BUCKLE UP!

Well it’s been a monumentous week at Casa Rucker.

We DO have so much to be thankful for!”

I am thankful:

~ for beautiful weather for a successful grocery shopping day, at ALL THREE STORES!

Store #1
Store #2
Store #3

~ for Gavin and his class performing an moving and inspiring Veterans Day program at chapel. Obviously it was more meaningful this year than ever before. Listening to the patriotic words of our forefathers who pioneered the way for freedom highlighted our need today to press in through prayer and faith so we don’t lose those freedoms that were so hard fought for. And Gavin also had a solo which was just beautiful. You can watch the program here.

~ for the awesome opportunity to attend an amazing event. Long time Texas Rangers fans, our family are big-time fans of Derek Holland, the former star Rangers pitcher. I had the chance to meet him years ago during Sawyer’s treatment when the team visited Children’s Hospital.

Around that time, Derek made a special connection with another childhood cancer warrior and created his own nonprofit organization… The 60 Foot 6 Foundation, named for the distance from the pitchers mound to the plate. The young boy bravely battled cancer, and rallied back after several close calls, but did eventually pass away. Over the years Derek has raised funds and generously supported the childhood cancer community. Earlier this year, I connected with the executive director of his foundation, and she invited our family to be guests of Derek to his fundraising concert in Fort Worth this week. What an amazing night! We enjoyed fantastic music from the über talented Fort Worth artist Josh Weathers, got to meet some other childhood cancer families, and hear Derek’s moving personal testimony of the life-changing impact his young friend had on him. And of course, we got to meet Derek! Like REALLY meet him. He and Sawyer bonded quickly, with Derek saying, “this kid is the cutest!”

We so enjoyed his down-to-earth demeanor, and his charge to the crowd to “not wait until this (childhood cancer) affects you personally…Do something NOW to support these kids!” I also loved this exhortation, “We need to stop spending so much time comparing ourselves to each other and start comparing ourselves to what we did yesterday.” There were some unbelievable silent auction items and prize drawings, and although we did not win anything, another attendee who DID win gave his prize to Sawyer! An engraved Ian Kinsler bat!

Sawyer was over the moon, and has hardly put it down since. He has proclaimed that he wants it mounted “in a frame with glass” in his room! It was such a special, memorable night, and my hope and dream is that it COULD be a door that God could open for Gold Network of East Texas and 60 Feet 6 Foundation to collaborate on more projects in the future. We’ll see!

And the news of the day: last Sunday’s shotgun wedding was just in time! Birdie had her puppies this morning!

Not 3.

Not 5.

Not 8.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!!!!

Mama and pups are all doing well. Birdie has been an amazingly attentive mother, and I’m telling you, they are THE CUTEST things you’ve ever seen. A first litter of eleven is pretty much unheard of, and we have never done this before, so it is definitely a daunting undertaking. I was up with Birdie all night as she labored, and have stayed by her side pretty much all day to make sure nobody gets stepped on, crushed, or misses a feeding. I am continually counting little heads over and over – reminds me of taking Littles to the pool. And we are also supplementing with bottles just to be sure all the puppies get enough nutrition. OVERWHELMING? Maybe just a tad. Are we INSANE? Probably. But the kids are all thrilled, and I know they’ll all pitch in. Colton spent the day helping any way he could, including cooking dinner! These are the kind of memories I’m thankful to be making with them all. And we’re not afraid of hard work. (Ok, I might be a TINY BIT AFRAID THIS TIME.)

Soooo, that being said…anybody want to give a pretty amazing Christmas gift? These sweet babies are all for sale and will be ready for their forever homes just after the first of January. We’ve had a lot of interest in them already, but we definitely had more than we were expecting! (Miniature goldendoodles are a WONDERFUL breed, hypoallergenic, non-shedding, and fantastic with kids.) Bear and Birdie are the BEST DOGS!

So this week, in between school Thanksgiving feasts, 5th grade wax museum, and the regular tasks of our Jumbotron Tribe, I have “Christmas in the Country” at the Gresham Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa to get ready for (November 18-21),

and 11 puppies to tend to (and feed every 2 hours round the clock!) JESUS HELP!

I cannot believe I have 9 kids and 13 dogs. I have become THAT LADY.

My hands are full, but my heart is FULLER. Ain’t nobody got time for grammar with this much going on!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. BUT GOD!!

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭126:3‬)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬)

Come Together

WHAT A WEEK, HUH?

I don’t know about you, but I am EXHAUSTED. But, in times of trial, in times of questioning, it’s more important than ever that we CHOOSE GRATITUDE. Training our eyes to seek out and focus on the simplest blessings around us makes all the difference.

I am thankful:

~ For Taco Tuesdays and steaming hot charro beans fresh from the instant pot.

~ For quiet mornings at home on repeat: Tatum K + dogs + paints + The Greatest Showman.

~ for fun neighbors to hike and explore with.

~ For sweet helpers in the kitchen.

~ For Carson Grace having a spontaneous weekend road trip with her roommates to do some hiking in the beautiful hills of Oklahoma.

~ For an exciting week for Cooper. He has been super into music for about 3 years, and has been producing his own beats and songs on software on our home computer. He has created a makeshift (almost) soundproof recording studio in the pool bathroom, and spends hours editing his songs. He recently purchased a self-production media kit, and this week he released his first single on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. His artist name is Davvec, and the single is “Reminiscing.” It may not be your taste in music, but we are so proud of Cooper, of his drive, his talent, and his commitment to becoming an artist. He created every element from scratch on his own! Give him a listen! https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/davvec/reminiscing

~ For Colton taking his little sisters out to dinner. This special time with their big brother was off-the-charts exciting for the girls, and they all had a blast. I love that he wanted to spend time with them.

~ For exciting news that we have been anxiously awaiting to announce. We had an intimate backyard wedding this week. To be honest, it was a shotgun wedding. The newlyweds are expecting their first litter any day now.

Look at those smiles!

~ For a special time at church this morning sharing part of our fostering and adoption testimony for National Adoption Month. It was a meaningful and encouraging service, highlighting the various ways people can make a difference in the lives of the innumerable children in the foster care system. I’m so thankful the Lord opened our eyes and our hearts to adoption, and for the family He hand picked for us, a family I far too often take for granted. You can find more information on how you can help at http://bethelightetx.com

For many of us, it’s been a long, stressful roller coaster of a week. I know that I know that I know that God is in control. He is high above all earthly authority and supersedes every government. He is Lord and King of all. And I know He is sovereignly on His throne and not rattled by all that goes on around us. I know all this. I’m confident of all this. But somehow, as I sat and watched the election coverage, watching the states turning colors and the consultants making their predictions and speculations…my heart began to pound. I could hear it in my ears. I could feel it in my forehead. Peoples’ angry reactions and insults and tantrums were making me physically sick. I’ve never been affected this way by politics before, and it just really sent my anxiety off the charts. So much hate and ugliness attacking from both sides, I just felt so grieved that our nation had come to this. And even as I could physically feel my peace being sucked out of me, it was like I couldn’t tear myself away from it. BUT GOD. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who guards my heart when I don’t do it myself, and he encouraged me and turned off the television and tucked us into bed. And as the drama dragged out day after day, I would feel the tension rise up again, but I was reminded over and over of God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. He has a plan for our nation, and He WILL BE GLORIFIED. I love this picture I took on the morning of November 3 of Gavin and his classmates.

Four innocent 10-year-olds with no agenda, who love their country just because it is THEIR country, raising and saluting our nation’s flag just because it is the right thing to do. At this point, it doesn’t really matter who we voted for. It’s time to come together to honor and pray for our nation, to honor and pray for our president, to honor and pray for each other. It’s time to stop throwing stones and taking sides and start coming together so we can be a nation that our children can continue to be proud of. And for those who have claimed Jesus as Lord, it’s rubber-meets-the-road time…to walk out with our feet the trust in Him we have proclaimed from our mouths, and to conduct ourselves in a way that honors Him (speaking to myself here).

GOD IS FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men….Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.” (Psalms 33:12-13, 20-22)

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

Awake

I am thankful:

~ for the first cozy fire of the season. We LOVE a fire! And fresh baked pumpkin muffins.

~ for my first Burger Warehouse burger. What a treat!

~ for the joy in my kids’ voices when they run inside calling, “Mama! You HAVE to come look at the sky!!” May I never take for granted the privilege of seeing the wonder of God’s creation through their eyes.

~ for Colton’s first groundbreaking ceremony for a new commercial construction project with his company.

Colton, second from the left

~ for the opportunity to attend Gavin’s 4th grade Toastmasters speech. He told the story of crashing his big brother’s bike and earning 7 stitches. Gavin was a natural in front of his class, speaking clearly and confidently. So proud of him.

~ for the perfect autumn weather for an evening stroll.

~ for HOPE: a first tiny step in the right direction for a long-standing prayer request.

~ for God’s care and provision over every detail. Monday at lunch, I asked God for work for Giddyup & Whoa. We had gotten caught up on orders, and our schedule was open. (Which is NOT a good thing for a small business.) WITHIN THE HOUR, I got an order through our website for 12 handpainted ornaments. An hour later, an order for 9 more. And this week I got additional orders for 10 more signs! Glory to the Lord! If you need me, I’ll be in the studio! And if you need a unique and meaningful gift for Christmas, Josh and I would love to create a special piece for you. But get your order in early! Thank you for supporting small businesses. Target and Amazon don’t care about your order, but the small shops you support DO! It genuinely makes a difference for our families.

~ for the cool blessing of seeing our oldest work with his dad to help us get all these signs built.

~ for 20+ years of friendship. When Josh and I came to the Lord, it was such a season of firsts. New marriage, new faith, new baby. And we had the incredible blessing of going through all those firsts with some really special couples. Further along in their faith, they discipled us and ministered to us, answered our questions, and taught us about Jesus just by living their lives openly and inviting us along. We were all growing our families for the first time in that season, and it was the most awesome time of fellowship and eating together and staying up way too late with a room full of pack-and-plays full of not-really-sleeping babies in the next room. Our kids all had built-in best friends from birth. Then life had twists and turns and changes. Job changes, more kids, address changes, blessings, and tragedies. We don’t hang out every weekend anymore, haven’t for years. But the love is the same, we treasure the memories, and we give thanks when we have the opportunity to get together again.

2004 – I remember thinking that this group was a TON of kids! But it’s actually LESS CHILDREN than I have in my family alone now! Since this picture, we have collectively added 9 more children to our families.

~ for my favorite fall tradition: the Thankful Game! Our family has a giant group email thread for sharing big and small thankful thoughts each day. I don’t know how many years we have been doing it, but as long as I can remember. I love hearing everyone else’s perspectives, and the feeling of connection regardless of location. And the kids LOVE to participate, and it’s so fun to hear what they thank God for. It helps us get back to an attitude of gratitude.

I’ve been really convicted this week of my own laziness. It’s so easy to get into a routine and set the auto pilot. Get up each day, do all the things, lather, rinse, repeat. Check all the boxes. Looking busy instead of looking for Jesus. Skimming on the surface without going deep. But God. This week I feel as if I’ve been shaken awake from being half asleep. I heard my voice giving someone counsel that I was needing to hear myself. It’s time to wake up. Eyes up. Off my worries. OFF MYSELF. No more sleepwalking. No more tuning out. More of Jesus, less of me.

Are YOU awake?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must become greater; I must become less.”” (John 3:30)

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17)

Unraveled

I am thankful:

~ Thankful that there are some really spectacularly good people in this world. There’s so much junk going around, and I think we are all disappointed by people on a daily basis, especially in the traditional and social media. But this week I got some awesome reassurance in humanity. Cooper, our third born, the one who just had his 16th birthday, was out hanging out with friends last week and lost his wallet. Now the kid never ever ever ever EVER has money, but of course that week he had just gotten paid for a job AND had his birthday, so he was LOADED! What timing to lose everything. He left his information with store personnel at the places he had been, but especially since he didn’t even have a drivers license, there was very little hope. Until two days later I got an email. Someone walking in the store found: first his money, then his wallet. They opened it up and found Cooper‘s school ID, and contacted the school, who forwarded the lady’s information to me so I could reach out to her.

She then went out of her way to package up the wallet and spent $8 to mail it back to Cooper. And not a dollar was missing! Cooper’s joy at its return was priceless, and he was quick to say, “That was the LORD!”

~ for an unlikely family favorite: loaded taco salad. I heap the MOST GIGANTIC bowl on earth, and we all eat every last bite!

~ and for a new favorite snack. Cape Cod sweet and spicy jalapeño chips. I’m not usually a spicy chip fan, but the sweet counterpoint in these is SO TASTY! We (mostly I) MAY have bought 3 bags this weekend! I can’t stop!

~ for the glimpse of a glorious sunrise.

~ for the opportunity to cast my vote. As most of us feel, it’s more important than ever not to take this privilege/responsibility for granted. And thankful for the efficiency and convenience of early voting and a polling location close to our house. Tatum K and I were in and out in about 20 minutes.

~ for some rollicking family UNO games.

~ for my sweet kids that gathered the neighbors’ roses off the ground and brought them to their mama. They still saw beauty left to enjoy.

~ for a new recipe and the opportunity to surprise my sweetheart. About a month ago, for the first time EVER, my sweet husband snapped a picture of a dessert on a magazine cover and sent it to me. “Doesn’t this sound AMAZING?” Well, I kept the thought in my back pocket until this week. Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars did not disappoint. And the look on Josh’s face was PRICELESS. He was so tickled that I remembered.

~ for “catching” sweet Sam reading her Bible.

~ for a wonderful evening celebrating the best reason to celebrate: Sawyer’s buddy Jase completing his 3 1/2 year cancer treatment! We took a drive out to the family’s newly built dream farmhouse, toured their stunning custom home, and got our fill of fellowship, including snuggles with the sweetest baby kittens and French bulldog puppies. We enjoyed the brisk weather around the campfires, and were introduced to their family tradition: the fine art of roasting biscuits over a fire. It was a wonderful night to celebrate a brave boy and the goodness of God!

Isn’t that such a great list of things to be thankful for!? Then WHY do I let get myself completely UNRAVELED over worries – over the things that God’s NOT DONE with??? ONE WOULD THINK I HAD LEARNED BY NOW.

It’s not as if I hadn’t lived through a miracle or two…

I think about how when I was a little girl You surrounded me, Lord. How I was pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned. BUT GOD. I think about how You showed me Your glory and Your love even when I didn’t know it was You, Lord. I think about the way You had a plan for my life even though I messed up over and over and over again, and I did absolutely everything wrong and backwards. You were so good to me. Obviously so much better than I ever deserved. Even in my darkest lost days You never left me. I think about the way You inextricably weaved Your plan and braided people into my path that nudged me in the right direction, whether they were negative or positive influences…You used for good with the enemy intended for evil. I think of how I met my husband two days after I moved to Texas, 1000 miles from home, all by myself with nothing but a Penske truck, a clock radio, a game boy, and three cats. I think of the way You wouldn’t let him give up on me just the way You didn’t give up on me. I think of the way You made me a mom. It was so far outside MY plan. BUT GOD. You meant for me to be a mother. And You gave me such a beautiful son. And You knew my deep-seated fears about being the mother of a daughter. But You gave me a daughter, (and eventually 4 more!) because you had a plan to bring beauty out of brokenness. I think about when I was the pregnant with Cooper and his sonogram showed several serious abnormalities in his heart and brain. How we agonized, watching all those issues sonogram after sonogram. BUT GOD. Because when he was born, he was PERFECT, all the abnormalities were GONE. You have walked us through bumps in our marriage, You have enlarged our hearts individually and together, and added beautiful children to our family in the LEAST EXPECTED WAYS. You have brought us to our knees and to the end of ourselves time and time again. Difficult relationships, finances, leaps of faith. Anxiety. Pain. Through better and worse, sickness and health. Losing a baby through miscarriage. Cancer. Launching a nonprofit. Starting a business. I could list the miracles of how You have carried us, story by story that I myself have LIVED for HOURS.

YOU. ARE. FAITHFUL.

Lord, keep the miracles You have done ever in front of my eyes so I don’t lose heart for the miracles I am still asking You for. I still get so scared. So impatient. BUT YOU ARE NOT DONE. You’re not done with me, with my marriage, with my kids. Thank You for being infinitely more patient with me than I am with You.

Whatever you are praying for, friends, He hears you. He is working and His Way is BEST and His timing is PERFECT.

Don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:23-26)

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:24)

More Than a Pie

I am thankful:

~ for another special birthday. Cooper turned 16. Man, I just can’t believe he’s gotten so grown. He is growing up before our eyes, into such a bright, handsome young man. So proud of him. Enjoyed his feast of choice tonight: a stuffed burrito bar with homemade queso and salsa and a triple layer chocolate cake.

~ for a fun long weekend for Fall Break. We enjoyed the cooler weather and bright sunshine, spent one day with sweet friends, and another day catching up with Aunt Gina. Nothing fancy, but just good time together.

~for a spectacularly beautiful coconut cream pie. It was a beautiful snack. And a beautiful breakfast. And beautiful over and over until it was gone. And this pie was made with so much love, and the heart behind it made it so much more than just a pie. Nobody else can understand. But oh, it was so much more than a pie.

~ for a wonderful quarterly oncology checkup for Sawyer. We rejoice that he remains CANCER FREE! It was a physically and emotionally exhausting day PACKED with special moments. You can read the details of our day here. Or on Facebook

~ one of the highlights of our trip to the hospital was the privilege of celebrating Sawyer’s best buddy as he had his last hospital chemo treatment! We are so proud of you, Jase!

~ another highlight was stopping at the wonderland that is Buc-ees. Always a favorite. And of course, that’s where I get my very favorite treat…

~ while Sawyer and I were in Dallas, Tatum K had a day at home with Daddy. She helped him with some plumbing repairs and kept him laughing all day. If you watch my “Tuesdays with Tatum K” Instagram stories, you understand. She has been saying all week, “I like to fix toilets wif you, Daddy!”

~ for a slug day. The day AFTER clinic I’m SO DEPLETED. Tatum K and I stayed in our pjs all day and did NOTHING. NOTHING.

~ for perfect weather for a successful Fall Barn Sale this week. So thankful that Giddyup & Whoa can be a part of this awesome event.

~ for the blessing of being in church with ALL my kids for the first time since I can remember.

What you imagine church is like with Tatum K… doesn’t she just look like an angel playing quietly with her little jungle animals?
What church is ACTUALLY LIKE with Tatum K

~ for another delicious feast: Colton and Brooke cooked brunch for us! It’s one thing that they are enjoying learning to cook, but it’s quite an undertaking for them to cook for 15 people! Sausage and onion quiche, mini pigs in a blanket, and toasted hash browns! So impressed! And so thankful for the time we spend together.

Life is still hard. Complicated. Heartbreaking. Relentless. It feels like we gain ground one day only to lose it all the next. Eternal whack-a-mole. And some days I feel like I’m grounded and handling things gracefully, while other days I am floundering flat on my face. But God. I cling to the promise of new mercies every morning, and that “even when I don’t see it, You’re working…even when I can’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop, You never stop working.” He cares about everything we care about. He loves the ones we love and worry about. I give thanks for the grace to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One prayer on top of another. I’m so thankful for the glimpses we get of prayers being answered, renewing our hope for the ones that to us may look like we are just spinning our wheels. We’re NOT just spinning our wheels, friends. Every big and small thing we do matters. Every act of faith and every sacrificial offering of love leaves an imprint. And sometimes something as simple as a pie is so much more than a pie.

Lord, give us eyes to see what will be, instead of only what is today. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you….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)

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
‭‭(Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬)

Shifting the Focus

I am thankful:

~ for fall decorations. Haven’t been super motivated to decorate, but the kids have been asking. I pulled out a little more each day and they were excited to look around like a scavenger hunt when they got home from school to see what I had added. And I love my pampas plumes, and am so very thankful I did not get arrested for trespassing when I clipped them. I will not divulge the location on the grounds that it may incriminate me.

~ for one of my favorite weeks of the year: Bulky Item Trash Pickup! I had an exceptionally successful week of treasure hunting, so good that even Josh was pleased! (That NEVER happens!) I look forward to giving these castoffs a second chance at life!

~ for Gavin, who received a Character Quality Award for “Carefulness.” So proud of the young man God is shaping, and love seeing those sparkling eyes and dimples for days!

~ for the love of and talent for art that ALL our children have! They are all such creative artists! These are just a couple paintings done this week.

~ for a remarkable donation! In September I was approached by an Usborne Books consultant who asked if she could do a fundraiser for Gold Network of East Texas. Of course, I gratefully accepted, she held the fundraiser, and we finally met this week. She collected funds to purchase 50 copies of the book, “Cuddle Bear,” and its companion stuffed teddy bear for our HERO families! It was such a blessing to get to meet her, and I can’t wait to distribute these bears to our families!

~ for a friend who unexpectedly pops in to deliver a donation to Gold Network of East Texas AND brings a minky kitty for a certain little girl!!! Thanks so much Meredith and My Minky Co!

~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week prepping for the Vintage & Co Fall Gresham Barn Sale. I finally completed all my custom orders and was able to create several new designs to take to the Barn. If you are local, come check it out THIS WEEK October 14-17.

~ for a fun departure from our normal Friday nights. We went to hear Carson Grace’s boyfriend’s band! Rock music and brick oven pizza under the stars! It was a family friendly event, and we all had a blast.

~ for the roars of alternating jubilation and agony as we watch ALL the football. Prayers for our beloved Dak Prescott. He has been so kind to the childhood cancer community, and has loved personally on many of our HERO kids.

~ for a decadent FEAST prepared by Dad and Colton: juicy grilled pork chops, cheesy scalloped potatoes, and savory grilled asparagus. Thumbs up all around!

Before church this morning I was wrestling with some things, feeling low, sitting alone in my studio space while the family finished getting ready. (That’s always one of my patterns: to withdraw and hide away when I’m struggling.) I was playing a worship playlist and thinking about a troubling situation that is heavy on my heart. One by one, my kids trickled in. (Don’t they always?) They settled in around me, snuggling in and singing along to one of their favorite songs, “I give thanks for all you have done. I won’t forget all the battles You have won. Your love is unfailing, Lord I am grateful…”

And I was reminded afresh: He has done so much! Look around! Look at the blessings! Look at the victories right in front of you! Yes, there are still broken hearts and prayers that long for answers. BUT GOD! HE IS WORKING! He is good all the time (and all the time, He is good).

I don’t take back what I said about parenting being hard. It’s SO. HARD. But it’s also so worth it. The valleys are agonizing, but the mountains are pretty spectacular. And I’m so blessed.

I think about when we make a project or create something, or even cook something. Maybe it’s even when we look at ourselves. Our eyes search out the flaws. And once we find one, and we inevitably do, that’s where we focus. We can’t help ourselves. “If only I hadn’t done that.” “If only this spec wasn’t there.” We miss the beauty of what was created by zeroing in on the flaw. It’s so easy to focus on the hard parts, the bumps in the road. Our family, like every family, has some things that we are wrestling through, some painful processes that will take time and healing to grow through. That’s real life. Messy. Imperfect. And it’s so easy to let myself be CONSUMED by focusing on the problem.

But when I shift my focus and look at the whole picture…I see a six-year-old boy who wasn’t supposed to live to be one-year-old. BUT GOD.

I see him thriving and bright and active when we were told to expect brain damage and learning disabilities and fragile bones that might limit his abilities.

I see three beautiful bright thriving kids who were terrors just a few short years ago. They were physically and emotionally unhealthy, kicking and screaming and pulling each other‘s hair out. And we were pulling OUR hair out trying to manage them. BUT GOD.

Now they are sweet and smart and creative and loving. And OURS.

I see a bitsy girl who first had heart arrhythmias in the womb and then was nonverbal as an infant long enough for doctors to suspect hearing loss. BUT GOD.

And now she’s the liveliest, healthiest, singing-song-iest little spitfire you ever did meet.

I see an angry, rebellious teenager who couldn’t stand his parents who now as an adult comes over just to hang out 3 to 4 times a week.

I see prayers answered. Hopes realized.

Even though I blog my thankful thoughts every Sunday, I struggle just as much as anyone else to KEEP MY FOCUS on the faithfulness of the Savior instead of the ever-changing and troubling waves of my circumstances. But when I remember to shift my focus…oh, how blessed I am.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:3)

Plains, continued

I am thankful:

~ for the most surprisingly simple way to bring joy to my children and instantly elevate my mom status to superhero. I wish someone had told me sooner: all I have to do is pick my kids up from school blasting the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman.” You would have thought I had delivered ice cream and puppies for all! They sparkled and sang and clapped all the way home! It was GLORIOUS! Sawyer even said, “When I grow up and get married and have children, I want this to be the FIRST movie they watch. Cuz I just love it so much.” There really is something magic about that movie.

~ for the refreshingly crisp drop in temperatures. It actually feels like fall, even for Texas.

~ for a delicious feast of zesty fried gulf shrimp and fries from our favorite little secret local spot.

~ for one more successful door-slamming tooth pull. Love that proud toothless grin!

Before…isn’t that dangly tooth just painful to look at?

~ for a productive Giddyup & Whoa week. Lots of new designs getting cranked out and delivered. One sweet lady was so tickled with her sign she asked if she could hug me! So awesome to have the privilege to create something special for someone’s home. Plenty more work to do to get ready for the Barn Sale in a week and a half!

~ for a full week of GCS Homecoming festivities. Sam and Kora enjoyed dressing up for their first Spirit Week in Middle School (and of course I didn’t get a single picture). Littles enjoyed Crazy Sock Day. In between painting signs, I was up to my eyeballs in hot glue and ribbon to make a Homecoming mum, and Cooper enjoyed the pep rally, football game, and Homecoming dance.

~ for a fun day spent visiting with a dear sister that I have missed dearly.

~ for a long overdue trip for the Tribe to the dentist, which amazingly yielded zero cavities!

~ for a great afternoon for Josh and Colton who worked together to build a reclaimed wood coffee table and 2 end tables for his new house. (Again, NO PICTURES!!! I’m really off my game this week!) But really, I’m thankful for the tremendous blessing of a renewed and refreshed relationship with Colton. We’ve been through some really rough, painful seasons, and there was a season when none of us desired to spend much time together. It’s just so awesome that now we value each other so much, and he CHOSES to call and/or come over ALMOST EVERY DAY! What a gift! Glory to the Lord!

~ for the blessing of being back in physical church. As much as it stirs up my anxieties, it is a such a blessing to be in my church home building, surrounded by believers that I know and love, raising our voices together and receiving the word of God. Even if it looks like this…

~ for the kids favorite Sunday afternoon comfort food: pigs in a blanket.

~ for the sweetest toothless baking assistant of all time.

I’m very late posting due to a VERY LONG EVENING. (I guess it’s more of a Monday Gratitude this week). Can I just make a revolutionary observation?

Parenting is HARD.

That is all.

P.S. BUT GOD. I am thankful for new mercies every morning, and that His love never fails, it never gives up, and never runs out on me. And I’m thankful that while I know I have a very important job to do, at the end of the day, God is God and I am not. Glory hallelujah.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalms 138:8)

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6)

“‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:15‬ ‭

Plains

I am thankful:

~ for a great week of swag pick up for Tyler Gold Run. I worked with some of the most wonderful volunteers on the planet, and got to see some of my favorite people, even if just behind a mask. So thankful for the incredible support for our virtual event this year, and looking more forward than ever to our (hopefully) in-person event next year!

~ for Sawyer having the opportunity to share the pledges at Chapel. This is a simple privilege that could easily take for granted. Lord, may I never cease to see the miracle in front of my eyes when I see the things the Lord has allowed him to do.

~ for steaming, zesty tortilla soup on the first day of fall.

~ for a full trashcan of hair trimmed from Birdie! She is still a big, puffy orange pom pom dog, but she looks fresh as a daisy with her trim!

~ for more good laughs. During virtual church this morning (yes, we stayed home this week. Josh had to work, and I was not up to a solo effort keeping the 6 little people quiet without children’s church.) Tatum K pointed to our pastor on the tv and said,

“That’s my favorite guy. What’s him name?”

I said, “Brother Joe.”

“Yeah, Brudder Joe. He says he loves me”

And for post it notes. Especially ones that make me giggle like this…

~ for incredibly steady Giddyup & Whoa opportunities! I don’t know that I’ve ever had 18 projects underway all at once before! I am up to my eyeballs in reclaimed wood, and I absolutely love it! The Vintage and Company Fall Barn Sale is coming up in a couple weeks, so if you’re local be sure to come check it out. I have some really special treasures in store. And Jodi‘s collections never disappoints!

~ for my sweet husband coming home with my absolute favorite lunch: a decadent wagu burger and truffle fries from C Rojo‘s.

~ for Tatum K tenderly caring for her “babies.” (Last week it was acorns. This week it’s snails.)

~ for our amazing HERO friend, Aneesa, who has DONE IT AGAIN! You may remember her from last September, when she wrote a letter to her middle school principal asking the school to Go Gold. This year she is a freshman at a new school, Early College High School, and she approached her new principal with the same proposition. They agreed and did a supply drive, collecting items for our parents’ survival kits and the clinic toy closet. They gathered an impressive assortment of items and an additional cash donation of over $400 for Gold Network of East Texas! The principal assured me that this would be a yearly event! Way to go Aneesa!

~ I missed mentioning last week, I was thankful for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season! It never disappoints. Thank you, Gina Sue!

~ for the opportunity to watch some exciting Carthage high school football with some pretty stoked fans.

Some weeks are just kind of a grind. No big trials, just the basic mindless cycle of wash – rinse – repeat. Little snags. Irritations that pile up. Revolving to-do list. Our kiddos have recently settled into an unpleasant pattern of incessant bickering with one another, which sets my nerves constantly on edge. One child will have a great day while another one (or 4) are falling apart. I have a lot of plates in the air to keep spinning, and I’m never sure when I might just trip on a random Lego or dinosaur and send them all flying. BUT GOD. He’s the God of the mountains and the valleys. He’s also the God of the plains. The God of the hallway. The God of the in-betweens. He’s with me in the dark nightmare of cancer and in the jubilation of a baby girl born with a perfect heart. And he’s with me when my life is a treadmill of full laundry baskets and bickery kids and snail babies. He’s steady and faithful when I am not. He’s patient when I lose my cool. He’s full of love when my tank is empty. I’m so thankful that He pours into me according to the abundance of His faithfulness and not according to my capacity for faith. Where are you this week? The mountain? The valley? Or the plain? Let Him meet you there. Press on, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalms 143:8)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

“Come all you weary / Come all you thirsty / Come to the well that never runs dry / Drink of the water / Come and thirst no more / Come all you sinners / Come find His mercy / Come to the table / He will satisfy / Taste of His goodness / Find what you’re looking for / For God so loved the world that He gave us / His one and only Son to save us / Whoever believes in Him will live forever” “God So Loved” by We the Kingdom

Golden

I am thankful:

~ for good laughs from the littlest Littles. One morning Tatum K was particularly snuggly and was all curled up in my lap. I whispered in her ear, “I love you.” She turned my face toward her mouth and whispered into my ear, “I love donuts.” Honesty is good, my dear.

And Sawyer asked his dad in all seriousness, “Dad, is it TRUE that safe drivers save 40%?”

~ for a long-awaited dream come true. I have wanted to deck out our family bus for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for a long time. I’ve even looked into having a wrap put on it. (Josh said no). So a good compromise that I could still get excited about, I decked it out in custom magnetic gold polka dots! I was so tickled when they came in the mail, and I was able to surprise Josh and the kids. Makes a statement to be sure! GO GOLD!!

~ for my new throw pillows. Maybe a silly thing to be thankful for, but 40 days ago I thought I was making a simple Etsy purchase. I didn’t realize the Etsy shop was in Guiyang, China. I have watched the tracking on these BLESSED pillows twice a day for FORTY DAYS. I did a little happy jig when they arrived this week.

But then I did have to laugh. You know those annoying “extra” Instagram people who match their pets to their house? I looked at my pillows and had to just shake my head. This was NOT intentional.

~ for the sweetest support from the kiddos. You know your kids are all in on the mission of going gold when you find these all over the house.

~ for the kids and my first Sunday back at in-person church. I can’t say it was easy for me. I struggle with social anxiety anyway, and quarantine and isolation have only amplified my tendency to withdraw. But I’m thankful for the loving leadership of my husband. It was time. It was good to be back in God’s house worshipping with His people. And as a double blessing, (don’t you just love a double blessing?) the church was hosting a blood drive. So Josh and I both got to donate blood. Giving blood means a lot to us. Sawyer received more blood transfusions than I can count. So often it ALMOST wasn’t even a big deal any more. But I will never forget the time Sawyer needed platelets, so we took him to the hospital for a transfusion. But they didn’t have the specific blood he so desperately needed. (The platelets were eventually located and flown in from out of state). It was a terrifying feeling to realize that I could not take for granted that my baby would always be able get the life-saving transfusion he needed. So today I t felt good to give.

~ for a fun night hosting 30 teenagers for our church youth swim party. For good burgers and hotdogs and yummy junk food and for kids that did not mind that the pool was NOT WARM!

~ for the sweetest time with Samantha at a 6th grade Mother/Daughter Tea. We got all doodled up and had fancy girlie snacks while encouragement was shared about growing up, letting go, friendships, and being set apart for God’s purposes. Each girl was given their own fine china plate inscribed with 2 Timothy 2:21,“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” How is this beautiful girl turning into a lovely young lady before my very eyes? Someone turn back the clock…

~ and most of all, I’m thankful for a very different, very special Virtual Tyler Gold Run. It was so difficult to be forced to make the decision to not have an in-person event. It’s our largest event, our largest fundraiser, and last year’s race was SO EPICALLY AWESOME! But obviously this year has been a crazy one of taking steps back and slowing down and trusting God when we don’t understand. But can I just say that the support we saw for this year’s virtual event KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF!!! You registered! You donated!!! Every day the numbers went up, and I was freshly amazed, encouraged, and humbled that you believe in the mission and ministry of Gold Network of East Texas. The week was a different kind of busy leading up to Saturday, fielding phone calls and emails, 6 social media postings a day, and 5 tv/web interviews. For a virtual event, it sure took a lot of real-life in-person WORK! BUT GOD!

We love the support from favorite local new anchor Blake Holland from KLTV. After our interview, he asked for a sign to put in his yard.

Saturday came, and the weather was PERFECT: bright, crisp, and refreshing. Sawyer and Jase’s 1st grade class walked together to honor them, and the Lord had put it on my heart to walk for ALL our Gold Network HEROES. So I wrote their names all on race bibs that we either wore or had displayed on our wagon. It was so special to have them all with us, and to know that we were honoring their lives and their fights no matter what. Nobody can take that away from us.

We had a great turnout for our little group at the park, and the sweetest time of prayer over Sawyer and over Jase, who will compete his 3 year course of treatment for leukemia next month. Although I missed EVERYTHING about in-person Tyler Gold Run: the crowd, the volunteers, the HEROES and their families, the hundreds of people in our shirts and race bibs, the pounding of the drum line and the electric excitement in the air…there was a special sweetness about our quiet walk. And what a blessing that for the first time in 6 years, I got to participate!

SuperHEROES Sawyer and Jase with their SUPER teacher, Ms. Benscoter
Co-founder, right hand, and dear friend, Paula Kimmey
The first time I have gotten to actually participate

And it was also awesome to know that Virtual Tyler Gold Runs were taking place all over Tyler! And not just Tyler: Jacksonville, Bullard, Lindale, Longview, Sulphur Springs, even in Colorado and Tennessee!

Blake and his fiancé Erika did their 10k at the park
Tyler Gold Run for Sophie the Brave in Downtown Tyler
Tyler Gold Run in Carthage
Tyler Gold Run in Colorado
Tyler Gold Run in Dallas

I’ve said from the very beginning, before we did ONE THING, that the only way any of this could happen is if God breathed life into it. AND HE HAS!!! Over and over again! And we have to continue to believe (and to walk out that belief in real life) that God has a plan ordained for Gold Network of East Texas, and lay down our woefully incomplete plans in exchange for His perfect one. As long as He continues to provide the grace, and as long as East Texas families need our support, we are going to continue raising funds and raising our voices for the childhood cancer community! Thank you for GOING GOLD with us. We can’t wait to see what God opens up for us in the coming year!!! If you missed your chance to register, you can make a donation any time at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate

Click here to enjoy a video of SOME of Virtual Tyler Gold Run 2020. (Be sure to to tag us if you share any other pictures on social media #tylergoldrun2020)

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice. A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.(Proverbs 16:7-9)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

God of Hope

I am thankful:

~for a hilarious dream come true. When you are six years old, most of your life hinges on some truly pivotal moments: the loosening and pulling of teeth. For some it comes with anguish and terror. But for Sawyer, it is his greatest mission. He had a particular for tooth #3. He has been BEGGING to have his tooth tied to a doorknob. Finally we gave in (we had worried it would hurt, but he assured us he would be SO BRAVE.) Well he was, and that sucker flew right out! It was shocking and hysterical. He was thrilled.

~ for a day to reflect on the tremendous bravery of the men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. With all the social unrest we see around us today, it was especially poignant to remember the way our country set aside our differences and pulled together in a time of such deep tragedy. And so very thankful for the dedicated first responders who choose to put others’ lives before their own, and who run TOWARD danger instead of away from it. None of our kids are old enough to remember, but we teach them about what that day means to our country. We remember.

~ for fluffy homemade biscuits, farm fresh eggs, and smokey slab bacon (especially the batch I made with brown sugar and cayenne).

~ for two challenging but beautiful G&W projects in the works.

~ for the long-awaited return of FOOTBALL! I never thought I’d say that, it’s never really been my thing. But man, it makes my man happy! And I realize how I’ve missed it in the background of our weekends and evenings. Feels good to have some “normal” back!

~ for fun Go GOLD care packages delivered or mailed to our East Texas HERO families. How I wish we could have met together in person, but I’m glad we could at least send them something special so they could Go GOLD at home or school. We have T-shirts available if you’d like to Go GOLD with us! (Email to order)🎗🎗🎗

Shirts available Youth XS – Adult 2X – $20 (email info@goldnetworkoet.com to order)

~ for the first participants of Virtual Tyler Gold Run. SuperHERO Liam and his family gathered to support him and all his warrior friends. So special. I remember meeting Liam’s family when he was first diagnosed, and I have watched him CRUSH every obstacle in his way.

He’s just a remarkable kid. They all are. Having a front row seat to witness the incomparable spirit of these children is COMPLETELY LIFECHANGING. Remaining entrenched in the childhood cancer world is excruciating. These are all my babies. Another diagnosis. Another relapse. Another heart shattering loss. Another day of not understanding why I have my Sawyer boy while another mama’s arms are achingly empty. But the pain keeps me motivated. To keep fighting. To keep advocating. To keep reaching out. And watching the miracles is EXHILARATING! Liam rode his bicycle this weekend! Corbin played his first football game, when years ago his doctors told him he WOULD NEVER play any sports! BUT GOD!! We celebrate the victories together, pray for one another, lift each other up and share HOPE. Please prayerfully consider registering for Virtual Tyler Gold Run. Registration is way down from years’ past, which of course is understandable for a virtual event instead of live. It has been a hard year for everyone. But the need for support for these families is greater than ever. Every registration is a donation that supports local families, contributes to dedicated pediatric cancer research, and provides a tangible show of support to the brave children and their families walking through their worst nightmare. You can walk or run, or just register as a donation and get a great T-shirt as a bonus! You can register and participate any time this week. Registration closes at 11:59pm on September 19. www.tylergoldrun.com

And this week, I’m so grateful for unmistakable hints from the Lord. I am working on a sign for one of my neighbors, and the Scripture she requested was Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I started working on the sign, and got a text from another friend who placed an order. I jotted down the information and didn’t think much about it. Until I looked up the scripture reference. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Then this morning as our family gathered together for virtual church in our living room, what do you think the Scripture was for the children’s ministry lesson this morning? “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I hear you Lord.

That is truly the cry of my heart this week. Help me to empty myself of my baggage, my selfishness, my anxieties, my idols, and let You fill me to overflowing with Your joy and peace that never pass away. Thank You for Your Word that continually refreshes and refines.

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (Psalms 62:5)

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalms 71:14)