It is Well (and we almost are)

Ugh.  

I would say that was the theme of this week. 

We had so much fun last Sunday celebrating Sawyer’s birthday.  Tatum K had started running a fever off and on.  When her fever went up, it knocked her out.  But then when Motrin kicked in, she was bouncing off the walls.  So we didn’t think much of it. 

Little did we know. 

Monday evening was a nice night celebrating Cooper at the GCS Football Banquet.  It’s hard to believe he’s already completed his Freshman football season!  AND, we had the BEST barbecue cooked by his Coach.  Tatum K continued to run fever off and on.  And I noticed by the end of the evening, my head had started pounding, and I felt so, so tired. 

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Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train.  Tatum was still running fever, and Gavin was barking like a seal.  

Wednesday, Zoe got it.  Then Thursday, Cooper.  And Tatum K and I never got better.  Only worse.  We all just laid around, moaning occasionally.  Washing hands and reapplying hand sanitizer until our skin was raw.  Tatum didn’t eat all week.  Maybe 4 carrots and few bites of Fruit Loops.  Trust me, I tried everything. 

By some miracle SAWYER DID NOT GET SICK!!!!  And neither did Samantha, Kora, or Josh!  GLORY TO THE LORD!   (Colton and Carson Grace don’t know how very blessed they are not to be living at home this week!)  I honestly cannot remember EVER being this sick.  I get colds every year: it doesn’t matter if Mom gets sick – life still keeps rolling and I have to roll with it.  With whatever-in-the-world-this-was, THERE WAS NO ROLLING.  And to top it off, Tatum rested so much during the daytime, she stopped sleeping at night.  EVERY. NIGHT. THIS WEEK, she was up a MINIMUM of 10 times.  No sleep for sick mama.  No wonder I couldn’t get better. 

BUT GOD!  No matter what, no matter how sick, no matter how rough the week was, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for!  

So here we go!

~ for the delicious BBQ at the football banquet.

~ that I had been able to get the house decorated for Christmas BEFORE the sickness hit.  Not only would it not have gotten done, but it made the house cheery and festive to brighten up our hard week.  Our house was just MADE for Christmas. IMG_0723.jpg

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~ for the children’s sweet prayers for their Mama and their siblings.  They were the absolute best sports on the planet, and did their best to help around the house.  Sawyer was devastated that he couldn’t hug me, so he had to make due with hugging my leg.  They all offered so much grace and kindness to their sickly and not-very-gracious mama.  I tried not to be grumpy, but failed miserably.  

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~ for good snuggles from poor little Tatum.  It was clear how awful she felt – she was not her spicy self at all as the week progressed.  All she would do was croak, “Mama, I lay wif you.”

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~ for a FEAST delivered to our doorstep!  When I opened the door and saw all the tasty food, I could hear the choirs of angels singing!  Slim Chickens never tasted so good!  THANK YOU Karen!!!

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~ for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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~ for the most wonderful Advent Devotional.  Even as sick as most of us were, I’m grateful that we chose to end each day on the sweetest note.  We ended every single night  with the Word of God and pointed to Jesus.  That’s really the only thing I got right all week.  But thankfully, it’s the ONLY THING that matters.  Glory to His Name.  You can find the devotional here.  (Thanks so much for sharing it, Jen!)

~ that Josh was able to attend (and video for me) Kora’s 4th Grade Colonial Trade Days presentation, where she portrayed a Leather-worker.  

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~ for Bear being the most adorable and photogenic Christmas dog ever.  (And for Tatum who had to show me that she could sit as nicely as “Bear Boy”). 

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~ for my amazingly talented, creative, and hardworking husband who built signs for our orders this week AND created several new items available from Giddyup & Whoa.  I just love everything he builds!

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~ for HEALING!  As of Saturday, we are all fever-FREE, and on the road to feeling better.  I still have ZERO energy, but it’s such an improvement from how I did feel. 

~ that Josh and I are both up to date on our tetanus shots!  I stepped on a rusty nail on our street that pierced my foot through my sneaker, and Josh narrowly missed cutting off his thumb, but sustained a wide flesh wound.  Thank You Lord, for Your MERCIES! 

Have you used the feature on Spotify that tells you your “Most Played Song of the Year?”  So many people have been sharing it, I was curious.  I can’t even remember what it told me for 2019, but then the feature went backward several more years.  When my “Most Played Song of 2015” popped up, it took my breath away.  “Bye Bye Bye,” by NSYNC.  For those of you who are new here, that was Sawyer’s favorite song when he was a baby, and I played it for him OVER AND OVER in the hospital.  2015 was a really hard year:  we started January in the ICU after a terrifying narcotic reaction, and then later that year we had lots of long hospital stays due to side effects and infections. BUT GOD. Gives a little perspective on one week of RELATIVELY MILD illness in the comfort of my home.  (Oh, and my “Most Played Song of 2016?”  “Rise Up,” by Andra Day.  Thank You Jesus!)

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I am ready for a FRESH NEW WEEK!   How about you?

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalms 116:7)

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” (Psalms 3:3-4)

Seasons

I am thankful:

~ for 2 sweet quick visits with 2 different dear friends before they move away.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to people you love.  But seasons are always changing and you just pray that you can find a way to stay connected regardless of location.  Tatum had a great time playing with a friend, and later having a delicious breakfast of diced tomatoes and chocolate milk!

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~ for the stunning color of the fall leaves.  People say Texas doesn’t really get seasons.  And while the foliage may not be as electric nor the temperatures quite as brisk as in the north and northeast, I think East Texas is beautiful in the fall.  I love the drop in temperatures, pulling out the boots and sweaters, and the crackle of a fire in the evenings.  To me, the autumn season was the ideal choice for scheduling Thanksgiving: leaves change and fall, colder weather makes us want to cuddle closer, we hunger for the warmth of nostalgic comfort foods…it’s a season built for looking around at our surroundings and seeking to give thanks. 

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~ for a extra special week for Kora.  Her class presented the Chapel program, a Tribute to Veteran’s Day.  It was an inspiring and reverent program, and all the students did a beautiful job with their songs and recitations.  Then as a part of her classroom’s weekly Toastmasters presentation, she gave her original speech.  Big week for our girl.  She delights in having her turn in the spotlight, and nothing makes her light up more than seeing Mama and Daddy smiling from the audience.  So proud of her. 

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~ for the rare opportunity to surprise my girl!  Carson Grace invited us to a special event as a part of her music major program, Student-led Night of Worship.  Unfortunately, she invited us about 22 hours before the program.  I let her know we were very proud of her, but told her how difficult it would be to make arrangements to get all the way to Marshall the next evening, especially on a school night.  But as soon as I got off the phone with her, I got to work planning those details.  Even that evening, as we were on the road to Marshall, I continued to text her and tell her that we loved her and were praying that the service would go well (true statements).  When we showed up at the recital hall (you can imagine, a Tribe of Littles is quite a spectacle on a college campus, so we weren’t hard to spot), she saw us and burst into tears.  I’m so thankful we made it a little early so she had time to get herself together before taking the stage with her worship team.   What a blessing to see our beautiful daughter, singing unto the Lord with her peers.  It was just awesome.  After her set was over, she joined us in the audience, and squeezed me so hard…it felt great to know how much it meant to her that we were there.  It was an incredible night worshipping together, and even the Littles totally got into it, clearly blessed by the presence of the Lord. IMG_9530

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~ for lots of progress in preparation for our 2 upcoming Giddyup & Whoa sales: Vintage & Company’s “Christmas in the Country” and The Market.  Josh has been building and building for me, and I paint every chance I get.  The kids love being a part: helping design, paint, and construct; and they are always eager to “model” for me.  So thankful for the opportunity to create together as a family, and hopeful that we are coming into a busy season for the business. 

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~ for successfully surviving the last (and coldest, and WETTEST) JV football game of the season!  Armed with our blankets, scarves, gloves, and hot chocolate, the Littles and I made it to halftime, and left Dad, Colton, and Brooke to cheer Coop on to the bitter end.  I love watching him play, so I’m sad to see the season end, but I WILL NOT miss shivering in the bleachers with 875 whining kids. 

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~ for our furry, floppy muppet dog, Bear, who turned 1 today!  He has been such a fun addition to our crazy Tribe. 

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~ for relaxing evenings, chilling and watching the Cowboys.  Ok fine.  If you know me, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about football. I can barely keep my eyes on Cooper’s jersey to see where he is on the field at his games.  I can get into sports when I know personal stories about the players, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to follow.  BUT. I love my husband.  And my husband loves to watch the Cowboys.  So I love to be near my husband while he watches the Cowboys.  I paint or write, and I cheer when he cheers.  We’ve got a system down. 

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~ for a weekend with our girl home from college.  We enjoyed a RARE laid back weekend devoid of a schedule.  Carson Grace got to sleep in, we ran some errands, ordered some much-needed glasses for both of us, and spend the evening watching Lion King all together. 

~ for unexpected blessings.  One of the reasons Carson Grace came home for the weekend was because she had been invited to be a guest vocalist at the church of one of her professors.  The church was in Athens, and we decided to load up the whole Tribe and go with her.  Carson Grace of course did an absolutely wonderful job sharing her song, and blessed the heart of the Lord and every parishioner in attendance.  But it was clear the moment we got there that the He had a very specific purpose for our family visiting that church.  The pastor (who teaches voice part time at ETBU, and was the one who invited Carson Grace) and his wife have recently taken in 4 foster children.   Recently as in 3 weeks ago.   I looked into that mama’s tired tired eyes and knew exactly what she was feeling.   Oh, how vividly O remember the pain of that season, of those raw first weeks. Josh and I were able to share our foster/adopt story and listen to where they are in theirs.   We could relate to one another on such a strikingly similar level, and there was such hope in that.   After church was over, our 2 families went for pizza, and the adults visited as much as we could while juggling kid plates, refilling cups, wiping noses and wiping spills…  We sat there and told the stories we have told so many times.  Stories of broken beds, and heads cracking through windows.  Stories of getting locked out of the house by 3 toddlers and of the end of life as we then knew it.  BUT GOD.   Because the kids from those stories are gone.  They really are.  I can’t think of a day when I was more proud of my children.  As we were telling those stories with the grownups, OUR kids were loving on THEIR kids.  Our little girls were chatting it up with their girls, and have already declared that they are friends who can’t wait to see each other again.  Their little guy and Sawyer had been in Sunday school class today that morning, so they were tickled to buddy up at lunch.  And Carson Grace and Cooper were kind and conversational with their quiet and reserved 16 year old boy.  It was beautiful.  I’m not even bothering to hold back my tears as I write this tonight, with the images fresh on my mind.  I ache thinking of all that these precious children have gone through, more than anyone even knows about.  They have been shifted around and let down by the ones who they trusted to keep them safe, and so many others after that.  I can only imagine how broken and scared and confused they are.  And I know how shell shocked those foster parents are right now.  Everything about their life has changed overnight.  And they are holding on for dear life, clinging to Jesus, desperately trying to be obedient to whatever He asks them to do.   I’m so grateful that we got to meet this family today, and ask that you would join me in praying for them.  They need it.  And I’m so grateful that the Lord used this day to show me afresh how far our beautiful children have come, and the beauty that shines from the ashes of their story.  Their story is one of brokenness and loss and pain, and a story of love and redemption and healing and hope. And today I got to see them ministering.    Thank You Father for fresh eyes to see the miracle of New Life. 

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you remain securely anchored into Christ.  When things are bad, hang on.  Jesus is holding you, He is fighting for you, and He will never leave you.  And this season won’t last forever.   And if you are in a sweet season, a season of plenty, of peace – set that anchor DEEP.  Study His Word, seek God’s heart, pour into the lives of others.  Invest wisely in eternity during seasons of peace, because that season will end too.  And we never know what’s ahead.  We just know that our best days are still to come.  Which season are you in?  Who can you encourage this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)

Choosing a Soundtrack

I am thankful:

~ for an uneventful day off from school. It was nice and quiet. The kids had fun in the pool. It was a lovely nothing day.

~ for a special, special day that I never could have dreamed we would see.  Our 20 year anniversary!  The naive kids who repeated vows 2 decades ago would have rightfully been nominated “Least Likely to Succeed.”  We had everything against us.  But God breathed His life into us, and into our marriage.  He knit us together because we only had each other.  He took us through the fire and refined our love and our faith.  I scarcely recognize those kids.  But I love what our life has become.  We enjoyed our new favorite C Rojo’s burger and grapefruit sodas for lunch, and thanked God for 20 beautiful, hard, grace-laced, overcoming years.   This was what I posted that day:

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“These two kids didn’t have a clue.  We were wild and naive and crazy about each other.  We had a baby. And then found Jesus. And then got married.  Had some more babies and adopted one.  Lost a baby, adopted some more, and had another baby all in one year.  Then came cancer.  More cancer, and ANOTHER baby.  I am blown away by the quantity and quality of life and love God has packed into 20 years.  We chose each other when we didn’t know any better.  Now I know, and I’d choose you again and again and forever.  And to borrow from another favorite love story, “Let ‘me say we’re crazy. What do they know?  Put your arms around me baby, don’t ever let go.  Let the world around us, just fall apart.  Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”  Happy Anniversary to my Love.”

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~for an uncommonly cooperative and photogenic dog.  He doesn’t mind being a Giddyup & Whoa model or a Gold Network spokesdog.  But he does get tired after all the limelight. 

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~for exciting updates from our graphic designer for this year’s Tyler Gold Run shirts!  We wanted something fun and different to celebrate 5 years.  Can’t show you yet…but I can’t wait!!!!  There’s still time to register!

~ for so many heartwarming reports of people “Going Gold!”  You have changed your profile pictures, shared awareness posts, worn gold… THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of so many families who live childhood cancer awareness month every single day, not because they choose to, but because it is the reality of the life they now live.

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~for healing.  Cooper’s hip is mending well.  Kora has had a chronically recurrent ear infection that is improving.  Sawyer has had a yucky cough.  That’s not uncommon for him.  He always catches whatever crud is going around.  He was coughing by the second day of school, and pretty much has been ever since.  I try not to not be too quick to drag him to the doctor’s office, because I know everybody gets a cold at back to school time.  And I know I am oversensitive and overprotective with Sawyer.  Unfortunately, Monday night, he started running fever.  High fever, over 102°.  We kept him home from school of course, but resisted the urge to jump straight to the doctor, for the same reasons referenced before.  But the cough worsened enough that it was keeping him up all night.  And me.  And Tatum K.  After three days of significant fever and increasing coughing, I finally took him in to the pediatrician. Pneumonia.  Now after missing a full week of school, and a few days on antibiotics, the fever has lifted and the cough is at least a little better.  BUT, now Tatum K is running fever. Sigh.  Just one exceptionally exhausting act in the intricate dance of a large family. BUT GOD… 

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~ for melatonin.  When your child physically does not have a “get sleepy” button, you MAKE SURE you NEVER run out of melatonin.  

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When life is super busy (back to school + a million kids + Giddyup & Whoa painting + crunch time in preparation for the Gold Run) and then we have a health curveball… it really sends me spiraling.  Anxiety doesn’t play nice, and is merciless in its attacks.  Rest at night is almost nonexistent.  I often feel paralyzed by all I have to get done, and physically feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Somehow I had recently heard some song, just a snippet of a really terrible song, and it got stuck in my head.  It was absolutely maddening.  After about 3 days, I realized how it was absolutely MESSING WITH ME!  It was quite literally a vulgar and negative soundtrack playing constantly in my head.  But once I keyed in on it…I took action right away.  I turned on my worship music and began to SING!   Every time the negative song would creep back into the background, I would silence it with prayer and singing.  Changing the soundtrack of my day made a huge difference in my peace.  Have you ever noticed that?  That you replay something over and over in your mind?  And how much more often it is something NEGATIVE than anything remotely positive?  We replay a scathing argument, but rarely an uplifting encouragement.  Recognizing this habit, and acknowledging the negative impact it has on our mood and our spirit can be such a life changing paradigm shift. 

I’m ready for a better week. Sawyer is excited to return to school after several days on his antibiotic and now fever-free.  I pray Tatum K recovers quickly and no one else gets sick.  I have a to-do list 86 miles long, but I trust God to provide the grace I need breath by breath.  And it may not all get done, and it probably won’t all go perfectly, but that’s ok too.  BUT GOD…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When every day is just another struggle / And every choice is an act of war / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for / When it feels like I’ll never make it / When my heart’s crying out for more / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for.” (“Prize Worth Fighting For” Jamie Kimmett)

“I hear the whisper underneath your breath / I hear you whisper, you have nothing left / I will send out an army / To find you in the middle of darkest night / It’s true, I will rescue you / I will never stop marching / To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight / It’s true, I will rescue you. (“Rescue”  Lauren Daigle)

“Now I have resurrection power / living on the inside Jesus / You have given us freedom No longer bound by sin and darkness / living in the light of Your goodness / You have given us freedom Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, my chains are gone! Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, HALLELUJAH!” (“Resurrection Power” Chris Tomlin)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Don’t Stop Praying

I am thankful…

~ for Bear.  He’s such a great dog.  He’s been a relatively easy puppy, very smart and learning quickly.  My favorite is how he and Tatum K love each other.  They greet each other each morning with enthusiastic kisses, and just roll all over the floor together.  I’m blown away that Bear clearly recognizes and respects the difference between Tatum and the other children…he is so much more gentle and tender with her, and puts up with her squeezing him and over-loving him.  I can tell they are going to be best friends.  Love to have him riding along in the bus to and from school.  He MAY be just the SLIGHTEST bit spoiled. 

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~ for my latest favorite salad recipe: crunchy chickpeas, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocados tossed with green onions, cilantro, lime, and olive oil!  It is so tasty!

~ for a fun, albeit chilly first baseball game of the season for Cooper.  He had a great game, and was stealing bases left and right!  Great start to the season!

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Chilly Baseball Game!

~ for a great tournament for Carson Grace’s softball team.  They traveled to Frisco and won 2 out of 3 games.  We couldn’t make it to watch, but I was super thankful for the ability to follow the game live via an app on my phone!  

~ for my awesome rockstar husband, who was a pacer with Uncle Caleb for the Fresh 15K yesterday morning.  The kids and I loaded up the bus to cheer for him, and after an hour of driving in circles and backtracking around the blocked off streets along the race route, we FINALLY found a place to park and walked A MILE IN THE RAIN, arriving at the Finish Line: 5 minutes before they crossed!!!!!  So proud of Josh, who nailed his goal pace, and persevered through the challenging course despite back and knee injuries.  

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Fresh 15K

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~ for another rockstar: our friend Mason who kicked leukemia’s butt and took his very last dose of chemo last week.  Mason is a brave boy who overcame trial after trial and side effect after side effect.   And his family never lost heart or let go of their faith. Such a joy to celebrate these milestones. 

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Warrior Strong Team Mason

~ for Sawyer’s tender heart during worship.  Today at church, unprompted, he began to raise his hands.  He sang along, and swayed back and forth with his hands in the air.  Then, he abruptly got down on his knees in the aisle of the church, bowing his face to the floor of until worship was over.  It was priceless.  Maybe he was pretending, or copying what he sees others do.  Who knows.  It doesn’t matter.  I know the Lord sees his innocent little heart inclined to Him and is pleased.  I asked Sawyer afterward, and he said simply, “I wanted to make God happy.”  

~ I WAS super excited to share a project that I have been painstakingly working on all week, stripping a unique old end table we’ve had for years.  It had an outdated dark stain that I stripped, planed, sanded, and then bleached to get to a far lighter, almost driftwood look.  Turned out great.  Unfortunately, I guess all the motion and commotion didn’t agree with it, because the day after I moved the completed table into the house and got it all staged cute, all of a sudden, the beautiful glass base of the table shattered!  SO SAD!  But times like these make me extra thankful for my junker’s heart, because we always have random table bases tucked away somewhere, and Josh got it all fixed up.  I sure was bummed about that awesome glass base though. 

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~ and I’m so excited for Carson Grace on her latest adventure.  She is currently in Washington DC with her senior class for the week.  I dropped her at the school at 2am, they flew out of Dallas at 7, and hit the ground running in DC taking in the sites.  Praying for the students to have a safe and phenomenal trip, one of the last events they’ll go through together before graduation.  Man, I miss that girl.  

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My heart has been heavy this week.  So many people I love are hurting, weighted down by some tremendous burdens.  And I can’t do one thing.  There’s no answer, no fix, no remedy.  I mean, of course, Jesus is the remedy.  If we know Him, we know that.   But when the people we love hurt, we hurt.  There’s just no way to take that away. But we can do the only thing we can do…we pray.  We reach out.  We remember.  And don’t stop praying, and reaching out, and remembering.  We don’t have to have perfect poetic words of encouragement that no one has ever said before.  Or come up with THE ONE SCRIPTURE that is going to enlighten the situation and give a fresh perspective and change everything.  That’s God’s department.  He’s the One in the miracle department.  Keep praying for your friends, friends.  He listens.  Prayer changes things, and it changes us.  Don’t lose heart.  I know you have been praying for Baby Lucas – don’t stop!  My pastor friend received his heavenly healing…he is with Jesus now, right where he wanted to be.  But please keep praying for his family and his church.  And please add another this week.  Brian is my friend’s husband, and his family is eagerly waiting for him to wake up from emergency heart surgery several weeks ago.  You can keep up with the updates here www.caringbridge.org/visit/brianwilhoite

Keep praying and looking for the blessings around you, and let’s lift one another day by day a step closer to the Throne.  Maybe I’ll be strong for you today, and then you’ll be strong for me tomorrow.  And God is always working, even when we cannot see.  And be kinder than you think you have to be.  You never know what someone is walking through.  Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Sweet

IMG_3387I am thankful for a full week of fun…

~ for a great week for Tatum K.  She likes all these birthdays and parties and holidays for one important reason: CAKE!  If you’ve seen my Instagram, you have seen her insistent chanting:  “Cake! Cake! Cake! Pie! Pie! Pie!”  There is no denying her love of sweets, and she was one happy girl to get to indulge this week!

~ for Gavin’s 2nd grade class chapel program, celebrating that the Bible is God’s Valentine to His children.  Such a sweet message, and the kids did such a great job. 

~ for a dear friend’s good news that made my heart sing. 

~ for excitement for Cooper – thrilled that he made the A team for Jr High baseball!  He started practice last week, and games will commence soon.  Carson Grace is enjoying playing on the Varsity Softball team.  Come on SPRING!!!

~ for new signs completed for Giddyup and Whoa.  Bear and Tatum K both got to be sign models. 

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~ for two special back-to-back birthdays.  Kora turned 10 on the 13th and Gavin turned 9 on the 14th (Gaventime’s Day!).  Yep.  366 days apart!  These two are used to sharing birthday celebrations, and Gavin knows his birthday is going to be red and pink every year until eternity.  They are great sports about it, and we do our best to make their individual days special for each of them.  We feasted on box macaroni and cheese and pizza and pink and blue cupcakes. 

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~ Miss Kora had no reservations about what she wanted for her birthday: pierced ears!  She marched right in and hopped up in the chair!  She made some pretty intense, horrified faces during the piercing, but she was super-duper brave!  So pretty!

~ for surviving the epic amounts of sugar consumed by my household this week: from “special birthday breakfasts” to class birthday treats, birthday cupcakes, ON TOP OF class Valentine’s Day parties.  It was a high-fructose corn syrup and Red 40 flavored week.  We may be doing a cleanse these next few days!

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~ for the single-most highly anticipated evening of the year: the Father-Daughter Banquet/Dance at Tyler Christian Fellowship.  There is nothing that thrills my girls more than to hear the doorbell ring and open it to find their beloved Daddy with roses in his hand to offer to each one of his beautiful girls.  They all dressed in their finest, and they dined, they danced their little tails off, and each one of them soaked up how much they are loved by their Daddy.  Even Carson Grace cherishes this time.  I love that this is a memory they will always treasure.  This year I had a really great time with Tatum K (too young to attend) and my boys.  We cooked some tasty nachos and watched a movie.  But the highlight of the evening was playing Pie in the Face!  We all got “pied,” even mom, much to the boys’ delight.  Lord, help me to relax and have fun with my kids.  They really are so easy to please….all they want is time and some good laughs.  And sometimes it really is as simple as a fistful of whipped cream smeared on my face. 

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~ for a special time of fellowship and sharing after church.  Leadership hosted a lunch for new visitors, with a tasty meal and encouraging testimonies from people in the Body. Love the opportunity to get to meet, welcome, and encourage new families.  

It’s been a good, full week.  Plenty of hard, but also plenty of sweet moments.  I think that’s just where we are in life.  I think it’s always going to be some flavor of hard.  Large family life is uniquely challenging.  Adoptive family dynamics are complicated.  Life after cancer is ugly hard.  But God is just so faithful.  His Word reminds me of His new mercies.  His Spirit comforts mine and reminds me that no matter what I feel like, I’m never ever alone.  And Jesus meets me: in my brokenness, in my joy, in the moments when I feel like an utter failure, and in those fleeting moments when I breathe a sigh of relief that I finally got something right.  We serve a God of second chances!  Hallelujah!  He never gives up on us, and I’m so thankful.  And while my loving Father never ceases to extend grace to me, I also need to DO MY PART!  It’s my responsibility to get into the Word and seek Him.  My flesh is never going to feel like praising Him.  But I have to do it anyway.  And I know that He will meet me.  

Tomorrow is a very special day that you may not know about…February 18 is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day!  It’s a special day set aside to support children who are fighting or who have fought cancer.  Gold Network of East Texas is encouraging people to eat ice cream for breakfast and post pictures on social media, with a caption in support of kids with cancer.  You can participate by posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram, tag @goldnetworkofeasttx and @eaticecreamforbreakfastday, and tell us who you are eating for.  If social media isn’t your thing, just dish up a sweet treat and say a prayer for the kids.  You can even email me a picture at info@goldnetworkoet.com.  Our family will be eating ice cream for Sawyer.  And Eric.  And Olivia.  And Sophie, Brock, Jase, Liam, Michael, Izzy, Bristell, Hudson, Addie Leigh, Anna Luisa, Kaitlyn, Abigail, David, Ceely, Parker, Emerson, and all the other children whom we have met in person or online, and kids around the world.  No child should ever have to fight cancer.  But for now, we can eat ice cream.  And we pray.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”” Jeremiah 29:12-14 

February 3, 2019

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Bear and Chewy (Sawyer) at the chilly softball game

~ for deep conversations with Sawyer: Sawyer:”Who gave you that pillow?”  

Me: “My Aunt.”  

Sawyer: “You mean your mom?” 

“No, my aunt.”  

“So she’s your different kind of mom?”  

“No, she’s my aunt.”  

“Oh, so your aunt is your grandma?” 

“No. My aunt is my aunt.” 

“Oh, Ok!”

(Sawyer is also VERY excited that the “Brown Hog” did not see his shadow yesterday, because it means Spring is coming. And he knows my birthday is coming up, since it is “Feb-loo-ary.”) Oh how this boy keeps me laughing!

~ for the wonderful privilege to speak at MomTalk, a bi-monthly lunch for GCS moms. I got to talk to the other moms about the importance of sharing our stories with one another, finding our common threads, and encouraging each other through our trials. They encouraged me so much!

 ~for Carson Grace’s first softball game. She and her teammates had a great game, and it was fun to cheer for her. Now I will say, the combo of 40° weather, brisk wind, 6 whiny kids, and a non-leash-trained puppy were not ideal. Hoping for nicer weather for the rest of the season.

~ for Zoe having a great time celebrating the 100th day of school. She ate her tasty necklace of 100 Fruit loops, and the class did lots of fun activities.

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~ for a thrilling lesson on the letter “F” for Sawyer and his JrK friends: petting a real live FALCON!

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~ for our sweet new friend, Bear. He is just a love. All the kiddos can’t get enough of his wet puppy kisses and his fuzzy puppy paws. And I love him, despite cleaning up puppy messes every 7 minutes.  Potty training a puppy is NO JOKE. Haven’t done this in 13 years. Thankfully he’s a very sweet boy and seems to be a pretty quick learner. 

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~ for new mercies every morning. I know I say that a lot. But I say it a lot because I NEED it a lot. This week my patience ran thinner than thin. We are all in various stages of a little annoying cold, puppy training is incessant, the kids have been AT each other constantly over anything and everything…it’s just so easy to default to irritation, which is exactly what I did. I’m not proud of my responses or my tone. But Jesus extends His unwarranted grace to me; allowing me to extend that same grace to my children.  And every day really is a new day!  So thankful to have a fresh opportunity to try again each morning. Thank You Lord for do-overs!  Anybody else need a good, old-fashioned do-over?

~ and for the BEST NEWS OF ALL!  Today our sweet Sam-girl was baptized!!!!  She asked Jesus into her heart several months ago, and since then, she has been eagerly anticipating her baptism, but has been forced to wait due to various illnesses and schedules not coordinating. So this was a long-awaited event!  What a blessing to see this beautiful girl answer the prompting of the Holy Spirit, make the personal decision to follow Jesus, and then publicly share this commitment in front of her church at the age of 11!  So wonderful that our daughter is now our sister in Christ!  And it was made even more special because we had so many people with us to celebrate: aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, all together to share in her joy because she is so loved. What a beautiful picture of the redemptive love of Abba Father. God is just so GOOD, y’all!

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Thank you for giving thanks with me.  In the highs and the lows, in the trials and in the mundane…the blessings are there if we train our eyes to see.  But it is a discipline. Our natural inclination is always to look and to gravitate downward.  LOOK UP!  Give thanks!  Let’s love one another well this week.

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 AMPC

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January 27, 2019

img_4652~ thankful for a super fun day celebrating Samantha’s birthday!  How can it be that our little Stinky Girl is 11 years old!?  School was out, so we got to really got to do it up. The day started off with donuts for breakfast, and then a trip to the mall. Not just a leisurely trip to the mall to look around. No sir, this was a trip with a purpose. And that purpose was getting Samantha’s ears pierced!  This is a milestone first offered to our girls upon reaching the age of 10, but Sam was NOT INTERESTED last year. This year she was SET. Until we got there. Then there was a dramatic change of heart. There were big tears. There was a call home to big sis for a pep talk. There may have been some time spent huddled in a corner of the store. But, she rallied her courage and eventually walked proudly out of the mall with red, swollen eyes and sparkly blue earrings!  Then came a Subway lunch date with Dad, and home to make her own ice cream cake, and finally a delicious dinner that evening.  She said it was the very best birthday she’s ever had.  What a blessing is our sweet, sweet Sam. 

~ for encouragement from the Lord through the gift of worship music. Several times this week, certain songs have just ministered to my heart… “have you come to the end of yourself?  Do you long for a drink from the well?  Jesus is calling…”. and “who am I that the highest King should welcome me?  I was lost but He brought me in, oh His Love for me.  What a gift music is!  And then also what a gift it is to experience watching my daughter grow into her gifting as she continues to lead worship at school and at church.  I’m including a video of Carson Grace from our service this morning.  Be blessed. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XE6ANdzNVOo

~ for the simple sweetness of the kids feeding the ducks at sunset. Something so little makes them so happy. All it takes is a little time. 

~ for the opportunity to share in our friends’ joy.  This week, one of our brave Gold Network Hero friends took his very last chemotherapy medication after more than 3 years of treatment for leukemia. What a day of celebration!  And that morning, his entire school dressed in superhero costumes and greeted him with cheers and well wishes, a true heroes welcome!  I’m not sure if Sawyer and this dear boy have even actually met, but Sawyer simply knows him as one of his “friends.”  He watched the video with me and clapped and cheered for his fellow leukemia warrior, and it filled my heart with so much hope and joy.  We HAVE to celebrate the victories!

~ for a great time at the mid-week worship service with my kids. I am loving the intimate setting, and the opportunity to explain to them WHY we are doing what we are doing…explaining WHO GOD IS and why He is worthy of our worship.  And everything I share with them is a fresh reminder to me, right where I am.  Oh Lord, keep my faith like that of a child!

~ and for a big finish to our week: it’s official – WE HAVE LOST OUR MINDS!  We got a new puppy!  Josh and I found a sweet pup on Craigslist that captured our hearts, and Saturday morning we loaded up all the kids, sleepy and confused, into the bus, telling them only, “we’re going on a family adventure!” You can imagine the squeals of surprise and delight when their eyes were met with a fluffy new friend!  It was such a fun day, and I know we will all remember it forever!  Everyone loves “Bear,” and his name suits him perfectly, as he more closely resembles a cuddly teddy bear than an actual live animal. Puppy kisses are the best!  A “family adventure” INDEED!

Thank you to so many who have liked the Sunday Gratitude Facebook page or signed up to follow this blog.  I am so thankful for this community and all of your support.  I hope this week finds you well. If you are weary, hang on, and don’t lose heart.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  If you’re in a season of joy – SHARE SOME!  I promise you, somebody’s desperate for it!  You never know when you may be the answer to somebody’s prayer. Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”  Psalm 3:3 NIV

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