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)

Breathe In

I am thankful:

~ for generous givers on East Texas Giving Day. Gold Network of East Texas received more than $600 in donations!

~ for the perfect cup of coffee in the afternoon.

~ for the triumphant successful completion of our largest Giddyup & Whoa order to date! We were commissioned by our high school to create 67 handpainted reclaimed wood signs for the parents of the 2022 graduating class!

It was an intense effort of measuring, cutting, sanding, building, sanding again, field painting, handlettering, and watercoloring each one.

Then each was stamped with GW and wrapped with our signature twine and tag!

Phew! What a fun challenge! Thankful that even though I received the order with only 20 days to have them completed, I actually beat my deadline by 3 days!

~ for a fun visit with Aunt Gina and Uncle Justin, who made the trip to Tyler and helped Josh and I divide and conquer to attend the 2 baseball games + 1 Spring Concert we had…all at 7pm on the SAME NIGHT! I was thankful to get to see Zoe’s concert and catch most of Gavin’s game,

but SO DISAPPOINTED that I missed witnessing Sawyer running OUT OF HIS SHOE and scoring a run BAREFOOT!!! (Thankful that Samantha got pictures!)

~ for the tastiest traditional gyro smothered in tzatziki sauce.

~ for Sir Gavin the Knight of the House of Rucker having an awesome Medieval Feast with his 5th grade class.

~ for priceless time with our Gold Network ETX HERO couples at our CONNECT Support Group. Beautiful fresh flowers, delicious BBQ, and decadent desserts set the stage for a time of loving on these families through whatever stage of the cancer journey they are in. How we love our time with them!

~ for a special treat for the boys: Colton’s birthday gift to his dad was tickets for the 5 of them to the Texas Rangers game! What an awesome day! Even came away with a W!

~ that I got to enjoy a sweet time with my girls while the boys were away. After church we enjoyed stuffing our faces at Olive Garden! Restaurant dining is a rare treat for our bunch, so they were THRILLED!

~ for a husband who loves me right where I am. In my struggles. In my mess. In my doubts. In my fears. He lovingly leads our family, and I’m so grateful I can trust him completely, because I know his trust is in the Lord. There are big changes brewing on the horizon for our Tribe, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. But there’s no adventure I wouldn’t risk with him. My “Whoa” would sure miss out on a lot if it wasn’t for his “Giddyup!”

But I don’t always FEEL adventurous and excited about change. Sometimes my emotions and fears and anxieties take over and I’m, well…the word “basketcase” comes to mind. BUT GOD. I calm my heart by returning my eyes from the waves to my Savior. And I give thanks for the little blessings that surround me. Hugs and kisses and coffee and silly dogs and silly kids and coffee and the smell of candles and fresh laundry and coffee.

Breathe in.

God is good.

Breathe out.

All the time.

Eventually, we will make it victoriously across the finish line. And we won’t even care if we lost a shoe along the way.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:11-13)

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1-2)

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)

Coming Out of the Dark

I am thankful:

~ for the great privilege to have the freedom to vote. Tatum K and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a friend and candidate. It was such a sweet time with my girl. And when we went inside to vote, she even got to cast my ballot!

~ for a fun and different sign challenge. A dear friend has opened a new birthday party venue, and she asked me to create a sign for her…probably A YEAR AGO! I had started it right away, but almost immediately developed a creative block. I can do lettering or paint solid colors blindfolded and asleep. But a bright, multicolored, whimsical piece was more like the paintings I did 20 years ago, when I used to paint name canvases for children’s rooms and colorful teachers’ chairs. But this week I finally got inspired, and laid down layer upon layer of blended color, then fine-tuned the lettering, and finally finished with all the tiny details and GLITTER! Such a fun project!

My poor dogs

~ for God’s provision and the Body of Christ in action. One afternoon, I was sitting in traffic at a long red light, totally zoning out, when a tap on my window startled me to death! A school dad had hopped out of his car to alert me that our rear bus tire was low. Like REALLY LOW.

I pulled over and sent a picture of it to Josh, who sent me straight to the tire shop. Not the afternoon I had planned: 4 of my school kids plus Tatum K plus one kiddo who had stayed home from school sick (and those two of course had no shoes on because they were not expecting to get out of the car) PLUS two extra kiddos I had for the afternoon! So that’s 9 of us basically filling EVERY SEAT of the waiting room! But what a miracle that we made it there – the mechanic found a 3 inch screw in my tire! They took great care of us, and we are so grateful for a good ending to an eventful afternoon.

~ thankful for another great hibachi dinner on the flat top. Colton tried his hand at it this time. Fried rice with veggies, chicken, and shrimp…delish!

~ for a great evening of worship and teaching at a local women’s conference. I was invited by a friend, and several ladies were going from our church, but I really battled whether I actually wanted to go. My anxiety always flares up when I have to get out of my comfort zone in social settings, and I rarely attend any event that takes me away from my husband and kids. I just like to be home with my people. But God just keep drawing me, and I knew I was supposed to push past my comfort, and that I was supposed to go. I sat in my car for several long minutes before I worked up the courage to go inside, and endured some awkwardness as I entered the crowded foyer filled with groups of ladies chatting. My heart wedged somewhere between my throat and my armpit. But I found some friends to sit with, and when worship began, I closed my eyes tightly and turned my focus to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Almighty who made me and loves me unwaveringly as His child. And I was swept into the Throne Room. The teaching that followed was powerful, convicting, and inspiring. I left feeling awakened and challenged. What a gift.

~ for a fun, early morning cheering Josh on at the Fresh 15K race. We parked at the halfway point until he ran by, and then made our way to the finish line to cheer him in. So proud of him!

I’ve been pretty open here with my personal struggle with anxiety. It’s been a dark and ugly battle, crippling at times. But I am able to say with great joy, I see a brightening light at the end of this very long and lonely tunnel. I have heard the phrase over and over in my mind recently, “coming out of the dark.” I’m so grateful to feel a little stronger, a little lighter, and a little more capable. But I know that no matter how I feel or how I have ever felt, the Lord has walked with me faithfully all along. In my weakness, He is strong. He pours through all the gaping holes in me, and uses me even though I feel like I have absolutely nothing to give. What an awesome God we serve!

Whatever you find yourself walking though, whether you feel yourself coming out of the dark or smack dab in the middle of it, be encouraged. He’s behind you and before you and on every side. And darkness won’t last forever.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 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,”(Psalms 107:13-15)

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” (Micah 7:7-8)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27:1)

We Pray

I am thankful:

~ for “Breakfast Day” aka Dad’s day off, with Tatum K. Roost (a new restaurant for us) was great, with perfect coffee and tasty red skillet potatoes.

~ for Colton and Cooper being awesome big brothers, taking Samantha, Gavin, and Sawyer to practice their softball/baseball skills.

~ for the best time ever at our second Gold Network of East Texas HERO Hangouts. This time we took 67 cancer kids/siblings/and families to the movies! We bought out an entire theatre for a private showing of Sing2, and we packed almost every seat!

It never ceases to make my heart explode to see these amazing kids just getting to be kids! It’s so awesome to see connections among the cancer kids, among the siblings, among the parents. Their resilience and quiet strength is completely inspiring.

Even though my thoughts and my heart are heavy, I have to acknowledge and appreciate the intensely sharpened focus on how much I truly have to be thankful for, the simple yet profound gifts that I must never take for granted. My Love, who is also my best friend, who leads our family boldly and with great courage and unwavering faith. Unsolicited hugs from my not-so-Littles. For my Bigs who now CHOOSE to come home and spend time with us, even when they don’t have to. For nights like tonight when everyone is excited about the meal: they just DEVOURED two 9×13 pans of chicken pot pie. For our health, and the miraculous physical and spiritual healings we have experienced firsthand over and over again. Never having to worry about food in the pantry and gas in my car. A safe home. A neighborhood that is truly a family in every way. For spiritual mentors who have poured into me and continually encourage my growth. The freedom to worship God openly and speak the Name of Jesus without fear.

It’s heartbreaking to read the headlines. I hate to watch the news, but it’s too pressing, too important to remain uninformed. We pray for the people who are hurting, terrified, people who have lost everything.

I feel powerless. But I believe in the power of prayer.

I believe God’s Church is alive and reaches across every ocean and every language. I believe we were made for a time such as this, and that we are called to raise up our children as Warriors for Jesus, and that they are arrows created to be launched out to reach farther than we could ever go ourselves.

I don’t know what’s coming next. (BUT GOD)

I know The One who does, and I am His.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalms 56:1-4)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

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)

Bloom

I am thankful:

~ that all our sweet puppies have found their Forever Families! Raising puppies is so fun; they are so cute and sweet. But it is SO MUCH WORK! The hours, the poop, the feedings, the expense…there is a lot more to it than cuddling puppies and taking cute pictures (although that part is really fun!). But it is truly a side JOB we have undertaken in order to pay off debt, so getting the puppies sold is very, very important. Saying goodbye to the babies will be bittersweet. In just a week and a half, the pups will head to their families, from Chicago to Round Rock, and we know they are all going to bring their families so much joy!

~ for savory ham and muenster sliders on buttery sweet Hawaiian rolls.

~ that I FINISHED. THE. PUZZLE!!!! Josh has issued a mandatory waiting period before I am allowed to start another one. I think he feels a little neglected when I get sucked into a puzzle.

~ for Zoe doing a terrific job in her role as ToastMaster in her 4th grade class. Public speaking does not come naturally for her, so I’m so proud of her courage and hard work to push herself outside her comfort zone.

~ for a great day off with my Sweetheart and my Mini Me. We enjoyed a long over-due breakfast date, trying out Jucy’s for the first time. We were definitely impressed with everything, from their fluffy pancakes and savory sausage to their cold and delicious orange juice.

~ for unexpected treasure. Aunt Dinah found some pictures from a visit back in 2007 that I had never seen. What a blast from the past! I have such photogenic children.

I have this orchid. If you’ve been here at Sunday Gratitude a while, you might remember last March when Josh surprised me with a big “just because” basket of beautiful eucalyptus bath goodies and a stunning orchid.

Now let me tell you something. I love plants. I have been collecting them for a few years now.

And let me tell you something else. I CAN KILL SOME PLANTS. I’ve always had a pretty black thumb. I underwater. I overwater. I leave them in the wrong pot for too long. I’ve killed the plants that are labeled “easy care,” or “hard to kill.” I just don’t really know what I’m doing.

Most of the plants I have had success with are hardy, low light plants like pothos and ivy. So when I received my orchid, I was not very optimistic. Orchids are notorious for being temperamental and hard to care for. And just a week or so, sure enough, all the blooms turned brown and fell off. I knew it. I had committed another murder.

The leaves at the bottom were still green, so I kept the plant. I cut off the long, stately stem that had held the lovely, short-lived blooms, and left it in the window, a daily reminder of my incompetence as a gardener. A month or so later, I noticed a baby leaf peeking out of the pot, and I was so excited! The plant wasn’t dead after all! Even if it never bloomed again, at least it wasn’t a complete loss!

Recently, months later, I noticed a tall green stalk. I hadn’t even noticed it growing, just suddenly saw it one day. No way… could it be? Sure enough, as I continued to inspect the stem day after day, I began to see tiny growths along the top. BUDS!? My orchid was not only ALIVE, it was growing and preparing to BLOOM! From a seemingly dead plant, another failure, to a beautiful symbol of hope and beauty and new LIFE! What joy to watch the gradual transformation and eagerly anticipate the beauty to come.

I have found so much encouragement from watching this resurrecting orchid. How many of us have looked at a situation through eyes of disappointment, discouragement, and defeat? Hopeless. Dead. But what if God is still stirring in places we can’t see? What if life is hidden beneath the surface? What if beauty is waiting to spring forth when we least expect it? I know I have areas in my life where I desperately long to see resurrected LIFE. Things that look hopeless and dead to me. BUT GOD. He is always working, sifting, refining, loving, fighting, redeeming, restoring, healing, forgiving, drawing. Growth takes time. Healing takes time. Restoration takes time. Even if we have a bad track record, He is working in and through us. Even if things look bleak and hopeless, BEAUTY IS COMING. I didn’t grow the orchid because of my wealth of knowledge and careful attendance. GOD grew it IN SPITE OF MY LACK. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. And God gives both lavishly. What a refreshing reminder. Look for beauty emerging this week…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,” (Psalms 92:12-14)

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:27-31)

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

I am thankful:

~ for the fun annual tradition of 12 Days of Christmas gifts. Grandmommy loves to spend her birthday sharing with others, and it was no accident that God hand-picked it to fall exactly 12 days before Christmas! She goes to such great lengths to come up with creative and thoughtful gifts for everyone to open each night, and we have the best time singing the song, reading Christmas trivia, and taking turns opening gifts each night.

~ for the last round of Christmas concerts, programs, parties, and events. There’s been something every day! Anyone else want to recommend we take half these events and do them in say…April?

Kora’s Middle School Choir Concert
Sawyer’s 2nd Grade Christmas Play

~ for my darling husband, who combed the swarming aisles of Walmart for over an hour to find the last solitary pack of Christmas treat bags in the city for me. That’s a good man.

~ for last minute G&W holiday projects.

~ for our twice a year trip to the dentist successfully completed! Tatum K was terrified last time, but this visit was greatly improved! 7 kids at the dentist in the middle of December is no joke!

~ for Pajama Day/Christmas Party Day/Last Day of School before Christmas Break. Somehow it seems too early, but we are really here, just a week out! Glad to have my loves all home.

~ for round 2 of cranberry bliss bars. They have been such a hit they have definitely been added to the holiday rotation.

~ for a fun day celebrating with family at our annual “Kilgore Christmas Party”…but since hostess-with-the-mostest, Aunt Polly has moved from Kilgore to her newly completed, stunningly beautiful home in Carthage, we had to update the name to “Aunt Polly’s Jolly Holiday.” We feasted on delicious snacks and the warmest fellowship. It’s always hard missing the ones who aren’t with us, but I thing it makes us spend the time loving on each other a little tighter.

Aunt Nikki surprised Josh, gifting one of Uncle Alan’s beloved bass guitars, and brought some, I guess we’d have to call them “vintage,” handheld video games that he’d kept for the kids. So special.

~ for cozy socks, yummy hot chocolate, and rowdy games of spoons.

~ for sweet puppy snuggles. Birdie’s pups are growing every day, and they are just the most precious little things. After 12 days of sleeping with them on the closet floor, I am beyond thankful that they are big enough to graduate to their next stage of care: a pen in our bathroom! That means I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!! Wahoo!!!

It’s still a constant battle to keep eyes on the Savior instead of all the STUFF. I can feel when I start slipping. After a steady diet of donuts, cookies, and candy canes, the maniacal frenzied chorus of “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” on REPEAT becomes markedly less cute. Especially in the car. After the 7th time. I’m a little less patient with a certain 4 year old who skipped her nap yet AGAIN. But I have really purposed myself this month to do regular heart checks. I’ve been listening to Rend Collective on repeat, “Though the tears may fall, my song will rise My song will rise to You / Though my heart may fail, my song will rise My song will rise to You / While there’s breath in my lungs I will praise you, Lord…The joy of the Lord is my strength The joy of the Lord is my strength In the darkness, I’ll dance In the shadows, I’ll sing The joy of the Lord is my strength”

My joy is not found in, nor is it subject to, my circumstances. My moods come and go, His faithfulness does not. Our family has so much going on, both for public eyes and privately in our hearts, and it would be so easy to give in to the waves that doggedly try to pull me under. BUT GOD. Trust me, I get tired of fighting for peace. Doesn’t that sound like such an oxymoron? Fighting for peace? But that’s exactly what we must do. There’s a constant war, and war is what it wants. Anxiety, division, hatred, fear, unrest, discontentment. But when we fight against those things and instead anchor ourselves to the steady, immovable Father, we can see the irritations and distractions for what they really are. Traps. I’m not trying to say I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m handling things so great right now. But I have a strong sense that I know where I COULD BE emotionally/spiritually right now, compared to where I actually am. And I’m thankful for Jesus’ grace and His leading. This broken world is not my home. This life is not all there is. I truly have strength and joy in His Presence that no one can steal. And I’m hanging onto that for dear life.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms‬ ‭34:14‬)

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John‬ ‭14:27‬)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Wonder

I am thankful:

~ for a week full of warm holiday smells: cinnamon and sweet potatoes, cranberries and cedar, cloves and pumpkin.

~ for a successful, if INTENSELY STRESSFUL, first attempt deep frying a turkey. We have heard so many horror stories of fires and explosions, so we had the fire extinguisher at the ready. After a multiple generous injections of creole butter, and a 50 minute bath in boiling peanut oil, we had a gloriously golden brown, crispy skinned bird! It was delicious!

Fire extinguisher at the ready

~ for a lovely Thanksgiving with all my kids together. We enjoyed spending the days laughing and stuffing our faces with family, complete with our favorite traditions, dancing the chicken dance and competing fiercely in the Pumpkin Olympics before the reigning Pumpkin Queen. It was a day of feasting and thanking the Lord for His faithfulness. There were beloved faces missing from around our table, but we did find comfort knowing they were together at the best celebration of all.

Pumpkin Olympics
Chicken Dance

~ for pumpkin pie for breakfast.

~ for Round 2 of the festivities, this time at our house. We pulled out all the leftovers and watched the broadcast of the Carthage Bulldogs playoff game. Sadly they did not come away with the win, but the fellowship was top notch.

~ for coconut cream pie for breakfast.

~ for a wonderfully successful Barn Sale for Giddyup & Whoa this season! I sold out of 2 restocks of ornaments and all but 3 signs. Thank you for supporting our small business!

~ for cherry pie for breakfast.

~ for the start of our holiday decorating. It’s so exciting to pull out the tubs and bags and get out all the Christmas greenery and sparkles. I did a quick little upcycle with two trash finds today. I cut off the top of a rusted old steamer trunk and dry brushed it with some white paint for a “new” tree base.

And then a salvaged headboard became a new sign for our mantle. I don’t often make a sign that I get to keep, so this one is a treasure.

Josh did a fantastic job on the lights on the house, braving yet again his aversion to heights. We’ve got a long way to go, burned out lights, rearranging and ornaments to hang, but it was a good start and is looking cheerful and festive. I’ve always felt like this house was just MADE for Christmas.

Even Bear is ready! Birdie, not so much. She is expecting puppies in the next week or so. Poor girl is tired and uncomfortable.

I love watching the holidays through the eyes of my children. The awe and wonder. The unfiltered joy. I’m not sure when that starts to change, but for most of us, it has at some point. We are impatient with the long lines at the stores and the bumper to bumper traffic. We are irritated when what we want is not in stock or if the shipping isn’t overnight and free. Parties are obligations we’d really rather skip and the preparations seem a hassle instead of a blessing.

I want to step back into the wonder.

I want to delight in the twinkle of the lights and how they are reflected in my kids’ eyes.

I want to look at my Grandma’s decorations and remember them in her home and how special she always made me feel.

I want to prepare my heart for the Advent, and eagerly await the coming of my Lord.

I want to look past the irritations and the stress and and the disappointments and the hard, and hold fast to the unsurpassable JOY that is mine.

Lord, help me find true rest in You, in the joy of Your presence and the freedom of surrender. Let me trust You with it ALL, especially the pieces that I think I can’t let go of.

Thank you for reading, for choosing to follow along with our family’s story. I’m always so encouraged by your kind words.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalms 59:16-17)

“pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Even When it’s Hard…

This week I’m thankful for the little stuff.

I’m thankful for a sleepy girl with tangled up hair crawling into my lap for snuggles. (And a beautifully healed lip/chin I might add).

For a beautiful box of the best tacos.

For a cozy sweater when the weather’s cool enough, even if I change into a tank top after lunch.

For a new vacuum that REALLY SUCKS. (Like it’s supposed to)

For a most realistic Leonardo Da Vinci, who was known for having the most captivating dimples of the 15th Century.

5th Grade Wax Museum

I’m thankful that I sold almost every single sign and ornament at the Barn Sale! Leftovers will be available Saturday at Vintage & Co Christmas Open House!

For the smell of roasting chicken.

For hot coffee that’s waiting for me when I wake up, and the first cup in the quiet stillness of the morning.

For hard lessons and good talks and God’s amazing grace that covers our shortcomings.

For a whole week off with my kiddos home from school.

I realized this week, this is the first time in 18 years that I have not attended a school Thanksgiving feast or program. The emotional mushpot that I am, I shed some tears, thinking of all my little Indians short, indigenous individuals, the same cute songs about turkeys and pies, and the well-loved costumes that we have used year after year.

But I’m thankful.

I’m thankful because it means my babies are growing up. That they got to do those special rights of passage when they were little, and that by God’s hand, now they are too big for them.

And thankful for the memories of so many sweet Thanksgivings gone by.

Just like the old adage, “is the glass half full or half empty,” everything is in our perspective. Thankful for the laundry because it means we have clothes to wear. Thankful for the mountain of dirty dishes because of the food that was on the plates. Thankful when the Word or the Spirit pierces my heart, because it reassures me that my heart has not turned to stone. Even thankful for the unspeakable pain that comes from grieving, because it proves how deeply we love.

We have to take the bitter with the sweet. And keep looking for the sweet in front of us. And remembering the sweet that was. And believe that sweet is coming.

Because He IS coming….

And we have to keep giving thanks, even when it’s hard.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalms 34:3-4)

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalms 94:18-19)