Summer

I am thankful:

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

~ for walks in our new neighborhood.

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

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

~ for lots of progress on the farm!

Brush hogging✔️

Excavator✔️

Electricity on in the barn✔️

Water on✔️

Chainsaw lesson✔️

Cleaning up the barn slab✔️

Rides on the new mower✔️

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

~ for our first glorious sunset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

Goodness of God

I am thankful:

~ for God’s goodness through one of THE MOST HECTIC weeks of our life.

~ for making it through the last grueling stages of packing/loading/cleaning.

Poor dogs were scared to death, thought we were leaving them behind, so they wouldn’t get off the truck!
All hands on deck to transport Giddyup & Whoa to its new location!

~ for a decadent meal break brought to you by Ruby’s

~ for yet another rite of passage, the food fight extraordinaire: 4th grade Crud Wars for Zoe. Can’t believe we have another elementary school graduate! On to Middle School!

~ for end of year parties and last days of school for Sawyer, Zoe, Gavin, Kora, and Sam! Back to back to back. Thankful for all the friends who helped me get everybody everywhere. And SUPER thankful that out of all the places I had to be at the same time on Wednesday, I only messed up one item on my list…forgetting to pick up 2 of my kids at the correct time. Thankful for gracious teachers who didn’t shame me for picking up kids FORTY FIVE MINUTES LATE! And Cooper breezed through his finals, and now we have a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR!

~ for successful closings on selling our house and purchasing our land. And for thel glorious feeling of being 100% DEBT FREE! How is this all even real?

~ for a sweet, sweet friend who brought a delicious dinner so we could have a floor picnic, our last meal in the old house.

First Day, October 2017
Last day, May 2022

~ for a perfect night for a baseball game – smack dab in the middle of moving night! Josh kept loading while I took the kids to Sawyer’s last game. Didn’t realize until it was too late that all Tatum K’s shoes were on the moving truck!

~ for as peaceful as possible transition to our new casa. It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. We are going to learn to trim out non-essentials and get ultra-creative with storage and personal space. Here’s to FAMILY TOGETHERNESS at its finest!

Yard needs a little work…

~ for the sweetest neighbors in all the land. We have had a truly wonderful almost-six years at our house, and the kids and parents and grands have all become family.

The sweetest gift from our neighbors

~ for a sweet morning date with my Love at our new favorite place…

~ for the BEST DAY EVER out at the farm-to-be. How exciting to take down the For Sale sign and cut off the old padlock!

It was surreal to realize it’s really ours! I can’t express the explosions that were happening in our hearts as we held each other’s hands tightly and drove through that gate as a family. We are completely humbled and grateful and in awe. Josh gathered us all together before we started to thank the Lord for the gifts He has given us, for the dream and the vision He planted in our hearts. He prayed that we would all “be strong and courageous and do the work,” together as a family, and that the whole journey would be an offering to glorify His Name.

We picnicked and picked wild blackberries and spent the day clearing out the barn and exploring.

The kids found treasures and oddities galore. And they actually all worked really hard!

~ for great news! Sawyer got 2nd Place in the Lego competition! Thank you to all who voted!

So very thankful for God’s perfect, purposeful timing. We had been eager to close on everything earlier and get things rolling, but He didn’t line it up that way. Closing on the last day of school and moving the very next day was ABSOLUTE MAYHEM, but it also meant that we did not have to navigate one single day of school from the new house. I can scarcely imagine how challenging that would have been.

Lord, we lay all these dreams at Your feet. We are Yours. The land is Yours. To You alone the glory.

And we THANK YOU! Oh, the adventures that lie ahead…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:1-3)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalms 24:1)

“I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God” (“Goodness of God” by Bethel Music)

Build

I am thankful:

So I know I dropped a bomb last week. But first things first…

Sawyer asked Jesus into his heart to be his Lord and Savior! We are REJOICING! He asked us lots of questions, and we asked him lots of questions, and it is abundantly clear that he knows exactly what he is doing and why. What rejoicing there is in heaven!

Now, on to our other news. It’s been a long and complicated road with lots of twists and turns, but it finally looks like it’s actually going to happen. We are moving!

I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, we’ve been thinking the same thing ourselves. WHY!? We love our house and our neighborhood so much. We have worked so hard on it to get it just exactly the way we wanted, and it’s just so perfect for us. Almost 6 years ago we asked the Lord for this, and He delivered BIG TIME.

October 2017

But we are entering into a new season with lots of fear and lots of trembling, but also lots of excitement. And He has shown us that the time to leap is now.

We are building a house in the country!

We found a breathtaking 10 acre tract of land, and the kids are all-a-flutter, choosing names for pet chickens, thinking about pygmy goats, and barn cats, ATV riding, and even a horse!

But as of now…there is no house.

That means a pit stop in a QUAINT (aka TEENSY WEENSY, as in less than HALF the size of our current home) rent house for the next year while the farmhouse is built. All I can say is, in the beginning, Josh tried to convince me that ALL 10 of us could live for a year IN AN RV. So I’m BEYOND THANKFUL for a 4 bed, 2 bath rent house! It’s an ADVENTURE!

On every level, this change is bittersweet. We have had moments of unbridled excitement and we’ve had lots and lots of tears. It’s getting really really real. Rooms are emptying daily as we take loads to the rent house, we had a massive yard sale yesterday, clearing out 87,000 pounds of JUNK. Seriously, how could we POSSIBLY have so much STUFF!?

I have personally gone through the gamut of emotions. Fear. I hate change. Sadness. I love this house and never wanted to move. Fear again. What if our building plans fall through? What if something terrible happens? What if we regret this decision? Sadness again. The kids are going to miss their neighbor friends so much, as are Josh and I. Discouragement. The rent house is so tiny, we are going to be on top of each other and drive each other nuts. This is going to be the loooongest year ever. Sadness again. My painstakingly scraped beams. The brick floors. THE POOL! But somehow, I know it’s right. And I am CONVINCED that God has a purpose for us in our new little house in our new little neighborhood, even if it’s temporary. He’s planting us there to be a light and a blessing. And MY ATTITUDE will set the tone for the attitudes of my children. If I’m sour and negative, they will be too. I want to BUILD (our family, our kids, our literal physical house) not tear down!

So buck up buttercup!

In the midst of our reservations about the unknown, we are clinging to what God has shown us along the way. The exhortation in His Word that spoke so loudly and so clearly to both of us. Be strong and courageous and do the work. So that’s where we’re at right now.

We are grateful for your prayers, particularly this week. God’s timing often makes us simultaneously laugh and cry. Within the next 5 days we will close on selling our house, close on buying our land, spend our last night in this house, first night in the rent house, and the kids will have their last day of 11th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and 2nd grade, along with all the end-of-school activities that go along with that.

One last thing on the topic of BUILDING – Sawyer is participating in a childhood cancer Lego Building Challenge this week. Starting tonight, you can visit https://www.buildingsmiles.org and vote for his Lego creation. One vote per day. Sawyer’s entry is #16 in the under 10 age division. So fun!

Entry #16, Under 10 Division

Thank you for walking along with our family on this crazy journey. We are so grateful for all of your love and support and prayers. Looking forward to sharing this wild ride with you over the next year, and filled with expectant hope to see all that God will unfold along the way. We are not just building a house. He is building something in us, and with us. It’s not going to be easy, but IT IS going to be GOOD! Let’s GO!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”(Proverbs 14:1)

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

““Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” (1 Peter 2:5-6)

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

Diving into Spring!

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

We Love

I am thankful:

~ for a wild, non-stop week! If you’ve been around Sunday Gratitude for a while, you know that when Josh, aka Mr. Giddyup, is on stay-cation, it’s THE BUSIEST week of the year for me. 984,752,938,475 projects on his list, and he’s been checking off boxes one after another. The man doesn’t know how to sit down, and when he’s on a roll, I don’t get to sit down either. It’s TRULY EXHAUSTING, but I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. Wisest investment we could ever make.

~ thankful for at least one thing on the list that involved sitting down: breakfast date with Tatum K. She insisted on her favorite spot, Jimmy’s Egg (and we’ve learned that sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to let her have her way).

~ for the power of paint! After 4 years of ignoring the blah-blah beige in our girls’ room upstairs, we finally pulled the trigger to wake it up with a bright palette of color. The girls had no idea I was working on it, and were surprised and tickled when they came home from school Tuesday to Phase 1, a colorful freeform wall mural…

Before we started…
Blah blah beige
Let’s color!

Phase 2 (Wednesday) was a bright fresh coat of my favorite white on the dingy beige walls and a taupey griege on the built-ins and trim.

Before
After

~ for God’s protection. Gavin and Sawyer share a room with a twin-over-queen loft bed that Josh built back around 2010 when Colton and Cooper first started sharing a room. Josh went in Tuesday night to say goodnight to the boys, when he noticed that the entire loft was leaning treacherously. When he inspected the bed more closely Wednesday morning, we were horrified to discover that several bolts were snapped and the back leg was splintered. It’s truly a miracle that Gavin had not come crashing down and crushed Sawyer. BUT GOD!

But dismantling the loft created an “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” scenario. The boy’s room was the final room in our house that had not been refreshed by paint. It was navy and light blue, and had worked well enough for their room that it could be left alone. But the already worn paint job had significantly weathered after 4 years of my boys.

Time to finally update the paint! Not a project we had planned for this week, but there was no more putting it off. I went with my favorite grey tone that I already had on hand. While I knocked the paint out (which incredibly only took one coat, even over navy blue!) Josh, on the spot, designed and built matching twin headboards from the salvaged loft lumber, complete with the old stickers and hand drawn graffiti from our 4 boys over the past 12 years.

I decided at the last minute to add a few stripes for a little extra style, and we pulled out our boxed up sports memorabilia that had decorated our game room at our last house.

Birdie and Bear enjoyed the extra ventilation
Dad’s collection, plus many special signed pieces from when Sawyer was in the hospital

I’ll wait until next week for full reveal once their new bedding arrives. Best of all, this 7-hour-total refresh cost next to nothing! We re-purposed what we already had, and after selling the old queen mattress on Facebook Marketplace, that money covered the cost of the new bedding! Not bad for a completely unexpected, spontaneous makeover! Gavin and Sawyer are THRILLED!

Phase 3 of the girls’ room was a quick color burst around the window to tie it all together. Phase 4-yet-to-come will be the least impressive, lots of touchup and second/third coats on the builtins.

~ for the most delicious breakfast feast. Mom and Dad teamed up on the new griddle to cook up 2 pounds of bacon, 2 dozen eggs, and 2 dozen fluffy pancakes…in MINUTES! Why does everything taste so much better cooked outside?

~ for a new plant baby!

~ for kids who make me laugh. Lord, thank You for sending laughter when I need it the most.

Which does she need worse: ACTUAL rollerskates, or A BATH!?
Most adorable Valentine’s box
Googly eyes on EVERYTHING

~ for a very special birthday: Kora is a brand new teenager! She had a great day, starting with her favorite breakfast of Donut Shop pigs in the blanket.

Always a helper, she helped Dad make her menu-of-choice, smashburgers, as well as her ice cream bar birthday cake. And her day felt extra special with all the SuperBowl hype in the air. It was such a fun day celebrating our sweet, beautiful girl.

~ in addition this week on his stay-cation, Josh replaced a broken shower door with a beautiful new one, replaced a leaky bathroom faucet, restained our backyard fence, installed a new door on Cooper’s studio, fixed the boys’ closet, reinforced the girls’ bunkbeds, fixed a broken drawer, took Gavin and Sawyer to batting practice (they are both super excited to start their first year of Little League baseball), built a custom Giddyup&Whoa order, and had a great family movie night watching “American Underdog,” the inspirational Kurt Warner story (HIGHLY RECOMMEND). Any further explanation needed as to why he is called Mr. Giddyup???

~ for one of our kids’ very favorite nights of the year: the Father-Daughter Valentine’s Dance. It is absolutely adorable how seriously our girls take this event. They spend HOURS on their outfits and hair, and their eyes just sparkle when their sweet Daddy comes to the door. Always with roses for his daughters, earnestly asking each one if they will join him on a date. It is beautiful, and I know they feel so loved. This year was extra special, because it was the first year Tatum K was old enough to attend, so for the first time ever, Dad had ALL FIVE DAUGHTERS on his arm. Just look at them! My heart just melted.

Not to be outdone, I was tickled to spend the evening with ALL MY BOYS! I don’t know if this has ever happened. If so, it’s been years. They took me on a date: dessert FIRST at Braums, and then to Texas Roadhouse.

Gavin had his first steak, and Sawyer got a lesson from Colton on how to eat fried pickles. What a treat! It would be tough to say who had more fun that evening: the boys, the girls, or Mom and Dad. My heart is full. We are so blessed.

So many blessings. So much to be thankful for. And all glory to God for redeeming two lost souls, and building this super-sized potpourri of a family. We are a beautiful mess, figuring it all out as we go, holding on tight to Jesus and to one another along the way. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. In fact it’s completely exhausting pretty much 99.9% of the time, but I’ll never stop thanking my Father for this path He set me on.

Thanks for following along on this crazy ride. I’m thankful you’re here.

And thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

The After

My thoughts this week are a little different, so bear with me…

September is over. It is truly the busiest season of my life. As you may well imagine, life with 9 crazy kids, 2 rowdy dogs, a nonprofit, and a small business is going to be busy year round. But Gold Network’s pivotal events in September and the daily seeking out of opportunities to promote Childhood Cancer Awareness Month have turned into a full time job.

And then, all of a sudden, the calendar page turns and September is over.

So many ask me, “Are you recovering? Getting rest finally? Are you glad it’s all finally done so your life can go back to normal?” And the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”

For many reasons, this September was exceptionally hard for me. It hit me this week how this whole abrupt halt after a season of intensity is such a mirror of the perceived “end” of our cancer journey.

During treatment, there is no letup. Clinic, port access, labs, chemo &/or radiation, therapies, in the car, fevers, ER, back in the car, isolation, neutropenia, lose the hair, regrow the hair, lose the hair again, spinal taps, scans, bone marrow biopsies, nausea, steroid rage, pain, insomnia, more fevers, more ER visits, more hospital stays, more chemo, another 200 miles on the interstate…. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s just what life looks like for the months or years on treatment.

People observe from the outside, “That looks really intense.“ “I don’t know how you do it.“ We don’t know either. But we don’t have a choice. (Although I DO actually know how we do it…His Name is JESUS.)

And for some, the cycle never ends. Some children have chronic or recurrent cancers that never go away. They stay on chemo indefinitely, and are closely monitored by specialists. Others have significant impairment from their cancer (or more often, their treatment) and they must endure life-altering long term therapies, surgeries, and/or disabilities.

And then there are the friends we’ve lost.

That pain never goes away. The loss never goes away. The hole never goes away.

But for many of us, cancer treatment comes to an end. There’s a party at the hospital, a bell is rung, and people change our label from “warrior” to “survivor.” Ding-dong-DONE! Everybody celebrates a hard-fought victory, and now we can all get on with our lives.

But is it really that simple? As simple as the turn of a calendar page?

I can only speak for myself. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) that simple for me. Treatment felt like being on a terrifying tightrope for three years, surrounded by a coaches and trainers and safety harnesses and a net on every side. And when treatment is over, all the safety gear and nets are packed up and put away and everyone goes home from the circus, but you’re left up there on the tight rope. Alone.

Some of “your people” aren’t your people anymore. There’s no more meal train, no more T-shirts, no more support bracelets. Everyone else’s life has moved on, and honestly, you’re GLAD for them! You wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, and you’re glad they can’t understand the silent screaming that still wakes you up at night. What if the cancer comes back? What if the doctors missed something? Where did that bruise come from? How do you know if his platelets are low? Does he look pale? You’re supposed to be trusting God, but you feel helpless and terrified. Not to mention how the most random “nothing” can send you spiraling and gasping for breath.

And what of the other casualties from this war that’s over-except-that-it’s-not? What’s the condition of your extended family? Your marriage? Your other kids? How are your finances? Did you take care of yourself while you were fighting for the life of your child?

All I’m trying to say is that it’s never really over. We march on because we have to. We turn the page of the calendar and put our yard signs back in the garage. The polka dots come off the bus, and the gold shoes go back on the shelf until next year.

Everybody’s walking through something. Everyone goes through their own personal refining fire and comes out changed. Not everybody walks with a limp that you can see. Some people suffer inside and you would never know it. So we have to be kind to one another. It’s OK if their healing process doesn’t look like yours. Not everybody can just “get over it”(whatever their “IT” is). Extend more grace than you think they deserve. Ask good questions. And then LISTEN. Instead of telling someone you’re going to pray for them, PRAY FOR THEM! Everyone is looking for the right place to take their broken pieces.

Love people well. Your people and other people’s people. And let’s help one another carry our broken pieces to Jesus.

I will give thanks to the Lord as long as I have breath in my lungs. He has never left me. In the crisis. In my questions. In my wrestling. In the waiting. In the after. He is FAITHFUL.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:17-18)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

To Have And to Hold, Through Life and Through Gold…

I’m not sure if we could have packed more into a week if we tried.

Monday was filled from sun up to sundown with last-minute errands, emails, and phone calls preparing for Go Gold Tyler.

Tuesday – we had the remarkable honor of attending the Smith County Commissioners’ Court session to witness the reading of a resolution officially declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Smith County! This is a historic event, spearheaded by fellow East Texas cancer mom, Kalish Boyd. We had several HEROES and their families in attendance, and it was truly a moment I will never forget.

⁃ then 2 simultaneous news interviews with local television networks.

Real life…
Heroes getting to be kids!

⁃ at lunch I was invited to speak at a student assembly at our young HERO-turned-activist, Aneesa’s school. Once again she appealed to her school administrators and arranged for a GO GOLD in September event and care package supply drive. So incredibly proud of her.

⁃ then it was Go time! GO GOLD TIME that is! Our team descended upon Tyler’s Downtown Square, transforming it with a Midas touch of GOLD! Gold bows, gold banners, gold balloons, and our glittering gold carpet. It all came together beautifully, and we had a wonderful turnout. Live jazz, food trucks, sparkly face paint, and so many HERO families…

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see our families and honor their courage. There is something so powerful when we stand together and raise our voices for all our children. Thankful to have 23 HERO families in attendance. And thankful that we had good media coverage as well, with 2 more TV interviews as well as the local paper. The more the word gets out, the more we can make a difference for these deserving families! View this year’s HERO video here.

Wednesday – mostly a day of recovery, paying invoices and reorganizing supplies, punctuated with lots more emails and phone calls. That evening Tatum K and I got to represent Gold Network ETX at our local Kendra Scott store who hosted a give-back event for us. Our glitter-girl HERO Georgia and her mom and YaYa joined us, and the little girls had the BEST TIME sorting through jewels and modeling their gold gear! It was a girlie golden evening to the max!

Thursday – the morning started with me sharing at GCS Middle School chapel. It was a sweet program, with powerful worship, and a very attentive group. So special for me to be with Kora, Gavin, and Samantha and their classmates. Tatum K was a little restless as my forever-day-after-day-gold-sidekick, so I quietly promised her a donut prize as a bribe for sitting quietly. We went to our favorite spot, Donut Delight, home of the decadent maple-bacon donut. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

⁃ then that evening was Samantha’s first volleyball game! B Team was not scheduled to play, but there were several A Team out with illness, so B Team dressed out. Although we were disappointed that Sam didn’t get to play, I could not have been more proud of her. She stayed fully engaged and attentive, and cheered her heart out for her teammates. She had the very best attitude. So proud of our sweet girl.

Friday was Operation Balloon Transfer + my standard bi-weekly trip to 3 grocery stores! We were thankful to be able to share our beautiful custom balloon arch with Aneesa’s school for their Go GOLD supply drive.

That evening we enjoyed a special takeout meal from the couch while cheering on the Carthage Bulldogs to another win!

Saturday marked 22 years since I married my best friend. It feels like a lifetime and a minute at the same time. I still can’t believe the journey we have been on since 2 clueless kids dove headfirst into a hurricane.

I wonder if we would have been brave enough to do it if we had known what was in store. BUT GOD. He knew that in the very center of that hurricane we would find HIM. I’m so incredibly thankful we have each other through every high and every low. We have literally grown up together, becoming a couple and a family and Christ followers all at once. This year’s anniversary was spent doing yard work, household chores, swimming with the kids, and family movie night. (12 Mighty Orphans – great movie, inspiring story, but my darling children learned quite a few “new words” I’m afraid.) It’s not always glamorous and romantic. But it’s thick and thin, tried and true, leaning hard on one another when neither of us have the strength to stand on our own. Sometimes we carry one another. Sometimes we drag each other. Sometimes we are toe to toe and both refuse to move. But 22 wonderful/terrible/exhilarating/exhausting years later, we are still here, loving each other and never letting go. Thank You Jesus. ( And today we slipped away kid-free not once but TWICE for lunch and dinner!)

I’m thankful for strength and endurance that is not my own. For the 87,653 to-do lists and reminders on my phone. For my faithful co-laborer Paula who calms the storms in my brain and makes sure we don’t miss anything. For Gina Sue who helped me from dawn til way past dark on Tuesday keeping me sane and hydrated and making sure all my babies were taken care of. For those who lift up Gold Network in prayer. For individuals and schools and businesses Going Gold. For my husband who surprised me with gold Birkenstocks for September. For 30 straight days of gold outfits. For my family. For blue skies and hope that is always ahead. For my little miracle survivor HERO that takes my breath away when I stop to think about all he has been through.

For a sovereign God who sees all that is broken in this world, and will one day finally set it all to right once and for all.

We are just 2 short weeks from Tyler Gold Run. Please consider participating in some way. Runner? Register! Not a runner or not local? Register as a GoldDreamer, supporting with a donation (and you get the tshirt!). We also need lots of volunteers on and before Race Day. We started this race in 2015, and we had a HERO table with 9 frames on it.

At Go GOLD Tyler this week, we displayed our 80+ HEROES on three 4 foot x 8 foot walls. And they are literally filled absolutely to capacity. Not room for one more frame.

We have added 20 families to our network in the last 2 years. I can’t tell you how this rips up my heart. All these children need us more than ever. In the time it has taken you to read this blog post, at least 2 more families lives have been changed forever.

Will you help?

www.tylergoldrun.com

In the midst of the trials and brokenness, there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14)

““Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalms 30:10-12)

Birthdays and Baseball Games

I am thankful:

~ for another full whirlwind week!

~ for weather so bright and beautiful and perfect that I had to drag my easel outside to paint! It was GLORIOUS!

~ for Tatum K finding such joy in hiding and finding Easter eggs. All day. Over and over. Empty eggs never brought so much joy!

~ for my very best friend’s birthday. Josh would never make a big deal about his birthday, but I always tell him it’s a day that HAS to be celebrated, because it was the day God made him for me! Best C Rojo’s burgers and truffle fries for lunch and mouth-watering Southern Classic chicken for dinner, topped off with a 4 layer yellow cake with chocolate icing (one of his love languages might be food). And then the birthday surprise that has been KILLING ME TO KEEP, because let’s just say his other love language is Texas Rangers baseball. He was tickled with his gift of a new Rangers shirt and tickets for the whole Tribe to go to a game. I love surprising him!

~ and before I could even catch my breath, it was time for the next special birthday: a “FOY” year old Tater Bug! Tatum K, as you can well imagine, was over-the-moon tickled that it was her birthday, and squealed with delight at her breakfast of 4 colorful donuts and special birthday crown.

She proudly wore that crown all over town as we ran our errands, LOUDLY singing her original song, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! TO-DAY IS MY BIRTH-DA-A-A-AAAYYYY!!!”

She gobbled down her mac and cheese for lunch, and it was no surprise that she was incredibly specific and demanding about her evening menu of choice: sausage and eggs and colorful cake AND chocolate pie and chocolate cow milk. Tatum’s name means “brings joy,” and joy truly just explodes out of her tiny little self. She is easy to celebrate.

~ for a wonderful evening of food and fellowship hosting our church small group.

~ for a fantastic first trip to the new baseball stadium with the whole Tribe. We were all excited to be going to an actual in-person ballgame after a year of watching cardboard cutouts. Free hats, dollar ice cream, seats behind home plate, and a perfectly air conditioned environment made for a wonderful day.

Rally caps…sadly did not work

~ and my favorite part of every car trip (besides the every-17-minute-potty-stops and endless voices asking “how many more minutes?”) is holding hands with my sweetheart and singing our favorite songs. Right now our kids think we are lame and embarrassing, but I know one day they will remember fondly how in love their mom and dad were.

Life isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun. It isn’t always birthday dinners and baseball games. But when it is, grab onto those moments with both hands and LOVE LARGE! There will always be something hard around another corner, it’s just inevitable in this crazy world gone mad. We must TREASURE the sweet moments, the bright spots, because they fuel us when the road gets bumpy again. Hurts and disappointments, sickness and tragedy are on their way. But as I’ve been crying out to God about some things, I’ve been so encouraged by a certain worship song this week.

“When all I see is the battle, You see my victory

When all I see is the mountain, You see a mountain moved

And as I walk through the shadow, Your love surrounds me

There’s nothing to fear now for I am safe with You

So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees

With my hands lifted high

Oh God, the battle belongs to You

And every fear I lay at Your feet

I’ll sing through the night

Oh God, the battle belongs to You”

(Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham)

You said, “It is finished,” Lord. Help me to trust You with EVERYTHING. Things I worry about, even if they are huge mountains in my eyes, are so simple to You. And no detail escapes Your eye. You have finished the work, and it is well.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.”(Exodus 15:2-3)

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:11)

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Kindness, Eucalyptus, and a Cracked Windshield

I am thankful:

~ that hair grows back. We love our fluffy dogs, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping them brushed. We shaved Birdie after she had her pups, and it was time to get Bear refreshed as well. He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.

Fluffy dogs
Birdie’s trim back in December
Bear on the way to the groomer…
Whose dog is this???

~ for brilliant, caring doctors and answered prayers.

~ for my new favorite Everything Bagel Seasoning, for the ALL TIME BEST avocado toast.

~ for a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day. The kids, for whatever reason, have been SUPER keyed in to the holiday, so I had fun with it. Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast with green milk, green shamrock sugar cookies tucked in their lunch boxes, and a super fun care package from Grandmommy with shamrock stickers, candy bracelets, and gold coin chocolates! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate simple little moments of joy that I know the kids will remember.

~ for fun neighbors who heat their pool and share it.

~ for new fences. Because sometimes when somebody gets a new fence, I come across one of the most beautiful sights I can see. I discovered a glorious pile of old weathered fence this week, and when I pulled over and asked for it, the fencing company DELIVERED IT TO MY HOME! What a SCORE!

Not only that, Gavin ASKED if he could dismantle the panels – an arduous task. He spent at least 9 hours prying the aged boards off their posts over the weekend. At one point, Josh and all 4 boys were working together to knock it out. We are thrilled to be STOCKED with beautiful reclaimed wood for Giddyup & Whoa projects!

~ for Cooper having a fantastic weekend at Overdrive, his church youth retreat. Fun activities with friends and powerful Bible teaching made for an exciting 2 days, and Cooper’s participation in his small group led to him being recruited to sharing his thoughts on camera for the event promo video. So proud of him!

~ for a delicious Sunday family dinner. We cooked and grilled together, and I think Dad’s pork chops were a hit!

Friday, March 19 was Sophie‘s birthday. Sophie is our precious friend whom we met through Gold Network when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just two years old.

Sawyer the Warrior and Sophie the Brave

Sophie has quite an army. Her family loves fiercely, both Jesus and each other. Sophie’s journey was fraught with complications and setbacks, and she went home to be with Jesus just before her third birthday. I’ll never understand it. But her parents have pressed their broken hearts even deeper into the heart of the Father, and they have purposed themselves to pouring into others out of their pain. They continue to volunteer and raise money for childhood cancer awareness and blessing the patients and nurses at Children’s Hospital.

Sophie’s Army’s donation to Children’s Hospital

They tirelessly advocate in their daughter’s honor. And on Sophie’s birthday, they ask people to love bigger. To spread joy. It’s a day to be reminded of the way we SHOULD be living our lives EVERY DAY. It is one of my kids’ favorite days of the year, because they love doing for others so much. But this year’s “Do More for Sophie Day” was a little quieter for some reason. We kept it pretty simple, and there was nothing to take a picture of. I felt led to buy lunch for a homeless gentleman. I drove thru to pick up a meal, and brought it back, praying all the while that he would still be there. He was still there. With about 5 other food bags surrounding him. Maybe they were all from Sophie! Anyway, at least his lunch was covered that day. I painted a sign for a friend who was on my heart and delivered it to her. Paid for the coffee for the person behind me in line. Little acts of kindness that were no big deal. But each of those people got to learn about Sophie. And aren’t those the little kindnesses that encourage us when we don’t think we can take one more step? Or when we think there is no good left in this world? What an inspiration that a family who has gone through the worst tragedy of their life has chosen not to blame God or curse Him or hide away forever, but instead to spend their energy and time and resources spreading the love of Christ as far and wide as they can in memory of their beautiful little girl.

I was the recipient of simple, incredibly thoughtful kindness as well this week. My husband is a smells guy. He loves smells. He can sniff out a bad smell from a million miles away, and he LOVES good smells: good smelling food, a good smelling house, and he’s very particular about his bath products. We got to talking about the bath smells we like, and I FINALLY revealed to him my favorite scents (after 21 years of him guessing…and often missing). I don’t want to smell like a fruit or a flower. I prefer clean: anything labeled “waterfall,” “rain,” “cotton,” and my very favorite is eucalyptus. Well one day this week, I came home to the biggest, most beautiful basket FILLED with every waterfall, rain, and eucalyptus scented bath product ever made! And a stunning, stately orchid! When I asked Josh what in the world it was for, he said simply, “I just wanted to get you what you like.” I took the best shower of my life and I CAN’T STOP SMELLING MYSELF!

My incredibly thoughtful husband granted another wish for me. A couple years ago we took a rock to our bus windshield. It went from a tiny chip to a small crack, and then slowly but surely crept jaggedly across the windshield from the passenger side all the way to the driver’s side.

It. Drove. Me. CRAZY. The crack split directly through my line of vision, and was a constant source of irritation when I drove (which is currently a huge portion of my life). This week we were able to get the windshield replaced! It didn’t bother Josh at all, but he knew how much it bugged me. When I got in the bus, I couldn’t believe it! I compared it to the difference it makes when you first see a high definition TV screen. Everything just looked completely new and in technicolor! I felt like I had a brand new car!

I’m definitely in a season where I feel like the Lord is waking me up, so forgive me if I seem to find a teaching moment in almost every activity these days. (Not sure exactly WHY I feel the need to apologize about that, I’m actually completely grateful that my heart is growing more tuned to receiving from Him anywhere and everywhere). I just never want to come across as somebody who pretends to have it all together or is super spiritual all the time. If you know me personally, which many of you do, you know better! ANYWAY, I just got to thinking about how something that can start so small: a tiny offense, a tiny lie, a seemingly insignificant moral compromise…can slowly but surely – if left unchecked – grow and creep until it takes over. Obscuring and distorting our vision. Lord, show me. If there are things that are in the way, things that keep me from seeing clearly, help me to recognize them. And help me to be diligent to continually be searching my heart and staying close to Yours so we can catch the small “chips” quickly before they have a chance to spread.

Imagine what a world this could be if we all kept clear vision AND spread kindness to others as a regular part of everyday life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

New Vision

Sawyer handed me an envelope from his backpack. I scanned it quickly and saw he’d had the standard vision screening by the school nurse. “Hey bub,” I told him as he crawled up beside me on the couch, “it looks like we need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.” “Glasses!!??” he exclaimed. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and his sparkling eyes suddenly started to fill with tears. “I don’t WANT glasses!!”

Change is hard. And it can be hard to wrap your mind around a paradigm shift, even just a seemingly minor one. I even got a little teary that evening when I talked to Josh about it. We both wear glasses and contacts, and know that life is just a little easier without having to deal with them. Even though we were both sure that the vision issues were simple and hereditary, it was impossible not to think about the chemotherapy drugs that listed vision loss as a side effect. I remembered wrestling with Sawyer as a tiny infant to apply eye drops every 4 hours round the clock when he was taking high dose cytarabine. But Josh and I held one another and thought back to those days, and we praised God that all we were facing was glasses for a beautiful 7 year old. To God be the glory!

Fast forward to the eye appointment. Sawyer’s reservations were completely forgotten.

He cheerfully hopped in the chairs for each different eye test, asked 7 billion questions, tried on several pairs of frames, and once the appointment was over, he asked more times than I can count, “HOW MANY MORE DAYS until MY GLASSES get here????” He went from nervous disappointment to impatient excitement almost overnight.

After two excruciating weeks of waiting, (thanks Snow-pacalypse 2021), I pulled up to the eye place and Sawyer squealed, “Are they finally here?” You’ve never seen a kid more excited. And once those tiny cute little glasses were placed on his little freckly nose, you’ve never seen a kid stand more proud. And better yet, “Wow! I really can see better!” Isn’t he so handsome?

To add some tasty icing to the cake, during the snow shut in, we had watched all the Superman movies with the kids. As soon as Sawyer climbed in the car with his glasses on, Tatum K yelled, “You look like Clark Kent!” He has latched onto that persona BIG TIME. Sawyer the Warrior has always been a superhero to us.

How often do we trip ourselves up and rob ourselves of clear vision because of fear and preconceived ideas? How often are we short sighted, in every sense of the word, instead of being willing to look for God‘s way, which is always SO MUCH BETTER?

Apparently this is something the Lord is really trying to drive home with me, because it keeps coming up. And when God repeats Himself, it means He’s NOT. KIDDING.

I’ve been looking for a certain vintage piece for our home for a LOOOONG time: a rustic wooden chicken nesting box. I’ve seen them in other people’s decor and fell in love. Little drawers and cubbies are just my favorite, and I’ve been hunting for a piece like this for YEARS. They are hard to find, and invariably WAY out of budget.

Photo: Instagram @yellowprairieinteriors

As Josh and I look for new pieces, and as our taste and the needs of our family change, we are often getting rid of STUFF. It’s always a challenge because, true to our nicknames, Giddyup (Josh) and Whoa (me), we RARELY agree. Josh would throw anything away in a minute and I would keep everything forever because if either a sentimental attachment or the nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, we would need “that thing” again one day. Anybody relate? Which side of the line do you land on?

So I have this dresser. It was mine as a kid, and my Grandpa Henry built it. The corners of the top were roughly rounded, and I knew the marks were from where I had actually chewed on it as a child. (I know, I guess I had problems, what can I say.)

Grandpa Henry was married to my Grandma Grace, and he passed away when I was 8 years old. My old dresser made lots of moves with me as I grew up, eventually being used by Colton until he moved out, and then was passed down to Cooper. It wasn’t in great shape any more. The finish was worn, the drawers had grown a little warped and were tough to slide. Josh and Cooper both said it was time to say goodbye.

I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ACTUALLY BROKEN. It was still FUNCTIONAL. And it was so special to me.

But Josh had his mind made up. There was a better storage solution for Cooper’s closet that would free up floor space in the bedroom. But he also loves me, and is so considerate, and he knew how much having a piece of my Grandpa meant to me. He told me he was going to take the dresser apart so it wouldn’t take up so much space, but that he would save the wood until we found a special project for it.

I cried. (I really am a mush pot).

I think the dresser parts have been sitting around for about a year.

Until one day about a week ago when Josh came to me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I have an idea that I think you’re gonna like. What if I build your nesting box out of your Grandpa’s dresser?”

I cried again.

Before I could even wipe my leaky eyes, he was out in his shop with the saw going. As always, I had strict instructions to stay out until he was done. “NO PEEKING!”

Maybe an hour later, he was ready for the grand reveal.

It. Was. Perfect.

Exactly what I’d been looking for. Exactly made to fit our space. And handmade by the man that I love with wood from a special piece of history from a man that had meant the world to me as a little girl. And yes, I cried again.

When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me even more history about my dresser. He said, “I think Dad made it for the master bedroom in the old house after he and Ma were married, with home-sawn oak from here on the farm, so around 1945 is my guess. Dad liked to work with wood and usually had a project going.” Then it had been handed down from my Grandma to my Dad, and eventually to me. I couldn’t love that old wood more!

I love this piece. I love the function and warmth it adds to our hallway, and I love all the stories connected to it.

But first, I’d had to let go of the dresser.

I started with something that meant a lot to me, but it really wasn’t working anymore. I had to be willing to let it go and embrace a change. And when I finally did, I got something I REALLY wanted, and it turned out even better than what I had ever dreamed of.

Can we really do that?

Can we let go of our familiar and comfortable routines that we have built around ourselves, and allow God to dismantle them? Are we willing to trust that He actually has something better for us? And are we actually willing to WAIT for whatever that is, as long as it takes?

I don’t know what God has in store. But I know one thing. I know there’s more to this story than a pair of glasses and an old dresser. He’s been nudging me about a few things that I’m pretty certain he’s asking me to let go of. It may not be easy, but I know I want what He has for me more that whatever poor substitute I’m clinging to.

I don’t want to cling to ANYTHING but HIM.

I hope whatever season you find yourself in, that this encourages you. Let it go, and let your eyes open to His vision. I’m thankful that if we are willing (and sometimes even when we are not) God will speak to us through the most ordinary and unexpected ways.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)