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)

God is in the Ring

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful awesome trip to Dallas to deliver the abundant bounty of toys that you all generously donated to the Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive! I’ll be completely honest. I didn’t think we were going to even meet last year‘s number. A week before delivery day, we had about 800 toys. And $300 to spend. A number isn’t what it’s about. I know that. And 800 toys is a lot of toys. But I am so amazed at how God worked in so many hearts over the last week. We collected more than 700 more dollars and ended up with over 1600 toys!  Every hour another donation would come in. It just blew my mind!  And I had the neatest experience at the Dollar Tree in Tyler.  I went in with $400 to spend, and found out that since it was our first time registered as a tax exempt nonprofit, we got 10% off our purchase.  So that gave me almost another hundred dollars to spend! It was so fun!  I’ve never bought so much in my life, filled up 3 buggies! The receipt was as long as Samantha is tall!  All the toys just barely managed to fit, crammed into our bus. I was thankful that the 4 “Middles” were able to spend the day with their cousins, because there was literally no room for them in the car!  So I made the trip with just Sawyer and Tatum K.  We were met at valet at Children’s Hospital by 2 child life staff members with giant rolling bins, which we filled to overflowing!  Sawyer delighted in pushing and pulling them to the elevators and then he gleefully assisted in stocking the shelves.  He quickly learned which bins were for which toys, and chattered nonstop as he worked.  It brings me such joy to see him happily giving things away.  He knew none of those toys were for him, that they were all for his friends.  A sweet little girl came to pick out her prize after a hard, exhausting day of chemotherapy. The same age as Sawyer, she was completely bald and it was clear that she felt miserable. She picked out a baby doll, and then Sawyer picked out a second prize for her, which brought a tiny smile.  Seems like yesterday that Sawyer was the one weak and frail. Sawyer has prayed for his little friend Charlie every day since.  A million thanks to everyone who helped with this blessing.

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For the best bonus to an already great day.  We drove around the corner from the hospital and met our precious nurse and now dear friend, Brittney, for lunch. We haven’t seen her in several months because our appointments didn’t line up with her schedule, and now she has an additional job: Mama to a beautiful two-month-old baby boy!  It’s absolutely amazing to see her as a mama. I’ll never forget meeting Brittney and sawyer’s hospital room in the early weeks of his trip treatment. She knelt with me to pray before administering his chemotherapy.  She became my sister immediately and a favorite.  I remember thinking what an she was an expert seasoned nurse she was, and I didn’t find out until years later that she was brand new, and she admitted to being terrified that day.  It’s so beautiful the way the Lord purposely braids people into our lives that will change us forever.

~ for the most incredible neighbors! One day I got a knock on the door and a neighbor had a donation for Gold Network. They had wanted to come to the Gold Run but were crazy busy. So they just wanted to make a donation to support. Another day, another knock on the door. A different neighbor had 4 large Bruno‘s pizza left over from a party they were having!  Have you ever?  We are so blessed in our neighborhood.

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~ for the miraculous power of prayer.  Monday, an article was published by the New York Times regarding an impending shortage of the cornerstone chemotherapy drug for childhood cancer, Vincristine.  Tuesday, social media was buzzing with the news, and a couple local moms contacted the Dallas hospital, and received the report that the shortage was not expected to affect our kids.  But Wednesday.  Wednesday our own sweet Hero, Jase went to Dallas for his routine monthly chemotherapy treatment for leukemia.  And he was not given his scheduled dose of Vincristine.  His family was understandably livid and very concerned.  HOW CAN CRITICAL DRUGS THAT WE DEPEND ON TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN’S LIVES NOT BE AVAILABLE????  So we all used the only 2 tools we knew to use: the power of social media to incite people to apply the greatest power tool of all – the power of PRAYER.  People everywhere were praying.  And at the end of that all-day clinic visit, doctors came back to Jase’s family AND GAVE HIM HIS MEDICINE!!!!!  The very same thing happened with several other patients that day!  And shortly thereafter, a press release was issued stating that the drug company responsible was expediting the production of Vincristine several weeks sooner than previously scheduled.  We are so grateful that Jase received the life-saving medicine that he needed, but we ask for continued prayers that this crisis does not happen again.  Every type of childhood cancer requires Vincristine for treatment.  Our kids MUST have access to the drugs they need to LIVE!

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~ for the remarkable convenience of online grocery shopping! I was skeptical at first, wondering if I would get good produce, or if they would accurately fulfill my shopping list.  But I have been very pleased with the service I’ve received from all 3 grocery stores that I have to use.  Now a task that used to take me all day can be completed in less than two hours.  It’s truly a game changer, especially with a family our size.  

~ for kids who love to help!

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~ for a super productive week of Giddyup & Whoa sign painting.  I cranked out 7 signs for the upcoming Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale.  If you are local, you MUST come check it out!  They have the most wonderful collection of unique vintage and refurbished items, and beautiful handmade merchandise as well. This year they’ve even added a different food truck each day to make it an even greater experience!  Check them out Wednesday through Saturday!

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~ for a tasty and free food truck lunch hosted by our mortgage company for customer appreciation.  Tatum K entertained the crowd with her street dancing, and the juicy fried fish hit the spot!

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~ for a very special birthday!  Cooper turned 15 this week!  How in the world is my sweet, blue eyed mess of a  Coopy a 15 year old?  We feasted on his menu of choice: biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon, and rich chocolate cake.   Love that kid!  (He also played a great football game this week).

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~ for an amazing photographer that bravely and expertly tackled the gargantuan task of capturing a picture of Nana and Pop and ALL 23 GRANDCHILDREN!  We have been adopted into an amazing extended family here in Tyler, and it is one rowdy bunch, ranging from age 20 down to 5 months!  The photographer, Lauren Ashley, not only got the prized whole family picture, but each individual child, every family, and all the couples!  All in one hour!  She is a MACHINE!  I can’t wait to see how the pictures all turned out!  (These pics are just snapshots from my phone)

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More than anything this week, I am thankful for God’s Mighty Hand.  I talked last week about how overwhelming the pace and the pressures of life can be.   Well it’s not letting up.  It’s been a rough week as far as my anxiety goes, and we’ve been hit with brutal punches to the gut from out of nowhere.  That really is what it feels like sometimes.  Like a fighter in a ring getting HAMMERED.  Only there’s no timer, no bell.  No break to let you catch your breath.  Just hit after hit sending you reeling against the ropes.  Sometimes the hit looks like it’s big enough to destroy you.  

But God.  

No matter what is going on, I know He’s with me.  I know He’s fighting the battle for me, in front of me, behind me, and IN ME.  He built me for this battle.  He has prepared me for it.  If I’m in it, it’s because He has a plan for the battle and a plan for me.  He is the God that holds my children.  He holds their hearts and their future.  He has a plan for their lives as they find their way.  And every trial that comes our way will be used for our good and for His glory.  And when things look like they can’t ever be ok, I will turn my eyes to Him.   When I can’t take one more step, He will carry me.  When my heart is broken, He will hold me.  

It’s a big week for Casa Rucker, and we are counting on God to do some incredible things.  Will you please pray for us?  I look forward to sharing many great praise reports in next Sunday’s Gratitude!

Love one another, seek Jesus, and GIVE HIM PRAISE!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Psalms 56:1-4 

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” Exodus 14:14 

Letting Go

I am thankful:

~ for the beginning of football season.  Is it really the beginning of football season already?  Well, Cooper started two-a-days this week, so that meant we were up before the sun.  And even though I was in a coma as I drove him, I still appreciated taking in the glorious sunrise.  And I love seeing Cooper with a goal in mind.  That kid loves him some football!

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~for a great time at the Football Moms’ Clinic.  It’s a special time for moms to learn a little more about the game and focus on our boys.  To sit at their football locker and pray over the upcoming season.  To share a meal with other football moms and our sons.  It’s always such a sentimental night for me.  I attended my first Moms’ Clinic 6 years ago when Colton was a freshman, with Sawyer in my belly.  I missed the next year because Sawyer and I were in the hospital, in the critical early stages of his chemotherapy treatment, and the coaches and moms were so kind to us with notes of encouragement.  The next 2 years attending with Colton were super special, and now I’ve had a couple years off with no high school football player.  So to sit beside my Cooper, who gets taller and more handsome daily, as he starts his freshman year of football, I couldn’t be more proud and thankful.  

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~ for the opportunity to give blood in honor of an amazing warrior boy.  Luke’s birthday was Wednesday, but this year he celebrated it in heaven with Jesus.  His family chose to celebrate his life and his memory by encouraging people to donate the gift of life.  You may have heard that there is a nationwide blood shortage.  Kids with cancer require frequent blood transfusions throughout treatment.  Sawyer had dozens.  So I was thankful for the opportunity to participate and tell the techs about Luke and about Sawyer.   If you can, GO DONATE BLOOD!

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~ for a fun, albeit way too short, visit from Uncle Mike and Cousin Kenedy.  We got some great snuggles and lots and lots of giggles.  My favorite was hearing Kenedy ask for “Clipper” (Cooper). 

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~ for those rare moments when God allows us to see purpose past our pain. So often we cling to what we want, not knowing He has something far greater. Sometimes we have to let go of what WE THINK we need so that we can receive His BEST!

~for the most amazing honor!  Our friends from Minnesota, the Franz’s, shared amazing news.  Their 10 year old son, Andrew, participated in the Pinky Swear Foundation Triathlon for childhood cancer, IN SAWYER’S HONOR!  Andrew completed a 100 yard swim, 3 mile bike course, and a half mile run.  We hope he heard us cheering for him all the way from Texas!

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~ for a happy happy birthday for our sweet Zoe Girl.  I still can’t wrap my mind around how much our little Brown-eyed girl has grown up.  I remember meeting her: 18 months old, bitsy tiny, big watering  wide eyes, and absolutely SILENT.  She refused to be put down, and Carson Grace carried her so much she wore a sore on her hip.  Today Zoe is bubbling with life, dancing and singing everywhere she goes.  She is a silly goose and loves to use her imagination.  She loved her waffles with sprinkles and whipped cream for breakfast and chose red velvet cupcakes for her cake.  Happy birthday ZoZo!

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~ for a (hopefully) win-win-win-win situation.  We had friends who needed to find homes for some kittens.  We had another friend who had been wanting a guinea pig.  Our kids really wanted a kitten.  Our Dad was anti-kitten, but EXTREMELY in favor of parting with our guinea pig.  So much so, that he was willing to acquiesce to a kitten if it meant re-homing the pig.  So bottom line, we traded a pig for a kitten.  Meet Miss Stella.  Bear is PASSIONATELY EXCITED about his new “sister.”

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Last night, we were in battle mode.  Last minute list checking and Walmart runs.  Pack?  Keep?  Memory box?  Toss?   We watched Carson Grace’s eternal tornado of a bedroom slowly transform into a stack of boxes and bags and suitcases.   Saying goodnight was different.  I knew it wasn’t going to be her last night to sleep in her room.  But it’s not ever going to be the same.  Most likely, whenever she comes back, it will be for a visit.  Not to stay.  She’ll always have a home to come back to here, but she really may move on and move out for good instead of ever coming back here to stay.  Ever my daughter, she was highly sentimental, and we shared lots of tears and sweet words with one another before we settled to bed.  I will always treasure those moments with my girl.  Today was our hard day.  We knew it was coming, and we have worked hard to get ready for this point.  Josh and I drove Carson Grace to Marshall and got her all set up in her new dorm room.  We rearranged the furniture and mounted her built-to-order Giddyup & Whoa sign over her bed. 

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We hung her clothes and arranged her mountains of shoes.  We set up her coffee bar and had a coffee-making lesson.  It turned out absolutely darling, and she loves her personal little oasis. 

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If this week seems early to start college, it is.  Carson Grace starts her 1 week mini-mester class in the morning, and then she’ll be home one more weekend before school starts for real.  We are so happy for her, and so proud.  We feel great about the environment she’s going to be in, and we know that she never belonged to us, but to God.  But I gotta tell you.  In spite of all those healthy, grounded, mature FACTS THAT WE WHOLE-HEARTEDLY BELIEVE…all that goes out the window when you drive away from the building where you just left your baby girl by herself.  Did we teach her enough?  Is she going to make good friends?   Is she going to work hard?  Is she going to be lonely?   We did the best we could the last 18 years, and we made a ton of mistakes along the way.  But it’s time to let go and release her with our blessing. And now it’s her turn.  To chose.  To stand.   And I know God’s got her, like He always has, and that she’ll be ok through the good choices and the bad, the sweet times and the heartbreaks.  I really do know she’s gonna be ok.  I do.  But tonight….tonight my house is a little too quiet without the sweet whisper of a ukulele and my favorite voice coming from the door at the end of my kitchen.  And my heart feels like a big chunk is gone.  Tonight I’m giving myself permission to be sad and miss my girl.

Please continue your faithful prayers for our dear friends Harold and Lucas and their families. God is, and always will be, bigger than cancer.  Bigger that anything we fear.  Bigger than than anything we face.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;  the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24, 26 

Grace

Grace.  Defined as “the unmerited favor of God toward man.”  It’s the good we get that we don’t deserve.  Oh, how we need grace.  It’s something I’m always begging God for more of, and I’m so thankful that it’s something He never runs out of.  I’m counting on heaping helpings of that grace to get me through this summer with all these kiddos and all the big changes that are coming this fall. 

I am thankful for GRACE. 

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One of my kiddos had a pretty bad day.  Well, pretty much it’s been A BUNCH of bad days piggybacked on top of each other.  And I’ve had to discipline a lot. Like a LOT LOT.  And it left me feeling discouraged and sour and like the World’s Meanest Mommy.  But Saturday morning, I stretched my my arms open, and this child crawled up into my lap. 

I whispered, “I love you,”

and they said, “I love you too. 

And I said, “Do you know I love you even when I get onto you? 

Yes,” 

And do you know WHY I get onto you? 

They replied, “because you love me and so I can learn from my mistakes and do better next time.” 

Deep sigh. Big squeeze.  Tiny tears from mama’s eyes that I tried to hide in their hair as I held them tighter.  Ok, maybe not the ACTUAL meanest mommy in the WHOLE world.  Thankful to my loving father who gives me the grace I need to be a mama to so many.  And the unique grace He gives me to be the exact mama that each ONE CHILD needs at that moment.  God, give me the grace to extend that grace to others, especially my children. 

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~ for my flyswatter.  Anybody else dealing with 834,267,559 flies?  

~ for our cardinal family.  I’ve been captivated by watching their nest and the comings and goings of the parents.  Now there’s a baby bird out of the nest, not yet strong enough to fly.  It hides itself all around our yard and the neighbors’, and the Mama and Daddy cardinals tirelessly tend to it and bring it food. So far our benevolent neighbors have not called the cops on me for climbing my ladder and constantly peering over their fence with my telescopic camera lens.  

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~ for the community of prayer warriors who rise up around a need.  If you follow me on social media, you likely saw my urgent prayer request for our beloved nurse Kelly and her infant son, Lucas.  He has been battling rhabdoid tumors for several months and just recently has started experiencing a decline of appetite and increased pain.  A CT this week indicated a new tumor.  And y’all hit your knees. Kelly was thankful to report that the mass was not attached to his brain, and that the insertion of an NG tube should provide a nutritional boost to increase Lucas‘s strength as he continues his brave fight.  How I wish there was no cancer for him to fight, but today we have the grace to praise God for every piece of encouraging news!  You can follow Lucas’ journey on Caringbridge.

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~ It’s been a big week for our oldest daughter.  Monday Josh, Carson Grace, and I drove to Marshall, TX for New Student Orientation at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU).  It’s such a beautifully manicured campus, and all the staff and other students and families were so friendly.  After the first general welcome session, all students and parents headed to meet with the heads of the major they had chosen, for Carson Grace, that was Communications.  She hasn’t been sure what exactly she’d want to do in that field, but she has some interests and strengths in those areas, so it seemed like a good place to start.  Next was a meeting with the department heads for whatever you want to minor in: Music/Worship Arts.  Carson Grace was eager to meet with these professors and discuss the choirs and worship team. The head of the Worship Arts department begin to ask lots of specific, pointed questions: “So why are you here?“ “What are you passionate about?” After just a few of her responses, he said… “I don’t know, but you sound like a music major to me!”  That was such an unexpected, abrupt shift that caught all of us unaware.  But when he asked her, “Do you like music? Or do you LOVE music?  For me…” he said, “I’m interested in a lot of things, but music is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what makes me tick.”  And her eyes filled with tears as she said, “ I love it.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”  

And that was that. She’s a music major!  Thank you God for the grace to take a step out in faith.

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~ also this week, Carson Grace had her very first job interview.  After about 25 minutes, she walked out with the job!  

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~ not only that, Carson Grace, our sweet girl, our Princess Peanut, turned 18.  I swear, yesterday she was a baby.  A bitsy, blue-eyed baby, sucking her thumb behind a pink crocheted blanket.  A tiny, sassy toddler shaking her thing to the Wiggles “Pony Song.”  We’ve ridden the predictably unpredictable hormone roller coaster, cried happy tears and tears of frustration, and learned the hard way how to communicate.  Josh says she’s just like me: sometimes that’s a compliment, and sometimes it’s most assuredly NOT.  But as I look at her as a young adult, a young woman, my heart is bursting with so much pride and so much hope for her future that it genuinely feels like pain.  

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Grace was my grandmother.  My dad‘s mom.  She was a farmer, a school bus driver, 4-H leader, and a world traveler.  She knew how to cook and sew and her house was cozy and neat as a pin. 

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I pretty much grew up at her house, at her kitchen table, in her garden, and in her basement.  I spent all my time with her when I was little bitty, but when I grew older, I spent time with her by choice.  I would ride my bicycle 3 miles down the treacherously steep loose gravel road that led from our family farm to her house in the valley.  I loved to be at Grandma’s house.  I played “olden days,” dressing up in her old furs and hats from the 50s and the reading the old primers she had saved from when my dad was a little boy.  I waded and fished in the creeks around her house.  We watched deer and birds and squirrels from her windows, and watched the trees explode into color on the bluffs that rose up around her on every side.  She was feminine, but not girlie, and I never remember seeing her wear a drop of makeup.  She loved me unconditionally and was my biggest fan and supporter through every endeavor.  I loved my Grandma.  And even though I never expected to have a daughter, when I found out that my second baby was going to be a girl, it was a given that I would name her Grace.  Josh and I traveled from Texas back to Minnesota about once a year to visit early in our marriage, and each time it was more heartbreaking to see Grandma’s health decline as Parkinson’s Disease robbed her of her physical strength and independence.  She passed away when Carson Grace was 6.   But I will always treasure the memories I have of her, and I love sharing them with my kids.  I know she would have gotten such a kick out of my crazy oversized Tribe, and they all would have loved her just like I did.  And I’m so proud that my first-born daughter bears the name of such a special lady, one who lived up to the definition of the word. 

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Let’s love lavishly and extend extra measures of grace this week!  Everybody else needs it just as much as you do.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:7-9 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

A Blessed Mess of a Mama

Why do I start every Sunday gratitude with the sentence… “Wow! What a busy week!”????  With a family this size, I think we can rest confidently that it’s usually going to be busy.  I just need to accept that fact.  But whether you have one kid or 21, the end of school season can get wild. So buckle up, this post is about to make you tired…

I am thankful:

~ for 15 Giddyup & Whoa Mother’s Day orders. 

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For “Graces Races,” our GCS end-of-school field day for each grade. Monday 1st grade, Tuesday – 3rd grade, Wednesday – 2nd grade, Thursday – 4th grade.  And I made it to each one.  Granted, a couple in time for the snowcone finale…  But at least my kiddos knew I was there.  They all had such a great time with their friends doing balloon and scooter and gunnysack relays.  The elementary children will have their last day of school this coming Wednesday.  Where did this school year go?

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~ for great softball game/senior night for Carson Grace.  So proud to take the field with our beautiful girl and celebrate the end of her high school career.  Then the Cougar girls played a tremendous game and walked away with their first playoff win! 

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~for a great birthday dinner celebrating Colton.  His schedule last week didn’t permit, but this week we had a tasty meal of his choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries, and yellow cake with chocolate icing. 

~for another great choir concert, this time for Cooper and the Junior High.  Such a talented group of students! 

~ Of course the highlight of this week was Wednesday, which was Sawyer‘s quarterly Oncology Clinic visit.  Bloodwork confirmed that he is CANCER FREE! Glory to God!  This was Sawyer‘s first visit on the ACE unit (After Cancer Experience), otherwise known as the Survivors Unit. This is truly a miraculous milestone we never dared dream we would see.  You can read my Caringbridge post with full details from the day here.

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~ I’m thankful for God’s protection on the drive, and I’m very thankful I didn’t know how dangerous the storms were until AFTER I was safely home!  I know I would have panicked.  My back hurt for 2 days from clutching the steering wheel. 

~ for Nurse Appreciation Week.  Our nurses are our family, and we love them passionately.  No amount of words or gifts can measure the impact they make on the lives they touch. We ❤️ Nurses!

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~ for Carson Grace’s Senior Awards Assembly.  How incredible to see 100% of her class has been accepted into various colleges, from Texas to Alabama to Illinois.  The Admissions Counselor from ETBU came from Marshall to present Carson Grace with her Academic and Christian Leadership Scholarships.  And that same day, she took her very last final, and is officially DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL!  Just unreal.  It was a hard fought battle to get her to this point, and  she’s wrestled through a lot over the past couple years, but she made it, and we are SO PROUD!

If you’re still with me, are you tired yet?  Oh no, we’re not done yet. Not even close!

~ thankful for Cooper’s 8th Grade Year End Assembly.  The students heard from each of their amazing teachers (there really is a unique and passionate breed of teacher who chooses to minister to Jr. High students).  They reminded the kids how loved they are by the Lord, and that they are so valuable to the Kingdom.  The teachers, coaches, and faculty spoke with so much enthusiasm and heart, it was incredibly moving, and I’m freshly reminded how grateful I am that Cooper has been loved so well by this faculty.  I pray for him as he steps into High School next fall, that he will walk confidently in who he is, and stay the bright, one-of-a-kind individual he’s always been.  Oh, and he is THRILLED to be done with school for the year. 

~ for 2 fun end of year parties done.  5 to go.  From trampoline parks to the rock gym, they have a blast with their friends. 

~ for a whirlwind Saturday: Carson Grace traveled with her team to Rockwall for Softball Playoff game, Cougars DOMINATED for another victory, and then turned around and rushed back to Tyler in the rain so the girls could get ready for PROM!  Seriously!!??  What a day!  Thankfully there was just enough time, and Carson Grace transformed in her room from a softball champion, emerging as a stunning vision in her ballgown.  At the country club where the dance was held, the Senior class and their dates gathered to take a group photo, and the emotions got really real.  It seemed like yesterday that all these kids were posing for class pictures on the playground.  Or on a fire truck. Gone are the pigtails and missing teeth and skinned up knees with Disney bandaids.  Instead they were beautiful grown young men and ladies.  They were poised and stunning and were arrayed in their finest. And they took my breath away.  Somebody please stop time.

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And now that I’ve survived this marathon week of mayhem, it’s Mother’s Day.   I’ve earned some stripes this week for sure.  Mother’s Day can stir up such varied emotions for different people:  longing-to-be mothers, first-time mothers, children who have lost their mothers and mothers who have lost their children, mamas with strained relationships, and those who have chosen not to be mothers.   Not everybody gets breakfast in bed and a new candle.  

At this moment at my house, there’s marinated fajita steak on the grill, and ALL MY KIDS ARE HOME.  There are saturated towels, clothes, and shoes strewn all over the patio and three dripping mermaid tails hanging on the fence.  Yelling kids on the trampoline, yelling kids chasing a soggy mess of a dog, kids staring at their phones, kids cracking up over Snapchat filters.  My legs need shaving, my grey needs colored, my floor needs mopped, and my bed’s not made.  And I will be 100% honest and say I usually don’t fully appreciate my life.  I am short-tempered  and impatient and overwhelmed.  Too many questions, too much laundry, too many squabbles and the sippy cup is always lost.  But today.  Today I have been so thankful.  Yes, my plate is full, but I see my cup that overflows with blessing.  My house is a mess, but it’s bursting at the seams with the people I love.  I have no idea why God has given me so many hearts to be responsible for, and most days the task completely terrifies me.  I am VASTLY UNQUALIFIED. But I know that the confidence in myself that is lacking is ECLIPSED by the confidence I have in Him.  He gave me all these babies.  I don’t know why I am so blessed, but all I can do is thank Him and do my best every day.  And when my best isn’t good enough, His grace will meet me there.  I’m pretty much the most blessed mama on the planet.

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Oh, and today I got to take a nap in my hammock.

Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, And great shall be the peace of your children.”  Isaiah 54:13

Spring Season

I am thankful:

~ for one of my favorite weeks of the year:  Bulky Trash Pickup Week.  For years it’s  been one of my greatest joys to cruise the streets of Tyler checking out the piles of castoffs, looking for “treasure” amidst the broke toilets and soggy mattresses.  I love the oddities I come across: the 8 foot headless toy soldier, Captain Mike pedal car, and sometimes what looks like an entire household emptied out.  But there were also a few great finds: some good frames, darling rattan chairs, an awesome tabletop that will make a fabulous sign, and a terrific study little table.  Josh is the best sport in the world – he HATES this week because of all the crap I drag home, but he puts up with me, even picking up the pieces I can’t fit into the bus (if I BEG).  But some items don’t pass his inspection and end right back on our curb.  But I love the thrill of the hunt, and the Littles all help by scanning the curbs for “treasure piles.”

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~I’m thankful for the rain. It seems like we’re getting way too much rain, flooding, not enough sunshine…but the fact is, God is sending us rain.  So I guess that means we need rain.  And I’m trying to learn to be thankful for whatever He gives me. Even if what He gives doesn’t make sense to me.  So I’m choosing to be thankful for the rain.  My babies help me appreciate it because they find such joy.

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~ for a surreal milestone.  My baby boy, the one who made me a mama, turned 20 this week.  I still can’t wrap my mind around Colton being 20. years. old.  I will never forget his traumatic delivery or how terrified Josh and I were to bring him home.  We had NO CLUE what we were doing, and I think we have continued to feel like that for most of the last 20 years.  But we all survived it all, we all learned through it all, and we love each other like crazy.  Happy birthday Colton, can’t wait to see where God takes you!

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~for growth opportunities, even the uncomfortable ones, the embarrassing ones.  I’m thankful for the traffic that never moves more slowly than when I’m in a hurry.  I’m thankful for the accidents that I don’t know about that He has shielded me from time and time again.  I’m thankful for the things I wasn’t able to hurry up and get to.  And I’m so thankful that One Greater than me is in charge.

~for parking lot picnics in between activities at the school.  And I’m thankful that even if they don’t actually love it, my kids will eat a sandwich for dinner without complaining.

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~ for teachers.  It’s been teacher appreciation week at GCS and many other schools across the nation.  And our teachers are outstanding!  These dedicated servants love on my kids.  They disciple my kids.  They pray for my kids.  All the kids. They are overworked and under paid.  I’m so thankful for all the teachers we’ve had over the years, and the pieces of the puzzle they have been in the development of my children. Thank you, Jesus for our teachers!

~for a really special visit with a dear friend.  Miss Robyn moved away about a year ago, and we have missed our spirited dinners and cultural outings that she has extended to our family over the years.  So even a brief time of catching up over a meal was delightful! We love you Miss Robyn!

~ for a great two weeks of Football Spring Training for Cooper.  He loves playing football and is PUMPED to play in High School next year!

~ for another bittersweet last with my girl: her last choir concert.  As always, the talent and performances were unmatched.  But everything feels different when it’s the last time.  Hearing the beautifully melodious blending of voices as they sang, “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace…”  I’ve heard Carson Grace and her choir-mates sing that more times than I can count over the years.  But this time they were singing a prayer over one another.  Praying a blessing over friends who are about to go their separate ways.  Another hard season change.  Enjoy the video here.

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~ for my new birthday hammock, finally hung!  We had to repaint our frame and clear out an overgrown tree before we could put it out, but now it is up and it’s SO CHARMING!  I look forward to seeing kiddos snuggled up in it from my kitchen window, and maybe I’ll even get to lay in it myself one day!

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~for the most fun birthday party!  Sawyer was invited to the party of one of his sweet classmates at Half-pint Ponies and Petting Zoo!  (Where he had his Make A Wish “You’re-Going-to-Hawaii” party).  It was so awesome: sheep and goats to pet and brush; the fluffiest, softest bunny; tiny newborn baby pigs, and a “real life” unicorn to ride!  Tatum K came along, and that girl was in her heyday!  She marched around that barnyard in her cowboots, loving on all the animals and greeting them with, “Hi honey!”  They had the best time!

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~ for ONE. MORE. BEAM. DONE!!!  (Only 5 more to go.)  Just keep scraping, just keep scraping….

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So it’s finally really Spring.  I love Spring. Lots of rain, lots of green, fresh flowers everywhere.  Such a busy season.  Mercy Mama, is Spring a busy season at our house with the end of the year activities in full spring.  Changing seasons is always bittersweet.  In the middle of winter we long for the temperatures to rise and the green to emerge from its slumber.  But when the heat sets in, and we are no longer enamored by the sweat on our brow (and the back of our neck and everywhere else), we look back longingly to the crisp cool of winter.  So it is with the seasons of our lives. When we are raising babies, it feels like the sleepless nights will never end.  Endless diapers, spit up rags, and too many days upon days without a shower.  When our two-year-old is screaming for another cookie, our hearts yearn for tender baby snuggles.  No matter what season we are in, we are usually looking wistfully backward or longingly forward.  I have the unique opportunity to span so many seasons at once just within my Tribe: no babies any more, but I’ve got toddler, little kids, middle kids, preteens, teens, young adults.  I should have a great perspective, mature and seasoned, and a realistic appreciation for each respective season.  But man, I really don’t.  I haven’t learned to appreciate each season, or that every season is going to be hard, and NO SEASON will not be busy.  I STILL find myself simultaneously longing backward with some and straining forward with others.  I know it’s the dance we do.  I just want to learn from it all and be able to soak up the moments, the good with the hard, and EMBRACE them.  Lord, help me stay in today.  Hope for tomorrow, learn from yesterday, but LIVE IN TODAY. 

Please keep praying for Georgia.  She spiked a fever, had her first on-treatment ER visit, and is currently in-patient at Children’s, waiting for her counts to come back up.  Thank you for covering this precious little girl and her family.

Happy Spring, friends.  I pray you can embrace whatever season/seasons you are in.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Peace

I am thankful:

~ for every shade of electric green after the rain. The spring landscape is so vibrant.

~ for my sweet and spicy Tatum K turning 2!  Even though she didn’t really understand, Tatum knew there was something special going on.  Over and over she cheerily chirped, “Tay Tay Happy day!  Happy day!“  Of course we celebrated with CAKE AND PIE (homemade chocolate meringue pie and a white chocolate raspberry from Nothing Bundt Cakes).  Even chicken pot PIE for dinner.  She was captivated by being the center of attention…delighted by the singing of Happy Birthday and blowing out the candles, requesting it to be repeated several times.  I don’t think she ever would have stopped!  She opened her gifts and her favorite things to carry around for the rest of the evening were two birthday cards, one with monkeys and the other with a dog.  Oh, for the simplicity of those carefree days.

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~ for the things I hear around my table.   While eating chicken pot pie, I ask, “Which of these vegetables is your favorite?”  Child#1 instantly replies, “the chicken!”  Child#2 replies condescendingly with much distain at their foolish sibling’s lack of culinary knowledge, “Chicken is NOT a vegetable. It’s a REPTILE!”

~ for an unexpected treat: Colton invited Josh and I to lunch.  Like, for no reason.  Just…to eat lunch.  Just because.  I’m so thankful for growth in our relationship, and to be at the point where he would actually desire to spend time with his parents when he doesn’t HAVE to.  It’s good for this mama‘s heart.

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~ for my kids’ creativity.  They are all constantly drawing, building, inventing. 

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~ for great news: a precious cancer mama called me one day this week.  We haven’t spoken in a long time, and it is very unusual for her to call me, so I was immediately concerned.  She was really struggling and in need of prayer.  Her son has been sick repeatedly and dealing with chronic unexplained fevers, and both she and the doctors were concerned of the possibility of relapsed leukemia.  That day, her son had a lung biopsy and bone marrow biopsy.  We prayed together on the phone.  Friday afternoon I missed a call from her.  I had a busy day so I didn’t call her back immediately.  Then she called me two more times…  When I finally answered, the joy in her voice was undeniable, “He is cancer free!” she cried, “The doctor say he doesn’t have it! Thank you for praying!”  We rejoiced together.  GLORY TO GOD!!!

~ for fresh tulips and lilies on my table. 

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~ for blankets kept in the back of my car, and for sweatshirts scrounged out of the lost-and-found when the weather unexpectedly dropped 15 degrees at Carson Grace’s softball game!  It wasn’t actually that cold, but we had come dressed for a hot afternoon!   That was a rough one.  We all froze to death, and Sawyer took a really bad fall off a retaining wall.  We were a motley looking bunch of shivery, bloody kids and a shaggy mop dog.  But Carson Grace and her team played a great game and came out victorious, so I’m really thankful we got to be there!

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~ for the children having a wonderful day at school for grandparents/special friends day.  Even though many of our dear grandparents live far away, we are so blessed that God has also provided our kids devoted local grandparents.  The elementary children are so proud of their school, and they reveled in showing off their artwork and their classrooms and sharing songs and scripture recitations.  I am so grateful they are so loved.

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~ for iron that sharpens iron. So thankful for brothers and sisters who stretch us and encourage us to stretch.

~ for a super productive Giddyup and Whoa week.  I got 2 custom orders done, 3 pieces made and delivered for the Vintage and Co barn sale, and 9 more underway.  I guess spring is sign season!

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~ for conquering my Everest this week. I was halfway done with that wretched 3rd beam last week, and it took everything I had to get the other half done.  It was brutal, and I look like I lost a game of bloody knuckles, (I guess I kind of did, actually) but I was victorious in the end!  6 more to go!  (And Tatum K is thankful for her headphones when Mama is being LOUD.)

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~ speaking of victories, I’m so proud of Carson Grace and her GCS classmates for the capture of their 8th consecutive title of Texas State Championship Choir this weekend!  What an accomplishment!  So very proud! 

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~ for a wonderful evening of fellowship at our Gold Network CONNECT support group.  I so look forward to this quarterly get-together.  We call it a “support group” because it’s intended to be a safe place for cancer parents to support one another, but that label is so incomplete.  We share a meal together (this time it was a delicious Italian spread from Oliveto).  We meet new friends.  We talk about our families.  We talk about our cancer kids.  Some are on treatment, some off, some doing well, some are struggling, some have gone to be with Jesus.  We pray for one another.  And we exchange phone numbers so we can keep in touch.  It’s so much more than a support group.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity to gather these uniquely special families together, for a safe place to let it all hang out with others who understand, with the hope that it takes a little weight off each one of us if we all come alongside one another under the burdens, shoulder to shoulder.  And then it was fun to let each couple choose from an assortment of date night gift cards.  Really special evening. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about peacemaking lately.  My kids are constantly at war.  Over little stuff.  Who gets to pick the show.  Who’s fault it is.  Who has 6 grapes and who has 7.  MY KIDS ARGUE OVER WHO GETS TO PRAY!!!!  It’s not hard to get sucked into the egregious role of referee, constantly blowing the whistle and calling penalties and time outs.  But I know they have to learn.  Because they are always going to face circumstances in their lives where they have to choose: war or peace?  And the “stuff,” like the kids, is not going to stay small.  So I try to model peacemaking.  A softer tone.  Mercy over the battle axe.  I fail a lot, because I tend to lean on the harsher side of “high structure parenting” vs. the softer, “high nurture parenting” style.  I’m still learning, just like they are.  God’s still refining me, and I see it more and more clearly that He is using my children to do His refining work in my life and on my heart.  It forces me to see how impatient I am when I try to teach my kids to be patient.  I hear the tone of my voice, and I’m reminded of how many times I ask them to moderate their tone.  Do I really practice what I preach?  Do I look and sound anything like the Jesus I tell them about?   Oh Father, make me a peacemaker when war looks inevitable.  Or just looks easier.  And help me raise up a Tribe of peacemakers who will stand up for You, and lay their lives down to love their brother.  

Please keep praying for our friend Jase.  He has been in and out of Tyler and Dallas ERs with fever and GI issues more than half a dozen times in the past 2 weeks.  His family is so weary.  They need a healing touch from the Savior.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV

“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:2-4 NIV

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9 NIV