence panels as a team, and got rewarded by Dad for being such a great help.

~ for the kickoff of our annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive. We are excited to have several new drop off locations around East Texas: Aaron’s on Broadway in Tyler, Pace Insurance Agency and RDA Pro-Mart in Longview, and Village Salon in Carthage Tx. We are collecting small toys for all ages to stock the Prize Closet at the Dallas Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Kids come to the clinic for procedures, chemotherapy, and checkups, enduring needle sticks and painful and nauseating treatments, and sometimes getting a little trinket at the end of that visit is the only bright spot in their day. We launched the toy drive after Sawyer had gone for an appointment and went to pick a prize out of the nearly empty closet, and the best thing he could find was a roll of craft ribbon. These kids deserve better. Toys will be collected through the end of April, or monetary donations can be made for us to purchase toys at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate.

~ for a generous and thoughtful donation from my friend Meredith at My Minky Co. She creates top quality handsewn minky puppies, kittens, and elephants, as well as stunningly beautiful baby and adult minky blankets. She donated two huge bags of the stuffed animals for the hospital kids. And a special prize for Tatum K. Many people may not know that Meredith is the only person in Texas I’ve known longer than Josh. When I moved to Tyler to manage the Buckle, she worked for me. How was that 23 years and a lifetime ago? So proud of the way she has grown to use her amazing giftings and talents.

~ for good old fashioned family fun. The kids had more fun being silly and creative with an empty box. Kora worked on her hand embroidery, and Samantha sweetly read books to Tatum K. Why do we even buy toys? It fills my heart up when we find joy in the simple things.

~ for doggy apparel to assist in the FULL TIME JOB of puppy prevention. While we DO intend to raise more litters of miniature goldendoodles, we know it’s in the best interest of Birdie’s health for her to wait awhile between litters. Let me just say, the instinct to procreate is STRONG!

~ for a fun weekend for Samantha, who was invited by friends to attend Fuel, a weekend youth retreat. She spend 2 nights away from home and had a fantastic time of fun, Bible teaching, and fellowship. How is this girl getting so grown up?

~ for a Spring re-fresh! We have added a new raised bed garden for our vegetables this year, and have potted some new plants and cheery red geraniums in the back yard. Come on sunshine!

~ for ANOTHER breakfast date! Tatum K had chosen to go to the donut shop for her Spring Break mom date, but she has been asking and asking to “go to Jimmy’s Egg wif Daddy.” So on Josh’s day off, we did just that!

~ for our first al fresco feast of the season. Dad’s mouthwatering burgers did not disappoint, and buttered, toasted Hawaiian buns took them to the next level. It was so wonderful to gather together in the cool, comfortable evening weather.

Spring is here. The dogwoods and redbuds have exploded into bloom amid the drab, grey, leafless trees. Hints of green are emerging from beneath the desolate frost-burned shrubs, and even a few brilliantly hued azaleas have valiantly burst forth where we thought no life was left. BUT GOD.It’s a picture of HOPE. New life overcoming. It’s so encouraging, a reminder that no matter fiercely a storm ravages, and the devastation it may leave behind, there is ALWAYS HOPE.

I read a devotional a few weeks ago that has resonated in my heart ever since. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it was phrased in a way that spoke to me afresh. We become what we focus on. It’s just the same as the adage “you are what you eat:” eat healthy, be healthy. Eat junk, come junk. Take in garbage (physically, mentally, or spiritually) and you will reap those benefits, and if you take in godly encouragement, worship music, read your Bible, you will be transformed to be more like Jesus. We’ve all heard it a thousand times.

But something about how it was said this time. You become what you focus on. If you focus on your problems, YOU WILL BECOME A PROBLEM. If you focus on your blessings, YOU WILL BECOME A BLESSING. And that’s really what Sunday Gratitude is all about. 7 years ago, when life as I knew it was crumbling, separated from my family, living in the hospital while my baby was fighting for his life, God told me to thank Him. To lift my focus from myself and my circumstances and seek out the blessings sparkling in the rubble. Writing Sunday Gratitude became an exercise in discipline, no matter what was going on. Trust me, there is plenty more going on behind the scenes in our lives that I’m not able to write about. We have had a million more ups and downs since then, but the blessings are ALWAYS THERE. From the high highs to the lowest lows and the everyday in-betweens, Jesus has never left. I just have to be willing to take the time to look for Him. And be willing to testify of His faithfulness. It’s a choice. I choose blessing.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

What I did on my Spring Break…

Well it was spring break week for us, as it was for many across the nation. We enjoyed a relaxed pace, beautiful weather, and an open calendar. One favorite tradition is breakfast dates with mom. I love having the one-on-one time to connect with each of them that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We started these little outings back when Sawyer was an infant… so I guess that makes seven years now! Can’t believe we’ve been doing it that long…time really does fly. It’s fun to surprise somebody different each day and to see where they all choose to go. My heart and my belly are full.

Zoe chose lunch instead of breakfast to fulfill her lifelong dream of dining at ZOE’S KITCHEN!

And the kids all had their turns getting loved on by their Aunt Gina. The girls had an afternoon,

the boys had a sleepover (Sawyer’s VERY FIRST night away from home other than hundreds of nights in the hospital! Mama’s heart had a hard time handling this! BUT GOD!)

And even Cooper got his own lunch date. So much fun.

When Sawyer gets to go back to his 1st Grade class tomorrow and give a report on what he did over Spring break, he can say he went to the hospital. Wednesday was his quarterly oncology clinic visit. Such fun for spring break, right?

But Sawyer loves it. He loves the trip, he loves the nurses and the doctors, and Wednesday was no exception. We rejoice to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE and healthy on all counts! We are freshly reminded of what a miracle he is. You can read the full details on the visit here.

Everyone is reflecting on one year ago when life as we knew it was changed forever by the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that the kids came home for Spring Break and never went back to school. We muddled our way through unprecedented virtual learning, toilet paper shortages, and mandatory stay-at-home orders. Social distancing, temperature checks, quarantine, and “I love your mask” became part of our new normal. EVERYTHING became political, EVERYONE had an opinion, and it felt mandatory to PICK A SIDE in every debate. Over the last year we’ve seen the loss of jobs, loss of freedoms, and loss of so many lives. So much has changed, and it doesn’t appear that the season of perpetual change is ending any time soon.

But no matter what has changed or will change, God is the same. He’s seated securely on His throne, loving us, drawing us, and waiting for more people to come to Him. And if we choose to anchor ourselves to Him, no matter how mad the world become, we can be confident that we know how the story ends. With life eternal in the Promised Land WITH HIM. Life often feels so complicated, but the Truth that matters is VERY SIMPLE. Most everything can be sifted down to Love God, and Love Others.

I’m not trying to preach to anybody but myself. I just want to live a simple life, loving my family and the people God brings into my path. I want to be anxious for nothing. I want to be Mary instead of Martha. I want to say “yes” to Him and really mean it. I want to love and forgive the way I’ve been forgiven and loved.

Anyway, I’m so thankful for all of you who take the time to listen to the musings of this everyday Mama, and follow along with the ins and outs of our Tribe. I’m always so encouraged when I hear from you. Thank you for your prayers, encouragements, and kind words over the past 7 years. You are my Sunday Gratitude.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Right On Time

I am thankful:

I’m thankful for a little spicy three-year-old in my lap snuggling and making faces and asking me to tickle her leg.

For lots of Giddyup & Whoa creations built, in process, and delivered.

For the sweet families that send us updates about Birdie and Bear’s puppies. They are growing up so fast, and are just the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen!

For my newest cute little plant, a dainty creeping wire vine. Who knew you could ORDER PLANTS OFF ETSY!?

For Cooper’s new obsession with “Chay-moe-ME-lay” tea.

For a full house for the first time in over a year. It seems like forever since we’ve hosted a small group for church. Small groups have been home to us over the last 20 years. It’s where we’ve been discipled, been fed physically and spiritually, where we’ve built relationships. We have worshipped together, prayed together, laughed together. We’ve worked through conflict and wrestled through questions together. The groups have changed so many times over the years, from 5 or 6 families to 1 or 2, to the mega group that numbered 50+ attendees, with 29 kids under 12. Last night we had 4 families with our collective 20 kids. Not even gonna lie: it was overwhelming. It was loud, kids were insane, and sensory overload for my anxiety. But it was so good. It’s why God gave us this home: to have a space of open doors and open hearts for loving on people. Kingdom investment. We are excited for this new season of stretching. We knew it was time.

For hand-me-downs. Thank you hand-me-downs for keeping me from having naked kids.

For walks at sunset.

For fun finds at Goodwill.

For my sweet boy I found hiding in the warm towels fresh out of the dryer.

For a sweet movie that the kids and I stumbled upon by accident: “Safety,” inspired by the true story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey, who became legal guardian of his little brother while still in college. It was a perfectly timed, God-ordained opportunity to talk through some questions a couple of our children had about foster care. As they grow into their tween and teen years, there have been more questions…deeper questions, the kind of questions that make my stomach hurt. Lord Jesus, help me tell my babies the truth with the right words given to me by only You. Help me to be a safe place for them, and give them the courage to ask their questions instead of stuffing them down inside. And fill them so completely with Your Love that they don’t have to doubt that they belong. I trust that the moment they need You the most, You will be right there.

This week a sweet friend asked how they could pray for me, and I said “that I would not lose heart and not grow weary trying to pour into all my kids.” It’s a daunting responsibility. Impossible really. BUT GOD. In myself, I don’t have a chance. But I have to remind myself – DAILY, if not multiple times a day – that HE saw fit to entrust Josh and I with each one of these incredible blessings, and that His grace is enough. And I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m never going to quit trying to get it right-er than the time before. And what I want to remember about that day, the day my friend asked how she could pray for me, was that that day my kids REALLY needed me. We talked through some really hard stuff, we had some extra hugs after a big owie, we prayed some really raw prayers. Had some looong talks. Any one of their needs would have been big enough to overwhelm a day. But stacked together and multiplied? WAY too much. BUT GOD! God knew what was coming THAT DAY, and He put me on my friend’s heart. And He knew she’d be faithful, both to reach out to me, AND to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH AND PRAY.

HE. IS. FAITHFUL. And He is ALWAYS RIGHT. ON. TIME.

Thank You, Jesus, for walking with me.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalms 32:6-8)

“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
‭‭(Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬)

“I’m changed by Your mercy Covered by Your peace I’m living out the victory Doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat You’ve walked me through fires Pulled me from flames If You’re in this with me I won’t be afraid When the smoke billows higher, oh and higher, and it feels like I can barely breathe I’ll walk through these fires ‘Cause You’re walking with me”“Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr

New Vision

Sawyer handed me an envelope from his backpack. I scanned it quickly and saw he’d had the standard vision screening by the school nurse. “Hey bub,” I told him as he crawled up beside me on the couch, “it looks like we need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.” “Glasses!!??” he exclaimed. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and his sparkling eyes suddenly started to fill with tears. “I don’t WANT glasses!!”

Change is hard. And it can be hard to wrap your mind around a paradigm shift, even just a seemingly minor one. I even got a little teary that evening when I talked to Josh about it. We both wear glasses and contacts, and know that life is just a little easier without having to deal with them. Even though we were both sure that the vision issues were simple and hereditary, it was impossible not to think about the chemotherapy drugs that listed vision loss as a side effect. I remembered wrestling with Sawyer as a tiny infant to apply eye drops every 4 hours round the clock when he was taking high dose cytarabine. But Josh and I held one another and thought back to those days, and we praised God that all we were facing was glasses for a beautiful 7 year old. To God be the glory!

Fast forward to the eye appointment. Sawyer’s reservations were completely forgotten.

He cheerfully hopped in the chairs for each different eye test, asked 7 billion questions, tried on several pairs of frames, and once the appointment was over, he asked more times than I can count, “HOW MANY MORE DAYS until MY GLASSES get here????” He went from nervous disappointment to impatient excitement almost overnight.

After two excruciating weeks of waiting, (thanks Snow-pacalypse 2021), I pulled up to the eye place and Sawyer squealed, “Are they finally here?” You’ve never seen a kid more excited. And once those tiny cute little glasses were placed on his little freckly nose, you’ve never seen a kid stand more proud. And better yet, “Wow! I really can see better!” Isn’t he so handsome?

To add some tasty icing to the cake, during the snow shut in, we had watched all the Superman movies with the kids. As soon as Sawyer climbed in the car with his glasses on, Tatum K yelled, “You look like Clark Kent!” He has latched onto that persona BIG TIME. Sawyer the Warrior has always been a superhero to us.

How often do we trip ourselves up and rob ourselves of clear vision because of fear and preconceived ideas? How often are we short sighted, in every sense of the word, instead of being willing to look for God‘s way, which is always SO MUCH BETTER?

Apparently this is something the Lord is really trying to drive home with me, because it keeps coming up. And when God repeats Himself, it means He’s NOT. KIDDING.

I’ve been looking for a certain vintage piece for our home for a LOOOONG time: a rustic wooden chicken nesting box. I’ve seen them in other people’s decor and fell in love. Little drawers and cubbies are just my favorite, and I’ve been hunting for a piece like this for YEARS. They are hard to find, and invariably WAY out of budget.

Photo: Instagram @yellowprairieinteriors

As Josh and I look for new pieces, and as our taste and the needs of our family change, we are often getting rid of STUFF. It’s always a challenge because, true to our nicknames, Giddyup (Josh) and Whoa (me), we RARELY agree. Josh would throw anything away in a minute and I would keep everything forever because if either a sentimental attachment or the nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, we would need “that thing” again one day. Anybody relate? Which side of the line do you land on?

So I have this dresser. It was mine as a kid, and my Grandpa Henry built it. The corners of the top were roughly rounded, and I knew the marks were from where I had actually chewed on it as a child. (I know, I guess I had problems, what can I say.)

Grandpa Henry was married to my Grandma Grace, and he passed away when I was 8 years old. My old dresser made lots of moves with me as I grew up, eventually being used by Colton until he moved out, and then was passed down to Cooper. It wasn’t in great shape any more. The finish was worn, the drawers had grown a little warped and were tough to slide. Josh and Cooper both said it was time to say goodbye.

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ACTUALLY BROKEN. It was still FUNCTIONAL. And it was so special to me.

But Josh had his mind made up. There was a better storage solution for Cooper’s closet that would free up floor space in the bedroom. But he also loves me, and is so considerate, and he knew how much having a piece of my Grandpa meant to me. He told me he was going to take the dresser apart so it wouldn’t take up so much space, but that he would save the wood until we found a special project for it.

I cried. (I really am a mush pot).

I think the dresser parts have been sitting around for about a year.

Until one day about a week ago when Josh came to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I have an idea that I think you’re gonna like. What if I build your nesting box out of your Grandpa’s dresser?”

I cried again.

Before I could even wipe my leaky eyes, he was out in his shop with the saw going. As always, I had strict instructions to stay out until he was done. “NO PEEKING!”

Maybe an hour later, he was ready for the grand reveal.

It. Was. Perfect.

Exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly made to fit our space. And handmade by the man that I love with wood from a special piece of history from a man that had meant the world to me as a little girl. And yes, I cried again.

When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me even more history about my dresser. He said, “I think Dad made it for the master bedroom in the old house after he and Ma were married, with home-sawn oak from here on the farm, so around 1945 is my guess. Dad liked to work with wood and usually had a project going.” Then it had been handed down from my Grandma to my Dad, and eventually to me. I couldn’t love that old wood more!

I love this piece. I love the function and warmth it adds to our hallway, and I love all the stories connected to it.

But first, I’d had to let go of the dresser.

I started with something that meant a lot to me, but it really wasn’t working anymore. I had to be willing to let it go and embrace a change. And when I finally did, I got something I REALLY wanted, and it turned out even better than what I had ever dreamed of.

Can we really do that?

Can we let go of our familiar and comfortable routines that we have built around ourselves, and allow God to dismantle them? Are we willing to trust that He actually has something better for us? And are we actually willing to WAIT for whatever that is, as long as it takes?

I don’t know what God has in store. But I know one thing. I know there’s more to this story than a pair of glasses and an old dresser. He’s been nudging me about a few things that I’m pretty certain he’s asking me to let go of. It may not be easy, but I know I want what He has for me more that whatever poor substitute I’m clinging to.

I don’t want to cling to ANYTHING but HIM.

I hope whatever season you find yourself in, that this encourages you. Let it go, and let your eyes open to His vision. I’m thankful that if we are willing (and sometimes even when we are not) God will speak to us through the most ordinary and unexpected ways.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Steadfast

I am thankful:

~ that I was only halfway to school when I heard Sawyer’s voice come from behind my shoulder in the car, “Um, mama… I forgot my shoes.”

~ for our Birdie girl’s birthday. What a year she has had! She joined our family, got married, and had 11 babies before turning 1!

~ for the blessing of tasty AND healthy options this week. We enjoyed delicious lean steaks (ok maybe cooked in some butter) and my favorite homemade healthy vegetable dip.

~ for the freshness that comes from putting away the Christmas decor and doing the first deep clean of the year. Everything looks brighter. Maybe a little bare at first, but it’s like a welcome pause after the constant overstimulation of the senses during the holidays. At first I always feel a little sad when I take down our favorite festive decorations, when all the nativities and the ornaments and stockings and the sparkle have been wrapped up and stored away until next year. But there is a fresh beauty in the spaces between. I’m always inspired to mix things up a little, to try a different arrangement, update a few pieces. Replacing a mattress that’s had a hole for…I-don’t-even-know-how-long. Changing up an old mirror with a little spray paint. Trading out a space age, rattling ceiling fan. January is the start of PROJECT TIME at Casa Rucker! We have some exciting projects planned for the next few months.

~ for a fun family movie night and the most hilarious Tatum K lookalike. (Check out Sophie on Rise of the Guardians.)

~ for a fun week with our temporary puppy. Red Boy, as we call him, referencing his color-coded id collar, is a sweetheart. He plays hard with the big dogs (we wonder if he has the concept that they are his parents), and has done a remarkable job with potty training. He has a most unusual favorite spot in the house. We will enjoy loving on him for one more week.

~ for a self proclaimed “best day of my life” for Sawyer. It suddenly dawned on me this week as he was struggling to buckle himself into his car seat with his bulky puffer coat. HE. IS. SEVEN. And is still riding in a high back car seat with a 5 point harness (the exact same seat Tatum K rides in). It was time, and I just hadn’t realized it. So while kids were at school, I purchased a new booster, and traded it for his old one. When he got in the car at pickup, you would have thought I had handed him tickets to Disneyland. “A booster seat! Mama! Thank you SO MUCH! This is the favorite gift I’ve ever gotten!” Immediately after school, he was invited to a laser tag birthday party at a local park. When I picked him up from the party, he was a tired, disheveled, frozen and oh-so-happy boy. Brown and green war paint smeared on his cheeks, a nose red from the cold, and tongue stained blue from Gatorade, he hopped into his new seat with a wide grin and said, “this is the best day of my LIFE! Well, the 2nd. The BEST day was the day I was done with cancer.” Oh my heart. Thank You God for the life of this beautiful shining light of a boy!

~ for the most glorious SNOW DAY! Here in Texas this is a highly accoladed event! I’m pretty sure we haven’t had any measurable snow in about 3 years. When the kids spotted the faintest hint of a flurry out the window this morning during our virtual church broadcast, they were beside themselves, and soon they were cheering at the meager white dust on our yard. The snowfall got heavier and steadier, and even to this Minnesota girl, it was magical. Huge white flakes falling and blanketing every surface – the kids say it looks like Narnia! Today they have built snowmen, had snowball fights, made snow angels, and did all the snow things you can pack into one afternoon.

Neighbors played outside, we snuggled with cocoa by the fire, we took breaks to warm up and dry out the sopping wet clothes, and then went back out for another round. Snow in the south is such a delightful oxymoron. Several times throughout the day we had to clean the snow off our palm trees to keep them from snapping. The kids were haphazardly bundled in multiple layers of pajamas and soggy hats and gloves that didn’t fit. And the initial jubilation of playing in the long-awaited snow lasted about as long as it took a snowflake to melt on their little Texas noses, quickly turning to whiny pink cheeked popsicles asking, “how do you know if you have frostbite?”

Dad and the big kids tried their hand at sledding down the snowy street on a cookie sheet: failed miserably, but hilarious to watch. Coop topped off our evening with a Polar Plunge into our pool!

Today was definitely my favorite day of the year. (As of 11 pm, it’s STILL coming down in giant flakes, we have gotten about 5 inches, and school is unsurprisingly cancelled tomorrow.)

The climate of our nation is insane. The devastating events on Wednesday were heartbreaking, and there is so much uncertainty about what may come next. It’s not hard to fall into the taps of anger, bitterness, division, and fear. But I’ve been so settled in my spirit. I mean, don’t misunderstand, I’m sad. I’m shocked. But I just know that God knew all this was coming, and that you and I were MADE for such a time as this. We, the Church, have been warned that trials were coming. That we will be targeted. That a day will come when we will be called to rise up in defense of the Gospel to a degree we have never experienced before. It’s time to dig deep and make a decision who we really are and what we really believe. Not what our parents told us to believe. Not what our preachers, or our Bible study teachers, or the social media influencers told us to believe. It’s time to get into God’s Word and read what HE SAID. IT’S TIME TO PRAY. It’s time to build our house on the Rock and set our anchors deep, because the STORMS ARE COMING. It’s time to ready ourselves. It’s time to teach our children to read their Bibles and that they can talk to God FOR REAL – ANY TIME, ABOUT ANYTHING, and that He hears them. It’s time to teach them to be kind to the lonely and to stand up for truth. It’s time to love our neighbors, especially the ones who are different from us. It’s time to pray for our enemies. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to WAKE UP BECAUSE IT’S FIXIN’ TO GET REAL.

During at-home worship, this song pounded into my heart.

“I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken!”

I’ve been open about it. I’m prone to anxiety. I worry. I think about cancer EVERY DAY. BUT GOD. I don’t want to puff up and act like I’ve got all the answers. I don’t know what I’m going to feel like tomorrow. But all I know is that TODAY…today my heart is steadfast. Many things are uncertain. But I KNOW what’s coming.

JESUS IS COMING.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““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. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)

““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33)

Merry Real and Imperfect Christmas

I am thankful:

for a wonderful Christmas.

I will never forget what it was like to be in a hospital at Christmas with my baby. Away from my husband and the rest of our kids. And he was so sick, running fever for unknown reasons, nurses coming in and out all through the night monitoring him. Countless tests being run to try to find a potential source of infection. I don’t think at the time I understood how precarious his health really was. At his point in his cancer treatment, babies could take a turn and things could spiral in an instant. Every year at Christmas, I am taken back to those moments.

Christmas at Children’s Hospital 2014
Christmas morning on C6

BUT GOD.

This year we did ALL THE THINGS. Baked. Decorated cookies. Passed out treats to the neighbors.

Loved on puppies. Watched all our favorite Christmas movies. Wore matching pajamas. Stayed up too late cooking and baking and stuffing stockings on Christmas Eve.

We read Luke 2 on Christmas morning. Feasted on all our favorite foods: spicy crawfish chowder, pumpkin pie, gooey caramel monkey bread, sausage bread, and deep fried turkey. Opened more gifts than we needed.

The “Purple Girl with the Pink Hair” from The Greatest Showman
Big brother Colton teaching Gavin and Sawyer how to set up their new baseball card collections
Lots of new puzzles this year, including a custom 1000 piece of our family beach photo

It was more than I could have ever dreamed.

Trust me, it wasn’t perfect. Kids fought. Puppies pooped more than one would think possible. Tatum K hardly slept. Birdie ate half Jesus’ birthday cake.

I wiped out on one of the boy’s hoverboards on the driveway and cracked my skull so bad I almost knocked myself out. We missed people who weren’t with us. And plenty of people who we love were hurting. Really hurting. Our pictures make it look like our life is perfect. It’s not. Remember, what is shared here is a snapshot, a highlight reel. Christmas isn’t always magical, for us and for anyone else, and that’s something that’s always heavy on my heart.

But God.

Emmanuel, God with us. With us in our joy. With us in our pain. With us always us if we allow him to be. It’s ok to not love every moment of Christmas. It’s ok to admit that the chaos and the togetherness and the unrealistic expectations make us anxious. It’s ok if be honest when there is some raw pain mixed in with our joy. And it’s ok to allow ourselves to experience joy even when we are hurting. Joy and pain can and often do coexist. It’s ok to be real. The King of Kings came to earth in a lowly stable. He was Glorious, the Answer, the Savior, welcomed by angels. But I bet the barn still stank.

Gold Network of East Texas had the awesome privilege of donating $10,000 to Dr. Sam John of Childrens Health/UT Southwestern to help fund his groundbreaking pediatric cancer research. Even more meaningful because Dr. John was one of Sawyer’s doctors all throughout his treatment.

We were disappointed not to be able to do an in-person check presentation, but grateful for Dr. John and Sawyer to be reunited via Zoom.

He told us that inspiring survival stories like Sawyer’s are a huge driving force behind the research his team does. We also missed our beloved tradition of delivering a home cooked meal to our oncology nurses on Christmas Eve due to COVID regulations. But we compromised by catering a nice Mexican fiesta for them on Christmas Day. We will always be grateful to these angels on earth for pouring their lives out for children battling cancer, even sacrificing their own family time to serve these hurting families.

We were tickled to receive pics and videos from some of our families who surprised their kiddos with a Christmas puppy. They had their first vet visit on Christmas Eve, and they all got a clean bill of health. One more week until they go to their fur-ever homes.

First vet visit for 11 pups
Puppy surprise
Puppy surprise

I’m thankful and exhausted. I have a painful knot on the back of my head from my fall, and I’m pretty sure there’s still some puppy poop on my leg. I’m thankful that this crazy year is almost over, and I’m thankful to know that no matter what highs and lows are ahead, that Emmanuel will meet me there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. And Merry Christmas. The real and imperfect kind.

“I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”” (Lamentations 3:20-24)

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)