Free

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

~ for two sweet, silly mop dogs. They bring us so much joy. 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 that 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! 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. I 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 allows 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 talk 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 gonna 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 took some concerted effort to redeem the day. Fourth of July has always 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 think 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 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)

Love Lavishly

I am thankful:

~ the most joyous news of all is that Sawyer remains cancer free! Glory hallelujah! We had his quarterly oncology ACE (survivor) visit on Wednesday. You can read my post about clinic day on CaringBridge or Facebook.

~ for such a big week for Sawyer: not only did he go to the hospital and draw his own blood, but he lost his very first tooth! It’s so crazy to me that he faces these giant mountains with such courage, but yet he’s still a normal little boy. He’s just so sweet, he’s been worrying over his loose teeth for months. Sometimes he’s so eager to hurry up and lose them, and other times he has all these little worries, “Will I still be handsome with a hole in my smile? Will I REALLY only be able to eat soup?” But we had a long talk about it one morning with lots of hugs and reassurance, and by the end of that day, that little sucker was ready to come out! I was surprised and impressed that Sawyer was brave and excited and let me pull it out for him. (For the mighty Sawyer the Warrior is as brave as you will ever find when it comes to hospitals and fighting cancer, but he is a standard 6 year old weenie about skinned knees and paper cuts and accidental mustard on his sandwich). But that tooth came right out and you have never seen a boy so proud. He squealed with joy and pride! And now he carries it with him everywhere!

~ for the kindness of our local police officers. We live close to the station, so they regularly frequent our street, and are faithful to stop and say hi and pass out stickers. I love the opportunity for these hardworking servants to be greeted with cheers and smiles. We LOVE our first responder friends!

~ for a stay-at-home date with my Love. Thanks to his Father’s Day giftcard from Colton, we enjoyed a feast from Texas Roadhouse. It was nice to enjoy a treat together, even if I had a little monkey that hung on my neck the whole time AND ate my entire sweet potato.

~ for the bright crimson cardinals that dart across our neighborhood and chatter in our trees.

~ for succulent pork loin slow cooked all day, and the creamiest mashed potatoes made in the instant pot. Anybody have any favorite instant pot recipes to share? I am learning how to use it, but haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

~ for the over abundant blessing of our home. Josh and I had prayed for the Lord to lead us to the right place for our family 3 years ago, and we have worked hard to transform it to meet the needs of our Tribe. We are so humbled and thankful to have this comfortable, beautiful haven that we love so much. With all that’s going on, this is pretty much where we spend all our time. I really don’t go anywhere, and I’m so thankful to be so safe and more than comfortable, nestled in with my people. Sometimes it’s crowded, but it’s bursting with life and love.

~ for a new puzzle, genuinely challenging, but still conquered by the kids in ONE DAY!

~ for Cooper having an awesome week at camp. We got to see pictures while he was away, and it looks like the most fun ever. He came home bleary-eyed, exhausted, and exhilarated. But man, I had forgotten about the blistering stench of a week’s worth of camp laundry. That is no joke.

~ for online church broadcasts. It is such a blessing to stay connected with our church body even though we are not attending in person. We love our church so much. And I love that both Cooper and Carson Grace have the opportunity and the desire to serve on the audio/visual and the worship teams. Cooper is behind the scenes helping make sure everything looks and sounds great, and the kids are so excited to see their big sister on the screen! They think she’s SO FAMOUS!

~ for fun painting projects. Finished 3 orders this week, and 2 more to go. So grateful to have steady orders coming in.

I even got to paint for myself. The big circle below is a weathered table top I found on the side of the road last year. I knew when I picked it up that one day it would be a showstopper of a sign, but I didn’t know where it would fit or what I was put on it. Quite some time ago, we had heard a sermon where our pastor used the phrase, “love lavishly,” referencing 1 John 3, and that phrase resonated with Josh deeply. He later said he knew that’s what he wanted on our sign.

Ever since sketching the phrase on the sign with chalk, I’ve been chewing on it in my mind. What does that really mean? To love generously, excessively, more than we deserve. We are wayward, rebellious, and self serving, yet the Maker of heaven and earth calls us His daughters and sons. His love knows no bounds. By adorning my wall with these two words, I am issuing a challenge to myself that I will be reminded of daily.

Love beyond the minimum. Love more that is expected or deserved. Love radically, excessively, hilariously, recklessly.

Because God loves me that way. He gave me the love of a husband beyond anything I ever could have wished for. He blessed me with a family larger than any crazy dream I could have come up with. He took me out of the pile of garbage that was my life before I knew Him and made me clean and new and His. Just like I picked up a dirty, broken table, unable to function as it should, cast off on the side of the road, and saw its beauty and potential as something new.

I can’t love like Him. I’m still a mess. I’m FAR too selfish, too short-tempered, too tired. But God. Christ IN ME can love lavishly. Jesus’s Love can pour through the holes in me and love my kids and my husband and my neighbors and my enemies like that.

I’m glad it is painted BIG where I can be reminded every day.

Let’s love lavishly this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)

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

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Raise a Hallelujah

~ for Happy Mail. So fun to open up your very own mail. Especially when it’s full of STICKERS!!! Thank you Miss Linda!

~ for Colton treating me to my very first Freddy’s burger. I’m a fan!

~ for the next step in our ongoing kitchen remodel project. Our tile arrived Wednesday around lunch, Josh got home about 7, and we got right to work! I love knocking projects out with my Love, and we both love putting the sweat equity into our home. Later in the week, our replacement window was installed. Goodbye to the smeary windows that never came clean because of the broken seal between the panes. The new window is bright and giant and so clear it looks like there’s no glass in it! I am absolutely certain that it will never be this clean again, but I will enjoy it while it lasts!

~ for a special day with a really special girl. Kora, Gavin, and Zoe’s biological big sister Grace had her birthday this weekend, and what she wanted most was to see her little siblings. Is that not the sweetest thing? Grace and her family moved several years ago, so visits are few and far between. But what a joy to spend the day with her. We ate lunch, swam, painted rocks together, and baked cookies. It meant the world to all 4 of them. A one day visit is never long enough, so there were lots of tears at “goodbye,” but still, it blesses me to see the genuine love and bond they share. Adoption is so beautiful. But it is inextricably tied up with loss and pain. My babies had a life before me. My motherly instinct is to protect them from the painful parts of their story, and shield them from the hurt. But it’s all part of their story. And by erasing or hiding what I would selfishly and short-sightedly deem the “messy” parts, would also steal from them their own miraculous redemption story and the awesome story of their first big sister that shares their blood. Lord, give me the courage to trust what You are doing and not get in Your way. Pry off my anxiously controlling hands and write their story Your way. BUT GOD!

~ thankfully, our kids didn’t have time to be sad for long, because as soon as Grace drove away with her mom, we had another knock at the door: Uncle Mike and Cousin Kenedy! We enjoyed having them for the weekend!

~ for new goggles. Does anything make kids happier than new goggles?

~ for homemade ice cream. Is there anything better than homemade ice cream???

~ for Cooper’s favorite week of the year: Pine Cove! He loves his time at camp more than anything, and we dropped him off today. Can’t wait to hear about all the fun he has and all that the Lord will do in his heart this week!

~ for a great time celebrating Josh for Father’s Day. We had all his favorites: juicy grilled burgers with sharp cheddar and blue cheese, jalepeno chips, sweet tea, and homemade chocolate ice cream. I love this man so much, and the way he faithfully lives his faith in front of his kids and models to them how to love lavishly. I love how hard he works even when he’s dog tired and always hurting. We don’t call him “Giddyup” for nothing. I love that his favorite part of every project is watching my face when I admire it, because he says his favorite thing to do is make me happy. I will never understand why God has blessed me with a love this big, and I will never stop thanking Him that He did.

Today during worship at church (via the Rucker satellite campus) one of the songs was a favorite of our whole family, “Raise a Hallelujah.” There’s something so soul-stirring about hearing my children’s little voices lifted, singing at the top of their lungs to their Lord, “I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm. Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar.”

In that moment, it became my prayer. My prayer over EVERYTHING. Over the divisions about how to handle Covid 19. Over all the injustices and the big and the small polarizing issues people are all raging about. Over all the voices screaming at once about every hot topic. Over my own anxiety. Over my children.

“Sing a little louder, in the presence of my enemies…

Sing a little louder, louder than the unbelief…

Sing a little louder, my weapon is a melody

Sing a little louder, heaven comes to fight for me…”

It sounds silly, but what if we really did that? What if we all raised a hallelujah in the middle of our storms, a hallelujah that became louder than the noise? What if we really believed that praising God is a weapon that will defeat the darkness? What if we really loved others openhandedly, with no agenda, no catch, with the love of Christ? I’m not trying to sound like a Hallmark card, not am I trying to act like I’m doing it right myself. I just believe that it really does make a difference when we make simple but genuine changes in the way we respond to our circumstances. And when it all boils down, the ONLY cause I want to champion is the cause of Christ. Lord, let it be so. Stay my eyes on You, Lord.

Speaking of which, it is Clinic Week for Sawyer. It’s his first time back to the hospital since all the virus outbreaks and sheltering in place, so I won’t pretend it doesn’t cause my heart to pound a little faster. Hospital restrictions will only allow one adult to accompany a patient, so for the first time in as long as I can remember, it will be just Sawyer and I. His appointment is Wednesday, and I will post an update that evening. We are grateful for your prayers that our Warrior Boy remains cancer free.

Will you raise a hallelujah with me this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.” (Psalms 97:1-6)

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:6)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

A Square

Has anyone else felt completely confused and/or defeated this week?

“It’s not ok to say nothing.”

If you DID say (or post) something, somebody might have told you it was the wrong thing.

You should’ve said….

“You have to POST this….”

Then, if you did, “WHY did you do THAT? What are you trying to PROVE?”

Posting Scripture was often met with the response that it was a misuse of the context or else it was twisted into something negative.

Social media was a lose/lose this week.

I felt bullied. I felt like every single thing I did/said/posted/didn’t post needed an explanation and/or disclaimer.

Am I defined by a square? By crafting the perfect caption that sums up my beliefs and everything I stand for?

Part of me felt like it was just hopeless. The hate. The hurt. The injustice. The division. The name calling. It’s never gonna end. There is no RIGHT answer.

But there is. The right answer is always Jesus! The right answer is always that I must decrease so that He may increase. The right answer is always to love your neighbor as yourself, whoever that neighbor may be. The right answer is always that Light casts out darkness. And one glorious day it IS going to end.

I think some of the wisest words I’ve heard (outside Scripture) came from Anna on Frozen 2. “Just do the next right thing.”

And I want to try to do more of that. Whether it shows up on social media or not.

I am thankful:

~ for the Lord’s protection. Gavin and Sawyer were playing outside, and Sawyer was about to go potty “country boy style” outside when Gavin noticed something at his feet. At first, Sawyer didn’t believe it was real, but Gavin convinced him and the two boys ran screaming inside. “Snake!” Mama had to get brave with my rubber boots and long shovel, and put an end to the snake, which turned out to be a 2 foot long copperhead! I’ve never killed a snake before. I felt a little bit like She-Ra Warrior Princess and a little bit like passing out. When I think about what could have happened if Gavin hadn’t noticed it, or if Sawyer had reached down to grab it… BUT GOD.

~ for Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones. Isn’t that just the flavor of summer?

~ for a great, HOT week at the Barn Sale. Wednesday was Early Bird Day, and the admission fees were donated to Gold Network of East TX, so I worked at the table selling admission tickets and sharing about our programs. I met some fabulous people, and so many were kind and super generous. The sale went on through Saturday, and I was thrilled to sell more than half the Giddyup & Whoa signs I had painted! Double blessing!

~ for Carson Grace turning 19. How? How can my Princess Peanut be 19 years old??? She had a great time being celebrated by her friends, and she squeezed in a window for us to have her birthday dinner. We all love her birthday, because she has such great taste: BBQ chicken legs, pickled cucumber and tomato salad, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and ice cream cake. Her meal was a celebration in itself! But in all seriousness, I am excited to see what the Lord opens up for and in her this year. She is such a bright light, I know she has so much shining to do for Him!

~ for cool, refreshingly sweet and tart lemon icebox pie. It didn’t last long.

~ for a few more treats from our garden, including a teensy bitsy carrot.

~ for successful completion of the next, highly stressful stage of our gradual kitchen reno. We busted up and ripped out the final slab of dark granite from our island. The next day, a freighter dropped off its replacement: a 500 pound 8 foot long maple butcher block. The driver asked how long it would take for us to get it inside and installed. Josh confidently assured him it would be in place that night. We enlisted the help of a neighbor, and josh and I and Cooper CAREFULLY slid the massive slab onto a flat dolly, wheeled it into the house, and hoisted all 500 pounds of it onto the island. That process went much more smoothly than I had envisioned in my mind. But then came the real challenge. To measure, re-measure, and measure AGAIN to confirm the opening Josh would have to CUT out of that beautiful butcher block for our range. No do-overs. No margin for error. Man, we were calling out to Jesus for sure! But as always, Josh was meticulous and BOLD, and he cut the hole perfectly in one shot. So happy with how it turned out.

Let’s love one another well this week. Less time staring at screens and more time looking into the actual eyes of actual people. Let’s not throw darts or dodgeballs, but engage in active listening and compassion. Let’s admit when we’re wrong and forgive when we’re wronged. And pray for the healing that our nation so desperately needs to start in our own homes and in our hearts.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. Y’all are truly such a blessing.

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

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

“Just do the next right thing

Take a step, step again

It is all that I can to do

The next right thing

I won’t look too far ahead

It’s too much for me to take

But break it down to this next breath, this next step

This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night

Stumbling blindly toward the light

And do the next right thing

And, with it done, what comes then?

When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again

Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice

And do the next right thing”

(“The Next Right Thing” Kristen Bell)

Because He First Loved Us

I’m just so sad.

I’m overwhelmed with sadness.

I’m sad to hear story after story of hatred and brutality and discord, and watch angry lines be drawn and sides taken.

I’m sad to hear of abuses of power and people who are either too afraid or too numbed to stand up for what is right.

I’m sad to hear people make broad critical judgments about “ALL” of any group of people.

I’m sad thinking about what the future will be like for my children. And for children everywhere.

I’m sad to read more stories of more and more people turning away from their faith, because they don’t understand how a loving God “lets this stuff happen over and over again.”

I am a white, middle aged, middle class Christian female. I am a stay at home mom. I am a mother of nine. I am an adoptive parent. I am a cancer mom. Just because we don’t have any or all of those things in common, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to relate to one another. We are humans. We have hopes and dreams and fears for ourselves and our children.

I don’t think any of us are called to be “color blind.” We SHOULD see our world in color. We just need to see all color as beautiful and valuable. I am a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart, and I believe in the Bible and everything it says. And there are people who disagree with me. And I think we can still be friends. We may not worship together, but we can walk side-by-side. And if you are thirsty, I will share my water with you. And it’s my responsibility to live and act in such a way that you would feel safe to share yours with me.

Love is a verb. Love is a choice. If we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (which we are), then what hurts my neighbor hurts me. Whether that hurt comes from a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a child, the loss of a job because of Covid 19, or racial inequality.

Thursday morning I sat down with my Littles, and talked to them about the value and beauty of people of every color. About the value of being kind to people we don’t agree with. And about the importance of standing up for what is right, whether or not anyone else will stand up.

I was so blessed when I asked them what they would do if they saw someone was getting picked on or bullied or hurt. They all replied immediately in unison, “PRAY!”

I will try to do everything I can to raise kind humans who will love others with the love of Christ, who will be friends to the lonely, and who will reach out to the kid who is alone at a lunch table or gets picked last on the kickball team. I pray that they will grow up to be peacemakers and bridge builders looking for the common ground instead of picking at differences.

I am sad. But I have hope. BUT GOD.

And because God is worthy of praise regardless of circumstances, I will give thanks.

I am thankful:

~ for perfectly sweet, drip-down-your-chin fresh peaches.

~ for progress in the kitchen. I was super bummed that new countertops will not work with the backsplash I lovingly and painstakingly handpainted 2 years ago. But it’s fine. So thankful for my husband’s remodeling skills.

February 2018
Bye bye backsplash

~ for the sound of my children’s voices worshipping.

~ for my belated-because-of-shipping Mother’s Day gift from Colton.

~ for ice cream.

~ for wonderful neighbors.

~ for tiny but tasty nibbles from our garden to add into our salads.

~ for my sweet kids who rub my hair when I have a headache.

~ for the Vintage & Company Gresham Barn Sale coming up Wednesday through Saturday. Excited to have several Giddyup & Whoa pieces for sale tucked in among the unique and charming vintage finds at the barn. And honored that the Early Bird entrance fees on Wednesday will benefit Gold Network of East Texas. Come check it out if you are local, you’ll be glad you did!

Let’s love one another well this week. Let’s love our neighbors. Let’s not hide behind social media and throw darts that we wouldn’t say face to face. Let’s look for the good and let’s BE THE GOOD. Let’s treat others BETTER THAN WE THINK THEY DESERVE. Let’s love like Jesus. Because if He can love ME, He really MUST love everybody.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:9-18)

Pearls

I am thankful:

~ for a fun surprises.  Our Children’s pastor popped by to say hello and drop off bubbles for all the kids.  Then another friend dropped off a box of hand-me-downs for Tatum K.  And we had another porch drop-off, a handmade large scale Yatzee game (“Yard-zee”) with the sweetest note!  I am so blessed by how thoughtful and kind people have been to come up with ways to be an encouragement during this season.IMG_7309.jpgIMG_59868D58ED9C-1.jpeg~ for the Lord’s protection.  The kids and I had our daily walk, down to the end of our road and back.  On our way back, the kids rode on ahead of me, and I thought I saw something on the road.  As I got closer, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing was real: a MASSIVE snake, no less than 6 feet long, stretched out right where we had walked minutes before.  My knees immediately started shaking, but I quickly passed it with Tatum K in her stroller (not before snapping a quick picture of it first of course!)IMG_7456.jpg 

~ for sweet moments in the midst of school.

IMG_2B40F7C00236-1.jpegIMG_7891IMG_DE36FC32CCD8-1.jpeg

~ for the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Wednesday, Tatum K suddenly came down with a fever, and said “her feelings hurted.”  My mind didn’t go anywhere completely crazy.  We’ve been quarantined faithfully, I actually wasn’t worried about “IT.”  But I did not relish the thought of a house full of sick kids on lockdown.  We established a quarantine within our quarantine in our bedroom for her, and kept her away from all the other children.   Changed my clothes EVERY time I held her, and re-washed ALL the bed linens every day.  IMG_6ECB7AF1E2AB-1.jpegIMG_7741On day three, as I was getting her ready for bed, I noticed a faint rash across her back and groin area, and my stomach dropped.  I immediately made arrangements to take her in to Dr. Everett the next day.  We had our first experience with an outdoor pediatrician appointment.  IMG_97F4A4E420A4-1.jpegAnd sure enough: strep throat + scarlet fever, just like Sawyer had almost 2 months ago.  We can’t imagine how she got it.  I can’t believe it could still be living on a surface from that long ago, especially with how much sanitizing I’ve been doing.  It’s baffling.  But so thankful that we caught it quickly.   Already after just a couple doses of antibiotics, she is fully recovered.  Her “feelings are betta now” and she is back to her spunky, sassy self.IMG_7607~for our very first FULLY INTACT, completed 1000 piece puzzle!  It was glorious!  Now, there was some mischievous tomfoolery surrounding the last couple days of completion… a couple of my smarty-pants kids thought it would be funny to steal a piece or two.  But eventually they were all recovered.  It was a thrilling victory. IMG_7682

~ for our pups.  Whether they are at my side when I paint, crowding their way on the hammock when I am trying to have a quiet moment, or chasing each other around and over the furniture, they keep us smiling.52C4AD9A-05D2-4DDD-B620-2783568DF2D5IMG_7433.jpgIMG_AA46211B7BD9-1.jpegIMG_DADC55B13268-1.jpeg

~ for the deep sigh of relief after I make it through another of the kids’ math problems.  Seriously though.  Who invented story problems?  I don’t think he was a very nice guy.  The best part of every day is the moment when I no longer have to be a math teacher. 

~for three kids who were able to receive their Superior Cougar Fitness awards via an online meeting with their teacher and receive a printable copy of their certificates.  I’m so grateful that the school is doing everything they can to accommodate for special memories for the students during this strange time of separation.IMG_7864

~ again for wonderful and good-natured neighbors.  One morning the kids came in from outside shrieking, “We found a turtle!“  They were thrilled and instantly began creating a turtle habitat. The next day, they were eager to show it off to our neighbors, who promptly exclaimed, “That’s OUR turtle! We found it yesterday!”  And so, the turtle was returned to his rightful “finder keepers.“  But after some chatting back-and-forth, it seems that they have all agreed to shared custody. Poor little fella.  He sure wandered into the wrong yard! TWICE!IMG_78CA873E3CCA-1.jpegIMG_ED2341D7B04E-1.jpeg

~ for the most gorgeous weather!  The kids have swam a couple of times – it’s really NOT warm enough for swimming, but they don’t really care.  It’s been perfect weather for our walks, wiffle ball tournaments, for washing the car, and daily picnics.IMG_233CBCE2669C-1.jpegIMG_6C2635C5779F-1.jpeg

~ for a wonderful day of celebration. One of our Gold Network of East Texas heroes celebrated her last chemotherapy this week after two years of treatment for leukemia. To celebrate, her family arranged for a drive-through celebration.  What a joyful day! GLORY TO THE LORD!IMG_7831IMG_7809IMG_7810IMG_0238C4F01D87-1.jpeg

~ for 90% completion of the DIY project from last week.  We had painted the mudroom not long ago with a homemade mix of some leftover paint we had on hand, and we never loved it.  And the paint we had used on the mudroom door had never cured.   So we gave the room a fresh coat of soft gray paint (replacing the wanna-be-grey-but-actually-more-like-baby-blue color) and the door was first peeled, then primed, then painted navy, then white (in 18 hours) before we finally landed on the right shade of medium warm gray.  IMG_7894IMG_4C5C9A3B7B43-1.jpegIMG_8C8AE80D6451-1.jpegJosh ripped out some non-functional builtins from our mudroom and replaced them with new lockers that I then antiqued to look like a vintage find!

IMG_B97F834411FD-1.jpegIt was a fun, lightning-fast project, and we love the way it turned out!   We still have a bit of touch up to do, and I have a new idea I want to try out, but it’s almost done.  I have loved transforming this space into one of the most practical and hard-working rooms in our home.

~ for an ABSOLUTE FEAST!  Colton came over and cooked for us!  He has learned how to cook his favorite authentic Mexican tacos, and gave his ole’ Mom a cooking lesson!  They were without a doubt, the MOST DELICIOUS tacos I have ever eaten!  I could not have been more impressed.  Both by the tasty meal my son prepared and the joy on his face as we cooked in the kitchen side by side.  Love him so much and so thankful for the growth and healing in our relationship.IMG_7887 

Anyone else exhausted?  Just raw?  Like a blister that rubs and rubs and rubs and never gets a chance to heal.  It’s exhausting being brave all the time. Exhausting walking the same path in the same walls with the same people every single day.  This morning I was rubbed raw.  Everything was frustrating.  We overslept.  We had technical difficulties with online church, like we have EVERY WEEK.  For some reason, even after six weeks, we just never can quite get it figured out.  So I sat on the couch, wrestling with myself, feeling how none of this is how it’s supposed to be.  But once worship started, I saw our sweet worship pastor on the screen with his guitar, flanked by his kids on the keyboard and the cajon.  What a blessing to see faces of people that I love and miss so much.  And I purposed in my heart as they begin to play, that my flesh would not hinder me from worshiping my Creator.  He is WORTHY.  My circumstances will not dictate my ability and MY RESPONSIBILITY to worship Him as He is due.  So we stood together as a family and begin to sing.  And as is so often the case, the song prepared in advance and pre-recorded by the worship pastor was the song that God knew would meet me in that moment.   “Lord I run into Your arms unashamed because of mercy.  I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You.”  And there in my living room, in my robe and slippers, with tears streaming down my face, I stood in the presence of the Lord, experiencing some of the purest moments of fellowship with my Heavenly Father that I have ever had in my life.  As the next song began, the room was filled with the voices of my children, “Waymaker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the darkness.  My God, that is who You are.“   

He is good.  All the time.  “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working.  Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.  You never stop, You never stop working.”  There is purpose in this season.  Part of that purpose is for us to look for AND TESTIFY OF the blessings that we find.  In a time when we are forced to be apart, we need each other more than ever!  We must encourage each other, spur each other on, take turns lifting one another and then being carried.  I DO NOT WANT TO BE A MATH TEACHER!  But I DO want to be a Mama that can patiently sit by my child while they work through a concept, for as long as it takes, and then can celebrate their accomplishment when they finally master it.  I never would have tried had it not been for this season.  My kids have seen me cry more in the last 6 weeks of quarantine than they did during 3 years of cancer.  But that’s because I am with them EVERY MOMENT, and there is so much good in that.  And after they’ve seen me cry, they’ve heard me reassure them that I’m ok, and we’ve had some great conversations and some of the very best hugs.  I have great hope for lasting fruit to come from these trying days. IMG_7900.jpg Pearls are formed from painful, sandy discomfort that we can’t get rid of, no matter how hard we try.  Lord, make pearls in us.  Out of us.  And when we look upon the unique beauty of a pearl, let us give thanks for the irritation that caused it to be born. I look forward to draping myself in garlands of story-problem-shaped pearls one day.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

Hope, Joy, and Generosity

What a jam-packed week!  I was just so whupped at the end of last week, really had the wind knocked out of me.  So much heaviness.  And you know what… none of those circumstances have changed. But even those sad, harsh realities are overshadowed by the goodness and faithfulness of God.  He keeps pouring out His goodness.  His mercies really are new every morning. 

I am thankful:

~ the best testimony of all – Sawyer the Warrior had a PERFECT checkup at his quarterly ACE Oncology appointment, and our brave boy remains CANCER FREE!  Thank You Jesus!!!   As usual, Sawyer hopped up in Miss Sharon’s phlebotomy chair all by himself and laughed while she drew his blood. 9016C527-90CE-45D8-8B8F-27A8CBD0826A.JPGBB0774A4-7AD1-450B-8757-8F8CB23820BD.JPG

I am always freshly astounded and in awe of the courage of this incredible boy.  His appointment went smoothly, and once the labs came back with the “all clear,” Josh and I were finally able to breathe again.   That part never gets easier.  Every time they draw his blood, we wait to hear the best news or the worst news.  BUT GOD.  This visit we packed in lots of extra-special visits on top of the clinic appointment.  Josh and I were joined by my friend and Gold Network of East TX co-creator, Paula Kimmey, to present a check from GNET for $10,000 to an acclaimed pediatric oncologist from Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ted Laetsch, to assist funding his groundbreaking CAR-T therapy which uses genetically modified immune cells to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Gold Network Photo 2.JPG9DD02FBC-58F9-4066-BC27-23CCE5E25B5C.JPG

Not only were we THRILLED to present this check to fund research at our own hospital (that’s about as LOCAL as it gets!), but it was even more meaningful because Dr. Laetsch was on the team of oncologists that cared for Sawyer when he was treated for Infant ALL!  What a surreal full-circle moment!   We also delivered a New Diagnosis Survival Kit to one of the new families we learned of last week, and we were introduced by a nurse to YET ANOTHER East Texas family – that makes 3 new diagnoses just last month.  Sawyer was able to meet the girl, several years his senior, and smiled sweetly at her in her hospital bed and told her simply, “Be brave!”  What an ambassador of HOPE! 

~ for a delicious, yet oddly romantic, candlelit lunch at Campisi’s.  We ordered from there several times while in the hospital, but had never been to the restaurant, so it was the perfect place to celebrate a great day.  Their BBQ chicken pizza is THE BOMB!  (Sawyer was not a fan, he stuck with cheese.)58B2E3C1-54CE-440E-8429-90A4879FD2D9.JPG

~ for Aunt Gina, who ran the morning and afternoon Rucker bus route while we were gone to Dallas and spent the day with Hurricane Tatum K.  And for her delicious gift of homemade Amish friendship bread for breakfast!IMG_20200224_112050147_Original.jpgIMG_4064.JPG

~ for a pretty successful first week of Intro-to Potty-Training with TK.  She is excited to use her little potty chair and has had only a couple of unfortunate mishaps in her pink Peppa Pig panties.  She is very proud of herself and never lets me forget her Skittles. IMG_4098.JPGIMG_4119.JPGIMG_4120.JPG

~ for sweet Zoe, who received the “Joyfulness” Award at chapel.  Love to see those brown eyes sparkle.   Her name means “life,” and I pray she always lives a life full of the JOY of the Lord. IMG_4073.JPG

~ for a lovely evening of fellowship prompted by some pretty exciting conversations.  We’ve been talking a lot about heaven lately, and one day last week Sawyer enquired, “What about people who have never heard about Jesus?  Do they get to go to heaven?” What a question!  I explained to him that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, and that that’s why it’s so important that we share the gospel with people who haven’t heard it.  And then he replied, “I REALLY want to go to heaven!  But I know it’s important that I really understand before I can ask Jesus into my heart…”

The rest of the conversation went like this

“Well, you have to believe in Jesus”

“I do!”

“You have to want Him to be your boss.”

“I dooo!”

“You have to want to serve Him your whole life.”

“I DOOOOO!”

You can only imagine this mama‘s heart.  We told Sawyer that maybe it would be a good idea for him to think of some more questions and sit down and talk about them with our pastor, Brother Joe.  He immediately hopped up excitedly, “Can we write them in a notebook?  I can’t read… but will you write down my questions for me, Mama?”

So of course I did.  When I told Sawyer that usually people make an appointment to meet Brother Joe at his office to talk, he promptly replied, “Nope!  I want him to come to our house.  For dinner.”  So that’s exactly what we did.  Brother Joe and Miss Becky came over, and we had a great visit.  Sawyer had some incredible questions: “Why did God want to make us?” and “Why doesn’t God make us obey him?”  That night at bedtime, he said it made him happy that Brother Joe and Miss Becky had come over for dinner.  He said “I liked asking him my questions,” and things have been left at that for now.   We will let Sawyer take the lead, and follow up when he brings it up again.  I never want to push or manipulate God’s perfect timing.  I’m excited about all the things that the Lord is stirring up and storing and building in his honest, tender, loving heart.  I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for him.

~ for Brother Joe and Miss Becky being extremely gracious in eating the meal we lovingly prepared for them.  Fried catfish.  Ask me if either Josh or I have ever fried catfish before.  It was on sale so we had wanted to try it.  It’s always a FABULOUS IDEA to cook a dish you’ve never attempted before for guests.  At least the brownies were good.  

~ for a tremendous progress on the refresh in Carson Grace‘s room / my studio.   Josh and I finished the herringbone wood-block backsplash and added some bright pops of color and gold for personality.  We had one wall with some sheet rock damage, so we created a fun and functional galvanized magnet board.  We still have some paint touch up to do, but for all practical purposes, the room is complete!  Carson Grace FaceTimed with me to check it out, and she is excited to get home and see it in person.  I look forward to sharing the space with her.  I love having a creative place to create!IMG_4275.JPGIMG_4282.JPGIMG_4178.JPGIMG_4268.JPGIMG_4269.JPGIMG_4283.jpg

IMG_4280.jpgIMG_4286.jpg

~ for the wonderful opportunity to attend Generosity Tyler, an event hosted by Jasper Ventures designed to encourage and inspire living generous lives.  I have to admit that I arrived at the event pretty much swallowed up by anxiety.  I felt very out of my element, very inadequate, and very overwhelmed.   I sat in my car in the parking lot for a while, taking my anxieties honestly to the Lord.  He reminded me who I am in Him, and that there is no need to ever be anyone else. It was a lovely event.  Paula and I heard testimonies from people who shared how they have personally been stretched and have experienced a paradigm shift on what it means to be biblically generous.  How the Lord wants us to be so generous WITH OUR LIVES that people find it shocking.  We had some great conversations with the people at our table and ate some delicious food. And at the end of the event, the generous hosts of Generosity Tyler generously gifted us the beautiful floral centerpieces from all the tables for our upcoming event!  I left so amazingly inspired and encouraged. IMG_4179.jpgIMG_4177.jpg

~ for a surprising, y’all-are-going-to-shake-your-heads-and-call-us-insane new addition to our Tribe.  Meet Birdie. IMG_2301.JPGIMG_3792.JPGIMG_4253.jpgIMG_4264.JPG

If you need me this week, I’ll be potty training a puppy and a 2 year old, sending my Freshman off on a camping trip with his class, and prepping for and hosting a Gold Network dinner for 100 guests.   Can’t wait to share all about it.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the hurting people around us: the newly diagnosed, the ones who have lost and are losing loved ones, the ones who may be keeping their pain hidden from anyone.  Let’s walk in joy, hope, and generosity this week!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Happy “New Day”

I am thankful:

~ for a staggering honor and privilege: I wrote a check from Gold Network of ETX for TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  We donated $10,000 to Dr. Ted Laetsch at Children’s Hospital to support his cutting edge research projects for improved cures and therapies for childhood cancer.  Dr. Laetsch was on Sawyer’s oncology team, so the donation is even more meaningful.  We are so grateful for the funds raised through Tyler Gold Run and and generous donations from the community to help Gold Network do what we do.  Our primary focus will remain local family support, but we will always donate toward childhood cancer research in hopes that one day our GNET mission will become obsolete!  Until then, we press on.  We have exciting new dreams brewing for the upcoming year…more information coming soon!

IMG_1988.jpg

~ for laid back schedule-free days on break.  The kids have painted, baked cookies, learned new tricks on the trampoline, decorated a gingerbread house, and we have made a TINY dent in the HARDEST PUZZLE IN THE WORLD. IMG_1986.JPG

IMG_1980.JPGIMG_1987.JPGIMG_1744img_1983-2-1.jpg

~ for a manageably fun-enough New Years.  We stayed home.  Ate chili.  “Nice Mom” showed up and let the kids stay up until 10 and played with  sparklers in their pjs.  Then mom, dad, and Bigs stayed up to watch the ball drop just to say we did.   But it felt really important to me that the first thing we did in 2020 was to pray together as a family.  It was simple, sweet, and I will treasure it always. 

IMG_1748 2.JPGIMG_1752 2.JPGIMG_1758.JPGIMG_1761.JPGIMG_1763.JPGIMG_1768.JPGIMG_1772.jpg

~ for traditional black eyed peas, buttery roasted cabbage, and steaming hot sweet cornbread on New Year’s Day.  

IMG_1906.JPG

~ for a Starbucks gift card and a Starbucks right around the corner from our house!  Bear was glad he rode along, they gave him a “Pup-puccino!!”

IMG_98F5457BA253-1.jpeg

~ for a fun overnight sleepover for Gavin to Uncle Justin and Aunt Gina’s.  He had the feast of his dreams and had 24 blissful hours as an only child!  A trip to Kilgore to explore the East Texas Oil Museum and a mile-high loaded cheeseburger were the perfect fit for our inquisitive boy.

IMG_20200102_190756273_Original.jpgIMG_20200103_113358562_HDR_Original.jpgIMG_20200103_112708719_Original.jpg

~ for a joyful dream-come-true for dear friends.  Before brave 10 year old cancer warrior Luke went to be with Jesus in 2018, his dream was for his beautiful husky Scout to become a therapy dog.   This week, that dream came true!  Scout went through the rigorous testing to become certified, and PASSED!   Now Scout will be able to bring joy and smiles to kids in the hospital and continue sharing Luke’s legacy, bringing glimmers of beauty from the unspeakable pain his mom and dad and brother are walking through.  You can read more about Luke and his family’s unshakable faith and generosity here. https://lukestrong.org/

IMG_1993.JPG

~ for an exciting new venture for G&W: we launched our new website, www.giddyupandwhoa.com!  We’ve been praying about this for a while, and decided to make the leap in hopes of growing our business.  We also were super blessed with a new connection for old wood.  We have had our eye on a large section of damaged fence for months, and this week I worked up the courage to stop by the house and ask for it.  I was met by the sweetest gentleman who was delighted to have the fence hauled off, even taking my card for when he tears more of it down! Finds like those are the best! IMG_6067.JPEG

Josh has created some beautiful new reclaimed wood decor pieces in addition to a fresh batch of signs, so we are ready for a great year!  It’s amazing to me that we started this journey by tiptoeing onto social media last year at Thanksgiving.  Excited to see where the Lord takes us.  We even included a link to Sunday Gratitude on the G&W website.  Amazing to see different pieces of our dreams begin to braid together. 

IMG_1923 2.jpgIMG_1922.jpgIMG_1314 3IMG_1934.jpgIMG_1991IMG_1994

~ for the opportunity to reflect on the past decade.  I always get a little moony at the turn of the new year…to me it’s just natural to look back and take stock, and that process always proves emotional for me.  Looking back not just a year but a decade was pretty staggering.  I’ll spare you the in-depth play by play, but 10 years ago we only had 4 children, were going through the process of our first adoption, and Josh was self employed, remodeling and flipping houses.  We often look back and say that that was the season we thought we could tie a bow on our picture perfect little family with our beautifully God-ordained adoption story as the crescendo of our testimony.  BUT GOD.  In the infinite wisdom of our Father, we had no idea what was coming.   We never dreamed of car wrecks and ATV wrecks and fostering.  Never dreamed Josh and I would go from completely disagreeing about whether or not to grow our family to getting on the same page, only to walk through the heartbreak of losing a baby, then adopt 3 and have 2 more!  We would never have imagined cancer.  Cancer changed EVERYTHING.  I don’t even recognize that family from 10 years ago.  But out of the wreckage also came beauty.  A front row seat for miracles.  For excruciating grace.  So many wonderful, life-changing relationships born in and outside the hospital.  The Gold Run and Gold Network, opening doors to share hope with people all over.   And God has entrusted us with the stewardship of all these remarkable children in our family… gifts that I didn’t even ask for because I couldn’t have dreamed them up…  And even if New Year’s resolutions are hokey and empty, I appreciate the crisp, fresh air that comes with the turn of the calendar page, like the warmth of sunrise after a dark night.  My Father’s arms are always open.  And with renewed passion, I will seek to love Him with more of my heart this year.  And serve Him more and myself less.  Oh Lord, the cry of my heart is to let go and trust You.  So if I WAS going to have a resolution, that would be it.   But I think that has to be more of a New Day’s Resolution.  EVERY DAY.

Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“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 6:33-34)

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

“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)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

 

Flattened

I am thankful:

~ for one if my favorite Christmas traditions: our trip to Children’s Hospital on Christmas Eve.   We load our bus with the most delicious home-cooked spread of food and drive to Dallas, to give smiles and thanks to the dedicated nurses caring for the kids who are too sick to be home for Christmas.  Even though it’s been years now, we have promised to never forget those frightening days.  Josh at home with 7 kids missing their mama.  And 12 month old Sawyer and I in the hospital.  We had known we would be in the hospital that Christmas.  He was in a particularly harsh phase of his leukemia treatment, and needed close monitoring.  But Christmas Eve he had taken a turn for the worse, spiking a high fever, and his nurses watched him like a hawk.   I’ll never forget the way they tended to him, and to me all through the night.  I remember watching the clock turn midnight, and crying in the dark room lit by a blinking IV pole as I wished my sick baby Merry Christmas.   BUT GOD.   I couldn’t have done it without those nurses, those angels on this earth.  They lay their lives down and are gone from their own families to take care of hurting children, and they do their very best to bring joy into a scary and sad place.  I love going back (for a quick trip and not to stay) to tell them Sawyer’s story, and give them a fresh breath of Christ-ordained, thriving, 6 year old, curly-headed HOPE. IMG_20191224_144050514_Original.jpgIMG_1498.JPGIMG_1501.JPG 

~ for a quick, fun visit with Aunt Dinah.  Sawyer picked Slims Chicken for lunch, and then she and I visited while I tackled my holiday baking and trashed my kitchen from one end to the other. 

59882487136__39AA73DF-9D87-43D9-8F70-16ED6AA447FA.JPGIMG_1386.JPGIMG_1414.JPG

~ for beautiful weather to deliver baked goodies to our wonderful neighbors.  We are so blessed!IMG_1459.JPG

IMG_1462.JPGIMG_1470.jpg

~ for a wonderful, messy, overstimulating, joyful, chaotic, noisy Christmas.  For too much delicious food: spicy, cheesy jalapeño crawfish chowder, tart/sweet cherry pie, caramely sweet monkey bread, and chocolate-coffee-salted-caramel birthday cake for Jesus.  For Andes mints that make me think of Grandma Grace.  And Great Grandma Nelson’s peanut clusters that are now my kids’ favorite.  For tums and stretchy pants.  For new Christmas jammies for everyone and a new ornament each.  For the sweetness of each of us reading Luke 2 verse by verse…and how the powerfully tender words feel more tender and more powerful on Christmas morning.  For a second round of too-much-everything and 14 cousins to play with.  It was an extra noisy Christmas with robots and transformers and Elsa microphones and walkie talkies and laser tag.  I’m also thankful that batteries do not live forever. IMG_1544.JPG

IMG_1619.JPGIMG_1626.JPGIMG_1507.JPGIMG_1668.JPG

~ for the fullness in my heart at having all my children together.  I learned when Sawyer got sick that I couldn’t take it for granted.  But life moved on, the crisis passed, and I realized that I still did sometimes.  But now comes another paradigm shift: they really are growing up.  Colton’s living on his own, Carson Grace is 18 and in college.  Soon enough they will start having their own families and may not always be around.  How I treasure these fleeting moments with all these faces around my table and piled up on my couch. 

IMG_20191224_211057012_Original.jpg

~ for my husband’s dedication and work ethic.  Even after working 65+ hours a week at his “real job,” then building signs and caring for our home in his “spare time,” AND being Dad to 9 kids….he is grinding out his real estate courses, one after another, even amidst the chaos of our home environment.   So proud of him.   Even squeezed in a much needed date with him this week! 

IMG_1692.jpgIMG_1688.jpg

~for the signature throaty growl of my daughter’s hauntingly beautiful voice and her guitar coming from her bedroom.  Oh, how I’ve missed her and that sound.  

~ for 4 little and not-so-little girls that still let me dress them alike.  Aren’t they beautiful?

IMG_1700.jpg

~ for the fresh grace to keep going even when it’s hard.  Tatum K, while just as cute as she can be, continues to challenge us daily with her fiery temperament.  Her latest challenge is NOT SLEEPING.  She is taking hours to settle down to sleep, most of that spent screaming violently at the top of her lungs, anything from “I want my MAAAAAMAAAAA!” to “I want PIZZZZZZAAAAAAA!” to “Tickle my BAAAAACKKKKK!!!!”  And then sometimes she is waking up and doing it all again for hours in the middle of the night.  Makes for a tired mama, especially after days on end. 

~ for days when I wake up to sweet artwork left beside my bed.  Parenting this many children usually feels a lot like whack-a-mole, and there is many a night that I go to bed feeling like a very defeated worst-and-meanest-mama-in-the-whole-wide-world.  But by some stretch of miracle, my kids don’t seem to think so!  Thank You Father for the NEW MERCIES EVERY MORNING!

IMG_1695.JPG

It’s that groggy limbo week between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone I talk to seems drained and wiped out and nobody is sure what day it is.  I find myself with a little bit of the blues…flattened by the steamroller of the packed schedule over the past few weeks.  And emotionally flattened as well.  Just a lot going on in my heart these days.  Anybody else feel flattened?  (FLATTENED, not FATTENED.  Although that certainly feels applicable as well…)

My weary heart dragged me to the church this morning.  Physically and spiritually drained and exhausted, I couldn’t even make my voice form the words of the songs.  So I just sank to my knees and let the worship and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit wash over me.  

“Worthy of every song we could ever sing

Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring

Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe

We live for you.  We live for you…”

The words and the percussion pounded into my chest, beating the melody into my heart as I sang and prayed and worshipped and wept.  

“I will build my life upon Your Love 

It is a firm foundation.  

I will put my trust in You alone

And I will not be shaken.”  

Lord, I’ve seen You do miracles with my own eyes.  I KNOW and I BELIEVE that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.  Help me to trust in You: that You are WORKING, that You are PRESENT, and that You are SOVEREIGN.  Remind me that You care about the needs I bring to you.  Line up my desires with Yours so that I want what You want for me instead of what I want for me.  Help me to remember TRUTH when my circumstances try to trip me up.  Help me unclench my fists and my feeble attempts to take control.  Renew in me a deep love for Your WORD.  Fill me with Your LOVE so I can pour it out. 

Give me endurance for the race You have set before me.  It is the race You made me for.  

Don’t lose heart.  He is FOR YOU.  Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I am thankful:

~ for innocent children who aren’t afraid to ask the questions we all wonder.  “Mama? What is piggy pudding? And why do they want it so bad?”  “And what does pa-rum-pum-pum-pum MEAN?”

IMG_1264 2.JPG

~ for a sweet night of fellowship with our Tyler Christian Fellowship elders, deacons, and wives.  And for pumpkin bread pudding with warm salted caramel sauce.

~for the sweetest Christmas play at the school.  Zoe and Gavin brilliantly executed their parts in “It Happened in the Country.”  Gavin even had his first little solo and did a great job.  I love seeing them so excited to share their hard work with us.

IMG_1271.JPGIMG_1282.JPGIMG_1290.jpgIMG_1291 2.jpgIMG_1292.jpg

~ for GPS.  Tyler is famous for its holiday traffic jams, and the GPS on my phone was able to pinpoint the trouble areas and reroute me.  Even though it took me miles out of the way, it was undoubtedly faster than the direct route.  I would still be sitting on Broadway…

~ for human Christmas party ping pong.  I pinged and I ponged my way through five simultaneous Christmas parties at opposite ends of the elementary school.   They had Christmas movies, toilet paper snowman building, cookie decorating, and pancakes in pajamas. The kids all had a ball and then that was that!  They are all officially home for Christmas! 

IMG_1317.JPGIMG_1321.JPGIMG_1322.JPGIMG_1323.JPGIMG_1326.JPG

We are now enjoying lounging around, living room football, and binge-watching Disney plus.   And we finished our puzzle.  Sadly, Tatum and Bear ate 7 pieces, so we didn’t get the full victorious satisfaction. 

IMG_1344.jpgimg_0332-2.jpg

~ for the dollar store.  Love me some dollar store when it’s time to shop for Christmas stockings for 9 kids!

~ for the absolutely MOST DELICIOUS slow-cooked, fall off the bone, flavor-LICIOUS ribs on the planet.  Drew, you are a BBQ ARTIST!!!!

~ for encouragement from the Lord: through His Word, His Voice, and His people.  It brings such comfort to know that my Heavenly Father sees me and cares about every detail of my life, and that He is WORKING IN AND THROUGH every trial to refine me and make me more like Him.  It’s so incredibly hard to stop trying to control everything.   Even though my mind knows that I don’t have ANY POWER to control anything anyway, I still waste so much energy fighting for it.  I can’t control Sawyer’s health, or whether or not his cancer will return.  I can’t control what others think of me or whether or not they love and accept me.  I can’t control my children’s choices or their relationship with the Lord.  And sometimes that makes me feel so empty and powerless and just plain hopeless.  

But God. 

An empty vessel.  Cracked and broken.  The perfect vessel for the Lord to pour into and fill to overflowing.  Every crack in me allows Jesus to shine through more.  If I am empty, there’s more room for Him.  I’m not trying to say that I just radiate Jesus everywhere I go.  Or that I am moping around sad and hopeless.  I’m just increasingly aware that God’s power shines through my weakness WHEN I LET HIM.   I am more useful in my honest brokenness than I could ever dream to be in any artificial“I’ve-got-it-all-together-ness.”  

My life feels kind of out of control.  But that’s ok.  Because my Perfect Father has a Perfect Plan for all the details.  And I don’t have to know what’s next, because I know who’s in charge and I KNOW THE ENDING.  The story will end with Jesus on the Throne and every knee bowed.  Glorious. 

 We eagerly count down the days until Christmas, and those who are Christ-followers celebrate the birth of the Messiah.  “Jesus IS the reason for the season.”  

IMG_1374.jpg

But it’s so much more. 

Jesus is more than the baby in the manger.  More than a miracle that wowed some shepherds in the middle of the night.   HOPE was born.   The REMEDY for our brokenness.  FREEDOM for the captives.  He came to walk among us, to turn religion on its head, and teach us what LOVE looks like. 

So wherever you are in the midst of your Christmas busy-ness, MAKE SOME ROOM.  As you shop in the madness of stores or fight your way through traffic, look around.  See the exhausted checkout clerk.  Or the frazzled mother dragging her kids out of the toy aisle.  If you are breaking your back to get your baking done, your house spotless, and fretting about the relatives that you are not looking forward to seeing this year…take a deep breath and think about the families who will spend Christmas in the hospital or who would give ANYTHING for one more Christmas with their mom, or their dad, or their husband, or their child.   Let’s ungrit our teeth and unclench our hearts and pour Jesus on each other instead.   Spend more time than money.  Give less stuff and more of ourselves.  This Christmas might not be perfect, but it will never be this Christmas again.

FullSizeRender 7.JPG
Christmas in the hospital, 2014

   

Let’s love one another well this week.  Merry CHRISTmas!

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””  (Luke 2:10-14)

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)