Traditions

I am thankful:

~ for a special birthday. Our miracle boy, Sawyer the Warrior, turned 8!

Every milestone still takes my breath away. We never dared dream he would go to second grade, or excel at school, or LIVE TO BE EIGHT YEARS OLD! BUT GOD! What a blessing and a miracle he is! He had a great day: donuts for breakfast, Slim’s Chicken lunch at school with Mom, Dad, and Tatum K, and his birthday menu – lasagna, pickles, and chocolate cake with orange colored salted caramel buttercream icing. Thank You Jesus for preserving the life of this boy. We will never stop giving You all the glory.

~ for a great Giving Tuesday for Gold Network of East Texas. We were so blessed by generous donations, and received more than $1600 to support our deserving local families impacted by childhood cancer. THANK YOU to all who donated.

~ for a fun week for Cooper: being asked to a dance, and getting chosen at work to be the Chick-Fil-a Cow for a local Christmas parade. He had a blast!

~ for the opportunity to watch Zoe and her classmates at their Colonial Trades Day presentation. Zoe was captivating as a colonial soap maker.

~ for a much-needed visit with a dear friend.

~ for traditions. I finally got the tree lights fixed and ornaments hung.

I love those moments with the kids, as they each delight in finding their special ornaments from each year. We laugh and tell the same stories over again.

Can you spot Bear and Birdie?

I tell of the year when our budget was so tight that Colton, Carson Grace, and Cooper’s only ornaments and gifts came from the Dollar Store, and I had given Josh a construction paper heart with our picture on it.

We talk about the first Christmas in the hospital when Dad drove the bus packed with kids and presents to Dallas so we could be together in the waiting room. So many memories on that tree.

The nostalgic decorations are my favorite. I remember as a child, gazing at the lights and ornaments on Grandma Grace’s tree, her brightly colored hand sewn felt animals and delicately tatted snowflakes.

I was captivated by her 1970s handpainted plaster Nativity and the sparkling Christmas tree created with her vintage costume jewelry mounted on black velvet.

Now I love the red and green metal Tonka dump truck that was my dad’s when he was a boy, and watching Tatum K play with the plush singing snowman from Hallmark that Granny Lou gave Cooper when he was a baby.

I love our matching embroidered stockings that I painstakingly collected over the years, all lined up on our mantle.

And I wonder which traditions my children will remember the most fondly, and which ones they will carry on with their own families. Will they celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas and sing the song each night? Will they treasure my Willow Tree nativity? Will they roll out sugar cookies to deliver to their neighbors and make Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters and my monkey bread and spicy crawfish corn chowder only once a year?

I hope I get to experience traditions with my grown children and their families one day. I hope we laugh together and tell the same stories over and over. I hope they look back on their childhood with warm memories of a house filled with love and the presence of Jesus.

Christmas isn’t always sweet and magical, and not all the memories are good. Important moments are almost always impacted by the people we miss and those painful memories that have left a stain and a scar. But if we purpose ourselves to focus on the hope that is before us, we can rise above the hurts and disappointments and rest in the love of our Savior. He is making all things new, and the day is coming when the stories of Baby Jesus born in a stable will pale before the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace Himself.

Thank You Jesus for the promised joy that is coming.

PS. No puppies yet! Stay tuned…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Even When it’s Hard…

This week I’m thankful for the little stuff.

I’m thankful for a sleepy girl with tangled up hair crawling into my lap for snuggles. (And a beautifully healed lip/chin I might add).

For a beautiful box of the best tacos.

For a cozy sweater when the weather’s cool enough, even if I change into a tank top after lunch.

For a new vacuum that REALLY SUCKS. (Like it’s supposed to)

For a most realistic Leonardo Da Vinci, who was known for having the most captivating dimples of the 15th Century.

5th Grade Wax Museum

I’m thankful that I sold almost every single sign and ornament at the Barn Sale! Leftovers will be available Saturday at Vintage & Co Christmas Open House!

For the smell of roasting chicken.

For hot coffee that’s waiting for me when I wake up, and the first cup in the quiet stillness of the morning.

For hard lessons and good talks and God’s amazing grace that covers our shortcomings.

For a whole week off with my kiddos home from school.

I realized this week, this is the first time in 18 years that I have not attended a school Thanksgiving feast or program. The emotional mushpot that I am, I shed some tears, thinking of all my little Indians short, indigenous individuals, the same cute songs about turkeys and pies, and the well-loved costumes that we have used year after year.

But I’m thankful.

I’m thankful because it means my babies are growing up. That they got to do those special rights of passage when they were little, and that by God’s hand, now they are too big for them.

And thankful for the memories of so many sweet Thanksgivings gone by.

Just like the old adage, “is the glass half full or half empty,” everything is in our perspective. Thankful for the laundry because it means we have clothes to wear. Thankful for the mountain of dirty dishes because of the food that was on the plates. Thankful when the Word or the Spirit pierces my heart, because it reassures me that my heart has not turned to stone. Even thankful for the unspeakable pain that comes from grieving, because it proves how deeply we love.

We have to take the bitter with the sweet. And keep looking for the sweet in front of us. And remembering the sweet that was. And believe that sweet is coming.

Because He IS coming….

And we have to keep giving thanks, even when it’s hard.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalms 34:3-4)

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18-19)

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)

Giving Thanks

I am thankful:

~ for handwritten birthday lists. I’m gonna keep this one forever.

~ for the best Target sidekick.

~ for the first fire of the season.

~ for Gavin’s uniquely beautiful handcrafted art project. This boy LOVES TO CREATE!

~ for an awesome and terrifying endeavor: being the baker for a wedding. Am I am baker? No way! Do I do weddings? Guess again! Have I ever made and decorated 200 cupcakes? Not even close! But it was a labor of love and a fun project.

~ for a wonderful, life-giving afternoon spent with a dear friend. And for friends who you can call and rant to FOR AN HOUR just because you need to!

~ for in-home haircuts! And for Tatum K’s very first! 1 whole inch off the very tip of her Rapunzel-esque mane!

~ for the most hilarious food choices for our pups. Birdie has had a poor appetite recently, so dedicated-dog-dad Josh has been trying out new options. The names crack me up, but Birdie is definitely a fan!

~ for the most wonderful day kicking off our latest Gold Network of East Texas program: HERO Hangouts. We are scheduling various outings and get-togethers for our HERO kids and their families, and yesterday we took a group of 44 to Yesterland Farm in Canton, TX. It was the perfect fall day: glorious sunshine and crisp-but-not-too-cold weather.

What a joy to observe these incredible kids getting to be kids, laughing and riding rides with their parents and siblings. Parents got to know each other, and so did our cancer warriors.

During lunch several parents noticed a table of kids sitting together, various ages, all from different families. As we began to overhear their conversation, we all grew quiet.

“Have you ever had an IV? Mine went here.”

“Yeah, but I have a port.”

“Did you have a tumor? I had my tumor out when I was 3, and now I’m 15…”

What an amazing and rare gift for these brave, beautiful children to be able to sit down and speak freely with other kids who have had similar experiences. After many years of feeling alone and different, to be completely normal with peers that “get it.” There wasn’t a dry eye at the neighboring parent table. But thankfully the rest of the day was filled with innocent joy and laughter. And I loved getting to spend a wonderful day with my own family as well! Thank You Jesus for this ministry!

It’s November, and with November comes the Thankful Game. It’s been a family tradition for years, a daily group email to share what we are each thankful for. It’s a wonderful reminder to count our blessings. That’s really the whole point of this blog. I started it during the hardest, darkest, most frightening season of my life because I knew if I didn’t focus on thanking God, I would spiral straight down into a dark pit of hopelessness. Even though my life is so different now, nearly 8 years later, I’m still counting my blessings. Not because I’m so healthy and spiritual. No, it’s because I HAVE TO. That dark season knocked the wind out of me and changed me forever. At any given moment, I find myself again on the precipice of crippling fear and discouragement. Against my will, waves of anxiety drag me under. When I worry, I go straight to the worst case scenario. It’s so easy to find myself swallowed by self-destructive patterns and negativity. BUT GOD! He is always with me. He has never left. He was with me when cancer tried to steal my baby, destroy my family, and break my marriage. He’s been with me in every trial and heartbreak since then. He’s been guiding and protecting and refining and loving me every step of the way. And no matter what life looks like, He is worthy of praise. Even if all I can find to be thankful for is my cup of coffee, I have to thank Him. Because that thankfulness opens up the door for healing. There is more to be thankful for than we can ever even fathom, and we could never properly express appropriate gratitude for all He does for us.

But it’s still worth trying to.

At Yesterland Farm yesterday, Josh and I watched Sawyer climb a 30 foot rock wall. It took him a moment to select a spot and find his footing. Then he effortlessly scaled that tower, grasping and pushing himself triumphantly to the top. We just stood there, choking back tears, watching a carefree, normal, HEALTHY kid with no limitations. No one else could have imagined him as a frail, transparent infant or the limp little toddler unconscious after his 10th spinal tap. How can I possibly still allow myself to doubt my Father?

No matter what we face, He is worthy. He is good. Thank Him.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1)

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes].”(James 1:17)

Ask

I am thankful:

~ for healing. Thank you so much for all the calls, texts, messages, and most of all the prayers. My hand has healed incredibly quickly and is doing far better than I ever could have expected. I’m hoping to be back to painting this week.

~ for leftover steak for the perfect steak tacos.

~ for sweet finds on my camera roll like this…

~ for a new favorite. Colton has been trying to introduce us to the authentic Mexican cuisine from Rubys. He finally treated us for lunch this weekend and it was easily an instant favorite. Absolutely divine.

~ for the best kitchen helpers.

~ for 200 letters: edited, re-edited, printed, folded, stuffed, and stamped. It’s been quite a task, but I’m excited to mail out an update to friends who have supported Gold Network of East Texas. We have awesome things on our hearts for 2022. Can’t wait to share more.

~ for the teeniest, tiniest baby ladybug we have ever seen.

~ for cool rain and warm sunshine. I love them both.

~for the blessing of being able to get the groceries we need. This week it took three hours and four stores, but we got it done. Couldn’t do it without my best little helper.

~ for the first day cold enough to wear a sweater!

~ for my own personal baking challenge! I have the honor of baking cupcakes for a precious couple, and I tried out my recipes so they could come and have a cake tasting. I enjoyed creating some different flavors, and am now armed and ready for the task of baking and decorating 200 more!

~ for good news and answered prayer for two dear sisters each walking through their own hard hard battles.

~for a fresh breath of hope. Sometimes we pray so hard and so long that we wonder if God will ever hear or if things will ever change. I found myself face to face with my own unbelief…that I have started doubting God. And He washed over me afresh that He is always working. Breakthrough is coming. He hasn’t forgotten.

This week I’ve been thinking about what it means to ASK. I woke up Monday morning and my YouVersion Scripture of the day was Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Do we ask? I mean, REALLY ASK for what really matters? We bless our food and say our bedtime prayers and ask God to bless us when we need something. We lift up our friends when they are going through hard times, and we pray for peace in the midst of trouble. So maybe we do “ask”but do we DARE to ASK BIG? Do we ask that the cancer be gone? Do we ask for radical change? Do we ask that the blind would see again and that the prodigal would run back home? Somebody told me this week, “Ask for what you want.” DARE WE actually do that? Isn’t that greedy? Foolish? Naive? Presumptuous?

The thing is, we have a good and perfect Father who already knows what we need, what’s TRULY BEST for us. And because He’s a perfect Dad, we can ask Him ANYTHING without fear, knowing He will give us HIS BEST. That doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want, or even what we ask for. But we will get HIS BEST. So why not ASK? For in the faith, in the confidence, in the boldness that comes from asking, He continues to guide and refine our hearts, shaping our minds and desires to become more like His. We literally have NOTHING TO LOSE.

What’s your big ask? Do you dare?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3)

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Romans 8:32)

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (Psalms 84:11-12)

Chopped

I am thankful:

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

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

~for richly colored beautiful fresh flowers on my table.

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

~for Key lime pie for breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

Refocusing

I am thankful:

~ for simple days at home with Tatum K. As expected, I have not maintained the rigorous and creative homeschooling schedule that I had that first week. But we read books every day, play in the rain, and this week we had the sweetest picnic by a lake. I am treasuring this special time with my little spicy peanut. She is growing up way to fast, and I know I’ll never get these days back.

~ for a much-needed visit with a friend. “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)

~ for a couple G&W cuties headed to the Vintage & Co Fall Barn Sale. Jodi and her team curate the most charming and creative collection of collectibles and home and garden decor, and every sale is a new experience. If you’re local, don’t miss the sale October 13-16.

~ for a proud Mama moment, watching Zoe doing her very first Toastmaster speech at school.

~ for a favorite new tradition: Friday Night Lights – living room style! Thanks to modern technology, we are able to tune in Carthage high school football and cheer our heads off without leaving the house. Even Birdie is a fan!

~ for naps, glorious naps.

~ for the awe-inspiring StillBrave Foundation. Tattoo Tom built this foundation to honor his daughter Shayla, a bright and vivacious teenager stolen by cancer. An unapologetically outspoken childhood cancer advocate, he runs ultra-marathons to honor these amazing kids.

Unable to compete himself this year, a friend and childhood cancer survivor, Loren, set out to compete in the Moab 240 Endurance Run across the state of Utah, carrying with her the photos and names of 240 childhood cancer warriors. Sawyer is Mile 105.

It was emotional hearing Loren read Sawyer’s name. Even Sawyer choked up.

~ for a good old fashioned Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

~ for progress. Tiny progress is still progress.

~ for hope. Thank You Jesus, for the hope we have in You. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans‬ ‭5:5‬)

Thank You Lord, for shifting my eyes back to the simple little blessings everywhere, the blessings that are not really little at all. Your grace is sufficient. And You are so good.

Circumstances…they cycle up and down. This world is what it is.

But You…

Faithful.

Steady.

Sovereign.

Eternal.

Worthy.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Remind me. As many times as it takes, help me to refocus. Let me fix my eyes on You.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”(Hebrews 11:1)

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

““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)

““Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”” (Revelation 4:11)

The After

My thoughts this week are a little different, so bear with me…

September is over. It is truly the busiest season of my life. As you may well imagine, life with 9 crazy kids, 2 rowdy dogs, a nonprofit, and a small business is going to be busy year round. But Gold Network’s pivotal events in September and the daily seeking out of opportunities to promote Childhood Cancer Awareness Month have turned into a full time job.

And then, all of a sudden, the calendar page turns and September is over.

So many ask me, “Are you recovering? Getting rest finally? Are you glad it’s all finally done so your life can go back to normal?” And the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”

For many reasons, this September was exceptionally hard for me. It hit me this week how this whole abrupt halt after a season of intensity is such a mirror of the perceived “end” of our cancer journey.

During treatment, there is no letup. Clinic, port access, labs, chemo &/or radiation, therapies, in the car, fevers, ER, back in the car, isolation, neutropenia, lose the hair, regrow the hair, lose the hair again, spinal taps, scans, bone marrow biopsies, nausea, steroid rage, pain, insomnia, more fevers, more ER visits, more hospital stays, more chemo, another 200 miles on the interstate…. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s just what life looks like for the months or years on treatment.

People observe from the outside, “That looks really intense.“ “I don’t know how you do it.“ We don’t know either. But we don’t have a choice. (Although I DO actually know how we do it…His Name is JESUS.)

And for some, the cycle never ends. Some children have chronic or recurrent cancers that never go away. They stay on chemo indefinitely, and are closely monitored by specialists. Others have significant impairment from their cancer (or more often, their treatment) and they must endure life-altering long term therapies, surgeries, and/or disabilities.

And then there are the friends we’ve lost.

That pain never goes away. The loss never goes away. The hole never goes away.

But for many of us, cancer treatment comes to an end. There’s a party at the hospital, a bell is rung, and people change our label from “warrior” to “survivor.” Ding-dong-DONE! Everybody celebrates a hard-fought victory, and now we can all get on with our lives.

But is it really that simple? As simple as the turn of a calendar page?

I can only speak for myself. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) that simple for me. Treatment felt like being on a terrifying tightrope for three years, surrounded by a coaches and trainers and safety harnesses and a net on every side. And when treatment is over, all the safety gear and nets are packed up and put away and everyone goes home from the circus, but you’re left up there on the tight rope. Alone.

Some of “your people” aren’t your people anymore. There’s no more meal train, no more T-shirts, no more support bracelets. Everyone else’s life has moved on, and honestly, you’re GLAD for them! You wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, and you’re glad they can’t understand the silent screaming that still wakes you up at night. What if the cancer comes back? What if the doctors missed something? Where did that bruise come from? How do you know if his platelets are low? Does he look pale? You’re supposed to be trusting God, but you feel helpless and terrified. Not to mention how the most random “nothing” can send you spiraling and gasping for breath.

And what of the other casualties from this war that’s over-except-that-it’s-not? What’s the condition of your extended family? Your marriage? Your other kids? How are your finances? Did you take care of yourself while you were fighting for the life of your child?

All I’m trying to say is that it’s never really over. We march on because we have to. We turn the page of the calendar and put our yard signs back in the garage. The polka dots come off the bus, and the gold shoes go back on the shelf until next year.

Everybody’s walking through something. Everyone goes through their own personal refining fire and comes out changed. Not everybody walks with a limp that you can see. Some people suffer inside and you would never know it. So we have to be kind to one another. It’s OK if their healing process doesn’t look like yours. Not everybody can just “get over it”(whatever their “IT” is). Extend more grace than you think they deserve. Ask good questions. And then LISTEN. Instead of telling someone you’re going to pray for them, PRAY FOR THEM! Everyone is looking for the right place to take their broken pieces.

Love people well. Your people and other people’s people. And let’s help one another carry our broken pieces to Jesus.

I will give thanks to the Lord as long as I have breath in my lungs. He has never left me. In the crisis. In my questions. In my wrestling. In the waiting. In the after. He is FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:17-18)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Behind the Scenes

The week after Tyler Gold Run is a recovery week. Like a blood sugar crash after a sugar overdose. I’m so grateful for another great event, and for the world’s best team of volunteers. I’m also tremendously grateful that it’s DONE! This week has been thank you notes, social media posts, sorting event photos, closing out invoices, picking up race signs… Still BUSY, but behind-the-scenes busy. All the stuff that has to get done, but the stuff that no one else really knows about.

Everybody has their own personal behind-the-scenes.

The private prayer request you don’t share.

The little issues that add up, the inner struggles, the embarrassing circumstances, the pain that you can’t put into words. Maybe you feel awkward, alone, ashamed.

We all have our own STUFF we don’t bring up in general conversation.

BUT GOD…

One morning this week I sat in the wee hours with just my coffee and the Lord. My behind-the-scenes were weighing heavily on me, and I was talking to Him about it when finally I raised my head. I’m never up that early, and I couldn’t remember ever seeing the world so black. But piercing the darkness, were more stars than I’ve ever seen, certainly right here in town. Tiny flashes of light, too many to number. I was reminded, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalms 147:4)

And I knew that morning, at that moment, those stars were for me. I needed a physical picture of how infinite He is, of His majesty, of the vastness of His creation. I simultaneously felt so small and insignificant yet so very SEEN.

He made all those stars. But He also made me.

He is God of the universe and the God of my details.

He knows my needs and cares, even (and especially) the ones I can’t bring my lips to say out loud.

I don’t have a lot to say this week; I’m just overwhelmingly grateful to my sovereign Father who loves perfectly, in the big things and the small.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” (Psalms 147:5)

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” (Psalms 139:1-5)

Light

I am thankful:

~ for an low key uneventful Labor Day.

~ for a cute Homecoming “ask.”

~ for a great time sharing with the GCS 2nd graders. It’s so awesome that TWO SUPERHEROES, Sawyer and his HERO buddy Jase, are in the same grade and class, and the 2nd grade teachers are collaborating on a class project making posters to support their classmates and promote Tyler Gold Run. So proud of them all!

~ for a great volleyball week for Samantha. She got to play in Thursday’s games and they came away with a victory! Then this weekend was her first tournament. Although I was not able to attend, I had several moms taking pictures for me, and keeping me posted on how the team was doing. Sam had her first opportunity to serve, and did a great job! After a full day of play, GCS took second place in the tournament. She had a blast! So proud, and so glad she’s enjoying herself. It doesn’t seem like she should be this grown-up.

~ for the best helpers in the land. I love that my kids just jump right in on Gold Run activities. They all love to help and they know this is just what our family does in September. They have helped sort metals, carry boxes, model T-shirts, fill race bags… I pray no one reports me for breaking child labor laws.

This became a new favorite photo shoot location

~ for continued traction as we prepare for Tyler Gold Run ON SATURDAY!! I have canvassed the city, putting up signs and posters, asking for donations, and finishing up all the details. My mind is a frantically flashing ticker tape of items to check off my lists.

Numbers aren’t where I’d like them to be, but I know God is Lord of all, and we trust Him with the details and the outcome. It’s all His anyway! There’s still time to register and to spread the word, and we have many opportunities for volunteers as well. It’s going to be a wonderful day to remember, and you won’t be sorry you chose to be a part. www.tylergoldrun.com

~ thankful for faithful friends who pray. This week I have had multiple people reach out and encourage and/or pray for me. I’m thankful for the God who sees me, and the faithful saints who listen and obey His promptings. You never know but that you might be the answer to someone’s prayer today. Give us ears to hear, Lord.

~ thankful to have my WHOLE TRIBE together for dinner and for church. It’s been too long.

I’ve been running on low fuel this week. Low on energy. Low on grace. Anxious. Discouraged. My eyes on circumstances instead of the Savior.

That’s a good indication that my focus is off, and that I’m operating (poorly) in my own strength instead of trusting Jesus.

I needed to be reminded.

He is good.

He is RIGHT.

He is faithful.

His way is better than mine.

He is working when I can’t see.

He sees me.

He sees the ones I worry about.

And no matter what happens, all the above statements are STILL TRUE.

I sat with my coffee this morning and took this picture.

What a beautiful visual of light breaking through. It always does and it always will. Darkness comes back, even blots out the light. But inevitably, Light will always pierce the darkness and overtake it.

I can’t do everything. I can’t make everything go ok. I can’t fix all the problems or ensure good outcomes. But God.

He knows. He sees. He loves. HE WINS.

Whatever you’re walking through, whatever you’re asking for…don’t lose heart.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”(II Corinthians 4:6)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)