Peace

I am thankful:

~ for so many kind words, messages, and prayers after last week’s blog post. I know I’m not alone in dealing with anxiety, especially during the holidays. The range of emotions and the breakneck pace are a volatile combination. But God is so good.

~ for grace during the Christmas CRUNCH! Last minute shopping, searching frantically for the gifts I KNOW I BOUGHT but somehow can’t find (because I tucked them somewhere SO SAFE), the returns of the duplicates I bought to replace the gifts I couldn’t find (but then found🤪)…traffic that makes me need extra Jesus, and 10,364,292 Christmas activities/events/parties that are all scheduled back to back to back.

Kora’s Christmas Choir Concert
After Sawyer’s Christmas Play
Tatum K’s Christmas Pajama Party
Sawyer’s Christmas Pajama Party
AWESOME Annual Christmas with Strangers Concert
My sentiments exactly

~ for a fun road trip to celebrate Grandmommy’s birthday! Which also is the annual kickoff day for a favorite tradition: the 12 Days of Christmas! Grandmommy is so thoughtful and creative to come up with 12 gifts for our family, and we all have a blast singing the song each night and opening a new surprise! So grateful for such a special tradition.

Loved receiving this special window cling nativity, as it brought back a memory of years ago…
It had also been given as a 12 Days gift when Sawyer spent his first Christmas in the hospital during his cancer treatment
Hooray for pickles and okra!

~ for the incredible opportunity to make a special trip to Dallas representing Gold Network of East Texas for a long-awaited, IN PERSON check presentation. Each year we donate toward ongoing pediatric cancer research projects at Children’s Health/UTSouthwestern. The past two years we have helped fund research being conducted by one of Sawyer’s most beloved oncologists, Dr. Sam John, but hospital pandemic precaution protocols prevented us from donating in person. A virtual check presentation just isn’t the same. So it was priceless to actually make the trip to Dallas and reunite Sawyer the Warrior with Dr. John, look him in the eyes, and thank him for the important work he is doing.

2014
2016
2018
2020

And we always love the Hero’s Welcome Sawyer receives when he walks his old halls. These doctors and nurses are so very dear to us.

~ for a great trip for Josh and Cooper to watch the Carthage Bulldogs claim their 9th State Football Championship. The kids and I watched and cheered from home. Way to go, Bulldogs!

~ for lots of good progress and backbreaking hard work going on in and around the casita. Septic went in this week! Looking forward to a REAL POTTY soon!

~ for beautiful encouragement from our Father. It’s so easy to let “the season” sweep us away from the Truth. To get off track, lose heart, lose faith in people (and yourself), and see the ever-darkening darkness creeping in around us.

BUT GOD.

He was and is and always will be the Light of the World. He’s STILL HERE. There’s always HOPE. We will always have questions, but HE IS THE ANSWER. And not just in heaven, when this broken world has been made new. He is the answer RIGHT NOW. As long as we are breathing, we have work to do here: repentance to own, people to encourage, the gospel to share. He has peace and FULLNESS OF JOY for us on this earth, when we take His Hand and offer Him His rightful, Righteous place. Emmanuel, God with us.

May we seek Him.

May we find Him.

May we share Him.

I’m so grateful for you, friends.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1:21-23)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.” (Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Awe

I am thankful:

~ for a week of good eats: delicious homemade burritos with fresh white-corn-jalapeño salsa,

breakfast date with Josh and Tatum K,

ooey-gooey, cheesy, decadent quesadillas from Ruby’s,

and for the rare joy of finding my ultimate favorite (but NEVER IN STOCK) chips! Haven’t found them in months. I downed TWO BAGS bags this week!

~ for our sweet dogs. Bear and Birdie are smart and funny, and add so much love to our family.

~ for a great time at the Vintage & Co “Christmas in the Country” Sale. Giddyup & Whoa was a featured vendor with stacks of handpainted woodburned wood slice ornaments and one massive reclaimed wood statement piece. I love painting for Christmas, and this is a favorite sale. Still have a few ornaments left if you need to snap some up for teacher gifts or for your own tree.

~ for the cutest cheerleaders you ever did see.

~ for a fun school event for Zoe who dressed as Queen Elizabeth I for the 5th Grade Historical Living Wax Museum. Especially thankful for a friend who came in clutch with a dress when I realized the night before that I couldn’t find our box of queen costumes!

~ for a proud moment as Sawyer received a chapel award for the Character Quality of RESPECT. So thankful for his loving servant’s heart. (He was NOT IMPRESSED when his mama burst into R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But how could I not????)

~ for Tatum K’s very first Thanksgiving Feast at school. Her smile sparkled and those blue eyes just shined with joy.

~ for Sawyer and his best buds having a ball encouraging classmates to participate in Operation Christmas Child.

~ for lots of progress on the farm. The fence is growing,

the sheet metal continues to go up,

and we’ve got the propane heater and the TV running so we can battle the cold and celebrate the most special moments together – like double decker Cowboys + Chiefs victories today! Let’s Go!!

Days are flying by. How can it be Thanksgiving week already? I find myself rushing things along one minute, and then dragging my feet the next. The ever-present delicate tension of giddyup and whoa. I resist change, but everything’s always changing. I want to savor time with my babies, but they’re not babies anymore.

We have to hold on for the ride.

But God.

He is faithful and good. Sometimes I’m excited about what He’s doing, and sometimes I don’t understand at all. I don’t get His timing, I wonder about His methods. And sometimes I think He missed it completely, even though I know He knows. But then come those rare moments…those moments when He cracks open a window to let a glimpse of His glory out…and the doubts melt away. I stand in awe. This loving and mighty and merciful and beautiful and terrifying Father is perfectly writing this story, and allowing us to enter into the process with Him. What a gift.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”(Psalms 33:3-8)

“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.” (Psalms 65:5-8)

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)

Heavy

I am thankful for so much this week. God is good. I have a whole list of blessings and funny stories. I could share pictures of our family and tell you what we’ve been up to.

But my heart is heavy.

We have so many cancer families in crisis right now.

One sweet girl who endured cancer treatment as an infant and had two joy-filled healthy years, now has relapsed. She recently received a bone marrow transplant from her daddy. This week they both shaved their heads.

One handsome young man is battling cancer through his senior year of high school. He was recently diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a crippling degeneration of his joints caused by the poison prescribed to save his life. He’s been a football and baseball player all through school, and he is finishing his high school career in a wheelchair.

Another precious middle school girl is also battling an aggressive cancer and the dreaded avascular necrosis. Not only is she in a wheelchair and facing continual rare side effects, now the AVN is attacking her wrists. Doctors have never seen this before, and there is little that can be done. At 13 years old, this is her reality.

A beautiful teen went for her routine oncology checkup, only for the scans to reveal several new spots and areas of concern.

And just this week, one of our Hero families, parents of a 3 year old brain cancer survivor, took one of the little siblings to the pediatrician with some concerns. The news they received was unthinkable. She has the same brain tumor as her sister.

How? How can this be?

I just don’t even know what to say, except to ask you all to pray. I know God sees. I know He loves all of these children more than we can even imagine, and hates to see them suffer. I know He has a plan. I’m thankful that I know this world is not our home, and our best days are ahead.

So we pray. We lean on one another. We hold fast to Jesus. And we continue to give thanks. Because no matter what, He is still good, and He is still bigger.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:17-18)

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” (Psalms 107:8-9, 14-16, 29-31)

Work in Progress

I am thankful:

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

Texas blizzard

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

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

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

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

~for a handy sous chef in training.

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

Primer coat…finish yet to be revealed!

~ for fluffy mashed potatoes and maple cayenne glazed carrots.

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

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

God’s not finished.

So I’m thankful.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

There is an Order to All Things

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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