Salty Air

I am thankful.

So thankful.

Our ENTIRE Tribe made it safely to the beach this afternoon. We have transferred our quarantine residence to a private beach house and we are ready to soak up some family time in the sun and the sand. Tatum K is “so exciting to be on a-cation!” Ready to fill this week that holds so many painful anniversaries with fresh memories of God’s goodness and great grace. We are most grateful for your continued prayers.

Josh and I have named a theme for this trip, “Love lavishly.”

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:3)

Love Lavishly

I am thankful:

~ the most joyous news of all is that Sawyer remains cancer free! Glory hallelujah! We had his quarterly oncology ACE (survivor) visit on Wednesday. You can read my post about clinic day on CaringBridge or Facebook.

~ for such a big week for Sawyer: not only did he go to the hospital and draw his own blood, but he lost his very first tooth! It’s so crazy to me that he faces these giant mountains with such courage, but yet he’s still a normal little boy. He’s just so sweet, he’s been worrying over his loose teeth for months. Sometimes he’s so eager to hurry up and lose them, and other times he has all these little worries, “Will I still be handsome with a hole in my smile? Will I REALLY only be able to eat soup?” But we had a long talk about it one morning with lots of hugs and reassurance, and by the end of that day, that little sucker was ready to come out! I was surprised and impressed that Sawyer was brave and excited and let me pull it out for him. (For the mighty Sawyer the Warrior is as brave as you will ever find when it comes to hospitals and fighting cancer, but he is a standard 6 year old weenie about skinned knees and paper cuts and accidental mustard on his sandwich). But that tooth came right out and you have never seen a boy so proud. He squealed with joy and pride! And now he carries it with him everywhere!

~ for the kindness of our local police officers. We live close to the station, so they regularly frequent our street, and are faithful to stop and say hi and pass out stickers. I love the opportunity for these hardworking servants to be greeted with cheers and smiles. We LOVE our first responder friends!

~ for a stay-at-home date with my Love. Thanks to his Father’s Day giftcard from Colton, we enjoyed a feast from Texas Roadhouse. It was nice to enjoy a treat together, even if I had a little monkey that hung on my neck the whole time AND ate my entire sweet potato.

~ for the bright crimson cardinals that dart across our neighborhood and chatter in our trees.

~ for succulent pork loin slow cooked all day, and the creamiest mashed potatoes made in the instant pot. Anybody have any favorite instant pot recipes to share? I am learning how to use it, but haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.

~ for the over abundant blessing of our home. Josh and I had prayed for the Lord to lead us to the right place for our family 3 years ago, and we have worked hard to transform it to meet the needs of our Tribe. We are so humbled and thankful to have this comfortable, beautiful haven that we love so much. With all that’s going on, this is pretty much where we spend all our time. I really don’t go anywhere, and I’m so thankful to be so safe and more than comfortable, nestled in with my people. Sometimes it’s crowded, but it’s bursting with life and love.

~ for a new puzzle, genuinely challenging, but still conquered by the kids in ONE DAY!

~ for Cooper having an awesome week at camp. We got to see pictures while he was away, and it looks like the most fun ever. He came home bleary-eyed, exhausted, and exhilarated. But man, I had forgotten about the blistering stench of a week’s worth of camp laundry. That is no joke.

~ for online church broadcasts. It is such a blessing to stay connected with our church body even though we are not attending in person. We love our church so much. And I love that both Cooper and Carson Grace have the opportunity and the desire to serve on the audio/visual and the worship teams. Cooper is behind the scenes helping make sure everything looks and sounds great, and the kids are so excited to see their big sister on the screen! They think she’s SO FAMOUS!

~ for fun painting projects. Finished 3 orders this week, and 2 more to go. So grateful to have steady orders coming in.

I even got to paint for myself. The big circle below is a weathered table top I found on the side of the road last year. I knew when I picked it up that one day it would be a showstopper of a sign, but I didn’t know where it would fit or what I was put on it. Quite some time ago, we had heard a sermon where our pastor used the phrase, “love lavishly,” referencing 1 John 3, and that phrase resonated with Josh deeply. He later said he knew that’s what he wanted on our sign.

Ever since sketching the phrase on the sign with chalk, I’ve been chewing on it in my mind. What does that really mean? To love generously, excessively, more than we deserve. We are wayward, rebellious, and self serving, yet the Maker of heaven and earth calls us His daughters and sons. His love knows no bounds. By adorning my wall with these two words, I am issuing a challenge to myself that I will be reminded of daily.

Love beyond the minimum. Love more that is expected or deserved. Love radically, excessively, hilariously, recklessly.

Because God loves me that way. He gave me the love of a husband beyond anything I ever could have wished for. He blessed me with a family larger than any crazy dream I could have come up with. He took me out of the pile of garbage that was my life before I knew Him and made me clean and new and His. Just like I picked up a dirty, broken table, unable to function as it should, cast off on the side of the road, and saw its beauty and potential as something new.

I can’t love like Him. I’m still a mess. I’m FAR too selfish, too short-tempered, too tired. But God. Christ IN ME can love lavishly. Jesus’s Love can pour through the holes in me and love my kids and my husband and my neighbors and my enemies like that.

I’m glad it is painted BIG where I can be reminded every day.

Let’s love lavishly this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)

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

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Raise a Hallelujah

~ for Happy Mail. So fun to open up your very own mail. Especially when it’s full of STICKERS!!! Thank you Miss Linda!

~ for Colton treating me to my very first Freddy’s burger. I’m a fan!

~ for the next step in our ongoing kitchen remodel project. Our tile arrived Wednesday around lunch, Josh got home about 7, and we got right to work! I love knocking projects out with my Love, and we both love putting the sweat equity into our home. Later in the week, our replacement window was installed. Goodbye to the smeary windows that never came clean because of the broken seal between the panes. The new window is bright and giant and so clear it looks like there’s no glass in it! I am absolutely certain that it will never be this clean again, but I will enjoy it while it lasts!

~ for a special day with a really special girl. Kora, Gavin, and Zoe’s biological big sister Grace had her birthday this weekend, and what she wanted most was to see her little siblings. Is that not the sweetest thing? Grace and her family moved several years ago, so visits are few and far between. But what a joy to spend the day with her. We ate lunch, swam, painted rocks together, and baked cookies. It meant the world to all 4 of them. A one day visit is never long enough, so there were lots of tears at “goodbye,” but still, it blesses me to see the genuine love and bond they share. Adoption is so beautiful. But it is inextricably tied up with loss and pain. My babies had a life before me. My motherly instinct is to protect them from the painful parts of their story, and shield them from the hurt. But it’s all part of their story. And by erasing or hiding what I would selfishly and short-sightedly deem the “messy” parts, would also steal from them their own miraculous redemption story and the awesome story of their first big sister that shares their blood. Lord, give me the courage to trust what You are doing and not get in Your way. Pry off my anxiously controlling hands and write their story Your way. BUT GOD!

~ thankfully, our kids didn’t have time to be sad for long, because as soon as Grace drove away with her mom, we had another knock at the door: Uncle Mike and Cousin Kenedy! We enjoyed having them for the weekend!

~ for new goggles. Does anything make kids happier than new goggles?

~ for homemade ice cream. Is there anything better than homemade ice cream???

~ for Cooper’s favorite week of the year: Pine Cove! He loves his time at camp more than anything, and we dropped him off today. Can’t wait to hear about all the fun he has and all that the Lord will do in his heart this week!

~ for a great time celebrating Josh for Father’s Day. We had all his favorites: juicy grilled burgers with sharp cheddar and blue cheese, jalepeno chips, sweet tea, and homemade chocolate ice cream. I love this man so much, and the way he faithfully lives his faith in front of his kids and models to them how to love lavishly. I love how hard he works even when he’s dog tired and always hurting. We don’t call him “Giddyup” for nothing. I love that his favorite part of every project is watching my face when I admire it, because he says his favorite thing to do is make me happy. I will never understand why God has blessed me with a love this big, and I will never stop thanking Him that He did.

Today during worship at church (via the Rucker satellite campus) one of the songs was a favorite of our whole family, “Raise a Hallelujah.” There’s something so soul-stirring about hearing my children’s little voices lifted, singing at the top of their lungs to their Lord, “I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm. Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar.”

In that moment, it became my prayer. My prayer over EVERYTHING. Over the divisions about how to handle Covid 19. Over all the injustices and the big and the small polarizing issues people are all raging about. Over all the voices screaming at once about every hot topic. Over my own anxiety. Over my children.

“Sing a little louder, in the presence of my enemies…

Sing a little louder, louder than the unbelief…

Sing a little louder, my weapon is a melody

Sing a little louder, heaven comes to fight for me…”

It sounds silly, but what if we really did that? What if we all raised a hallelujah in the middle of our storms, a hallelujah that became louder than the noise? What if we really believed that praising God is a weapon that will defeat the darkness? What if we really loved others openhandedly, with no agenda, no catch, with the love of Christ? I’m not trying to sound like a Hallmark card, not am I trying to act like I’m doing it right myself. I just believe that it really does make a difference when we make simple but genuine changes in the way we respond to our circumstances. And when it all boils down, the ONLY cause I want to champion is the cause of Christ. Lord, let it be so. Stay my eyes on You, Lord.

Speaking of which, it is Clinic Week for Sawyer. It’s his first time back to the hospital since all the virus outbreaks and sheltering in place, so I won’t pretend it doesn’t cause my heart to pound a little faster. Hospital restrictions will only allow one adult to accompany a patient, so for the first time in as long as I can remember, it will be just Sawyer and I. His appointment is Wednesday, and I will post an update that evening. We are grateful for your prayers that our Warrior Boy remains cancer free.

Will you raise a hallelujah with me this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.” (Psalms 97:1-6)

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:6)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

Be Still

I am thankful:

~ for Sawyer’s thrill of chatting with one of his real life heroes. We live very close to a police station, so we regularly have patrol cars on our street. This week, Officer Long stopped to chat, and Sawyer proudly informed her that he was going to be a police officer when he grows up, then excitedly dashed back to the house and drove out of the garage in his little motorized police car. Later it was neat to see his picture shared on the KLTV Instagram page !

~ for Kora’s first job (at 11 years old). After seeing her creative chalk art doodles on our driveway, a neighbor hired Kora to chalk a giant Happy Birthday card for a grandson down our street. What a fun “job!” And my sweet girl used her hard-earned wages to treat us all to Shivers snocones!

~ for hot, delicious elotés, roasted corn ears seasoned with mayonnaise, spices, and cotija cheese. I had never had it before, and I am now a FAN!

~ for our next DIY home project underway. Josh and I love tackling remodeling projects together, and have gradually transformed our kitchen into the kitchen of our dreams over the last 2 1/2 years. The next step is updating the dingy countertops, stained sink, and leaky faucet. Demo has begun! So thankful for such great helpers!

~ for an excellent BIG BOX, and the endless possibilities it contains.

~ for fresh homemade salsa. Just wish we didn’t devour it in 2 hours every time I make it.

~ for a really special NEW PUZZLE! After each puzzle we have completed, the kids have asked if we could frame it. But none of them have been anything we would particularly care to frame. So this time Josh and I put a lot of thought into our next puzzle, and came up with the perfect, meaningful scene. The Texas Rangers stadium, Globe Life Park. Our family loves baseball and love love LOVE the Texas Rangers. We have been to numerous ball games over the last 20 years, and Josh and I experienced our first Rangers game together on one of our first dates. For those of you who are not Texans, a new baseball stadium has recently been built for the Rangers, and while we are thankful that Globe Life Park was not demolished, we will never see another ball game played there. We are so thankful that we were able to take in one last game before the end of the season last year. All that to say, we are excited to have successfully completed this latest puzzle (zero missing pieces!), and look forward to framing and displaying it. (And Mama is DEFINITELY a puzzle hog master.)

~ for a perfect quiet afternoon of yardwork and snow cones & sign builds and puddle jumping.

It’s been a challenging week of parenting. Instead of the jubilant end of school crescendo followed by the thrill of a new blissfully open schedule of free time, there was a strangely anticlimactic transition from “SCHOOLING at home” to “just STAYING home” with more of the same 4 walls and the same 10 faces. Finally after 2 months of wrestling, we had found a schedule that was manageable, and now it too was gone. This has led to “the grumpies” for all of us. During our virtual learning season, I definitely felt much less equipped as a teacher than a mom. And this week I have seriously questioned my capabilities on the mom side as well. How am I supposed to be a loving, godly example to my kids when I am constantly exhausted and pulling my hair out???

BUT GOD.

As He is so faithful to do, Jesus came to my rescue. He spoke to me in His Word, confirmed it in my prayer time, and then reaffirmed His lovingkindness through the encouragement of others.

I am His child. My kids are His children. He loves me like crazy and He loves them like crazy. He’s got a plan for each one of us collectively and individually. And I don’t get to know the plan, and I just have to make peace with that and trust Him with it all.

I DON’T HAVE TO BE THE PERFECT MOTHER. (Insert: WIFE / PERSON / CHRISTIAN / ANYTHING).

I read this reference this week and it has reverberated in my head and my heart. We all know Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” But in the NASB, “Be still” is translated as “Cease striving.” That is SO my natural response to stress and conflict – Striving. Struggling. Fighting. Exerting all my energy to get to a resolution. Doing whatever it takes to get it all done and get to the bottom of every issue.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.”

This stuff is hard. I always say “Capital ‘H’ Hard.” But He designed it that way, or we wouldn’t need Him. If it was even CLOSE to doable, we would just get it done BY STRIVING, and then walk away knowing we were capable in our our strength. Satisfied with being a great parent. Confident in being the perfect spouse. Great teacher. Full of faith.

This pressure is on purpose. It changes us on the inside and the outside. And it brings us to the excruciating and beautiful place of surrendering our own strength and relying on Jesus.

I don’t have to be enough. Because He is enough. I can cease striving and know that He is God.

And He is good at being God.

I thought just maybe somebody besides me needed that reminder this week.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10 NASB)

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Tipping Point

I am thankful:  

~ For class zoom meetings.  The kids love getting to see their teachers and their classmates.  This week Kora enjoyed dressing up for an early celebration of Cinco de Mayo with her Spanish teacher (and feast on delicious leftover tacos from Colton), and Sawyer got to share his pets with his friends.   Zoe proudly demonstrated her science experiment about surface tension.IMG_E4B4AAF3EE53-1.jpegIMG_7B81D204E6D0-1.jpegIMG_6AA1BC39A9E3-1.jpeg

~ for peace that passes understanding, especially when delivered as a profound lesson taught by my child.  This week one of the school chapel songs was a favorite of the kids.  As it began to play, Sawyer said excitedly, “I love this song!  We’re gonna sing it at my graduation!”  Then the realization hit (which I wasn’t sure if he actually knew or not) and he said quietly, “Oh…but I’m not even gonna have my graduation.”  I instantly felt hot tears welling in my eyes.  Oh, how it hurts this Mama’s heart that he should miss out on this milestone that we never dared to dream he should reach.  But almost in the same breath, I heard Sawyer (and all his brothers and sisters) boldly belting out the opening lyrics of the song, “This is the day, that You have made.  Whatever comes, I won’t complain.  For all my hope is in Your Name, and now Your joy awaits my praise.  I give thanks for all You have done.  And I will sing of Your mercy and Your love.  Your love is unfailing, Lord I am grateful!”  His attitude is so much better than mine!  He too, is experiencing disappointment, but it is not crippling his JOY!  He has proudly memorized Psalm 23 and his little speaking part for a video the school is putting together.  When he got all doodled up for the video for his teacher, he was so excited, he never wanted to change out of his “fancy” clothes.  How cute was my little pupil working in his bow tie!?  He also had the MOST THRILLING visit this week, from his BELOVED teacher, Mrs. Key!  She brought him Starbust for being a “STAR” student, and a yard sign that we have proudly displayed in our front yard.  Thank You Father for your unspeakable grace.IMG_7930.jpgIMG_58D645B67240-1.jpegIMG_8284.jpg

~ for the gift of music.  Kora has been memorizing a passage from 1 Thessalonians, and the words brought to mind a song written by a dear friend.  I was able to play it for her, and her eyes just sparkled when she heard God’s Word brought to life in such a fresh new way that she understood so much better.  The song is a jubilant anthem looking toward the day when we Believers will all join together with Jesus in the sky.  It has been playing in my heart all week.

~ for the sweetest and most thoughtful “teacher appreciation” care package I received in the mail.  Thank you to all who have prayed over our story problems.  They are still a problem, but I think we will all live to tell the story.

~ for the most unique spring concert experience for Samantha and Kora.  Obviously, quarantine and social distancing has made many spring traditions difficult or impossible. But our school creatively found a way for fourth and fifth graders to gather in the parking lot at a safe distance and lift their voices and recorders to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  Memorable to be sure. IMG_232D4AA19024-1.jpegIMG_FDF0662D192B-1.jpegIMG_8492.jpg~ for gorgeous weather. Friday we worked hard to get all schoolwork done before lunch, and we headed to the park around the corner from our house.  It is a tucked away spot, and rarely have we run into anyone else there.  We spread out our blanket in the shade, and I read to the kids while they ate their picnic.  Then it was playground time, and picking wildflowers, and climbing trees.  It was a lovely afternoon.IMG_8229.jpgIMG_8230.jpgIMG_1D96DA29674F-1.jpeg

~ for a very special birthday.  Colton, our firstborn, the one who made me a Mama, turned 21.  When I had Colton, I was so young and naive.  He was literally the first baby I ever held, and I was absolutely terrified.  I never thought I’d be a mom, but now that I was, I wanted so badly to do it well.  I loved him fiercely.  Being a mom was the first thing I absolutely knew I could not do on my own, and that brokenness and desperation was what ultimately led me to recognize my need for a Savior.  Josh and I have always said that Colton led 2 people to the Lord as a baby, so we have always known God had a special plan for this beautiful boy.    He was always a challenging child: strong-willed, always with 2 toes over the boundary lines.  We weren’t sure if we (or he) would survive his teen years.  We went through some pretty ugly seasons, and more sleepless nights than I can even count.  BUT GOD.  My boy is growing into a man, and he is finding his way as a respectful, compassionate individual who actually CHOOSES to spend time with him mom and dad.  I honestly wasn’t sure we’d ever get there.  Now I am freshly convinced that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God is always wooing and drawing and working through and behind what we see in front of our eyes.  I am so grateful.   He came over to hang out and have dinner 4 nights this week, played wiffleball and swam, and watch a movie.  We celebrated on his birthday with crescent chicken, sweet potato fries with homemade ranch, and his oh-so-sophisticated dessert choice: confetti cake.  Loved celebrating him, celebrating all that God has done, and all that God has in store.IMG_DE754189AD7A-1.jpegIMG_9A3247EFBB61-1.jpeg

~ for Facebook live concert from Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood. And for dancing to “To Make You Feel My Love” with my husband in the kitchen.  We never do that.  But in that moment, it was perfect. 

~ for gorgeous weather for wiffleball, snake-free walks, and swimming.IMG_6419D20D9B02-1.jpegIMG_427A57E9C74C-1.jpegIMG_868D9D739B3B-1.jpegIMG_65F88F250CE7-1.jpegIMG_8363.jpg

~ for a refreshing change of pace.  Josh brought home a new puzzle, just 199 pieces.  At first I was disappointed, knowing it was way too easy.  But the fact that it was a Frozen 2 puzzle meant it would be an instant hit with the Little People, and it was probably time for some quick satisfaction.  During nap time I decided to challenge myself, and set a timer.  50 minutes and 38 seconds.  Not bad.  I think I find puzzles so satisfying in this season because they are a manageable challenge with a clear beginning and end.  It is a task that can be concretely completed.  The feeling of success.  The kids were as thrilled as expected, and finished it almost as quickly as I did.  They were sweet and took out the last 3 pieces after they were done, and left them for baby sister.  She was so tickled.IMG_ABACC42F08EF-1.jpegIMG_772E84380C7E-1.jpeg

Mental health is not a joke.  I’ve never hopped on the “self-care“ bandwagon… It usually seems like a license to grossly self indulge, overspend, and let “me time” push to top priority at the expense of others.  This is not Jesus’ way, and it shouldn’t be ours.  I don’t “need” time with my girlfriends, or to shop, or pamper myself.  Any of those things are enjoyable, a great treat, and something to look forward to.  But I’ve never seen them as a “need.”  

But I got to a tipping point this week.  It might sound funny, likely sounds relatable, but it’s just unfiltered truth.  I couldn’t remember when I had last showered.  I was wearing the same clothes for daytime, to bed, and again the next day, (because WHY NOT?)  I glimpsed myself in the mirror (quite by accident, because WHY?) and I hardly recognized myself.  I hadn’t bothered to style my hair in days (because WHY?) so my natural not-exactly-straight-not-exactly-wavy-frizzy-and-stylistically-confused hair with it’s unintentional hombre of blonde/brown/silver was taking on a somewhat Einstein-esque quality.  I didn’t look like someone who should be caring for children. Let alone someone who should be responsible for anyone’s education.  

I am not and was not depressed.  But I also realized: I was not ok.  I was sleepwalking through my unrecognizable life, even though I was still (mostly) successfully checking all the boxes: morning Bible study✔️ frequent private and shared prayer throughout the day✔️reading aloud to the kids every morning✔️ faithfully keeping kids on the task of completing their daily schoolwork ✔️keeping my house reasonably clean✔️maintaining the illusion to the “outside” that I “had it all together” and that the Ruckers were “ROCKING THE QUARANTINE.”✔️  Another parent said something similar, “We’ve been doing pretty well.  But this week, WE HIT A WALL.”

That night after the kids were in bed, I took a bath.  I turned on my favorite soft worship playlist and soaked the day off in the hot water and the music.  The next day I did my hair and put on a little makeup and changed out of pajamas and put on clothes.  (OK so it was actually just changing from one set of loungewear to a nearly identical set of loungewear.  A purely lateral move, but at least it was the physical act of changing clothes.)  Just putting in the minimal effort to feel like a human.  Even something so small and seemingly trivial, I realized how much I had missed the daily reminder of putting on my beautiful handmade gold bracelet inscribed with “it is well.”  That afternoon, I took my paints out to a semi-shaded spot in the driveway and worked on a sign while listening to the birds with a gentle breeze on my face.IMG_76E835B132EE-1.jpegIMG_15564004710C-1.jpeg

It wasn’t magic.  I still stink at math.  In fact, one of my ANONYMOUS “students” shouted disdainfully at me this week after checking a problem, “HA!  You were WRONG!”  And other told me, “You’re not THAT bad, you just need a little help from a REAL teacher.”  BUT…the slight shift of my focus to putting a little effort into myself was a mood lifter.  It also made my husband smile.  And maybe if I wasn’t a BETTER teacher, at least I didn’t look like such a scary one.

Wherever you are, however you are handling your situation and your trials, God sees you.  He has promised not to leave you or forsake you. You are not alone.  He may not take the fire away, but He will stand in it with you. It’s ok to take care of yourself, and give yourself grace.  If you are slipping, call out to Jesus.  Call out to a friend.  And it’s ok to admit that you’re not ok. If your faith is in yourself, it was in the wrong place anyway. Remember who you are and more importantly, WHOSE you are.  We are all in this together.  And then look for the blessings around you. They are there.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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 1:3-6)

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  (Psalms 42:1-5)

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a shout, and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first ones to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are alive will be looking to the skies. And we’ll be caught up there  with our brothers in the clouds.  I just wish it were now.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, paraphrased by Randy Skiles)

Yes I Will

Some weeks we have to dig a little deeper to find the blessings.  

But they are ALWAYS there. 

Last week, we had an ambiguous “extra week” of Spring Break, we “played” school to stay busy, and learned new words like “pandemic” and “social distancing.”  

This week, Virtual Learning was officially launched by our school.  Effective immediately.  Duration, indefinitely.  At my house, that means I now teach Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade, ALL subjects ranging from phonics to Algebra, Spanish, Latin, world geography, literature, Bible, and history.  By the end of the week, the mayor issued the “Shelter in Place” order, and we are now pretty much on lockdown.  Carson Grace received word from ETBU that on campus classes will not reconvene this school year. 

Life feels like it is on perpetual pause. Groundhog Day over and over again.  What day is it?  Who knows?  Does it even matter?

People have asked how I am managing with 8 kids, homeschooling, not leaving the house, and my anxiety.   The most honest response I can give is, I’m glad there are no witnesses.  It’s been ok.  We’ve had rough moments.  And sweet ones.  I’ve had kids snuggled in my lap while I read to them, we have played together, we have danced together, and we have worshipped.  On the other hand, I have lost my cool.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve cried.  I’ve laid awake for hours at night.  I’ve eaten more sweets than I will ever admit to. 

But more than ever, I GENUINELY BELIEVE this season is about putting our faith into practice.  Of course it SHOULD always be that way. But let’s get real.  We are finding out if we really believe the things we used to say so casually…. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!” 

We have a choice.  

I am thankful:

~ for new mercies every morning.  I need to go back over my Sunday Gratitudes (how can it be that I have been writing every Sunday for almost 6 years now???) and see how many times I have been thankful for new morning mercies.   That is nothing new.  But boy, I am so grateful as I collapse into bed every night that the day is OVER and I get to start fresh the next day.   Every day is a do-over. IMG_5886.jpg

~ for the hard work our teachers and administration has done to transfer all of their curriculum into an online format for us.  I HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED OUR WONDERFUL TEACHERS SO MUCH!  Wow!  The things we realize we have under-appreciated or taken for granted!  They have done a TREMENDOUS JOB of making this switch happen basically overnight.  I am completely in awe of their giftings: their knowledge, their patience, and their love for all our kids that kept them coming back to their jobs day after day.   Oh how I miss my kids’ teachers!  (I bet not HALF as much as my KIDS miss their teachers!  Their new teacher is SO MEAN!  And never goes away!)IMG_5705 2.JPGIMG_5729 2.JPGIMG_5682.JPGIMG_5664 2.JPGIMG_5837.JPG

~ for generous help from loved ones to supplement the groceries we can’t stock up on for our jumbo-sized clan. 

~ for my kids OUTSTANDING attitudes.  They’ve had a few bumps (mostly in response to my own volatile moods), but so far they are still eager to get to their school work, and enjoying the material, and very forgiving of their grumpy teacher.  I’m truly the most blessed mama in all the world. IMG_5782 2.JPG

~ for another successful out-of-my-comfort-zone first.  The physical Laurel & Cotton Spring Sale was obviously cancelled, but the feisty shop owner, Melissa, undeterred, launched a virtual sale via Facebook LIVE.  That meant a crash course in camera-work and social media for each vendor.  It was nerve-wracking and felt completely awkward to talk to my phone (check out my CLASSY, PRO-FESSIONAL tripod!) IMG_2652.JPGand imagine an invisible audience in my living room (while my Littles were banished into hiding upstairs).  Amazingly enough, it went well, I had several kind viewers and comments, and I actually sold a bunch of Giddyup & Whoa signs, including more after the LIVE sale ended!  I was thrilled!  Not only that, but Melissa sold raffle tickets and designed an exclusive Go GOLD t-shirt, and raised $665 for Gold Network of East Texas!  What an awesome blessing!IMG_5960.JPG IMG_6007.jpg

~ for Josh’s job.  There seem to be new developments every day, and we know we cannot take anything for granted anymore.  The actual store is closed, so his interaction with the public is pretty minimal.  He had to lay off some employees this week, which was really hard on him.  He never EVER complains, although I know the gravity of the times and all that he is responsible for weighs heavily on his heart.  And he never fails to check on how I am doing, and to encourage me.  I’m grateful we can be raw and real and honest with one another.  No filter. 

~ for technology.  To accomplish virtual learning, we use a desktop computer, wireless printer, 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and a phone.  Thus far our router has held up to the massive usage, and I’ve been shocked and thoroughly impressed at how minimal the technical issues have been.  And we also had the opportunity to FaceTime with friends we hardly ever get to see.  This forced slower pace and social distancing is causing us to be more intentional. 

~ for coffee.  3 to 4 pots a day.

~ for our safe and comfortable home, and having everything we need.  We have kind, loving neighbors, a beautiful, quiet street.  Cooper has been organizing baseball tournaments and lizard hunts with the Littles.  We are not suffering in our quarantine. IMG_5759.JPGIMG_5966.JPGIMG_5995.JPGIMG_5996.JPG 

~ for laughs.  We’ve had some good late nights with our bigger kids, watching tv and funny videos together.  Carson Grace even badgered mom and dad and the whole Tribe into filming a TikTok video with her for a contest for school.  She choreographed a routine with us, and we provided live entertainment for our neighborhood from our front yard.  It was pretty hysterical how we all got into it.IMG_5975 2IMG_5981

~ for virtual church service from our living room.  It brought such comfort to see our pastors’ faces and to worship together with THE CHURCH.  We all even put on REAL CLOTHES for the occasion, and took the Lord’s Supper together.  It was simple, intimate, and very special.  I love that my kids are learning firsthand that the CHURCH has nothing to do with a building. IMG_5991.JPG

Hamburger bun and solo cups have never been so sanctified

~ for thoughtful care packages filled with love. 

~ for glorious sunshine.  Perfect for walks, PE, picnic lunches, and art class. IMG_A2A1A0208098-1.jpegIMG_5860.JPG

~ for “Live Meets” for each kiddo with their teacher and classmates.  It was so good for their hearts to get to see and hear from their friends.  And we got calls from several of our teachers, just checking in on us.  I’m so blessed and thankful for our GCS community. IMG_5838.JPG

~ for the people “out in the world” that continue to go to work to keep the world running.  First responders, healthcare workers, supermarket personnel, banks, truck drivers, sanitation workers…we will be grateful forever.  

One of the things I’m going to treasure the most from this season is my time with the kids right after breakfast each morning before we start school.  We snuggle up on the couch and each read verse by verse the Psalm and Proverb of the day, and then I’m reading to them from Hind’s Feet on High Places.  What a perfect book for the season.  The conversations with the children have been priceless.  We have walked with Much Afraid as she faced Pride, Resentment, and Self-Pity, along the Sea of Loneliness and now into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation.   How I want to respond as Acceptance With Joy, “He (the Shepherd) has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose.  I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.’”  

I’m not going to lie and say that’s where I’m at.  But it is my prayer.  I know that this is an opportunity for us to be refined and sifted by our LOVING FATHER.  I know that my hope is IN HIM, and that this world is not my home.  And I don’t want to miss the hidden blessings.  God WILL REDEEM FOR GOOD what the enemy intends for evil.  The immediate blessing of having extra quality time with my kids is just the beginning.  I pray for a deep and lasting heart change and genuine appreciation to be birthed around the world.  

So friends, let’s love one another well this week.  We may not be able to gather together physically, but we can call and check in one one another.  Write a letter.  Send a text.  Film a video. Get creative. I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have left to be creative after my packed days of homeschooling, but I’m going to do my best.  It’s ok to be honest about how we feel. Everything is different, and oftentimes “different” = hard and scary. But we can’t be RULED by how we FEEL. Let’s give each other lots of grace and remember that kindness is contagious.  It’s also ok to stay in stretchy pants. (But I personally AM making a commitment to shower more regularly this week.)

This song has really ministered to me this week, and the lyrics are especially appropriate for the season we are in. I hope it encourages you.

https://youtu.be/NrTv39-lG4M

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalms 46:1-7)

Momentum

I am thankful:

~ for MOMENTUM.  Josh got started on all those projects last week (Click here if you missed them), and just kept right on going.  The laundry room refresh was so great…but he still wasn’t satisfied.  Monday he came home from work and started putting up a white subway tile backsplash!  It turned out SO BEAUTIFUL!   I genuinely LOVE going in there to do my laundry now!  

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~ Josh’s momentum inspired me to get back on scraping my beams!  That daunting project has been on the back burner for MONTHS, but I got back at it this week.  It’s going a lot slower because I am doing all the scraping by hand instead of using the planer (planer is just TOO LOUD for Tatum K and Bear ).  But I am going to PRESS ON!

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~ for a nice emerging tradition: Colton joining us for dinner on Monday nights.  It’s typically his day off so it has been working well with his schedule, and we all just love having him with us.  He enjoys having a mom-cooked meal and it does my heart good to have him home just for a minute. 

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~ for Tatum K’s bright and unpredictable personality.  That spicy girl keeps me on my toes, and keeps me laughing every day. 

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~ for Gavin’s amazingly bright mind and creativity.  He is gobbling up the WWII for Kids book he got for Christmas, and is always sharing what he is reading in it.  He spent one afternoon creating his own “military code” inspired by something he read in the book, and got totally into writing coded messages.  Can’t wait to see what God does with that brilliant mind of his. 

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~ for one of the most joyful and long-awaited days I can even imagine.  Our beloved friends Chris and Lindsay finalized the adoption of their beautiful SON, Coby Tate.  They have prayed to be parents for years, waited patiently and impatiently on the Lord, walked through agonizing heartbreak, and finally…FINALLY, the cries of their heart were answered BEYOND MEASURE!  This is the absolutely most blessed and fortunate little boy.  He hit the jackpot with the most loving parents on the planet.  Thank You God, for Your faithfulness that is always right on time!

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~ for the delicious decadence of a juicy C Rojo’s Wayagu burger and indulgent sweet potato truffle fries.  I have been craving this burger for over a week, but we couldn’t ever catch the truck before they ran out of food!  It was WORTH THE WAIT!  SO GOOD!!!!

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~ for the opportunity to see Kora give her speech to her class during their Toastmasters presentation.  Her eyes just sparkle when she sees that I am there in the audience. 

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~ for lots of special Giddyup & Whoa pieces in the works.  We have a few items going to the Vintage & Co Valentine’s Pop Up Shop coming up this week, February 6-9.  If you are local, be sure to stop by.  Jodi and her team have impeccable taste, and they always put together the best collections of unique vintage finds. IMG_3021.JPG740F7D3A-F3A1-4C3E-9B9D-AC603ABB5B56.JPG

~ for the best Goodwill find in a long time: an awesome, unique coffee table!  It was in bad shape: a blotchy, marred finish and layers of spilled glitter all over it, but it was crying out to be revamped.  We gave it a good sanding and a bleach bath, and then I tried my hand at homemade liming wax for the first time.  I am completely in love with the end result!  I actually “rescued” a little desk out of a dumpster this morning (still in my bathrobe, no less) and I can’t wait to give it a makeover!

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~ for another weekend of having Carson Grace and her roommate here.  I miss her so much when she’s gone, and it just fills my heart to have her here even for a couple of days.  And it’s my prayer that she gets her “tank” full when she comes home.  

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~ I’m thankful that when I backed out of my garage, not realizing that the garage door was partially down, I banged into it JUST A LITTLE, and barely dented the door instead of tearing it down completely. 

~ for a fun night of food, fellowship, and football.  East Texas has had SuperBowl fever with local hometown hero Pat Mahomes, Jr. being the talk of the press across the nation.  So it was more fun than ever to have a house full of friends and “FRAMILY” to watch the game and cheer the Chiefs to victory.  I can’t remember the last time I saw (and ate) so much good food, from spicy wings to juicy pulled pork; hot, cheesy cheese dip and rich, creamy banana pudding!  I think the food was the star and the football was the bonus!  

So many blessings, so much to give thanks for…but in all honesty, this has been a TOUGH WEEK personally.  Parenting is NO JOKE.  This stuff is Capital “H” Hard.  And I know most of you are nodding your heads right now.  Because life is full of lots of good if you choose to look for it, but positive outlook or not, life is also just plain HARD.   Often I feel like I get going in a good rhythm, get through to one of the kids, get the house organized…and then, “whack-a-mole!”  Everything falls apart.  Back to square 1, or even worse.  It’s just always something.  Parenting was hard this week: we had to work through some not-very-fun stuff and say some difficult “no”s.  But the Lord keeps pressing the word “momentum” on my heart.  The simple definition of  momentum is “mass in motion.”  And the larger the mass and the faster the motion, the more momentum is created.  Josh’s large vision and fast progression created MOMENTUM…it inspired us to GET moving and KEEP moving.  But most of the time, it’s so easy to just waffle, or drift.  Why is is SO HARD to gain and maintain POSITIVE MOMENTUM? And so easy to lose it…or even worse, pick up negative momentum? I know it’s partially because of our sinful, selfish, lazy nature…it’s just in there, whether we admit it or not. Most of the time we’d rather sidestep the hard work it takes to get moving and keep moving. But we also are subject to the negative impact of the world around us, and the enemy of Light that actively seeks to stumble us. WE CANNOT BE PASSIVE because negativity will pull us down.  When things are hard at home. Or work.  Or with the kids.  If we passively have a “good day” and it’s followed by a “rough day,” we don’t ever get anywhere.  But instead, we have to fight to press forward: through the hard AND through the “blah.” I just feel burning in my heart the challenge to PRESS IN AND PRESS ON.  UNDETERRED.  I am not by any means talking about muscling through in my own strength.  I just mean pressing in to God in trust and in prayer when things get hard instead of slinking away and throwing my hands up.  I’m not giving up!  My “mass” of faith and hope is going to keep growing and gaining speed and creating positive MOMENTUM.  When we have a rough day, I’m going to look to Jesus and believe that He is good, and He is working, and He is with me in the trial.  And together we will press on.   I’m going to scrape these beams. I’m going to raise all these kids.  I’m going to serve my husband.  And I’m going to fall on my face and make a zillion mistakes along the way.  BUT GOD! Because I’m going to keep getting back up and keep not quitting.  And by the grace of God, one day I will look back and thank Him for the perfect purposes He had for every piece.  (I’m absolutely preaching to myself here, but I hope it encourages someone else out there…)

Let’s build up some positive, Jesus-inspired MOMENTUM this week, and love others well. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:13-14)

“For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:8-9)

Training Wheels and Laundry Baskets

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful day celebrating our beautiful Samantha turning 12!  How in the world is the little fuzzy headed muffin that captured our hearts the moment we laid eyes on her 12?????  Samantha has the biggest and most tender heart.  She is a born little mama, and wears Tatum on her hip constantly.  She is spunky and sassy and quick-witted, and entering the “tween” phase has made her even more ANIMATED.   She enjoyed her menu of choice: Nacho Supreme Hamburger Helper and Cool Ranch Doritos, and she baked her own chocolate cake with tie-dyed icing.  

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~ for a lovely day off school on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.   Carson Grace and one of her roommates came home for a day, so it was a treat to have them here.  

~ for the sweetest photo shoot with my oldest and youngest daughters.  Tatum K is the spitting image of baby Carson Grace, and seeing them together fills my heart with such joy. 

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~for the seasons that I know will not last forever…the seasons where in the middle of my shower, the door opens and a little voice says, “Mama, I want to snuggle wif you.”  Or when that same little voice says, “Mama, pray for the chocolate on my leg!”

~ for a powerful expression of intercessory prayer for a special couple needing healing in our church.  They are pillars of our Body, and beautiful, godly examples of humble leadership, Christ-centered marriage, and quiet strength.  

~ for a crazy week of home makeover DIY projects.  Josh had a week of vacation that he needed to use up, so he had planned a “stay-cation” with a list of several projects to get done around the house.  Why, WHY didn’t I think about what that meant for me?  I’ve been married to this man for a LOOOONG TIME, and HIS projects are almost always OUR projects.  I am AMAZED by all he (and we) got done!  He repainted the trim all the way around our house and both garage doors.  In 2 days!  Ripped out the cumbersome and non-functional built-in cabinet in our laundry room.  Designed and built me 2 reclaimed wood double-bay laundry sorters on casters to my specifications.  Built a shelf from a massive, stunning slab of wood we’ve been saving for years, and installed a galvanized hanging rod.  Ripped out the countertops and replaced them with custom reclaimed wood butcher block. Replaced the broken light fixture.  And I caulked and repainted the laundry room and cabinets, repainted our dingy mudroom and added a fun pop of color on the door.  Our laundry room and mudroom are two of the most hard-working rooms in our home, so it is so awesome to have them updated and more functional for our family.

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~ for the extended quality time with my Love this week. We enjoyed checking out a new place, Jimmy’s Egg. (Gina Sue treated Tatum K and I to breakfast there last week, and it was SO YUMMY that we had to take Dad!)  It was THE BOMB!  And we finished off our FD’s gift certificate with an at home date.  Tatum K crashed both “dates” (and ate half my food both times) but she’s cute enough, we really didn’t mind.  Bear also thought he should be invited…

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~ for an exciting next step… on-camera interviews for a professional promo video we are creating for Gold Network of East Texas.  We have so many dreams and plans stirring in our hearts for GNET in 2020 and the upcoming years.  It still blows my mind that less than 6 years ago, Tyler Gold Run and Gold Network of East Texas didn’t exist!  What a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to serve East TX childhood cancer community, and to see the network of families leaning on one another.  

~ for a hearty cooked-by-Dad breakfast. 

~ for another thrilling milestone: Sawyer learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels!  He just hopped on and took right off!  Josh talked to him at bedtime about how much he has loved teaching each of his kids how to ride their bike.  That moment of pure joy when the balance kicks in and they soar away on their own. And of course, with Sawyer every new accomplishment is emotional and mind-blowing.  No milestones are small or taken for granted.  We just can’t believe Sawyer is alive and thriving and turning into a big kid in front of our very eyes.  Thank You Jesus!  (We did end the day with the inevitable skinned knee and big tears.  It’s all part of growing up!  Check out that shirt, though!)

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~ for SUNSHINE!!!!  We have had so many days upon days of rain and gloom, I was in desperate need of blue skies and sun!  Do you start to feel your soul get tired during gloomy weather?

It was a great week having Josh home.  He truly is my favorite person to spend time with, my very best friend.  We laughed tonight thinking that it seems like the longest week ever because we packed so much into it.  Parts of the week were surprisingly hard though.  We really are “GIDDYUP” and “WHOA.”  He pushes me.  Challenges me.  All these renovation projects came out of nowhere and really threw me for a loop.  I’m a pack rat, he’s a cleaner-outer.  He pushed me to go through a couple stacks I had sitting around.  (My piles drive him crazy.  And it drives ME crazy when he tosses things out without checking with me.)  He brought up the idea of building the laundry sorters I’d been wanting (which of course I was thrilled about, but I didn’t know anything else was coming), and 5 minutes later he put a caulk gun in my hand and started ripping the cabinet off the wall. (Oh.  So we’re DOING this!? You mean TODAY!?  Like…RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Ok then.)  The intensity and change of routine actually launched me into a pretty massive anxiety attack over THE STUPIDEST details.  If I remember correctly, it involved chicken sandwiches and some laundry baskets full of crap.  Good.  Grief.  It’s laughable now.  But in the moment, it was real and frustrating and suffocating and lonely.  But God.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  And now, I look at the freshly updated rooms, especially the laundry room, and it’s just…AWESOME!  It’s so much better than I ever could have envisioned.  It’s more than I asked for.  And Josh worked hard to make it happen, BECAUSE HE LOVES ME.  He doesn’t spend any time in that laundry room.  He didn’t do it because HE wanted it.  He did it to bless ME.  And to get it done, he had to push me a little.  I’m so thankful that God knows what we need better than we do.  He chose Josh for me because he knew my “Whoa” would hold me back from so much in life, and that I NEEDED some “Giddyup.”  (And of course, Josh needs a little “Whoa” from time to time, so he doesn’t fly straight off the rails).  God uses my husband and my kids to teach me about the height and width and depth of His Love.  God loves us so far beyond our self imposed limitations.   He ABSOLUTELY gives us more than we can handle, but never more than He can handle.  Sometimes He pushes us.  And it is ALWAYS for a purpose…  He has things in store for us so far beyond what we have ever asked for or imagined.  Because He LOVES US.  So we have to see past anxiety and laundry baskets and chicken sandwiches that try to rob us of that joy.  And we will never experience the joy that feels like flying if we don’t take off the training wheels.  Even if we skin our knees.  Because flying is worth it.

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)

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!

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~ 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

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~ 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. 

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

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~ 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!!”

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~ 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.

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~ 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/

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~ 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. 

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~ 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)

 

The Biggest Little Things

I am thankful:

~ for HEALING!  The Rucker Tribe has survived the Great Flu of 2019.  Oh, we still have some sniffles, snuffles, and coughs.  And sleep is still hit or miss (mostly miss).  But it is a vast improvement over last week to say the VERY LEAST.  Thank You JESUS!  And thank you to all of you for reaching out with your kind words and encouragements.

~for all the funny little memories at Christmastime.  For the kids’ love of EVERY Christmas song, and how they sing out with all their hearts.   I love that Tatum K doesn’t know who Santa is.  She just points when she sees a picture or an inflatable and says, “look mama! It’s a May-wee Cwis-mas boy!”  We have had fun running errands together, she’s my little buddy while kiddos are at school.  She attracts a lot of attention wherever we go, so stinkin’ cute in her little boots and messy bun.  At this store she found slippers that matched her little sherpa jacket, so she had to give them “a lovey.”  Oh Lord, let her stay my sweet tiny Tater. 

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~ for puzzles.  I forget how fun puzzles are.  

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~ for a wonderfully special occasion worthy of celebration: Grandmommy’s 70th birthday!  Aunt Polly hosted the gathering, and we feasted on brisket and chips and dips and a charming custom purse cake topped with FON-DANT.  We all laughed and made Grandmommy cry, and celebrated the legacy of the lovely, godly lady we all love so much.  

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~ as always, Grandmommy’s birthday also marks the start of the greatly anticipated tradition: 12 Days of Christmas.  Each night we gather and sing the song, and then open our thoughtful treat and take our picture.  The kids absolutely love the whole process, and I am so thankful for all the work that Grandmommy puts into it all.  These are memories that will last forever.  I am a sucker for traditions, and it fills my heart to see the smiles of my babies beside the tree.  Day 1 was sticker page nativities.  And you have never seen such joy as they each diligently worked on decorating their own paper.

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~ for such a fun Christmas party with our small group from church.  The adults had organized a rowdy (and rather cut-throat) white elephant gift exchange.  The kids were very intrigued by the idea (I mean, OBVIOUSLY they saw a bunch of gifts and wanted some) so I quickly gathered items from around our house to put together a white elephant exchange for them. None of them had ever played it before, so it was a little challenging.  Sawyer ended up with the dud gift: a ladies bracelet and a coupon.  He was NOT IMPRESSED.  Nor was he gracious about being disappointed.  There were tears.  Everyone else had fun though.  I’m thankful for such a fun group.  As you can see, I was in a PARTICULARLY FESTIVE mood.

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~ for a new-to-me treat:  baked crescent rolls filled with melted chocolate chips and drizzled with powdered sugar glaze.  Just STOP IT!

~ for last minute Giddyup & Whoa orders.  you can imagine how tight the budget gets with nine kids at Christmas time. Even though our focus is definitely not on spending a lot on extravagant gifts, all the expenses just all add up faster than the deposits.  Every order is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for the way God provides!  It is such an honor to be trusted with bringing to life special mementos for people.  

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~ for amazing and inspiring connections.  I got a sign order this week from a lady I did not know.  She had taken my card at the show at the Foundry several weeks ago and just now contacted me.  She came to the house to pick up her order, and we had the best conversation!  She is also a mother of 9, and we have several  common friendships.  Such a small world.  The sign she had me do for her was so unique and personal, my very favorite kind of sign to paint.  A saying with personal meaning that you’re just not going to find hanging in Hobby Lobby.  She had asked me to paint “Love is the Tuesdays.”  It’s a lyric from the song, “Tuesday’s,” by Jake Scott, and it was a gift for her husband.  She encouraged Josh and I to listen to the song, which we did later that evening.  The song is advice given by a father to a young man who is asking to marry his daughter.  “No it’s not Hollywood son ’cause troubles will come / But it’s the best decision you’re ever gonna make / And you’ve got my blessing but just hear this lesson / Twenty-seven years and all I’ve got to say / Is it’s not just picture perfect dancing in a white dress / It’s not just rainy days where nothing stops the fighting / It’s not just highs and lows and champagne toasts / I’ve come to know that love’s not only the best days or the worst days / Love is the Tuesdays”

Isn’t that just the truth?  Love is the everyday moments that happen in between the highs and the lows.  So blessed by the song and touched by the sentiment behind the sign order. 

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~ for an amazing accomplishment for my INCREDIBLE HUSBAND!  A few weeks ago he took the step of faith to enroll in an online real estate course, and this week he completed the first class and ACED his first exam!   So proud of this remarkable man of mine and excited to see what doors God will open down the road!

~ for the kids’ DARLING Christmas program at church.   From our Tribe, we had scintillating portrayals of an angel, King Herod, and Caesar Augustus, as well as 2 eloquent narrators.  There is something so pure about seeing the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes and lips of children.  And even seeing how beautiful and grown up Samantha and Kora are.  Zoe sparkling in her tinsel halo.  Sawyer, serious as can be, sternly barking out his line, and Gavin’s dramatic death on stage.  Even Tatum K’s spontaneous interruptions asking when it would be “cookie time.”  It was just so very special.  

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Before the Children’s Program, Becky the Children’s Pastor, asked the audience to pause.  I LOVED how she said it.  “Let’s just pause a moment to make some room.  We can’t appreciate a gift we are given if we don’t take the time to realize how much we NEED that gift.”  Advent is the season of waiting.  Waiting expectantly for the birth of the King.  Waiting longingly for His Return.  But do we have room?  Are we too busy and distracted by the cares of this world?  By how many friends/followers/likes we can accumulate?  By having the Pinterest-perfect porch display, ugly sweater, or charcuterie board?  By buying the perfect gift to outdo what we gave last year?  

Quieting our heart is hard.  Waiting is hard.  What are you waiting on?  What prayer are you praying that has not yet been answered?  My heart aches with the weight of some of the things I wait for, long for.   But I know God sees me.  I know He cares about the things and the people I’m asking Him for.  He saw the needs of the people of Israel.  He had a plan to meet those needs.  He has a plan to fulfill every need.  But for now, we wait.  Creation is groaning for our Coming King.  We ache for healing, for reconciliation, for restoration.  We cry out to Him for a Breakthrough.  And sometimes every single thing our eyes see looks like failure.  Hopeless.   But the God of Hope is working when we cannot see.  And thankfully, His power is not contingent on our faith.  I thank God for that every day.  Because my faith feels so small and my vision falls so short.  But God.  So whatever it is you are waiting for, don’t lose heart.  

He is working.  

He is coming. 

And He’s always right on time. 

So let’s pause a moment.  And let’s make some room for Jesus in our hearts and our schedules this week.  

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27:13-14)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently….And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-19, 22-25, 28)