Where Did it Go?

I am thankful:

~ for a few, very few, lazy days left of summer.

~ for a fresh and yummy mini date with my Love at Salsaritas.

~ for the joy of finding Fur-ever homes for our puppies! Thank you so much to everyone who has shared my posts or spread the word! Only 3 little boys left!

~ for Whataburger malts to celebrate August Tonight, a very special day to remember and honor a very special man.

As for many others, our “summer” will officially come to a close this week as the kids go back to school. The mountains of supplies have been assembled, sorted, and labeled. Shiny new shoes sit waiting in their boxes – HUGE boxes of HUGE SHOES!!! WHO ARE THESE GIANT-FOOTED CREATURES AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY CHILDREN!? Backpacks and lunch boxes are at the ready. I can’t believe we’re here already.

It seems like yesterday that we were packing up the moving trucks.

And telling the kids about our dream of a farm…

Where did it go?

It’s been a very different summer. But in a good way. It’s been a sifting summer, a refining summer. A season of dreaming and reflecting and shifting and regrouping. Some parts I would choose, and some parts make me want to get back in my bed.

As if that was an option.

Time marches on. My babies aren’t babies anymore.

Now this little nugget is finally going off to school. (Pretty much against my will.)

She couldn’t be more excited. She asks me every 20 minutes how many days until school starts. She pats my hand and says, “You’ll be ok, Mama. You have Bear and Birdie.”

I haven’t been alone in 23 years. This year my BABY baby is starting school, and my 3rd oldest baby will graduate from high school.

I am not ok. I have planned my schedule meticulously.

• drop kids off at school

• return home

• cry

• eat donuts in bed

• repeat

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬)

Board by Board

I am thankful:

~ for a fun-filled birthday for our Zoe! This sweet brown-eyed girl turned 11 with quite the special day. She started with Z-shaped pancakes, then to the mall for EARS PIERCED!!!

Lunch was an obvious choice: Zoe’s Kitchen, of course, followed by frozen yogurt for dessert.

Her requested dinner menu: tacos, beans and rice, and a fancy homemade chocolate cake topped with Oreos. She proclaimed it the best birthday ever.

~ for our first farm “crop” doing well. We laugh when we look back at our very strategic planting technique.

Back in June

~ for these puppies! They literally get cuter EVERY DAY! It’s so fun watching their little personalities emerge. They are now 5 weeks old, and soon to be ready for their forever families. We still have several available, message me if you’re interested. And if you’re not, please spread the word!

Summer is winding down, and the days are counting down until the kids go back to school. They are all excited to see their friends and meet their teachers, if not for the actual “school” element itself. But the #1 MOST EXCITED is Miss Tatum K. She has her backpack and lunch box and new cup and crayons, and she is RARING TO GO!

What am I going to do without my little spunky sidekick??? (I’ve already told her that I’m going to cry on the floor and eat donuts all day. So if I’m not answering my phone…)

We are truly enjoying our time out at the farm. We are out there working nearly every day, board by board. It’s a slow process, but more and more I think it’s supposed to be.

As much as I would like to ding-it-all-done overnight, I really do like the slower pace.

I like watching my kids learn from their dad.

I like working with them side by side, and knowing that they will forever remember that they built this barn with their own hands. I can imagine them showing the barn to their own kids one day, pointing at the nail they shot or the board they cut.

I loved hosting dinner out in the fresh air (ok, it was still 95°) for the first time tonight. Grilled pork chops and potato salad just taste better outside, with friends, and after a hard days work.

I know that along with every board we hang as we build this barn, God is building me, building each one of them. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but tonight my heart is full.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Keep Digging

I am thankful:

~ for lots of progress on the farm. I have to remind myself, slow progress is still progress.

So many people have asked, “so what exactly do you DO when you go out there?” And, “so what is the timeline on the house?” As much as Josh and I both wish we could blink and have everything completed, that’s just not the way it works. Does it work that way with ANYTHING?

This is a beautiful if maddening picture of the journey being even more important than the destination. We are side by side with our kids. They are working hard, getting sweaty, and learning new things every day.

They are playing in the dirt, chasing cats, and eating popsicles. We are literally framing a 4000 square foot barn one board at a time. We are learning, in a million different ways, what it actually means to be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.

~ for the cutest puppies on the planet. Bear and Birdie’s miniature Goldendoodle pups are now 4 weeks old, and we love to love on them! We still have several available, so feel free to put the word out if you know of someone who needs a new snuggle buddy! You can find our G & W Goldendoodles Facebook page here.

~ for an incredible night of delicious food and fellowship at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT Support Group. Although I stressed a bit about hosting at our new ever-so-SLIGHTLY-smaller home, the Lord didn’t let me shy away. AND WHAT A BLESSING! There is just nothing like gathering with people who understand the hardest parts of your life, and the opportunity to lift one another up! We laughed our heads off, ate until we could hardly breathe, and together we prayed heaven down. I could not be more grateful for the priceless gift and honor of loving on these families.

I was super encouraged by the message at church this morning. It was an exhortation to not give up. We can’t give up when things get hard. I know we all KNOW that, but don’t we sometimes need to be reminded? How many times have we found ourselves in a place we never wanted to be, certainly never THOUGHT we’d be, and just had the thought, “That’s it! I’ve had as much as I can take, and I’m just DONE!”

We don’t get to be done.

Wherever we find ourselves, that’s where God has us for now, and even if we can’t make ANY SENSE OF IT AT ALL, there’s purpose in it. In trial, in weakness, in suffering, in brokenness, in sickness…He is there with us, and as long as there is breath in us, we are here for His purposes.

And on the flip side, we MUST NOT GIVE UP WHEN THINGS ARE GOING GREAT! We pray and beg and plead for God to lift us out of the muck and the mire, and when He does, we thank him (hopefully) and then somehow we so often go back on cruise control. Until we find ourselves back in a ditch. We have to remain connected to our Father and His people in the good times and the bad. WE NEVER CEASE TO NEED OUR FATHER!

I was just so encouraged and convicted. We have to KEEP DIGGING. Digging into the Word. Digging deeper into an intimate relationship with God. Digging down through the rubble of apathy and laziness for fresh Living Water.

Sometimes life seems dry and too hard. Too many kids. Too many puppies. Too many fires to put out. Too many bills. Too many setbacks.

BUT GOD.

So I’m gonna keep on loving my babies and teach them Jesus the best I can. And every time I screw up, I’m going to try to do better the next day. I’m gonna hoist those boards and build that barn. I’m gonna get out of bed when I don’t feel like it and do the work. And keep digging.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:47-48)

“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)

“David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”(1Chronicles 28:20)

His Best

I am thankful:

~ for 8 healthy puppies! Bear and Birdie had their third litter last week, and we are up to our eyeballs with the round-the-clock puppy routine! Follow G&W Goldendoodles on Facebook for available puppies and the cutest updated pictures of these little sweeties.

~ for the most delicious Abuelos and Villa Montez dinner dates with my Love.

~ for the older kids having an amazing week at Pine Cove, and the youngers having a blast at VBS.

The girls had fun with Crazy Hair Day

~ for a full week of family, farm, and fireworks!

Barn foundation repairs in progress
Fans installed
All lit up!
More framing
Kora is learning how to be quite the carpentry hand
Tic tac toe up high

~ for an unexpected treat: an evening at Splash Kingdom followed by our first trip to Canton’s iconic Dairy Palace! I sure do love me a good lazy river!

Life is good, hot, and busy. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day to day that I find myself running on fumes. Operating in my own strength instead of His, and that is a recipe for burnout and discouragement. How in the world could I find myself battling anxiety again when life is going great? It doesn’t matter how much GOOD is going on…without God first, I miss His BEST.

Thank You Jesus for lovingly guiding my heart when I start to get lost.

And to all of you, thanks for giving thanks with me.

“And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.” (Psalms 116:5-6)

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalms 62:5)

Stretching

I am thankful:

~ for a safe spot to weather the latest rash of East Texas storms!

~ for Gavin’s school project: using fractions in a recipe, and cooking a treat to bless the custodial staff at the school. He chose one of his great grandmother’s recipes. So fun! And what an awesome assignment!

~ for awesome spring evenings at the ballpark.

~ for the opportunity to snuggle some of Bear and Birdie’s puppies! It’s so awesome when we get to see them!

~ for a heartwarming, long-awaited reunion. Years ago Sawyer made a special friend at the Lighthouse Family Retreat for cancer families in Florida. One of the families serving had a daughter named SAWYER! They were instant fast friends because of their names, even though she was several years older.

We were thrilled to find out that Sawyer and her family lived in Fort Worth! They made the trip to Dallas several times to see our Sawyer at his oncology checkups, but it’s been at least a couple years.

Well last week I got a call that their family was camping at Tyler State Park, and they wanted to get the Sawyers back together. I kept the secret, and asked MY Sawyer if he remembered his Lighthouse friend. His eyes lit up when I asked if he’d like to make her a card to send in the mail. He quickly set to work, and asked me, “Mama, how do you spell, ‘I miss you so much and I hope we can see each other soon’?” My heart sang! We met at C Rojos, and Sawyer and Sawyer were SO EXCITED to see each other! Our families had the most wonderful, if way to short, visit! I love the connection they have!

~ for a great day at the Vintage & Co Spring Barn Sale Preview Day. Each sale they do an Early Bird Day with an admission charge that benefits their charity of choice. This time they chose Gold Network of East Texas! What an awesome blessing! Tatum K was my trusty assistant. But more than once, she frighted guests by popping out from under my table!

~ for a wonderful evening watching Kora and her classmates 6th Grade production of “How I Became a Pirate.” She did such a great job, and had so much fun.

~ for one of Sawyer’s self-proclaimed “Best Days of My Life.” The beloved “Creature Teacher came to visit their class! Baby kangaroo, lemur, and a python were just a few of the animals they got to meet up close and personal. I LOVE the pictures captured of Sawyer’s excitement!

~ for the amazing milestone, Tatum K taking her admissions assessment to start Kindergarten at GCS in the fall! How is my littlest peanut so big!? She was tearful that morning, “I’m afraid to be wif-out you, Mama!” But she calmed down and had fun with the teacher. What is my mama heart to do!?

We are in such a season of stretching in our family. The kids are quite literally stretching, growing out of their clothes and shoes almost daily. But more than the physical stretching, we are in a place where God is causing each of us to be stretched out of our comfort zone in about 17 million directions. I have definitely come to the realization that I am NOT A FAN OF STRETCHING. But I know it’s necessary. And I know it’s good. There is not much growth that happens when we are comfortable or still. It’s an awesome lesson to talk through with the kids, and even more awesome (not really) to see how much still I need the very same lesson myself.

When my faith is sifted back down to a mustard seed, I see more clearly than ever my need for a Savior. I’m nothing without Him. BUT GOD! Because WITH Him, and Him in me, all things truly are possible. So grateful for the beautiful and terrifying adventure He has in store! And even though I’m not always a fan of the process of stretching and growing…I know the best is yet to come. I don’t want to stay where I am. So let’s get to stretching…

Are YOU willing to be stretched?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

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

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Diving into Spring!

I am thankful:

~ for a simultaneously full and relaxed Spring Break with my Loves. The long-awaited sunshine warmed me from the inside out.

~ for tart and refreshing key lime pie to celebrate Pi Day! (3.14) Bear and Birdie got a good sniff, but didn’t get to share. (Although upon examining my photo, I spy something that looks suspiciously like whipped cream on Bear’s mustache…)

~ for our long-standing tradition of Spring Break Breakfast Dates with Mom. One-on-one time is a precious commodity, and these brief stolen moments are so special. I know how much I love going, but it surprised and blessed me to see how much each of the kids valued it as well. They eagerly leapt out of bed when it was their turn, voluntarily dressed in favorite outfits, and agonized over their restaurant choices. Best week of my year. (I’m exhausted and FULL!)

~ for a donut as big as Tatum K’s leg!

~ for a fun day visit with Grandmommy and Aunt Gina. We visited and laughed and caught up on each other. Our whole Tribe journeyed to Jucy’s for delicious burgers, fried pickles, and beans. The kids enjoyed the pool, and then Grandmommy treated our kids and half the neighborhood to fully loaded banana splits! What a fun day!

~ for green-stained smiles from green-dyed oatmeal on St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody got pinched!

~ for the most darling “gold” shirts for me and my girls. Thanks Gina Sue!

Came across these while spring cleaning, and stopped in my tracks. While on treatment for leukemia, Sawyer took zofran for nausea around the clock. Every 6 hours for pretty much 3 solid years. And hydrocodone regularly for the intense bone pain and neuropathy that would wake him screaming multiple times every night. I truly can’t believe we all survived that nightmarish season. BUT GOD! Thank You Jesus for our amazing miracle boy!

Feeling so very thankful tonight. For my precious kids that are so incredibly unique, and so thoughtfully and precisely chosen by God for our unique family. For my husband and best friend who pushes me way past my limits and stretches me out of my comfort, in such a maddening and loving and growth-inspiring way. He is SO the Giddyup to my Whoa, and we balance and ignite one another. There’s no one else I’d rather dream crazy dreams with.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalms 65:8)

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” (Psalms 127:3-5)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

~ for a safe and cozy home when the Texas cold snap hit. The region was fully prepared for a shut-down: paper products, milk, and bottled water shelves stood bare at every grocery store, and school was cancelled for two days. The two hours of freezing drizzle we actually got in Tyler was slightly anticlimactic, but at least we were prepared! We enjoyed hot chocolate and our fireplace. And a mile-long coloring book!

Texas blizzard

~ for NEXT LEVEL grilled-cheesing, on the flat top of course! Dad cooked all 18 grilled cheese (standard lunch for our crew) in 4 minutes flat!

~ orchid update – now she’s just showing off!

~ for a new toy for Bear and Birdie. We’ll see how long this one lasts!

We are getting used to being a puppy-less household once again. I have found Birdie whining at closed doors and searching for her babies several times. But she seems to be settling back into her silly, playful self. And I love how much Birdie and Bear love each other. They really are best friends and sweethearts.

~for a handy sous chef in training.

~ for a fun salvage project in progress. Friends dropped off a couple curbside rescues a few weeks ago, and I’ve been working on a makeover. I love giving new beauty to something that has been written off as garbage. It’s such a beautiful reminder of what Jesus has done for me. Aren’t we all works in progress, always hoping for ANOTHER second chance? Waiting expectantly for God to bring beauty from our mess?

Primer coat…finish yet to be revealed!

~ for fluffy mashed potatoes and maple cayenne glazed carrots.

No great revelations this week. Today, I remain a work in progress myself. Still waiting. Still praying. Still anxious. Still expecting. Still learning. Still failing. Still trying.

There’s still plenty that I don’t understand. But that’s ok. I know The One who does. And I’m reminded again and again that there is an order to all things.

God’s not finished.

So I’m thankful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

“Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalms 31:24)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thess 5:16-18)

There is an Order to All Things

I am thankful:

~ that our precious neighbors are ok. Monday morning we woke to 3 fire trucks and their sirens responding to a devastating fire at our across-the-street neighbors’ home. The 4 am fire gutted their garage, and their entire home was seriously smoke damaged. NO SMOKE ALARMS WENT OFF! The wife was awakened by the strong chemical odor of the burning car. Thankfully, GLORY TO GOD, the precious elderly couple and all their many pets escaped unharmed. But it was a catastrophic loss that will have them displaced for months. So thankful for the family our neighborhood has become. We all carry one another. This was yet another sobering reminder of the fragility of this life.

~ that we survived Puppy Gotcha Week! 9 baths, 9 carefully labeled and stocked puppy care bags, and one by one, we said goodbye to all our sweet pups. It was bittersweet to be sure, but it’s impossible to stay sad when we get to see the joy on all these faces! Somehow my ever-bustling household seems quiet. (I will NOT miss the poop.)

~ for my orchid continuing to show off her unfolding beauty.

~ for an injury that could’ve been worse. Sawyer (a nightly sleepwalker for the past almost 5 years) had his first sleepwalking injury. He woke up one morning with a cut next to his eyebrow crusted with blood. Despite it being a head laceration, we never found any blood anywhere indicating what he smacked himself on in the night. It didn’t look too bad, so we just put on a bandaid and sent him to school. Which was perfectly fine until the next night when he bent down during his shower to shut off the water and cracked himself in the very same spot.

The wound, although still superficial, was now gaping open, and bought Mr. Sawyer a trip to the emergency room. Thankfully a little glue was all he needed. We may need to look into a sleep helmet!

~ for a fun evening celebrating our beloved Coach Chris’ birthday. We feasted at Brisket Love for the first time! DIVINE!

~ for a great first meal on Josh’s new baby. He replaced our broken outdoor gas-grill-turned-charcoal-BBQ with a commercial flat top griddle. The best sizzling fajitas we’ve ever had! And Josh cooked for our army in MINUTES!

~ for laughs. The Lord knew I needed to laugh this week.

Tatum K had a SHOCKINGLY good time on the trampoline.
And Sawyer, aka Mr. Joke Pants, was in full force.
“MO-OM!!! Come quick!
The toilet’s smoking!”

~ for the best news in the world! Sawyer the Warrior remains CANCER FREE! He had his bi-annual oncology checkup Wednesday and got a clean report from head to toe, including beautiful lab work. Going to Children’s is always emotionally exhausting; it’s impossible not to re-live the hundreds of inpatient and outpatient treatments over the years. The spinal taps, surgeries, blood transfusions, ICU hospitalizations, code team…my mind starts spinning, and when I breathe deeply with relief at healthy bloodwork, I suddenly realize I’ve been holding my breath. But Sawyer LOVES “his” hospital. He sees it as an amazing place where he gets to see his doctors and nurses who have become family, a place where “everybody knows his name,” a place where he always gets to choose a toy, a place where he knows he got better. (Not to mention his favorite 2 stops: Buccees and Whataburger!).

This time he cleaned the injection site, drew his labs, released his tourniquet, and bandaged himself!
We love Dr. Winick so much!

But this visit will always stand out in my mind. A challenging conversation came up between myself and a healthcare professional, discussing our markedly different perspectives on faith. It was the kind of conversation that most adults would avoid at all costs. They were being honest about their difficulty in believing in God. Sawyer’s sweet voice spoke up above the grownups in the room. “Do you believe in Jesus?” My heart simultaneously soared and sank, so proud of his unabashed honesty, while my protective Mama Bear instincts wanted to protect him from the potential answer. (BUT GOD…) The person said they didn’t know how to believe in any god because so many terrible things are allowed to happen. And not directing his eyes or voice toward any person, Sawyer sat on the glossy black medical stool, spinning himself in circles, and said quietly, slowly, and clearly, “There is an order to all things.” And silence fell.

I know my son spoke the words of the Lord for that moment.

I have heard those words echo in my head and in my heart over and over this week.

I know he spoke those words for a purpose bigger than that moment. The Lord has saved Sawyer’s life so many times, and He has placed a boldness and a maturity in him that will open doors for him to share the Gospel.

I too have many questions. There is much I don’t understand. But my 8-year-old son reminded me that there truly IS an order to all things. And my lack of understanding doesn’t change that. God is sovereign and He is good. He is big enough for all our questions. If you know ANYTHING about kids, it’s that they ask A TON of QUESTIONS! ASK YOUR QUESTIONS!! Ask them all!

Let us all live with unashamed and bold faith like a child.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:3-9)

“Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalms 86:6-12)

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

““So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Bloom

I am thankful:

~ that all our sweet puppies have found their Forever Families! Raising puppies is so fun; they are so cute and sweet. But it is SO MUCH WORK! The hours, the poop, the feedings, the expense…there is a lot more to it than cuddling puppies and taking cute pictures (although that part is really fun!). But it is truly a side JOB we have undertaken in order to pay off debt, so getting the puppies sold is very, very important. Saying goodbye to the babies will be bittersweet. In just a week and a half, the pups will head to their families, from Chicago to Round Rock, and we know they are all going to bring their families so much joy!

~ for savory ham and muenster sliders on buttery sweet Hawaiian rolls.

~ that I FINISHED. THE. PUZZLE!!!! Josh has issued a mandatory waiting period before I am allowed to start another one. I think he feels a little neglected when I get sucked into a puzzle.

~ for Zoe doing a terrific job in her role as ToastMaster in her 4th grade class. Public speaking does not come naturally for her, so I’m so proud of her courage and hard work to push herself outside her comfort zone.

~ for a great day off with my Sweetheart and my Mini Me. We enjoyed a long over-due breakfast date, trying out Jucy’s for the first time. We were definitely impressed with everything, from their fluffy pancakes and savory sausage to their cold and delicious orange juice.

~ for unexpected treasure. Aunt Dinah found some pictures from a visit back in 2007 that I had never seen. What a blast from the past! I have such photogenic children.

I have this orchid. If you’ve been here at Sunday Gratitude a while, you might remember last March when Josh surprised me with a big “just because” basket of beautiful eucalyptus bath goodies and a stunning orchid.

Now let me tell you something. I love plants. I have been collecting them for a few years now.

And let me tell you something else. I CAN KILL SOME PLANTS. I’ve always had a pretty black thumb. I underwater. I overwater. I leave them in the wrong pot for too long. I’ve killed the plants that are labeled “easy care,” or “hard to kill.” I just don’t really know what I’m doing.

Most of the plants I have had success with are hardy, low light plants like pothos and ivy. So when I received my orchid, I was not very optimistic. Orchids are notorious for being temperamental and hard to care for. And just a week or so, sure enough, all the blooms turned brown and fell off. I knew it. I had committed another murder.

The leaves at the bottom were still green, so I kept the plant. I cut off the long, stately stem that had held the lovely, short-lived blooms, and left it in the window, a daily reminder of my incompetence as a gardener. A month or so later, I noticed a baby leaf peeking out of the pot, and I was so excited! The plant wasn’t dead after all! Even if it never bloomed again, at least it wasn’t a complete loss!

Recently, months later, I noticed a tall green stalk. I hadn’t even noticed it growing, just suddenly saw it one day. No way… could it be? Sure enough, as I continued to inspect the stem day after day, I began to see tiny growths along the top. BUDS!? My orchid was not only ALIVE, it was growing and preparing to BLOOM! From a seemingly dead plant, another failure, to a beautiful symbol of hope and beauty and new LIFE! What joy to watch the gradual transformation and eagerly anticipate the beauty to come.

I have found so much encouragement from watching this resurrecting orchid. How many of us have looked at a situation through eyes of disappointment, discouragement, and defeat? Hopeless. Dead. But what if God is still stirring in places we can’t see? What if life is hidden beneath the surface? What if beauty is waiting to spring forth when we least expect it? I know I have areas in my life where I desperately long to see resurrected LIFE. Things that look hopeless and dead to me. BUT GOD. He is always working, sifting, refining, loving, fighting, redeeming, restoring, healing, forgiving, drawing. Growth takes time. Healing takes time. Restoration takes time. Even if we have a bad track record, He is working in and through us. Even if things look bleak and hopeless, BEAUTY IS COMING. I didn’t grow the orchid because of my wealth of knowledge and careful attendance. GOD grew it IN SPITE OF MY LACK. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And God gives both lavishly. What a refreshing reminder. Look for beauty emerging this week…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,” (Psalms 92:12-14)

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:27-31)

Focus

I am thankful:

~ for the smell after the rain.

~ for the puzzle. It WILL NOT DEFEAT ME. Lego heads mock me when I close my eyes. But I prevail. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” (Psalm 27:3)

~ for a great first week back at school. Christmas Break was wonderful, and I loved having everyone home. And now I am quite pleased to have them back at school. Tatum K and I are enjoying our time together, and are back at homeschooling. Her Highness enjoys her breakfast in her playhouse on warm mornings, and dines fireside when it’s cold.

~ for a sweet visit with a friend who always fills my heart up.

~ for this view into my window. We received the Carthage-opoly board game for Christmas, and the kids have enjoyed playing (they are very competitive and fight to be the one to buy Bulldog Stadium). We don’t regularly spend a ton of time all together playing board games, but those moments are so precious to me.

~ for good laughs when I discover that Tatum K has secretly commandeered my phone/camera. I’m always finding gems such as these.

~ for the most delicious Mother Clucker sandwich on jalapeño cheddar sourdough from Stanley’s. There is no picture because I inhaled it the instant it was in my hands.

~ for the cutest, cuddliest puppies in all the land! Pups will turn 5 weeks old this week, and they are at such a fun age, learning to eat, learning to play and wrestle, learning to bark. We were thankful to find homes for 4 more of them this week, and now have 3 babies left. I love seeing families fall in love with their new fur baby.

The whole Tribe!

And I’m so very thankful for how much we learned during our last litter of puppies, especially our feeding system and custom puppy pen Josh designed and built. These handy setups have made raising this litter so much easier in many ways.

Puppies learning to eat semi-solid food
The grid floor Josh built has been a game changer for keeping puppies clean!

~ for some amazing conversations with our amazing kids. Oh Lord, I can’t wrap my mind around what You have in store for each one of them. Thank You for these priceless gifts!

Not gonna lie, its been a hard week. I definitely felt like I was basically losing at life half the time. And yet again here I sit, thankful for the opportunity y’all have given me (via this platform) to glean the blessings out of the mess. One of my girls was talking to me about trying to “work on her attitude,” and she apologized for being snippy and short tempered. I reminded her (and myself) that we become what we focus on. So what are we focusing on? Junk TV? Social media? Stuff? Focused on our problems and what we don’t have? Or are we focused on our blessings? All that we are thankful for? Focused on JESUS? Focus on your problems – you’re gonna be a problem. Focus on your blessings – you’re gonna be a blessing. It really is that simple. It reminded me of a friend who would say you always have a choice to be either “Humbly Grateful” or “Grumbly Hateful,” and it all comes down to your focus. It was such a good lesson that I need to hear. I don’t want to be a problem. I want to be a blessing. And I want to model that for my Loves. So I’m sitting here tonight, counting my blessings. Breathing them in deep. Because He is faithful. And He is enough.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to Your Name, O Most High, proclaiming Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)