Happy “New Day”

I am thankful:

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

IMG_1988.jpg

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

IMG_1980.JPGIMG_1987.JPGIMG_1744img_1983-2-1.jpg

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

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

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

IMG_1906.JPG

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

IMG_98F5457BA253-1.jpeg

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

IMG_20200102_190756273_Original.jpgIMG_20200103_113358562_HDR_Original.jpgIMG_20200103_112708719_Original.jpg

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

IMG_1993.JPG

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

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

IMG_1923 2.jpgIMG_1922.jpgIMG_1314 3IMG_1934.jpgIMG_1991IMG_1994

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

Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

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

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

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

 

Home Sweet Home

I am thankful:

~to be HOME! We had such a wonderful trip to the North, and made so many incredible memories, but there is truly NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

~to be out of the car!!!!!! Mercy, 40+ hours is a loooooong time! It was a long drive to Kansas City and then on to Winona, MN over two days. Then we spent a minimum of an hour each day in the car visiting various family members or attractions. 3 hours further North to the cabin in Wisconsin. And then, after such a tiring, jam-packed week of activities, the drive home was TORTURE. It seemed like we would never get to Texas, and once we did, the miles just went on forever. So thankful to be back to our home, our bed, our pets, and our coffee pot!

~for both old and new memories. I truly can’t put into words how meaningful it was for me to revisit places from my early life, and especially to do so with the people I love the most. To show my kids where I went to elementary school and high school. They have seen the pictures of their mama with big 80’s hair as a cheerleader, so it actually meant something to them. It meant something to Josh to see the beautiful surroundings of Decorah, Iowa where I went to college, the dorm where I met my friend Katie. Especially with our own daughter leaving for college soon. (Their running joke all week was that I had rebelled from an Amish heritage and gone to Corn College.) I showed them the treacherous winding gravel road that I rode my bicycle down to Grandma Grace’s house, road with them in the fields where I first learned to drive my Grandpa’s antique tractor, and introduced them to the delicacy of fresh and deep fried CHEESE CURDS! Many of these places also hold memories that are not at all sweet and warm. But to walk the old paths, now as an adult, and to see through the eyes of a new creation in Christ, AND to do it with my family…it was emotional and healing and beautiful. Josh and I even recreated a picture we had taken the first time I brought him to Minnesota to meet my family, 21 years ago. My how we have changed – I scarcely recognize those kids. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

~ for priceless connections with the kids with their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents.

~ for Chick-Fil-A!!! Oh how we missed you! We hit Sulphur Springs on the way home just in time for dinner, and the car erupted in cheers when we pulled up! Tatum K was SO DONE with the car at that point, but she perked up for chicken and french fries!

~ for the best neighbors on the planet. Our sweet friends across the street lovingly tended to our menagerie all week: 2 dogs, cat, guinea pig, and tank of lake fish. Another friend mowed our yard just because. Another maintained our pool so that it was clear and sparkling when we returned. This weekend, Josh was working on a faulty sprinkler in the yard and a neighbor came over with a shovel and spare parts and jumped right in to help! What a blessing to live side by side with such caring folks.

~ for new Dekalb Heublein Seeds hats for all! The kids hardly ever take them off. I took a picture to show my dad, and Sawyer insisted that I take one of him “wif this fing in my mouf, like a REAL FARMER.”

~ for unexpected, unbelievable generosity.

~ for the eager, loving hearts of my kids. “Mom! Come look! There is a beautiful Heavenly Glory outside! Come take a picture!” They are faithful and dedicated prayer warriors for any need, from a tummy ache to cancer. They love to help and cook and they give tremendous foot rubs. And they worship Jesus at the top of their lungs! Our trip served as a powerful reminder of how very special and unique and loving they are.

~ for reaching Sawyer’s 5 year “Cancerversary.” If you follow my Facebook or Instagram, you already read my post on July 23. If not, here you go:

“Cancerversary. So much has become hinged on this day. BC – Before Cancer. AD – After Diagnosis. 5 years ago life as we knew it ended. “Your baby has cancer.” The words fell into the hushed ER room, and time stopped. From that moment on, every single day was lived knowing it could quite literally be the last. I stopped making plans. I lived in a strained tension between the faith I clung to and the grim reality that slapped me in the face every time I walked the halls of the Oncology floor. Fast forward through 3 years of blood transfusions and spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies and adult chemotherapy, of administering shots in our bathroom and my baby taking his first steps in a blow up pool at the hospital.  Port placement. Port removal. A near fatal drug overdose/reaction. 2 Christmases in the hospital. Dozens of ER visits and hundreds of trips from Tyler to Dallas.  But also relationships built, lives changed, prayers answered. A front row seat to see the Body of Christ rising up and meeting the needs of the broken.  We’ve clung to each other and clung to Him for every breath.  And God has shown off. His Glory has surrounded us, overwhelmed us, overshadowed us. And today Sawyer is beautiful and bright and strong and healthy. If you didn’t know, you’d never dream he had fought this battle his whole little life. He is proud of his scar on his chest, announcing, “I don’t need a port anymore. Jesus healed-ed me, and NO MORE CANCER!” The doctors said he would experience developmental delays. But God. The  doctors gave him 24 hours to live. But God. BUT GOD!!!!”

The end of summer countdown has begun. 2.5 weeks until Littles go back to school. Which means 2.5 weeks until Sawyer will go to school EVERY DAY (as opposed to MWF last year). He’s so excited, so ready. I wish it wasn’t so hard for me to let him go. I’m so proud of him, and so thankful to God for allowing him to grow up to be so healthy and bright. He is truly a warrior, an overcomer. Lord, help me to trust You with his life today the way I did when he was a frail, sick baby. Help me to be as brave as Sawyer.

Brave indeed. Next Sunday we will load up and move Carson Grace to Marshall to start her journey at East Texas Baptist University. She is going early to take a week-long mini-mester as a part of her Music Major requirements. My heart isn’t ready to let her go either. I have cried about every 7 minutes all week. I know it’s time, I know she’s ready, and I’m so proud. But she’s my baby girl. Lord, help me to remember that she is Yours, not mine.

Please continue your prayers for sweet Lucas and his family.

And I’m sad to share ANOTHER new diagnosis in East Texas, 3 year old Harold, with an aggressive malignant brain tumor. Little Harold has already endured 2 brain surgeries this month, with a 3rd expected this week. Please lift these precious families to the Lord, for healing and for comfort in the midst of their worst nightmare.

Hug tightly the ones you love. Life can change in an instant. You are faithful Lord, and You are good.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-8

Cheese Balls

I am thankful:

~for the sweet, sweet time reading to my kids. We have so been enjoying the little Laura Ingalls Wilder series. We just finally finished “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” And already as we began the next book, “By the Shores of Silver Lake,” I love how engaged the children are with the characters. They gasped to learn of Mary’s blindness caused by scarlet fever. And we all cried together when Jack, the beloved bulldog, died.

~for our morning walk/stroll/bike ride. 2 miles every morning. I think we are the neighborhood entertainment.

~for those moments when my kids inspire me. Sweet 11-year-old Samantha has the most amazing hair you can imagine. Thick and lustrous, healthy and long. She has been growing it out for a long, long time with a very specific goal in mind. She knew she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love. I’m always amazed at how each of the children have been impacted by Sawyer‘s battle with cancer. Their hearts are just so compassionate. So we’ve been measuring Samantha‘s hair, waiting for it to get long enough to still leave her with a cute haircut. I asked her over and over if she was sure, and she never wavered. When we finally agreed that it was long enough she told me, “Mama, I prayed over my hair in the shower. That it would be a blessing to whoever it goes to.“ My heart exploded. She is donating six 12 inch ponytails! Isn’t she just so beautiful? And even more beautiful on the inside. It’s like instantly she just grew up before my eyes. So proud of your heart Sam!

~for God’s Grace that is always right on time. I can cry out in my moment of need, and He’s there with me. Anxiety has been big and ugly this week, and it doesn’t play nice. But prayer warriors lifted my arms when I could not, armed me with Scripture, and the Lord fought for me. I don’t say this because I feel victorious or that I mastered my anxieties. On the contrary. I feel like a whooped dog. But I know those are just my feelings. I made it through each battle, and anxiety didn’t win. And I’m stronger and cling more tightly to the Lord because of it.

~ for ice cold, juicy watermelon. Can there be ANYTHING more refreshing on a hot Texas day?

~ and for homemade dill pickles, straight from our garden. Cooper liked them so much, he followed my recipe and made his own batch! DELICIOUS!

~for the beautiful and undeniable presence of God when we have eyes to see. Last week, a friend shared a Scripture that she had been meditating on, and she knew it would encourage me. She had no idea it was the Scripture I was painting for my latest Giddyup & Whoa sign order. And the friend who had ordered that sign had been praying this same scripture over herself and a coworker. This verse has been referenced to me again at least twice THIS week. An accident? I don’t believe it for a second. I believe in the alive and active and proceeding Word of God that speaks to us through the Bible and through his people. And when He repeats Himself, that means He’s making an important point that He doesn’t want us to miss. I’m hearing Him loud and clear.

~for a fresh haircut. I honestly don’t think I’ve had a haircut since last September, so to say it was long overdue is an understatement. I can’t be the only one who feels like a new person when they get their haircut? Anyway, thank you Laura! You made my day so happy!

~ for the wonderful team that supports Gold Network of East Texas. We met at Panera for a meal (and a decadent cinnamon roll) to hash out plans and goals for the upcoming events this fall: Go GOLD Tyler (August 29) and Tyler Gold Run (September 21). I am blessed with the absolute best team. This is our 5 year anniversary of the race (how can that be?) and we are so excited about our new location at Bergfeld Park and the addition of a 10K route. It’s gonna be so great! Register for the race or make a donation at www.tylergoldrun.com We are so sad each time we learn of another East Texas child diagnosed with cancer. But we also know we can help!

~ for the privilege to pray for our friends when they need it. Will you please join me in lifting up Baby Lucas and his family? Their battle has been intense and wearying, and they need us to intercede for them. He has scans on the 18th, and we are asking for a miracle. You can sign up for updates on Lucas or drop a note of encouragement to his family on Caringbridge.

~ and lastly, I’m thankful for CHEESE BALLS!

At the Rucker household, the giant Sam’s Club barrel of cheese balls is only purchased one time a year, and their presence can ONLY MEAN ONE THING.

CHEESE BALLS = VACATION!

(Strange? Maybe so. But it’s been our family tradition for at least 6 years). There is nothing like the collective jubilant cheers that erupt when the cheese balls make their appearance. We even found them last summer in Hawaii!

It suddenly dawned on me what a milestone this is for us. This is our first trip since Sawyer’s cancer diagnosis in 2015 that HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER! We have made 2 trips to Florida for wonderful cancer retreats at the beach, and then last year was Sawyer’s unforgettable Make-a-Wish trip to Hawaii. But this trip, this is just a trip for our family. A regular family vacation. What a gift.

So I’m going to sign off for now, we are hunkered down for the night, and another big travel day tomorrow. But I’ll leave you with just one little hint until the full update next week….

Have a great week friends. Let’s love one another well. Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“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,”. Hebrews 10:23-24

“be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:18b-20

Grace

Grace.  Defined as “the unmerited favor of God toward man.”  It’s the good we get that we don’t deserve.  Oh, how we need grace.  It’s something I’m always begging God for more of, and I’m so thankful that it’s something He never runs out of.  I’m counting on heaping helpings of that grace to get me through this summer with all these kiddos and all the big changes that are coming this fall. 

I am thankful for GRACE. 

IMG_1833

One of my kiddos had a pretty bad day.  Well, pretty much it’s been A BUNCH of bad days piggybacked on top of each other.  And I’ve had to discipline a lot. Like a LOT LOT.  And it left me feeling discouraged and sour and like the World’s Meanest Mommy.  But Saturday morning, I stretched my my arms open, and this child crawled up into my lap. 

I whispered, “I love you,”

and they said, “I love you too. 

And I said, “Do you know I love you even when I get onto you? 

Yes,” 

And do you know WHY I get onto you? 

They replied, “because you love me and so I can learn from my mistakes and do better next time.” 

Deep sigh. Big squeeze.  Tiny tears from mama’s eyes that I tried to hide in their hair as I held them tighter.  Ok, maybe not the ACTUAL meanest mommy in the WHOLE world.  Thankful to my loving father who gives me the grace I need to be a mama to so many.  And the unique grace He gives me to be the exact mama that each ONE CHILD needs at that moment.  God, give me the grace to extend that grace to others, especially my children. 

IMG_1891IMG_1872IMG_1854IMG_1824IMG_1660

~ for my flyswatter.  Anybody else dealing with 834,267,559 flies?  

~ for our cardinal family.  I’ve been captivated by watching their nest and the comings and goings of the parents.  Now there’s a baby bird out of the nest, not yet strong enough to fly.  It hides itself all around our yard and the neighbors’, and the Mama and Daddy cardinals tirelessly tend to it and bring it food. So far our benevolent neighbors have not called the cops on me for climbing my ladder and constantly peering over their fence with my telescopic camera lens.  

IMG_1880

~ for the community of prayer warriors who rise up around a need.  If you follow me on social media, you likely saw my urgent prayer request for our beloved nurse Kelly and her infant son, Lucas.  He has been battling rhabdoid tumors for several months and just recently has started experiencing a decline of appetite and increased pain.  A CT this week indicated a new tumor.  And y’all hit your knees. Kelly was thankful to report that the mass was not attached to his brain, and that the insertion of an NG tube should provide a nutritional boost to increase Lucas‘s strength as he continues his brave fight.  How I wish there was no cancer for him to fight, but today we have the grace to praise God for every piece of encouraging news!  You can follow Lucas’ journey on Caringbridge.

IMG_1924.JPG

~ It’s been a big week for our oldest daughter.  Monday Josh, Carson Grace, and I drove to Marshall, TX for New Student Orientation at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU).  It’s such a beautifully manicured campus, and all the staff and other students and families were so friendly.  After the first general welcome session, all students and parents headed to meet with the heads of the major they had chosen, for Carson Grace, that was Communications.  She hasn’t been sure what exactly she’d want to do in that field, but she has some interests and strengths in those areas, so it seemed like a good place to start.  Next was a meeting with the department heads for whatever you want to minor in: Music/Worship Arts.  Carson Grace was eager to meet with these professors and discuss the choirs and worship team. The head of the Worship Arts department begin to ask lots of specific, pointed questions: “So why are you here?“ “What are you passionate about?” After just a few of her responses, he said… “I don’t know, but you sound like a music major to me!”  That was such an unexpected, abrupt shift that caught all of us unaware.  But when he asked her, “Do you like music? Or do you LOVE music?  For me…” he said, “I’m interested in a lot of things, but music is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what makes me tick.”  And her eyes filled with tears as she said, “ I love it.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”  

And that was that. She’s a music major!  Thank you God for the grace to take a step out in faith.

IMG_1612 2IMG_1615

~ also this week, Carson Grace had her very first job interview.  After about 25 minutes, she walked out with the job!  

IMG_1923

~ not only that, Carson Grace, our sweet girl, our Princess Peanut, turned 18.  I swear, yesterday she was a baby.  A bitsy, blue-eyed baby, sucking her thumb behind a pink crocheted blanket.  A tiny, sassy toddler shaking her thing to the Wiggles “Pony Song.”  We’ve ridden the predictably unpredictable hormone roller coaster, cried happy tears and tears of frustration, and learned the hard way how to communicate.  Josh says she’s just like me: sometimes that’s a compliment, and sometimes it’s most assuredly NOT.  But as I look at her as a young adult, a young woman, my heart is bursting with so much pride and so much hope for her future that it genuinely feels like pain.  

IMG_1687

Grace was my grandmother.  My dad‘s mom.  She was a farmer, a school bus driver, 4-H leader, and a world traveler.  She knew how to cook and sew and her house was cozy and neat as a pin. 

IMG_1875

I pretty much grew up at her house, at her kitchen table, in her garden, and in her basement.  I spent all my time with her when I was little bitty, but when I grew older, I spent time with her by choice.  I would ride my bicycle 3 miles down the treacherously steep loose gravel road that led from our family farm to her house in the valley.  I loved to be at Grandma’s house.  I played “olden days,” dressing up in her old furs and hats from the 50s and the reading the old primers she had saved from when my dad was a little boy.  I waded and fished in the creeks around her house.  We watched deer and birds and squirrels from her windows, and watched the trees explode into color on the bluffs that rose up around her on every side.  She was feminine, but not girlie, and I never remember seeing her wear a drop of makeup.  She loved me unconditionally and was my biggest fan and supporter through every endeavor.  I loved my Grandma.  And even though I never expected to have a daughter, when I found out that my second baby was going to be a girl, it was a given that I would name her Grace.  Josh and I traveled from Texas back to Minnesota about once a year to visit early in our marriage, and each time it was more heartbreaking to see Grandma’s health decline as Parkinson’s Disease robbed her of her physical strength and independence.  She passed away when Carson Grace was 6.   But I will always treasure the memories I have of her, and I love sharing them with my kids.  I know she would have gotten such a kick out of my crazy oversized Tribe, and they all would have loved her just like I did.  And I’m so proud that my first-born daughter bears the name of such a special lady, one who lived up to the definition of the word. 

IMG_1882

Let’s love lavishly and extend extra measures of grace this week!  Everybody else needs it just as much as you do.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:7-9 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

Miracles

I am thankful:

~ for the 102 times a day that Tatum K cracks me up.  Whenever she tastes something new, she will be so excited, “I try!  I try!”  But then she almost inevitably will reply, “No, I can’t like it.”  And then sometimes, “I DO like it.”  She is a bossy little jabberbox, and keeps us all on our toes.  We are TRYING to make the transition into her crib in the room she’s always been planned to occupy (instead of my closet).   But the closet is pitch black and pretty much soundproof, so sharing a room is a big change, and has led to great sleep deprivation on Mama’s part. 

IMG_1115IMG_1140 2IMG_1591

~ for a fun visit from Aunt Dinah.  We chowed down on Mexican food and enjoyed the back patio.  The kids and dog showed off their swimming, and we enjoyed our afternoon coffee with her delicious home-baked lemon pound cake.  

IMG_1148

~for an awesome surprise: Sawyer received a milestone gift from the Sadie Keller Foundation.  Sadie Keller is an amazing 11-year-old girl who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, shortly after Sawyer.  She has completed her treatment and is doing incredibly well.  But she rose from the ashes of her fight with a burning desire to help other kids around the world.  Sadie has traveled multiple times to visit senators and even the White House to increase awareness and advocacy for childhood cancer.  She is a name you are going to know one day. Created by Sadie and her family, the Sadie Keller Foundation gives gifts to childhood cancer warriors when they reach milestones.  And Sawyer received a gift for the miraculous accomplishment reaching the ACE (aftercare) unit.  Imagine his excitement when he walked out the front door to see his very own police car!  He was so excited, jumped right in, and drove right out the driveway! After he got over his initial excitement, he said, “I need to write Sadie a thank you card!” which he promptly did.  He’s been patrolling the neighborhood ever since!  Thank you Lord for the miracle of Sawyer’s life!

IMG_1305IMG_1314

~for God‘s mercy when people do something not very smart. Or something actually very dumb.  There may or may not have been an incident with the neighbor kid’s hoverboard.  It may or may not have involved a certain mom (who shall remain anonymous) bragging about being good at it.  And maybe, someone may or may not have may not have ended up flat on their back on the concrete driveway.  Just a hypothetical of course.  This would not be a good place to reference “though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24).  Perhaps instead “the Lord preserves the simple.“ (Psalm 116:6a)

~for Dad’s night to cook.   Josh is a great cook, and everything he makes is delicious.  We laughed at this particular menu, because it was a throwback to our early married years.  Back then we were making Hamburger Helper with the 70/30 “chub” of ground beef, and we didn’t know we were supposed to drain the meat after browning.  We’ve come a long way, baby!  #mamahadsaladinstead

IMG_1542 2IMG_1574

~for the fun I’ve been having with my camera.  The children have been reading a lot about birds and nature, and their enthusiasm has been contagious.  I’ve really been awestruck by the beauty of God‘s creation in my backyard, so I dug out my big lens on my DSLR camera.  After a couple of days of photographing raindrops on elephant ears and our family of cardinals…basically I’m pretty much ready to send my work to National Geographic.  I’m basically a wildlife photographer now.  Josh can’t quit laughing at me.  But it’s so fun!  We haven’t captured a shot of Sawyer’s hummingbird yet, but it’s been to the feeder several times.  We have witnessed courting lizards and newly hatched baby cardinals, and the stunningly intricate macrame of a spider’s web.  (NO edits needed.)

~ for a lovely lunch with a sweet friend.  

~ for MIRACLES!!!!!  Our precious friend Georgia had a followup appointment this week, and the news was not what we were hoping for.  But the next day after sharing discouraging news, Georgia’s mom shared an astounding update.  I’ll share her words in the picture of her Facebook post below.   And you can follow Georgia’s brave journey here.  GOD IS AT WORK!!!!

IMG_1541.jpg

IMG_1594.JPG

We’ve gained some ground since last week by “turning autopilot off” and adding structure to our days at home.  Morning devotional.  2 miles of running/walking/biking/strollering every morning.  We’ve pulled out some flashcards and math pages and spelling websites for some “school,” and for now, all the Littles are eager to participate.  I’m trying to have the older ones help the younger ones by quizzing and checking answers, and they sit with Sawyer and help him sound out the words in his books.  I need to hold on to these days when my children are actually BEGGING me to LET THEM do school!  I remember we had a great routine that worked really well for us last summer, but of course I don’t remember what we did!  We will keep plugging along and figure out a rhythm.

IMG_1295IMG_1092

Unfortunately, it’s been an ugly week of anxiety for me personally.  Anxiety doesn’t care that I don’t have anything to be anxious about.  Anxiety doesn’t care that I’m focusing on gratitude.  It just stretches out it’s icy fingers around my heart and squeezes, out of nowhere, just for kicks.  It almost invariably comes in waves, breaking over me again and again with relentless fury.  When it hits me, I catch my breath and try to slow my breathing down.  I turn on praise music and speak aloud the Name above all names, the Lover of my soul.  “JESUS!”  Sometimes I’m able to shout, and sometimes it’s all I can do to whisper.  But as I write this I am reminded, I have survived 100% of these attacks!  It wasn’t always pretty, but I have come out on the other side each time.  I just mention this because I know many others wrestle with fear, depression, or anxiety; and I know there’s comfort in knowing you are not alone.  Don’t lose heart.  And I think it bears mentioning, because often we forget….

You have an enemy. 

He is actively pursuing you.  

He is good at what he does. 

He’s a liar. 

And he’s good at lying. 

He tells you lies that you would believe. 

He doesn’t usually waste time with the obvious, fraudulent lies that you can smell from a mile away. “God hates you.  Nobody loves you.  But he is an expert at, “She doesn’t want a relationship with you.  Nobody notices you.  You don’t matter.  Or the opposite type of lie: “You’re better than them.  You deserve to have everything you want.”

But let me also remind you of something that I hope you already know. 

You also have a SAVIOR. 

HE IS GOOD AT WHAT HE DOES. 

HE IS ACTIVELY PURSUING YOU. 

HE NEVER LIES.  ALL HIS WORDS AND HIS WAYS AND HIS LOVES ARE TRUE. 

BECAUSE HE’S GOOD AT THAT. 

I am no evangelist or Bible scholar.  But I know a miracle when I see one.  I see one every time I look in the mirror.  Because I know who I am and I know who I once was.  I was dead and now I’m alive.  And if that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Be encouraged friends. Let’s love one another well this week.  

Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living.”  Psalms 116:1-9

Autopilot OFF

~ for the most astounding surprise I could never have imagined.  My DAD showed up on my doorstep!!!!  I was born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, and all my family still lives up in that region.  Life never ceases to be busy on both sides, we have constantly been adding more children, and then there was STUPID CANCER.  So although we regularly keep in touch, somehow it has been more than 12 years since I’ve seen my dad!!!!  That means he hadn’t even MET SIX OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN!  What a treasure to get to introduce my dad and stepmom, and to show them around our home and our city.  I’m so proud of my kids, they are so full of love and share it without hesitation.  They showed out and entertained, drew pictures and crawled in laps.  We had a wonderful concentrated visit, and then Dad and Jennifer were right back in their car for the 14 hour drive north.  I tried to talk them into staying, but it was just a whirlwind spur of the moment trip, and they had spring chores to get back to.  However surprising, however brief, I am so utterly amazed and thankful for the wonderful visit, and for such a special memory for my kids.  

IMG_0880IMG_0875IMG_0882

~ for God’s mighty hand of protection, and those moments of gravity when we get a glimpse of how much worse things could have been without Him.  Thank You Lord for Your Mercy.  Carson Grace sang a wonderful song today for offering, “Remember,” by Lauren Daigle.  Hard times will inevitably come, but we have to take the time to remember all the ways He has shown himself faithful.  You can enjoy her song here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LHJ4AQgROY 

~ for our first trip to the library of the summer. I’m so thankful that my kids still enjoy it.  They love fun books and they LOVE the experience of so many choices at the library.  This time we came home with lots of superheroes, Barbie, American Girl, and backyard bird books. Now, to keep track of them all and return them on time….

IMG_3335
Our new hummingbird feeder is just like the one in Sawyer’s library book!

~ for the toilet in our guest bathroom.  It has experienced multiple degrees of brokenness over the last several months, and it has been a real hassle.  This week, Josh fixed it – like FOR REAL fixed it.  You can now go in that bathroom and do what you need to do in there, with FULL CONFIDENCE that the commode will perform its intended purpose.  And I’m just absolutely thrilled about it!

~ for steady work for Giddy Up & Whoa.  We’ve done several signs for graduation and Mother’s Day, and even for a mortgage company as closing gifts.  I’ve been thankful to paint at least a little almost every day. 

IMG_0926IMG_0922D1E609E6-9093-4031-B1A9-36361F09C4FA

~ for the brilliantly colored cardinal families that dwell in our backyard. They flit back and forth all day, and chatter to us every morning.  And for Sawyer’s enthusiasm for our new hummingbird feeder.  He read about hummingbirds in his new book, and helped mix up the nectar and hang the feeder.  Looking forward to birdwatching this summer!

IMG_0981IMG_0984IMG_0987IMG_0993

~for a fun outing at the shooting range for Cooper. 

img_1025.png

~ for a beautiful weekend spent in and by the pool. It’s getting hot…and the kids (and Bear) are LOVING the cool water.  We’ve worked so hard back there over the last year and a half….ripping out shrubs, hauling rocks, staining and repairing the fence, resurfacing the aged decking….it is such an amazing transformation.  It was nice before, but now it is truly an oasis.  Tatum K has gotten her first taste of the water, and she loves to (swim) “WEEM!  I weem, Mama!”  I can tell she will be a little water bug like the others.  Josh and I still cannot believe how blessed we are to live in this home, and look forward to sharing it with our kids and their friends for years to come.  

IMG_1084IMG_1019IMG_1034IMG_1068 2IMG_0974IMG_0958

It’s nice to have some lazy days.  Our schedule has been pretty open, few appointments or plans.  Especially after the breakneck pace at the end of school, it’s refreshing to have a reprieve.  Josh and I were reminded today how we don’t take “nothing days” for granted any more.   When you’ve spent any significant length of time in a hospital, or separated from the ones you love by trauma, there’s nothing more refreshing than a “normal” day at home.  But I can already tell it’s time to get into a routine.  Embracing our “normal” days doesn’t necessarily have to mean mindless coasting.  I remember when it dawned on me one time, you can’t coast anywhere but down.  You’ll never get better, stronger, or wiser on autopilot.  Growth takes effort.  And even if continued growth wasn’t the goal…you can’t even MAINTAIN status quo without effort!  Skillfully sculpted muscles atrophy, the sparkling blue pool turns murky green, the meticulously manicured lawn becomes a wilderness.  And I need to remind myself of the truth I want my kids to learn: WORK IS GOOD!   Of course, rest is good too, critically important in fact, but like anything else, it’s all about balance.  Body, mind, and spirit need training and exercise to stay sharp. Our family just needs a little structure to our day, some punctuation.  And as much as I hate to admit it, that extra hour of sleep in the morning doesn’t yield a more rested, more patient mama.  Getting up and investing that hour in the Word does.  And then in turn, investing that return into reading to my kids, swimming with my kids, LISTENING TO MY KIDS.  I can already tell a negative impact in our home from one week of unstructured cruise control.  Time to turn off auto pilot, set an alarm, dig into God’s Word, and launch into our days with purpose, instead of just letting the day run us over.  Of course we will have spontaneous days, days with unexpected detours.  Some days will be wildly successful and others will be a dismal failure.  But I know we will enjoy the journey more if we stay the course with a balance of consistency and flexibility.  So we will give it a go this week. 

IMG_0954

Let’s love on purpose this week!  Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”  Psalm 77:11-14

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.””  Joshua 4:4-7

Ready or not…

I should have expected it. Last week I boldly proclaimed to the world how thankful I am. How thankful I am for my lively mess of a family and the perfectly imperfect.  Why should it surprise me that Monday morning I’d be hit on all sides with utter chaos: squalling siblings, mouthy teens, and a maniacal 2 year old terrorist.  I was attacked full force from every direction.  And man, I fell right smack off my thankful mountain.  I know that’s real life: highs and lows and not-so-pretty-or-poetic emotions.  BUT GOD.  Oh how thankful I am that God doesn’t turn His back on me every time I fail.  And that His goodness is not contingent on my faithfulness.  WHAT A MIGHTY GOD WE SERVE!  

But when all is said and done, He gives me the grace to get back up when I fall on my face.  I get to tell my kids I’m sorry and we all get a do-over.   New mercies every morning.  And every week. 

I am thankful:

~ for more end of school fun.  Our final FINAL day of school was Wednesday!  It is surreal to see Sawyer completing his first year of school.  I don’t take these “firsts and lasts” for granted.  Every time he reaches another milestone, I never fail to see that frail, white little baby.  BUT GOD!  He knew this day was coming even when all we could see was death in every direction.  Thank you Jesus for the last five years!  And we will be thankful for all the rest you will give us!  I pray Sawyer lives to be a strong, healthy, old old man who never tires of telling the story of how Jesus healed-ed him. 

IMG_0493
Our beloved Mrs. Youngblood

IMG_0584

B5E02969-EF35-4783-9EF1-7700227A3614
“Mama, what are the other ribbon colors?  I want to pray for God to heal ALL the people with cancer.”

~ for nail polish remover.  I used a whole bottle to clean up Tatum K and the carpet where she painted her “Pretty toes Mama!  I MESSY!”

~ for my 2 kiddos recognized for Perfect Attendance!  Way to go Kora and Gavin!

IMG_0505

~for the remarkable kindness and generosity of friends.

~ for good news.  Our friend Mason got his port removed after completing leukemia treatment, Baby Lucas got wonderful news from his oncologist, and sweet Georgia is home from her latest stay in the hospital.  God, You are so good.  Thank you, faithful prayer warriors, for praying; please keep lifting up all these precious families. 

~ for at least a couple lazy days.  No alarms to set, no plans on the calendar. We enjoyed our walks, kids swam in the icy pool until their lips turn blue, and we laughed as Bear eagerly dove in after them, showing off his swimming skills. 

IMG_0858IMG_0853IMG_0855

~for Carson Grace and the Cougars safe trip down to Houston for their next softball playoff game.  They battled through and played their best, but this time didn’t come away with the win.  But what a great season!

~ for the way all my kids love music.  They are always singing along with the radio behind me in the car, making up songs, or singing on their own at home.  This week a favorite came on, “I’m a Child of God,” and Sawyer said, “Mama!  I just love this song so much!  I just HAVE to Praise Him!”  I can only imagine how this blesses the Father’s heart. 

~ for the eagerly anticipated, fast and furious arrival of my latest BEAUTIFUL NIECE, Josey Dean! What a little sugar!!!

And Saturday was the biggest day; a day of so much joy but also bittersweet tears. My girl, my Carson Grace, my heart.  How can my baby be graduating high school?  I remember picking out her first day of school clothes from the toddler department.  I remember the tiny wooden stool that her teacher had built for her because her little legs dangled from the desk and couldn’t reach the floor. I remember crying as she graduated from Kindergarten, then from 5th grade, then 8th.  I blinked. Tiny crocs and Mary Jane’s were replaced by Vans and impossibly high heels.  My memory hasn’t faded from her baby days, because all I have to do is look at Tatum K, her carbon copy. Saturday, my beautiful girl put on that cap and gown and proudly received her diploma.  She fought for it: high school wasn’t easy for her on any level.  But she did it, and we are so proud.  We even had the excitement of a tornado warning and mandatory evacuation in the middle of the ceremony, but she made it!  We ended the evening with burgers and watermelon and friends crowded in the kitchen, celebrating our girl.  

997C5236-C2B3-4266-9CB7-CE9911C6042AIMG_0856IMG_7149698EB260-0AA8-4818-812F-1EDA53943D36934531B4-D51A-4021-B781-61DCF40E89AC

~ and then a wonderful baby shower for my precious friends Chris and Lindsay, as they prepare their hearts and home for their baby boy on the way.  They are such treasures, and I am so ready to watch them step into the role they were MADE FOR as Mama and Daddy!

IMG_0794IMG_0793

As you may well imagine, it’s slightly terrifying to face being home with all these kiddos for the summer.  I’m so ridiculously outnumbered.  But thankfully they haven’t figured that out yet.  I am trying to find a balance between high hopes and realistic expectations for the upcoming weeks: lots of swimming, walks, trips to the library, and some good healthy brain exercise.  We’re gonna eat popsicles and ride bikes and Cooper’s going to teach me how to flip on the trampoline.  And I’m gonna love my babies the very best I can.  I’m gonna soak up these last precious weeks of having Carson Grace home before she leaves for college.  I’m going to press into Jesus.  I’m going to pray with my kids and play with my kids.  I’M GONNA FINISH SCRAPING THOSE BEAMS.  It’s going to be a glorious mess, but we are going to do it together. 

Thank you for giving thanks with me. 

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:1-2 

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:14-17

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26