Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful, thriving garden! Looks like the new soil and new plants are actually going to make it! Sawyer planted sunflowers this week, and eagerly checks daily for signs of sprouting.

~ for a wonderful presentation from Gavin and his 4th grade classmates at their Spring Concert. Gavin was so proud to be chosen to sing a solo, and he performed it beautifully. Their worship was pure and innocent and SO POWERFUL, and I know it was so pleasing to the Lord.

~ for my dear friend having a wonderfully successful mission yard sale to raise money for their ministry to Uganda (check out Rock of Living Waters. The Lord is doing great things!) Despite their one day sale being a dreary, rainy day, they raised almost $5000! And after their sale, they had so much left over, they donated it to TCF for our mission yard sale happening later this month! My DARLING HUSBAND wanted to kill me for volunteering him to pick it all up…it filled EVERY INCH of an Aaron’s box truck, which we had to load and THEN UNLOAD at the church. (“The Giddyup” & “The Whoa” switched roles for a couple brief hours that day, but we got through it, and order has once again been restored.)

~ and Tatum K was in her glory at that yard sale. I told her she could choose a treasure, and Little Miss stomped from one end of the tent to the other in her rain boots, with a trash bag in her hand. She found her 2 princess puzzles, a princess bubble kit, a Hello Kitty doll, a new dress 3 sizes too big, and the most beautiful princess dress up high heels that she had ever seen.

Considering that day I had already dragged her, in the pouring rain, to Home Depot, Home Goods, Sam’s Club, ALDI, At Home, Walmart, and Lowe’s…she deserved some treasure! It was a big day for Bitsy Girl.

~ for the opportunity to celebrate our firstborn‘s birthday. Colton, the beautiful black haired, once-chocolate-now-green-eyed baby, the one who made me a mama, turned 22 today. We have gone through hell with him, and with great joy have come out the other side. We are so proud of the man he is becoming, and grateful for the relationship that has been rebuilt over the last few years. Celebrating him is a true celebration. A food-lover after my own heart, his menu never disappoints: crescent chicken (a savory chicken and cream cheese mixture baked in a crescent roll pocket), sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and a tower fluffy cream puffs. Tatum K approved of his “ba-zert.”

~ for my husband’s Giddyup spirit. He decided the front of our house needed a little bench in a spot that had been an awkward little flowerbed. So of course, he drove straight to Home Depot and bought the cedar he needed, and came home and built a bench – all after a an 11-hour day at work. He finished it up and had it in place a little before 11pm. That man always blows my mind. We don’t call him Mr. Giddyup for nothing!

Kid tested and approved!

~ for good progress on my makeover projects. I’ve been busy with other things, and the weather has been uncooperative, so nothing is done, but I’m excited about the pieces I’ve been working on.

~ for an outstanding response to the Gold Network of ETX Toy Drive! These pictures are just SOME of the donations you have given! This is the first year we have had multiple business drop off locations, and the first year other pediatric cancer families have really gotten involved, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I can’t wait to finish gathering all the toys from the drop off locations, go shopping with the remaining donated funds, and count how many toys have been collected! What an amazing blessing for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic!!

It’s been a hard week. I often describe my parenting style as professional Whack-a-Mole.

There’s always a fire to put out. Always a crisis. I mean, statistically the kids CAN’T all be doing great at the same time. But mercifully, we have never had everybody doing terrible all at once either. Thank God for that. But there’s also the part of me that says, “you’re not even walking through cancer anymore. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OVERWHELMED. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH TERRIBLE TRIALS! SUCK IT UP!” Anybody else talk to themselves like that?

I’ve definitely felt discouraged this week. If you’ve ever seen the goofy picture of someone feverishly trying to sweep the shore while the ocean waves pound, crashing again and again…that’s what it feels like.

I feel like I’m constantly fighting a losing battle. Something will come out of nowhere, and I just throw my hands up and wonder, “what am I even doing?” I mentioned that to Josh this afternoon, shaking my head. He hugged me tight and held me close, and he said quietly and tenderly in my ear, “turn your music on.” He had mentioned that last week in Small Group, and it had surprised me that he had noticed that particular detail. He had said to the group, “I can always tell when I come home and the worship music is blaring… I know it’s been a rough day.” But it really is true: there is power in praise. There is power in worship. There is power in speaking the name of Jesus. So this afternoon I turned on the speaker and was instantly meant by the words, “By Your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…” Thank You Jesus for the comforting power of the Holy Spirit, and for Your Presence. You have promised that You would never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to abide with You, and keep You as our first resource instead of our last resort. I know the trials You allow are refining gifts, sanding me and shaping me, keeping me humbled on my knees where I belong. And thank You for new mercies every morning, for each one of us!

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you will look for the good. Even in the darkest days of my life, God was with me. Don’t lose heart. And when you think it’s all about to fall apart, turn your music on.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

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

Good Hard

I am thankful:

~ for the opportunity for my kids to use their gifts + their hearts. Gavin sat on the front porch and drew our neighbor’s car. But it is so much more special, because it is the car of their son who passed away just over a year ago, and Gavin wanted to give them his picture. Love his tender heart.

~ for Zoe’s character quality award in chapel this week: Creativity. Look at those sparkling brown eyes. She loves knowing she has made us proud.

~ for a long-overdue visit with a dear friend and sister. Our visits are never long enough or often enough, but we pack in the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of what’s been going on in our lives, and I always walk away from our time so encouraged.

~ for the great privilege of Gold Network of East Texas being chosen by Jodi and her team at Vintage & Co as the charity partner for their Spring Barn Sale. A team of us worked the admission table on Early Bird Day, and it was an extra treat to run into one of our very own HEROES: sweet Georgia! She loves vintage shopping and had found her own treasures that day!

I also had the privilege of painting a sign for a dear friend‘s baking business featured at the sale. I LOVE painting on unique salvaged pieces, so this charming punched tin pie safe was a treat for me!

~ for Sawyer’s school project: flourishing grass seed! He decided it needed a haircut!

~ for the grace and endurance I needed for a manic marathon Friday! This Friday was grocery day, which means tackling three grocery stores across town, loading and unloading before kids get out of school at 1. That’s a normal routine every other week for Tatum K and I, so it’s no big deal. Except of course that this week was a torrential downpour and lightning storm. AND it was Gavin’s turn to give his demonstration speech at school.

AND across town at the middle school, Kora was a queen in the much lauded annual 5th grade Medieval Feast.

By some miracle, I managed to get to everything, but I was a soaked, soggy, exhausted mess by the end of it all. Thankfully, many good memories were made, and even MORE thankfully, Dad brought home Rounders for dinner!

~ for a great Friend’s Day at church. Friend’s Day is a trademark of our church’s history: a relaxed picnic on the grounds, good food, good music, and good time connecting with friends, old and new. Josh’s and my first every visit to TCF 21 years ago was on a Friend’s Day. I’ll never forget it. We were so nervous to be showing up to a church service with our little 10 week old baby, and we were all dressed up in our Sunday best to try and look like we had it all together. We walked into the sanctuary and everyone there was dressed in shorts and T-shirts, ready for a picnic! We sat in the back and scurried away as soon as the service was over. Today was wonderful, several testimonies shared about the lavish love and faithfulness of God, bright sunshine, and a pie contest! I entered Josh’s favorite lemon icebox pie, but the grand prize of the day went to a most delicious pecan pie.

Also a staple at Friend’s Day is a blood drive. Josh and I try to give blood whenever we can, because we have seen Sawyer’s life saved time and time again with the blood transfusions he received throughout his cancer treatment. I was so bummed today when I tried to sign up to donate, but realized I didn’t have my purse and ID with me. Cooper, my one who is squeamish and hates needles, came up to me and said, “I’m ready. I want to do it. Will you come with me?” I was so proud to listen to him talk to the phlebotomist as she prepped him, “I know that helping the person who really needs this blood is a lot more important than any fear I have.” He did so great. And then Josh gave too. So proud of my Loves.

Saturday night we had our Gold Network ETX caregiver support group, CONNECT. It was our first meeting in over a year. When I first sent out the invitation, I was thrilled with the eager response I received – people were HUNGRY to get together. We catered a beautiful fajita feast from Abuelos, and I filled the table with bright and happy fresh spring flowers.

We had families drive in from all over East Texas, 18 people in all, several new to the group. We ate and we talked and laughed and got to know one another. And then we shared our stories. About our kids. About our journeys through our worst nightmares. People opened up about how lonely they had been, how hard it was to accept help, and how much it meant to them to be able to speak freely with other parents who understood the language of childhood cancer. At the end of the night, dad’s were exchanging phone numbers, we prayed together, and everyone went home with a restaurant gift card for a date night out. It was an emotionally exhausting evening, but we felt so incredibly humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of all these precious lives through Gold Network. And to give all glory to God, that He had walked this journey with us, and had opened our eyes and our hearts through the terrible trial of Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis. What a picture of beauty from ashes. I never would have chosen to walk this path, to see my child suffer in so many ways. But God had a purpose so much greater that we never dreamed of during all those hard, hard years. It is still very painful and draining to stay so entrenched in the childhood cancer world. Every new diagnosis, every harsh side effect or relapse pierces my heart as if it was my own child. But it fuels the desire to press in to the Lord more deeply, and to fight for these precious children and their families. It is hard, but it is a good hard. If you’d like to partner with us, you can register for the Tyler Gold Run 5K or 10 coming up in September, at www.tylergoldrun.com Or we currently have our annual Toy Drive for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Check Facebook or Instagram for toy dropoff locations around East Texas, or donate at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate If you make a tax deductible donation online, you can select a particular program you’d like to support: the support group, care packages, toy drive, our clinic call-in meal program, or to the general fund to be used as needed. We are so honored to be able to serve the childhood cancer community in this way, and so very grateful for your support.

As always, it was a hard week, a busy week, an exhausting week. We had highs and lows, successes and lots of failures. It’s not a fairytale. But more and more, I’m learning to be thankful for the hard. It’s where I learn the most. It’s where I come to the end of my facade and get real with God. It’s were real life happens.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

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

Choose Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for Zoe‘s American History Hall of Fame at school. Each student in the 3rd grade reads several biographies of American historic figures, and they choose one to portray. Zoe chose a family favorite: Laura Ingalls Wilder. She dressed the part of a pioneer girl and delivered her speech eloquently. So proud of her and so fun to watch her program.

~ for the opportunity for the kids to work hard together. They tackled the remaining fence panels as a team, and got rewarded by Dad for being such a great help.

~ for the kickoff of our annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive. We are excited to have several new drop off locations around East Texas: Aaron’s on Broadway in Tyler, Pace Insurance Agency and RDA Pro-Mart in Longview, and Village Salon in Carthage Tx. We are collecting small toys for all ages to stock the Prize Closet at the Dallas Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Kids come to the clinic for procedures, chemotherapy, and checkups, enduring needle sticks and painful and nauseating treatments, and sometimes getting a little trinket at the end of that visit is the only bright spot in their day. We launched the toy drive after Sawyer had gone for an appointment and went to pick a prize out of the nearly empty closet, and the best thing he could find was a roll of craft ribbon. These kids deserve better. Toys will be collected through the end of April, or monetary donations can be made for us to purchase toys at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate.

~ for a generous and thoughtful donation from my friend Meredith at My Minky Co. She creates top quality handsewn minky puppies, kittens, and elephants, as well as stunningly beautiful baby and adult minky blankets. She donated two huge bags of the stuffed animals for the hospital kids. And a special prize for Tatum K. Many people may not know that Meredith is the only person in Texas I’ve known longer than Josh. When I moved to Tyler to manage the Buckle, she worked for me. How was that 23 years and a lifetime ago? So proud of the way she has grown to use her amazing giftings and talents.

~ for good old fashioned family fun. The kids had more fun being silly and creative with an empty box. Kora worked on her hand embroidery, and Samantha sweetly read books to Tatum K. Why do we even buy toys? It fills my heart up when we find joy in the simple things.

~ for doggy apparel to assist in the FULL TIME JOB of puppy prevention. While we DO intend to raise more litters of miniature goldendoodles, we know it’s in the best interest of Birdie’s health for her to wait awhile between litters. Let me just say, the instinct to procreate is STRONG!

~ for a fun weekend for Samantha, who was invited by friends to attend Fuel, a weekend youth retreat. She spend 2 nights away from home and had a fantastic time of fun, Bible teaching, and fellowship. How is this girl getting so grown up?

~ for a Spring re-fresh! We have added a new raised bed garden for our vegetables this year, and have potted some new plants and cheery red geraniums in the back yard. Come on sunshine!

~ for ANOTHER breakfast date! Tatum K had chosen to go to the donut shop for her Spring Break mom date, but she has been asking and asking to “go to Jimmy’s Egg wif Daddy.” So on Josh’s day off, we did just that!

~ for our first al fresco feast of the season. Dad’s mouthwatering burgers did not disappoint, and buttered, toasted Hawaiian buns took them to the next level. It was so wonderful to gather together in the cool, comfortable evening weather.

Spring is here. The dogwoods and redbuds have exploded into bloom amid the drab, grey, leafless trees. Hints of green are emerging from beneath the desolate frost-burned shrubs, and even a few brilliantly hued azaleas have valiantly burst forth where we thought no life was left. BUT GOD.It’s a picture of HOPE. New life overcoming. It’s so encouraging, a reminder that no matter fiercely a storm ravages, and the devastation it may leave behind, there is ALWAYS HOPE.

I read a devotional a few weeks ago that has resonated in my heart ever since. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it was phrased in a way that spoke to me afresh. We become what we focus on. It’s just the same as the adage “you are what you eat:” eat healthy, be healthy. Eat junk, come junk. Take in garbage (physically, mentally, or spiritually) and you will reap those benefits, and if you take in godly encouragement, worship music, read your Bible, you will be transformed to be more like Jesus. We’ve all heard it a thousand times.

But something about how it was said this time. You become what you focus on. If you focus on your problems, YOU WILL BECOME A PROBLEM. If you focus on your blessings, YOU WILL BECOME A BLESSING. And that’s really what Sunday Gratitude is all about. 7 years ago, when life as I knew it was crumbling, separated from my family, living in the hospital while my baby was fighting for his life, God told me to thank Him. To lift my focus from myself and my circumstances and seek out the blessings sparkling in the rubble. Writing Sunday Gratitude became an exercise in discipline, no matter what was going on. Trust me, there is plenty more going on behind the scenes in our lives that I’m not able to write about. We have had a million more ups and downs since then, but the blessings are ALWAYS THERE. From the high highs to the lowest lows and the everyday in-betweens, Jesus has never left. I just have to be willing to take the time to look for Him. And be willing to testify of His faithfulness. It’s a choice. I choose blessing.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

What I did on my Spring Break…

Well it was spring break week for us, as it was for many across the nation. We enjoyed a relaxed pace, beautiful weather, and an open calendar. One favorite tradition is breakfast dates with mom. I love having the one-on-one time to connect with each of them that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We started these little outings back when Sawyer was an infant… so I guess that makes seven years now! Can’t believe we’ve been doing it that long…time really does fly. It’s fun to surprise somebody different each day and to see where they all choose to go. My heart and my belly are full.

Zoe chose lunch instead of breakfast to fulfill her lifelong dream of dining at ZOE’S KITCHEN!

And the kids all had their turns getting loved on by their Aunt Gina. The girls had an afternoon,

the boys had a sleepover (Sawyer’s VERY FIRST night away from home other than hundreds of nights in the hospital! Mama’s heart had a hard time handling this! BUT GOD!)

And even Cooper got his own lunch date. So much fun.

When Sawyer gets to go back to his 1st Grade class tomorrow and give a report on what he did over Spring break, he can say he went to the hospital. Wednesday was his quarterly oncology clinic visit. Such fun for spring break, right?

But Sawyer loves it. He loves the trip, he loves the nurses and the doctors, and Wednesday was no exception. We rejoice to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE and healthy on all counts! We are freshly reminded of what a miracle he is. You can read the full details on the visit here.

Everyone is reflecting on one year ago when life as we knew it was changed forever by the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that the kids came home for Spring Break and never went back to school. We muddled our way through unprecedented virtual learning, toilet paper shortages, and mandatory stay-at-home orders. Social distancing, temperature checks, quarantine, and “I love your mask” became part of our new normal. EVERYTHING became political, EVERYONE had an opinion, and it felt mandatory to PICK A SIDE in every debate. Over the last year we’ve seen the loss of jobs, loss of freedoms, and loss of so many lives. So much has changed, and it doesn’t appear that the season of perpetual change is ending any time soon.

But no matter what has changed or will change, God is the same. He’s seated securely on His throne, loving us, drawing us, and waiting for more people to come to Him. And if we choose to anchor ourselves to Him, no matter how mad the world become, we can be confident that we know how the story ends. With life eternal in the Promised Land WITH HIM. Life often feels so complicated, but the Truth that matters is VERY SIMPLE. Most everything can be sifted down to Love God, and Love Others.

I’m not trying to preach to anybody but myself. I just want to live a simple life, loving my family and the people God brings into my path. I want to be anxious for nothing. I want to be Mary instead of Martha. I want to say “yes” to Him and really mean it. I want to love and forgive the way I’ve been forgiven and loved.

Anyway, I’m so thankful for all of you who take the time to listen to the musings of this everyday Mama, and follow along with the ins and outs of our Tribe. I’m always so encouraged when I hear from you. Thank you for your prayers, encouragements, and kind words over the past 7 years. You are my Sunday Gratitude.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38-42)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Right On Time

I am thankful:

I’m thankful for a little spicy three-year-old in my lap snuggling and making faces and asking me to tickle her leg.

For lots of Giddyup & Whoa creations built, in process, and delivered.

For the sweet families that send us updates about Birdie and Bear’s puppies. They are growing up so fast, and are just the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen!

For my newest cute little plant, a dainty creeping wire vine. Who knew you could ORDER PLANTS OFF ETSY!?

For Cooper’s new obsession with “Chay-moe-ME-lay” tea.

For a full house for the first time in over a year. It seems like forever since we’ve hosted a small group for church. Small groups have been home to us over the last 20 years. It’s where we’ve been discipled, been fed physically and spiritually, where we’ve built relationships. We have worshipped together, prayed together, laughed together. We’ve worked through conflict and wrestled through questions together. The groups have changed so many times over the years, from 5 or 6 families to 1 or 2, to the mega group that numbered 50+ attendees, with 29 kids under 12. Last night we had 4 families with our collective 20 kids. Not even gonna lie: it was overwhelming. It was loud, kids were insane, and sensory overload for my anxiety. But it was so good. It’s why God gave us this home: to have a space of open doors and open hearts for loving on people. Kingdom investment. We are excited for this new season of stretching. We knew it was time.

For hand-me-downs. Thank you hand-me-downs for keeping me from having naked kids.

For walks at sunset.

For fun finds at Goodwill.

For my sweet boy I found hiding in the warm towels fresh out of the dryer.

For a sweet movie that the kids and I stumbled upon by accident: “Safety,” inspired by the true story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey, who became legal guardian of his little brother while still in college. It was a perfectly timed, God-ordained opportunity to talk through some questions a couple of our children had about foster care. As they grow into their tween and teen years, there have been more questions…deeper questions, the kind of questions that make my stomach hurt. Lord Jesus, help me tell my babies the truth with the right words given to me by only You. Help me to be a safe place for them, and give them the courage to ask their questions instead of stuffing them down inside. And fill them so completely with Your Love that they don’t have to doubt that they belong. I trust that the moment they need You the most, You will be right there.

This week a sweet friend asked how they could pray for me, and I said “that I would not lose heart and not grow weary trying to pour into all my kids.” It’s a daunting responsibility. Impossible really. BUT GOD. In myself, I don’t have a chance. But I have to remind myself – DAILY, if not multiple times a day – that HE saw fit to entrust Josh and I with each one of these incredible blessings, and that His grace is enough. And I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m never going to quit trying to get it right-er than the time before. And what I want to remember about that day, the day my friend asked how she could pray for me, was that that day my kids REALLY needed me. We talked through some really hard stuff, we had some extra hugs after a big owie, we prayed some really raw prayers. Had some looong talks. Any one of their needs would have been big enough to overwhelm a day. But stacked together and multiplied? WAY too much. BUT GOD! God knew what was coming THAT DAY, and He put me on my friend’s heart. And He knew she’d be faithful, both to reach out to me, AND to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH AND PRAY.

HE. IS. FAITHFUL. And He is ALWAYS RIGHT. ON. TIME.

Thank You, Jesus, for walking with me.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalms 32:6-8)

“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
‭‭(Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬)

“I’m changed by Your mercy Covered by Your peace I’m living out the victory Doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat You’ve walked me through fires Pulled me from flames If You’re in this with me I won’t be afraid When the smoke billows higher, oh and higher, and it feels like I can barely breathe I’ll walk through these fires ‘Cause You’re walking with me”“Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr

New Vision

Sawyer handed me an envelope from his backpack. I scanned it quickly and saw he’d had the standard vision screening by the school nurse. “Hey bub,” I told him as he crawled up beside me on the couch, “it looks like we need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.” “Glasses!!??” he exclaimed. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and his sparkling eyes suddenly started to fill with tears. “I don’t WANT glasses!!”

Change is hard. And it can be hard to wrap your mind around a paradigm shift, even just a seemingly minor one. I even got a little teary that evening when I talked to Josh about it. We both wear glasses and contacts, and know that life is just a little easier without having to deal with them. Even though we were both sure that the vision issues were simple and hereditary, it was impossible not to think about the chemotherapy drugs that listed vision loss as a side effect. I remembered wrestling with Sawyer as a tiny infant to apply eye drops every 4 hours round the clock when he was taking high dose cytarabine. But Josh and I held one another and thought back to those days, and we praised God that all we were facing was glasses for a beautiful 7 year old. To God be the glory!

Fast forward to the eye appointment. Sawyer’s reservations were completely forgotten.

He cheerfully hopped in the chairs for each different eye test, asked 7 billion questions, tried on several pairs of frames, and once the appointment was over, he asked more times than I can count, “HOW MANY MORE DAYS until MY GLASSES get here????” He went from nervous disappointment to impatient excitement almost overnight.

After two excruciating weeks of waiting, (thanks Snow-pacalypse 2021), I pulled up to the eye place and Sawyer squealed, “Are they finally here?” You’ve never seen a kid more excited. And once those tiny cute little glasses were placed on his little freckly nose, you’ve never seen a kid stand more proud. And better yet, “Wow! I really can see better!” Isn’t he so handsome?

To add some tasty icing to the cake, during the snow shut in, we had watched all the Superman movies with the kids. As soon as Sawyer climbed in the car with his glasses on, Tatum K yelled, “You look like Clark Kent!” He has latched onto that persona BIG TIME. Sawyer the Warrior has always been a superhero to us.

How often do we trip ourselves up and rob ourselves of clear vision because of fear and preconceived ideas? How often are we short sighted, in every sense of the word, instead of being willing to look for God‘s way, which is always SO MUCH BETTER?

Apparently this is something the Lord is really trying to drive home with me, because it keeps coming up. And when God repeats Himself, it means He’s NOT. KIDDING.

I’ve been looking for a certain vintage piece for our home for a LOOOONG time: a rustic wooden chicken nesting box. I’ve seen them in other people’s decor and fell in love. Little drawers and cubbies are just my favorite, and I’ve been hunting for a piece like this for YEARS. They are hard to find, and invariably WAY out of budget.

Photo: Instagram @yellowprairieinteriors

As Josh and I look for new pieces, and as our taste and the needs of our family change, we are often getting rid of STUFF. It’s always a challenge because, true to our nicknames, Giddyup (Josh) and Whoa (me), we RARELY agree. Josh would throw anything away in a minute and I would keep everything forever because if either a sentimental attachment or the nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, we would need “that thing” again one day. Anybody relate? Which side of the line do you land on?

So I have this dresser. It was mine as a kid, and my Grandpa Henry built it. The corners of the top were roughly rounded, and I knew the marks were from where I had actually chewed on it as a child. (I know, I guess I had problems, what can I say.)

Grandpa Henry was married to my Grandma Grace, and he passed away when I was 8 years old. My old dresser made lots of moves with me as I grew up, eventually being used by Colton until he moved out, and then was passed down to Cooper. It wasn’t in great shape any more. The finish was worn, the drawers had grown a little warped and were tough to slide. Josh and Cooper both said it was time to say goodbye.

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ACTUALLY BROKEN. It was still FUNCTIONAL. And it was so special to me.

But Josh had his mind made up. There was a better storage solution for Cooper’s closet that would free up floor space in the bedroom. But he also loves me, and is so considerate, and he knew how much having a piece of my Grandpa meant to me. He told me he was going to take the dresser apart so it wouldn’t take up so much space, but that he would save the wood until we found a special project for it.

I cried. (I really am a mush pot).

I think the dresser parts have been sitting around for about a year.

Until one day about a week ago when Josh came to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I have an idea that I think you’re gonna like. What if I build your nesting box out of your Grandpa’s dresser?”

I cried again.

Before I could even wipe my leaky eyes, he was out in his shop with the saw going. As always, I had strict instructions to stay out until he was done. “NO PEEKING!”

Maybe an hour later, he was ready for the grand reveal.

It. Was. Perfect.

Exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly made to fit our space. And handmade by the man that I love with wood from a special piece of history from a man that had meant the world to me as a little girl. And yes, I cried again.

When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me even more history about my dresser. He said, “I think Dad made it for the master bedroom in the old house after he and Ma were married, with home-sawn oak from here on the farm, so around 1945 is my guess. Dad liked to work with wood and usually had a project going.” Then it had been handed down from my Grandma to my Dad, and eventually to me. I couldn’t love that old wood more!

I love this piece. I love the function and warmth it adds to our hallway, and I love all the stories connected to it.

But first, I’d had to let go of the dresser.

I started with something that meant a lot to me, but it really wasn’t working anymore. I had to be willing to let it go and embrace a change. And when I finally did, I got something I REALLY wanted, and it turned out even better than what I had ever dreamed of.

Can we really do that?

Can we let go of our familiar and comfortable routines that we have built around ourselves, and allow God to dismantle them? Are we willing to trust that He actually has something better for us? And are we actually willing to WAIT for whatever that is, as long as it takes?

I don’t know what God has in store. But I know one thing. I know there’s more to this story than a pair of glasses and an old dresser. He’s been nudging me about a few things that I’m pretty certain he’s asking me to let go of. It may not be easy, but I know I want what He has for me more that whatever poor substitute I’m clinging to.

I don’t want to cling to ANYTHING but HIM.

I hope whatever season you find yourself in, that this encourages you. Let it go, and let your eyes open to His vision. I’m thankful that if we are willing (and sometimes even when we are not) God will speak to us through the most ordinary and unexpected ways.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Marinating

I am thankful:

~ for Snow Much Fun! The “blizzard” on Sunday led to a Snow Day on Monday for most of East Texas, and it was GLORIOUS! The snow lingered most of the day, the sun was shining, and the rare sight of the white blanketed Texas countryside was just beautiful. The kids bundled up from head to toe and made more snowballs and played with neighbors and rolled around in it until they were soaked through. I did as much laundry in those 2 days as I do in a week! (and believe me, that is saying a lot!) But it was the perfect opportunity to come inside and snuggle up by the fire with some hot cocoa. It will be a story we will tell for years to come.

~ for my hardworking husband. He works all day at his “real” job, and then comes home ready to work on projects. We have lots of home improvement plans to do when he takes a week of vacation next month, but MR. GIDDYUP just can’t wait that long. So far he has replaced two ceiling fans, installed a pendant light, replaced two non-functional lights with SUPER-FUNCTIONAL track lighting, built and modified the barstools that I ordered that were the wrong size, and replaced all the lightbulbs that needed to be updated to LED. Sometimes the “giddyup” in him drives me crazy, but I’m so grateful for how hard he works to take care of us.

2017 – realtor.com pictures of our master bedroom when we bought our home
Mistakingly ordered BARSTOOL height instead of COUNTER height…
Mr. Giddyup was undeterred
And now they are perfect!

~ that our supersized bus for our supersized family can also be converted to use as a cargo van. The seating is completely modular and can be removed as needed to utilize the space. While the kiddos were at school, we loaded up on all the materials we will need for our upcoming projects.

Tatum K had a big time at Home Depot. It made me think of all the times I would go to hardware and farm implement stores with my Dad when I was little. I thought it was the most amazing place on the planet. So much to see, and I had no idea what any of it was. But I knew my dad knew, and I knew he would take care of me, so I was as carefree as can be!

~ for the official close of the puppy chapter for now. Our very last puppy, Red Boy, now named Oakley, finally went home to his forever family yesterday. It was very hard to say goodbye, as we have all fallen in love with the little fella.

But it made us feel great to know that two boys got the best surprise of their life yesterday afternoon. Our puppy families have been so kind to share pictures and videos of their babies with us. They are all so loved.

~ for one spicy little girl who FINALLY pooped on the potty for the first time. I don’t want to celebrate a victory of the war just yet, but I will revel in finally winning one battle.

~ for a yummier-than-expected healthy dinner, a loaded homemade cauliflower crust pizza and fresh salad.

~ for a fun, if way-too-short visit with Aunt Gina. Whenever we get the chance, we catch up on each others’ news, have some good laughs, and she always blesses me with friendship bread and Starbucks. So thankful for my sister.

~ for an amazing donation! Josh’s company, Aaron’s Inc, has a corporate donation program, and this year made a MOST GENEROUS donation of $5000 to Gold Network of East Texas. It was an honor for Paula and I to meet for a check presentation at Josh’s store this week.

~ for our first Sunday back to in person church service. Our little fellowship was hit hard with COVID-19 over the last couple months, and nearly everyone in leadership fell ill and was forced to quarantine. What a blessing to be back in the building together joined in worship. I know that the church is not a building, and I know God doesn’t live only there. But there’s nothing like it when we gather together in His name.

~ for Tiny Uno. Seriously, is anything cuter than Tiny Uno?

~ for friends to pray for and for friends who pray. And for the edification that comes when we testify to one another.

~ for good football (Go Chiefs!) and mouthwatering marinated chicken and carne asada fajitas with cilantro lime rice and fresh homemade salsa.

I remember writing about this once a long time ago, but it came to mind again tonight. Marinating. We use a marinade to tenderize meat or to add flavor. The longer something sits in a marinade, the more it absorbs it and the more it changes. It takes on the flavor of the marinade’s ingredients and in some cases the acidity of a marinade actually cooks the meat. We take on the flavor of what we soak ourselves in. The longer we marinate, the more we are changed. What are you marinating in? Are you spending your time soaking in social media? How many hours a day do you find yourself steeping in the barrage of headlines from your favorite news broadcaster or podcast? Or are you immersing yourself in God’s Word? Reveling in worship? Are you surrounding yourself with believers who testify of His faithfulness and spur one another on in good works? If you look at the ingredients of your marinade, are they what you want to taste like? Are they what you want to become? These are the thoughts that have been cycling through my mind as I try to pull away from old bad habits and try to establish new ones. What am I marinating in, and what am I becoming? And how does what I am becoming impact others, especially my husband and my children? Am I becoming better or bitter? I want to soak myself in Jesus, abide in Him, and be transformed to become a little more like Him every day. Imagine what would happen if we turned off the news and turned on our praise music and just worshipped instead of worried. I know it’s not really that simple. Or is it? All I know is it couldn’t hurt. I don’t want bitterness. Or fear. Or comparison. Or selfishness. Or divisions. I want more Jesus. So I need to spend more time with Him. And that’s the bottom line. Let’s encourage one another this week. And marinate in the goodness of God.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.””(Luke 10:38-42)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (IICorinthians 3:17-18)

Steadfast

I am thankful:

~ that I was only halfway to school when I heard Sawyer’s voice come from behind my shoulder in the car, “Um, mama… I forgot my shoes.”

~ for our Birdie girl’s birthday. What a year she has had! She joined our family, got married, and had 11 babies before turning 1!

~ for the blessing of tasty AND healthy options this week. We enjoyed delicious lean steaks (ok maybe cooked in some butter) and my favorite homemade healthy vegetable dip.

~ for the freshness that comes from putting away the Christmas decor and doing the first deep clean of the year. Everything looks brighter. Maybe a little bare at first, but it’s like a welcome pause after the constant overstimulation of the senses during the holidays. At first I always feel a little sad when I take down our favorite festive decorations, when all the nativities and the ornaments and stockings and the sparkle have been wrapped up and stored away until next year. But there is a fresh beauty in the spaces between. I’m always inspired to mix things up a little, to try a different arrangement, update a few pieces. Replacing a mattress that’s had a hole for…I-don’t-even-know-how-long. Changing up an old mirror with a little spray paint. Trading out a space age, rattling ceiling fan. January is the start of PROJECT TIME at Casa Rucker! We have some exciting projects planned for the next few months.

~ for a fun family movie night and the most hilarious Tatum K lookalike. (Check out Sophie on Rise of the Guardians.)

~ for a fun week with our temporary puppy. Red Boy, as we call him, referencing his color-coded id collar, is a sweetheart. He plays hard with the big dogs (we wonder if he has the concept that they are his parents), and has done a remarkable job with potty training. He has a most unusual favorite spot in the house. We will enjoy loving on him for one more week.

~ for a self proclaimed “best day of my life” for Sawyer. It suddenly dawned on me this week as he was struggling to buckle himself into his car seat with his bulky puffer coat. HE. IS. SEVEN. And is still riding in a high back car seat with a 5 point harness (the exact same seat Tatum K rides in). It was time, and I just hadn’t realized it. So while kids were at school, I purchased a new booster, and traded it for his old one. When he got in the car at pickup, you would have thought I had handed him tickets to Disneyland. “A booster seat! Mama! Thank you SO MUCH! This is the favorite gift I’ve ever gotten!” Immediately after school, he was invited to a laser tag birthday party at a local park. When I picked him up from the party, he was a tired, disheveled, frozen and oh-so-happy boy. Brown and green war paint smeared on his cheeks, a nose red from the cold, and tongue stained blue from Gatorade, he hopped into his new seat with a wide grin and said, “this is the best day of my LIFE! Well, the 2nd. The BEST day was the day I was done with cancer.” Oh my heart. Thank You God for the life of this beautiful shining light of a boy!

~ for the most glorious SNOW DAY! Here in Texas this is a highly accoladed event! I’m pretty sure we haven’t had any measurable snow in about 3 years. When the kids spotted the faintest hint of a flurry out the window this morning during our virtual church broadcast, they were beside themselves, and soon they were cheering at the meager white dust on our yard. The snowfall got heavier and steadier, and even to this Minnesota girl, it was magical. Huge white flakes falling and blanketing every surface – the kids say it looks like Narnia! Today they have built snowmen, had snowball fights, made snow angels, and did all the snow things you can pack into one afternoon.

Neighbors played outside, we snuggled with cocoa by the fire, we took breaks to warm up and dry out the sopping wet clothes, and then went back out for another round. Snow in the south is such a delightful oxymoron. Several times throughout the day we had to clean the snow off our palm trees to keep them from snapping. The kids were haphazardly bundled in multiple layers of pajamas and soggy hats and gloves that didn’t fit. And the initial jubilation of playing in the long-awaited snow lasted about as long as it took a snowflake to melt on their little Texas noses, quickly turning to whiny pink cheeked popsicles asking, “how do you know if you have frostbite?”

Dad and the big kids tried their hand at sledding down the snowy street on a cookie sheet: failed miserably, but hilarious to watch. Coop topped off our evening with a Polar Plunge into our pool!

Today was definitely my favorite day of the year. (As of 11 pm, it’s STILL coming down in giant flakes, we have gotten about 5 inches, and school is unsurprisingly cancelled tomorrow.)

The climate of our nation is insane. The devastating events on Wednesday were heartbreaking, and there is so much uncertainty about what may come next. It’s not hard to fall into the taps of anger, bitterness, division, and fear. But I’ve been so settled in my spirit. I mean, don’t misunderstand, I’m sad. I’m shocked. But I just know that God knew all this was coming, and that you and I were MADE for such a time as this. We, the Church, have been warned that trials were coming. That we will be targeted. That a day will come when we will be called to rise up in defense of the Gospel to a degree we have never experienced before. It’s time to dig deep and make a decision who we really are and what we really believe. Not what our parents told us to believe. Not what our preachers, or our Bible study teachers, or the social media influencers told us to believe. It’s time to get into God’s Word and read what HE SAID. IT’S TIME TO PRAY. It’s time to build our house on the Rock and set our anchors deep, because the STORMS ARE COMING. It’s time to ready ourselves. It’s time to teach our children to read their Bibles and that they can talk to God FOR REAL – ANY TIME, ABOUT ANYTHING, and that He hears them. It’s time to teach them to be kind to the lonely and to stand up for truth. It’s time to love our neighbors, especially the ones who are different from us. It’s time to pray for our enemies. It’s time to forgive. It’s time to WAKE UP BECAUSE IT’S FIXIN’ TO GET REAL.

During at-home worship, this song pounded into my heart.

“I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken!”

I’ve been open about it. I’m prone to anxiety. I worry. I think about cancer EVERY DAY. BUT GOD. I don’t want to puff up and act like I’ve got all the answers. I don’t know what I’m going to feel like tomorrow. But all I know is that TODAY…today my heart is steadfast. Many things are uncertain. But I KNOW what’s coming.

JESUS IS COMING.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)

““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33)

Welcome New Year

I am thankful:

~ for a fun trip to our favorite Tex-Mex spot, Papacitas. We pretty much go out to eat as a WHOLE FAMILY about once a year, so it’s a pretty big deal. Even though I wish it was something we could do more often, mostly I’m thankful that it’s such a treat for our kids, one they don’t take for granted because we do it all the time.

~ and I had forgotten to show my super cute Bear and Birdie Christmas ornaments that are a favorite on our tree.

~ for the after-Christmas buzz of new paints and trampoline tricks and hoverboards and puzzles and games. We had beautiful weather days and cabin-fever yucky days. And not many pictures because we were just living life with both hands AND because Mama was busy picking up puppy poop.

~ for the wonderful day of celebration when our dear leukemia warrior friend Jase aka “Hulk Strong” had his port removal surgery this week! His surgery was uneventful, and he has recovered well at home. This is such a major milestone marking the official end of treatment for a cancer survivor, fraught with lots of BIG mixed emotions. So thankful Jase has done so well, and praying that he can move past this chapter and have the carefree childhood his family has dreamed of. BUT GOD!

~ for the end of an era. This puppy pillow was a birthday gift for Sawyer when he turned 2.

In the thick of cancer treatment, it traveled back and forth to overnight hospital stays, and at home, it was used in his bed – a twin mattress on the floor in our master bedroom. Sawyer NEVER ONCE slept through the night until he turned 4, and most nights I slept with him. On the floor. With the puppy pillow. I was surprised to find that the puppy pillow was actually a pretty terrific shape for neck support. 5 years have gone by, and I have used that silly pillow every night. Well, this week we got new bedding: hotel quality sheets and quilt that feel like heaven! I’m SO EXCITED. And I got a new neck support pillow that prompted me to retire the puppy pillow once and for all. Now if only I could ACTUALLY SLEEP…

~ for a rollicking New Year’s Eve at Casa Rucker. We ate chicken strips, had a very serious gingerbread house decorating contest (judged by Dad and Cooper),

and then an intense Trouble tournament.

Our sweet friend Miss Karen brought us a delicious white chocolate raspberry Nothing Bundt Cake.

We played with sparklers in the driveway (which is still a bit of a battle for me…growing up in Minnesota where fireworks are illegal, I had ever been around them. Fireworks displays were put on strictly by firemen on July 4, and that was it. So the concept of letting teenagers fire off bottle rockets and giving sparklers to babies is a little unsettling for me, even after 20 years in Texas.) But the kids had a blast and it was such a fun end to this crazy year. We even made it to midnight.

~ for our tasty Southern traditional New Year’s Day meal of sweet buttered cornbread, savory roasted cabbage, and blackeyed peas.

~ for 11 puppy baths! Those little stinkers were ready for one! What an event that was!

Today was puppy pickup day. All day, every 30 minutes we had another thrilled/nervous/or-combo-of-both family show up at the door to pick up their new baby. I will replay those “awwws” and squeals of excitement over and over. The first in-person meeting for many. The first hold. First hug. First puppy snuggle and wet puppy kisses. So many sweet moments. Billy, Nola, Mango, Julie, Rambo, Dexter, Maddie, Bo, Dugan, and Charlie went to their homes amid lots of smiles and wagging tails.

But definitely heart wrenching for us to say 10 goodbyes one after another. It was hard on the kids, but we had lots of great talks about how loved the puppies will be at their new homes and what a blessing it is for us to share in their joy. AND we get to enjoy a little extension of the joy for a couple more weeks: we are puppy-sitting for 2 weeks while the last little pup’s family is on vacation. It will be fun to experience ONE puppy for a little while, even though we know that goodbye will be even harder. We LOVE BIG in this house. Just can’t help it.

Sawyer has spent most of the day in the kennel with this pup

I have to admit I have a new sense of optimism. Freshness. Excitement. Maybe that’s the thrill of hope of a weary world rejoicing that the song talks about? Even if January 1 is just a turn of a calendar page, and just another day, it’s still a fresh start to a new year. I’m up for all the clichés this year. I’ve RE-started my diet and fitness plans. I’ve RE-started my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program. I want to try to be more organized. More transparent. A better communicator. Goals are good, and January is as good a time to start as any. And I know lots of my good intentions will fizzle or flop. But I also know that’s not where my worth lies. Jesus will meet me in my successes and my failures, and neither will make Him love me any more or any less. My number 1 goal is that I would look more like Jesus in 363 days than I do today. I have lots of hopes and dreams for Gold Network of East Texas. And some exciting prospects and possibilities for Giddyup & Whoa. Josh and I have numerous home projects planned, trips in mind, and hopefully even MORE PUPPIES (after a good LONG break). But we hold all of these things in open hands, knowing that God’s plans, however unpredictable, are ALWAYS so much better than ours. We just want what He wants, for our family, for our marriage, for our future. Whatever comes, we will do it WITH HIM, FOR HIM, IN HIM.

2020 has been a complicated year. Lots of loss, lots of pain, lots of conflict. But God is a master of bringing beauty from ashes. I hope we learn from our own and others’ mistakes, hope we appreciate more the things we used to take for granted, and that we value relationships more than ever before. I hope we glean the blessings that have come along the way, life a little slower, or at least a little more intentional. And that we take those lessons into this new year having grown in both wisdom and compassion. I know I have had time with my kids that I never would have had any other way. I learned that I will never fulfill my dream of being a math teacher or story problem writer. And I have learned afresh that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”(Psalms 37:5)

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)