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)

Even When it’s Hard…

This week I’m thankful for the little stuff.

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

For a beautiful box of the best tacos.

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

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

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

5th Grade Wax Museum

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

For the smell of roasting chicken.

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

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

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

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

But I’m thankful.

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

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

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

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

Because He IS coming….

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

A Paintbrush in my Hand

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

Sawyer, 2014

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

New friend, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in the Country: November 17-20

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

Refocusing

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

~ for naps, glorious naps.

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

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

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

~ for a good old fashioned Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

~ for progress. Tiny progress is still progress.

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

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

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

But You…

Faithful.

Steady.

Sovereign.

Eternal.

Worthy.

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”” (‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬)

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

Ready…Set…Go GOLD!

I am thankful:

~ for signing bookmarks, lost lunches, forgotten water bottles, and jeans that are too small overnight. For bug collections , memory verses, book covers, and pungent PE uniforms. We are in full swing!

~ for Tatum K’s long, beautiful hair that has never known a trim. I will admit, it’s getting a little hard to manage. This week after a particularly harrowing encounter with the hairbrush, she informed me, “Mama, I want a haircut. But ONLY cut it from the BOTTOM!” (Daddy said no.)

~ for sweet Samantha who is now a proud member of the 7th grade volleyball team! She’s so excited.

~ for little fun moments and activities sprinkled throughout our days.

Doesn’t everybody have a Chia Chewbacca?

~ for so much fun doing school with Tatum K. I have been so surprised by how eager she is to learn! Every day when she gets up, she asks what we are going to learn today, and runs to get a Bible so we can start there. And I’m learning how to give myself grace and that with a 4 year old, learning can be organic and unstructured. We count our food, we find letters on the mail, and sing songs and read books. I’m so proud of my little student!

~ for some really wonderful Giddyup & Whoa signs coming out of the shop. It’s been pretty quiet for a while, but all of a sudden we got BUSY! Including a first for me: 2 signs in Spanish for a classroom! It was a fun challenge, but I was terrified I would misspell something because I had no idea what they said!

It is GOLD SEASON. And it’s been 2 years since we’ve had any in-person events, so I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do everything. BUT GOD. He has given me energy and grace that are not my own. And I look at all the pictures of these amazing kids, and it gives me the strength I need to press on through. The bus is sporting her festive gold polka dots, gold purse out and ready, and gold apparel ready for the next 30 days. Ready, set, GOLD!

I’m so excited about our event on the Square August 31. Go Gold Tyler is our kickoff event for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We have booked a live jazz trio, food trucks, and a wonderful evening for our HERO families and their supporters. Please join us if you are local. August 31, 6:30-8:30 pm on the Tyler Downtown Square.

I’m in a season where I am CONSTANTLY reminded that nothing is within my control.

Nothing.

I mean yes, I am responsible for my behavior, my words, my conduct, my actions.

But the things I worry about? No control. And I guess I’m supposed to know that already, but if I ever did know that, I’ve long since forgotten.

BUT GOD.

He sees. He sees the horrors taking place all across our world. He sees innocent lives lost, and unspeakable injustices, and genuine evil.

He sees the things that keep me awake at night, the things that rattle me to my core. And this week, in the midst of trial and frustration and heartbreak, He has reminded me that nothing escapes His attention. He cares about me. He cares about people all over the world. He hears my prayers, whether I can force the broken words from my lips or not.

AND HE IS MOVING.

He is working in the dark. He is drawing hearts to Himself. He is mending broken hearts. He is building His Kingdom living stone by living stone.

And I will remind myself every day: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Don’t lose heart friends. Keep praying.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalms 13:1-2, 5-6)

In Between

I am thankful:

~ for the joyful celebration of beautiful Coby Tate Cochran. We love our Miss Lindsey and Mr. Chris with all our hearts, and Coby is the most beautiful answered prayer, so celebrating him and them is easy!

Coby is obsessed with cows, so his “Cow Jumped Over the Moon” theme was adorable. We went to an awesome park in Lindale, and the kids had a great time playing and splashing and celebrating Coby turning 2.

~ for our first juicy and delicious red ripe tomatoes fresh from our garden.

~ for the best laughs. Sawyer has taken to wearing a mustache these days. Years ago when he was little, he had “Friend the Mustache.”

2018
The Original “Friend the Mustache” 2018

He proudly donned his new one this week and said, “‘Friend the Mustache’ is back!” He wears it almost every day. He came down and sat beside me and I looked at him and started giggling. “What?” he asked innocently. I just shook my head laughing and reminded him, “Your mustache.” To which he replied without hesitation, “What??? Is it upside down?”

~ for Cooper’s favorite French toast, slightly crunchy with cinnamon sugar and a hint of orange zest, dusted with powdered sugar, dripping with melted butter and warm maple syrup.

~ for Giddyup&Whoa signs to paint. I’ve had the wonderful privilege of painting for my dear friends’ new vet clinic (Faith Veterinary Clinc in Troup if you are looking for a vet), several weddings, and a special anniversary. I love creating something beautiful and meaningful for people I love.

~ for the sweetest concert. Our kids and their friends have been talking for WEEKS about a fundraiser concert they were planning for the neighborhood. For weeks I’ve heard them singing their hearts out at the top of their lungs. For weeks they’ve been borrowing the Alexa to play music and have “Sunshine Sisters” band practice. For weeks I’ve been hearing plans. Last week they had a stack of lumber in the driveway and half of Josh’s tools out. “What in the world is going on here?” we demanded. “We’re building a STAGE!” Thankfully we put an end that, or surely we would have had to get a permit from the HOA. Thursday I was in informed, “The concert is TONIGHT!” I began getting texts from other moms and neighbors, “Is this thing really happening?” And as I watched my children hustling and bustling through the house, setting up tables and gathering chairs and blankets… I soon realized, their plans were VERY real, and “this thing” was REALLY HAPPENING INDEED. When I walked out my front door, there were chairs in rows and a refreshment table. The kids had made signs and knocked on doors, and pretty much the whole neighborhood came out!

The kids sang and danced and told jokes and drew names for prizes. It was absolutely adorable. They even got their audience to participate!They collected $59 in donations for a local foster care support organization. I was blown away by their dedication, creativity, and courage. They had a goal, worked hard, and didn’t back down. And the support shown by our neighborhood was heartwarming.

~ for the bittersweet blessing of dropping two of my babies off at camp. Cooper and Samantha are THRILLED to go to Pine Cove this summer: Cooper’s 4th time(?) and Sam’s first. We have spent the whole week prepping and packing, and this afternoon I loaded up all their gear and made the short drive to the lushly wooded Pine Cove property on Lake Palestine. I know they will have a blast, but we sure will miss them!

~ and it will prove to be a fun week for Sawyer, Zoe, and Gavin, as they attend 4 nights of IGNITE, a VBS-type event at their school campus. Tonight was SuperHero Night. Kora and Tatum K (too old and to young for IGNITE) helped me bake some yummy muffins at home, and I will enjoy some girl time with them with the others are gone.

It was a mish-mosh week of highs and lows and everything in between. Just real life messes. Hoverboards left out in the driveway and half-dog-eaten crayons under the table. Clogged toilets and a pocketful of Kleenex-turned-confetti in the washer. The kind of week that caused me to know there are 52 days of summer left until the first day of school. Sometimes parenting looks like this…

Simple joy

And sometimes it looks like this.

When someone can’t resist sticking their fingers in the THIRD coat of a drywall project

I know that a huge part of parenting (or life in general) is the humbling, the stretching, the reaffirming that we don’t have all the answers. Our shortcomings highlight what a perfect Father we have. In our weakness He is strong. He never gives up, never wears out, never turns His back. I can’t tell you how many times I had to put myself in a time-out this week. I’ve emptied myself, come to my end. I’ve cried myself to sleep and said not-very-Christlike words in my closet. If you had a week that you had to sit and think a moment to come up with what you are thankful for… you are in good company.

But it’s still worth it.

It’s still worth giving thanks for sticky jelly kisses and a warm bed and silly mustaches and an occasional 5 quiet minutes alone with a great cup of coffee. And a reminder to give thanks that none of my babies are in the hospital. To take nothing for granted. The more of me that gets emptied out, the more room there is for Jesus.

Dear Lord, we DO have so much to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.” (Psalms 25:4-5)

“Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5-7, 10)

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone You’re God of the hills and valleys And I am not alone” (“Hills and Valleys,” Tauren Wells)

Turn Your Music On

I am thankful:

~ for a beautiful, thriving garden! Looks like the new soil and new plants are actually going to make it! Sawyer planted sunflowers this week, and eagerly checks daily for signs of sprouting.

~ for a wonderful presentation from Gavin and his 4th grade classmates at their Spring Concert. Gavin was so proud to be chosen to sing a solo, and he performed it beautifully. Their worship was pure and innocent and SO POWERFUL, and I know it was so pleasing to the Lord.

~ for my dear friend having a wonderfully successful mission yard sale to raise money for their ministry to Uganda (check out Rock of Living Waters. The Lord is doing great things!) Despite their one day sale being a dreary, rainy day, they raised almost $5000! And after their sale, they had so much left over, they donated it to TCF for our mission yard sale happening later this month! My DARLING HUSBAND wanted to kill me for volunteering him to pick it all up…it filled EVERY INCH of an Aaron’s box truck, which we had to load and THEN UNLOAD at the church. (“The Giddyup” & “The Whoa” switched roles for a couple brief hours that day, but we got through it, and order has once again been restored.)

~ and Tatum K was in her glory at that yard sale. I told her she could choose a treasure, and Little Miss stomped from one end of the tent to the other in her rain boots, with a trash bag in her hand. She found her 2 princess puzzles, a princess bubble kit, a Hello Kitty doll, a new dress 3 sizes too big, and the most beautiful princess dress up high heels that she had ever seen.

Considering that day I had already dragged her, in the pouring rain, to Home Depot, Home Goods, Sam’s Club, ALDI, At Home, Walmart, and Lowe’s…she deserved some treasure! It was a big day for Bitsy Girl.

~ for the opportunity to celebrate our firstborn‘s birthday. Colton, the beautiful black haired, once-chocolate-now-green-eyed baby, the one who made me a mama, turned 22 today. We have gone through hell with him, and with great joy have come out the other side. We are so proud of the man he is becoming, and grateful for the relationship that has been rebuilt over the last few years. Celebrating him is a true celebration. A food-lover after my own heart, his menu never disappoints: crescent chicken (a savory chicken and cream cheese mixture baked in a crescent roll pocket), sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and a tower fluffy cream puffs. Tatum K approved of his “ba-zert.”

~ for my husband’s Giddyup spirit. He decided the front of our house needed a little bench in a spot that had been an awkward little flowerbed. So of course, he drove straight to Home Depot and bought the cedar he needed, and came home and built a bench – all after a an 11-hour day at work. He finished it up and had it in place a little before 11pm. That man always blows my mind. We don’t call him Mr. Giddyup for nothing!

Kid tested and approved!

~ for good progress on my makeover projects. I’ve been busy with other things, and the weather has been uncooperative, so nothing is done, but I’m excited about the pieces I’ve been working on.

~ for an outstanding response to the Gold Network of ETX Toy Drive! These pictures are just SOME of the donations you have given! This is the first year we have had multiple business drop off locations, and the first year other pediatric cancer families have really gotten involved, and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I can’t wait to finish gathering all the toys from the drop off locations, go shopping with the remaining donated funds, and count how many toys have been collected! What an amazing blessing for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic!!

It’s been a hard week. I often describe my parenting style as professional Whack-a-Mole.

There’s always a fire to put out. Always a crisis. I mean, statistically the kids CAN’T all be doing great at the same time. But mercifully, we have never had everybody doing terrible all at once either. Thank God for that. But there’s also the part of me that says, “you’re not even walking through cancer anymore. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OVERWHELMED. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH TERRIBLE TRIALS! SUCK IT UP!” Anybody else talk to themselves like that?

I’ve definitely felt discouraged this week. If you’ve ever seen the goofy picture of someone feverishly trying to sweep the shore while the ocean waves pound, crashing again and again…that’s what it feels like.

I feel like I’m constantly fighting a losing battle. Something will come out of nowhere, and I just throw my hands up and wonder, “what am I even doing?” I mentioned that to Josh this afternoon, shaking my head. He hugged me tight and held me close, and he said quietly and tenderly in my ear, “turn your music on.” He had mentioned that last week in Small Group, and it had surprised me that he had noticed that particular detail. He had said to the group, “I can always tell when I come home and the worship music is blaring… I know it’s been a rough day.” But it really is true: there is power in praise. There is power in worship. There is power in speaking the name of Jesus. So this afternoon I turned on the speaker and was instantly meant by the words, “By Your spirit I will rise from the ashes of defeat…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…In Your name I come alive to declare Your victory…The resurrected King, is resurrecting me…” Thank You Jesus for the comforting power of the Holy Spirit, and for Your Presence. You have promised that You would never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to abide with You, and keep You as our first resource instead of our last resort. I know the trials You allow are refining gifts, sanding me and shaping me, keeping me humbled on my knees where I belong. And thank You for new mercies every morning, for each one of us!

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you will look for the good. Even in the darkest days of my life, God was with me. Don’t lose heart. And when you think it’s all about to fall apart, turn your music on.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalms 28:7)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

Good Hard

I am thankful:

~ for the opportunity for my kids to use their gifts + their hearts. Gavin sat on the front porch and drew our neighbor’s car. But it is so much more special, because it is the car of their son who passed away just over a year ago, and Gavin wanted to give them his picture. Love his tender heart.

~ for Zoe’s character quality award in chapel this week: Creativity. Look at those sparkling brown eyes. She loves knowing she has made us proud.

~ for a long-overdue visit with a dear friend and sister. Our visits are never long enough or often enough, but we pack in the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of what’s been going on in our lives, and I always walk away from our time so encouraged.

~ for the great privilege of Gold Network of East Texas being chosen by Jodi and her team at Vintage & Co as the charity partner for their Spring Barn Sale. A team of us worked the admission table on Early Bird Day, and it was an extra treat to run into one of our very own HEROES: sweet Georgia! She loves vintage shopping and had found her own treasures that day!

I also had the privilege of painting a sign for a dear friend‘s baking business featured at the sale. I LOVE painting on unique salvaged pieces, so this charming punched tin pie safe was a treat for me!

~ for Sawyer’s school project: flourishing grass seed! He decided it needed a haircut!

~ for the grace and endurance I needed for a manic marathon Friday! This Friday was grocery day, which means tackling three grocery stores across town, loading and unloading before kids get out of school at 1. That’s a normal routine every other week for Tatum K and I, so it’s no big deal. Except of course that this week was a torrential downpour and lightning storm. AND it was Gavin’s turn to give his demonstration speech at school.

AND across town at the middle school, Kora was a queen in the much lauded annual 5th grade Medieval Feast.

By some miracle, I managed to get to everything, but I was a soaked, soggy, exhausted mess by the end of it all. Thankfully, many good memories were made, and even MORE thankfully, Dad brought home Rounders for dinner!

~ for a great Friend’s Day at church. Friend’s Day is a trademark of our church’s history: a relaxed picnic on the grounds, good food, good music, and good time connecting with friends, old and new. Josh’s and my first every visit to TCF 21 years ago was on a Friend’s Day. I’ll never forget it. We were so nervous to be showing up to a church service with our little 10 week old baby, and we were all dressed up in our Sunday best to try and look like we had it all together. We walked into the sanctuary and everyone there was dressed in shorts and T-shirts, ready for a picnic! We sat in the back and scurried away as soon as the service was over. Today was wonderful, several testimonies shared about the lavish love and faithfulness of God, bright sunshine, and a pie contest! I entered Josh’s favorite lemon icebox pie, but the grand prize of the day went to a most delicious pecan pie.

Also a staple at Friend’s Day is a blood drive. Josh and I try to give blood whenever we can, because we have seen Sawyer’s life saved time and time again with the blood transfusions he received throughout his cancer treatment. I was so bummed today when I tried to sign up to donate, but realized I didn’t have my purse and ID with me. Cooper, my one who is squeamish and hates needles, came up to me and said, “I’m ready. I want to do it. Will you come with me?” I was so proud to listen to him talk to the phlebotomist as she prepped him, “I know that helping the person who really needs this blood is a lot more important than any fear I have.” He did so great. And then Josh gave too. So proud of my Loves.

Saturday night we had our Gold Network ETX caregiver support group, CONNECT. It was our first meeting in over a year. When I first sent out the invitation, I was thrilled with the eager response I received – people were HUNGRY to get together. We catered a beautiful fajita feast from Abuelos, and I filled the table with bright and happy fresh spring flowers.

We had families drive in from all over East Texas, 18 people in all, several new to the group. We ate and we talked and laughed and got to know one another. And then we shared our stories. About our kids. About our journeys through our worst nightmares. People opened up about how lonely they had been, how hard it was to accept help, and how much it meant to them to be able to speak freely with other parents who understood the language of childhood cancer. At the end of the night, dad’s were exchanging phone numbers, we prayed together, and everyone went home with a restaurant gift card for a date night out. It was an emotionally exhausting evening, but we felt so incredibly humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of all these precious lives through Gold Network. And to give all glory to God, that He had walked this journey with us, and had opened our eyes and our hearts through the terrible trial of Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis. What a picture of beauty from ashes. I never would have chosen to walk this path, to see my child suffer in so many ways. But God had a purpose so much greater that we never dreamed of during all those hard, hard years. It is still very painful and draining to stay so entrenched in the childhood cancer world. Every new diagnosis, every harsh side effect or relapse pierces my heart as if it was my own child. But it fuels the desire to press in to the Lord more deeply, and to fight for these precious children and their families. It is hard, but it is a good hard. If you’d like to partner with us, you can register for the Tyler Gold Run 5K or 10 coming up in September, at www.tylergoldrun.com Or we currently have our annual Toy Drive for the Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic. Check Facebook or Instagram for toy dropoff locations around East Texas, or donate at www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate If you make a tax deductible donation online, you can select a particular program you’d like to support: the support group, care packages, toy drive, our clinic call-in meal program, or to the general fund to be used as needed. We are so honored to be able to serve the childhood cancer community in this way, and so very grateful for your support.

As always, it was a hard week, a busy week, an exhausting week. We had highs and lows, successes and lots of failures. It’s not a fairytale. But more and more, I’m learning to be thankful for the hard. It’s where I learn the most. It’s where I come to the end of my facade and get real with God. It’s were real life happens.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”(Galatians 6:2)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Right On Time

I am thankful:

I’m thankful for a little spicy three-year-old in my lap snuggling and making faces and asking me to tickle her leg.

For lots of Giddyup & Whoa creations built, in process, and delivered.

For the sweet families that send us updates about Birdie and Bear’s puppies. They are growing up so fast, and are just the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen!

For my newest cute little plant, a dainty creeping wire vine. Who knew you could ORDER PLANTS OFF ETSY!?

For Cooper’s new obsession with “Chay-moe-ME-lay” tea.

For a full house for the first time in over a year. It seems like forever since we’ve hosted a small group for church. Small groups have been home to us over the last 20 years. It’s where we’ve been discipled, been fed physically and spiritually, where we’ve built relationships. We have worshipped together, prayed together, laughed together. We’ve worked through conflict and wrestled through questions together. The groups have changed so many times over the years, from 5 or 6 families to 1 or 2, to the mega group that numbered 50+ attendees, with 29 kids under 12. Last night we had 4 families with our collective 20 kids. Not even gonna lie: it was overwhelming. It was loud, kids were insane, and sensory overload for my anxiety. But it was so good. It’s why God gave us this home: to have a space of open doors and open hearts for loving on people. Kingdom investment. We are excited for this new season of stretching. We knew it was time.

For hand-me-downs. Thank you hand-me-downs for keeping me from having naked kids.

For walks at sunset.

For fun finds at Goodwill.

For my sweet boy I found hiding in the warm towels fresh out of the dryer.

For a sweet movie that the kids and I stumbled upon by accident: “Safety,” inspired by the true story of Clemson University football player Ray McElrathbey, who became legal guardian of his little brother while still in college. It was a perfectly timed, God-ordained opportunity to talk through some questions a couple of our children had about foster care. As they grow into their tween and teen years, there have been more questions…deeper questions, the kind of questions that make my stomach hurt. Lord Jesus, help me tell my babies the truth with the right words given to me by only You. Help me to be a safe place for them, and give them the courage to ask their questions instead of stuffing them down inside. And fill them so completely with Your Love that they don’t have to doubt that they belong. I trust that the moment they need You the most, You will be right there.

This week a sweet friend asked how they could pray for me, and I said “that I would not lose heart and not grow weary trying to pour into all my kids.” It’s a daunting responsibility. Impossible really. BUT GOD. In myself, I don’t have a chance. But I have to remind myself – DAILY, if not multiple times a day – that HE saw fit to entrust Josh and I with each one of these incredible blessings, and that His grace is enough. And I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m never going to quit trying to get it right-er than the time before. And what I want to remember about that day, the day my friend asked how she could pray for me, was that that day my kids REALLY needed me. We talked through some really hard stuff, we had some extra hugs after a big owie, we prayed some really raw prayers. Had some looong talks. Any one of their needs would have been big enough to overwhelm a day. But stacked together and multiplied? WAY too much. BUT GOD! God knew what was coming THAT DAY, and He put me on my friend’s heart. And He knew she’d be faithful, both to reach out to me, AND to ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH AND PRAY.

HE. IS. FAITHFUL. And He is ALWAYS RIGHT. ON. TIME.

Thank You, Jesus, for walking with me.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalms 32:6-8)

“God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭13:5‬)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
‭‭(Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬)

“I’m changed by Your mercy Covered by Your peace I’m living out the victory Doesn’t mean I won’t feel the heat You’ve walked me through fires Pulled me from flames If You’re in this with me I won’t be afraid When the smoke billows higher, oh and higher, and it feels like I can barely breathe I’ll walk through these fires ‘Cause You’re walking with me”“Fires” by Jordan St. Cyr