Build

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

October 2017

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

We are building a house in the country!

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

But as of now…there is no house.

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

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

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

So buck up buttercup!

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

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

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

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe In

I am thankful:

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

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

Stretching

I am thankful:

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

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

~ for awesome spring evenings at the ballpark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are YOU willing to be stretched?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

Spring

I am thankful:

~ for each one of you. It never ceases to amaze me that anyone still reads these blog posts, but here you are. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words and prayers after last week’s heavy post. This life is filled with much we can never understand, and the suffering of children is at the top of that list. Our HERO families continue to put one foot in front of the other, facing each hard challenge as it comes, because they don’t have a choice. Thank you for your continued prayers for these precious families.

~ for the glorious arrival of Spring. The sun soaked days are good medicine. Elephant ears are forcing their spikes from the earth, fresh flowers on the front steps, and our freeze-ravaged azaleas are trying their best to shine. Even my resurrected orchid has pushed two more stunning blooms!

~ for baseball! It’s been several years since the big boys played ball, and it’s finally Gavin and Sawyer’s turn. We’ve got multiple practices. and multiple games every week. It’s a daily affair. Late nights and sandy shoes.

It’s both boys’ first time to play, and we could not have asked for better coaches for their first experience. They love Jesus and are so kind and encouraging when they work with the teams. It’s so fun for Josh and I to watch them having so much fun!

~ for ooey gooey magic cookie bar deliciousness. I haven’t made them in years…how did I forget how WONDERFUL THEY ARE?

~ for a wonderful night for Cooper for his Junior Prom. Isn’t he so handsome? How is he so GROWN?

~ for such a special chapel play for Sawyer and his class. Sawyer had a very important part: the role of Jesus! Who knew Jesus could have worn glasses and had such a cool hairdo?? It still stops my heart to see him doing all the normal, healthy KID stuff we never dared allow ourselves to hope for him.

~ for the yummiest cheesy instant pot lasagna. New recipe was an instant favorite.

~ for the cutest little April Fools in all the land. We love Jolly Joke Day!

~ for a house full of young folks (how old do I sound?) as we hosted the youth group this evening. Such a neat group of kids.

Life is such a rollercoaster, and I feel like I’m holding on for dear life. BUT GOD. I know He knows. I know He sees. Good days and hard days and impossible days and everything in between. It seems like every time I blink everything and everyone has flashed forward. I just remind myself to breathe Him in deeply, and exhale with thanksgiving. A day is coming when He will wipe away every tear. He is faithful. There is an order to all things.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 62:5-6)

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:23-25)

Heavy

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

But my heart is heavy.

We have so many cancer families in crisis right now.

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

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

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

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

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

How? How can this be?

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Our Peace

I am thankful:

~ for a decadent breakfast at my all time favorite place, First Watch on “Breakfast Day” with Dad and TK. Their pillowy waffles and spicy maple cayenne bacon are what I dream about.

~ for an awesome week for Cooper on Go Week. Each GCS High School grade goes on a different class trip, and Juniors spent the week touring historical sites from Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee back to Dallas. Such an amazing opportunity.

~ for the smell of fresh baked cookies.

~ for an awesome sunshine- soaked day at the ballpark. The UT Tyler Patriot Baseball Team held a “Strike Out Childhood Cancer “ game, and invited Gold Network of ETX families to be honored at the game. 14 year old osteosarcoma survivor, Corbin Glasscock, threw out the first pitch. It was a special day!

~ for Spring Break. Excited for a laid back week with the kids. No real plans, no schedule, just freedom from watching the clock. Lots of baseball practices and sunshine I hope.

Birdie and Bear love to watch baseball practice

~ for the life and legacy of our friend, Sophie. Sawyer only met Sophie once at the hospital, but they bonded instantly and he talked about her constantly.

Sawyer and Sophie in 2017

She was a spunky and sassy and I think Tatum K would have been crazy over her. Sophie was stolen from her family by lymphoma in 2018 before her 3rd birthday. This Saturday she will celebrate turning 7, but in heaven with Jesus instead of here with her Mama and Daddy and little brother. Her incredible family has purposed to make her birthday a day of celebration and encouragement, a day to spread kindness and the love of Jesus in Sophie’s memory. They will take a massive toy donation to Children’s in Dallas to share joy with other kids in their battle. You can donate directly to Sophie’s mom, Shelby here www.paypal.me/ShelbySkiles. Or you can just find a way to spread kindness on March 19. Buy someone’s coffee. Make a meal for a sick friend. #domoreforsophie Happy birthday, sweet girl. We won’t ever forget.

This week I’ve just been super conscious of the stirring God is doing in my heart. I shared last week about feeling like I was at the beginning of coming out of the dark season of oppressive anxiety. I’ve continued to seek the Lord’s leading daily, and have experienced a closeness and a refreshing in His presence. My circumstances and my biology have not changed. Every problem and anxiety is still right there waiting for me, waiting to trip me up, waiting to steal my joy. But I am healthier than I once was. Stronger. I physically feel the armor of the God protecting my heart and my mind.

I was really struck by this Scripture in a new way this week. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We may think of PEACE as being passive, the absence of conflict. I never thought about the PEACE OF GOD BEING A GUARD. Jesus is our peace, and He is actively protecting us. Watching over our hearts and minds, if we only will give thanks and ask.

There is so much stirring in my heart…what lies ahead I can scarcely imagine. But I’m thankful for this corner I’ve turned. Doesn’t mean I don’t still have my struggles, hard days, dark days. But instead of feeling like I am sleepwalking, I am alive. Instead of a spectator, I am engaged and ready to put my hands to the plow.

That’s something I learned from Sophie. Life is hard. God is bigger.

May you be encouraged, literally FILLED WITH COURAGE, this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:14-17)

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalms 34:3-4, 14-15)

Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

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

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

My poor dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

We Pray

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

~ for Rucker birthday season in full force. We celebrated Kora last Sunday,

and the Gavin is our Valentine’s Boy. He had a great day, starting with heart shaped pancakes (of course),

pizza for lunch, and taco salad and ice cream cake.

And today was my turn! A surprise latte from Colton, lots of thoughtful birthday wishes, a delicious salad from Piada for lunch, afternoon nap, and then a FEAST of Ruby’s authentic quesadillas

and my favorite homemade-salted-caramel-sauce-soaked-coffee-infused-chocolate-cake-topped-with-Heath-bits.

With all my Loves here at home. I couldn’t dream of anything better. Thank You Lord, for this family that I don’t deserve.

Samantha made me a “BUT GOD” bracelet 💛
Tatum K said, “You have one more present, Mama!”

~ for Sawyer’s chapel character quality award: Generosity. Sawyer has such a loving and generous heart, the fact that he was chosen for this award was no surprise.

~ for a favorite special tradition: February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a special day when Gold Network of East Texas partners with families and friends all over to raise awareness of childhood cancer. We eat ice cream to support kids battling cancer, celebrate the survivors, and to honor the memory of our friends we lost too soon. We enjoyed a sweet treat as a family, and then we shared ice cream with Sawyer’s class at school (as well as his warrior classmate, Jase, and another HERO friend, Matthias).

Josh took ice cream to work to his team, Grandmommy organized an ice cream social at her school in Carthage, and pictures flooded in from all over East Texas from HEROES and their supporters. What an incredible community to be a part of!

~ for our first attempt at hibachi on the griddle. Chicken and veggie fried rice was a hit!

~ for the boys’ room finally completed! These boys are so excited: freshly updated room, baseball practices underway (we have a National and an Astro), and just the excitement of trying something new. It’s going to be so busy but such a fun season.

~ for a long-awaited project completion. Our master bath was one of our first makeovers when we moved into this house. Wall to wall carpet, dingy mustard walls and ceilings, discolored cabinetry, and a most unusual round wall with lots of sheetrock damage.

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

Last year’s stay-cation brought a new light fixture and textured paintable wallpaper in hopes of disguising the unsightly wall blemishes. But then I hit a quite literal design “wall.” I wasn’t sure what color to paint, and was not at all satisfied with how the wall looked. But this week I bit the bullet and went BOLD with a deep, almost black, charcoal in a matte finish.

And we LOVE IT! The wall dents and cracks are finally almost indistinguishable, and I’m digging the unexpected high contrast color. You’ve come a long way, baby!

~ for God’s protection. As you can well imagine, laundry is a neverending battle at our house. Picking up clothes, hanging up towels, sorting bins, stain spotting, soaking, washing, what to dry, what to hang, fluffing wrinkles, folding, figuring out who in the world each item belongs to, and then putting it all away…it is a round the clock, full on enterprise. Both machines are pretty much running constantly. This week was no different, but when i pulled a load out of the dryer, I thought it smelled bad. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I’m notorious for my inability to smell bad odors, so I was really questioning myself. The more I smelled each piece of the dry laundry, the more I decided it all smelled like smoke. I didn’t see anything amiss, but even with the dryer off for the rest of the day, the acrid scent got worse and worse. When Josh got home, we inspected the inside and the back of the dryer. Checked the vent for clogs or lint buildup. Nothing. But when he opened up the dryer, we couldn’t believe it. There were INCHES of lint inside the machine – and all of the underbelly was black – the whole inside of the dryer had been ON FIRE! Yet somehow, miraculously, it had self-extinguished!!! There is absolutely no explanation for this. BUT GOD!

BUT GOD!

~ for Mr. Giddyup and his brilliant mind for construction. We were certainly not planning to do a laundry room makeover, but that was suddenly on the agenda this week.

Laundry room before we purchased the house
Demo in 2020
New paint & reclaimed wood countertop

We made the switch from our top loaders to front load machines, and the coordinating pedestals were one serious back order, not to mention PRICEY. So of course, Josh built a completely custom built in platform that tied in seamlessly with our existing cabinetry (and the custom reclaimed wood countertop he had installed last year).

I think the whole project from start to finish (from taking the first measurement to both the washer and dryer running) took less than 10 hours! His talent and “giddyup” truly amazes me.

~ and now I’ve never been so thankful to be back in my laundry room! An unexpected three day laundry hiatus (and multiple loads that had to be re-washed) makes for a SERIOUS EVEREST of stinkiness! But the new and improved setup is super functional and efficient, so I’m ALMOST caught up.

It’s a wild season, and I won’t lie and say it’s all glorious. Some days are still a battle to hold fast to the joy of the Lord. But every single day, I open my eyes and thank Him. Every day I remind myself that His plan, His purpose, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His grace, His love is forever true.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalms 105:1-4)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“While there’s breath in my lungs, I will praise You, Lord. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing. The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (“Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

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

Texas blizzard

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

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

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

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

~for a handy sous chef in training.

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

Primer coat…finish yet to be revealed!

~ for fluffy mashed potatoes and maple cayenne glazed carrots.

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

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

God’s not finished.

So I’m thankful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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