Seasons

I am thankful:

~ for 2 sweet quick visits with 2 different dear friends before they move away.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to people you love.  But seasons are always changing and you just pray that you can find a way to stay connected regardless of location.  Tatum had a great time playing with a friend, and later having a delicious breakfast of diced tomatoes and chocolate milk!

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~ for the stunning color of the fall leaves.  People say Texas doesn’t really get seasons.  And while the foliage may not be as electric nor the temperatures quite as brisk as in the north and northeast, I think East Texas is beautiful in the fall.  I love the drop in temperatures, pulling out the boots and sweaters, and the crackle of a fire in the evenings.  To me, the autumn season was the ideal choice for scheduling Thanksgiving: leaves change and fall, colder weather makes us want to cuddle closer, we hunger for the warmth of nostalgic comfort foods…it’s a season built for looking around at our surroundings and seeking to give thanks. 

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~ for a extra special week for Kora.  Her class presented the Chapel program, a Tribute to Veteran’s Day.  It was an inspiring and reverent program, and all the students did a beautiful job with their songs and recitations.  Then as a part of her classroom’s weekly Toastmasters presentation, she gave her original speech.  Big week for our girl.  She delights in having her turn in the spotlight, and nothing makes her light up more than seeing Mama and Daddy smiling from the audience.  So proud of her. 

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~ for the rare opportunity to surprise my girl!  Carson Grace invited us to a special event as a part of her music major program, Student-led Night of Worship.  Unfortunately, she invited us about 22 hours before the program.  I let her know we were very proud of her, but told her how difficult it would be to make arrangements to get all the way to Marshall the next evening, especially on a school night.  But as soon as I got off the phone with her, I got to work planning those details.  Even that evening, as we were on the road to Marshall, I continued to text her and tell her that we loved her and were praying that the service would go well (true statements).  When we showed up at the recital hall (you can imagine, a Tribe of Littles is quite a spectacle on a college campus, so we weren’t hard to spot), she saw us and burst into tears.  I’m so thankful we made it a little early so she had time to get herself together before taking the stage with her worship team.   What a blessing to see our beautiful daughter, singing unto the Lord with her peers.  It was just awesome.  After her set was over, she joined us in the audience, and squeezed me so hard…it felt great to know how much it meant to her that we were there.  It was an incredible night worshipping together, and even the Littles totally got into it, clearly blessed by the presence of the Lord. IMG_9530IMG_9599

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~ for lots of progress in preparation for our 2 upcoming Giddyup & Whoa sales: Vintage & Company’s “Christmas in the Country” and The Market.  Josh has been building and building for me, and I paint every chance I get.  The kids love being a part: helping design, paint, and construct; and they are always eager to “model” for me.  So thankful for the opportunity to create together as a family, and hopeful that we are coming into a busy season for the business. 

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~ for successfully surviving the last (and coldest, and WETTEST) JV football game of the season!  Armed with our blankets, scarves, gloves, and hot chocolate, the Littles and I made it to halftime, and left Dad, Colton, and Brooke to cheer Coop on to the bitter end.  I love watching him play, so I’m sad to see the season end, but I WILL NOT miss shivering in the bleachers with 875 whining kids. 

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~ for our furry, floppy muppet dog, Bear, who turned 1 today!  He has been such a fun addition to our crazy Tribe. 

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~ for relaxing evenings, chilling and watching the Cowboys.  Ok fine.  If you know me, I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about football. I can barely keep my eyes on Cooper’s jersey to see where he is on the field at his games.  I can get into sports when I know personal stories about the players, but otherwise, it’s hard for me to follow.  BUT. I love my husband.  And my husband loves to watch the Cowboys.  So I love to be near my husband while he watches the Cowboys.  I paint or write, and I cheer when he cheers.  We’ve got a system down. 

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~ for a weekend with our girl home from college.  We enjoyed a RARE laid back weekend devoid of a schedule.  Carson Grace got to sleep in, we ran some errands, ordered some much-needed glasses for both of us, and spend the evening watching Lion King all together. 

~ for unexpected blessings.  One of the reasons Carson Grace came home for the weekend was because she had been invited to be a guest vocalist at the church of one of her professors.  The church was in Athens, and we decided to load up the whole Tribe and go with her.  Carson Grace of course did an absolutely wonderful job sharing her song, and blessed the heart of the Lord and every parishioner in attendance.  But it was clear the moment we got there that the He had a very specific purpose for our family visiting that church.  The pastor (who teaches voice part time at ETBU, and was the one who invited Carson Grace) and his wife have recently taken in 4 foster children.   Recently as in 3 weeks ago.   I looked into that mama’s tired tired eyes and knew exactly what she was feeling.   Oh, how vividly O remember the pain of that season, of those raw first weeks. Josh and I were able to share our foster/adopt story and listen to where they are in theirs.   We could relate to one another on such a strikingly similar level, and there was such hope in that.   After church was over, our 2 families went for pizza, and the adults visited as much as we could while juggling kid plates, refilling cups, wiping noses and wiping spills…  We sat there and told the stories we have told so many times.  Stories of broken beds, and heads cracking through windows.  Stories of getting locked out of the house by 3 toddlers and of the end of life as we then knew it.  BUT GOD.   Because the kids from those stories are gone.  They really are.  I can’t think of a day when I was more proud of my children.  As we were telling those stories with the grownups, OUR kids were loving on THEIR kids.  Our little girls were chatting it up with their girls, and have already declared that they are friends who can’t wait to see each other again.  Their little guy and Sawyer had been in Sunday school class today that morning, so they were tickled to buddy up at lunch.  And Carson Grace and Cooper were kind and conversational with their quiet and reserved 16 year old boy.  It was beautiful.  I’m not even bothering to hold back my tears as I write this tonight, with the images fresh on my mind.  I ache thinking of all that these precious children have gone through, more than anyone even knows about.  They have been shifted around and let down by the ones who they trusted to keep them safe, and so many others after that.  I can only imagine how broken and scared and confused they are.  And I know how shell shocked those foster parents are right now.  Everything about their life has changed overnight.  And they are holding on for dear life, clinging to Jesus, desperately trying to be obedient to whatever He asks them to do.   I’m so grateful that we got to meet this family today, and ask that you would join me in praying for them.  They need it.  And I’m so grateful that the Lord used this day to show me afresh how far our beautiful children have come, and the beauty that shines from the ashes of their story.  Their story is one of brokenness and loss and pain, and a story of love and redemption and healing and hope. And today I got to see them ministering.    Thank You Father for fresh eyes to see the miracle of New Life. 

Whatever season you find yourself in, may you remain securely anchored into Christ.  When things are bad, hang on.  Jesus is holding you, He is fighting for you, and He will never leave you.  And this season won’t last forever.   And if you are in a sweet season, a season of plenty, of peace – set that anchor DEEP.  Study His Word, seek God’s heart, pour into the lives of others.  Invest wisely in eternity during seasons of peace, because that season will end too.  And we never know what’s ahead.  We just know that our best days are still to come.  Which season are you in?  Who can you encourage this week?

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)

The Investment

So…this week we did a thing.  I asked you to pray for our big week, and it’s clear that you did!  

Monday morning, Josh and I said “goodbye” to our babies.  And drove to Dallas.  And got on an airplane.  And by that afternoon, we were sitting on a beach in Mexico. 

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Last month we celebrated 20 years of marriage, and we made a commitment that we couldn’t let that milestone pass by without a special trip.  (But we had to make it through our busy September first!)  During the first half of our marriage, we dated regularly and we took several trips to the Caribbean.  A white sand beach has always been our favorite place.  The last time we took a trip together, just us two, was 10 years and 5 kids ago.  Life happened.  A miscarriage, 3 adoptions, and a pregnancy happened all inside 13 months.  Then cancer happened.  The day our marriage turned 15, we weren’t even in the same city.  Josh was home with 7 kids and I was in the hospital fighting for our baby’s life.  Within the last 5 years we have launched a non-profit, a 5K race, and a small business.  Taking a trip to the beach has not been on our radar for a decade. 

So this week we took 5 whole days just to ourselves.  We sat on the glistening sand and listened to the crash of the waves.  We snorkeled every day in crystal clear water with literally hundreds of fish.  We drank the best lattes we have ever had under the lush cover of giant palms.  We held hands.  We got up when we wanted to and didn’t watch the clock all day.  We LAUGHED. We prayed together on the beach and thanked God for our marriage and for blessing us with so many incredible children and the most remarkable life.  We told our story to young couples and old couples.  And we kissed a lot. 

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Oh, and we went deep sea fishing and caught some giant fish and I got sick as a dog and puked my guts out for hours.  It wasn’t ALL poetry. 

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Meanwhile, Aunt Gina Sue, resident fearless superhero, was commander in chief at the homestead.  Who accepts the challenge of 5 days of caring for 7 kids????  (For those reading who don’t know us personally, there ARE actually 9 kids, but 2 are grown and out of the house).  Gina did an amazing job.  (Understatement of the year). The house ran like a well-oiled machine, AND everyone had fun!  She took them on outings and treated with fun snacks every day… I think it was a vacation for them from Mom and Dad!  (Maybe not so much of a vacation for Gina herself.  We are hoping she still speaks to us by Thanksgiving.)  Seriously, she did the impossible, and no matter what challenges she encountered, she did it with such grace, with the unflinching support of Uncle Justin.  We could not be more grateful.  (We also are VERY AWARE of the focused fervent prayers they both prayed for our safe return!)IMG_9116 2.jpg

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Sawyer celebrated the 50th Day of School with Coke floats and a sock hop!

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Marriage is hard.  Raising kids is hard.  Life. Is. HARD.  There’s never a good time to get away.  There’s never enough money.  But God.  He makes a way when there is no way.  He brings beauty out of ashes and streams in the desert.    Josh and I can both say in all honesty that our marriage is better now than it was a decade ago, or even at the very beginning.  We have been through hell.  We have screwed up and hurt one another and let each other down.  We have argued about big things and about nothing.  We have wasted time over absolute garbage.  And then we have picked up the pieces and moved on.  We have apologized and we have forgiven.  We have picked at each other and laughed until we cried.  We are best friends that get on each other’s nerves but we would choose each other every time.  

Friends, I beg of you: Invest.  Invest where it counts.  This world is scary and life is short.  Josh and I have learned that everything can change in an instant.  Every THING you love can be taken away.  And there’s ALWAYS going to be another crisis.  We have to invest in our marriages.  Invest in our kids.  Invest in the lives of others.  These investments are truly ACTS OF WORSHIP.  I could never begin to thank the countless people who have invested in Josh and I over the years, pouring into us with love and encouragement and TIME.  I also know that we are blessed beyond measure, and that not everyone can take a trip to Mexico.  Trust me, it was a great stretch and a sacrifice for us.  My anxiety tried to ruin the trip before it ever began, and 101 things came up that could have squashed the whole plan.  But God.  I know it was so important for us.  An INVESTMENT.  So even if you just go on a walk together; or if it means staying up an extra 30 minutes after the kids go to bed to spend time alone on the couch….it’s WORTH IT.  When life gets hard (and stays hard), sometimes we wrap up in our hurt, and we believe that lie that “no one else understands.”  Or that we shouldn’t “bother” anyone with “our junk” because “they have enough of their own stuff going on.” (Sound familiar?)  THAT IS SUCH A CROCK!  That is satan’s tool to try to keep us trapped in shame and loneliness, isolated and disconnected from one another.  We are STRONGER WHEN WE ARE CONNECTED!  And we are UNSTOPPABLE when that connection is ROOTED IN CHRIST!  We have to pull together instead of pulling away.  See the needs of others instead of focusing on ourselves.  That goes for our marriages and all our other relationships.  The more we pour into one another, the greater the return.  59372532050__FA4ED520-2905-4A5B-985B-E20243DEE656.JPGIMG_9114 2.JPGIMG_9097.jpg

So I am thankful for :

White sand, great coffee, and time with my best friend.  I’m thankful for impossibly blue skies and impossibly clear water.  I’m thankful for God’s limitless creativity in nature.  I’m thankful for tears cried on the beach while asking God for BIG things for my husband and for my family.  Thankful for the sound of the waves crashing that I tried my best to memorize, and for technology that allowed me to video it so I can play it any time I want to transport myself to our place for a moment.  For people who love my kids as they were their own, even though there’s a million of them.  For the sweetest kids in the whole world that blanketed our bed with “welcome home” cards.  And I’m thankful to be home on American soil with my babies underfoot, my own bed, unlimited safe drinking water, and the ability to eat dinner without using a can of OFF.  I am thankful that stuffed iguanas are WAY cuter than real ones. I have renewed appreciation for my mountains of laundry and my big brown bus full of noisy kids and my shaggy dog and 87,000 things going on and the sound of LAUGHTER.   I am freshly reminded that even though it’s relentlessly, exhaustingly HARD, I LOVE MY LIFE and I wouldn’t trade it.   Lord, keep me in the place of humble gratitude for all you have entrusted to me. 

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Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 )

Overshadowed

I am thankful:

~ for the Rucker bus.  Most of you know we have 9 kids and drive a 12 passenger van.  We love it. It is a big spectacle, we get lots of stares, and we’ve been told it looks like a “dad’bern giant toaster.”  But it is so comfortable for our family, and has been a terrific vehicle for 6 years now.  A little over a week ago, the rear AC stopped working.  In Texas, even in October, you can’t drive a dad’bern giant toaster full of children with no AC.   They get crispy quick!  So we took it to the dealership for repair.  That left me with no other options but a 6- seater truck to drive 7 kids around (7 kids PLUS ME).  Thankfully, we had no issues, and no onlookers did a head count and called CPS.  The bus was in the shop for a full week, but now it’s back and climate control restored.  It was a good exercise for all of us on FAMILY CLOSENESS.  And now we have RENEWED APPRECIATION for our spacious bus!

~ Bear is most especially grateful that the bus is fixed.  With so many kiddos illegally crammed in a sardine can, there was most definitely no room for a giant, hairy muppet!  He missed out on his rides to and from school, and is glad to be my co-pilot once more. IMG_7875 2.JPG

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~ for a special Kindergarten Special Kid week.  This is always the highlight of any Kindergartener at GCS.  And this was Sawyer’s turn.  He has talked about it “coming up” for at least 2 weeks, counting down the days with such anticipation.  THIS KID WAS EXCITED!!!  Each day was a different fun thing: Monday, he brought his poster. 02075194-03F2-41DC-9E3F-29653DF53B7C.JPG

Tuesday, a favorite toy.  Wednesday, Mama read his favorite book to the class, “Dr. Seuss ABC book.” IMG_2473.jpeg

Thursday was “bring-a-special-snack-and-an-award.  So that meant fudgy brownies and Beads of Courage.  It’s more and more remarkable to see Sawyer growing up into himself as he boldly and openly shares his story in front of his peers.  “I had cancer in my blood when I was a baby.  I had to take chemo and all my hair falled out.”  His classmates asked several questions about the beads, amazed at the number of white chemo beads and green hospital stay beads.  Sawyer showed them the black beads representing all the pokes, shots, and port accesses he had over the years.  He laughed, “some of my medicines made me get big chubby cheeks.”  It was a very impactful presentation by a remarkable boy. IMG_2477.jpeg

Friday was “Family Day,” and as many of us as were able gathered in the tiny chairs at the front of his classroom to share what we love about him.   Another simple day that we have celebrated with each of our kiddos, that now has so much more meaning, because we didn’t know if he would be here. 

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~ for crispy BBQ chicken legs fresh off the grill. 

~ for Cooper’s team coming back from Gilmer with a win!  Go Cougars!  

~ for friends who have donated for the Children’s Hospital Prize Closet Toy Drive.  Our friend, warrior Mama, and eloquent advocate and writer Shelby (also known as Sophie the Brave’s mom, and now Baby Connor’s Mom) shared the request on her FB page, and we had a great response of donations in Sophie’s honor.  We are definitely still in need. We’ve got a week left and we are definitely behind from last year’s toy donation.  There’s still time to drop of toys in Tyler or Carthage (contact me!) or you can donate via www.goldnetworkoet.com/donate and we will shop for you!  Thank you so much for all who have already given so generously. 

~ for one of the most epically successful hauls in my Large Item Trash Pickup weeks of all time!  I found table legs, finials, a vintage film box, a coffee table top that will make a perfect sign, 2 dining chairs (that we needed to replace 2 broken ones), a great stack of wide plank reclaimed wood, several great baskets, and a beautiful 9 foot Christmas tree!   Oh how I love treasure week!

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~ for a successful oral surgery for Josh.  He has had chronic tooth issues over the years, and undergone multiple root canals, surgeries, and an implant.  His mouth has been flaring up again, causing headaches and jaw pain, so it was time for yet another surgery to remove an infected tooth, as well as some bone grafting to prepare for an eventual new crown.  Josh made it through the surgery well, and was pleasantly surprised with the custom retainer he was fitted with to disguise the missing tooth while his mouth heals.  I got to be his nurse for the day, and I will enthusiastically present him with the Worst Patient of All Time Award.  But we both survived it, and are glad he is on the path toward a healthier mouth. 

~ for 2 fantastic nights at CityFest!  We’ve been hearing about CityFest for nearly 2 years, praying for it and it’s impact on our city.  But as it actually approached, I had increasing second thoughts about attending.  I knew it would be H-O-T.  I knew there would be about a bazillion people there.  It just sounded like a big ‘ole  hassle.  But Cooper really wanted to go, and he worked on me until I gave in.  We loaded everybody up, picked Dad up from work, and hoped for the best.  A bazillion people was about right!  The massive stage spanned all the way across Broadway, with jumbotrons on each side.  People were EVERYWHERE. IMG_8011 4.JPG

But we found  a good spot in the middle of the street, and settled in. The atmosphere was loud and lively.  The kids were excited even though they had no idea what was going on.  The concerts were top notch, Blanca, Ryan Stevenson, and Newsboys DID NOT DISAPPOINT!  It was such a great show, and the kids were all thrilled to see the artists in REAL LIFE singing songs they sing along with on the radio.  They sang and danced their hearts out!  Amazing to have such an epic event, TOTALLY FREE!  Even more amazing, it was incredible to see so many people of every color and walk of life gathered together for an openly Christian gathering.  Evangelist Andrew Palau shared his personal testimony and an encouraging message of hope.  We caught the fever, and there was no question that we would come back for the second night.  We had a great time watching Pat Barrett, Neil McCoy, and Lacrae.  What a fantastic show!  I know that hearts were touched and lives were changed at Cityfest, and I’m so thankful we got to be a part of it.

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My heart is heavy with a devastating loss in our Gold Network family.  We met the Reed family in 2015 at Children’s Hospital.  Micah, a vibrant 11 year old, had just relapsed with leukemia.  He fought bravely until God eventually healed him by taking him to heaven on September 11, the day before the first Tyler Gold Run.  Micah’s mom, Sandy, continued to honor her son’s memory by pouring into others and advocating for hurting families.  Friday night, on the way home from a football game, was killed in a horrific traffic accident.  Her sister was killed also, and son Jacob and a niece were severely injured but survived.  When a dear friend notified me of the tragedy, my first thought was, “No God, WHY???!!!”  And my second thought was of the glorious reunion between Micah and his sweet Mama.  But what a hole of hurt and pain left here on earth for all the people who love her.  The Reed family’s hometown is Sulphur Springs, and this small East Texas town has risen up in a BIG WAY to rally support.  Tomorrow they are encouraging people to wear gold and blue to honor Sandy and her family. And I will include the link to a wonderful article about the community support, and how you can donate if you feel led. 

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Josh’s tooth trouble has gotten me thinking this week…isn’t it so strange how one tiny festering tooth can cripple you?  It takes over everything.  It’s such a nagging, aggravating pain that you can’t get away from.  One little tooth.  That’s how my week has been. It’s been a great week, full of blessings.  But I’ve been distracted by something personal, one nagging thing crippling my joy.  So my joy didn’t feel as joyful, it tasted a little flat.  The pounding of pain and worry worked its way in front of everything else, and overshadowed the beauty God tried to show me each day.  BUT GOD.  That nag, even though I did allow it to dominate, it did press me in to the Lord.  Oh the hours I spent in prayer.  I prayed when I woke up in the night, and prayers of thanksgiving were the first thing on my lips each morning.  Not because I’m so spiritual. But because I was SO DRY AND SO DESPERATE.  So what the enemy intended for evil, a nag to overshadow my joy and distract me from my blessings…God redeemed for good.  I struggled hard this week.  But I’m so thankful to say that He has already done a mighty Work in the midst of the trial, and I’m praying it was a spiritual breakthrough.  It doesn’t always work that way.  I know we have all been through trials that have persisted a whole lot longer than a week.  Sometimes we go years without seeing breakthrough. And sometimes it looks nothing like what we expected or hoped or asked for.  I am just ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENT that our Good Good Father is always at work, and never ceases the refining process when we give Him full access to our lives.  The nagging pain of trial is often a symptom of a developing habit or stronghold or stumbling block that He wants to set us free from.  What do we need to lay down?  Pride?  Anxiety?  Control?  Fear of man’s opinion?  (Pride is pretty much the root of all that, when you boil it down).   Anyway, I am ready for the week ahead.  Armed with Scripture and the protected by Armor  of God, I feel geared up, encouraged, and ready to kick the devil in the face when (not if) he comes at me.  Not this week Satan.  I will let Mighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, overshadow me, not my circumstances.

Let’s love one another well this week.  Lift up someone who is hurting.  Life is too short to walk past someone who needs a minute of your time.  You ARE the answer to someone’s prayers. 

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”” Psalms 91:1-2

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13 

Choosing a Soundtrack

I am thankful:

~ for an uneventful day off from school. It was nice and quiet. The kids had fun in the pool. It was a lovely nothing day.

~ for a special, special day that I never could have dreamed we would see.  Our 20 year anniversary!  The naive kids who repeated vows 2 decades ago would have rightfully been nominated “Least Likely to Succeed.”  We had everything against us.  But God breathed His life into us, and into our marriage.  He knit us together because we only had each other.  He took us through the fire and refined our love and our faith.  I scarcely recognize those kids.  But I love what our life has become.  We enjoyed our new favorite C Rojo’s burger and grapefruit sodas for lunch, and thanked God for 20 beautiful, hard, grace-laced, overcoming years.   This was what I posted that day:

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“These two kids didn’t have a clue.  We were wild and naive and crazy about each other.  We had a baby. And then found Jesus. And then got married.  Had some more babies and adopted one.  Lost a baby, adopted some more, and had another baby all in one year.  Then came cancer.  More cancer, and ANOTHER baby.  I am blown away by the quantity and quality of life and love God has packed into 20 years.  We chose each other when we didn’t know any better.  Now I know, and I’d choose you again and again and forever.  And to borrow from another favorite love story, “Let ‘me say we’re crazy. What do they know?  Put your arms around me baby, don’t ever let go.  Let the world around us, just fall apart.  Baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart.”  Happy Anniversary to my Love.”

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~for an uncommonly cooperative and photogenic dog.  He doesn’t mind being a Giddyup & Whoa model or a Gold Network spokesdog.  But he does get tired after all the limelight. 

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~for exciting updates from our graphic designer for this year’s Tyler Gold Run shirts!  We wanted something fun and different to celebrate 5 years.  Can’t show you yet…but I can’t wait!!!!  There’s still time to register!

~ for so many heartwarming reports of people “Going Gold!”  You have changed your profile pictures, shared awareness posts, worn gold… THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and the hearts of so many families who live childhood cancer awareness month every single day, not because they choose to, but because it is the reality of the life they now live.

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~for healing.  Cooper’s hip is mending well.  Kora has had a chronically recurrent ear infection that is improving.  Sawyer has had a yucky cough.  That’s not uncommon for him.  He always catches whatever crud is going around.  He was coughing by the second day of school, and pretty much has been ever since.  I try not to not be too quick to drag him to the doctor’s office, because I know everybody gets a cold at back to school time.  And I know I am oversensitive and overprotective with Sawyer.  Unfortunately, Monday night, he started running fever.  High fever, over 102°.  We kept him home from school of course, but resisted the urge to jump straight to the doctor, for the same reasons referenced before.  But the cough worsened enough that it was keeping him up all night.  And me.  And Tatum K.  After three days of significant fever and increasing coughing, I finally took him in to the pediatrician. Pneumonia.  Now after missing a full week of school, and a few days on antibiotics, the fever has lifted and the cough is at least a little better.  BUT, now Tatum K is running fever. Sigh.  Just one exceptionally exhausting act in the intricate dance of a large family. BUT GOD… 

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~ for melatonin.  When your child physically does not have a “get sleepy” button, you MAKE SURE you NEVER run out of melatonin.  

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When life is super busy (back to school + a million kids + Giddyup & Whoa painting + crunch time in preparation for the Gold Run) and then we have a health curveball… it really sends me spiraling.  Anxiety doesn’t play nice, and is merciless in its attacks.  Rest at night is almost nonexistent.  I often feel paralyzed by all I have to get done, and physically feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Somehow I had recently heard some song, just a snippet of a really terrible song, and it got stuck in my head.  It was absolutely maddening.  After about 3 days, I realized how it was absolutely MESSING WITH ME!  It was quite literally a vulgar and negative soundtrack playing constantly in my head.  But once I keyed in on it…I took action right away.  I turned on my worship music and began to SING!   Every time the negative song would creep back into the background, I would silence it with prayer and singing.  Changing the soundtrack of my day made a huge difference in my peace.  Have you ever noticed that?  That you replay something over and over in your mind?  And how much more often it is something NEGATIVE than anything remotely positive?  We replay a scathing argument, but rarely an uplifting encouragement.  Recognizing this habit, and acknowledging the negative impact it has on our mood and our spirit can be such a life changing paradigm shift. 

I’m ready for a better week. Sawyer is excited to return to school after several days on his antibiotic and now fever-free.  I pray Tatum K recovers quickly and no one else gets sick.  I have a to-do list 86 miles long, but I trust God to provide the grace I need breath by breath.  And it may not all get done, and it probably won’t all go perfectly, but that’s ok too.  BUT GOD…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“When every day is just another struggle / And every choice is an act of war / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for / When it feels like I’ll never make it / When my heart’s crying out for more / Gotta pray, gotta press on to the prize worth fighting for.” (“Prize Worth Fighting For” Jamie Kimmett)

“I hear the whisper underneath your breath / I hear you whisper, you have nothing left / I will send out an army / To find you in the middle of darkest night / It’s true, I will rescue you / I will never stop marching / To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight / It’s true, I will rescue you. (“Rescue”  Lauren Daigle)

“Now I have resurrection power / living on the inside Jesus / You have given us freedom No longer bound by sin and darkness / living in the light of Your goodness / You have given us freedom Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, my chains are gone! Freedom, You have given us freedom, You have given us freedom, HALLELUJAH!” (“Resurrection Power” Chris Tomlin)

“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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Grace

Grace.  Defined as “the unmerited favor of God toward man.”  It’s the good we get that we don’t deserve.  Oh, how we need grace.  It’s something I’m always begging God for more of, and I’m so thankful that it’s something He never runs out of.  I’m counting on heaping helpings of that grace to get me through this summer with all these kiddos and all the big changes that are coming this fall. 

I am thankful for GRACE. 

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One of my kiddos had a pretty bad day.  Well, pretty much it’s been A BUNCH of bad days piggybacked on top of each other.  And I’ve had to discipline a lot. Like a LOT LOT.  And it left me feeling discouraged and sour and like the World’s Meanest Mommy.  But Saturday morning, I stretched my my arms open, and this child crawled up into my lap. 

I whispered, “I love you,”

and they said, “I love you too. 

And I said, “Do you know I love you even when I get onto you? 

Yes,” 

And do you know WHY I get onto you? 

They replied, “because you love me and so I can learn from my mistakes and do better next time.” 

Deep sigh. Big squeeze.  Tiny tears from mama’s eyes that I tried to hide in their hair as I held them tighter.  Ok, maybe not the ACTUAL meanest mommy in the WHOLE world.  Thankful to my loving father who gives me the grace I need to be a mama to so many.  And the unique grace He gives me to be the exact mama that each ONE CHILD needs at that moment.  God, give me the grace to extend that grace to others, especially my children. 

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~ for my flyswatter.  Anybody else dealing with 834,267,559 flies?  

~ for our cardinal family.  I’ve been captivated by watching their nest and the comings and goings of the parents.  Now there’s a baby bird out of the nest, not yet strong enough to fly.  It hides itself all around our yard and the neighbors’, and the Mama and Daddy cardinals tirelessly tend to it and bring it food. So far our benevolent neighbors have not called the cops on me for climbing my ladder and constantly peering over their fence with my telescopic camera lens.  

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~ for the community of prayer warriors who rise up around a need.  If you follow me on social media, you likely saw my urgent prayer request for our beloved nurse Kelly and her infant son, Lucas.  He has been battling rhabdoid tumors for several months and just recently has started experiencing a decline of appetite and increased pain.  A CT this week indicated a new tumor.  And y’all hit your knees. Kelly was thankful to report that the mass was not attached to his brain, and that the insertion of an NG tube should provide a nutritional boost to increase Lucas‘s strength as he continues his brave fight.  How I wish there was no cancer for him to fight, but today we have the grace to praise God for every piece of encouraging news!  You can follow Lucas’ journey on Caringbridge.

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~ It’s been a big week for our oldest daughter.  Monday Josh, Carson Grace, and I drove to Marshall, TX for New Student Orientation at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU).  It’s such a beautifully manicured campus, and all the staff and other students and families were so friendly.  After the first general welcome session, all students and parents headed to meet with the heads of the major they had chosen, for Carson Grace, that was Communications.  She hasn’t been sure what exactly she’d want to do in that field, but she has some interests and strengths in those areas, so it seemed like a good place to start.  Next was a meeting with the department heads for whatever you want to minor in: Music/Worship Arts.  Carson Grace was eager to meet with these professors and discuss the choirs and worship team. The head of the Worship Arts department begin to ask lots of specific, pointed questions: “So why are you here?“ “What are you passionate about?” After just a few of her responses, he said… “I don’t know, but you sound like a music major to me!”  That was such an unexpected, abrupt shift that caught all of us unaware.  But when he asked her, “Do you like music? Or do you LOVE music?  For me…” he said, “I’m interested in a lot of things, but music is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what makes me tick.”  And her eyes filled with tears as she said, “ I love it.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”  

And that was that. She’s a music major!  Thank you God for the grace to take a step out in faith.

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~ also this week, Carson Grace had her very first job interview.  After about 25 minutes, she walked out with the job!  

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~ not only that, Carson Grace, our sweet girl, our Princess Peanut, turned 18.  I swear, yesterday she was a baby.  A bitsy, blue-eyed baby, sucking her thumb behind a pink crocheted blanket.  A tiny, sassy toddler shaking her thing to the Wiggles “Pony Song.”  We’ve ridden the predictably unpredictable hormone roller coaster, cried happy tears and tears of frustration, and learned the hard way how to communicate.  Josh says she’s just like me: sometimes that’s a compliment, and sometimes it’s most assuredly NOT.  But as I look at her as a young adult, a young woman, my heart is bursting with so much pride and so much hope for her future that it genuinely feels like pain.  

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Grace was my grandmother.  My dad‘s mom.  She was a farmer, a school bus driver, 4-H leader, and a world traveler.  She knew how to cook and sew and her house was cozy and neat as a pin. 

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I pretty much grew up at her house, at her kitchen table, in her garden, and in her basement.  I spent all my time with her when I was little bitty, but when I grew older, I spent time with her by choice.  I would ride my bicycle 3 miles down the treacherously steep loose gravel road that led from our family farm to her house in the valley.  I loved to be at Grandma’s house.  I played “olden days,” dressing up in her old furs and hats from the 50s and the reading the old primers she had saved from when my dad was a little boy.  I waded and fished in the creeks around her house.  We watched deer and birds and squirrels from her windows, and watched the trees explode into color on the bluffs that rose up around her on every side.  She was feminine, but not girlie, and I never remember seeing her wear a drop of makeup.  She loved me unconditionally and was my biggest fan and supporter through every endeavor.  I loved my Grandma.  And even though I never expected to have a daughter, when I found out that my second baby was going to be a girl, it was a given that I would name her Grace.  Josh and I traveled from Texas back to Minnesota about once a year to visit early in our marriage, and each time it was more heartbreaking to see Grandma’s health decline as Parkinson’s Disease robbed her of her physical strength and independence.  She passed away when Carson Grace was 6.   But I will always treasure the memories I have of her, and I love sharing them with my kids.  I know she would have gotten such a kick out of my crazy oversized Tribe, and they all would have loved her just like I did.  And I’m so proud that my first-born daughter bears the name of such a special lady, one who lived up to the definition of the word. 

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Let’s love lavishly and extend extra measures of grace this week!  Everybody else needs it just as much as you do.

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:7-9 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 

Autopilot OFF

~ for the most astounding surprise I could never have imagined.  My DAD showed up on my doorstep!!!!  I was born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, and all my family still lives up in that region.  Life never ceases to be busy on both sides, we have constantly been adding more children, and then there was STUPID CANCER.  So although we regularly keep in touch, somehow it has been more than 12 years since I’ve seen my dad!!!!  That means he hadn’t even MET SIX OF HIS GRANDCHILDREN!  What a treasure to get to introduce my dad and stepmom, and to show them around our home and our city.  I’m so proud of my kids, they are so full of love and share it without hesitation.  They showed out and entertained, drew pictures and crawled in laps.  We had a wonderful concentrated visit, and then Dad and Jennifer were right back in their car for the 14 hour drive north.  I tried to talk them into staying, but it was just a whirlwind spur of the moment trip, and they had spring chores to get back to.  However surprising, however brief, I am so utterly amazed and thankful for the wonderful visit, and for such a special memory for my kids.  

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~ for God’s mighty hand of protection, and those moments of gravity when we get a glimpse of how much worse things could have been without Him.  Thank You Lord for Your Mercy.  Carson Grace sang a wonderful song today for offering, “Remember,” by Lauren Daigle.  Hard times will inevitably come, but we have to take the time to remember all the ways He has shown himself faithful.  You can enjoy her song here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LHJ4AQgROY 

~ for our first trip to the library of the summer. I’m so thankful that my kids still enjoy it.  They love fun books and they LOVE the experience of so many choices at the library.  This time we came home with lots of superheroes, Barbie, American Girl, and backyard bird books. Now, to keep track of them all and return them on time….

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Our new hummingbird feeder is just like the one in Sawyer’s library book!

~ for the toilet in our guest bathroom.  It has experienced multiple degrees of brokenness over the last several months, and it has been a real hassle.  This week, Josh fixed it – like FOR REAL fixed it.  You can now go in that bathroom and do what you need to do in there, with FULL CONFIDENCE that the commode will perform its intended purpose.  And I’m just absolutely thrilled about it!

~ for steady work for Giddy Up & Whoa.  We’ve done several signs for graduation and Mother’s Day, and even for a mortgage company as closing gifts.  I’ve been thankful to paint at least a little almost every day. 

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~ for the brilliantly colored cardinal families that dwell in our backyard. They flit back and forth all day, and chatter to us every morning.  And for Sawyer’s enthusiasm for our new hummingbird feeder.  He read about hummingbirds in his new book, and helped mix up the nectar and hang the feeder.  Looking forward to birdwatching this summer!

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~for a fun outing at the shooting range for Cooper. 

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~ for a beautiful weekend spent in and by the pool. It’s getting hot…and the kids (and Bear) are LOVING the cool water.  We’ve worked so hard back there over the last year and a half….ripping out shrubs, hauling rocks, staining and repairing the fence, resurfacing the aged decking….it is such an amazing transformation.  It was nice before, but now it is truly an oasis.  Tatum K has gotten her first taste of the water, and she loves to (swim) “WEEM!  I weem, Mama!”  I can tell she will be a little water bug like the others.  Josh and I still cannot believe how blessed we are to live in this home, and look forward to sharing it with our kids and their friends for years to come.  

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It’s nice to have some lazy days.  Our schedule has been pretty open, few appointments or plans.  Especially after the breakneck pace at the end of school, it’s refreshing to have a reprieve.  Josh and I were reminded today how we don’t take “nothing days” for granted any more.   When you’ve spent any significant length of time in a hospital, or separated from the ones you love by trauma, there’s nothing more refreshing than a “normal” day at home.  But I can already tell it’s time to get into a routine.  Embracing our “normal” days doesn’t necessarily have to mean mindless coasting.  I remember when it dawned on me one time, you can’t coast anywhere but down.  You’ll never get better, stronger, or wiser on autopilot.  Growth takes effort.  And even if continued growth wasn’t the goal…you can’t even MAINTAIN status quo without effort!  Skillfully sculpted muscles atrophy, the sparkling blue pool turns murky green, the meticulously manicured lawn becomes a wilderness.  And I need to remind myself of the truth I want my kids to learn: WORK IS GOOD!   Of course, rest is good too, critically important in fact, but like anything else, it’s all about balance.  Body, mind, and spirit need training and exercise to stay sharp. Our family just needs a little structure to our day, some punctuation.  And as much as I hate to admit it, that extra hour of sleep in the morning doesn’t yield a more rested, more patient mama.  Getting up and investing that hour in the Word does.  And then in turn, investing that return into reading to my kids, swimming with my kids, LISTENING TO MY KIDS.  I can already tell a negative impact in our home from one week of unstructured cruise control.  Time to turn off auto pilot, set an alarm, dig into God’s Word, and launch into our days with purpose, instead of just letting the day run us over.  Of course we will have spontaneous days, days with unexpected detours.  Some days will be wildly successful and others will be a dismal failure.  But I know we will enjoy the journey more if we stay the course with a balance of consistency and flexibility.  So we will give it a go this week. 

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Let’s love on purpose this week!  Thanks for giving thanks with me!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”  Psalm 77:11-14

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.””  Joshua 4:4-7

Risen

I am thankful that even though the beginning of this week started off ROUGH, it got better and ended GLORIOUS!

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Happy Easter from the Rucker Tribe!

Sawyer woke up Monday morning feeling bad.  Really bad.  His first words were, “Mama…my lungs hurt when I ‘breave.’”  Well I surely didn’t like the sound of that!  I laid hands on him and prayed over him right away, observed that he didn’t have fever, and encouraged him to eat some breakfast and drink some milk.  I knew he had coughed a lot over the night, and hoped he would feel better with some warm oatmeal in his throat.  But after just one bite, he laid his little curls down on the counter and said quietly, “Mama, I don’t sink I should go to school.”   That is completely out of character for Sawyer.  He absolutely LOVES school, and never wants to stay home.  So I tucked him back in bed.  He immediately fell fast asleep, and I immediately called for a pediatrician appointment, fearing a recurrence of pneumonia.  At his appointment, all appeared normal.  Still no fever, no breath sounds indicating pneumonia… but with every breath, Sawyer clutched his chest.  Even when Dr. Everett would distract him and get him giggling, he would double over and grab his chest, right over his heart.  This was enough concern to the doctor that he felt a chest X-ray was warranted to rule out pneumonia or pneumothorax (collapsed lung).  So from the pediatrician to the imaging facility we went.  That in itself was stressful enough, not to mention dragging a cranky five-year-old and an even crankier two-year-old from one waiting room to another, with no pre-prepared keep-busy activities or snacks….we were all stretched PRETTY THIN after 2 1/2 hours.  But the receptionist was very kind and brought out clipboards with paper and pens, and that got my grumpy loves over the hump until Sawyer got called back.  The X-ray itself was quick and easy, Sawyer had no anxiety at all, and it was a far more peaceful experience than his last X-ray years ago (having to be strapped down as a toddler).  Then came the agonizing WAIT for results.  BUT GOD.  We finally got a call after 5pm that the X-ray was clear (HALLELUJAH!) of pneumonia and pneumothorax, but that there was some irritation on the lung lining (pleurisy) in the area corresponding to his pain.  Long, stressful day, but so very thankful for excellent care and good news.  (And Sawyer is now feeling great!  Thank You Jesus for protection and speedy healing!)

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~ for a fun but far-too-short visit from “Cousin” Jen (dear friend who has crossed the threshold and become family).  She came all the way from Dallas to watch Cooper and Carson Grace’s games this week!  So fun cramming in a visit and catching one another up on life. 

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~ for an emotionally charged morning celebrating the GCS Senior class.  The Seniors walked the halls of the elementary school in their caps and gowns, with the young students lined up giving them all high-fives.  I can imagine how big and grown up the Seniors looked to the little kids, but to all the parents looking on, those were our babies.  Only yesterday, Carson Grace was in her kindergarten class, with a little custom stool under her tiny feet because she couldn’t reach the floor.  Now she is graduating in a few short weeks.  

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~ for Gavin’s character quality award, Enthusiasm.   Such a fitting award, as G-Man is exactly that: bright, creative and overflowing with enthusiasm.  He is always questioning, always creating, always learning.  The Lord has an incredible future for this boy. 

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~ that I intercepted the less-than-flattering time-lapse video that my darling Tatum K filmed of me in the dressing room at Old Navy before she texted it to someone!!!!!  

~ for a hopping week for Giddyup & Whoa!  Finished 2 custom orders and 7 more pieces for the Gresham Barn Sale!  Vintage & Co. even featured us on their page!  Busy sign week means not much progress on the beams…but I know they’re waiting for me, a project literally hanging over my head….

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~ for a fun and tasty lunch with a friend.  So grateful for sisters to lean on and to do life with. 

~ that every bad day comes to an end.  Some days just stink.  Not life-or-death cancer days…just run of the mill, cranky, overtired kids + cranky, overwhelmed mama + a to-do list a mile long = YUCK.  You know when you park the car and each of the children exit the vehicle with an, “I’m sorry Mama,” that it’s been a rough day.  But thank You Lord for new mercies every morning!

~ for a fun-packed Easter weekend: school holiday, sleepovers, ice-cold swimming, a much-needed date night, yard work, egg hunts, Easter baskets, Resurrection rolls for breakfast, powerful worship service and message, lunch with all the cousins, cake! and pie! and WAAAAY too much candy! I am thankful for every single time I get to be with all our children together…even if it wasn’t until the very end of the day (Colton had to work).  I don’t take it for granted any more. 

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~ most of all, I’m so thankful for the miracle of Easter.  That Jesus, pure and sinless, willingly chose the Cross for my sin and for yours.  Friday and Saturday we grieve for all He endured.  But Sunday.  Sunday!  Sunday morning is what it’s all about!  The stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty, and JESUS IS ALIVE!   Death couldn’t hold our Savior, and thanks to Him, it can’t hold me!   No matter what we endure on this earth, if we chose Jesus, we are promised to live in eternity with Him!  There is no day more worthy of celebrating, flipping over backwards with all-surpassing JOY than today!  HE IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!!

Please hold dear Georgia and the Crim family in your prayers.  She had her first brain surgery a few weeks ago, and she will begin her first round of chemotherapy this Tuesday.  

Thank You Jesus for New Life.  Thank You that the Light will ALWAYS overcome the darkness. 

And thank you all for giving thanks with me. 

“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.”  Luke 24:5-8

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””  Matthew 28:18-20