It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect…

I am thankful:

~ for a glorious week of lazy mornings, endless cups of coffee, stirring and mixing and baking. We even enjoyed an outdoor movie night with friends complete with campfire and hot cocoa!

But ok, let’s be real – it wasn’t all glorious. Teenagers were teenagers, kids got on each other’s nerves, on my nerves, and the kitchen looked like a war zone. But it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

~ for a wonderful, memorable Thanksgiving. The food was delicious and plentiful, and the company was rowdy and loud and jolly. We paused to reflect on Thanksgivings past, and shared hilarious and heartfelt stories from years gone by. We chicken danced in our chicken hats. It wasn’t all refined and Norman Rockwell-esque. It rained all day, we had to drastically modify Pumpkin Olympics, some folks were late, and some couldn’t come at all. Someone locked the kids out of the playhouse, and there were no sweet potatoes. But it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

~ for an awesome post-Thanksgiving huddle at our house to stuff our faces a second time with leftovers while cheering on the Carthage Bulldogs to a playoff victory. We ate and munched on delicious fried turkey and succulent glazed ham, and even sweet potatoes made it to the party. Family and old and new friends filled our little home, and we all had a ball. Not quite everyone was able to make it, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

We started the swap from fall decor to Christmas today. Everything is different from years’ past, and we are figuring it out as we go along. We don’t have the space we used to have, or the ability to DIY or modify anything. I get kind of grumpy and overwhelmed when faced with the seemingly monumental tasks before me (but remain too much of a control freak to delegate). PTSD and anxiety love to creep in (or clobber) unexpectedly, and rob the joy from the simple pleasures like watching the kids overflow with excitement as familiar decorations emerge from their boxes.

But I’m thankful for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. We miss our loved ones who are gone while we hold tight the ones who are here another year. We wipe up the spilled cocoa and add a few more marshmallows to the cup. We eat the burned cookies and ignore the clumpy icing. We run endless errands in violent traffic and spend more money than we should even when we promised we’d stick to the budget this year. We’ll get the wrong size sweater or forget to make a vegan side dish for Aunt Fran and forget the White Elephant gift for the party.

But Jesus still came.

He left His perfect home with His perfect Father to come down to this broken world.

He came to a terrified teenager in a filthy barn, to a people who didn’t recognize or appreciate Him.

Yet He came.

He came and He stayed and He taught and He healed and He LOVED.

And then He willingly sacrificed Himself for our sins, the sins of then and the sins of now and all the sins yet to be.

Imperfect life.

Perfectly beautiful Savior.

Lord, give us eyes and hearts to see YOU in the midst of the mayhem we create.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Small

I am thankful:

~ for a much needed lunch with a friend. It may not have gone exactly (or ANYTHING for that matter) like we had planned, but we knew it was exactly what the Lord had for us that day. And my avocado BLT was DELICIOUS.

~ for Tatum K’s very first Character Quality Award at school. She received a certificate for demonstrating the quality of “Orderliness.” I must admit that this particular award came as rather a mystery to those of us who share a home with Tatum… she’s quite distinctly known for being a tornado, and leaves a wake of princess dresses, miniature doll limbs, and mismatched shoes in her wake. But since receiving her award, she has clearly been inspired to rise to the expectation. She has been picking up after herself, announcing, “Mama, I’m being ‘orderliness.’” Love that sweet girl.

~ for an awesome night of great food, fellowship, and testimonies at church. And thanks so much Miss Ruth, for sending me home with the tastiest pasta salad EVER!

~ for a perfect evening out at our friends’ farm. What a joy to share a meal in the fresh air and watch all our kids running and enjoying one another. My loves are chomping at the bit to get their own chickens ASAP!

~ for beautiful moments. That is my favorite part of being out on the farm. It’s just so refreshing to breathe deeply real fresh air and look out at God’s Creation.

To listen. And to feel really small.

There’s something…I don’t know, it’s so hard to describe. But it seems like there’s something…IMPORTANT…to having eyes to see what God alone has made, from the most majestic to the minute.

Sometimes it’s just necessary to realign our perspective. God is God. I am not. I may pray to him dozens of times throughout the day, and talk to Him intimately as a Father and a friend.

But He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. And He spoke life from nothingness with a WORD.

It’s good that we remember Who we are talking to.

And it’s good to feel small.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:1, 3-4, 9)

Where Did it Go?

I am thankful:

~ for a few, very few, lazy days left of summer.

~ for a fresh and yummy mini date with my Love at Salsaritas.

~ for the joy of finding Fur-ever homes for our puppies! Thank you so much to everyone who has shared my posts or spread the word! Only 3 little boys left!

~ for Whataburger malts to celebrate August Tonight, a very special day to remember and honor a very special man.

As for many others, our “summer” will officially come to a close this week as the kids go back to school. The mountains of supplies have been assembled, sorted, and labeled. Shiny new shoes sit waiting in their boxes – HUGE boxes of HUGE SHOES!!! WHO ARE THESE GIANT-FOOTED CREATURES AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY CHILDREN!? Backpacks and lunch boxes are at the ready. I can’t believe we’re here already.

It seems like yesterday that we were packing up the moving trucks.

And telling the kids about our dream of a farm…

Where did it go?

It’s been a very different summer. But in a good way. It’s been a sifting summer, a refining summer. A season of dreaming and reflecting and shifting and regrouping. Some parts I would choose, and some parts make me want to get back in my bed.

As if that was an option.

Time marches on. My babies aren’t babies anymore.

Now this little nugget is finally going off to school. (Pretty much against my will.)

She couldn’t be more excited. She asks me every 20 minutes how many days until school starts. She pats my hand and says, “You’ll be ok, Mama. You have Bear and Birdie.”

I haven’t been alone in 23 years. This year my BABY baby is starting school, and my 3rd oldest baby will graduate from high school.

I am not ok. I have planned my schedule meticulously.

• drop kids off at school

• return home

• cry

• eat donuts in bed

• repeat

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

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

Victory

I am thankful:

Truly overwhelmed in the very best way tonight. Humbled. Blessed.

Today Zoe (10) and Sawyer (8) chose to make their public profession of faith through the covenant of baptism.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4) Every child is special. Every baptism is cause for great rejoicing.

The Lord really spoke to me about these two leading up to this day.

Everybody pretty much knows Sawyer’s story. He’s a walking miracle in every way. We never dared dream he’d live to see his FIRST BIRTHDAY, let alone grow up to be an incredible 8 year old with a heart for Jesus and make his own solid decision to follow the Lord.

Not as many people know about our Zoe. Our quiet mouse. Our brown eyed girl. She’s a little mystery. Lots of struggles. Lots of sweetness. We met Zoe as a sickly, completely non-verbal, terrified 18 month old that had been in foster care for more than half her life. She immediately attached herself to Carson Grace’s and wouldn’t allow her to put her down. Like EVER. Carson had a rug burn rash on her hip for weeks! Within days of Zoe’s arrival in our home, she began to respond to and mimic the simple sign language I taught her, and within months she was a healthy, happy little girl, presumably for the first time in her life.

Zoe is a walking miracle in every way. And to see her make the conscious decision that she wants to follow Jesus melts my heart.

The gravity of what happened today has really given me pause. I look at these two beautiful children, and realize how purposefully Satan pursued them. He actively sought to rob them of their very lives before they even began. He must have known that God had a remarkable purpose and plan for each of them, so he tried to steal them away.

But he failed.

Zoe and Sawyer belong to Jesus.

I think about the rumble that tore through the heavens as the saints and angels rejoiced and their lives were SEALED.

I think of Uncle Alan, who spend his birthday (which JUST HAPPENED to be today) with Jesus. We missed him terribly today, but I know EXACTLY how loud he was singing “Happy Birthday to MEEEE” when his niece and nephew came up out of that water. Nobody loved their birthday more than Alan, and I know he was THRILLED to share his earthly birthday with their spiritual one.

I think about my friend, my Brother, who baptized my children, his first time “officiating” in that way. A life changing moment for all three.

I think about Zoe’s sweet camp counselor who prayed with her and led her to accept Christ, and who joined us for her special day. Zoe has made such an impact on her.

I think of Sawyer’s oncologist, and back to the day when she voiced her honest questions and skepticism about faith, and Sawyer’s simple response, “There is an order to all things.” And I know he has made such a remarkable impact on her already, AND SHE HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE PRAYING FOR HER because of him.

I think about all the chains that have broken, and the sting of death stolen because of what Jesus did for us, for them, and I marvel at the impact this day will have on the lives of countless others over the years.

I am so honored to get to be their mom, and now their sister in Christ.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…”” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Light

I am thankful:

~ for Samantha having the most incredible opportunity to go and shadow her cousin, Emma, at her job at an equestrian facility.

Sam has had horse fever for a while now, and our plans for country living have amplified them BIG TIME. But we of course need to make sure she understands how much hard work, sacrifice, and commitment horses are before we get in over our heads. This was a great first opportunity for her to spend some real time with real horses. And let me just say…she is SMITTEN! So thankful for this wonderful opportunity. And Emma is a tremendously patient and gifted teacher!

~ for the unexpected blessing of a dinner date with my Love and Colton! Best steak ever, also!

~ for a fun, if WAY TOO SHORT, visit from sweet Grace.

~ for a great trip to the public library to get everyone set up for their school summer reading assignments

…and for the EXQUISITE hour each day when everyone is reading SILENTLY, and I get to spend time with my new hobby – grown up paint-by-numbers! My sweet friend wanted to make sure I had a creative outlet while we take our hiatus from Giddyup & Whoa, and this project has been just the ticket!

~ for tremendous progress on my latest farm project – clearing thorn-vine-choked crepe myrtles. These poor shrubs were completely smothered, and little by little, I have fought to set them free.

Before…

I’m pretty sure this thicket has been the main source of my poison ivy or oak, so I’m thankful to be almost done! I am also on my THIRD DOSE of steroids, and the worst of the rash is clearing up. I’m SO READY to be done with that!

~ for icy cold watermelon and hot gas station pizza!

~ for watching my husband be the best dad. He’s so intentional with both our boys and our girls, teaching them tips and skills. Our girls have helped frame the barn and tend the burn pile, and Gavin had a mowing lesson this week.

~ for three happy kids who got dropped off for a glorious week at Pine Cove Summer Camp. Cooper, Samantha, and Kora were so excited for this amazing opportunity, and it was a family affair to brave the sweltering Texas heatwave to get them set up with their cabins and bunk mates. I would say it will be a quiet week without them, but I know better! I know they will have a wonderful time, and I pray they press into all that the Lord has for them in this perfectly appointed setting.

~ for a most welcome surprise: a visit from our dear neighbor (from 2 neighborhoods ago) Mr. Stockton. We were sad many years ago when he moved to Houston, but have been glad to keep in touch every now and then. We got a call that he was in town and wanted to “see his kids,” and it just blessed us to pieces.

2016
2018
2022

~ for the sweetest neighborhood friendships.

~ for country sunsets. I can’t get enough of them.

Friends, will you please join me in praying for our precious HERO friend, Bristell? At just 4 years old, she is facing her THIRD battle with cancer. News of her recent relapse devastated her family, and they were initially told they were out of options. BUT GOD. He opened a door for a clinical trial in Houston, and she was enrolled in 24 hours. Let’s lift up this incredible little girl and her family!

More reminded than ever this week that life is a gift. Relationships, connections, causal interactions, all have purpose. Split second turning points: choose to be curt or be kind. Or to be kind or be QUIET. For better or worse, we impact those around us in big and small ways. Are we building or tearing down? We always have the choice to be humbly grateful or grumbly hateful. And both postures are contagious. Let’s be Light in this dark world.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:12-16)

“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,” (Psalms 92:1-2)

Thankful and Tired

I am thankful for a blessed and busy week. I’ll let my photos speak for me…

Had a hankering for homemade apple cake. Tried a new recipe, and it’s a KEEPER!
Not too little to help
Beginning framing in the barn
Somebody got themselves caught under the ladder
Father’s Day gift – new scaffolding! Best seats in the house!
Found our first live snake! Harmless tree snake.
Everywhere is evidence that TATUM K WAS HERE!
Trenching for water line
Installing utility sink! Such a blessing to be able to wash our hands! (And fill the coffee pot, of course!)
Caught us a kid & a cat
Fill dirt
Baby praying mantis
A CRAZY looking caterpillar
Crawfish
Epic turnout for Annual Gold Network ETX Toy Drive! 2967 toys and gift cards!!! THANK YOU for your donations!
Delivering to Children’s Hospital in Dallas
Our Dream Team, nurses that cared for Sawyer from diagnosis as a baby up until today as a healthy 8 year old! Glory to God!
Back out at the farm
Little Daisy
Tired kitty
Starting our first burn pile was a little scary
After weeks of a serious dry spell, God sent a fantastic shower on the day of our fire, helping us keep it manageable. So thankful!
Epic sunset
So very thankful

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” (Psalms‬ ‭85:10-12‬)

BUSY!

I am thankful:

~ for a whirlwind week full of hard work and fun! Literally not one single day or evening free.

~ for being able to celebrate our Carson Grace turning 21. We know God has incredible plans for her life, and we can’t wait to see how He uses her.

~ for a wonderful full week of VBS. The big kids served with old and new friends, and the younger kids attended with old and new friends. We sang and played and worshipped and ate together, and it was an absolutely exhausting week packed with fun. So grateful for our wonderful church.

~ for lots of sweat equity out on the farm. Mowing, chain sawing, junk hauling, and briar clearing.

We work hard and get dirty and sweaty side by side with our kids, and it’s awesome to slowly see our vision come to life.

Found quite the snake skin!

I’ve gotten wrapped up in some poison ivy, on both arms and my EYELID, so that meant a call in to the doctor for some high dose steroids, and I’m NOT GREAT at not scratching! Just part of the process, I guess. This weekend we added some essentials to make it feel really like home: popsicles, a stereo, and a coffee pot of course!

~ for a fun night at American Cancer Society’s Little Wranglers event. Everyone’s favorite was the petting zoo!

~ and for an incredible day back at Globe Life Field representing Gold Network ETX as guests of Derek Holland’s 60 Feet 6 Foundation at the Celebrity Softball Classic. We may not have known many of the “celebrities,” but the event was top notch.

We were greeted as VIPs, escorted onto the field through the players entrance, and Sawyer received a custom Sawyer the Warrior official team jersey.

The whole family enjoyed touring the dugouts and the field, running the bases, and meeting various athletes, actors, artists, and military veterans. We enjoyed an endless buffet in a private suite and met other pediatric cancer families. It was a truly unforgettable day.

~ for the sight of happy, dirty kids living their best lives.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalms 145:3-7, 21)

Summer

I am thankful:

~ for the unparalleled overwhelming Love of Jesus that has poured out among the hurting families in our church. Thank you for the prayers, and please keep them coming!

~ for walks in our new neighborhood.

We’ve met some kind neighbors and are gradually settling in. Hanging up some familiar decor makes it feel more like home.

~ for a great morning shopping with Paula for toys for the Gold Network Children’s Hospital Oncology Prize Closet. We are wrapping up the Toy Drive, and went shopping with an amazing $1000 that had been generously donated. I’ll be gathering the donated toys from all our drop-off locations around East Texas, and I CANNOT WAIT to see how many toys you helped us collect! THANK YOU to all who donated!

~ for lots of progress on the farm!

Brush hogging✔️

Excavator✔️

Electricity on in the barn✔️

Water on✔️

Chainsaw lesson✔️

Cleaning up the barn slab✔️

Rides on the new mower✔️

I can’t express the joy Josh and I are feeling as we work hard side by side with our kids and slowly bring out the true beauty of this neglected little piece of land. When we spend the day out there, we leave exhausted, dripping with sweat, scratched up from thorns, and covered in grit…and truly, absolutely, remarkably HAPPY.

~ for our first glorious sunset.

~ for an amazing day for our 3rd HERO Hangouts outing. We were able to take 55 childhood cancer warriors, siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends to a Texas Ranger baseball game!

Amazing tickets, parking, ballpark food, Blue Bell ice cream, and a WIN made for a fabulous day! It fills my heart with such joy to be able to gather these incredible families together for a fun day that has NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER!

I had the opportunity to share testimonies with a few people at the stadium, and they were truly blessed. Thank You Lord for Gold Network ETX, and the favor You have poured out on us. Out of our very worst nightmare You birthed a vessel of blessing to so many, and we will be forever grateful.

~ for our first LIVESTOCK acquisitions for the farm! We hope they will help us keep the mice, rats, and snakes at bay! Meet Bo, Luke, and Daisy!

~ for a great first night at VBS. Kids are having a blast.

What a kickoff to summer. I know this is one we will always remember.

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”(Psalms 113:3)

Goodness of God

I am thankful:

~ for God’s goodness through one of THE MOST HECTIC weeks of our life.

~ for making it through the last grueling stages of packing/loading/cleaning.

Poor dogs were scared to death, thought we were leaving them behind, so they wouldn’t get off the truck!
All hands on deck to transport Giddyup & Whoa to its new location!

~ for a decadent meal break brought to you by Ruby’s

~ for yet another rite of passage, the food fight extraordinaire: 4th grade Crud Wars for Zoe. Can’t believe we have another elementary school graduate! On to Middle School!

~ for end of year parties and last days of school for Sawyer, Zoe, Gavin, Kora, and Sam! Back to back to back. Thankful for all the friends who helped me get everybody everywhere. And SUPER thankful that out of all the places I had to be at the same time on Wednesday, I only messed up one item on my list…forgetting to pick up 2 of my kids at the correct time. Thankful for gracious teachers who didn’t shame me for picking up kids FORTY FIVE MINUTES LATE! And Cooper breezed through his finals, and now we have a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR!

~ for successful closings on selling our house and purchasing our land. And for thel glorious feeling of being 100% DEBT FREE! How is this all even real?

~ for a sweet, sweet friend who brought a delicious dinner so we could have a floor picnic, our last meal in the old house.

First Day, October 2017
Last day, May 2022

~ for a perfect night for a baseball game – smack dab in the middle of moving night! Josh kept loading while I took the kids to Sawyer’s last game. Didn’t realize until it was too late that all Tatum K’s shoes were on the moving truck!

~ for as peaceful as possible transition to our new casa. It’s definitely going to be an adjustment. We are going to learn to trim out non-essentials and get ultra-creative with storage and personal space. Here’s to FAMILY TOGETHERNESS at its finest!

Yard needs a little work…

~ for the sweetest neighbors in all the land. We have had a truly wonderful almost-six years at our house, and the kids and parents and grands have all become family.

The sweetest gift from our neighbors

~ for a sweet morning date with my Love at our new favorite place…

~ for the BEST DAY EVER out at the farm-to-be. How exciting to take down the For Sale sign and cut off the old padlock!

It was surreal to realize it’s really ours! I can’t express the explosions that were happening in our hearts as we held each other’s hands tightly and drove through that gate as a family. We are completely humbled and grateful and in awe. Josh gathered us all together before we started to thank the Lord for the gifts He has given us, for the dream and the vision He planted in our hearts. He prayed that we would all “be strong and courageous and do the work,” together as a family, and that the whole journey would be an offering to glorify His Name.

We picnicked and picked wild blackberries and spent the day clearing out the barn and exploring.

The kids found treasures and oddities galore. And they actually all worked really hard!

~ for great news! Sawyer got 2nd Place in the Lego competition! Thank you to all who voted!

So very thankful for God’s perfect, purposeful timing. We had been eager to close on everything earlier and get things rolling, but He didn’t line it up that way. Closing on the last day of school and moving the very next day was ABSOLUTE MAYHEM, but it also meant that we did not have to navigate one single day of school from the new house. I can scarcely imagine how challenging that would have been.

Lord, we lay all these dreams at Your feet. We are Yours. The land is Yours. To You alone the glory.

And we THANK YOU! Oh, the adventures that lie ahead…

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:1-3)

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalms 24:1)

“I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God” (“Goodness of God” by Bethel Music)