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)

The Biggest Little Things

I am thankful:

~ for HEALING!  The Rucker Tribe has survived the Great Flu of 2019.  Oh, we still have some sniffles, snuffles, and coughs.  And sleep is still hit or miss (mostly miss).  But it is a vast improvement over last week to say the VERY LEAST.  Thank You JESUS!  And thank you to all of you for reaching out with your kind words and encouragements.

~for all the funny little memories at Christmastime.  For the kids’ love of EVERY Christmas song, and how they sing out with all their hearts.   I love that Tatum K doesn’t know who Santa is.  She just points when she sees a picture or an inflatable and says, “look mama! It’s a May-wee Cwis-mas boy!”  We have had fun running errands together, she’s my little buddy while kiddos are at school.  She attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so stinkin’ cute in her little boots and messy bun.  At this store she found slippers that matched her little sherpa jacket, so she had to give them “a lovey.”  Oh Lord, let her stay my sweet tiny Tater. 

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~ for puzzles.  I forget how fun puzzles are.  

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~ for a wonderfully special occasion worthy of celebration: Grandmommy’s 70th birthday!  Aunt Polly hosted the gathering, and we feasted on brisket and chips and dips and a charming custom purse cake topped with FON-DANT.  We all laughed and made Grandmommy cry, and celebrated the legacy of the lovely, godly lady we all love so much.  

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~ as always, Grandmommy’s birthday also marks the start of the greatly anticipated tradition: 12 Days of Christmas.  Each night we gather and sing the song, and then open our thoughtful treat and take our picture.  The kids absolutely love the whole process, and I am so thankful for all the work that Grandmommy puts into it all.  These are memories that will last forever.  I am a sucker for traditions, and it fills my heart to see the smiles of my babies beside the tree.  Day 1 was sticker page nativities.  And you have never seen such joy as they each diligently worked on decorating their own paper.

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~ for such a fun Christmas party with our small group from church.  The adults had organized a rowdy (and rather cut-throat) white elephant gift exchange.  The kids were very intrigued by the idea (I mean, OBVIOUSLY they saw a bunch of gifts and wanted some) so I quickly gathered items from around our house to put together a white elephant exchange for them. None of them had ever played it before, so it was a little challenging.  Sawyer ended up with the dud gift: a ladies bracelet and a coupon.  He was NOT IMPRESSED.  Nor was he gracious about being disappointed.  There were tears.  Everyone else had fun though.  I’m thankful for such a fun group.  As you can see, I was in a PARTICULARLY FESTIVE mood.

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~ for a new-to-me treat:  baked crescent rolls filled with melted chocolate chips and drizzled with powdered sugar glaze.  Just STOP IT!

~ for last minute Giddyup & Whoa orders.  you can imagine how tight the budget gets with nine kids at Christmas time. Even though our focus is definitely not on spending a lot on extravagant gifts, all the expenses just all add up faster than the deposits.  Every order is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for the way God provides!  It is such an honor to be trusted with bringing to life special mementos for people.  

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~ for amazing and inspiring connections.  I got a sign order this week from a lady I did not know.  She had taken my card at the show at the Foundry several weeks ago and just now contacted me.  She came to the house to pick up her order, and we had the best conversation!  She is also a mother of 9, and we have several  common friendships.  Such a small world.  The sign she had me do for her was so unique and personal, my very favorite kind of sign to paint.  A saying with personal meaning that you’re just not going to find hanging in Hobby Lobby.  She had asked me to paint “Love is the Tuesdays.”  It’s a lyric from the song, “Tuesday’s,” by Jake Scott, and it was a gift for her husband.  She encouraged Josh and I to listen to the song, which we did later that evening.  The song is advice given by a father to a young man who is asking to marry his daughter.  “No it’s not Hollywood son ’cause troubles will come / But it’s the best decision you’re ever gonna make / And you’ve got my blessing but just hear this lesson / Twenty-seven years and all I’ve got to say / Is it’s not just picture perfect dancing in a white dress / It’s not just rainy days where nothing stops the fighting / It’s not just highs and lows and champagne toasts / I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days or the worst days / Love is the Tuesdays”

Isn’t that just the truth?  Love is the everyday moments that happen in between the highs and the lows.  So blessed by the song and touched by the sentiment behind the sign order. 

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~ for an amazing accomplishment for my INCREDIBLE HUSBAND!  A few weeks ago he took the step of faith to enroll in an online real estate course, and this week he completed the first class and ACED his first exam!   So proud of this remarkable man of mine and excited to see what doors God will open down the road!

~ for the kids’ DARLING Christmas program at church.   From our Tribe, we had scintillating portrayals of an angel, King Herod, and Caesar Augustus, as well as 2 eloquent narrators.  There is something so pure about seeing the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes and lips of children.  And even seeing how beautiful and grown up Samantha and Kora are.  Zoe sparkling in her tinsel halo.  Sawyer, serious as can be, sternly barking out his line, and Gavin’s dramatic death on stage.  Even Tatum K’s spontaneous interruptions asking when it would be “cookie time.”  It was just so very special.  

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Before the Children’s Program, Becky the Children’s Pastor, asked the audience to pause.  I LOVED how she said it.  “Let’s just pause a moment to make some room.  We can’t appreciate a gift we are given if we don’t take the time to realize how much we NEED that gift.”  Advent is the season of waiting.  Waiting expectantly for the birth of the King.  Waiting longingly for His Return.  But do we have room?  Are we too busy and distracted by the cares of this world?  By how many friends/followers/likes we can accumulate?  By having the Pinterest-perfect porch display, ugly sweater, or charcuterie board?  By buying the perfect gift to outdo what we gave last year?  

Quieting our heart is hard.  Waiting is hard.  What are you waiting on?  What prayer are you praying that has not yet been answered?  My heart aches with the weight of some of the things I wait for, long for.   But I know God sees me.  I know He cares about the things and the people I’m asking Him for.  He saw the needs of the people of Israel.  He had a plan to meet those needs.  He has a plan to fulfill every need.  But for now, we wait.  Creation is groaning for our Coming King.  We ache for healing, for reconciliation, for restoration.  We cry out to Him for a Breakthrough.  And sometimes every single thing our eyes see looks like failure.  Hopeless.   But the God of Hope is working when we cannot see.  And thankfully, His power is not contingent on our faith.  I thank God for that every day.  Because my faith feels so small and my vision falls so short.  But God.  So whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t lose heart.  

He is working.  

He is coming. 

And He’s always right on time. 

So let’s pause a moment.  And let’s make some room for Jesus in our hearts and our schedules this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:13-14)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-19, 22-25, 28)

Thank Full

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful, JAM-PACKED break. Most days the weather was great, and the kids enjoyed running around and playing outside. They raked leaves into piles and delighted in jumping in them. When they found that we didn’t have enough leaves, they were more than happy to visit our neighbors and gather THEIR leaves and bring them to our house!

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~for the absolute best kitchen helpers in all the land.  My sous chefs were raring to go, and what they lacked in expertise they made up for with enthusiasm.

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~for even a little time with my Girl home from college.  Way too short of a visit, but thankful just the same.

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~for sweet moments with my Love.  We have our ups and downs like anybody else, and sometimes we bicker and get on each other‘s nerves.  But most of the time, the love we have is everything you could ask out of a sappy movie.  I love driving down the road, holding my babies hand, singing Garth Brooks’ songs to one another.  It is delightfully nauseating.

~for online shopping.  I just don’t have it in me to get out there and box the crowds for the best deals.  I can’t even express how grateful I am to be able to find what I need while sitting on the couch and have it shipped right to my door.  

~for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We always drive to Carthage and spend the day with family.  The children cherish all the traditions, and their excitement is so contagious.  This year we had an even larger crowd than usual: I love how everybody feels at liberty to invite more people along…and everyone is TRULY WELCOME.  I don’t think anybody every feels like they are an “extra.”  They just BELONG.  And it’s truly the most fun gathering you can imagine. We are a lively bunch, with our chicken and turkey hats, our pumpkin Olympics complete this year with a reverent and very formal coronation of the Pumpkin Queen, and chicken dancing in the front yard next to the highway (punctuated with frequent honks from passers by).  There’s just  SO.  MUCH.  JOY.  We ate until we were completely uncomfortable, and then we made another plate.  Once that was ram-crammed down into our bellies, then it was time for PIE.  The food was fantastic, but it’s the fellowship that defies explanation.  I’m so grateful to be in the company of so much love.  Such special memories. 

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~ for the soft glow of Christmas lights, a fire in the fireplace, and my snuggly $4.99 blanket from Aldi.

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~ for the very best curbside find yet: the 9 foot Christmas tree (in original box) I picked up on large item trash week earlier this year.   We put up the tree and with just a little finessing, all the original lights are functioning!  Whoever threw this tree away, THANK YOU!  We decked our halls this weekend, and everything is bright and festive.  Josh even built me a custom reclaimed wood tree collar (gotta add a little Giddyup & Whoa, of course!)  The kids love seeing their favorite ornaments and decorations come out of the boxes.  They hear the stories of Grandma Grace’s handpainted nativity and Granny’s Christmas village.   We hung our new ornaments from this summer’s trip to Lark Toys in Minnesota and the Laura Ingalls museum in Wisconsin.  And Tatum K just points at everything and chirps again and again, “May-we Cwis-mas!!!”  (We’ll see how much of it she breaks before the season is over.)

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And today, what I’m most grateful for is a curly headed, blue eyed little boy, because today he turned 6.   Six years old.  I can’t even say it without crying. 

IMG_0639.JPGIt doesn’t matter how normal life is, how long he’s been a happy kindergartener, how normal he looks.  It still takes my breath away when I stop and think about everything Sawyer has been through.  From almost losing his life to organ failure the day he was brought by ambulance to Children’s, to the life and death battle he fought against cancer as a baby, the toxic reaction to meds, narcotic overdose and withdrawal, and then countless unidentified infections and bizarre complications along the way… but you’d NEVER EVEN KNOW IT.   The faint white port scar on his chest and the curly hair that used to be straight are the only physical indicators left behind to hint that he has a medical history.  I don’t know why Sawyer is the way he is, why his light shines so bright and why he loves so big.  I just know he amazes me and that it feels like a tremendous responsibility to shepherd such a child.  I don’t know how old he is going to grow to be, or what he is going to do in his lifetime (my heart still guards itself against looking too far ahead), but I know he is very very special.  And I am thankful for every. single. moment.  And I’m thankful for a very low-key, normal-just-like-every-other-kid-in-the-tribe birthday: no party, just donuts for breakfast and menu of choice for dinner: pizza, mac-and-cheese, and chocolate cake that he helped me bake.  He wasn’t an honored guest of the police department, and nobody surprised him with a trip to Hawaii.  He got Legos and a hot wheels track and some clothes.  Just like a regular kid.  And that’s kind of hard on Mom and Dad, because quite honestly, we think he deserves a parade every day (I mean, DOESN’T HE?)  But what a gift that Sawyer, even after all he has been through, gets to live a normal life and be a normal kid.  Normal maybe.  But nonetheless, an EXCEPTIONAL WALKING MIRACLE.  Glory to God!IMG_0606.JPG

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Happy December.  My mission this month is to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter how busy life gets.  And remember why we have anything to celebrate.   

(And just for the record: I love ALL my kids. Each one of them is incredibly unique and special and I’m in awe that God has entrusted me with stewarding so many of His treasured creations. I’ve said it before, I’m the most blessed Mama in all the world. I will spend my life doing my best to point them all to Jesus and love them all well.)

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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