Peace

I am thankful:

~ for so many kind words, messages, and prayers after last week’s blog post. I know I’m not alone in dealing with anxiety, especially during the holidays. The range of emotions and the breakneck pace are a volatile combination. But God is so good.

~ for grace during the Christmas CRUNCH! Last minute shopping, searching frantically for the gifts I KNOW I BOUGHT but somehow can’t find (because I tucked them somewhere SO SAFE), the returns of the duplicates I bought to replace the gifts I couldn’t find (but then found🤪)…traffic that makes me need extra Jesus, and 10,364,292 Christmas activities/events/parties that are all scheduled back to back to back.

Kora’s Christmas Choir Concert
After Sawyer’s Christmas Play
Tatum K’s Christmas Pajama Party
Sawyer’s Christmas Pajama Party
AWESOME Annual Christmas with Strangers Concert
My sentiments exactly

~ for a fun road trip to celebrate Grandmommy’s birthday! Which also is the annual kickoff day for a favorite tradition: the 12 Days of Christmas! Grandmommy is so thoughtful and creative to come up with 12 gifts for our family, and we all have a blast singing the song each night and opening a new surprise! So grateful for such a special tradition.

Loved receiving this special window cling nativity, as it brought back a memory of years ago…
It had also been given as a 12 Days gift when Sawyer spent his first Christmas in the hospital during his cancer treatment
Hooray for pickles and okra!

~ for the incredible opportunity to make a special trip to Dallas representing Gold Network of East Texas for a long-awaited, IN PERSON check presentation. Each year we donate toward ongoing pediatric cancer research projects at Children’s Health/UTSouthwestern. The past two years we have helped fund research being conducted by one of Sawyer’s most beloved oncologists, Dr. Sam John, but hospital pandemic precaution protocols prevented us from donating in person. A virtual check presentation just isn’t the same. So it was priceless to actually make the trip to Dallas and reunite Sawyer the Warrior with Dr. John, look him in the eyes, and thank him for the important work he is doing.

2014
2016
2018
2020

And we always love the Hero’s Welcome Sawyer receives when he walks his old halls. These doctors and nurses are so very dear to us.

~ for a great trip for Josh and Cooper to watch the Carthage Bulldogs claim their 9th State Football Championship. The kids and I watched and cheered from home. Way to go, Bulldogs!

~ for lots of good progress and backbreaking hard work going on in and around the casita. Septic went in this week! Looking forward to a REAL POTTY soon!

~ for beautiful encouragement from our Father. It’s so easy to let “the season” sweep us away from the Truth. To get off track, lose heart, lose faith in people (and yourself), and see the ever-darkening darkness creeping in around us.

BUT GOD.

He was and is and always will be the Light of the World. He’s STILL HERE. There’s always HOPE. We will always have questions, but HE IS THE ANSWER. And not just in heaven, when this broken world has been made new. He is the answer RIGHT NOW. As long as we are breathing, we have work to do here: repentance to own, people to encourage, the gospel to share. He has peace and FULLNESS OF JOY for us on this earth, when we take His Hand and offer Him His rightful, Righteous place. Emmanuel, God with us.

May we seek Him.

May we find Him.

May we share Him.

I’m so grateful for you, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1:21-23)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.” (Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Welcome Fall

I am thankful:

~ for another fun week of volleyball and cross country for our girls. The season is nearing its end, and it’s been a great experience for both Kora and Samantha. So fun to watch them enjoying their teammates and doing their best.

~ for glorious cool mornings. So it may still end up in the 90s by lunch, but I’m digging the sweatshirt for an hour in the morning!

~ for an unexpectedly dramatic milestone at the farm. We realized we needed to create a more definite driveway on our dirt path, so we ordered a couple dump truck loads of crushed rock. The whole process of expertly applying the rock along the path took MINUTES, but INSTANTLY transformed a pasture to a driveway! It was the coolest thing!

I’ve not been very good at updating our progress, but we’ve come a long way! Now that I’ve made it through September, I’ll try to do a better job!

From April to October
Our first baby watermelon!

This week was concrete-busting and shelf-building. Love these adventures with our Tribe.

~ for Bear and Birdie’s first trip to the farm. They are city slickers like us FOR SURE, but I think they’re going to love the country!

~ for a great evening of Friday Night Lights watching another Carthage Bulldog victory!

~ for a wonderful day of great food and fellowship at our church Friends Day. One of our favorite long-standing TCF traditions, a church-wide potluck picnic on the grounds, complete with Chili cook off and volleyball. The East Texas fall weather was absolutely perfect, and we had the best afternoon with old friends and new.

~ and most of all, completely thankful for an uneventful trip with Sawyer to Dallas for his biannual oncology appointment. And I’m happy to report with great joy, Sawyer remains CANCER FREE! Glory to the Lord!

Sawyer had a great, full day with lots of favorites.

•Favorite stop for favorite breakfast and CANDY (Buc-ee’s).

•Favorite co-pilot and snack-master extraordinaire (Aunt Gina)

•Favorite strange hobby (drawing his own blood)

•Favorite people (got to see 8 of his nurses from his cancer team as well as beloved Dr. Winick. I love hearing how encouraged they are after seeing him. They walked us through his terrifying darkest days. To see him thriving brings them so much joy.)

•Favorite use of his gifts (got to chat with four other East Texas HEROES that were also at the hospital today.

•Favorite thing to do on the way home (EAT! This time we tried out In-N-Out Burger for the first time)

Sawyer had a perfect oncology visit and will return in 6 months. He was due for a heart echo (to monitor his heart’s function and watch for any long term damage caused by several of his chemotherapy drugs). Results were NORMAL! Glory to God!!!

And the most incredible, mind-blowing thing I witnessed today happened when we saw 2 of his former nurses who had heard about the recent Gold Network ETX nurse training we did a few weeks ago. One nurse (who is now a nurse educator) wanted to show me another option of a simulator. Sawyer started asking questions, and before I knew it, she was teaching him HOW TO ACCESS A PORT! AND HE GOT IT ON HIS FIRST TRY!!!! Even flushed it and got blood return.

Watching my miracle boy, the one no one thought would live, who has overcome every obstacle that has come his way his whole little life…watching him do the unfathomable, from SPRINTING the 1 mile Gold Run and coming in 2nd place overall on Saturday,

to successfully performing a complex medical procedure that many adults cannot successfully master, one that he endured himself as an infant and toddler more times than we can count (and while still wearing his own hospital bracelet, mind you)….

There are just no words.

Thank You Jesus.

Thank you for continuing to lift Sawyer and our family in prayer as we continue this walk that never ends. We never take the good news for granted. Every day is a gift.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 9:1-2)

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

Do the Work

I am thankful:

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

~ for zesty buffalo and blue cheese chicken wraps.

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

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

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

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

Cake? Pie? YES!!!

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

2021
2020
2019

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

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

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

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

RDA Pro-Mart 2318 Judson Rd Longview,Tx 75605

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

Vogue Salon 3000 Gilmer Rd Longview, TX 75604

Bombshell Salon 522 Titus St, Gilmer, Tx 75644

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

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

Faith Veterinary Clinic 206 W Duval St Troup, TX 75789

Caring Hands PPECC 3001 Spur 124 Highway Tyler, TX 75707

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

There is an Order to All Things

I am thankful:

~ that our precious neighbors are ok. Monday morning we woke to 3 fire trucks and their sirens responding to a devastating fire at our across-the-street neighbors’ home. The 4 am fire gutted their garage, and their entire home was seriously smoke damaged. NO SMOKE ALARMS WENT OFF! The wife was awakened by the strong chemical odor of the burning car. Thankfully, GLORY TO GOD, the precious elderly couple and all their many pets escaped unharmed. But it was a catastrophic loss that will have them displaced for months. So thankful for the family our neighborhood has become. We all carry one another. This was yet another sobering reminder of the fragility of this life.

~ that we survived Puppy Gotcha Week! 9 baths, 9 carefully labeled and stocked puppy care bags, and one by one, we said goodbye to all our sweet pups. It was bittersweet to be sure, but it’s impossible to stay sad when we get to see the joy on all these faces! Somehow my ever-bustling household seems quiet. (I will NOT miss the poop.)

~ for my orchid continuing to show off her unfolding beauty.

~ for an injury that could’ve been worse. Sawyer (a nightly sleepwalker for the past almost 5 years) had his first sleepwalking injury. He woke up one morning with a cut next to his eyebrow crusted with blood. Despite it being a head laceration, we never found any blood anywhere indicating what he smacked himself on in the night. It didn’t look too bad, so we just put on a bandaid and sent him to school. Which was perfectly fine until the next night when he bent down during his shower to shut off the water and cracked himself in the very same spot.

The wound, although still superficial, was now gaping open, and bought Mr. Sawyer a trip to the emergency room. Thankfully a little glue was all he needed. We may need to look into a sleep helmet!

~ for a fun evening celebrating our beloved Coach Chris’ birthday. We feasted at Brisket Love for the first time! DIVINE!

~ for a great first meal on Josh’s new baby. He replaced our broken outdoor gas-grill-turned-charcoal-BBQ with a commercial flat top griddle. The best sizzling fajitas we’ve ever had! And Josh cooked for our army in MINUTES!

~ for laughs. The Lord knew I needed to laugh this week.

Tatum K had a SHOCKINGLY good time on the trampoline.
And Sawyer, aka Mr. Joke Pants, was in full force.
“MO-OM!!! Come quick!
The toilet’s smoking!”

~ for the best news in the world! Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE! He had his bi-annual oncology checkup Wednesday and got a clean report from head to toe, including beautiful lab work. Going to Children’s is always emotionally exhausting; it’s impossible not to re-live the hundreds of inpatient and outpatient treatments over the years. The spinal taps, surgeries, blood transfusions, ICU hospitalizations, code team…my mind starts spinning, and when I breathe deeply with relief at healthy bloodwork, I suddenly realize I’ve been holding my breath. But Sawyer LOVES “his” hospital. He sees it as an amazing place where he gets to see his doctors and nurses who have become family, a place where “everybody knows his name,” a place where he always gets to choose a toy, a place where he knows he got better. (Not to mention his favorite 2 stops: Buccees and Whataburger!).

This time he cleaned the injection site, drew his labs, released his tourniquet, and bandaged himself!
We love Dr. Winick so much!

But this visit will always stand out in my mind. A challenging conversation came up between myself and a healthcare professional, discussing our markedly different perspectives on faith. It was the kind of conversation that most adults would avoid at all costs. They were being honest about their difficulty in believing in God. Sawyer’s sweet voice spoke up above the grownups in the room. “Do you believe in Jesus?” My heart simultaneously soared and sank, so proud of his unabashed honesty, while my protective Mama Bear instincts wanted to protect him from the potential answer. (BUT GOD…) The person said they didn’t know how to believe in any god because so many terrible things are allowed to happen. And not directing his eyes or voice toward any person, Sawyer sat on the glossy black medical stool, spinning himself in circles, and said quietly, slowly, and clearly, “There is an order to all things.” And silence fell.

I know my son spoke the words of the Lord for that moment.

I have heard those words echo in my head and in my heart over and over this week.

I know he spoke those words for a purpose bigger than that moment. The Lord has saved Sawyer’s life so many times, and He has placed a boldness and a maturity in him that will open doors for him to share the Gospel.

I too have many questions. There is much I don’t understand. But my 8-year-old son reminded me that there truly IS an order to all things. And my lack of understanding doesn’t change that. God is sovereign and He is good. He is big enough for all our questions. If you know ANYTHING about kids, it’s that they ask A TON of QUESTIONS! ASK YOUR QUESTIONS!! Ask them all!

Let us all live with unashamed and bold faith like a child.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:3-9)

“Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalms 86:6-12)

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

““So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Blessed to be a Blessing

I am thankful:

~ for a dream come true for Samantha. She has recently fallen in love with all things equestrian: all she wanted for Christmas was cowgirl boots and cowgirl clothes (since she knew we couldn’t get her an actual horse). One of big brother Colton’s friends invited her to his horse farm, and she had the best time of her life! (Zoe got to tag along.)

~ for Tatum K’s darling little playhouse. She loves her cozy new spot, and spends most of her time inside it. You can definitely find her there for breakfast and lunch, listening to the birds!

~ for the great honor and privilege of presenting our beloved Dr. Sam John at Children’s with a check for $10,000 from Gold Network of East Texas to further his ongoing cutting edge pediatric cancer research project. Dr. John holds a special place in our hearts from the earliest days of Sawyer’s cancer treatment, so it means so much to be able to support his research now. Dr. John shared that Sawyer’s successful treatment has been an inspiration for his continued passion for research of infant leukemias, and when presented with the Gold Network check, he said “I know this check is also backed with countless prayers, and that means a lot.” What a blessing for him to get to see Sawyer as a happy, healthy 8 year old!

You can barely see Dr. John in the laptop. We laughed that Sawyer was actually holding HIM for a change!
2014
Dr. John and Sawyer the Warrior, 2016
2018

~ for fire-side puzzling on our nifty new puzzle table. Even if our family Christmas puzzle is apparently too hard for everyone else in the family except me, and I’m pretty much doing it by myself.

~ for a quiet New Year’s Eve with the fam: pizza for kiddos, couch date with Longhorn steakhouse for Mom and Dad. Late night field trip for ice cream sundaes in pjs, and a sparklers in the driveway. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~ for a traditional tasty start to 2022: savory blackeyed peas, roasted cabbage, brown sugar glazed ham, and buttery sweet cornbread, followed by a trip to the movies with the whole Tribe to see Sing 2 (I highly recommend!)

~ for the cutest, cuddliest puppies in all the land! We are having so much fun watching Bear and Birdie’s babies as they grow each day. They have started eating soft food, and are getting more and more playful. We still have available pups if you know anyone looking.

~ for hilarious virtual reality fun, from the international space station to the mountains of Peru to the gnarliest rollercoasters you can imagine!

~ for 101 ways to play with a stick. Why in the world did we buy toys for Christmas????

Are you a resolution person? People either love them or hate them. I know it’s kind of hokey to put off making necessary changes in your life until a certain day, but what’s the harm? I love the turn of the calendar page, and the fresh feeling that comes with the New Year. A fresh start. Fresh opportunity. Fresh potential. After the constant indulgence and unrelenting pace of the holidays, our overloaded senses crave a reset. The Christmas finery/clutter gets put away, and in the space left behind seems like fresh breathing room. Fresh margin. It may seem silly, but why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt this New Year? A good habit has to start sometime, and January 1 is as good a day as any. Or January 2. Or the 15. Why not just try? How about challenging yourself? Don’t write yourself off as a quitter before you even try. Give yourself some credit AND SOME GRACE!I’ve got lots of goals for this year, lots of dreams and things I want to do better. But mainly I just want to love well and look more like Jesus on December 31 than I do today. We are so blessed. And I know we’ve been blessed so we can be a blessing to others along the way.

Friends, we need your prayers. Our precious HERO friend, Bristell, has relapsed. After bravely battling Infant AML, victoriously surviving a bone marrow transplant, and celebrating almost 3 joyous years of remission, the unthinkable has happened. Four year old Bristell is back at Children’s as her care team creates a treatment plan for this next battle, and her precious mom and dad and new baby sister are reeling with broken hearts as they try to wrap their minds around this unexpected blow. No 4 year old should have to face cancer, let alone a second time. Will you please pray for this dear family, and stand with us as we bear up under this burden beside them? I will link their personal GoFundMe here if you would like to donate directly to Bristell.

Sawyer the Warrior and Bristell Brave

This is the grim reality for parents of a child who has battled cancer. The fear remains. Maybe it’s way in the back of the closet or tucked away in the deepest reaches of consciousness. But somewhere, although no one ever speaks about it, there is the cold pang of dread that hiding in there somewhere, a malignant cell was missed, a dormant trigger that will reawaken, and when we least expect it, our tenuously duct-taped world will suddenly implode again. This is life as a cancer parent.

But God.

In Him we hope. In Him we believe there is still good in the world, and better yet, that this world is not all there is for us. We know that Jesus heals. We have seen it. And more importantly, we have seen HIM.

And because of Him, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thank you for lifting your prayers for Bristell and her family. And thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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 43:18-19)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

A Paintbrush in my Hand

I am thankful:

~ for a fun, albeit way too short visit with Aunt Gina.

~ for Sawyer’s Native American clothes pin project for school. Fun to do this project each time I have a second grader.

~ for the Word of God, the comfort and refining it brings every time I open it up.

~ for the joy it brought to hear of one of Gold Network of East Texas’ programs at work. If you’ve been here since Sawyer’s treatment, you may remember that he spent lots of time in an inflatable-pool-turned-playpen at the hospital. It’s where he took his first steps.

Sawyer, 2014

When we created GNET, we began stocking the social worker with pools and portable pumps to distribute to cancer babies in the hospital. “Sawyer’s Just Keep Swimming Program.” I saw this photo on an INTERNATIONAL online support group this week, and I recognized it instantly.

New friend, 2021

Sure enough, when I messaged her, I found that she was in Dallas at Children’s. We quickly connected and exchanged information. A day later, I received this email from our beloved social worker at the hospital.

GLORY TO THE LORD! What a beautiful blessing to be a part of!

~ for a special Happy Birthday for our Bear Boy. We got him a new collar and a new toy.

The toy lasted 1 hour and 14 minutes. Completely destroyed.

I picked up a replacement toy after school. Bear and Birdie ripped it open and ate the squeaker out in about 4 hours, but they are still getting some amusement out of what’s left of it.

~ for a wonderful day off with my Love. He’s off every other Wednesday, and the past few times we have had a breakfast date, trying out various local eateries. This has been a favorite of Tatum K. She loves and frequently asks to visit Jimmy’s Egg, which we visited several weeks ago. The other restaurants were new to her, and she had her own unique names for them: Happy’s Fish House = “Happy Face” and First Watch = “Sky Watch”. After some not-so-good breakfasts (MAJOR understatement), we finally had our PERFECT breakfast at “Sky Watch,” complete with a light and pillowy waffle and decadent, savory candied “Million Dollar Bacon.”

~ for an awesome evening of football for Josh and the boys who traveled to Athens for the first Carthage Bulldogs playoff game.

Us girls had a cozy evening back home with a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

~ for the most productive Giddyup & Whoa week I think I’ve ever had! I’ve been behind on my projects because of my hand, so I have a lot of catching up to do. On top of orders, I’ve got the Barn Sale this week AND another sale the first week of December. So Josh and I both buckled down and got to work. He cranked out 15 signs in ONE AFTERNOON,

and I painted or stained the base coat on all of them, and completed 8 Christmas signs plus two custom orders.

Lots of ornaments on deck in the next couple days, and then more custom orders. If you are local, be sure to check out Vintage & Co Christmas in the Country. Jodi and her team curate the most charming and unique collection of vintage holiday decor, gorgeous furniture, and one of a kind finds. It’s such an honor to be a part of her sale.

Christmas in the Country: November 17-20

It felt good to have a brush in my hand. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Painting is such a part of me. I really haven’t been doing very well personally. My anxiety has been raging out of control, and I’ve been discouraged, struggling to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of the waves. And I was amazed to see how peaceful I felt as I got back into my zone.

~ thankful for a smooth resolution to a rough afternoon. Tatum K tripped and fell at church, and sliced herself under her lip on a stool. When I got to her, she was hysterical and splattered with blood. Once I got her calmed and cleaned, I was relieved to see that the cut was very superficial. But its location was not good: prime for her to bend her lip and pop it open. Almost 2 hours later it was still oozing down her chin. So to the ER we went. Much to my surprise, we were the only patients in the waiting room, and were seen immediately. We got fantastic care, and the doctor was able to glue Tatum’s wound with no pain or trauma. And little missy was such a trooper…after the glue was applied, she was told to lay perfectly still for 4 minutes. You have never seen a more still little Rapunzel statue in all your life! I was so proud of her. She skipped happily into the house when we got home and showed off her glued lip and her hospital bracelet. So thankful.

I loved the illustration in church today that giving thanks is like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger you get. I have been feeling really weak in a lot of ways, and I know I need to be strengthening my thankfulness muscles. God is good, y’all. Don’t doubt Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He sees the end result that our perspective can never see. Press on. Press in. Rediscover something that brings you joy. Serve somebody else. Take a walk. Turn your music up loud and SING. And when you fall down, when you screw up, when you lose it and find yourself flat on your face… scrape yourself back up again. And thank Jesus.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17-18)

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done…” (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)

Back to School CRAY

I am thankful:

~ first and foremost, SO THANKFUL to report that Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE!!! GLORY TO THE LORD! Wednesday Sawyer, aka the Bravest Boy in the Whole Wide World, had his 6 month follow up appointment with his Oncologist and his ACE (After Cancer Experience) doctor in Dallas. It’s always an emotionally charged and exhausting day. So many triggers attached to going to the hospital down the all too familiar highway, and each time the same uneasy feelings build up as we prepare for either the best day or the worst day of our lives. But Sawyer never ever sees it that way. He’s THRILLED to go to the hospital.

One day he will be so embarrassed that he played on this like it was a dump truck

He loves to see so many of his favorite people (and his story so well known, it’s like he’s the little mayor of Children’s Hospital!)

Dr. Winick taught Sawyer how to use an ophthalmoscope, and then let him examine her

He knows he gets one on one time, extra snacks, gets McDonalds for breakfast and Whataburger for lunch (EVERY. TIME. His choice.)

And he knows he gets to go home with a toy. He doesn’t see the day as scary or stressful at all. What an amazing gift from God! As usual, he hopped right up in the phlebotomist’s chair, chatted and laughed with Miss Sharon as she placed the needle in his arm, and then cheerfully drew his own blood! I will never stop being amazed at the maturity and bravery of my 7 year old. It just blows my mind.

It is always such a blessing to see the wonderful doctors and nurses who so lovingly cared for Sawyer, and many of them hugged him (and me) especially tight this visit.

They have such an unbelievably hard job, and it has been a rough season of many hardships for them. Several of them took a deep breath and said, “I needed this dose of hope today.” Sawyer is a healthy 7 year old against all odds. No one thought he’d survive, let alone be THRIVING. BUT GOD.

I will never ever ever stop praising Him for the countless miracles He has done in Sawyer’s life. I do pray that one day I will not feel so overwhelmed with dread every time we go back. But I do know that Jesus will meet me with grace in those moments, no matter how I handle them.

~ thankful for our sweet Aunt Gina who finally got to join us for Sawyer’s appointment!

Hospital policy has limited us to only one caretaker, so I’ve been making the trip alone the last few times. Gina Sue had gone with me almost EVERY APPOINTMENT since about my 3rd trimester with Tatum K (when I realized that having contractions while barreling down the interstate at 75 miles an hour was probably not the best idea.) She has been a faithful prayer warrior, chauffeur, encourager, and the provider of the bottomless bag of snacks for almost 5 years now, rising at an appallingly early hour to drive FROM CARTHAGE TO TYLER, pick us up, and THEN DRIVE FROM TYLER TO DALLAS. AND BACK AGAIN. She’s such a blessing and a wonderful help and support. She knows I’m weary and that the day is always hard for me, and she goes out of her way to take care of me. I’m so thankful she’s my sister.

~ and thankful for this bag.

At our house, this bag can only mean one thing.

Aunt Gina makes the yummiest friendship bread, and it’s the kids’ favorite breakfast. They always know what’s in the bag when they see it. And it ain’t soap!

~ thankful for Colton being back from Albuquerque and spending his few days off with us. He was super helpful during my back-to-school-supplies-madness, and helped me divide up the list and track down every orange folder with pockets and brads, white polymer eraser, and broad tipped yellow and blue highlighter on the supply lists. And then we tried out a great new coffee spot in town, Crema. DELICIOUS!

~ for “decent” store-bought pimento cheese turned FAB with a few ingredients at home to jazz it up. I’m very particular when it comes to pimento cheese.

~ for a super fun day swimming with sweet school friends.

~ for Whataburger chocolate malts to celebrate August Tonight.

~ for this year’s sharp new Tyler Gold Run t-shirt design created by our graphic artist. I’m so excited for a different look this year.

Our Gold Network of East Texas events are coming up so quickly, it’s making my head spin. With no in-person events last year, I feel a little rusty at remembering what all I have to do! It is SO BUSY!!! Go GOLD Tyler, our event on the Downtown Square to kickoff Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is coming up August 31.

It’s such a special event, honoring all our families: on treatment, completed treatment, or who have lost a child to cancer. Our HERO wall with all our kids’ pictures grows every year, which is so heartbreaking. But watching the kids and their families walk the gold carpet is so inspiring, and the still over the crowd as the families release balloons for their loves who were taken too soon is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. Read more about Go GOLD Tyler here.

And Tyler Gold Run is just 5 short weeks away! Where did summer go!!?? We are praying all goes as planned to have our race in person this year, and we are just so excited about this year’s 10k•5k run! Registration is open at tylergoldrun.com And if you are out of state or not a runner, we have the GoldDreamer option, to donate and be a part of our event right where you are. You even get the tshirt! I hope you’ll join us.

~ thankful that our pool toy box isn’t any deeper.

~ thankful for a really awesome visit with some really awesome friends. Some friends are just truly LIFE-GIVING. You know, the kind that you leave feeling so refreshed and lifted up. Find you some friends like that. And better yet, try to BE that kind of friend to somebody.

The kids start back to school on Wednesday. And the pre-crazy is in full swing. We have meet the teacher/locker day/orientation/swim parties back to back to back. 11th grade, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and 2nd, across 4 campuses.

As much as we all love summer, we are ALL ready for this season to change. I’m always so happy to have the kids come home for summer. And I’m equally happy to send them back to school. To everything there is a season. But believe it or not, I will miss them when my house is quiet. But I just may enjoy a little quiet too. And I’ll still have my spicy Tater home for one more year. I want to soak up every minute with my girl, and not rush her off to grow up and away. She is excited to start “Pre-skoo wif my mama.”

Time continues to run away, and there’s no stopping it. My goal for this school year is to take it all in, not sweat the small stuff, press through even when I’m overwhelmed, and be my kids’ biggest cheerleader. I know these years are hard, but they are the moments I will never get back again. And I’m reminded that “hard” doesn’t always mean “bad.” We are all learning and growing and God is at work. I’m so thankful for His perfect grace and redeeming love. May we all look more like Him next May than we do today.

Even in the midst of all the crazy, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalms 13:5-6)

Impossible

I am thankful:

~ for this handsome too-grown-up boy and his new haircut.

I hinted at it last week, but it was too new for me to fully process. I know it sounds ridiculous to be so dramatic about a simple haircut…but my cancer mama friends understand. When you’ve had a child that loses their hair during cancer treatment, hair becomes A REALLY BIG DEAL. Sawyer’s fine, straight baby hair grew back super curly and perfectly matched his vibrant personality.

Those soft curls nestled into the crook of my neck every night for years. I stroked those little curls while I waited for him to wake up after every spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy. Those curls would get sweaty when he got fevers, and I would know it was time to pack up and head to the Dallas ER.

I just loved his thick head of hair and everything it represented. It was like another badge of honor he had earned. But he was ready for a new “do” and I knew I had to let go. It was hard to watch. And Josh admitted it was very hard for him to do the haircut. But we are both so proud of him. Isn’t he just the stinkin’ cutest?

His first glimpse of himself…

~ for a fun day trip to Longview to pick up our final load of Toy Drive toys and to visit Aunt Dinah. Although our visits are never long enough, we managed to squeeze in a pizza party, fun in and out of the rain with her sweet neighbors, treasure hunting in her beautifully wooded backyard, and assisted her in testing whether or not her bathroom’s frosted glass window was frosted ENOUGH. We had a great day.

~ for the MOST AWESOMELY EPIC TOY HAUL! Our Annual Gold Network of East Texas Toy Drive was a fabulous success thanks to the many businesses and individuals who gave so generously. Not only did we collect hundreds of toys at each donation location, we were blessed with more than $1100 to go shopping with! Paula and I had a blast shopping for toys and gift cards with the donated funds.

All together, we collected 2,229 toys, a huge growth from last year. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO GAVE!

We are blown away with your kindness, your support, and your generosity. We took all the seats out of our bus, leaving a spot for Sawyer, and turned it into Toy-Delivery-Mobile.

What a fun job that was! Of course, with current COVID-19 restrictions, we were not allowed to actually physically stock the CCBD Prize Closet like we have in years past, but we were met in front of Children’s Hospital by the Child Life Team. They greeted us with 2 large, industrial rolling bins, and I gleefully advised them, “I think you’re going to need MORE!” We ended up filling 4 bins to overflowing.

The Team was thrilled with the donation, and amazed by the quality of the toys you all collected. And our wonderful social worker, Diane, who has been by our side since Sawyer was diagnosed with leukemia at just 7 months old, was amazed to see him now: tall and handsome, with his new glasses and new haircut. She just couldn’t believe it.

~ thankful for sweet Aunt Gina who chauffeured us for the day, and encouraged me to override Sawyer’s lunch suggestion (Buccees of course). Instead we tried a new-to-us spot, Rodeo Goat, and enjoyed the MOST DELICIOUS burgers and fries.

~ also thankful for these delicious dark chocolate salted caramels. You can see I was not able to restrain myself from opening them even long enough to take a picture (see the empty space at the top of the canister?) Gina Sue gave them to me on Wednesday. And it is POSSIBLE that they MAY HAVE been GONE BY SATURDAY….possibly.

~ for a wildly successful mission yard sale at church last weekend, and a wonderful treasure that was clearly meant for me.

~ for an awesome afternoon at church helping decorate for next week’s upcoming Vacation Bible School. The kids have loved it every summer, and are so excited to be meeting again this summer!

~ for a great first week for Tatum K in her big girl bed! I thought she’d get up 8475 times a night, but amazingly enough, she never has! In fact, it seems that it has not clicked that she is PHYSICALLY ABLE to get out of the bed by herself. Instead, she SCREAMS AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, “MAMAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” any time she needs anything or in the morning when she wakes up. Also surprisingly, she hasn’t ever fallen out. So we graduated to the next level, from the mattresses on the floor to her actual bed with a frame. So cute.

I had a good wake up call this week. It can be so tempting to look at the hurts in our lives. To wrap up in a blanket of hurt and surround yourself with your disappointments. Isn’t it funny/sad how our eyes instinctively seek out a flaw. We do that with our lives. We look for the holes. The lack. We see what’s missing instead of what’s there. Let-downs, disappointments, broken relationships, people we miss. People who were never there in the first place. But today I sat in my chair and the Lord lavishly poured His love over me. He showed me all the things He has given me. All the people he has braided into my path. He lovingly reminded me of all the ways He has made up for what I lack. People who have loved abundantly when they didn’t have to. BUT GOD.

What would happen if we consistently focused our eyes on our abundance instead of our lack?

What are you praying for that to you looks unanswered? What looks impossible? I am loving the song “Rattle” by Elevation Worship. “Since when has ‘impossible’ ever stopped You?” I know so many people walking through such hard trials, and they are so beaten down and discouraged. But we, the people of God, believers in Christ, HAVE TO BELIEVE that He is WORKING WHEN WE CAN’T SEE! We shouldn’t be living like the ones who have no hope! Do we really believe it? Do we really believe Him? And do we LIVE LIKE WE BELIEVE HIM? The beat from that song pounded upon my chest, and I could physically feel its resonating in my heart. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD. He hears every prayer. He is working, for His glory and for our good. He is working in the dark, working beneath the surface. So much of what He is doing we cannot see. So we foolishly think nothing’s happening. We are so arrogant and impatient with God, second-guessing His ways and His actions (or the appearance of inaction.) I promise you I am preaching to MYSELF here. I have situations that I have worried myself half to death over, and I have begged God over and over to move. But I have to remind myself that He cares more than I care, and He knows more than I know. And His timing is ALWAYS perfect. And the stretching and refining that only comes through waiting is JUST AS important (if not more so) than the answer itself.

What is your “impossible?”

Think again. He’s not done yet...

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””(Matthew 19:26)

“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)

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

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“My God is able to save and deliver and heal and restore anything that He wants to / Just ask the man who was thrown on the bones of Elisha if there’s anything that He can’t do / Just ask the stone that was rolled at the tomb in the garden what happens when God says to move…”

This is the video for the song, “Rattle.” May it bless you and encourage you as it has me. https://youtu.be/xrAdbH28gIg

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)