Pure Gold

I am thankful.

For God’s favor.

For kindness.

For people who are generous with their time, their gifts, and their resources.

For fellowship.

For new friends and old friends.

THANK YOU to everyone who came to Tyler Gold Run, who donated, who volunteered, who helped behind the scenes, and who prayed. You have truly made a difference by going gold.

September is almost over. Our mission is not.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

“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.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:23-25)

All Systems GOLD

I am thankful:

~ for a delicious traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for a crisp, fresh new candle.

~ for my new diffuser running nonstop with eucalyptus oil.

~ for new Tyler Gold Run shirts! Always exciting to open the boxes and see the latest design. And it doesn’t hurt that I have the cutest models in all the land!

~ for a week of all things GOLD: hours of putting out Tyler Gold Run signs, Run Committee meeting, radio interview, speaking to 3rd graders about Gold Network and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,

and for the arrival of my long-awaited custom GOLD glitter chucks!

~ for the conquering of an IMPOSSIBLE SATURDAY. Talk about a day when we needed a few clones! We had one sister with a cross country meet in Longview at 8am. One sister with a volleyball tournament in Gladewater at 8:15am.

And mom had Tyler Gold Run swag bag filling in Tyler at 9am.

SuperDad expertly shuttled the girls where they needed to be, and the rest of the Tribe helped me. Then we headed to the barn to hang sheet metal for 9 hours! Days like that harshly remind me of my age. But God!

My sentiments exactly. #relatable

~ for wonderful fellowship with dear friends at church and afterwards. What an awesome gift.

We are all systems GOLD this week. Speaking to schools, several interviews, last minute details, coordinating volunteers, and every big and small detail leading up to our 8th Annual Tyler Gold Run 5K. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years! What a ride!

2015
2017
2018
2021

We’ve learned so much and met the most incredible people along the way. I will never understand why Sawyer got cancer, but I will never stop thanking God for the undeniable beauty He brought from those painful ashes. You can learn more about Gold Network of East Texas or register for the run here. Local or not, runner or not, you can make a donation at any time via our website. Do it for Sawyer. Do it for Bristell. Do it for Sophie. Do it for all the children around the world who need someone to stand up and say that kids with cancer need better care and more funding. Together we can make a difference.

Hope to see lots of you Saturday!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

September is Coming…

I am thankful:

~ for the yummiest perfectly toasted cranberry Einstein Bagel.

~ for everyone (even me) settling in to the school routine. This little nugget is loving her class SO MUCH! She says she especially loves the naps and “a-spanish.”

~ for a super fun evening of fellowship with our church Women’s Ministry painting at Pinot’s Palette.

~ for NO MORE PUPPIES IN MY HOUSE!!! Pups #6, #7, and #8 found their families early this week.

#8 (aka Blue Boy, now named Rusty) was lone wolf for a few days until his new mama could drive in from Laredo, so he got some extra special treatment. This was a much more challenging litter, with the new smaller surroundings, brutal summer heat, and less than ideal timing during back to school. SO THANKFUL to have “been strong and courageous and done the work” and to now have it behind us!

~ for Josh’s Father’s Day gifts getting lots of use: his noise canceling headphones, equipped with Bluetooth AND AM/FM tuner, perfect for listening to Texas Rangers Baseball while he mows.

And his stackable scaffolding, which makes the continued process of building our barn possible. (Still not a fan of heights though!)

~ for our boys’ joy at finding creatures out at the farm.

MOST creatures anyway!

This little feller was NOT welcomed, and was met SWIFTLY with his demise!

~ for Kora’s very first Cross Country meet. We all got up at an ABSURD hour for a Saturday morning to have her an hour early for a meet an hour away! I’ve never even attended a Cross Country meet before! It was a great experience for all of us, and special to be there for Kora’s very first activity. I failed miserably at getting pictures, but she ran hard and did great. We are so proud of her!

~ for a fabulous treat, lunch at the world famous Dairy Palace in Canton on the way home.

~ for more hard work at the farm. I’m so worn out, my TIRED IS TIRED. Josh didn’t earn the nickname “Mr. Giddyup” for nothing. I’ve never been so thankful for Mondays in my life – because I get a break!

It’s a big week. Tuesday Gold Network of East TX will host our annual Go GOLD ETX event on the Downtown Square to kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s always such a special evening to honor our HEROES and cheer them on as they walk the gold carpet with their families. And a sobering one as we see the impactful display of all our kids on the ever-expanding Wall of HEROES, and when we release balloons for the friends we’ve lost along the way. Please join us if you are local: 6:30-8:30pm on the Tyler Downtown Square.

And then it’s September.

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging now for 8 years, since Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis turned our world upside down. I’ll never forget God telling me to thank Him while laying on that vinyl couch next to the hospital crib where my baby was receiving chemo.

THANK HIM? But I did. And it changed me. And I’ve been thanking Him ever since, sometimes freely and sometimes completely against my will. As much as I hate cancer and mourn all that Sawyer was forced to endure, I am grateful for the mission and ministry that was birthed from that excruciating season of suffering.

In 2015, we found 9 families in East TX that had faced childhood cancer. 7 years later, we have connected with more than 100. Which is simultaneously wonderful and devastating. BUT GOD.

Will you GO GOLD with us this year? Follow Gold Network of East Texas on social media to learn more about childhood cancer and how YOU can make a difference.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4)

Ready or Not

I am thankful:

~ for a great first week of school under all our belts. We did all the things. Shoes✔️ Backpacks✔️ Haircuts✔️ Supplies✔️

Teachers were met. Desks and lockers were stocked with crisp new paper, pencils, markers, and folders.

Honoring our beloved Mrs. Youngblood. All 5 kids had her for Jr.K, and she had been so excited to finally have Tatum K in her class this year. Bittersweet.

Everyone was raring to go. It’s been a different kind of summer for us. We left our awesome house with our awesome pool and our awesome neighborhood friends. We’ve certainly made great memories working out at the farm, but here at the rent house it’s been a little lonely and a lot HOT. All 7 kids were ready for some structure and variety. AWAY FROM MOM.

Miss Tatum K counted down the minutes leading up to school. But it did take a few attempts to actually coax her out of her bed.

But a few blueberry muffins later, and she and the rest of the Tribe were ready to go! 12th grade, 8th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade, and JrK, HERE THEY COME!

Did I cry? Yes, but I made it back to the car first. Did I go back to bed? No, my wonderful husband insisted on taking me to breakfast. Did I shove my face full of donuts? Why yes, yes I most certainly did. Ain’t no shame in my game. I eat my feelings.

I didn’t like the quiet. My house felt oh so empty. But I had plenty to do. It’s almost September, so my Gold Network ETX to-do list is full. And puppies of course.

But 3 o’clock couldn’t come soon enough. We celebrated with our tasty first day of school tradition – Shivers snow cones.

I wish I had a recording of the simultaneous overlapping words and phrases coming from every seat behind me in the car on the way home. “Mom, I need a red folder with brads but you gave me a blue one with no brads and I need one with brads. But red.” “Mom my PE uniform didn’t fit.” “Mom, we HAVE to get new shoelaces. TODAY. Like RIGHT NOW!” “Mama my shoes are itchy.” “Mom, you need to sign these 16 forms by tomorrow morning or I can’t go to Bible class. They said I can’t even GO to class if I don’t bring them.” “Mom, what box is my locker shelf in? What box is my calculator in? What box are my volleyball knee pads in?”

I must have made a face. Because Samantha looked at me and turned to the others and said, “Hey guys… lets give mom a minute before we all attack her at once. Breathe Mom.” (Thanks Sam).

I’m thankful for all my ducks, even if I can’t keep them in a row. I just know this is going to be a big year in a lot of ways. Tatum K’s first, Cooper’s last, and everyone and everything in between that will unfold for our family.

Lord, help me actually embrace each day instead of skipping ahead or looking to the next. Give me grace for the messiness and the unplanned. Let me be a grace-giver. Give me courage. Courage to face the hurts that will come that I can’t fix with a bandaid and a kiss. Courage to say “no” even when it makes them hate me. Courage to say “yes” even when it terrifies me. Give me eyes to see that today, today with the cramped house full of stinky puppies and stinky, moody teens and pre-teens will be gone before I know it. And that one day I will miss 3 loads of laundry a day and 87 forms to sign. My hands and my heart and my plate are full, full of people that I love. Don’t let me wish these days away.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

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)

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

BUSY!

I am thankful:

~ for a whirlwind week full of hard work and fun! Literally not one single day or evening free.

~ for being able to celebrate our Carson Grace turning 21. We know God has incredible plans for her life, and we can’t wait to see how He uses her.

~ for a wonderful full week of VBS. The big kids served with old and new friends, and the younger kids attended with old and new friends. We sang and played and worshipped and ate together, and it was an absolutely exhausting week packed with fun. So grateful for our wonderful church.

~ for lots of sweat equity out on the farm. Mowing, chain sawing, junk hauling, and briar clearing.

We work hard and get dirty and sweaty side by side with our kids, and it’s awesome to slowly see our vision come to life.

Found quite the snake skin!

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some poison ivy, on both arms and my EYELID, so that meant a call in to the doctor for some high dose steroids, and I’m NOT GREAT at not scratching! Just part of the process, I guess. This weekend we added some essentials to make it feel really like home: popsicles, a stereo, and a coffee pot of course!

~ for a fun night at American Cancer Society’s Little Wranglers event. Everyone’s favorite was the petting zoo!

~ and for an incredible day back at Globe Life Field representing Gold Network ETX as guests of Derek Holland’s 60 Feet 6 Foundation at the Celebrity Softball Classic. We may not have known many of the “celebrities,” but the event was top notch.

We were greeted as VIPs, escorted onto the field through the players entrance, and Sawyer received a custom Sawyer the Warrior official team jersey.

The whole family enjoyed touring the dugouts and the field, running the bases, and meeting various athletes, actors, artists, and military veterans. We enjoyed an endless buffet in a private suite and met other pediatric cancer families. It was a truly unforgettable day.

~ for the sight of happy, dirty kids living their best lives.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalms 145:3-7, 21)

Summer

I am thankful:

~ for the unparalleled overwhelming Love of Jesus that has poured out among the hurting families in our church. Thank you for the prayers, and please keep them coming!

~ for walks in our new neighborhood.

We’ve met some kind neighbors and are gradually settling in. Hanging up some familiar decor makes it feel more like home.

~ for a great morning shopping with Paula for toys for the Gold Network Children’s Hospital Oncology Prize Closet. We are wrapping up the Toy Drive, and went shopping with an amazing $1000 that had been generously donated. I’ll be gathering the donated toys from all our drop-off locations around East Texas, and I CANNOT WAIT to see how many toys you helped us collect! THANK YOU to all who donated!

~ for lots of progress on the farm!

Brush hogging✔️

Excavator✔️

Electricity on in the barn✔️

Water on✔️

Chainsaw lesson✔️

Cleaning up the barn slab✔️

Rides on the new mower✔️

I can’t express the joy Josh and I are feeling as we work hard side by side with our kids and slowly bring out the true beauty of this neglected little piece of land. When we spend the day out there, we leave exhausted, dripping with sweat, scratched up from thorns, and covered in grit…and truly, absolutely, remarkably HAPPY.

~ for our first glorious sunset.

~ for an amazing day for our 3rd HERO Hangouts outing. We were able to take 55 childhood cancer warriors, siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends to a Texas Ranger baseball game!

Amazing tickets, parking, ballpark food, Blue Bell ice cream, and a WIN made for a fabulous day! It fills my heart with such joy to be able to gather these incredible families together for a fun day that has NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER!

I had the opportunity to share testimonies with a few people at the stadium, and they were truly blessed. Thank You Lord for Gold Network ETX, and the favor You have poured out on us. Out of our very worst nightmare You birthed a vessel of blessing to so many, and we will be forever grateful.

~ for our first LIVESTOCK acquisitions for the farm! We hope they will help us keep the mice, rats, and snakes at bay! Meet Bo, Luke, and Daisy!

~ for a great first night at VBS. Kids are having a blast.

What a kickoff to summer. I know this is one we will always remember.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”(Psalms 113:3)

Wild Ride

I am thankful:

~ for the one who made me a Mama 23 years ago.

How is my baby boy so grown? It was fun to celebrate him, and feast on his consistent annual menu of choice: crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and confetti cake.

~ for more good baseball. (And is it ok if I’m also thankful that the end of the season is in sight?)

~ for my favorite Farmer’s Market salad from Piada Italian Street food. Even if I almost had to share it…

~ for an amazing morning with Sawyer the Warrior representing Gold Network of East Texas at the Annual LukeStrong Race in Palestine.

It’s such a special event, honoring the brave children fighting cancer and their families. I met some incredible people and left with wet eyes and a full heart. Sawyer had a blast playing games and shooting Nerf guns, and proudly told everyone all day what he had had for breakfast: 2 1/2 donuts and a snow cone. Love going to these events with my amazing miracle boy.

~ for a lovely day in Carthage swimming and being blessed by Gina and Justin. They outdid themselves, BBQing the most delicious chicken, accompanied by a tasty salad and the most decadent array of desserts. They spoiled us!

~ for a lovely low-key Mother’s Day with my Loves. A ZINGER of a Sunday sermon, Rounders for lunch, and then more swimming for the kids. I’m so blessed.

~ oh, and one more thing…

SURPRISE!

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride…

Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

Breathe In

I am thankful:

~ for generous givers on East Texas Giving Day. Gold Network of East Texas received more than $600 in donations!

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

~ for the triumphant successful completion of our largest Giddyup & Whoa order to date! We were commissioned by our high school to create 67 handpainted reclaimed wood signs for the parents of the 2022 graduating class!

It was an intense effort of measuring, cutting, sanding, building, sanding again, field painting, handlettering, and watercoloring each one.

Then each was stamped with GW and wrapped with our signature twine and tag!

Phew! What a fun challenge! Thankful that even though I received the order with only 20 days to have them completed, I actually beat my deadline by 3 days!

~ for a fun visit with Aunt Gina and Uncle Justin, who made the trip to Tyler and helped Josh and I divide and conquer to attend the 2 baseball games + 1 Spring Concert we had…all at 7pm on the SAME NIGHT! I was thankful to get to see Zoe’s concert and catch most of Gavin’s game,

but SO DISAPPOINTED that I missed witnessing Sawyer running OUT OF HIS SHOE and scoring a run BAREFOOT!!! (Thankful that Samantha got pictures!)

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for Sir Gavin the Knight of the House of Rucker having an awesome Medieval Feast with his 5th grade class.

~ for priceless time with our Gold Network ETX HERO couples at our CONNECT Support Group. Beautiful fresh flowers, delicious BBQ, and decadent desserts set the stage for a time of loving on these families through whatever stage of the cancer journey they are in. How we love our time with them!

~ for a special treat for the boys: Colton’s birthday gift to his dad was tickets for the 5 of them to the Texas Rangers game! What an awesome day! Even came away with a W!

~ that I got to enjoy a sweet time with my girls while the boys were away. After church we enjoyed stuffing our faces at Olive Garden! Restaurant dining is a rare treat for our bunch, so they were THRILLED!

~ for a husband who loves me right where I am. In my struggles. In my mess. In my doubts. In my fears. He lovingly leads our family, and I’m so grateful I can trust him completely, because I know his trust is in the Lord. There are big changes brewing on the horizon for our Tribe, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. But there’s no adventure I wouldn’t risk with him. My “Whoa” would sure miss out on a lot if it wasn’t for his “Giddyup!”

But I don’t always FEEL adventurous and excited about change. Sometimes my emotions and fears and anxieties take over and I’m, well…the word “basketcase” comes to mind. BUT GOD. I calm my heart by returning my eyes from the waves to my Savior. And I give thanks for the little blessings that surround me. Hugs and kisses and coffee and silly dogs and silly kids and coffee and the smell of candles and fresh laundry and coffee.

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

Eventually, we will make it victoriously across the finish line. And we won’t even care if we lost a shoe along the way.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1-2)