The Wind and the Waves Bow Before Him

What a wonderful week away. Our beach house was in a great location, very quiet. We had packed enough food, snacks, and treats for an army, so much so that my army CHEERED when they saw the stocked fridge and pantry. The temperatures were perfect, punctuated with intermittent rain showers and thunderstorms that cooled the air, but still plenty of bright sunshine glistening on the waves. And we were all together.

We played. WE ATE CHEESE BALLS. Josh took the Bigs bay finishing. We spent an afternoon crabbing. We cooked a feast of fresh gulf shrimp and snapper. We cooked sea trout Colton caught in front of our beach house. We played games (you’ve got to try “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza!) and built sand castles and fed sea gulls and counted pelicans. We ordered takeout: fine seafood and Happy Meals.

Finished our GALVESTON city puzzle by Tuesday! Fun to see many of our favorite places represented on the puzzle!

Cancerversary day was harder on me than I was prepared for. No matter how fiercely I fight to focus my heart on celebrating the joy of Sawyer being alive and thriving 6 years after the worst day of our lives, I’m hounded by a hollow, sickened feeling in the pit of my stomach. Compounded by feeling like I have no right to grieve ANYTHING because my beautiful son is healthy and alive while so many of my friends have lost their precious children and would give anything to be in my shoes. Flashes of every detail of that day swirl around me and I can’t escape, especially back on the very same beach with the same sounds and the same smells from the last place we were before our world was turned upside down. I remember how happy we were. We never knew the freight train was around the corner heading straight for us.

BUT GOD.

And even though all those things take me back to those terrible, terrible moments leading up to Sawyer’s diagnosis, the incomparable beauty and vastness of the ocean proclaims the majestic omnipotence of God and His infinite power. The wind and the waves bow before Him. He is the author and the finisher. He held me then and He holds me now. He is bigger than all the things I will never understand. I can stand on that shore and stare into the waves and feel how small I am. And know that His thoughts toward me outnumber those grains of sand. I hate that I still struggle, but I’m so grateful for His lovingkindness that meets me in my brokenness and never runs out.

We enjoyed our last full day at the beach on Friday playing in powerful, thundering waves that were much closer to the shore than usual. Turns out those waves and accompanying strong winds were an advance warning of Hurricane Hanna making her way toward the coast. We headed out of town Saturday just in time as flooding was beginning to affect areas around us. Humbly grateful the Lord allowed us to enjoy our trip and make it safely back home. Josh and I did our best to fulfill our goal to Love Lavishly, and we came home feeling Lavishly Loved.

Tonight, I’m thankful to be safely tucked in back at my own home, with a cancer-free curly-headed jabber box snuggled up beside me because he can’t get to sleep, and 2 fluffy muppet dogs at my feet. I’m thankful for memories made with all my Loves this week, and that when I close my eyes I can still see the sun sparkling where the ocean met the horizon, and taste salty air mixed with slightly stale cheese balls, and hear gulls and my kids laughter over the crashing waves. Times like these freshly remind me how shattered my heart has been, and I’m much more aware of the holes that are still there, and the duct tape and paper clips and purple glue sticks holding it together.

But it’s so full.

Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for reading this blog and entering into our story.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” (Psalms 89:8-9)

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 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 107:28-31)

“Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea / Would call out through the rain / And calm the storm in me?” (“Who Am I?” Casting Crowns)

Home Sweet Home

I am thankful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ for unexpected, unbelievable generosity.

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

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

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

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

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

Please continue your prayers for sweet Lucas and his family.

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

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

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

My Old Stomping Grounds…and more

I am thankful:

I have to be honest. I was not super excited about this trip. Of course I couldn’t wait to see all my family. But we all love going to the beach so much, and that’s been our tradition for as long as I can remember. So to spend more than 40 hours in the car with the kids and NOT go to the beach was tough to swallow. I braced myself for lots of whining and complaining.

BUT GOD.

I could not have been more wrong.

God showed out this week. His plans were so much bigger, so much greater, so much grander than mine could ever have been.

We started off traveling through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and then back to Missouri to spend our first stopover in a Kansas City hotel. The next day was Missouri to Iowa and then to our primary hotel in Winona, Minnesota, close to where I grew up. Over the next several days we bounced back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin, visiting family and friends. We packed in more activity than I could have imagined possible, visiting my old stomping grounds and places I had never been. Everything was new to the kids, and my eyes were freshly opened on a whole new level:

*”TOTALLY PLANNED” quick stop at the iconic Blue Whale of Catoosa on Route 66

*Driving through Decorah, Iowa to show the kids Luther College, where I went to school, with a stop at the local ice cream hangout

*feasted on authentic Kansas City barbecue

*Swimming at hotel

*Playing at the world-renowned Lark Toys in Kellogg, MN

*Riding the intricately hand-carved carousel

*Mini golf

*4-wheeler/ranger riding on Grandpa’s farm

*Farm tour and tractor rides

*visit to iconic Winona landmark, Sugarloaf and Garvin Heights scenic outlook

*tour of the charming riverside community of Alma, Wisconsin

*Rock hunting and re-hiding

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Cabin at her birthplace in Pepin, Wisconsin

*Family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great grandparents; complete with water balloons and piñata

*up close train watching and observing the process of boats traveling through the lock and dam on the Mississippi River

*and CHEESE BALLS of course!

stop at gravesite of my Grandpa Henry and Grandma Grace, where I left cherries for the birds like I used to when I was a little girl.

*HARROWING ATV trip down the side of a bluff to creek fish for brown trout in the lush Southern MN countryside

*incredible meal of fresh bratwurst and angus burgers straight from Grandpa’s farm

And that was only Sunday through Thursday.

Thursday we drove 3 more hours North to Spooner/Danbury, Wisconsin to share a lakeshore cabin with my dear college friend Katie and her family. We fished bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, and Northern pike.

We boated and tubed, kayaked, paddle-boated, and paddle-boarded.

We spotted deer, loons, geese, and bald eagles, but were disappointed not to see any much-hoped-for bears. We sat in awe beneath the clearest glittering display of the Milky Way I have ever seen. Our families blended well and the kids played until they collapsed in exhaustion, and grownups stayed up all hours of the night talking about anything and everything.

Every. Single. One. of our children said it was the best trip they’ve ever been on. BETTER THAN HAWAII.

Now, they may or may not really mean that. But it doesn’t matter. God blessed this trip every step of the way. Parts that could have been really hard were either fine or better than fine. Every part of our trip exceeded our expectations. And we did so many different things in so many different places with so many different people that it feels like we’ve been gone for a month! And never have I been so remarkably proud of my kids. They were FANTASTIC!

At the moment, we are pressing on through fatigue and rain showers after 13 hours of driving to get to our midway destination of Kansas City, Missouri. We are READY TO GET OUT OF THE CAR!

***UPDATE: we made it to our hotel at midnight, after delays from construction, dead battery, rain, and wrong GPS. ROUGH DRIVE.***

On a very different note, sweet baby Lucas went in for his scans on Thursday. That evening his mama, our beloved nurse Kelly sent me a one word text: “hospice.” Friends, please pray.

Thank you for giving thanks with me.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5 NIV