Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

~ for the great privilege to have the freedom to vote. Tatum K and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a friend and candidate. It was such a sweet time with my girl. And when we went inside to vote, she even got to cast my ballot!

~ for a fun and different sign challenge. A dear friend has opened a new birthday party venue, and she asked me to create a sign for her…probably A YEAR AGO! I had started it right away, but almost immediately developed a creative block. I can do lettering or paint solid colors blindfolded and asleep. But a bright, multicolored, whimsical piece was more like the paintings I did 20 years ago, when I used to paint name canvases for children’s rooms and colorful teachers’ chairs. But this week I finally got inspired, and laid down layer upon layer of blended color, then fine-tuned the lettering, and finally finished with all the tiny details and GLITTER! Such a fun project!

My poor dogs

~ for God’s provision and the Body of Christ in action. One afternoon, I was sitting in traffic at a long red light, totally zoning out, when a tap on my window startled me to death! A school dad had hopped out of his car to alert me that our rear bus tire was low. Like REALLY LOW.

I pulled over and sent a picture of it to Josh, who sent me straight to the tire shop. Not the afternoon I had planned: 4 of my school kids plus Tatum K plus one kiddo who had stayed home from school sick (and those two of course had no shoes on because they were not expecting to get out of the car) PLUS two extra kiddos I had for the afternoon! So that’s 9 of us basically filling EVERY SEAT of the waiting room! But what a miracle that we made it there – the mechanic found a 3 inch screw in my tire! They took great care of us, and we are so grateful for a good ending to an eventful afternoon.

~ thankful for another great hibachi dinner on the flat top. Colton tried his hand at it this time. Fried rice with veggies, chicken, and shrimp…delish!

~ for a great evening of worship and teaching at a local women’s conference. I was invited by a friend, and several ladies were going from our church, but I really battled whether I actually wanted to go. My anxiety always flares up when I have to get out of my comfort zone in social settings, and I rarely attend any event that takes me away from my husband and kids. I just like to be home with my people. But God just keep drawing me, and I knew I was supposed to push past my comfort, and that I was supposed to go. I sat in my car for several long minutes before I worked up the courage to go inside, and endured some awkwardness as I entered the crowded foyer filled with groups of ladies chatting. My heart wedged somewhere between my throat and my armpit. But I found some friends to sit with, and when worship began, I closed my eyes tightly and turned my focus to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Almighty who made me and loves me unwaveringly as His child. And I was swept into the Throne Room. The teaching that followed was powerful, convicting, and inspiring. I left feeling awakened and challenged. What a gift.

~ for a fun, early morning cheering Josh on at the Fresh 15K race. We parked at the halfway point until he ran by, and then made our way to the finish line to cheer him in. So proud of him!

I’ve been pretty open here with my personal struggle with anxiety. It’s been a dark and ugly battle, crippling at times. But I am able to say with great joy, I see a brightening light at the end of this very long and lonely tunnel. I have heard the phrase over and over in my mind recently, “coming out of the dark.” I’m so grateful to feel a little stronger, a little lighter, and a little more capable. But I know that no matter how I feel or how I have ever felt, the Lord has walked with me faithfully all along. In my weakness, He is strong. He pours through all the gaping holes in me, and uses me even though I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give. What an awesome God we serve!

Whatever you find yourself walking though, whether you feel yourself coming out of the dark or smack dab in the middle of it, be encouraged. He’s behind you and before you and on every side. And darkness won’t last forever.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,”(Psalms 107:13-15)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” (Micah 7:7-8)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1)

Wonder

I am thankful:

~ for a week full of warm holiday smells: cinnamon and sweet potatoes, cranberries and cedar, cloves and pumpkin.

~ for a successful, if INTENSELY STRESSFUL, first attempt deep frying a turkey. We have heard so many horror stories of fires and explosions, so we had the fire extinguisher at the ready. After a multiple generous injections of creole butter, and a 50 minute bath in boiling peanut oil, we had a gloriously golden brown, crispy skinned bird! It was delicious!

Fire extinguisher at the ready

~ for a lovely Thanksgiving with all my kids together. We enjoyed spending the days laughing and stuffing our faces with family, complete with our favorite traditions, dancing the chicken dance and competing fiercely in the Pumpkin Olympics before the reigning Pumpkin Queen. It was a day of feasting and thanking the Lord for His faithfulness. There were beloved faces missing from around our table, but we did find comfort knowing they were together at the best celebration of all.

Pumpkin Olympics
Chicken Dance

~ for pumpkin pie for breakfast.

~ for Round 2 of the festivities, this time at our house. We pulled out all the leftovers and watched the broadcast of the Carthage Bulldogs playoff game. Sadly they did not come away with the win, but the fellowship was top notch.

~ for coconut cream pie for breakfast.

~ for a wonderfully successful Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa this season! I sold out of 2 restocks of ornaments and all but 3 signs. Thank you for supporting our small business!

~ for cherry pie for breakfast.

~ for the start of our holiday decorating. It’s so exciting to pull out the tubs and bags and get out all the Christmas greenery and sparkles. I did a quick little upcycle with two trash finds today. I cut off the top of a rusted old steamer trunk and dry brushed it with some white paint for a “new” tree base.

And then a salvaged headboard became a new sign for our mantle. I don’t often make a sign that I get to keep, so this one is a treasure.

Josh did a fantastic job on the lights on the house, braving yet again his aversion to heights. We’ve got a long way to go, burned out lights, rearranging and ornaments to hang, but it was a good start and is looking cheerful and festive. I’ve always felt like this house was just MADE for Christmas.

Even Bear is ready! Birdie, not so much. She is expecting puppies in the next week or so. Poor girl is tired and uncomfortable.

I love watching the holidays through the eyes of my children. The awe and wonder. The unfiltered joy. I’m not sure when that starts to change, but for most of us, it has at some point. We are impatient with the long lines at the stores and the bumper to bumper traffic. We are irritated when what we want is not in stock or if the shipping isn’t overnight and free. Parties are obligations we’d really rather skip and the preparations seem a hassle instead of a blessing.

I want to step back into the wonder.

I want to delight in the twinkle of the lights and how they are reflected in my kids’ eyes.

I want to look at my Grandma’s decorations and remember them in her home and how special she always made me feel.

I want to prepare my heart for the Advent, and eagerly await the coming of my Lord.

I want to look past the irritations and the stress and and the disappointments and the hard, and hold fast to the unsurpassable JOY that is mine.

Lord, help me find true rest in You, in the joy of Your presence and the freedom of surrender. Let me trust You with it ALL, especially the pieces that I think I can’t let go of.

Thank you for reading, for choosing to follow along with our family’s story. I’m always so encouraged by your kind words.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalms 59:16-17)

“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Full

I am thankful:

~ for a full week: as you can imagine, Rucker weeks are usually full (just by our sheer numbers), but this week was even full-ER than our standard full.

~ for quiet moments with the Lord in the morning. Lighting a candle makes it feel like a special occasion. Love it when Tater wants to snuggle in and “study” with Mama.

~ for April Fool’s Day aka “April Tuesday” aka “Jolly Joke Day.” Sawyer is captivated with jokes/pranks/magic tricks/funny videos, so this holiday is his sweet spot. His love of gags challenges me to find creative ways to have fun with the kids, and this year I was inspired! Bugs in their cereal, jello instead of orange juice, veggie straws hidden inside their sandwiches at lunch,

Sawyer (Mr. Jolly Joke Day) went to school with a forehead injury – a mixture of BBQ sauce and marinara
Tatum K was NOT AMUSED
But she forgave me

and beautifully iced “cake pops” (only they were actually brussels sprouts).

We laughed all day. The perfect end of the day was a game of Bean-boozled. Don’t be FOOLED: I’m SO NOT a fun mom by nature. I’m the do-your-chores, why’d-you-leave-your-socks-on-the-table, wipe-that-look-off-your-face mom. I’m not as patient as I should be, and certainly not NEARLY as patient as people like to assume I am. I get easily overwhelmed by the relentless needs of so many, by the firing of questions that never take a break, and more days than not, I usually feel like I’ve missed the mark. BUT GOD. It was fun to be the fun mom for a change.

~ for a wonderful turnout from the community at our church Easter egg hunt. Lots of new faces and old friends.

~ for hula hoops. Not just for hula anymore!

~ and for a lovely day today celebrating the greatest gift of all, the resurrection of our Savior, who conquered death and set before us eternal life. Carrying on my love of traditions, we made our favorite Resurrection Rolls for breakfast, reading the Scriptures together and telling the story of Jesus’ burial and the empty tomb. They are SO DELICIOUS! I’ll link the recipe here.

The empty tomb!

The kids loved opening their Easter baskets, and it was a blessing to all be together for church.

Then a festive afternoon with 22 cousins + the best smoked brisket of all time + more candy than anyone should ever have. And yes, we still do the matching outfit thing. They don’t fight me on it. They know they will lose. I get my picture, and then they are free to get comfortable and go chill. But they absolutely know: The picture. Is. Happening.

I’m exhausted and thankful. I’m so thankful for my family, and for the incredible people God has braided into all our lives. When I think about what Jesus did for us, and what He has done for me personally, I can’t wrap my mind around it.

It’s ok that I’m not perfect, that I’m not always patient, and that I still don’t have it all together.

Jesus loved me before I was ever born.

He knew my name, and He knew the path He had prepared for me.

He knew all my flaws and failures, and the gaping holes in my faith.

He saw me.

He saw the debt that I owed. And He paid it all.

For all of us.

“IT IS FINISHED.”

So I’m free. I’m resurrected.

And it is well.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

This powerful video gets me every time.

https://youtu.be/yzqTFNfeDnE

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6)

“He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).” (John 20:15-16)

Free

I am thankful:

~ for more STICKERS!! So much fun! Thank you Grandmommy!

~ for two sweet, silly mop dogs. They bring us so much joy. They are crazy about swimming, and they love our garden because they think we are growing balls for them (tomatoes).

~ for Gavin’s very first job: feeding the neighbors’ dog for a few days. He was very responsible and did a great job. With the money he earned, he bought a new skateboard. So proud of him!

~ for a sweet visit with our beloved Miss Lindsay and Baby Coby. How is this beautiful lovebug already 1???

~ for Josh to have the opportunity to visit his big brother Alan on his 50th birthday. We don’t live close enough to visit as often as we like, and there were a lot of reasons why this trip was super special. We did not take the whole Tribe, but thanks to modern technology, we got to join in the fun and sing Happy Birthday.

~ for the most delicious cookies! Served WARM and bigger than Tatum K’s face! Crumbl, you definitely have seven more fans!

~ for the biggest, most glorious elephant ears.

~for our covered patio which allows for the perfect shelter from which to watch and listen to the splendor of a summer thunderstorm. I took these photos this evening.

~ for ANOTHER big week for Sawyer! First, another lost tooth. This time he just ran in from playing outside with a bloody mouth, “MAMA!!!! I PULLED OUT MY TOOTH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!” And then this weekend, he finally showed us that he was ready to swim, like FOR REAL swim without a floatie. It’s so completely stressful for Mom and Dad. You know how all newly swimming kids look in the water – like they are absolutely drowning. It is hard not to panic every time he plunges straight to the bottom, because he has 0% fear. But he just kicks and paddles and thrashes with all his might and pops up like a little cork. You have never seen a kid exploding with more joy and pride. It is truly overwhelming to watch another miracle come out of him every single day. BI can’t even explain it. BUT GOD!

~ for remarkable grace and second chances and third chances… If, for example, I decide I want to learn a new language, I don’t just suddenly wake up and know it, just out of the sheer desire to know it. Change doesn’t just come from desire. It comes from practice, and it’s just like praying for patience: God doesn’t just miraculously gift you with beautiful patience, but instead allows uncomfortable situations that would try any saint. So ASK ME how my week was after making the proclamation that I was going to LOVE LAVISHLY. I think my loving muscles were in need of some exercising.

One morning, the kids were particularly at each other from the moment they got up. They were even bickering during Bible time about whose turn it was to read the Scriptures, or sighing loudly in annoyance if someone missed a word or lost their place. By the end of it, I was pretty much as frustrated as they were. So I talked to them about their murmuring and complaining, just like the Israelites when God was in the midst of leading them to the promised land. I told them, “This is the family He has chosen for you, and we’re GOING TO give thanks instead of gripe.” And I made each one of them pray for each of their siblings. And something BROKE. Whatever was clouding the atmosphere in our home rolled away. The children laid hands on and prayed the most tender, loving, and sincere prayers for their brothers and sisters. They cried, and particularly amazing to me, each one of them prayed for each other to be a good mom or dad. And then, on their own without prompting, they all laid hands on and prayed for me. It was the sweetest, sweetest time that I will never forget.

~ for a fun time celebrating July 4. It admittedly took some concerted effort to redeem the day. Fourth of July has always been such a fun and festive holiday for us. We’ve always traveled to spend the day with family, swimming, grilling, going to a fireworks show or popping our own. The quintessential Americana celebration. Obviously, things are so different this year. No trips. All fireworks cancelled. There has been so much unrest and turmoil going on “out in the world” that the kids know very little about, but they still feel the unease in the air. And they’ve been disappointed by various cancellations and “no’s” over and over since March. But Josh and I had the same mission in mind this weekend: to make the best of our time together and make it fun for them. We got some new pool floats and goggles. Red, white, and blue juice pouches (MAJOR treat). Roasted hotdogs in the fire pit. Spent the whole day in the pool. Baked and decorated a flag cake. Let the Littles stay up way past their bedtime so they could enjoy swimming with the backyard and pool lit up at night. We said “yes” a LOT more than we said “no.” It was truly a wonderful day. Not because we did anything grand. But because we spent it together, living intentionally and loving lavishly.

There’s been so much turmoil and division about literally EVERYTHING lately, it’s like tiptoeing through a minefield to talk about ANYTHING. Many people are concerned and fired up that their rights are being taken away, or that the future holds many injustices and unreasonable controls being imposed on all of us. I’m one of THE LEAST political people you will ever meet, and not a huge fan of any great debate. I’m often on the naive side and I don’t even comprehend a lot of the issues. I’m definitely trying to do the work to educate myself so I can A) know what I believe and B) answer the inevitable hard questions my kids ask. But as unsure as I am about many issues and policies, I am sure of one thing.

I AM FREE.

Christ died to set me free. I am free from my sin and my former broken life. I’m free to love and serve Him and the family He has given me. I’m free to love my enemies and free to forgive just as I have been forgiven. No one can take my rights away if I willingly lay them down to better love my neighbor and to count others more important than myself. And my rights as an heir to Christ live inside me. And that’s where Jesus lives and He will crush the head of anyone who tries to come into His house and try to push Him or His Child around.

So no matter what my eyes see in this world gone mad, I’m gonna rest in that.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? … Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “F OR Y OUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; W E WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31, 35-39)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)