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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What to Say?

What to say. My last entry was in October and seems like an eternity ago.
So much has happened:

Nathalie moved home and has a job as a baker in a bakery.
Hannah moved out.
Rachel got a job as a cashier in the bakery.
My dad had 2 strokes and one TIA between December 7, 2015 and January 16, 2016.
And I am scheduled for surgery for Friday.

I use writing to help me sort and sift my thoughts. It helps me process information and put it in perspective. And so that last item on the list: One of those life changing moments that starts with a seemingly routine deal is what I am writing about. I am sure I'll write about the others soon.

I have been battling anemia for the last three years (probably longer, but only diagnosed three years ago). Despite mega-doses of iron and dietary changes, my Hgb levels could not come up to satisfactory levels. It was decided that I needed to see a gynecologist and resolve the root cause of the anemia; drugs and diet alone just weren't going to fix it.

One month ago, upon a physical examination, the doctor decided that I needed to have an ultrasound done on my uterus to see why everything was bigger than normal. The ultra sound revealed a fibroid tumor of approximately nine centimeters (about the size of a newborn baby's head) and a uterus that was four times normal size. (A tip for doctors: avoid using the word "impressive" when discussing anomalies!) So we decided I would have surgery to remove the tumor and my uterus within the week. A small biopsy was taken just be sure even though the doctor was confident there was nothing else going on.

Two days before the scheduled surgery, I received a phone call that the biopsy showed suspicious adenocarcinoma. (That's a heart stopping word right there) He was canceling my surgery and transferring my case to a larger hospital with a gynecological oncologist. A week later, the new doctor confirmed the diagnosis, but said he believed that there was just a 30% chance that it was full blown cancer. He wanted to get me in for surgery as soon as possible, and the surgery was going to be more extensive than previously planned.

Fast forward to today. Surgery is scheduled for Friday. (Apparently the medical definition for ASAP is not the same as mine!) I am supposed to plan on 2-3 days in the hospital and then two weeks of rest, with another two weeks of "light duty".

It's been a long month of learning how to wait. To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, "I hate waiting." I dislike unknowns. I am a planner. I like to know what is coming and have a plan for dealing with it. Having two or three plans waiting in the wings is even better. Having sub plans for each plan is optimum. With this event, I have been learning how to step in faith. As each step is revealed, I take it, and wait for the next one to be disclosed.

I am thankful that much of the decision making has been taken out of my hands. As much as I am a planner, I am not a decider. Pro and con lists plague me and I am always second guessing my choices. Thankfully every time it has looked like I needed to choose a preference, something would happen where all the other options were taken away.

And so, I am praying for the best outcome (no cancer, just some funky cells that grew a lot), but in my head I am prepared for the not so good. My take on it is that I would rather wake up Friday afternoon and be surprised that there is nothing to deal with, rather than be surprised that there is something to deal with. And either way, I'll take the next step in faith.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Bittersweet Moments

A bittersweet weekend as we closed a chapter in our lives. On Sunday we participated in our last goat show: The ADGA show at the Big E. It was pretty incredible to see how much our breeding program has contributed to goats in New England as we saw goats from our lines performing very well in the ring with a wide range of owners and herds. If/When Abby ever decides to pick up where she left off, I have no doubt she will be able to find several of her original bloodlines out there. 

Samantha finished her 4-H goat experience on Saturday on a high note as well. Her doe Cedars of Lebanon Dollymadison was Reserve Senior Oberhasli and her doe Owl-Ridge A Fionn's Ciara was high producing Oberhasli. Samantha placed well enough in fitting and showmanship classes, but it was very clear to us, her parents, that her heart is not in it and that we have made the right decision in selling the herd. 

Sam and I both truly enjoyed working with the youth this weekend and will still continue being involved in the 4-H goat program as 4-H leaders and committee members. The six kids from our club that attended the big E this weekend (both for goats and sheep) worked hard, performed well, had fun, and demonstrated all the good that 4-H has to teach about life, hard work, and achieving goals. 

We will miss being involved with the goat world, but the friendships we have made in the last 15 years are ones we treasure and certainly are based on more than just goats. Good, hard working people who will reach out and give you a hand up when you need it. Thank you for being an incredible blessing to our family!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being Tough

There is a saying in the fire department: "If you think being a firefighter is tough, try being a firefighter's wife." Being a firefighter's wife can be the most fun, truly exciting, and best thing in the world. My husband is respected and celebrated. He is thought of as a "hero" by many. Who wouldn't want that for their best friend?

But then, there are days like last Thursday and every day since...

At 8:30 at night the phone rings and the caller ID is some unknown wireless caller with an exchange from the other end of the state. I answer it to hear sirens wailing and after a pause my husband's voice, "Just needed you to know I'm okay. I think we're all okay."

At that point I do believe my heart stopped. I know my breathing did. Rachel and Samantha say that I replied, "What happened?" Sam then proceeded to breathlessly tell me that his fire engine had been hit  broadside by another car; that they had somehow stayed upright, but they had crashed into trees. He told me that all four of the crew were going to the hospital to get checked out. Then he told me he loved me, and hung up.

For the next four hours I lay in bed, praying. I was finally able to speak with him again after midnight, when he told me that he was pretty bruised and his hip was really bothering him and that the engine driver broke several bones in his hand and will need surgery. After we talked a few more minutes, we said goodnight and I managed to sleep for a few hours. And when I woke up, I put on my toughness.

Being tough means I sit and hold his hand while the tears slip down his face as he thinks about the accident in 2007. The accident when his engine was hit by another firetruck and his captain was killed and two other crew members were so injured they never returned to the line. He pretends the tears aren't there and I pretend I don't see them.

Being tough means I tell him it's his decision about when he feels ready to return to work, when I really would just prefer he never go back.

Being tough means I let him tell me the pros and cons of transferring stations, again and again, and again, as he agonizes over what would be best for himself, his crew, and his family.

Being tough means I don't think about how many near misses he has had. How three times now, I have had phone calls like Thursday's.

And so now, nearly a week later, I am still hanging tough. Sam is healing. He can walk today much better than yesterday and the bruising on his hand is nearly faded away. The bruise on his arm is more yellow than purple now.

I know he will go back to work in a few days. Firefighting is in his blood. It's who he is. I will kiss him goodbye, tell him I love him and to "stay safe," like I always do. And I will pray. Pray that for the next 5-8 years before he retires, that God will continue to keep him safe and return him home after every shift.

Firefighters are tough; but their wives are stronger. And my God is mighty.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Things Have Changed

Way back in 2011 I walked around with my camera and took photos of what my mornings looked like: http://movinlikeaherdofturtles.blogspot.com/2011/05/mornings.html

So things have changed around here. A lot!

My mornings still start early, around 5AM. and I still grab a cup of coffee, but no sugar in it these days.

My Bible and prayer time now happens with an app on my tablet and the Bible study book my friend and I are working on together.


The next thing I do is write out the day's plans for those who are home. Yup, just two kids now.

 I get the girls up to take the dogs out and get the chores done around 6;15AM. With just 4 milking does, 10 laying hens and 25 meat birds (which will be butchered in a month), the chores don't take very long. Rachel and Samantha get their own breakfasts and start on their inside chores: dishes, sweeping floors, cleaning up the bathroom. On school days, they setup their school work at the kitchen table.

Meanwhile, I start a load of laundry.... 

Mornings are very different now that we are a smaller family and have fewer animals. I have more time for projects and getting things done, but there are days I miss the busy-ness and the noise of having a houseful.


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

Wheelbarrows

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 stitches...at 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.









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