Monday, August 17, 2015

On the Verge...

For the last few months Sam and I have been feeling like we are standing on the edge. Like we are on the verge of something.

A lot of changes have been happening in our home over the last year: Abby gets married in less than a week, Nathalie graduated college, got a job, and moved to Kansas, Hannah will be finishing her Associates degree this fall and is looking at mission trips or applying to out of state colleges. Rachel and Samantha are still homeschooled but their high school curriculum is a lot less "hands-on" than previous years. Sam has eight to ten years left at the firehouse before he will retire and so our thoughts have been turning to the future for all aspects of our lives.

When Sam and I have heavy thinking and praying to do, we head to the ocean. Something about walking on the beach, holding hands, smelling the salt air and watching the waves, eases our minds. The exercise is a nice added benefit!

And so after may walks, prayers, and discussions, we have come to no conclusions regarding our farm, our animals, our kids, or our futures. God has been silent. There are no slamming doors, no wide open windows, no blazing stars to lead us. Just this feeling that we are being called to a new direction.

It's rather odd really. Feeling like we need to be prepared, but having no idea what to prepare for, or even how to prepare. The only decision we have made is that we will hold a family meeting in the beginning of October. We've told the girls and Justin, (he's part of the family now!) and have asked them to be in prayer about it all.

The other weird thing: I am not anxious about it. Normally, if I don't have a plan and a list, I get anxious. I worry about the details and making sure I have accounted for all ramifications and consequences. The girls joke about me having Plans A-C set up, with Plans D-G at least in the formation stages, just in case I need them!

I talk over our need to make decisions with people. I mull it over in my head. But I am not feeling worried, uneasy, or troubled by it. I find I am completely at peace. I am trusting that God will reveal His plan to us, in His time. And the "not knowing" doesn't nag at me, but I find myself drawn to prayer about it quite often. Always with the knowledge that whatever decisions are made in a few months, God has it all under His control.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Last night our church family threw Abby a bridal shower. I was asked to give a devotion. I started by thinking I would write about tools and being helpers, help mates, and working together. Then I read part of an "operator's manual" for a wheelbarrow (who knew they had such things?!) and the Lord showed me a new direction to go in. This is the result:

Wheelbarrows are a real part of life at our home. They haul rocks, hay bales, dirt, firewood, manure, fencing, and whatever else we can get into it or balance across it. Wheelbarrows make work on the farm easier, less stressful, and more efficient. Wheelbarrows can also be fun to ride in or race!
The design of a wheelbarrow is quite simple really: one (sometimes 2) wheels, two handles, a tray or bin, and a brace. If one of these things is missing or broken, the wheelbarrow loses its effectiveness and is a whole lot less fun!

The wheels. They must be filled with air to work properly. Both you and Justin must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Eph. 1:13 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” Without God’s precious gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit cannot indwell us and guide us. Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”  If one wheel is flat, the wheelbarrow will still work, but it definitely will not be efficient and actually causes more stress! Fun is definitely out of the picture. So in your marriage be sure you’re doing your part by staying in God’s word and keep being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The two handles of the wheelbarrow. They must be strong, sturdy, and work together towards the same goal. In a marriage both people must be working towards the same goal. Proverbs 14:1 “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” Let nothing come between you and Justin. Always be in honest communication with one another so that you are always both working towards a common goal. Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
The tray or bin of the wheelbarrow. It is used to carry the load. It distributes the weight over the wheel which lessens the burdens. From the operator’s guide for a wheelbarrow: “It's easy to lose control of a wheelbarrow that has been overfilled or is being rolled downhill with a heavy load. To prevent this, the load inside the tray should be centered and balanced over the wheel to maximize control.” In a marriage, prayer is the bin. Praying together distributes the burdens and transfers the weight to the wheels, which remember represents the Holy Spirit. Even when you cannot utter words, the Holy Spirit will bring your prayers to God. Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” 1 Peter 5:7  “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Prayer makes the marriage more efficient and less stressful and keeps your load centered.
The brace of the wheelbarrow. The braces support the whole thing, balance it, keep it from falling apart, and prevents it from tipping over. Make God the brace in your marriage. Reliance on Him will keep you balanced and supported. If He is the center of your marriage, it will be difficult for you to tip over. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” The brace on a wheelbarrow also acts as a brake. Seeking God in all decisions controls your speed and guides you when there are forks in the road. Another function of the brace is to connect the parts of the wheelbarrow together: The brace is connected to both the wheels and the bin. God through the Holy Spirit and prayer keeps the whole thing together and moving in the right direction. Lastly the brace is used to rest the wheelbarrow when a respite is needed. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” When you feel overwhelmed, take a break and simply rest in the Lord. He will bear you up. Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;”

A marriage is a lot like a wheelbarrow. A life-partner makes life easier, less stressful, more efficient, and a whole lot more fun. For the marriage-wheelbarrow to work things need to be balanced and all the parts must be working together and with a common goal. And now every time we all see a wheelbarrow I hope we will be reminded to pray these things for you and Justin.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hannah's Graduation from High School

On Sunday Hannah graduated from high school at a service in our church. It was lovely with favorite hymns and special music. The graduates shared their testimonies of how God has worked in their lives. The parents also gave testimonies. Here is mine:

"So Hannah graduates today. You would think that by the third child it gets easier. When Hannah came into our family as the third child, we though that it would be easier. I mean, we had this parenting thing down! Right?

Abby was potty trained and Nathalie was drinking form a cup. So really how hard could child number three be? From the beginning, Hannah seemed to be determined to show us...

Despite being the third child Hannah has accomplished some firsts for our family:

The first to see Norwich at 4AM on a Sunday... at age six months while being driven around by her dad to get her to fall asleep.

The first Smith kid to get just eighteen months old.

The first to be threatened with being left on the side of the road... at age three... in Kentucky.

And she is the one Smith girls to never be stuck in a tree.

Some lessons we have learned from living with Hannah over the last 17 1/2 years:

Sometimes you just don't know why you are crying.

God forgives us when we are sorry for our poor choices and we should forgive each other.

Sometimes the best choice we can make is to organize the pantry... alphabetically.

An Australian or British accent can make almost any situation better.

And, probably the biggest lesson that we have learned with Hannah: we don't always know God's plan, be we can trust that He has one,a nd He intends it for our good. We just need to be sure we are walking with Him.

How hard can it be to graduate the third child from high school? Like raising the third child, it's not as easy as you would think. Letting go of your kid and watching them make their own choices and suffer the consequences, is probably one of the scariest and most difficult things a parent must do. But we are choosing to trust God's plan. That He is faithful even when we fail, and He knows what is best for Hannah even better than we do.

My stubborn, compassionate, empathetic to a fault, girly-girl, and third-in-line, Hannah is graduating and it really isn't any easier.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bait and Hooks

I have been doing a Bible study with two friends. We are studying through the book of James, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. After three weeks, we are not even halfway through the first chapter! God's word is so full of good stuff!

As I was working through the lesson for this week, I was struck by an observation that was made regarding James 1:14  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. The observation had to do with temptations and bait.

I happen to love language. I love diving into sentence structure, grammar, and original languages. I think we can get so much more when we dig down deep, analyze what is being said, and then apply it to our lives in a specific way. God's word can come alive for us and we can grow if we spend the time. 

So the first thing I did was check out my new interlinear concordance that my daughter Nathalie got for me. The words that are translated "drawn away" and "enticed" are somewhat similar and have the idea of being "hooked" or "lured". Enticed even has the added connotation of being caught with bait.

At first glance, you could look at that verse and believe that we are to expect being tempted to be part of our lives. BUT! See the comma after the word tempted? The next phrase clarifies when we can expect to be tempted: "when he is drawn away of his lust..." "Drawn away" is passive in this sentence, and unless you remember way back to English class in the fifth grade, that means nothing to you. So let me explain... No. There is too much, let me sum up: Someone (or something) else is doing the drawing away. In this case, our own lusts are doing the drawing. 

Likewise the word "enticed" is a past participle which comes at the end of the sentence after a comma. This means that "enticed" is referring to the man who is tempted. So in essence, our own wrong desires are baiting us, trapping us, and luring us away toward temptation. We are setting ourselves up for failure when we desire those things which are not of God!

So all of that to say that we get ourselves into trouble with temptations when we allow ourselves to be caught up in our fleshly desires. We fail to see the hook because all we see is the bait. Just as Eve did in the Garden. She focused on the thought that the fruit was good for eating and yet failed to remember that God had told them NOT to eat it! 

The thought that occurred to me: We don't see the hook and as a result we fail to see the consequence until it is too late. We're already trapped, lured, and drawn away as soon as we chomp down! It seems the application is one of awareness of our thoughts. What are we thinking on, desiring, wishing for, and yearning towards? We need to be sure our desires are in line with God's will for us. In doing that we will avoid the hook completely and the consequences! 2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I used to think that God gave me kids so I could raise them up to be lights for Him. That my job was to instill in them Godly characteristics, teach them to love God, and to show them how to bear witness of His love for us. And while those things are all true, I have come to see that God 's intention was not so one-sided. God blessed me with these children so that He could teach me!

I was reflecting on child number three the other day in preparation for her graduation from high school. This past year has not been the easiest with her. It appeared that every rule we put in place was simply an obstacle for her to challenge. And unlike her two older sisters, who would cautiously approach boundaries and occasionally lean hard against them, this child would get up a running start and robustly pole vault right over them.

And that's when the Lord gave me an "Aha!" moment. This child in the midst of all the uproar had been going to other people for advice. These people were not christian and certainly did not have the same perspective as my husband and I did. And while they were giving this child seemingly "good" advice, it was "worldly" advice and not based on the Bible. The advice "sort-of" supported our rules and boundaries, but didn't deal with the heart issue that was at the root of the behaviors. Because of this I was feeling frustrated, angry, and jealous. 

Then I heard a sermon. A sermon about putting other things before God. A sermon about our focus and "serving two masters" (Matthew 6:24). And that still small voice, that so often grabs my attention so much more clearly than the whirlwind, said, "Listen." And so I did and God spoke to my heart:How hurt I was when my daughter turned to others and sought comfort from them. How frustrated I was when I gave her good, sound, biblical advice and she instead turned to the world. How jealous I was when she preferred the company and confidences of others instead of sharing with me. And yet, I turned to others for my comfort and reassurance instead of God. I failed to listen to the advice found within the Bible and "leaned on my own understanding." I complained and cried out to others regarding my daughter's poor choices, rather than pouring my heart out to God.

God, my heavenly father, desires that I turn to Him, seek Him for comfort and direction. I was just as wrong as my daughter for looking for another way. A way that was easier, more "sparkly", more inline with my fleshly desires. A way that made me feel good, rather than one that actually dealt with the heart issue that was at the root. 

But there is more. Just as I would give anything for my children, God feels even more so towards us. His own son was sacrificed so that I will not ever have to fear death. (Philippians 2:7-9 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.) When I chose to believe and put my faith forever in Him, Jesus took on my sins and the punishment. I am forgiven forever because He gave everything for me. 

God gave me these children, with their particular personalities, so that I can grow in my relationship with Him. This awareness has given me a new found ability to embrace their unique temperament and substance, and a new found love for the Lord has filled me. Psalm 35:9 And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

So it's the second week of January and I am getting around to contemplating and assessing my New Year resolutions. Being only the second week of January, some of them are going better than others.

There are the standard ones: I want to be more faithful in my devotions time, eat healthier, and exercise more.

And then there are the ones that require more thought, more work, more effort. Some of these are subsets of the above resolutions, and others are stand alone.

I want to produce, save, prepare more of our own foods. This requires putting more thought into food shopping and planning ahead. Planning ahead for raising our own meat chickens in the spring (coop, lighting, feed, etc). Researching and learning about using my new dehydrator and vacuum sealer.

I want to eliminate our debt. A college graduation and a wedding this summer are going to make this an extremely difficult task. We don't carry too much debt since we did away with credit cards six years ago, but we do have a few loans and the mortgage that I would like to see gone. I have decided to break this into smaller goals spread out over the next three years. So the goal for this year is to eliminate a small personal loan and cut our camper loan in half. Next year we want to eliminate the camper loan and half of my student loans (yes, I am STILL paying on those!). Then the third year we will finish the student loans and start on our mortgage. Sam retires from the firehouse sometime around 2023 and we really want to be free from all debt by then. This plan requires really cutting back our spending on eating out, groceries, travel, and other extras. GULP!

I want to be more patient. I am so impulsive sometimes and dive into things with little or no forethought. My mouth runs ahead of my head and my heart is often miles ahead of my mouth. My intention is to do good, but in the end I am apologizing, scurrying to get it all done, and just squeaking by with no time to spare. I really want to take time this year to choose my words carefully. I want to choose my actions carefully. I want to take the time to fully enjoy the moments I have without thinking about the next project I have on the agenda.

And so, I have an app on my tablet that is helping me keep up with my Bible reading time. Abby has agreed to go with me to the gym at least two times a week, where she makes me do the weights with her. I do the treadmill/elliptical/bike the other days. I am reading books about food: where it comes from, how it is processed, and what is in it. I am reading books about preserving my own food.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I am praying more. I am finding that as I share my heart with God, He is changing my heart. I pray this leads to perhaps a kinder, gentler person. A person who is living life abundantly in every minute, not anticipating what life might be in five minutes.

It's only week two and my arm muscles are sore, I have missed one day of devotions, I've completed one book about pork production, I have declined two opportunities, but accepted one after some consideration, and I made one extra payment against the personal loan already.
Only 50 more weeks to go....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Canterbury

My mom and dad went to Kansas for Christmas, where the spent the week having fun with our family that lives there. So our annual family Christmas party was held the Sunday after they returned. This party is one of the highlights of our Christmas festivities. I so enjoy the company of my brothers, their wives and kids and now, as the family expands, the "significant others" that are joining the group.

UGH! He never lets me take his picture!

So much for, "Smile!"

Yes. That would be an entire stick of butter going into the mashed potatoes!

So the "Eggnog Chocolates" weren't so great.

The "Christmas Overload Meltdown" (COM) in it's earliest stages. (Notice how we are all laughing at her? We are so not nice...)

Chocolate temporarily soothed the savage beast...

I think this was Samantha's favorite gift.

Bringing out the heavy tools for the toy packaging.

Dad took control of the knife to prevent any more "Toy Packaging" injuries.

Aerial view.

Christmas exploded all over the living room.

"Christmas Overload Meltdown" (COM) goes to DEFCON 2.

Great Uncle John's gift of 50 pounds of candy.
 The dentist writes him a thank you note every year...

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