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)

We hope

I am thankful:

~ for momentum! One more beam down! It’s tiring, backbreaking work, and such a mess, but I’m (thankfully) still in love with the results, and the end is in sight… (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, read about it here).

~ for the deep, heart to heart conversations with my 2 year old. Tatum, “ mama can I have a snack?

Me “ do you want an orange?

No! I want a snack!

Ok, then what DO you want?

An ORANGE!

~ for cheerful fresh tulips brightening my table.

~ for healing! We have all been taking our turns with THE CRUD over the last couple of weeks…intermittent fevers, coughs, runny noses. Last weekend, Sawyer’s cough intensified, and he woke up Monday with a fever. We don’t mess around with anything when it comes to him, and fevers set this mama on high alert, so we were at the pediatrician’s office at 8:30am.

Dr. Everett definitely suspected that he could be in the early stages of developing pneumonia, but we agreed to just watch him closely before jumping forward to any meds. So he missed 2 days of school, and we had a couple pretty rough nights, but Jesus protected Sawyer, and he got better instead of worse! Glory to the Lord! He’s still a little weak, and tires easily, but I told him if he rests well tonight, he’ll finally be allowed to run at recess again. He is SO READY. He told me he’s been being the soccer goalie at recess, and “I’m so terrible at it Mama.” And I think the rest of us are ALMOST well also.

~ for the opportunity to participate in another Vintage & Co.  Jodi does the most amazing job of curating her collections of beautiful and unique vintage finds. It’s always an honor to be able to add a few Giddyup & Whoa pieces to her sales.

~ for the simple little things that bring such joy to my kids. Like pancakes for dinner. You would have thought it was the finest gourmet cuisine ever cooked. I bet they each thanked me 6 times.

~for my kiddos’ sweet and innocent prayers at midweek service. They prayed for healing for everyone who was sick, prayed for their older siblings to make good choices and to “stay on God’s path,” and one of them prayed simply, ”Dear God, help me to obey and have self control.” How it blesses me to hear them learning to talk to their Heavenly Father, and believe that He hears them.

~ for another fun and simple DIY Goodwill makeover. Love those 99¢ finds!

~ for a great time celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. He was turning 50, so the theme of the party was “OLD.” I love Sawyer’s interpretation…

~ for Carson Grace having the opportunity to sing Beethoven’s 9th with her ETBU Concert Choir this weekend. It was a huge concert, and we weren’t able to be there; but so grateful that Grandmommy, Uncle Justin, and Aunt Gina were able to go support her (and fill her up with some much needed Whataburger.)

~ for the sound of the rain against my window, especially when I’m snug in my bed.

~ for my cuties that just happened to end up looking like little Valentines for church. How are they growing up so fast?

~ for an AWESOME evening at our quarterly Gold Network CONNECT group. The concept was conceived from our trips to Lighthouse Family Retreat, when all the kids would go play and swim, and the parents would gather for a small group time called Common Ground. All these moms and dads from various walks of life, different faith backgrounds, a variety of diagnoses… but all of us had the worst thing in common. We all had a child with cancer. And we pretty much instantly became family. We listened to each other’s stories and we cried and we prayed for one another. And we encouraged one another. And we laughed. The connections were real and deep and unexpected and life-changing. It gave us so much hope. Josh and I had no idea how much we were thirsting for relationships with this specific community of people. And we just knew we had to try to bring something like it in Tyler. Last night we had seven pediatric cancer families around our table. We feasted on food from Oliveto and laughed and talked and ate and cried. And it was pure gold.

Our work with Gold Network of East Texas keeps us pretty entrenched in the childhood cancer world, even though Sawyer is now 3 years off treatment. (That fact is staggering to me). We celebrate all that God has done, and yet we are still continually learning what life-after-cancer means for us. And every day, I am still talking about cancer, and still thinking about cancer. We haven’t left cancer behind. Representing GNET, I am speaking with cancer families daily. I follow their updates and pray for them. I work on Gold Network event planning, manage the website, and almost daily update social media with announcements or post about childhood cancer awareness. It’s always at the forefront of my thoughts and day to day activities. But in such a different context from 3 or 4 or 5 years ago. But all it takes is to listen to one of our GNET parents begin to talk about that terrible, earthshaking moment when everything changed in their life… and I’m right there again. Sitting in a pediatric exam room on a red vinyl cough with a greenish-white baby in my arms, seeing Dr. Everett come in and close the door behind him with a look on his face like someone had kicked him in the stomach with a steel-toed boot. It never goes away. I see all these families and the pained seared in their eyes. Forever changed. Some of them are giving their brave kids toxic meds every day and praying for the cancer to go away. Some of them, like us, have graduated from the treatment routine, and pray against long term side effects and for the cancer to stay away forever. And some of them have said goodbye to their child, and now they wait, and now the hope they pray for is for the day they will be reunited with their child. It never goes away.

EVERYONE is walking through something. The loss of a child. Caring for an aging parent. A strained marriage. A prodigal child. Struggles at work. Chronic pain. Addiction. Loneliness. Anxiety. PTSD. And the world screams at us from 2 camps: either DO MORE! GET YOURS! CRUSH THE COMPETITION! YOU DESERVE TO RISE! Or on the other extreme: SLOW DOWN! TAKE CARE OF YOU! SELF CARE! YOU DESERVE A BREAK!

We all just need Jesus. Because none of us want what we REALLY deserve. We know the mess we truly are inside: the brokenness, the selfishness, the depravity. But He loves us anyway, right where we are. But even though the gift of salvation is FREE, it does have a cost. We have to say “no” to something to say “yes” to Him.

Saying “yes” to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean our circumstances will change. Sometimes they do. Often they do not. But our PERSPECTIVE changes. And we don’t have to walk alone ever again. Because of Jesus, we are promised that the end of the story is good.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thanks for reading the thoughts I’m musing tonight. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and there’s heaviness weighing on my heart. BUT GOD. Because of Him, I pray with so much hope. Unspeakable joy is COMING.

Have a good week friends. Reach out to somebody who could use a little hope.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Thank Full

I am thankful:

~ for a wonderful, JAM-PACKED break. Most days the weather was great, and the kids enjoyed running around and playing outside. They raked leaves into piles and delighted in jumping in them. When they found that we didn’t have enough leaves, they were more than happy to visit our neighbors and gather THEIR leaves and bring them to our house!

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~for the absolute best kitchen helpers in all the land.  My sous chefs were raring to go, and what they lacked in expertise they made up for with enthusiasm.

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~for even a little time with my Girl home from college.  Way too short of a visit, but thankful just the same.

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~for sweet moments with my Love.  We have our ups and downs like anybody else, and sometimes we bicker and get on each other‘s nerves.  But most of the time, the love we have is everything you could ask out of a sappy movie.  I love driving down the road, holding my babies hand, singing Garth Brooks’ songs to one another.  It is delightfully nauseating.

~for online shopping.  I just don’t have it in me to get out there and box the crowds for the best deals.  I can’t even express how grateful I am to be able to find what I need while sitting on the couch and have it shipped right to my door.  

~for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We always drive to Carthage and spend the day with family.  The children cherish all the traditions, and their excitement is so contagious.  This year we had an even larger crowd than usual: I love how everybody feels at liberty to invite more people along…and everyone is TRULY WELCOME.  I don’t think anybody every feels like they are an “extra.”  They just BELONG.  And it’s truly the most fun gathering you can imagine. We are a lively bunch, with our chicken and turkey hats, our pumpkin Olympics complete this year with a reverent and very formal coronation of the Pumpkin Queen, and chicken dancing in the front yard next to the highway (punctuated with frequent honks from passers by).  There’s just  SO.  MUCH.  JOY.  We ate until we were completely uncomfortable, and then we made another plate.  Once that was ram-crammed down into our bellies, then it was time for PIE.  The food was fantastic, but it’s the fellowship that defies explanation.  I’m so grateful to be in the company of so much love.  Such special memories. 

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~ for the soft glow of Christmas lights, a fire in the fireplace, and my snuggly $4.99 blanket from Aldi.

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~ for the very best curbside find yet: the 9 foot Christmas tree (in original box) I picked up on large item trash week earlier this year.   We put up the tree and with just a little finessing, all the original lights are functioning!  Whoever threw this tree away, THANK YOU!  We decked our halls this weekend, and everything is bright and festive.  Josh even built me a custom reclaimed wood tree collar (gotta add a little Giddyup & Whoa, of course!)  The kids love seeing their favorite ornaments and decorations come out of the boxes.  They hear the stories of Grandma Grace’s handpainted nativity and Granny’s Christmas village.   We hung our new ornaments from this summer’s trip to Lark Toys in Minnesota and the Laura Ingalls museum in Wisconsin.  And Tatum K just points at everything and chirps again and again, “May-we Cwis-mas!!!”  (We’ll see how much of it she breaks before the season is over.)

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And today, what I’m most grateful for is a curly headed, blue eyed little boy, because today he turned 6.   Six years old.  I can’t even say it without crying. 

IMG_0639.JPGIt doesn’t matter how normal life is, how long he’s been a happy kindergartener, how normal he looks.  It still takes my breath away when I stop and think about everything Sawyer has been through.  From almost losing his life to organ failure the day he was brought by ambulance to Children’s, to the life and death battle he fought against cancer as a baby, the toxic reaction to meds, narcotic overdose and withdrawal, and then countless unidentified infections and bizarre complications along the way… but you’d NEVER EVEN KNOW IT.   The faint white port scar on his chest and the curly hair that used to be straight are the only physical indicators left behind to hint that he has a medical history.  I don’t know why Sawyer is the way he is, why his light shines so bright and why he loves so big.  I just know he amazes me and that it feels like a tremendous responsibility to shepherd such a child.  I don’t know how old he is going to grow to be, or what he is going to do in his lifetime (my heart still guards itself against looking too far ahead), but I know he is very very special.  And I am thankful for every. single. moment.  And I’m thankful for a very low-key, normal-just-like-every-other-kid-in-the-tribe birthday: no party, just donuts for breakfast and menu of choice for dinner: pizza, mac-and-cheese, and chocolate cake that he helped me bake.  He wasn’t an honored guest of the police department, and nobody surprised him with a trip to Hawaii.  He got Legos and a hot wheels track and some clothes.  Just like a regular kid.  And that’s kind of hard on Mom and Dad, because quite honestly, we think he deserves a parade every day (I mean, DOESN’T HE?)  But what a gift that Sawyer, even after all he has been through, gets to live a normal life and be a normal kid.  Normal maybe.  But nonetheless, an EXCEPTIONAL WALKING MIRACLE.  Glory to God!IMG_0606.JPG

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Happy December.  My mission this month is to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter how busy life gets.  And remember why we have anything to celebrate.   

(And just for the record: I love ALL my kids. Each one of them is incredibly unique and special and I’m in awe that God has entrusted me with stewarding so many of His treasured creations. I’ve said it before, I’m the most blessed Mama in all the world. I will spend my life doing my best to point them all to Jesus and love them all well.)

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1Thessalonians 5:16-18)