BUSY!

I am thankful:

~ for a whirlwind week full of hard work and fun! Literally not one single day or evening free.

~ for being able to celebrate our Carson Grace turning 21. We know God has incredible plans for her life, and we can’t wait to see how He uses her.

~ for a wonderful full week of VBS. The big kids served with old and new friends, and the younger kids attended with old and new friends. We sang and played and worshipped and ate together, and it was an absolutely exhausting week packed with fun. So grateful for our wonderful church.

~ for lots of sweat equity out on the farm. Mowing, chain sawing, junk hauling, and briar clearing.

We work hard and get dirty and sweaty side by side with our kids, and it’s awesome to slowly see our vision come to life.

Found quite the snake skin!

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some poison ivy, on both arms and my EYELID, so that meant a call in to the doctor for some high dose steroids, and I’m NOT GREAT at not scratching! Just part of the process, I guess. This weekend we added some essentials to make it feel really like home: popsicles, a stereo, and a coffee pot of course!

~ for a fun night at American Cancer Society’s Little Wranglers event. Everyone’s favorite was the petting zoo!

~ and for an incredible day back at Globe Life Field representing Gold Network ETX as guests of Derek Holland’s 60 Feet 6 Foundation at the Celebrity Softball Classic. We may not have known many of the “celebrities,” but the event was top notch.

We were greeted as VIPs, escorted onto the field through the players entrance, and Sawyer received a custom Sawyer the Warrior official team jersey.

The whole family enjoyed touring the dugouts and the field, running the bases, and meeting various athletes, actors, artists, and military veterans. We enjoyed an endless buffet in a private suite and met other pediatric cancer families. It was a truly unforgettable day.

~ for the sight of happy, dirty kids living their best lives.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalms 145:3-7, 21)

Wild Ride

I am thankful:

~ for the one who made me a Mama 23 years ago.

How is my baby boy so grown? It was fun to celebrate him, and feast on his consistent annual menu of choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and confetti cake.

~ for more good baseball. (And is it ok if I’m also thankful that the end of the season is in sight?)

~ for my favorite Farmer’s Market salad from Piada Italian Street food. Even if I almost had to share it…

~ for an amazing morning with Sawyer the Warrior representing Gold Network of East Texas at the Annual LukeStrong Race in Palestine.

It’s such a special event, honoring the brave children fighting cancer and their families. I met some incredible people and left with wet eyes and a full heart. Sawyer had a blast playing games and shooting Nerf guns, and proudly told everyone all day what he had had for breakfast: 2 1/2 donuts and a snow cone. Love going to these events with my amazing miracle boy.

~ for a lovely day in Carthage swimming and being blessed by Gina and Justin. They outdid themselves, BBQing the most delicious chicken, accompanied by a tasty salad and the most decadent array of desserts. They spoiled us!

~ for a lovely low-key Mother’s Day with my Loves. A ZINGER of a Sunday sermon, Rounders for lunch, and then more swimming for the kids. I’m so blessed.

~ oh, and one more thing…

SURPRISE!

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride…

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

~ for baseball, baseball, and MORE BASEBALL. (And finally got to see Samantha play softball!) It’s a busy season with constant practices and back to back games, but we are loving it.

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

~ for wonderful friends who walk beside me in good times and bad. What a blessing not to walk alone.

~ for 2 special birthdays this week! First we got to celebrate Josh: a down home Southern meal of mashed taters and country fried steak. And yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing of course!

And then the self proclaimed Birthday Princess herself, Miss Tatum K, who was very proud to turn 5!

After much back and forth, she settled on a menu of homemade pizza, salad, and CHIPS! And for her dessert, she remained true to her love of both sweets: confetti cake and lemon pie.

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

If you are new-ish around here, back when Tatum K was a baby, she would chant and beg for cake and pie in her high chair, banging the tray with a fork in each fist like a little pirate. And when I asked her if she wanted cake or pie for her 2nd birthday, without blinking an eye, she replied, “YES!” So it’s been cake AND pie ever since! Love that spicy girl!

2021
2020
2019

~ for a Giddyup and Whoa order of epic proportions! We have an order for 67 signs, due in 2 weeks! It’s all hands on deck around here!

~ for a successful kickoff of our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Oncology Clinic Toy Drive.

We have several drop off locations across East Texas, and will be collecting until May 15. A small toy, craft, or gift card is such a small thing to us, but such a blessing to kids of all ages going through cancer treatment. Just a tiny incentive to make them smile through the hard. We were blessed to benefit from a Camp Gladiator Super Saturday this week. An amazing workout group collected toys and funds to support the toy drive. You can drop toys at any of our locations, or give online at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate and we’ll do the shopping for you!

Current drop off locations (looking for more!!):

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

Big Daddy’s Stereo 2624 Bill Owens Pkwy Longview, TX 75604

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

Village Salon 1118 W. Panola St., Carthage, Tx 75633

Serenity Salon & Spa 2500 East End Blvd. North Marshall, TX 75670

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

Kingdom Veterinary Clinic 15051 County Rd 1103, Flint, TX 75762

I was so encouraged during my Bible reading this morning. As so often is the case, I read a Scripture for like the millionth time, and it suddenly stood out to me like never before. In 1 Chronicles, David is talking to his son Solomon about the monumental task of building the temple, and he says, ““Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” I read it again and again. I told Josh, “If this is not our family motto, I don’t know what is!” It’s really that simple. Be strong and courageous, and DO THE WORK. We have to be willing to work. Everything isn’t always going to just fall into place. We all have to do hard things. Make hard choices. Make hard changes. We can’t sit idly by and watch as life passes us by. BUT GOD! The Scripture goes on to encourage, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20). We do not labor alone or in vain. He is with us always. He sees. He cares. He has a plan. But He expects us, COMMANDS US, to do the work, to put our hands to the plow. To extend ourselves expectantly, knowing that He is moving with us. I hope this encourages you as much as it does me. We personally are in a season right now where it is time to be brave and do the work. He is faithful. And I can’t wait to see what He has in store!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:17-18)

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalms 143:8)

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (2 Samuel 22:29-34)

Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

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

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

My poor dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

Hold fast to Joy

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New tile and paint made a huge difference right away.

2017

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

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

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

BUT GOD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Chopped

I am thankful:

~for a special birthday – Cooper turned 17! How in the world!? Cooper is the most amazing young man: kind and funny and smart and insanely creative. Everyone enjoyed his delicious birthday menu of crescent chicken, roasted sweet potato rounds, pickled cucumber salad, and banana pudding for dessert. He’s easy to celebrate.

~for a relaxed 5 day Fall Break. We enjoyed taking it easy, playing outside in perfect weather, and for family movie night, “Harry and the Hendersons.”

~for richly colored beautiful fresh flowers on my table.

~ for the honor of Gold Network of ETX being in the company of 30 local nonprofits who were selected as beneficiaries of the Brookshire Grocery Company Fresh 15. We enjoyed attending the check presentation ceremony this week.

~for Key lime pie for breakfast

~for pumpkin bagels and pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread and pumpkin candles and pumpkin everything.

~for the silliest little monkey that brings so much joy to every day. She loves to eat breakfast on the front steps where she can listen to the birdies.

You never know what she’ll come up with next. Even though we are not doing a structured school day every day, (and don’t worry, I’m not one bit worried about it. She’s four and she’s bright and she’s learning every day) my bitsy Tatum K amazes me with her quick wit and her eagerness to learn. So grateful for this season with my girl.

Tracing and then writing her name…and this is her FIRST ATTEMPT!

~ for a special night at our GNET quarterly CONNECT caregiver support group. This unique opportunity for our cancer parents to gather over a meal and share openly is just so remarkable. It’s life-giving.

~ for a much needed belly laugh first thing in the morning. I walked outside early this week and the hazy dawn sky was dotted with fluffy tufts of clouds.

Immediately I saw a vivid picture in my mind: years ago when our temporary houseguest, Rosie the pug, ate up all our patio cushions and then sat proudly in the midst of the poly cotton she had shredded.

2018

~for behind-the-scenes editors and prayer warriors and encouragers who help when they don’t have to.

~ for an inspirational homecoming. Our precious neighbor suffered a sudden and completely unexpected burst brain aneurysm. He has spent the last 6 months in the hospital, and today, miracle of miracles, he came back home! He was greeted by family and friends and half the neighborhood, and our boys escorted the car on their bicycles. Once he was settled inside, we gathered together to give all glory to God and to pray for his continued healing and for his devoted wife.

We lost a friend and HERO mama this week. Jennifer Green, single mom to HERO Lucas and little brother Jase, passed away yesterday after a fierce monthlong battle with Covid. GNET is a family, we love hard and we hurt deeply. There are so many trials in this life that we can just never understand, and this is one of them. But God. But God. But God. I will share information on her memorial and how to donate toward her boys for those who feel led to make a donation.

I’m also thankful that on Monday, a foolish mishap was not as bad as it could have been. Any of you every use a kitchen mandoline? If you HAVE, I know you are already wincing as you picture what you expect happened…. For those of you who don’t know about this revolutionary gadget, a mandoline is a slicer with an impeccably sharp stationary blade, perfect for creating uniform slices (sweet potato rounds, for instance).

I’ve always wanted one, but they are usually pretty expensive. You can imagine how jazzed I was to find one at Goodwill a while back. The problem with buying thrifted kitchen tools is that you don’t get any instructions, and you can’t know for sure if you have all the parts. I had no idea I was missing a critically important element, the hand protector (shown above). I will spare you the gory details, but let’s just say the blade was set at 3/8”, and there’s that much missing forever from the side of my thumb AND the opposite side of my hand.

Right hand/dominant hand/painting hand of course. It’s been a challenging week with pain, bandaging, and limitations, compounded by frustration with myself for such an unnecessary injury. But I’m truly thankful that it wasn’t worse, thankful for a professional nurse housecall (no stitches needed, because there was nothing to stitch!), thankful it didn’t happen to one of the children (rest assured, the demon-slicer was promptly disposed of by my husband), and that the wounds are healing pretty quickly.

Against my will, I have been forced to slow down this week and JUST “BE.” I wouldn’t have chosen it, didn’t really have time for it, wasn’t happy about it. But by the end of the week, I got more rest. Had more snuggles on the couch with my girl. Spent more time in the Word. Allowed my big kids to step up and help more. Felt exceptionally loved and cared for as each one of them prayed for me. In the midst of pain and frustration, I received an unexpected gift.

Try to slow down a little (BEFORE you’re forced to). Don’t forget to look for blessings amid the rubble. And take it from me, don’t buy deathly sharp instruments secondhand.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:2-3)

“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.” (Psalms 73:28)

““Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”” (Psalms 46:10)

Birthdays and Baseball Games

I am thankful:

~ for another full whirlwind week!

~ for weather so bright and beautiful and perfect that I had to drag my easel outside to paint! It was GLORIOUS!

~ for Tatum K finding such joy in hiding and finding Easter eggs. All day. Over and over. Empty eggs never brought so much joy!

~ for my very best friend’s birthday. Josh would never make a big deal about his birthday, but I always tell him it’s a day that HAS to be celebrated, because it was the day God made him for me! Best C Rojo’s burgers and truffle fries for lunch and mouth-watering Southern Classic chicken for dinner, topped off with a 4 layer yellow cake with chocolate icing (one of his love languages might be food). And then the birthday surprise that has been KILLING ME TO KEEP, because let’s just say his other love language is Texas Rangers baseball. He was tickled with his gift of a new Rangers shirt and tickets for the whole Tribe to go to a game. I love surprising him!

~ and before I could even catch my breath, it was time for the next special birthday: a “FOY” year old Tater Bug! Tatum K, as you can well imagine, was over-the-moon tickled that it was her birthday, and squealed with delight at her breakfast of 4 colorful donuts and special birthday crown.

She proudly wore that crown all over town as we ran our errands, LOUDLY singing her original song, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! TO-DAY IS MY BIRTH-DA-A-A-AAAYYYY!!!”

She gobbled down her mac and cheese for lunch, and it was no surprise that she was incredibly specific and demanding about her evening menu of choice: sausage and eggs and colorful cake AND chocolate pie and chocolate cow milk. Tatum’s name means “brings joy,” and joy truly just explodes out of her tiny little self. She is easy to celebrate.

~ for a wonderful evening of food and fellowship hosting our church small group.

~ for a fantastic first trip to the new baseball stadium with the whole Tribe. We were all excited to be going to an actual in-person ballgame after a year of watching cardboard cutouts. Free hats, dollar ice cream, seats behind home plate, and a perfectly air conditioned environment made for a wonderful day.

Rally caps…sadly did not work

~ and my favorite part of every car trip (besides the every-17-minute-potty-stops and endless voices asking “how many more minutes?”) is holding hands with my sweetheart and singing our favorite songs. Right now our kids think we are lame and embarrassing, but I know one day they will remember fondly how in love their mom and dad were.

Life isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun. It isn’t always birthday dinners and baseball games. But when it is, grab onto those moments with both hands and LOVE LARGE! There will always be something hard around another corner, it’s just inevitable in this crazy world gone mad. We must TREASURE the sweet moments, the bright spots, because they fuel us when the road gets bumpy again. Hurts and disappointments, sickness and tragedy are on their way. But as I’ve been crying out to God about some things, I’ve been so encouraged by a certain worship song this week.

“When all I see is the battle, You see my victory

When all I see is the mountain, You see a mountain moved

And as I walk through the shadow, Your love surrounds me

There’s nothing to fear now for I am safe with You

So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees

With my hands lifted high

Oh God, the battle belongs to You

And every fear I lay at Your feet

I’ll sing through the night

Oh God, the battle belongs to You”

(Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham)

You said, “It is finished,” Lord. Help me to trust You with EVERYTHING. Things I worry about, even if they are huge mountains in my eyes, are so simple to You. And no detail escapes Your eye. You have finished the work, and it is well.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”(Exodus 15:2-3)

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

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Mightier

Six years ago tomorrow, I wrote my very first Sunday Gratitude journal entry on Sawyer’s Caringbridge site. We were not quite 3 weeks into his cancer journey.

“Aug 10, 2014

I’d like to copy from a blog I’ve read for a long time….she dedicates her posts on Sundays to giving thanks. Especially in the midst of trials, it is easy to only see the bad things, and start feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t want to fall into that trap. Of course I wish none of this was happening, but this is a part of God’s best for our family, and I want to set my eyes on His goodness that is all around us.

Sunday Gratitude

~Our new room with a nice recliner

~a playmat for the floor so SaSa can crawl around without getting contaminated

~food from “the Outside”, especially homemade pimento cheese

~nurses who love Sawyer so much they come see him when they are not assigned to him

~getting to witness a 9-year-old girl finally get to celebrate going home after 8 months of treatment (her mom bought her a sparkly new dress, she had a panda hat on her bald head, and her daddy surprised her with a limo to drive her home!)

~news of so many people pulling together to bless my family by bringing meals and back-to-school bounty

~Sawyer’s sweet little voice chattering away

~pictures colored by my kids at home for their little brother

Join me in giving thanks!”

Today I find myself in far different circumstances, but in such a similar place of need. Of needing to raise my gaze. Raise my focus. Raise my voice in gratitude.

I have felt like our house is filled with a fog of sad. So many people I love are hurting and there is nothing I can do. I just can’t seem to get my feet under me.

This was a page on my daily calendar this week. Why do I feel like I have never seen this verse before? I read it and reread it and looked it up in several versions.

I love the sound of the ocean’s crashing waves. It’s vastness and power makes me feel so small. The crash is deafening. In this world, doesn’t it seem like there’s just so much deafening noise? All competing. Each voice, a thunderous wave crashing louder and louder, demanding to be heard above the rest. Noise on traditional and social media. Noise from every opinion on every issue. Noise inside me. BUT GOD. He is so far above the noise. He does speak in that Still Small Voice. But His majesty, His magnitude, His presence, His power. Is greater. Mightier than the noise attacking me from the outside and from the inside. Far mightier than the strongest, most powerful waves on any sea.

I am thankful that no matter how low or how NOT THANKFUL I FEEL, my loving Father is so gracious and persistent to show Himself to me even when I am a mess.

I am thankful:

~ for friends who call in lunch when they know it’s been a hard day. Even though they live in Dallas!

~ for the times when social media is a tool used for good, and flooded with kind words and encouragement to those who need it.

~ for a special birthday girl with a fantastic attitude on a quietly celebrated day. Our Zoe turned 9, and though we were unable to GO anywhere or INVITE anyone, we compensated with FOOD. Her brown eyes sparkled when she saw her waffles with sprinkles for breakfast. Daddy brought home a special treat from DQ for her lunch. And as one of our family’s most discerning diners, Miss Zoe selected a decadent menu of packaged Velveeta Shells and Cheese, cheese toast, and chocolate cake with more sprinkles of course. (It was a nice variation from last year’s choice of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Cheezits.) She felt special, and that’s what counts.

~ for the perfect worship song that plays at the perfect moment.

~ for my precious Littles who are so quick to forgive their mama when she’s not as nice or as patient as she should be. And for the genuine prayers they pray for me.

~ for my very best friend to wake up with every morning.

~ for new house numbers and solar lights giving our home a simple but cozy exterior update.

~ for ones who I know pray faithfully, and who alternately offer gentle encouragements and less gentle admonishings to kick out of my funk.

~ for August Tonight and Whataburger malts honoring one of the finest men who ever lived.

~ for a fun puzzle completed.

~ for a tasty night cooking up the fish Josh and the big kids caught on their Galveston Bay fishing trip. We had everyone back together again, and it was good to have fresh laughter around our table. I’ve missed that.

~ for the promise that God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. In the words of one of our Littles’ favorite songs, His love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.

Let’s lift each other up during these strange, uncertain, and unfamiliar times. Whatever you may be feeling or struggling with, it is certain that someone else is struggling with it too. Everyone is dealing with their own personal flavor of hard. It’s ok not to have it all together all the time. It’s ok to be unsure. God knows what He is doing, and His good and perfect plan will be done in the end.

Prayers especially for educators and administrators and support staff who are gearing up for an unprecedented back to school season. And for parents everywhere who are doing their very best to make the very best decisions for their families about schooling. Let’s all be kind to one another. Let’s raise a hallelujah!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.” (Psalms 93:3-4)

Tipping Point

I am thankful:  

~ For class zoom meetings.  The kids love getting to see their teachers and their classmates.  This week Kora enjoyed dressing up for an early celebration of Cinco de Mayo with her Spanish teacher (and feast on delicious leftover tacos from Colton), and Sawyer got to share his pets with his friends.   Zoe proudly demonstrated her science experiment about surface tension.IMG_E4B4AAF3EE53-1.jpegIMG_7B81D204E6D0-1.jpegIMG_6AA1BC39A9E3-1.jpeg

~ for peace that passes understanding, especially when delivered as a profound lesson taught by my child.  This week one of the school chapel songs was a favorite of the kids.  As it began to play, Sawyer said excitedly, “I love this song!  We’re gonna sing it at my graduation!”  Then the realization hit (which I wasn’t sure if he actually knew or not) and he said quietly, “Oh…but I’m not even gonna have my graduation.”  I instantly felt hot tears welling in my eyes.  Oh, how it hurts this Mama’s heart that he should miss out on this milestone that we never dared to dream he should reach.  But almost in the same breath, I heard Sawyer (and all his brothers and sisters) boldly belting out the opening lyrics of the song, “This is the day, that You have made.  Whatever comes, I won’t complain.  For all my hope is in Your Name, and now Your joy awaits my praise.  I give thanks for all You have done.  And I will sing of Your mercy and Your love.  Your love is unfailing, Lord I am grateful!”  His attitude is so much better than mine!  He too, is experiencing disappointment, but it is not crippling his JOY!  He has proudly memorized Psalm 23 and his little speaking part for a video the school is putting together.  When he got all doodled up for the video for his teacher, he was so excited, he never wanted to change out of his “fancy” clothes.  How cute was my little pupil working in his bow tie!?  He also had the MOST THRILLING visit this week, from his BELOVED teacher, Mrs. Key!  She brought him Starbust for being a “STAR” student, and a yard sign that we have proudly displayed in our front yard.  Thank You Father for your unspeakable grace.IMG_7930.jpgIMG_58D645B67240-1.jpegIMG_8284.jpg

~ for the gift of music.  Kora has been memorizing a passage from 1 Thessalonians, and the words brought to mind a song written by a dear friend.  I was able to play it for her, and her eyes just sparkled when she heard God’s Word brought to life in such a fresh new way that she understood so much better.  The song is a jubilant anthem looking toward the day when we Believers will all join together with Jesus in the sky.  It has been playing in my heart all week.

~ for the sweetest and most thoughtful “teacher appreciation” care package I received in the mail.  Thank you to all who have prayed over our story problems.  They are still a problem, but I think we will all live to tell the story.

~ for the most unique spring concert experience for Samantha and Kora.  Obviously, quarantine and social distancing has made many spring traditions difficult or impossible. But our school creatively found a way for fourth and fifth graders to gather in the parking lot at a safe distance and lift their voices and recorders to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Memorable to be sure. IMG_232D4AA19024-1.jpegIMG_FDF0662D192B-1.jpegIMG_8492.jpg~ for gorgeous weather. Friday we worked hard to get all schoolwork done before lunch, and we headed to the park around the corner from our house.  It is a tucked away spot, and rarely have we run into anyone else there.  We spread out our blanket in the shade, and I read to the kids while they ate their picnic.  Then it was playground time, and picking wildflowers, and climbing trees.  It was a lovely afternoon.IMG_8229.jpgIMG_8230.jpgIMG_1D96DA29674F-1.jpeg

~ for a very special birthday.  Colton, our firstborn, the one who made me a Mama, turned 21.  When I had Colton, I was so young and naive.  He was literally the first baby I ever held, and I was absolutely terrified.  I never thought I’d be a mom, but now that I was, I wanted so badly to do it well.  I loved him fiercely.  Being a mom was the first thing I absolutely knew I could not do on my own, and that brokenness and desperation was what ultimately led me to recognize my need for a Savior.  Josh and I have always said that Colton led 2 people to the Lord as a baby, so we have always known God had a special plan for this beautiful boy.    He was always a challenging child: strong-willed, always with 2 toes over the boundary lines.  We weren’t sure if we (or he) would survive his teen years.  We went through some pretty ugly seasons, and more sleepless nights than I can even count.  BUT GOD.  My boy is growing into a man, and he is finding his way as a respectful, compassionate individual who actually CHOOSES to spend time with him mom and dad.  I honestly wasn’t sure we’d ever get there.  Now I am freshly convinced that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God is always wooing and drawing and working through and behind what we see in front of our eyes.  I am so grateful.   He came over to hang out and have dinner 4 nights this week, played wiffleball and swam, and watch a movie.  We celebrated on his birthday with crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and his oh-so-sophisticated dessert choice: confetti cake.  Loved celebrating him, celebrating all that God has done, and all that God has in store.IMG_DE754189AD7A-1.jpegIMG_9A3247EFBB61-1.jpeg

~ for Facebook live concert from Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood. And for dancing to “To Make You Feel My Love” with my husband in the kitchen.  We never do that.  But in that moment, it was perfect. 

~ for gorgeous weather for wiffleball, snake-free walks, and swimming.IMG_6419D20D9B02-1.jpegIMG_427A57E9C74C-1.jpegIMG_868D9D739B3B-1.jpegIMG_65F88F250CE7-1.jpegIMG_8363.jpg

~ for a refreshing change of pace.  Josh brought home a new puzzle, just 199 pieces.  At first I was disappointed, knowing it was way too easy.  But the fact that it was a Frozen 2 puzzle meant it would be an instant hit with the Little People, and it was probably time for some quick satisfaction.  During nap time I decided to challenge myself, and set a timer.  50 minutes and 38 seconds.  Not bad.  I think I find puzzles so satisfying in this season because they are a manageable challenge with a clear beginning and end.  It is a task that can be concretely completed.  The feeling of success.  The kids were as thrilled as expected, and finished it almost as quickly as I did.  They were sweet and took out the last 3 pieces after they were done, and left them for baby sister.  She was so tickled.IMG_ABACC42F08EF-1.jpegIMG_772E84380C7E-1.jpeg

Mental health is not a joke.  I’ve never hopped on the “self-care“ bandwagon… It usually seems like a license to grossly self indulge, overspend, and let “me time” push to top priority at the expense of others.  This is not Jesus’ way, and it shouldn’t be ours.  I don’t “need” time with my girlfriends, or to shop, or pamper myself.  Any of those things are enjoyable, a great treat, and something to look forward to.  But I’ve never seen them as a “need.”  

But I got to a tipping point this week.  It might sound funny, likely sounds relatable, but it’s just unfiltered truth.  I couldn’t remember when I had last showered.  I was wearing the same clothes for daytime, to bed, and again the next day, (because WHY NOT?)  I glimpsed myself in the mirror (quite by accident, because WHY?) and I hardly recognized myself.  I hadn’t bothered to style my hair in days (because WHY?) so my natural not-exactly-straight-not-exactly-wavy-frizzy-and-stylistically-confused hair with it’s unintentional hombre of blonde/brown/silver was taking on a somewhat Einstein-esque quality.  I didn’t look like someone who should be caring for children. Let alone someone who should be responsible for anyone’s education.  

I am not and was not depressed.  But I also realized: I was not ok.  I was sleepwalking through my unrecognizable life, even though I was still (mostly) successfully checking all the boxes: morning Bible study✔️ frequent private and shared prayer throughout the day✔️reading aloud to the kids every morning✔️ faithfully keeping kids on the task of completing their daily schoolwork ✔️keeping my house reasonably clean✔️maintaining the illusion to the “outside” that I “had it all together” and that the Ruckers were “ROCKING THE QUARANTINE.”✔️  Another parent said something similar, “We’ve been doing pretty well.  But this week, WE HIT A WALL.”

That night after the kids were in bed, I took a bath.  I turned on my favorite soft worship playlist and soaked the day off in the hot water and the music.  The next day I did my hair and put on a little makeup and changed out of pajamas and put on clothes.  (OK so it was actually just changing from one set of loungewear to a nearly identical set of loungewear.  A purely lateral move, but at least it was the physical act of changing clothes.)  Just putting in the minimal effort to feel like a human.  Even something so small and seemingly trivial, I realized how much I had missed the daily reminder of putting on my beautiful handmade gold bracelet inscribed with “it is well.”  That afternoon, I took my paints out to a semi-shaded spot in the driveway and worked on a sign while listening to the birds with a gentle breeze on my face.IMG_76E835B132EE-1.jpegIMG_15564004710C-1.jpeg

It wasn’t magic.  I still stink at math.  In fact, one of my ANONYMOUS “students” shouted disdainfully at me this week after checking a problem, “HA!  You were WRONG!”  And other told me, “You’re not THAT bad, you just need a little help from a REAL teacher.”  BUT…the slight shift of my focus to putting a little effort into myself was a mood lifter.  It also made my husband smile.  And maybe if I wasn’t a BETTER teacher, at least I didn’t look like such a scary one.

Wherever you are, however you are handling your situation and your trials, God sees you.  He has promised not to leave you or forsake you. You are not alone.  He may not take the fire away, but He will stand in it with you. It’s ok to take care of yourself, and give yourself grace.  If you are slipping, call out to Jesus.  Call out to a friend.  And it’s ok to admit that you’re not ok. If your faith is in yourself, it was in the wrong place anyway. Remember who you are and more importantly, WHOSE you are.  We are all in this together.  And then look for the blessings around you. They are there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a shout, and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first ones to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are alive will be looking to the skies. And we’ll be caught up there  with our brothers in the clouds.  I just wish it were now.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, paraphrased by Randy Skiles)

Training Wheels and Laundry Baskets

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful day celebrating our beautiful Samantha turning 12!  How in the world is the little fuzzy headed muffin that captured our hearts the moment we laid eyes on her 12?????  Samantha has the biggest and most tender heart.  She is a born little mama, and wears Tatum on her hip constantly.  She is spunky and sassy and quick-witted, and entering the “tween” phase has made her even more ANIMATED.   She enjoyed her menu of choice: Nacho Supreme Hamburger Helper and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she baked her own chocolate cake with tie-dyed icing.  

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~ for a lovely day off school on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.   Carson Grace and one of her roommates came home for a day, so it was a treat to have them here.  

~ for the sweetest photo shoot with my oldest and youngest daughters.  Tatum K is the spitting image of baby Carson Grace, and seeing them together fills my heart with such joy. 

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~for the seasons that I know will not last forever…the seasons where in the middle of my shower, the door opens and a little voice says, “Mama, I want to snuggle wif you.”  Or when that same little voice says, “Mama, pray for the chocolate on my leg!”

~ for a powerful expression of intercessory prayer for a special couple needing healing in our church.  They are pillars of our Body, and beautiful, godly examples of humble leadership, Christ-centered marriage, and quiet strength.  

~ for a crazy week of home makeover DIY projects.  Josh had a week of vacation that he needed to use up, so he had planned a “stay-cation” with a list of several projects to get done around the house.  Why, WHY didn’t I think about what that meant for me?  I’ve been married to this man for a LOOOONG TIME, and HIS projects are almost always OUR projects.  I am AMAZED by all he (and we) got done!  He repainted the trim all the way around our house and both garage doors.  In 2 days!  Ripped out the cumbersome and non-functional built-in cabinet in our laundry room.  Designed and built me 2 reclaimed wood double-bay laundry sorters on casters to my specifications.  Built a shelf from a massive, stunning slab of wood we’ve been saving for years, and installed a galvanized hanging rod.  Ripped out the countertops and replaced them with custom reclaimed wood butcher block. Replaced the broken light fixture.  And I caulked and repainted the laundry room and cabinets, repainted our dingy mudroom and added a fun pop of color on the door.  Our laundry room and mudroom are two of the most hard-working rooms in our home, so it is so awesome to have them updated and more functional for our family.

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~ for the extended quality time with my Love this week. We enjoyed checking out a new place, Jimmy’s Egg. (Gina Sue treated Tatum K and I to breakfast there last week, and it was SO YUMMY that we had to take Dad!)  It was THE BOMB!  And we finished off our FD’s gift certificate with an at home date.  Tatum K crashed both “dates” (and ate half my food both times) but she’s cute enough, we really didn’t mind.  Bear also thought he should be invited…

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~ for an exciting next step… on-camera interviews for a professional promo video we are creating for Gold Network of East Texas.  We have so many dreams and plans stirring in our hearts for GNET in 2020 and the upcoming years.  It still blows my mind that less than 6 years ago, Tyler Gold Run and Gold Network of East Texas didn’t exist!  What a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to serve East TX childhood cancer community, and to see the network of families leaning on one another.  

~ for a hearty cooked-by-Dad breakfast. 

~ for another thrilling milestone: Sawyer learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!  He just hopped on and took right off!  Josh talked to him at bedtime about how much he has loved teaching each of his kids how to ride their bike.  That moment of pure joy when the balance kicks in and they soar away on their own. And of course, with Sawyer every new accomplishment is emotional and mind-blowing.  No milestones are small or taken for granted.  We just can’t believe Sawyer is alive and thriving and turning into a big kid in front of our very eyes.  Thank You Jesus!  (We did end the day with the inevitable skinned knee and big tears.  It’s all part of growing up!  Check out that shirt, though!)

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~ for SUNSHINE!!!!  We have had so many days upon days of rain and gloom, I was in desperate need of blue skies and sun!  Do you start to feel your soul get tired during gloomy weather?

It was a great week having Josh home.  He truly is my favorite person to spend time with, my very best friend.  We laughed tonight thinking that it seems like the longest week ever because we packed so much into it.  Parts of the week were surprisingly hard though.  We really are “GIDDYUP” and “WHOA.”  He pushes me.  Challenges me.  All these renovation projects came out of nowhere and really threw me for a loop.  I’m a pack rat, he’s a cleaner-outer.  He pushed me to go through a couple stacks I had sitting around.  (My piles drive him crazy.  And it drives ME crazy when he tosses things out without checking with me.)  He brought up the idea of building the laundry sorters I’d been wanting (which of course I was thrilled about, but I didn’t know anything else was coming), and 5 minutes later he put a caulk gun in my hand and started ripping the cabinet off the wall. (Oh.  So we’re DOING this!? You mean TODAY!?  Like…RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Ok then.)  The intensity and change of routine actually launched me into a pretty massive anxiety attack over THE STUPIDEST details.  If I remember correctly, it involved chicken sandwiches and some laundry baskets full of crap.  Good.  Grief.  It’s laughable now.  But in the moment, it was real and frustrating and suffocating and lonely.  But God.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  And now, I look at the freshly updated rooms, especially the laundry room, and it’s just…AWESOME!  It’s so much better than I ever could have envisioned.  It’s more than I asked for.  And Josh worked hard to make it happen, BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  He doesn’t spend any time in that laundry room.  He didn’t do it because HE wanted it.  He did it to bless ME.  And to get it done, he had to push me a little.  I’m so thankful that God knows what we need better than we do.  He chose Josh for me because he knew my “Whoa” would hold me back from so much in life, and that I NEEDED some “Giddyup.”  (And of course, Josh needs a little “Whoa” from time to time, so he doesn’t fly straight off the rails).  God uses my husband and my kids to teach me about the height and width and depth of His Love.  God loves us so far beyond our self imposed limitations.   He ABSOLUTELY gives us more than we can handle, but never more than He can handle.  Sometimes He pushes us.  And it is ALWAYS for a purpose…  He has things in store for us so far beyond what we have ever asked for or imagined.  Because He LOVES US.  So we have to see past anxiety and laundry baskets and chicken sandwiches that try to rob us of that joy.  And we will never experience the joy that feels like flying if we don’t take off the training wheels.  Even if we skin our knees.  Because flying is worth it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

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