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.

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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)

Vision

I am thankful:

~ for those sweet moments that make me laugh.  Tatum was crying, but was trying to settle herself down when her nose started running. Horrified, she started crying harder, “Mama!!!  Now my NOSE is CRYING!”  That girl keeps me on my toes.IMG_4507.JPG

~ for a better-than-expected first week with new puppy, Birdie.  She is sweet, and Bear is getting used to her…he is alternately playful and annoyed.   She is sleeping much better and more tuned-in to potty training than Bear was when we first got him.  She’s certainly doing better on the potty train than Miss Tatum K.  I guess perhaps Mama is a little more motivated with the dog…the puppy’s accidents aren’t contained by a diaper, and Tatum is at least slightly LESS likely to poop on my rugs….IMG_4313 2IMG_4524

~ for some of the most beautiful wood we’ve ever worked with as Giddyup & Whoa.  It is truly the prettiest, chippiest, most awesome wood, and it’s so special to the family we are making signs for.  Such an honor to be entrusted with their memories. 896D690F-D861-41FC-A14D-00296B1DD3EE.JPGIMG_4631.JPG

~ for Cooper being home safe from an incredible trip to Camp Eagle in West Texas.IMG_4636.JPGIMG_1380 2.JPG 

~ for AWESOME new GO GOLD t-shirts.  Go check out Laurel & Cotton to get yours.  Thank you so much to Melissa Vance for your heart to help our HERO families!IMG_4484.jpg

~ for another new and beautiful dream realized.  Last September after Tyler Gold Run, Josh and I started talking about how badly we want more people to understand the vision of Gold Network of East Texas.  Over the last 5 years, we have focused on reaching every family we could find, and raising funds by asking the local businesses we know to be race sponsors.  But we have come to realize that focusing on Tyler Gold Run is so short-sighted.  MOST people don’t want to hear about a race.  MOST people aren’t interested in being a race sponsor.  But I genuinely BELIEVE that if MOST people hear about these families, about the reality of childhood cancer, and about the incomparable bravery of these kids, that they will get on board with us and we just might change the world.   So we decided we wanted to have a dinner.  We envisioned inviting friends and family and others from the community to our home and just sharing our hearts.  When we started making a list, I told Josh that I thought it MIGHT be too big for our house.  To which he replied, “I don’t care!  I’ll stand on the table and talk!”  But as it all actually began to unfold, we decided to book the Foundry, a downtown coffee shop with additional venue space.  We reserved the middle floor which held 78 people, and we prayed that we weren’t being overly optimistic.   We booked a professional videographer, booked a caterer, booked a cellist, and called it the Vision Dinner.  And a week before the event, we had to move our reservation to the 3rd floor, because we had OUTGROWN  the capacity!   The Vision Dinner was Tuesday evening, and it was SO SPECIAL!  We heard from several of our Hero moms and from brave 8th grader and Ewing’s Sarcoma survivor, Aneesa, who read her inspiring letter to her school principal asking her school to Go Gold.  We shared what GNET had done over the past 5 years and our vision for the future.  I looked out at the crowded room of kind, supportive faces around the carefully decorated gold and black tables and felt as though my heart would burst.  I even had the special blessing of having Colton there: he had lined up several of his friends from work who all VOLUNTEERED their time to be our head servers. GNET received many donations that night, but more importantly, I genuinely believe eyes were opened and hearts were touched. _MDJ6866_Original_MDJ6975_Original_MDJ7030_Original_MDJ7108_Original_MDJ7168_OriginalIMG_20200303_181013276_OriginalIMG_20200303_182059657_Original

I will never forget that night. 

~ for the times when the Lord tells me to trust my gut.  Wednesday evening, Sawyer started complaining of a headache and sore throat.  Thermometer revealed 101° fever.  We gave him some Motrin and tucked him in to bed, fighting the inevitable anxiety that creeps in when he runs fever.  Years of conditioning to head straight to the hospital for a temp higher than 100.4° is hard to let go of.   We know the unlikelihood of fever meaning cancer relapse, and we know viruses come and go, and they just have to run their course.  Next morning, 103°.  I gave lots of fluids and Sawyer did not resist being confined to his bed.  That evening, his fever spiked back up to 104° and a rash began to spread across his chest and back.  Sawyer looked at himself and said, “Mama, I look like salami!”  IMG_4554.jpgI still tried not to overreact.  I know rashes can pop up with fevers.  But I just couldn’t shake my concern.  I was able to get the VERY LAST appointment for Friday afternoon at the pediatrician.   And am I ever grateful that the Lord wouldn’t let me let it go: sweet boy tested positive for strep throat and scarlet fever! IMG_4562.jpgI hate to think how sick he could have gotten if we had waited until after the weekend!  BUT GOD!  With antibiotics, the fever quickly subsided, and after a day he was released from quarantine.  Salami Boy is still pretty spotty and itchy, but the maddening red rash is improving and his sore throat is gone.   And thankfully no one else shows signs of getting sick.  Thank You Jesus! IMG_4609.jpg

~ for gloriously good news for my friend after terrifying news, an agonizing waiting period, and a very serious surgery.   Praying for healing mercies as she turns the page on a scary chapter. 

~ I am thankful for the GOAL of Daylight Savings Time, and I know I will enjoy lighter, brighter evenings this summer.  BUT TONIGHT I AM MISSING THAT HOUR AND I AM SO VERY TIRED. 

~ for the wide open schedule of Spring Break ahead.  Praying for lots of grace and patience and getting along with one another and sunshiny days for playing outside. 

My heart is so sad tonight.  Another innocent child was lost to cancer.  Two in a month.  Two more families that should be watching their babies grow up, and instead, they can only wonder what might’ve been.   And yet another family I love is on a trip to soak up some last memories with their sweet little one before they have to say goodbye.  Father God, I love You and I trust that You are good, even though no part of me can understand.  Help me to fix my eyes on You and not on the chaos and brokenness of my surroundings. 

Hold close the ones you love.  Please visit our newly updated website www.goldnetworkoet.com to see the phenomenal video.  If you are moved to give, please do so.  Or contact me about getting involved.  Childhood cancer is not going away.  Help us do more for families living their worst nightmare. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalms 90:12)

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;” (Job 19:25)

Don’t Give Up

I am thankful:

~ for breathing easier.  You might remember that Cooper was injured at football practice about a month ago.  His hip is fully recovered, but we had another issue hanging over our heads with his health. The EMT on site that day was concerned with Cooper’s heart rhythm, and said we needed to follow up with our primary care physician.  We did, and THAT doctor felt it best to err on the conservative side, referring Cooper to a pediatric heart specialist.  That appointment was this week.  When we arrived, the nurse noted Cooper’s blood pressure as slightly elevated (which could easily have been caused by his anxiety about the appointment).  But also, the repeat EKG showed the same concerning abnormality, and prompted the doctor to do an echocardiogram.  Thankfully, the anatomy of Cooper’s heart looked perfectly healthy, and the doctor said Cooper is fine.  He has an electrical dysrhythmia, an abnormal electric impulse in his heartbeat, but it is not causing any issues.  The specialist wants to see him back in a year to make sure nothing is developing into a problem, but otherwise cleared him for all activities, including football!  Those were the magic words Coop had been waiting to hear.   So it was very special to get to see him take the field with his team Thursday night.  Thank You God for taking care of our boy!

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~for the sound of little voices lifted in praise. I love that my Littles love Christian music. It’s mostly what we listen to in the car every day.  I don’t say that to sound preachy or to brag that we are doing something good.  It’s just a choice that I’ve made after hearing my kids sing some less-than-wholesome lyrics that just didn’t sound right coming out of their a little mouths.  So anyway, even Tatum has a few songs that she knows, and I love to hear her tiny “hallelujah,” and see her lifted hands.  My middle girls are entering the preteen years, and they love music so much.  So they sing out with ALL THEIR MIGHT. And I have to hide my giggles when the tone is more enthusiastic than melodious.  I know it all sounds beautiful to the Lord. 

~ for a reprieve from the oppressively hot weather. We have had a few days that almost feel like fall is coming.

~for one of our most amazing and inspiring experiences since creating the Gold Network of East TX.  One of our sweet Hero girls, Aneesa, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in the first grade.  She bravely fought through her treatment, and is now an 8th grader at Moore Middle School here in Tyler.  She asked her principal to do a Go Gold fundraiser at their school.  He said no.  Disappointed, but determined, she wrote him a THREE PAGE LETTER explaining what she had been through as a child with cancer, her compassion for other kids with cancer, and shared with him the maddening statistic that less than 4% of federal research funding is directed toward childhood cancer research. IMG_7553.jpg

She told him about Gold Network of ETX, and how we have supported her family and her other friends with cancer, and asked him to reconsider and Go Gold.  He agreed!  Aneesa got on the announcements at her school, shared the news that she was celebrating being 7 years cancer-free, and asked them to pay $2 to wear gold or yellow on the designated day.  Her classmates and the faculty were incredibly supportive, and raised over $1000! IMG_7544.JPG

I was invited to their pep rally this week (as was the local news station) where Aneesa presented me with a giant check in front of her whole school!  I could not have been more proud!  What an inspiration this young lady is!  She is taking the biggest challenge of her life and turning it into a blessing for others – and is refusing to take “no” for an answer!  She didn’t give up!  Josh told her he could envision her being the first of our Hero kids to join our GNET board one day.  Aneesa was absolutely GLOWING.  Love that sweet, sweet girl.

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~ for a wonderful evening with some of our Tyler Gold Run volunteer team.  We gathered at our big table around a feast of C Rojos decadent tacos and burgers and visited and laughed and just encouraged one another.  Then we busted out some delicious pies and coffee and talked about the high points of Tyler Gold Run 2019 and goals for improvement for next year’s event.  We got such great feedback, and I just treasure each one of these dedicated individuals who give of their time and energy to support the vision and mission of GNET.  I am STILL more exhausted than I have ever been in my life.  Another year older, I find I just don’t bounce back the way I once did.  But I am so excited to see all that God has in store for us in the upcoming year, and all the lives GNET is going to touch.

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~ A friend texted me the most touching and surprising note. She keeps a Sawyer shirt in her classroom as a reminder to pray for him, and so many others of course. We don’t often think about that most of our prayer requests are not one and done. It’s always a process, always a journey. when someone is sick, we pray for healing, but do we continue to pray for recovery? When we know someone is about to have a baby, we pray for the pregnancy and a healthy delivery. Do we continue to pray for the momma during the sleepless nights? And that the baby will grow strong and healthy? That momma is never going to stop needing our prayers. I’m so grateful for the friends who don’t stop praying.  The ones who continue to pray more than five years after Sawyer was diagnosed. Who pray for my adopted children for the different things that they are working through. That pray for all of my kids, that pray for my marriage, and pray for me. We have to be faithful to lift one another up.  Don’t give up!

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~ for a fun day watching our yummy 1 year old cousin, Emmett.  He loved the Bear, and kept me on my toes with his exploring.  Tatum K surprised me with her jealousy and how decidedly and passionately she hoarded “HER” things.  Our prissy princess had quite the furrowed frown!   I also got some good baby sugars from baby Coby this week.  I’ve been itching to get my hands on him for a long time.

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~ for so many generous donations for the Children’s Hospital Toy Drive.  We are so excited to refill the prize closet at the clinic next month.  There’s still time to donate!  

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~ for an unexpected surprise. Looks like it is large item pick up week again! Already this evening just running an errand, I have seen pile after pile on the curb. In less than 20 minutes I scored a pair of shutters, and antique file box, and a set of finials off a bedframe. It’s going to be a great week!

I know I am not alone in saying: this parenting stuff is HARD, y’all. HARD!!!  No matter how many kids you have, or what their ages, whatever you’re walking through, it’s just a different flavor of hard.  Our family is in a unique situation with so many kids on so many points along the timeline.  Not many parents are training toddlers, navigating Littles, preteens, teens, and young adults simultaneously.  The needs are relentless.   I can’t remember a time when ALL NINE of them were all doing solidly OK at the same time.  Somebody’s always mad at us or at each other.  Somebody’s in trouble.  Somebody’s sick.  Something is falling apart with at least one of them at all times.  It’s like whack a mole. But I’m the one who consistently takes the mallet to the head.  Parenting HURTS. I know we will get through it, and I know God is always at work. But I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I just feel like I want to run away.  But God. I am thankful for new mercies every morning, and I’m thankful that the outcomes are not up to me doing everything right.  God knew what He was doing when He chose me to be the Mama for each one of my babies, and He has faithfully, consistently, and without fail given me the grace to walk through sleepless nights and cancer, fostering and rebellion, adoption and selfishness and defiance and everything else that life has thrown at us.  And no matter how weary Josh and I get, we are never giving up.  We won’t ever give up on any of our kids, and we will fight for them on our knees and in our hearts as long as we have breath.  Don’t lose heart friends.  Don’t give up when it’s hard.  Read the extra story.  Give the extra hug.  Say you’re sorry when you screw up.  And don’t be so hard on yourself.  God is working on them and He is working on you.  God is doing His thing.  Let Him.  Anyway, I needed to say all that to encourage myself, and I figured maybe somebody else needed it too. 

Let’s love one another well this week. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:28-31

Reset Button

I am thankful:

~ that Tatum K and Sawyer are both feeling so much better.  Still some ever-lingering hacking coughs, but no more fevers.  Thank You Jesus!  It’s amazing how this virus knocked them down.  They have been so completely exhausted all week.  I snapped pictures in the car each day after school.

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~ for so many people sharing how they are Going Gold.  Profile pictures, wearing gold, sports teams, or making generous donations to the prize closet.  It encourages my heart so much to see that people really do care, and that the word IS SPREADING!  You are MAKING A DIFFERENCE, FRIENDS!

~ for hot, cheesy, gooey homemade pizza. 

~ for our sweet, OLD, grumpy grandpa dog, Cricket.  He turned 14 this week.  He is deaf as a post, halfway blind, and HATES Bear.  But we sure do love him.  Happy Birthday, Cricket.

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~ for good help right when I need it.  A sweet friend called to say, “I have a free day.  Let me ride around and ask businesses for giveaway prizes.  I could sell ice to an Eskimo!”  What a blessing!  And he was right!  In a few short hours, he stocked us up with FABULOUS prizes for the post-race drawings!  Thanks Jarrod!  And we also had a super efficient morning filling race bags, organizing medals, and sorting t-shirts.  The student volunteers worked steadily to get it done, and the support from the school maintenance staff was OUTSTANDING.  I also had a friend help me get Cooper to AND from his Pine Cove work retreat with his youth group. Not only THAT, I found out that my son went to camp WITH NO BEDDING OR TOWEL, and she took care of him for me! Thank you, Emily!!!! (I‘ll check his packing next time!)

~ for a new milestone for Cooper – his first “ask” to a dance.  Thankful for his creative big sister who made his poster, and for a sweet friend to go to Homecoming with in a few weeks. 

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~ for great time for Sawyer at Donuts With Dad this week.  When the note came home about it, he was bouncing OFF THE WALLS.  And it’s ALL he talked about ALL week.  “FOUR more days till Donuts With Dad!”  “Only THREE more days til we have donuts, Daddy!”  “You know what TOMORROW is????”  The actual event did not disappoint.  Josh and the other dads had good times with their kiddos.  And Sawyer’s teacher commented on how much his face lit up when Daddy walked in.  Moments like this are such a big deal for us.  Maybe you can’t understand.  But when you’ve done these fun little milestones and events with all your other kids, the kind of events that you really do take for granted….and you were never quite sure if you were going to get to do it with this one… I don’t know what else to say.  It’s just a really big deal.

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~ for the simple sweet moments that refuel the heart.  Friday was INSANE.  In the course of the day I fielded more than 20 emails and 152 text messages.  We scoped out Bergfeld Park to map out our new layout.  I put out more posters and signs.  Picked up 800 race shirts in 10 GIANT BOXES and crammed them into our bus like a Tetris game around the 7 kids and dog.  It was 90 to nothing ALL DAY.   But then I had a moment. In the afternoon there was this tiny little window of time to sit and put my feet up and be quiet.  And then a little boy woke up from his nap. Sweaty little curls on his neck, he crawled up into my lap and put his head on my chest.  “I love you mama.”  That was the reset button I needed. I squeezed that boy a little too tight for a little too long.

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~ and can I just say, I am SO THANKFUL and EXCITED about our new Tyler Gold Run t-shirts!  We wanted to change up the design for our 5 year anniversary, and our talented graphic designer did a terrific job!  Aren’t they great!!??  

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~ and Friday STILL wasn’t over!  We had fun taking the kids to Elementary Night at the GCS varsity football game.  They bounced in the bounce houses, ran around with their friends, and formed a spirit line for the players to run in through.  I’m not sure if any of them watched any football. IMG_7191.jpg

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The Littles were CAPTIVATED with the football game

~ for a fantastic evening of fellowship.  We have stepped out in faith to be a host home for a 10-week Small Group Bible study.  It’s been a LONG TIME.  Hosting and opening up our home has been a central part of our lives for most of our married life.  We had 50 people in our home EVERY. SUNDAY. for YEARS.  And LOVED IT.  But everything stopped when we started fostering our 3 Littles in 2013.  Small group, church, Sunday school, school activities.  Basically anything outside the home.  That season was just so hard, and we had to focus all our energy on their needs.  Then Sawyer was born.  And just when we thought we had caught our breath and were about ready to rejoin society…then cancer stole everything away.  And it’s taken a really long time to get back into normalcy.  There’s the emotional side – my anxiety kicks my butt and keeps me from wanting to be in social situations; we feel so DIFFERENT, because the war we’ve been through over the past 6 years has changed us in pretty much every way.  But then just the practical side – we have a giant family, and opening our home or going to someone else’s is both intimidating and a ton of work!  But man!  Stepping out of the comfort zone, stepping out into a scary place in obedience….it is SO right where God wants us!   It is stressful and stretching and sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes even inconvenient.  And the fruit it bears is LIFE GIVING AND LIFE CHANGING!  Letting people into our lives and our homes is where LIFE HAPPENS.  It was a great night. So very thankful. 

~ and for my sweet girls who Go Gold without being told.  They just instinctively chose gold/yellow outfits for church today.  So sweet.

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This week, I connected with 2 more cancer mamas. They have both had children diagnosed in the last couple months, and both in East Texas.  Reaching out to them and adding their pictures to our wall of Heroes at the upcoming race was such a powerful paradigm shift for me.  Talk about a reset button.  It’s so easy for me to get swamped by the mountainous to-do lists: clearing our route with the police department, making sure we have volunteers, health department, street department, water, signs, SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS THREE TIMES A DAY….there is just so much to do.  But then is the staggering reminder: these 2 families lives are falling apart right now.  And one of our sweet friends who is almost done with treatment had to be unexpectedly hospitalized due to fever and low counts.  And tomorrow is Lucas’s birthday, and instead of enjoying a smash cake and taking a zillion pictures, his mama and daddy are away on a trip, trying to comfort one another.  It is these staggering heartbreaks that help me focus back in on the WHY.  These are WHY we do what we do.  These families are WHY I wear gold every single day and cover my bus with gold magnets and spend hours a day on my phone.  These are such small, insignificant things that on their own mean very little. But alongside everything everyone else is doing….and fueled by the UNSURPASSABLE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST…. I genuinely believe it makes a difference to these families. Because they all deserve to be SEEN AND HEARD AND RALLIED AROUND.  They need to know they are not walking alone.  

It’s gonna be a BIG WEEK!  I have interviews and morning shows, elementary chapel, and Friday night will be Go GOLD night at the GCS football game.  And then Tyler Gold Run is SATURDAY!!!!  I’m totally thrilled and completely overwhelmed.  It’s not too late to register as a runner, walker, or just give a donation.  And we also have lots of volunteer opportunities as well.   And as always, I’m so grateful for your prayers over all the big and the small details.  At least the weather forecast looks better than last year’s….AND, Sunday is the Opening Ceremony for the Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour, an incredible organization/event that raises awareness for Organ Donation in the state of Texas.  Our pastor and his wife have been involved for years because of their son Josh, who was an organ recipient as a teenager, and then later an organ donor when he passed away.  Because of our relationship with them, we have been big fans of the Circle of Life for years.  But this year, Brother Joe reached out and informed me that they also honor people who have received blood transfusions; and that they wanted to honor and ride for Sawyer!  Talk about humbled and overwhelmed!  Another of our precious Gold Network Hero kids, Jessi Brown, who passed away 2 years ago is also being honored, along with many other donors and recipients.   Did I mention it is a BIG WEEK!!??? 

I’m also excited about the unique opportunity presented by our school through the ministry of World Vision: the Matthew 25 challenge.  Perhaps another “Reset Button,” if you will.  As parents and students, each day has a different specific challenge based on Matthew 25:35-40. 

Monday – “I was hungry” : Fast from snacks and desserts, and only eat rice                                and beans for dinner.

Tuesday – “I was thirsty” : Give up all drinks today except for water.

Wednesday – “I was a stranger” : Sleep on the floor tonight.

Thursday – “I needed clothes” : Wear the same clothes to work/school that you wore yesterday.

Friday – “I was sick … I was in prison” : Reach out to someone going through a difficult time.

Our kids are all very eager to participate. We’ll see what they think by the end of the week.  I’m blessed to walk beside them as we talk about what is REALLY MEANS to love and serve the least of these. 

Let LOVE OTHERS WELL this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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 25:34-40 

Choosing a Soundtrack

I am thankful:

~ for an uneventful day off from school. It was nice and quiet. The kids had fun in the pool. It was a lovely nothing day.

~ for a special, special day that I never could have dreamed we would see.  Our 20 year anniversary!  The naive kids who repeated vows 2 decades ago would have rightfully been nominated “Least Likely to Succeed.”  We had everything against us.  But God breathed His life into us, and into our marriage.  He knit us together because we only had each other.  He took us through the fire and refined our love and our faith.  I scarcely recognize those kids.  But I love what our life has become.  We enjoyed our new favorite C Rojo’s burger and grapefruit sodas for lunch, and thanked God for 20 beautiful, hard, grace-laced, overcoming years.   This was what I posted that day:

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“These two kids didn’t have a clue.  We were wild and naive and crazy about each other.  We had a baby. And then found Jesus. And then got married.  Had some more babies and adopted one.  Lost a baby, adopted some more, and had another baby all in one year.  Then came cancer.  More cancer, and ANOTHER baby.  I am blown away by the quantity and quality of life and love God has packed into 20 years.  We chose each other when we didn’t know any better.  Now I know, and I’d choose you again and again and forever.  And to borrow from another favorite love story, “Let ‘me say we’re crazy. What do they know?  Put your arms around me baby, don’t ever let go.  Let the world around us, just fall apart.  Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”  Happy Anniversary to my Love.”

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~for an uncommonly cooperative and photogenic dog.  He doesn’t mind being a Giddyup & Whoa model or a Gold Network spokesdog.  But he does get tired after all the limelight. 

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~for exciting updates from our graphic designer for this year’s Tyler Gold Run shirts!  We wanted something fun and different to celebrate 5 years.  Can’t show you yet…but I can’t wait!!!!  There’s still time to register!

~ for so many heartwarming reports of people “Going Gold!”  You have changed your profile pictures, shared awareness posts, worn gold… THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of so many families who live childhood cancer awareness month every single day, not because they choose to, but because it is the reality of the life they now live.

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~for healing.  Cooper’s hip is mending well.  Kora has had a chronically recurrent ear infection that is improving.  Sawyer has had a yucky cough.  That’s not uncommon for him.  He always catches whatever crud is going around.  He was coughing by the second day of school, and pretty much has been ever since.  I try not to not be too quick to drag him to the doctor’s office, because I know everybody gets a cold at back to school time.  And I know I am oversensitive and overprotective with Sawyer.  Unfortunately, Monday night, he started running fever.  High fever, over 102°.  We kept him home from school of course, but resisted the urge to jump straight to the doctor, for the same reasons referenced before.  But the cough worsened enough that it was keeping him up all night.  And me.  And Tatum K.  After three days of significant fever and increasing coughing, I finally took him in to the pediatrician. Pneumonia.  Now after missing a full week of school, and a few days on antibiotics, the fever has lifted and the cough is at least a little better.  BUT, now Tatum K is running fever. Sigh.  Just one exceptionally exhausting act in the intricate dance of a large family. BUT GOD… 

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~ for melatonin.  When your child physically does not have a “get sleepy” button, you MAKE SURE you NEVER run out of melatonin.  

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When life is super busy (back to school + a million kids + Giddyup & Whoa painting + crunch time in preparation for the Gold Run) and then we have a health curveball… it really sends me spiraling.  Anxiety doesn’t play nice, and is merciless in its attacks.  Rest at night is almost nonexistent.  I often feel paralyzed by all I have to get done, and physically feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Somehow I had recently heard some song, just a snippet of a really terrible song, and it got stuck in my head.  It was absolutely maddening.  After about 3 days, I realized how it was absolutely MESSING WITH ME!  It was quite literally a vulgar and negative soundtrack playing constantly in my head.  But once I keyed in on it…I took action right away.  I turned on my worship music and began to SING!   Every time the negative song would creep back into the background, I would silence it with prayer and singing.  Changing the soundtrack of my day made a huge difference in my peace.  Have you ever noticed that?  That you replay something over and over in your mind?  And how much more often it is something NEGATIVE than anything remotely positive?  We replay a scathing argument, but rarely an uplifting encouragement.  Recognizing this habit, and acknowledging the negative impact it has on our mood and our spirit can be such a life changing paradigm shift. 

I’m ready for a better week. Sawyer is excited to return to school after several days on his antibiotic and now fever-free.  I pray Tatum K recovers quickly and no one else gets sick.  I have a to-do list 86 miles long, but I trust God to provide the grace I need breath by breath.  And it may not all get done, and it probably won’t all go perfectly, but that’s ok too.  BUT GOD…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When every day is just another struggle / And every choice is an act of war / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for / When it feels like I’ll never make it / When my heart’s crying out for more / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for.” (“Prize Worth Fighting For” Jamie Kimmett)

“I hear the whisper underneath your breath / I hear you whisper, you have nothing left / I will send out an army / To find you in the middle of darkest night / It’s true, I will rescue you / I will never stop marching / To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight / It’s true, I will rescue you. (“Rescue”  Lauren Daigle)

“Now I have resurrection power / living on the inside Jesus / You have given us freedom No longer bound by sin and darkness / living in the light of Your goodness / You have given us freedom Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, my chains are gone! Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, HALLELUJAH!” (“Resurrection Power” Chris Tomlin)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Go GOLD for Kids With Cancer

I am thankful:

~ for conversations overheard in the car:

  “I really wanna go to Massachusetts!” 

“Well I really want to go to Chinese!”  

“I want a really cheap car.”

“No, you can’t have that. Cheap cars are really, really expensive!”

~ for my Coop.  I got a pretty terrifying phone call from Josh Tuesday evening.  Cooper got hit hard during football practice and at the moment I was called, there was an ambulance and firetruck on the field.  Thankfully, a trip to the ER confirmed that nothing was broken. Only a hyperextended hip and some torn ligaments.  We are disappointed that he will miss a few weeks of playing time, but so very thankful that the injury wasn’t worse.

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~for my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season.  And it was even better because Colton showed up with it on my doorstep!

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~ for a GOLDEN WEEK.  Oh my goodness, it was insanely busy and so much work.  I ate, slept, and breathed Gold.  Very little sleep actually.  The “to-do” list always runs and runs through my head and won’t let me rest.  But God gave me so much grace to keep it all rolling.   And blessed me with such wonderful and thoughtful encouragers who lift me with prayer and kindness.

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So thankful for my incredible husband, who shares the vision and drive, and is willing to put his hands to the work behind the scenes.  I envisioned a wall of our Hero kids’ pictures, and he built exactly what I described.  IN ONE AFTERNOON!  He is just amazing.  And he’s a great sport about all the little gold sparkles that have spread from one end of our house to the other.  

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~ i’m thankful that I have the most wonderful and generous people in the world to work alongside.  And the absolute most incredible Childhood Cancer community to serve.  I met several families for the first time on Thursday. Many of them I’ve only corresponded with by phone or email. I’ve seen the pictures of their precious children, and prayed for them, but it is still so overwhelming to actually meet face-to-face and hug one another.  It is the worst, best group of people to belong to. 

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puppies donated by My Minky Co

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~ for such a special night at Go GOLD Tyler.  We had more than 20 Childhood Cancer families represented, and so many loyal supporters.  Our Heroes and their families walked the Gold Carpet, and we released balloons for the children who are now in heaven with Jesus.  And I genuinely believe families are realizing that they are not alone.  That others understand their pain, that others really care, and that their children and their personal struggles MATTER.  Awareness and family connection is spreading, and that has been exactly our hope and prayer for Gold Network of ETX.  You can watch our HERO video here.

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~ for a successful online auction and for the remarkable generosity that landed that stunning painting EXACTLY where it was meant to be.   God’s orchestration is just indescribable!

~ for the best hamburger I have ever had in my hamburger-loving-life!  Thank you C Rojos!  

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~ for endless cups of coffee and a day of pajamas-on-the-couch on Friday (the day after Go GOLD).  I Could. Not. Move.   Seriously, it took about 3 days to recover. 

~ for the very best surprise!  My doorbell rang, and it was MY GIRL!  Carson Grace came home for the holiday weekend!  Oh how I’ve missed her, how we have all missed her!  And it makes my heart happy to know she’s missed us a little too!

~ for such a special family day today.  We wanted to get to attend ONE MORE Texas Rangers baseball game in our beloved Globe Life Park before everything is moved over to the new state-of-the-art venue that will replace it.  That ballpark holds such special memories.  Josh and I went when it was known as The Ballpark at Arlington on one of our first dates.  It was both of our first Rangers game.  We’ve been with the kids, with youth groups, and celebrated birthdays there.  We’ve toured the park behind the scenes and run the bases.  We’ve sat in the premium seats and the nosebleeds.  So today was the perfect day.  EVERYONE was able to go, so we started the day with a hearty Dad’s Special Breakfast, and headed for Arlington.  Oh, let me tell you…it was H-O-T!  (We know that will be the one thing that we won’t miss when we visit the new stadium. It will be air conditioned.)  But we ate our packed picnic and snacks and cheered for our team.  We even bumped into one of Sawyer’s oncology nurses!  I know the kids didn’t REALLY have that great a time: it was way too hot and a lot of sitting.  But we were together.  And it really meant something to Josh and I to be there all together one last time.  And I’m so thankful the kids are SUCH great sports.  They were a little whiny and squirrely during the game, but afterwards, they couldn’t quit thanking us for “the best day ever!”  We will all laugh at the memory of the hottest, stickiest, stinkiest ballgame of all time!  

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Today September 1.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I know, people are like, “oh brother, here she goes again.”  I get it.  Kids with cancer is a real downer.  Trust me.  I agree.  And I didn’t used to know or care ANYTHING about childhood cancer.  Until July 23, 2014, when I was told, “your baby has cancer,” and I became another statistic.  It wasn’t my life until all of a sudden, it was. 

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the United States.  700 children are diagnosed each day.  And 1 out of 5 children diagnosed with cancer will not survive. It takes more lives than AIDS, Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, and Diabetes combined.  Yet somehow, out of the $5 billion federal budget of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), less than 4% is designated toward research specific to all the types of pediatric cancer combined.  That’s why you’ll hear parents of kids with cancer use the phrase, “more than 4.”

So what can you do?

1) GO GOLD!  Awareness is the first step.  If you are reading this, childhood cancer has come across your radar.  Whether it was because of Sawyer, another special child, or a friend of a friend of a friend…you have entered the world of pediatric cancer.  What you do with it is up to you.  Be creative: put up a gold wreath, paint your nails gold, carry a gold purse for the month of September.  Wear gold shoes, or switch to gold shoelaces.  Start wearing gold (or your Sawyer shirt, or whoever you are supporting) every Friday, and get the conversation started!  Use social media!  Use Sawyer’s picture, or find your own!  I’m so blessed by several of you who have already changed your profile pictures!

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2) If you want to support a national organization on behalf of Childhood Cancer, I recommend Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and St. Baldrick’s Foundation.  Both of these focus solely on pediatric cancers, and primarily research.   If you want to support a non-profit for East Texas kids and families, I am personally a fan of Gold  Network.  

3) Register for Tyler Gold Run on September 21. Start a team. Run it, walk it, or just show up for lemonade and to cheer on the participants!  Proceeds support East Texas families as well as Childhood Cancer research.

4) DO SOMETHING!  Pray and ask God to show you what is your part.  Maybe you’ll be the one to visit kids in the hospital. Or take a meal to a cancer family. GIVE BLOOD!!  Kids with cancer need numerous life-saving blood transfusions throughout treatment.

Thank you for letting me share my heart with you.  Five years ago, I didn’t know or care about childhood cancer.  And in an instant, everything changed. Now, the Lord has allowed me the honor of being an advocate for Sawyer and so many others.  My most important message is and will always be sharing the love and hope I have found in Jesus Christ.  So to me, sharing that Love with hurting families while raising awareness for these precious children is the perfect combination.  I challenge you: GO GOLD for SEPTEMBER!!  

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” Revelation 21:3-5

Gearing up for Gold

I am thankful:

~ for a mostly successful first week back to school.  We are working on our rhythm of drop off and pickup and homework and reading and folders and lunches and snacks and water bottles.  

~for the moments when I miss my kids.  Because it helps me in the other moments when I decidedly DO NOT MISS THEM, not to feel quite as much like a wretched troll mother. 

~ for my bestest little helper while the brothers and sisters are at school. I don’t know how I’d get anything done without her!  Many have asked if the house is so quiet with the kids gone…it MOST CERTAINLY IS NOT!  When it gets quiet, that’s when I KNOW THERE’S TROUBLE!  Hurricane Tatum keeps life interesting for sure.

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~ for Bear.  He is just a big fluffball of slobber and love.  We love our muppet dog.

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~ for God providing some long-awaited little windows of time with a sweet friend.  Life-giving friendships are so refreshing!

~ for a mouthwatering FD’s burger with barbecue ranch sauce and sweet candied bacon. I couldn’t stop thinking about one, and finally gave in. 

~ for a fun night hosting Youth Group Back-to-School Swim Bash.  They are a spirited bunch, and they can put down  some hot dogs and some cookies!  We haven’t done much hosting over the last few years, and it was good to open up our home. 

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~ for those rare moments when I get it right with the kids.  When I say “yes” instead of an automatic “no.”  When I put down what I’m doing to look at a salamander.  Or watch a giggly talent show.  When I let them chop the tomatoes and mess up the entire kitchen when it would have been so much easier to do it myself.  When I correct the tone of my voice BEFORE it comes out of my mouth.  I usually get it wrong.  My patience is short and my fuse is shorter.  But then I look at Carson Grace’s empty bedroom.  Unnaturally clean.  I don’t have to tell her to pick it up or turn her music down, but I also don’t get to kiss her goodnight.  For better or for worse, this season of Littles and chaos and bickering and smudgy windows and everybody-always-needs-mama WON’T LAST.  I’ve got to stop bemoaning the hard, stop being frustrated with the season, stop wishing it away.  Lord, let me slow down my heart and my hands so I don’t miss these moments that I won’t ever get back.  

~ for grace amidst the madness.  August/September is crazy season at our house. Between back to school, Go Gold Tyler, and Tyler Gold Run, the pace and the to-do list are RELENTLESS.And if I’m honest, which I am trying so hard to be, I feel like I live in a constant state of teetering between EXploding or IMploding.  But God.  He meets me right where I am.  He gives me the grace to apologize to my kids when I lose my patience for the 82nd time.  Or apologize to my husband when I am LESS THAN GRACIOUS to him. God braids the right people into my path at just the right moment to encourage me when I think I can’t do one more thing.  He gives me the courage to do what I’m afraid of, and the courage to say no when it’s too much.   He has lit the fire in my precious children who steadfastly love me so well and who are each so passionate about all things GOLD.  

I am so excited for Go Gold Tyler coming up this Thursday.  We are in full on Gold Mode at Casa Rucker.  Phone calls, printing photos, video editing, social media posts, building and painting, even a spontaneous last minute news interview! 

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It’s busy, and completely overwhelming, but it’s good.  We’ve gotten in contact with many more families this year, and the “Network” is WORKING!  Our goal when we started Gold Network of East Texas was to offer hope and encouragement to Childhood Cancer families, and to connect them with each other.  And that is happening!  Families are meeting, reaching out to one another, and inviting new families to our events.  In 2015, we had met around 9 families.  This year we have pictures of 58 children!  Staggering.  Of course I hate it.  I hate that all these kids have had cancer.  I hate that we have to have one entire display of kids who have gone to be with Jesus instead of growing up.  I hate that I met 12 new-to-us families JUST THIS YEAR, and we all have the worst thing in common. But as long as kids get cancer and as long as families need support, we are going to ask God to continue to give us the grace to come alongside them.  If you’re local, join us Thursday night.  Go GOLD Tyler is such a special evening, and these incredible children and their families will change your lives forever.  And a reminder of the Gold Network online auction.  We still need an opening bidder!  Click here.

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I wanted to share updates from Harold’s family and a message from Lucas’s mom. 

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“I want to thank everyone who has been apart of our journey whether personally involved or just reading along these entries.  Thank you for praying along us and rooting for Lucas’ well being.  We needed that support both then and now.  We are truly grateful.  Do us a favor and enjoy the small stuff.  Give your loved ones an extra hug.  Smile at a stranger.  You don’t truly know what another person is living through so be kind.  And if you see a Dino randomly, maybe it’s Lucas saying hi.  We’ve had lots of sightings lately.  Love you all 🧡🦕🦖” (Kelly, Lucas’ Mom)

I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am for you, the Sunday Gratitude community.  So often I feel like I’m writing for no reason, no purpose, and wonder who in the world cares a single bit about what I write about each week.  And then one of you will post a comment.  Or stop me in the pickup line at school and say that you were encouraged.  Y’all bless me and encourage me more than I can ever explain.  Thank you for loving me, for loving Sawyer, for loving our family, and for choosing to follow along.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:1-6

“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