Quietly Grateful

I am thankful:

~ for quite possibly the greatest milestone and the most breathtaking upgrade to our property to date:

A POTTY!

We have experienced varying degrees of ROUGHING IT over the last 8 months, and I could not be more grateful for this glorious convenience!

~ for the sweetest puppy eyes! They are growing every day.

~ for a special 15th birthday for our special Sam girl.

Samantha is such a joy. My right hand around the house, die-hard Cowboys fan with her Dad (boo for tonight’s game!), a sucker for EVERY Hallmark Channel romance, and in love with all things horse/country/cowgirl. It is incredible seeing her growing into the bright and beautiful young woman God has ordained her to be. She enjoyed her homemade cranberry orange muffin breakfast, Whataburger lunch, and crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and baked her own birthday cake: classic yellow with chocolate icing. Where did our little Stinky Girl go?

~ for another successful puzzle completion, this one a gift from Colton!

~ for a great opportunity for Cooper, sharing with middle schoolers during chapel as a part of his senior year internship.

~ for a really cool project underway with my wonderful husband. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the opportunity to work with our stash of gorgeous reclaimed wood, so I’m totally in love. And my sweetheart is so patient with me, and so talented at bringing my unconventional ideas and imaginings into reality. He’s amazing. I drive him nuts.

Just feeling quietly grateful these days. So thankful for this season. We are busy. We work hard. Our hands and our hearts are full. God is so good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (Psalms 5:11)

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalms 5:3)

Never Stop

I am thankful:

~ for one good week completed with Birdie’s sweet pups. If you’ve been here a while, you know puppy season is an intense one for me. It means round the clock observation, making sure everyone gets nursed and cleaned, and no one gets accidentally crushed. Birdie is a great mama, but she needs a little help with 10 pups! I sleep on the floor beside them for a full three weeks to make sure we don’t have any accidents. They are precious, but the commitment is no joke!

~ for Elsa noodle soup when my little missy was not feeling good. It was just what she needed! Who knew!?

~ for lots of laughs as I have gone round and round with some (nameless) members of my family who claim that I completely made up the concept of a colorful cake with a plastic baby baked in it. Sorry fam, I DID NOT concoct the tradition of the Mardi Gras King Cake! It’s really a thing!

~ for an awesome, HIGHLY ANTICIPATED, and LOOOONG AWAITED addition to the barn: a back door! So excited as this giant project continues to take shape.

~ for my sweet and thoughtful husband who SURPRISED ME by calling in dinner for me when he had to be out of town for work.

~ for Sawyer’s first basketball game. What a hoot! It’s his first time to play (as well as most of his teammates) and they are all learning as they go. So fun to watch him skipping up and down that court, playing his heart out. It never ceases to blow my mind to see Sawyer living a full and normal life after all he has been through and all the obstacles he has overcome. BUT GOD! God is so good. I will never stop praising Him for his mercy and protection; and I never stop testifying of the miracles I have witnessed with my own eyes.

It’s been a good week to count my blessings and rest in His goodness.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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)

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalms 106:1)

Present

I am thankful.

Like truly thankful.

I heard such an encouraging message this morning at church that both challenged and inspired me about living IN THE PRESENT.

Not looking back with longing or regret at what was or what might have been.

Not looking forward with qualifiers and unrealistic expectations that we keep hoping will finally fill the unfillable holes in us.

But loving and serving and living and obeying right where God has us today.

Releasing a past that we cannot change to a merciful, redemptive Father. And trusting a future that we cannot control to a lovingly sovereign Savior.

What if we really lived that way? What if we didn’t allow ourselves to be crippled by looking back or paralyzed by imagining what’s around the corner?

So I give thanks…

~ for 10 healthy puppies.

~ for a successfully conquered new family puzzle.

~ for a beautiful wedding.

~ for sweet moments when the kids are enjoying each other.

~ for a delicious chicken salad.

~ for a silly little girl who always makes me laugh.

~ for a beautiful clear afternoon for building a fence with my love.

~ for a full quiver of children, a Christ-centered marriage, for the ability to dream and to work hard, and that we have everything we need (and then some).

The present is a beautiful place to be. Don’t miss it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

(Want to listen to the sermon? https://youtube.com/channel/UCZiHTpRl7KvcXVpA8IUieHg)

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:27, 33-34)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

Present

I am thankful.

Like truly thankful.

I heard such an encouraging message this morning at church that both challenged and inspired me about living IN THE PRESENT.

Not looking back with longing or regret at what was or what might have been.

Not looking forward with qualifiers and unrealistic expectations that we keep hoping will finally fill the unfillable holes in us.

But loving and serving and living and obeying right where God has us today.

Releasing a past that we cannot change to a merciful, redemptive Father. And trusting a future that we cannot control to a lovingly sovereign Savior.

What if we really lived that way? What if we didn’t allow ourselves to be crippled by looking back or paralyzed by imagining what’s around the corner?

So I give thanks…

~ for 10 healthy puppies.

~ for a successfully conquered new family puzzle.

~ for a beautiful wedding.

~ for sweet moments when the kids are enjoying each other.

~ for a delicious chicken salad.

~ for a silly little girl who always makes me laugh.

~ for a beautiful clear afternoon for building a fence with my love.

~ for a full quiver of children, a Christ-centered marriage, for the ability to dream and to work hard, and that we have everything we need (and then some).

The present is a beautiful place to be. Don’t miss it.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

(Want to listen to the sermon? https://youtube.com/channel/UCZiHTpRl7KvcXVpA8IUieHg)

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:27, 33-34)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

New

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful Christmas break, celebrating Jesus and enjoying our family traditions.

~ for a first-time-ever Christmas trip! We surprised the kids with a trip to a cabin in Branson, Missouri right after Christmas. We had never been before, so it was brand new for all of us. Sadly, our two oldest were not able to join us (growing up is tough!). And even though it was a 9 hour-one-way drive, we made incredible memories all along the way!

~ and to safely make it back home BEFORE Birdie has her pups (yep! Expecting ANY DAY NOW!)

We also made it back JUST IN TIME to host a dozen or so teenagers for New Year’s Eve out at the farm.

It’s been a good year.

A year of radical change.

A year of listening to the Lord and trusting where He is leading our family. A year of letting go of the expected and waiting expectantly for a new chapter to unfold.

A year of literally building a new life.

And now we stand upon a path laid out before us, and we say “YES!”

Yes, Lord, we will go. Yes, Lord, we trust You. Yes, Lord, we will lay down our plans, desires, dreams, and expectations and submit ourselves to YOUR PLAN ALONE.

This is not “our year.”

It’s His.

May we love like Him; forgive like Him; serve like Him. May we look more like Him at the close of 2023 than we do today.

Happy New Year, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

““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)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. 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)

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)

Most Wonderful Time…or not

I am thankful:

~ for lots of sweet moments this week…

Out of nowhere. NOWHERE. For no reason at all, relentless waves of anxiety violently attacked. I felt fiery stabs through my heart and hundreds of pounds of weight pressing on my chest forcing the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. Silent tears began to well as the radio began to mock, “it’s the most won-der-ful tiiiiime of the yeeeeear…” And I knew even in that moment that I’m not alone in this. So many people are hurting and struggling right now. The sensory overload. Family drama. Money stress. Social anxiety. Loneliness. Loss. Anxiety sucks. PERIOD.

BUT GOD.

He truly is Emmanuel, God With Us.

EL ROI, the God Who Sees

Yahweh-Jireh, LORD will provide.

He is faithful in the good. He is faithful in the hard. He is faithful in that agonizing divide between the good and the hard.

Whether your week has been great or the best part of your week is knowing that it’s almost over, HE IS FAITHFUL.

Count your blessings.

Be somebody’s blessing.

And keep on trucking.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”” (Genesis 16:13)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalms 119:114)

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24)

Awe

I am thankful:

~ for a week of good eats: delicious homemade burritos with fresh white-corn-jalapeño salsa,

breakfast date with Josh and Tatum K,

ooey-gooey, cheesy, decadent quesadillas from Ruby’s,

and for the rare joy of finding my ultimate favorite (but NEVER IN STOCK) chips! Haven’t found them in months. I downed TWO BAGS bags this week!

~ for our sweet dogs. Bear and Birdie are smart and funny, and add so much love to our family.

~ for a great time at the Vintage & Co “Christmas in the Country” Sale. Giddyup & Whoa was a featured vendor with stacks of handpainted woodburned wood slice ornaments and one massive reclaimed wood statement piece. I love painting for Christmas, and this is a favorite sale. Still have a few ornaments left if you need to snap some up for teacher gifts or for your own tree.

~ for the cutest cheerleaders you ever did see.

~ for a fun school event for Zoe who dressed as Queen Elizabeth I for the 5th Grade Historical Living Wax Museum. Especially thankful for a friend who came in clutch with a dress when I realized the night before that I couldn’t find our box of queen costumes!

~ for a proud moment as Sawyer received a chapel award for the Character Quality of RESPECT. So thankful for his loving servant’s heart. (He was NOT IMPRESSED when his mama burst into R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But how could I not????)

~ for Tatum K’s very first Thanksgiving Feast at school. Her smile sparkled and those blue eyes just shined with joy.

~ for Sawyer and his best buds having a ball encouraging classmates to participate in Operation Christmas Child.

~ for lots of progress on the farm. The fence is growing,

the sheet metal continues to go up,

and we’ve got the propane heater and the TV running so we can battle the cold and celebrate the most special moments together – like double decker Cowboys + Chiefs victories today! Let’s Go!!

Days are flying by. How can it be Thanksgiving week already? I find myself rushing things along one minute, and then dragging my feet the next. The ever-present delicate tension of giddyup and whoa. I resist change, but everything’s always changing. I want to savor time with my babies, but they’re not babies anymore.

We have to hold on for the ride.

But God.

He is faithful and good. Sometimes I’m excited about what He’s doing, and sometimes I don’t understand at all. I don’t get His timing, I wonder about His methods. And sometimes I think He missed it completely, even though I know He knows. But then come those rare moments…those moments when He cracks open a window to let a glimpse of His glory out…and the doubts melt away. I stand in awe. This loving and mighty and merciful and beautiful and terrifying Father is perfectly writing this story, and allowing us to enter into the process with Him. What a gift.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”(Psalms 33:3-8)

“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.” (Psalms 65:5-8)

A Full Week of Thanks

I am thankful:

~ for a lovely lunch with a dear friend and a beautiful salad. So very thankful for the incredible ways that God brings crucial people into our lives when we need them the most.

~ for progress on the farm! Love seeing Josh’s fence begin to stretch across the property.

~ for a husband who brings me tacos.

~ for wonderful neighbors. Although they are a little on the shy side, we get along great.

~ for the great privilege of having the freedom to cast my vote. And for my voting buddy.

~ for a new batch of hand painted Giddyup&Whoa woodburned ornaments headed to the Vintage & Co “Christmas in the Country” Sale this week. Grateful for the opportunity to get creative. I’ve missed it.

~ for an amazing evening representing Gold Network of East Texas at a benefit concert hosted by our friend, Derek Holland. His 60 Feet 6 Foundation is dedicated to helping military veterans and kids with cancer. I love how kind he is to Sawyer, and how clear it is that he really cares. Casey Donahew put on a fantastic show, and the kids had a blast. And pretty proud of Sawyer for bravely speaking to HUNDREDS of people from onstage!

~ for a special weekend celebrating our niece, Jackie, and her fiancé, Nick, at the most beautiful wedding shower. So grateful to be a part of such a fun and loving family, and for the godly heritage we are blessed with.

~ and to continue the LoveFest, later that same day we got to attend the wedding of a young couple from church. It was a lovely outdoor service, but SO SO COLD thanks to the abrupt Texas cold snap! Thankful for blankets and propane heaters and DANCING and lots and lots of laughter to keep us all warm.

~ for a warm and delicious pumpkin muffin that was my dinner tonight.

Thank You Lord for the big and the small gifts. Thank You for children who are actually listening more than you realize. Thank You for glimpses of fruit. Thank You for always showing up.

And to all of you who read each week, for whatever reason I never quite understand, thanks for caring about our family. It’s the season of giving thanks. If you’re not used to it, now’s a great time to start. Begin exercising your gratitude muscles, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly your perspective begins to change.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms 23:6)

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:31-34)

Love Like Jesus

I am thankful:

~ I’m always thankful for November 1 for two reasons. #1) I am NOT a Halloween fan, so I’m thankful when the holiday and its decor and streaming video choices finally go back into hibernation. And for a favorite extended family tradition: The Thankful Game. Inaugurated by Susan K, aka Grandmommy, we share something we are thankful for each day via group email. Such a blessing to encourage one another to look for the blessings all around us! And I love how excited the kids are to participate.

~ for every quiet moment, however brief, that I get to spend just plain enjoying our farm. Usually we are hustling: cleaning, clearing, building, hauling. We are DOING THE WORK. But sometimes I sit with my coffee in the rocking chair. Or sometimes it’s a quick snuggle in the hammock with a kitty. But I just love to stare at the wide open sky and the massive trees and just breathe it all in.

~ for an exciting project started – the kids want goats, and we can’t have goats without a FENCE! With the right tools and a few hours of back breaking labor, Josh has made some good progress.

~ for a romantic date with my Love. A trip to Lowe’s and out to the farm to look at his fence at sunset. Not a joke.

~ for another very special tradition: GCS Jr.Kindergarten Noah’s Ark Parade and our tiger costume. The tiger costume was purchased for Cooper’s Noah’s Ark Parade back in 2008, and has since been worn by every subsequent Rucker Jr. Kindergartener. And it was finally Tatum K’s time to shine! Love those bright blue eyes shining on her special day with her class. Where did this big girl come from?

~ for God’s protection during a crazy scary storm. The lightning strikes were intense and CLOSE, and a number of tornadoes were all over East Texas, but thankfully we experienced no damage. Prayers for all those who did not fare so well.

~ for a perfect fall day for a Gold Network ETX HERO Hangout. These quarterly outings are for childhood cancer kids, siblings, and parents; just a carefree day that has nothing to do with cancer. We took a group of 46 to Yesterland Farm, the most charming and festive local theme park. Kids and parents alike screamed on rollercoasters, launched apple cannons, rode ponies, and navigated a corn maze. Watching smiles of joy on these faces is indescribable. It was a perfect day. So thankful for the mission and ministry of Gold Network, and these incredible warrior families.

~ for hot, salty sweet fresh popped kettlecorn.

~ for a great evening at the farm for a tasty dinner and good football. Succulent BBQ chicken sliders and the most delicious buttery apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and homemade salted caramel sauce. The perfect combination.

Definitely focusing my heart on gratefulness this season. When things are hard, I’m trying to take a deep breath and ask the Lord for my part to play. Am I being patient? Gracious? Am I loving like Jesus? Did I take the initiative to speak the kind word? Did my tendency toward iron justice overshadow an opportunity to show Christ’s mercy? I feel like I fail every single time.

BUT GOD.

I’m so thankful for His mercy toward me. I know who I was, who I am without Him.

I’m thankful that although I’m a million miles from perfect, I’m being perfected day by day. I’m thankful that even though my capacity to love falls short time after time, the God who is Love personified LIVES IN ME.

He’s just so good, y’all. Right where I’m at.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (1 John 4:15-17)

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:10-12)