December 09, 2014


This word and I aren't very good friends this week. I haven't been good at trusting anyone or anything this week, particularly the God who is truly the only One worthy of trust. Or maybe the more accurate thing to say is that rather than place all my trust in the One who is worthy of that trust, I have allowed Satan to slowly creep into my mind and thoughts and put more trust in what he says than what my Creator says.

Over the course of the last week the children of several friends have been baptized or accepted Christ. This started the chain of thoughts I never should have allowed to continue. "Why haven't my children accepted Christ? Why aren't my children asking more questions? Digging deeper? What have a done wrong? What else can I do? I mean, I homeschool and we memorize tons of scripture, we do lots of service for others, we spend tons of time at church, we listen to lots of Christian music, all the right ingredients are there, so what in the world is wrong with my kids?!?!?!  What have I done wrong? What do I need to do more of?" (I know, drama queen much?!) Then one morning as I was crying and praying about this in the shower (it's the quietest place to pray sometimes. Can I get an amen, moms?!?), I heard God say, "Do you trust me?" "Well, I do, but you see, I don't know how much more time any of us has on earth, so it's really important that they are saved now. There may not be time later." "Do you trust me?" I had nothing to say. It was clear that I didn't. It was clear I wasn't really even making this about the kids or God, I was making it all about me.

Later that day we were reading our book about Corrie ten Boom. No matter how many times I read about her or her family, I am just humbled and convicted by their faith. I want that faith! I want my kids to have that faith. It was while reading that day that God reminded me Corrie was in her 50's, her siblings and father even older, when she was displaying this kind of faith. Don't get me wrong, her family was faithful for their entire lives as far as I can tell, but it wasn't until they were much older that they were called on to display it so radically. So carefully. At the risk of their lives. It reminded me of something a sweet, wise friend had told me earlier when I mentioned to her how I was feeling, "I'm glad my daughter was older when she was saved. I had no doubts it was her choice and she knew what she was doing." You see, we're all different. Some of us are confident in what we're doing from the moment we are born. Others of us need more care and time.

But really, it all comes down to trust. Do I trust that God loves my children? Do I trust His word that says he desires that all come to salvation? Do I trust that He will care for, provide for, lead, guide, and reveal Himself to my children, even if His timing and means for these things don't match mine?  I watched a video of Jen Hatmaker last night from a Right Now conference and it was just what I needed (God has a way of doing that, right?) There were two things she said that really grabbed my heart. First was, "If God reigns over my kids, I don't have to worry about anything else." Do I believe that He reigns over my kids? That he is sovereign over both of their lives? Can I trust Him? The second was that loving people to Christ takes time. Now, I now this is true. I have seen it in our work with Afterschool Adventures. But, I'll be honest, I have never really thought if this in terms of my children. But, why would it be any different. And let's be real, others see the "better" me, my kids see the "real" me. Why wouldn't it take them longer to see God in me, see His truth when I am in the way? I must remember that just because the result isn't immediate that doesn't mean that God is not working, even in my children.

Can I trust Him when I feel lonely and as if my prayers never reach Him? Do I trust my feelings or do I trust the God who created me? Do I trust my Savior who says I am loved, redeemed, and His, or the voice in my head that says I am unwanted, unloved, and alone?

Oh, Father, help me to lean on You. Lord, teach me to trust. Teach me to trust You alone, with my whole heart, in every area of my life. This has been a hard week. A hard year. I've been weary, lonely, frustrated, scared, and untrusting of so many people and things. Much more than at any other time in my life. Lord, I don't want to live life that way. I want to live in complete trust in You. Trust that you will provide for our needs, bring salvation to my children, bring healing to my husband, show our family how to serve You with our whole lives, that you will lead and guide me to be the wife, mother, and servant needed by my family and those around me, and to learn more and more about You each day. Lord, help!

December 05, 2014

Love Comes at What Cost?

This has been a long, crazy, full week. But, what we did to start the week has had my mind spinning all week. The first thing we did on Monday was to purchase food for the food pantry so we could bring our donation to the Kidz Choir musical this weekend.

In church a few weeks ago, I gave a challenge to our church in reference to bringing food. I challenged them to do three things: be intentional (make a specific trip to the store to get your items rather than just pulling things from the back of the pantry, take your children with you and let them pick out and pay for their items), shop as if you were shopping for your own family, and pray over the food you purchase and the families that will receive the food. I shared this challenge because God had challenged me with those same things. I had no idea how much this would affect me when we actually got to the store.

Even though I had been feeling the conviction of this challenge for weeks, when I got to the store I was still tempted to get the cheapest and easiest things to grab and get on with the day. I really had to force myself to slow down, let the kids lead, and when I did, God broke my heart. I was amazed at the love, care, and excitement with which they were racing through the aisles to find things to give to others. Some things they saw and just wanted to get because they thought it would be yummy and others they really thought through. Without me having to guide them they wanted to get things for spaghetti and tacos because that would be two meals for which we could provide everything but the meat. They each picked out their favorite cereal. We worked hard to get as much healthy food as we could, but we also wanted to spoil them a bit, too. After all, Christmas breakfast for some families may come from the food pantry. We wanted them to have the chance to have something as special as we would. The kids chose a Cinnabon baking kit. We also got some of the small essentials, spices, peanut butter, jelly, etc. We did spend more than I was planning, but as the kids and I were there I couldn't help but think of all the ways we had been blessed, that though it was more than I was planning, it wasn't more than we could afford. It truly was a joy and a delight to choose things and think of the way families may enjoy each item. The joy my kids had in picking things out was so contagious. I am so thankful we did that together.

Of course, it also got me thinking. What price do I put on the love I give to others? Do I draw my own  lines and decide what's too much for me to give? What takes too much time? Do I decide when it's just too much or do I turn my life over to God and say, "Use me! Fill me with You and use me until I am empty, then fill me again." Do I love all people, as I encourage my children and others to do, or do I really only love those who are like me or who are easy to love? Do I stretch myself and pour out all I have and all I've been given to serve the God who gave His very life for my sins? What things in my life need to change? What needs to stay the same? How can I be the example my kids need on how to trust God, love Him with all my heart and soul, and giving all I have for the Savior I claim to love.

Oh, Father, stir my heart to love all of Your people in very real, tangible ways. Give me a heart for loving and encouraging others. Give me boldness to declare Your love and Truth to those who do not know You. Draw my children to You and mold them into godly people who love and serve You with their whole lives. Lord, begin working, even now, in the hearts and lives of those who will be receiving the food we purchased. Use this small act of love to reveal Yourself to them. Give our staff a chance to pray for them when they come to pick up their food. Show our church body, and my family, how to genuinely love, respect, and serve those who come to our food pantry.

November 17, 2014

What do I want 2015 to Look Like?

So, for the last few years I have prayed about a word that I wanted to live out in the upcoming year. Last year, it was two words, less and more. (You can read more about that HERE.) As I read through the list on that blog post I felt a little guilty and ashamed because I don't think I did very well on most of those. But, I also had to admit that I did work hard at some of them and did make at least a little progress in some areas.

This year, shortly after I asked God what it was I needed to focus on this year, it became very clear. The word for 2015 is: CONTENT. I want to be truly content in any and every circumstance. I want to cling to God, trust Him for all things and in all things, regardless of what is happening around me.

Oh, Lord, help me to stop comparing myself to other wives, moms, mothers, home school teachers, singers, actors, drivers, well, basically, any humans. Help me to learn what it means to truly be content in all things, in all circumstances, at all times. Lord, give me strength and wisdom as I lean on You for this upcoming year. Lord, help me to be content being Your hands and feet inside my home, every day, while we do school, eat breakfast, prepare for bedtime, and all the other seemingly small things that happen here. Help me to be content in a house that I've made feel to small by having too much stuff. Oh, Father, help me to be content, even if this year doesn't hold a trip around the world to hold the hand of the orphan or work alongside others doing Your work. Lord, show me how to be content with less stuff, less things on the calendar, less time in the spotlight, and less me, but more You. Lord, You know where I struggle. You know the areas where I've allowed discontentment to creep in and build a home. Father, tear down those homes. Lord, as You begin to tear these homes down, teach me lessons, and help me to grow as I learn to be content, give me Your peace when I fear creeps in. Give me Your love when impatience threatens to take over. Give me Your boldness and strength when I want to turn and run back to what is comfortable and feels better at the time. Lord, mold and make me into a person who wants You more than anything. Oh, Father, help me through this coming year, every moment, every day.

November 11, 2014

A Little of This, A Little of That, and Even Some Christmas, Too!

Lots of random thoughts in no particular order:

Pretty sure I will not be getting the Mother of the Year award from Sophie after this conversation today:
S: Mom, can you buy me a Christmas dress this year?
Me: A Christmas dress? You have a whole closet full of dresses you hardly wear.
S: But those aren't Christmassy dresses.
Me: So you want me to go buy you a Christmassy dress so you can wear it once and not wear it again because it's too Christmassy? Do you really think that's the best stewardship of our money?
S:blank stare
Me: I am not buying you a Christmas dress. But, if you really want one, you can buy it yourself.
S:blank stare. She walks away without a word.
Not sure what she was thinking and she hasn't brought it up since. We'll see if she mentions it again the next time we're headed to the store.

Why are my children so full of energy at bedtime, but when it's time for school they can barely move and are "sooooo tired!" Really? Please tell me my kids aren't the only ones.

It got really cold today. And part of me got really excited! I love winter...well, the sparkling snow, sledding, sitting inside with hot chocolate part of winter. Today, was not that kind of winter. I am a firm believer that if it's going to be really cold there should at least be snow with it to make it worth our while. Am I right?!?

I love sweaters. Especially in fall and winter.

I also love scarves. But I don't know how to wear them. So I don't wear them very often.

I am thankful for crock pots and soup. Also hot chocolate, snow pants, snow boots, hills, sleds, toilet paper, Internet, and so much more.

Sometimes, being the adult is no fun.

Honest confession here: There have been many times when I am downstairs and the kids are upstairs that I wish they had a phone only because I would love to be able to text them something instead of having to walk upstairs and tell them face-to-face. Yeah, lazy. I know. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had that thought. Please.

Oddly, in the last two years, I've suddenly become a huge fan of non-fiction books. This had to have come straight from the Lord because, until then, I couldn't spend more than about 10 minutes reading anything that wasn't pure fiction. Seriously. Now, my book wish list is over flowing, and none of it is fiction! Maybe I really am growing up.

I struggle with jealousy (and I am starting to see this come out in my daughter, too, which is pretty scary!) Sometimes it's jealousy over silly little things-an outfit, a pair of boots, some one's ability. But where I've noticed it most lately is in those good, godly things-jealous of the connection some seem to have to Christ, jealous of the missions opportunities others have. My heart just wants to go, get out there and hold those babies, run in the red dirt with school age children, sit close and comfort a child as they are having jiggers removed from their feet, to be on the front lines of the orphan crisis. I have prayed and prayed that God would allow me the opportunity to go, but as of yet, He has kept that door closed. I work hard to see all that I can do here, and He has certainly opened a lot of doors I never would have expected here in Hannibal, but there is still so much of my heart that wants go. A little part of me wants to wallow and cry each time I hear of another person heading out to the field. I have to work really hard to trust God and not give into that self-pity. If I believe that God is completely sovereign, which I do, then I must believe that His answer of stay, at least for now, is what will bring Him the most glory through my life. Oh, Lord, help me to always be seeking Your will over my wants and wishes.

I love Christmas. I love the lights, the trees, the chill in the air, the snow, the music. I just love Christmas! But, it also brings this huge war within me. I want to celebrate Christmas to fullest, but how can I do that without losing focus on what this special time of year is supposed to remind us of? How can I draw my children to Christ in this season when I am so easily tempted by what the world? THIS BLOG POST really hits where my heart is every year at Christmas. The extreme side of me just wants to forgo presents and use all the money we would have spent on presents to buy chickens, sewing machines, mosquito nets, milk, clean water, etc, for the poorest around the world. Yet, the not so extreme side of me loves to watch the joy on my children's faces as they open presents on Christmas morning. Oh, Lord, lead and guide. Show me how to have the balance of praising and worshiping You at this time we've set aside to specifically focus on the fact that sent Your Son here to die in our place and being a small example of the love and mercy to my children that You showed us in that manger. Show me how to love on my children, give them good gifts (even though those gifts will never be as good as the gifts You give us), yet not spoil them or lose sight of the joy of the truth that You sent Your perfect, sinless Son to show me how to live and to die in my place.

November 07, 2014

The (Desperate) Diva Diaries

No, I haven't gotten all melodramatic on you, well, not today, anyway. This is a short review of a book I was honored to have won in a Facebook giveaway.

The book, The (Desperate) Diva Diaries: Catie Conrad: Faith, Friendship, and Fashion Disasters is written by Angie Spady. I'll admit, I was really hesitant to read the book because of the title. My daughter, who is 8 going on 21, really struggles with vanity and pride so we work really hard to avoid pretty much anything with the word "diva" anywhere near it. But, I know the people who published it and they've hit it out of the park on everything else I've seen from them, so I gave it a try. And I am glad that I did!

Sophie and I read it together, mainly because I didn't want her to read it if I hadn't read it first and I simply didn't have the time to read it first. It has been really fun for us. (Admittedly, we aren't quite finished, but very close.) It deals with all those things tweens (especially those in private or public school) deal with on a daily basis: boys, clothes, friends, popularity, etc. It also deals with a lot of things Christian kids, or at least kids in Christian families, deal with: sharing their faith, praying for and serving others, priorities, etc.

A few things I really loved about the book:
1) The parents were not stupid buffoons! In an age where every show targeted at children has parents who are so dumb and moronic, it was nice to see parents as being responsible, smart, loving, and someone to turn to with any question or concern. Catie's relationship with her parents has rocky moments (what kid doesn't ever get upset with their parents at some point), but the love between them is very evident.
2) In nearly every chapter (which are all written as journal entries), Catie lists things she knows she needs to pray about or people for whom she needs to pray. She takes her struggles and turns them into prayer requests. She doesn't always see the answer she wants, but she recognizes God is the One to turn to with every fear, hurt, pain, or question.
3) I really enjoyed the friendship aspect in the book. (It didn't hurt that Catie's best friend's name is Sophie!) Within the friendship we see that each person brings something totally different to the table, you can disagree and still get along, choosing friends who support and believe the same things is always a plus, and the importance of choosing good, trustworthy friends.
4) Through her struggle with the most popular girl in school, Miranda Maroni, we see Catie constantly turning to God, asking Him to help her love and deal kindly with Miranda. I'll admit, I was not expecting that in a book with "diva" in the title. But it was a great way to show tweens that sometimes God uses other people to grow and stretch us.
5) One of my favorite parts of the book is that the family takes a mission trip together, at a very inopportune time for Catie. But, because she is obedient and goes with her parents, God shows her some big things while serving at an Indian Reservation for a week.

This is a fun, silly, heart warming book that would be a good read for any tween; whether on their own or with mom. It would be a great weekly mother/daughter reading date book! Two thumbs up from this gal! (And two more from Sophie, too!)

November 06, 2014

So, there won't be any McSmith family Christmas cards this year....

I know, I'm shaking the very foundation of your Christmas season. Not! It is quite the break in the yearly tradition for us, but several months ago, as I began to think about the cost of printing all those photo cards, I just felt like there had to be something better we could do with that money. The majority of the people we send/give them to see our entire lives documented moment by moment on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other social media outlets I'm on daily. So really, we were spending money to put our faces in front of people who see our faces all the time. Just seemed silly. So, instead of Christmas cards, we'll be using that money to help others in need, instead. But, I will say, this may not be a permanent change. It could perhaps be just for this year, who knows. I just know it's the right choice for this year. (But, selfishly, I would like to request that everyone else still make their Christmas cards because I really like receiving them and using them to remind us to pray for others!)

Thought I would just give some random thoughts about our 2014 to help you not miss the Christmas card so much (which might possibly bore you to death and make you never want to read this blog again.)

-2014 was a long, hard, fun, frustrating, up and down, roller coaster of a year in our house. I am guessing that our year was pretty much like yours. At some point in the year we were: lied to, ignored, loved on, covered in grace, next to death, far from home, prayed for, deeply hurt by loved ones, deeply loved by loved ones, facing medical uncertainty, filled with sorrow, filled with hope, and blessed beyond any form of human measure.
-We finished our 3rd year of homeschooling and started our 4th. This was a journey Kevin and I never intended to be on, but it's one I don't regret for one moment. I know we are blessed to be able to do this, even if it's just for a short time. There is really nothing like watching your child learn to read, step by step, struggle by struggle. There's nothing more frustrating or joyous than watching your child struggle with something for weeks and then one day, it just clicks. And believe me, teachers are NOT even close to being paid enough, just based on the need for lesson plans alone. That doesn't even count everything else they do!
-Kevin and I have both come to the realization that there are just some things we need to let go of and times that we need to say no. OK, this is mostly me, but he has had a few things he's needed to stop doing, too. Since doing so, the stress levels have come down some, but there may be more that we need to step back from in the future. If you know me, you know how hard this is for me. I like to do things and help out and I don't really know how to say no. Yep, I'm a people pleaser! We're still working on that. I need to be a God pleaser, not a people pleaser.
-There have been a lot of changes in our extended family this year. God was there through it all, and will continue to be as I am sure 2015 will be full of even more changes. I am thankful that He alone is our hope and security, as people will come and go and those we rely on slip in and out of our lives. There have been many times it was hard to see His hand, and many times when it just would have been easier to give up and walk away or give into the grief that was threatening to overcome us, and without Christ we would have. Through death, health scares, arguments, separations, and every other crazy thing that came our way, our prayer lives were strengthened and we were forced to rely on God more than we ever have before in our either of our lives. There were times it was miserable and full of tears, and times that were joyful and full of laughter. Regardless of what was happening, God was by our side each step of the way.

I have no idea what 2015 holds for our family, but I pray that God will give us the strength and boldness to live it for Him, no matter what comes our way. Lord, lead and guide. Give wisdom and discernment for every decision that needs to be made. Give us love and patience in dealing with each other and others. Help Kevin and I to make the most of each teachable moment with our kids and help our lives to be light in the darkness that will lead our children, and many others, to you. Oh, Lord, raise up a holy passion in the McSmith family!

October 31, 2014

Balance Is So Hard For Me To Find

Does anyone else here struggle with balance? I seem to always swing to one side or the other and can't seem to find that comfortable middle ground. In anything. Ever. Maybe it's the drama queen in me, I don't know. And I am very indecisive. Once I finally do make a decision, most of the time I end up questioning and wondering if it was the right choice.

And I am far more selfish than I care for others to know. Which is, many times, the root of my unbalance and indecision. Anytime there is extra money, time, food, anything, it is such a battle for me to decide, "Do I use this for me or pass it on to someone who could really use it." I'll admit, that's a big reason why I don't typically do yard sales on my own, anymore. If I spend the money on me or my family, I feel guilty, yet if I don't spend it on us, I mentally keep going over the list of things we could have had. So, I find it's better to just donate things to our local community center or to a family who is having a yard sale to raise money for their mission trip or adoption. There is this constant struggle between wanting to be a good steward of all the resources God has given me, yet that selfish side always creeps in! Oh, how I wish that with one good decision the selfishness would just disappear. But, then I would have to be constantly turning to Christ for strength, wisdom, and trust. Without the struggle, there'd be no need for God. Then it really would be all about me and not about Him at all.

Oh, Lord, give me the strength to turn to You in every trial. Help me to seek You in the selfish moments. Give me wisdom for each decision in order for all I do to honor You.

October 12, 2014

Surviving Family Day

I chatted with a sweet friend the other day about family days. Why is it that those seem to be the most stressful, argument filled days of the week? Or is that only our house? OK, not every family day is like that, but it does seem like that day, of all days, has a much higher stress level than it should. As she and I were talking, I was able to think of (and thank God for) some of the things we have learned as we attempt to make memories and take time to do things together as a family. We aren't perfect. Some of our days are more "it's the thought that counts" days than "what a beautiful family memory" days, but we learn, grow, laugh, and love each other. I often have to remind myself that while I feel like everyday is family day (because I am with the kids practically 24/7), we aren't together all day every day as a WHOLE family, as Kevin is usually busy working and we're doing school. And as much as I would like it to some weeks, school does not count as family fun day! ;) So, I thought I would compile a list of ideas that we use and that I've seen other families use to make some great memories during family day. Hopefully they will give you hope and inspiration, if needed, to enjoy your family!

1. Be intentional. Let's face it, in this day and age, if you don't put it on the calendar it's not going to happen. We are probably one of the least busy families I know and we are still pretty busy, so I know lots of other families out there are running ragged keeping up with all the schedules in the house. Get a calendar and mark the date. Mark it on your phone. Mark it on your spouse's phone. If you have older children, mark their calendars/phones. It may help to have the same day or night each week so that it's set in stone and everyone one knows there's no doing anything else during that time. The earlier you start this the better it will be when they are older. (Though my children are only 8 and 5, so that's not a real issue for us, yet.)

2. When possible, have no schedule. I know, coming from me this is really weird. However, I have found that when we have a schedule (mainly a TIMED schedule) we all end up rushed and frustrated and that's when the whole thing comes unglued. There are events that you will want to do that will have an obvious time attached (seeing a movie, attending a festival, seeing a theatre production, etc), but many times you can be flexible and just take your time. Once you get used to this it's really quite refreshing, especially if members of your family run on a schedule all week long. It's like a huge breath of fresh air to not be rushing out the door. This works really well for us because our family day is also usually our only rest day for the week and, really, who wants to be rushing around on your day of rest?!?!

3. Don't make things too complicated. Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun. Staying at home having a movie day, game day, silly pictures day, etc, can be just as fun as piling in the car and heading out on an adventure. Again, with the rushed pace of our lives these days, sometimes we (parents and kids alike) just need time to stay in comfy clothes (or even just stay in those jammies all day) and chill out together. There can be just as many laughs in a game of Sleeping Queens (am I showing the age of my children?) as there is in a trip to the movies.

4. Make some traditions you can all look forward to. I find this easiest to do by season. All year long we look forward to the month of October where our goal is to visit a different corn maze every weekend. All four of us love this and have such a good time. (Of course, living in MO, this is easy for us because there are like 50 corn mazes within an hour of us in any direction.) Maybe there is a yearly festival your family can look forward to attending. Apple picking? Pumpkin patches? Theatre productions? Family game nights once a month? It can be anything, really.

5. It's OK to split up for a bit. There have been times this has worked well for us. Sometimes Kevin and Ethan work on a project while Sophie and I do something together and then we switch. Sometimes we will each do a small date with one of the kids and then get together for dinner or something. Admittedly, since we only have two children, this is a little easier for us because it's always one on one when we split up. This might also be a good way to give each of the parents some one on one time with the kids. Mom can take all but one kid while dad has a "date" with the other and you end with family movie night. You can do this until both parents have had a date with each of the kids.

6. Household chores DO count as family time. If you've seen any of my Facebook or blog posts you know how I struggle with getting housework done. And I am home ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I can't even imagine how difficult it is for those who are working to get it all done. So, divide the family into teams, split up the chores, and race to see who can finish first while finishing well. End the cleaning fun with Blizzards or a Root Beer float. This not only get housework done without Mom and Dad doing it all, but it also give you a chance to train your children in how to properly take care of a home. Bonus: you'll probably have some great conversations as you work alongside your kiddos. (Disclaimer: for us, this also means one on one time with our kids, as there are only two of them and two of us.)

7. Do some service together. Part of your job as a Christian parent is to disciple your children. At some point, this must go beyond just book knowledge to stepping out and putting all that you are teaching them into practice. There are so many options out there for serving together that you could probably do a different service project every week all year long!!! Be creative! Have fun!

8. Be on the same page as your spouse. This is also an area where many family days fall apart. Get together BEFORE your planned family day and talk about what you would like to do. Make a plan (though it doesn't have to be super detailed.) Decide ahead of time that, no matter what, you're going to have good attitudes and go with the flow. The kids will have whatever attitude you choose to have, so it's important that you choose wisely.

9. Ladies, let your husband make decisions. I know it seems like this should not need to be said, but ladies, let's admit it, we like to be in control. For many ladies I know it just comes naturally to take charge and go for it. Sometimes this is great, sometimes we need to push that urge aside and defer to our husbands. Most days we moms make the majority of the decisions for the family (what we're having for lunch and dinner, who is taking who to what events, etc). This is a great time to truly work alongside our husbands and let them make decisions on what the family will do. Do this and you'll be amazed at how smoothly things go and how much more loving and confident your husband becomes in other areas.

10. Search out fun things in your area. Thanks to the Internet, you should never be without an option for something to do. From Pinterest to Facebook, the ideas are endless. Want to head out somewhere and actually do something, as on Facebook where other families have gone and had fun. In minutes you'll have hundreds of ideas. Pinterest has all kinds of great project ideas. There's always something going on and somewhere to go, you just have to get up the gumption and do it!

11. Unplug. This one is so hard for me. I love Facebook. And email. And Twitter. And Instagram. One of the biggest blessings God has given us in the last month was our change in phone plan. I cannot do any of those things unless I have a WiFi connection, which has not only saved us $100 a month, but has also forced me to put the phone away and just enjoy being present with my kiddos. I still probably take more pictures than I need to (one thing my husband is always saying, "Put the camera down and just have fun!"), but I've had a lot more laughs and good times with my family since I haven't always had the option to post things RIGHT NOW.

I know there are hundreds of ideas that could be added to this list. So, help fellow families out and share your ideas with us. What do you do to make the most of family time?

September 25, 2014

"Why Isn't God Answering My Prayer?"

That's the question my 5 year-old son has been asking for months. Just before summer he started having bad dreams and stopped wanting to sleep in his room alone. Then he stopped wanting to be anywhere alone. Of course, we began to be very intentional about praying with him for good dreams and peace and for him to be able to trust God and turn to Him anytime he is scared.

I will never forget the morning he woke up, came to me with tears in his eyes, and asked, "Mommy, why isn't God answering my prayers? I had another bad dream last night." My heart just broke. I felt like a horrible parent because I really had no comforting words for him, either. In fact, I felt like I was sitting in the same place myself. There are two big things that I've been crying out in prayer for the last several months, and there's seemingly no answer. I wanted to just sit and cry with him. I just wanted to shout and ask God what I was doing wrong, where my faith was lacking, and why He just wouldn't do something. I knew none of these would help my son. I know it took me longer to answer than it should have, and I still really had nothing deep or spiritual. All I could really tell him was that he just had to keep praying and keep trusting God's word when it says He is our protector and that He loves us and wants the best for us. I reminded him of the parable we had studied during Sophie's first year of homeschooling where the widow continued to go to the judge over and over again. She was persistent in her request and took it to him daily. I reminded him that our prayers are like that, we can continually take our fears, wants, questions, anything to God at all times.

I have to admit, at the time, I didn't feel like that answer was enough for me. I still don't know that it was really the right answer. But, I do know that in this time that I have been on my face, pouring out my heart to my Almighty God, He has taught me to trust and rely on Him, even when I have no idea what He is up to. When no answer comes, or at least the answer that you are wanting, that is the time your faith can really be strengthened. It hasn't been easy or fun, for sure. There have been a lot of struggles and ups and downs as I have had to struggle with what I want verses being willing to trust and follow God and being OK with His will over mine. There are a lot of questions still unanswered. There are still a lot of things that I desire to see happen, but have no idea if they will ever come to be. One of the hardest things in this is continuing to go to Him in prayer. When my prayers aren't answered, I just want to throw in the towel and be done. I want it to be my way or no way. I don't want to keep bringing certain situations or dreams or desires to Him when it feels like He's ignoring anything that has to do with those things.

 I am also, very slowly, learning to trust and let go of my own control. And isn't that a huge part of what this Christian life is all about? Letting go of our control and giving it over to God? I mean, He's the creator of the universe. He holds all things together. In Him, all things live and move and have their being. Isn't He much better suited to being in control, anyway?

I must be honest, I really want God to answer Ethan's prayer. To make all the bad dreams stop so that Ethan can declare to me one morning, "Mommy! God answered my prayer! No bad dreams!" In my limited human mind I can't help but think it would be so cool for Ethan to see his prayers answered. How could that not be what brings God the most glory? What rejoicing would go on in this house! Surely that would be what would draw Ethan to Christ and show him how much God cares for him. But, I'm not God. I don't see the whole picture. I don't know what will draw Ethan. I don't know just how things will work out and what E needs most for God to be most real to him. If continuing to have the dreams will draw Ethan to pray more fervently and spend more time with God (I have noticed him wanting to read more Bible stories where people are in scary situations; Daniel, the fiery furnace, etc), then I need to be OK that God's answer isn't my answer. Sometimes, if we got the answer we wanted, we'd simply say "thank You" and then move on, leaving God and the praying behind, never giving it another thought. So many times, at least in my life, it's when things are rough and not going my way, that I get on my knees and get really honest with myself and God. Those are the times that I grow and get deep with God and His word. Many times, at least for me, that doesn't happen when things are going well. I so wish it weren't this way!

Oh, Lord, give me wisdom and discernment to answer my children's questions, always speaking Truth and pointing them to You. Give me the strength to be honest with You in prayer, but to always have the heart of "Your will be done." Don't allow me to ever tire of coming to You in prayer, whether for praise and thanks, or in desperate pleas. Oh, Lord, move in ways that can only be You that Your name may be known and praised by many!

September 22, 2014

Choosing To Dance in the Chaos

This last week was..well..I'm just glad it's over. I was warned that 3rd grade would suddenly be harder, but, oh my. I was not prepared! We pretty much got nothing done but math last week as my sweet girl hit her first struggle in that subject. Two digit multiplication with regrouping. I thought it would be the death of us. Both of us. Possibly all four of us. Saying it was a long week was an understatement.

Plus, I was also teaching Ethan, trying (and failing) to keep the house clean, working on our homeschool group stuff, church stuff, and just not feeling well. Which all lead to the serious meltdown that hit me on Saturday. I just couldn't move or breathe or do anything but sit and cry. And I didn't really feel like I had a reason for it, I couldn't put it into words, it was just happening. My sweet husband talked me down from the ledge, sent me out for a walk, and he and the kids cleaned the house. I mean really cleaned the house. I was only gone for about an hour, but I can home and the house was spotless. I was torn between being grateful and feeling guilty that my husband was better at managing the house than I am (I chose to be grateful, by the way.) We spent the rest of the day doing nothing and letting my heart slow down. It was great!

I wasn't really sure I was ready to face this week. I was afraid it would be no different than last week. Seriously, I don't know that I can survive another week like that. Neither would my house. Or my family. I am so grateful the Lord gave me a slow, yet productive day. We got all of our school work done, He helped me to redefine my idea of what needed to be done in a day, and I just enjoyed my kids and school.

One of the best parts of the day was just listening to music and doing a little jig while I made dinner (we'll ignore the fact that it meant my kids spent an hour watching TV during that time...but part of it was Jelly Telly so that makes it OK, right?) I had such a great time just dancing and praising God for fun music. I think I need to incorporate this at the start of each day. I'm pretty sure that if every day started with prayer, Bible study, and dancing, each day would be brighter!

So, if you need to dance a little, crank up some of these songs (admittedly, I didn't choose these songs for deep lyrics or theology, but because the tempo and sound was upbeat, but the lyrics were also at least intended to bring glory to God):
Greater by Mercy Me
My Lighthouse by The Rend Collective Experiment
In the End by Natalie Grant
Live Out Loud Steven Curtis Chapman
See the Glory by Steven Curtis Chapman
Shake by Mercy Me

So, if you're in a funk, click a song title above, crank up the speakers, and dance. Praise God for the joy and power of music to change your mood and turn you to Him at the same time!

Lord, help me to always find You, despite the circumstance. And Lord, because I want to see Your hand in last week's struggle, I praise You for the following that I saw in the midst of the crazy: my son asked to read to me for the first time ever, Sophie and I got to sit and read a book just the two of us, we got to watch our Afterschool kids enjoy themselves at the park, I enjoyed an hour long walk ALL BY MYSELF, the house is clean and I didn't have to do it, there was a sink full of dirty dishes used to feed my healthy family, my husband is still here after the crazy he witnessed this weekend, I was able to worship my almighty God with no threat to me or my family.

September 10, 2014

So, I'm Turning 36 This Year

And I couldn't be more excited to share with you how I am celebrating this year!

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville and visit with several members of the B and H Kids team (a division of Lifeway) to talk about the possibility of some new things with Bibleman. Nothing is set in stone as far as that goes, but while I was there they showed me a new Bible they have called The Big Picture Interactive Bible. (My children both have one! In fact, I even use it during our worship service each week.) It has so many cool features. There's an app so you can scan pictures and learn more about the Bible and even some background information. Throughout the Bible, there are 100 scriptures highlighted to memorize, Big Questions are answered, Big Words are defined, and there are Christ Connections that show us how we see Christ in different books and passages of the Bible. It's great for kids and parents to use together, but also really great for kids to use on their own in their personal quiet time.

Then the Lord put something on my heart that just wouldn't go away. How amazing would it be to be able to put this Bible in the hands of children, right here in our own community, who most likely have no Bible of their own and no parent willing to read it to them? In fact, there may not even be a Bible in the home at all. Of course, if you know me, you know that I am thinking of our precious Afterschool Adventures kids. But, I knew that I couldn't afford to put this Bible in each of their hands myself, so I set the idea aside.

Then, I remembered my birthday. It was perfect! So, here's the plan:

I want to use my birthday to raise the funds to purchase these Bibles for each of our Afterschool Adventures kids. I am hoping that I can get 36 people to donate $36 each in order to purchase 36 Bibles. That is a few more than the number of students we currently have, but, that would allow us to have extra Bibles for any new students or any parents who may decide they want their own Bible, too. (And, it helps keep the "36" theme!) Even more exciting, I have a sweet friend who is going to donate 1 Bible for every 2 we raise funds for during this time. So, we really have the possibility of buying over 40 Bibles to be used right here in Hannibal! (The price of the Bibles may end up being a little less than $36 as I am working with the Lifeway store in Bridgeton, MO to purchase them there. So, I will purchase as many Bibles as the money we receive will purchase, even if it's more than 36, and any extra money once the Bibles are purchased will go into the Afterschool Adventures fund to help us purchase supplies needed to continue to minister to the students and their families.)

Through my time with Bibleman, and also many times since becoming a parent, the Lord has reminded me of His promise that His word will not return void. I know these kiddos may not understand every word they read, but I also know I serve a mighty God who has given us His Holy Spirit to instruct, guide, and convict, often times using His word. Just think what He could do with His word and these kiddos! I just. I can't even! I was really struck with the thought the other day that not only might this be the first Bible these kids own, it may be the only one they ever have. That made me even more anxious to get this fundraiser started.

So, from now until Oct. 20, I am hoping to raise enough money to buy at least 36 Bibles. Then, on my birthday, Oct. 29,  I'll be able to gather some friends and pray over these Bibles that will go to our sweet Afterschool kiddos. I know that's a lot of money and I know many people reading this probably don't know me or the kids who will get these Bibles, but I pray you will still be moved to help me reach the "least of these" here in my community with His word.

If you want to donate, but don't live in Hannibal, please contact me via Facebook for PayPal or mailing address information.

August 25, 2014

The Ugly Beautiful of Saying Goodbye

This week we all say goodbye to my uncle. Just a few short months ago he was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away yesterday.

Our family has dealt with a lot of death in the last two years. Each time I have been surprised and overwhelmed at the beauty I have seen in those moments. Love pours out of people in these times. You see strengths in people you never knew existed. Though I was not there for his final moments, I was there the day before when he took a turn for the worst. While it doesn't take the pain away, it was breathtaking to watch God make the ugly beautiful right before my eyes in those hours.

I saw a wife being emptied of herself as she did all she could to live up to her vow to love her husband in sickness and health, until they were parted by death. I saw sisters and brothers-in-law pouring themselves out so that my aunt could do whatever she needed to be there for her husband. I saw two children working diligently to learn a business so their mother and father could focus on his health. I saw cousins and their children coming together to grieve and share some laughter. I saw people not even related jumping in to make meals, watch children, and provide comfort and someone to talk to when needed. I saw a daughter-in-law using her God-given talent in medicine to ask the right questions, make her father-in-law comfortable, deal with doctors, and have to leave the room to cry because she knew what she didn't want to have to say was happening.

Life is hard. Death is ugly. But the beauty that surrounds death for those who are willing to pour themselves out and get real with those around them is astounding. The love, compassion, and selfless service is rarely seen in any other circumstance. Though it doesn't make losing someone any easier, it gives the reminder that those who know Christ do not grieve without hope. Praise God! This is not the end! Death does not win! We grieve, we miss their presence in our lives, but we know that this is not the end. Hallelujah!

Oh, Father, wrap Your arms of peace and comfort around my family right now. Surround my aunt with those who will continue to love and care for her in my uncle's absence. Show me how to love on my family and any others that I may meet who are grieving. Help us to see the beauty in the ugly.

August 18, 2014

Raise Up in Me a Holy Passion

This prayer started Jen Hatmaker's life interruption. It's been reverberating in the back of my mind since I read the updated version of her book, Interrupted. I want to pray this prayer. I want to scream it from the mountain tops. But, I just can't make myself do it. What will it mean? What will happen? Where will I have to go? What will I have to give up? Who will I have to love in His name? Will my husband think I'm crazy? My kids? My parents? My friends? Am I strong enough to survive the answer to this prayer? So many questions. A heart that is pounding from fear, yet aching to go farther. I feel frozen, unable to truly live.

Then last night at small group, what ice breaker question did I get? "What are you passionate about?" I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time! My first thought matched my dear friend's answer when she heard the question, "What are you not passionate about?" As I waited for my turn to answer and thought about this, all I could think was, "I am passionate about so many things that it's really like I am passionate about nothing." Sort of like being a jack of all trades and master of none. I try to do so many things that it's like there's not one thing that my heart is fully in at any given time. I am feeling it as school starts this year. I love teaching my kids. I love what we'll be learning about this year (well, maybe not math.) But, for the life of me, I just can't get excited about jumping back in. Maybe it's because we just enjoyed summer so much and I don't want it to end. Maybe it's because I know that within weeks my daughter will pass me in math ability and I will have no idea how to teach her. I don't know, but the passion isn't there.

The most passion I have felt was just over a week ago in church when the praise team sang "Build Your Kingdom Here" by the Rend Collective Experiment. The moment I read the phrase "...refuse to waste our lives..." I lost it. Those words were the cry of my heart. Oh, Lord, don't let me waste this life on silly, earthly things that don't matter. Don't let me teach my children to waste their lives on those things. Don't let me teach other people's children to waste their lives on such things!

Now I sit with the question, "So, how do I NOT waste my life?" I don't have a to do list (and if you know me, you know that is killing me), but I do know this: loving others in His name is never wasting my life. The way I love my children and the way I love my kidz choir kids and the way I love the Afterschool Adventure kids may not look the same, but no matter how it looks, it requires me to be emptied of myself and poured out for Him. To be filled with the Spirit in order to serve others, in whatever way they need. It means serving the poor, the rich, the lost, the saved, the forgotten, the sick, the old, the young. It means being patient with my children, discipling and disciplining them in order to draw them to You, and being obedient in front of my children, no matter the cost. It means showing up every week to work with kids who may not remember my name, but they know that I love them and will be there for them every week. It means taking a sweet boy with us to Family Quest every week to make sure he's learning the truth of God's word. It means showing up to Kidz Choir every week, headache or not, to pour God's word into them as they learn more about Him and more about ways to truly worship Him.

Oh, Lord, help me to love well all I meet. Help me to love my children well every moment of every day that they may see You in me and desire to have You in their lives, as well. Help me to love my husband well so that he can be the leader in our home and continue to do the work you have set in front of him. Help me to love my church family well so they are taken care of and are able to serve others in Your name. Help me to love the lost all around me, regardless of their circumstance or station in life that they may see Your beauty and Your deep love for them and their deep need for You.


August 17, 2014

A Prayer for Our School Year

Oh, Lord, as we begin another year in this homeschooling journey, please lead and guide. Give me wisdom to know what to say and when. Help me to know when to move on and when to work harder. Give me a thirst for knowledge and for sharing knowledge. Lord, help me to make everything we learn and study point to You. Bless this time with my children and use it to draw us closer to each other and closer to You. Help me to be organized and flexible, ready to teach and ready to slow down and enjoy each moment. Give me creativity and energy for each new day. Help me to be consistent with time on my own in the word and exercise, as both will help me to be more focused and be a better servant to my children and family. Lord, let them see You in all I say and do. Give me wisdom to answer their questions and help me to always point them to You.

Give my kiddos a thirst for knowledge. Let everything we study draw them closer and closer to You each day. Soften their hearts to Your word and Your ways. Give them an excitement for each new school day. Use our obedience to Your call to homeschool to see their need for You in their lives. Grab their hearts. Change their lives. Help them to see their need for You alone as Lord and Master in their lives.

Lord, grant us laughter, even in the midst of tears over math or language arts. Let me see the gift they are even on days when they struggle and argue. Help us to see every teaching moment and to make the most of it that they may see You in us and in the world around them. Help all four of us to love each other and others well. Show us how we can pour ourselves out for those around us. Help me to follow my children's example to reach those outside of our house walls. Don't let me squash those impulses when they rise in my children.

Draw Sophie to You! Draw Ethan to You! Change their hearts and lives for eternity and equip them to serve You, even from such a young age. Help Kevin and I to be sensitive to Your leading and to the things You are doing in their hearts. Help us to not dwell on the negative, but to look for the small ways they bear Your image and that You are speaking to their hearts. Help us to encourage them and train them in the way they should go. Guide us as we teach them Your word and help them to hide it in their hearts. Bring back to their minds scriptures they have learned in the past that they may draw closer to You and understand more about You through Your word.

Lord, move, lead, and guide us through this school year. Bring laughter and joy to our hearts as we draw closer to You and closer to each other. May all we do honor and glorify You alone!

August 10, 2014

Interrupted and Overwhelmed

I just finished reading Jen Hatmaker's book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity for the second time. This was the new new, expanded version. I felt just as excited and convicted and overwhelmed as I did the first time I read it!

This book is really Jen's personal story of God interrupting her comfortable, affluent life by showing her the needs of the "least of these" around her.  She, her husband, and their three (at the time) children changed jobs, moved, and started a new church whose mission was to love and serve God with their whole hearts and lives out in the real world. (OK, there was more to it than that, but if I typed it here you wouldn't have to read the book!)

The first time I read this book I felt much like Jen, knowing there was more out there than I was doing or experiencing, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  God used her pointing out Isaiah 58 to interrupt my life.  My time in the Word and in prayer should result in more than just me feeling better or knowing more about God, but me being more like God. It should result in action that benefits more than just me or my family.

This time, I read the book after spending this past year working with our church's new Afterschool Adventures program.  We hold this at the income-based apartment complex across the street from the church. I spent a year working with the "least of these" right in my own backyard.  I found myself wanting to shout AMEN to so many of the things she was saying.  While the parents have no problem sending their kids over to church with us for our Wednesday night dinner and Family Quest activities, we can't get those parents to cross the street for anything!  They just won't come to us, we must go to them.  While they live in our backyard, they really do live in a whole different world than we can even imagine.

I was especially drawn to and convicted her comments Matt. 25. Am I really ready to stand before Christ and hear what He has to say about what I did to the least of these?  According to His word, whatever I did to the least of these, I did to Him.  Ignore the poor=ignore Christ. Ignore the hurting=ignore Christ. Ignore the imprisoned=ignore Christ. Ouch! It reminded me that Sanctity of Human life is about so much more than abortion! It also opened my eyes to hard, yet often unseen work, of so many in our church body.  The school teachers, foster parents, adopted grandparents, who pour out their all for others, never asking for anything else in return.

And, men, don't worry.  While Jen is the main author, her husband, Brandon, does write in here as well. Every few chapters or so we get to see what was happening in his heart as Jen was going through this huge change in hers.

Jen's transparency and humor will make it really hard to put this book down. Especially if you are craving something more with Christ and the church, but you just aren't sure what it is!  I have the book and I am more than happy to start a waiting list for anyone here in Hannibal who wants to read it. Even though we aren't all called to start a new church, we are all called to love those whom God has placed us near, rich or poor, regardless of skin color.

Now, what to do with it? What does this mean for my life? My marriage? My family? I really don't know! I know that I will continue to be involved in Aferschool Adventures, but right now, I feel like that's all I know for sure. I want to BE the church. I want to love others as Christ loved them. I want to stop being selfish and love my husband, family, neighbors, and community with reckless abandon and in a way that screams Christ's name. I don't know what that means, yet, but I am so glad that my life has been interrupted and won't be the same.  I was so overwhelmed by this in church this morning as we were singing "Build Your Kingdom Here" by the Rend Collective Experiment. I couldn't hold it in or hold stay still. It was such the cry of my heart! Lord, build Your kingdom here, in my heart, in my house, in my church! Lord, lead. Lord, guide. Lord, teach and mold. I thank You for the changes in hearts and structure You are doing in our church. Help us to be willing to do whatever You ask, even if it means services look different, happen at different times or meet in different places. Move us to be a people in Christ and about Christ. Oh, Lord, revive us and pour Your Spirit out on us. I thank You that being the church looks different in each life so that the most people can be told about You. Show us how the McSmith house is to be the church, right where we are.

While a lot of this may be loving on the poor and the least of these in my community, it's about so much more than that. It's really about loving, period. Loving God and loving others, no matter who they are or where they are from. It means understanding that Sunday morning at 9:15 and 10:30 may not be the best times to gather if you want the lost to come and hear God's love for them with the gathered church. It means asking "them" to come to "us" just may not work and we'll have to do the hard and uncomfortable work of going to "them" and showing God's love to them over and over and over. It's not a one time thing. It's a relationship and relationships take work. That's why it's hard and uncomfortable. And that's why I know I will only be able to do it with God's help because it's certainly not something I would do on my own!

So, read the book. Ask God to show you what He would have you do. Then, go and do what He's asked!

Of course, I have to list some of my fave quotes (and it was really hard to choose...if you borrow the book from me you'll see lots of underlining!)

"Until we are compelled and contributing, we're settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world...There is a call on our body that must be answered collectively."

"All of a sudden, I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted, but selfish, committed but misguided. And that is not going to be enough. It won't suffice to claim good intentions. Saying, 'I meant well' is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and the least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough to one day stand before Jesus and say, 'Oh? Were You serious about all that?'"

"This is what God taught me through Judas as Jesus' table, eating the broken bread that was His body: We don't get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We're not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can't withhold social relief because we're not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can't project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission. Turning a blind eye to the bottom on the grounds of 'unworthiness' is the antithesis to Jesus' entire mission. How dare we? Most of us know nothing, nothing of the struggles of the poor. We erroneously think ourselves superior, and it is a wonder God would use us at all to minister to His beloved."

I could go on and on, but, you should just read the book!!!

August 07, 2014

Year Number 4, Here We Come!

I can hardly believe it, but this will be our 4th year of homeschooling this year!  Sophie will be in 3rd grade and Ethan in kindergarten, so it's the first year of full-on, full-time school for both.  Yikes!  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more than a little nervous!  But, I am so thankful that God has given me some amazing friends, both other homeschoolers and seasoned teachers with great ideas, to keep me going and help me be creative. My two kiddos are so different when it comes to how they learn and what they enjoy. I am praying I can keep up with both of them and keep it fun so they continue to enjoy learning.

A few things that have been going through my head:
-I think I am almost as nervous in year number 4 as I was in year number 1. If things don't go well there's nowhere else to place blame. The buck stops here!
-I have become a curriculum/book junkie. It is not good for the budget, which makes me thankful for yard sales and second hand stores so I can find some fun reading books. I am also thankful for the library!
-Homeschooling has tested and grown me in ways I never imagined. I feel so inept for this task and can only do it with God's strength and guidance. Prayer is so essential!
-Thankful for our home school group, HAHE. We have some great ladies willing to share advice and the kids really love the classes. Looking forward to some new adventures with that group this year.
-I think I have learned more in the four years we've been on this journey than I learned in all my years of school. I love learning alongside my kids each day.  It's so fun! It has also created a love of learning in me that wasn't really there before we started this journey.
-There's nothing quite like that moment things click and your child starts reading. I am a little jealous of those kindergarten teachers that get to experience this on a large scale each year. Reading is essential for everything else, so what a moment when they finally get it.
-I do, however, have a lot to work on as a teacher. Our virtually non-existent schedule needs some tweaking, I need to be better at preparing in advance, and I need to be willing to do more of the complicated experiments and projects. I need to be more consistent with waking and getting exercise done in the mornings so I can have more energy to start my day.

Lord, thank You for this calling on our family. It's not easy and it's not cheap, but it is what is best, at least for now, for our family. Help me to see it as a blessing each day. Help me to be prepared and eager to start each day. Lord, move in me and my children during this school year that we may see You in all we do an study.

August 05, 2014

Lord, Thank You for Afterschool Adventures!

About a year ago I uttered a short prayer.  Admittedly, it wasn't a heartfelt prayer, but one uttered out of obligation.  Deep down, I didn't really even want it answered because I knew God’s answer would not be the answer I would want.  But, I asked it anyway.  And I was right, His answer was far different from what I was hoping it would be.

I uttered a prayer asking God to show me how to live out my faith while loving and serving others in front of and with my children.  Instead of the answer I wanted, a short-term mission trip serving orphans and people I would most likely never see again, He sent an email from Jennifer Humiston about an afterschool ministry that was starting in the apartments across the street from the church.  I had plenty of excuses why it wasn't a good fit for us, but God shot down every single one.  So, with much hesitation, I agreed to go help each Wednesday afternoon.  My life has been forever changed. 

Though it wasn't in my plan, I fell in love with these sweet kiddos.  God used them to change my life and open my family’s eyes.  God has shown me that I don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to serve the “least of these.”  They are in our own backyard. He opened my children’s eyes to see that there are those in need right here in our own town.

I have seen, week to week, God’s promise that His word will not return void come to life in front of my eyes.  Though my children are not saved, God continually uses them to share the truth of His word with the little ones we bring with us to Family Quest each week.  Many of these children had never read a Bible and therefore didn’t know many of the stories and passages that we learned about each week.  What a blessing it has been to see my children’s faces light up with joy as they tell their new friends all the details they can remember about each story.  What joy it is the next week to watch those Afterschool children light up with joy as they tell us what they remember from the week before.  His Word is true and He is faithful!

God has reminded me how deep His love truly is for me every time I look into the eyes of a little girl who loves a parent with such ferocity, whose biggest fear is to be separated from them, yet this parent clearly does not love her back with this intensity and care. It makes no sense to me! But, it makes no sense that a Holy God, whom I have ignored and treated cruelly, would send His Son to die in my place while I was in the midst of such sin and hatred toward Him. God is so good!

This has truly been a way for me to live out and grow in my faith, witness and disciple my children as I live life obediently, and it gets them involved in their community and sharing God’s truth.  They see the same things we do each week; the highs, the lows, the frustrations, and it’s still their favorite part of every week.  They can’t wait for Afterschool Adventures to start up again.   They are just as invested in this ministry as I am.  We love it!  Kevin comes when his schedule allows, so it’s really a family mission for us. This is the living out of Matthew 25, “…whatever you do to the least of these, you do it unto me.” 

July 08, 2014

The Best $200 We've Ever Spent

Our pool pass.  Seriously.  Every year, as summer comes, I start the guilty feeling of wanting to get a pool pass for the summer.  While we do live comfortably and every need is met, $200 is still a lot of money to us. And, of course, my mind lists all the other things, far more important things, that could be done with that amount of money: support a mission trip, help stock the food pantry, feed a starving family for a month. The list could go on.  And the guilt just builds.

Then I start thinking of all the reasons that it's OK to spend $200 for our family to enjoy the pool each summer: we survived the school year, I spend 24/7 with my kids so surely I deserve some time where they can play on their own and I can read a book, PE hours.  I could go on with that list, too.

Then I have both of these seemingly unending lists and go back and forth and just don't know what I should do.  Then I buy the pool pass, despite all the guilt.  And while I enjoy each visit, I feel guilty about each one, too, seeing the faces of those I could have chosen to help if I had given up this one luxury.

This year, however, has been different.  Something I never expected.  As you know, I have been involved in our church's Afterschool Adventures ministry with the children in the apartment complex across the street from the church.  It's frustrating, rewarding, difficult, messy, fun, and pretty much beyond words.  I think we were all ready for a small break over the summer.  I never dreamed that I would actually get the chance to see, love on, and serve these kids over the summer.  At the city pool.  But, guess what, I have.

There are three families that I have seen several times at the pool, but one boy in particular that has been there almost every day that we have been there.  We'll call him Q.  He's actually the oldest child we work with and goes to youth when we come over for Family Quest.  Bless his heart, he tries so hard, but he just doesn't know how to behave, tell the truth, or deal with anger and frustration.  He's just never been taught.  But, he's been excited to see us at the pool each time.  He'll take small breaks from hanging out with his friends to come over and chat with me.  We don't talk about anything too deep, but just the fact that he'll come talk to me is enough to make that $200 pool pass worth it.

Please continue praying for this ministry, for these precious children.  They have suffered abuse and neglect that I have a hard time even imagining happens here in the US.  They are stuck in homes that are not good for them because the proof needed for them to be removed is nearly impossible to get.  Our hands are tied in that area, but we can cover them in prayer and pour as much of God's love on them as we possibly can in the short time we have them.  We have two families now that have moved and we don't know where they are.  They are two of our most loved families, and the two families most in need of God's divine intervention to save those kids from terrible things.  Please, pray with me that God will continue to bring people into those children's lives who will show them God's love, read them His Word, and be able to point them to Him in their difficult times!

If you are interested in helping with Afterschool Adventures or adopting a family for Family Quest, we would love to talk to you!  You can send me a message or contact Jennifer Humiston.

July 07, 2014

Thankful for a #greatbigGod When I Feel Like a #failure

Oh, so many times the past few weeks I've felt like a failure.  Failure as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, human being.  So thankful that I have a loving, merciful, gracious, big God who fills in my gaps and picks me up when I fall.  Thought I would try to be humorous with my recent failures!

#momfail Remember how I said at the start of the summer I was going to work hard to teach each of the kiddos one of the household chores so that they could start doing that on a regular basis?  Hasn't happened. At all. Like, didn't even try.

#momfail Remember how I also said that I was going to be diligent about helping Ethan to be better able to finish tasks this summer?  I was going to follow him and help him focus, give him just one step at a time to work on, etc. Guess what?  That hasn't happened either.

#momfail I still have not been good about making sure my kids have time with their friends.  We spent lots of time at the pool, but usually just us, and if we were there with friends, it was purely accidental!

#wifefail #momfail #stayathomemomfail Housework.  Seriously.  I can't keep up with it.  I'd like to say that it's because it's summer and we've been out having too much fun...but...that would not be the truth.  I have just as much trouble the rest of the year when we're not outside having too much fun.  I just find other things to do that are more fun.

#teacherfail I started working on a James devotional to use with my family and put here on my website for other families to use.  That was almost 2 years ago.  I made through chapter one.  Maybe a few verses in chapter two. And that is all.  I have gotten no further.  I have made attempts, but it just isn't happening.  Good thing I don't write books.

#vacationfail I left my suitcase and E's favorite pair of pajamas behind when we left my mom's.  Tears ensued. From both of us.

#eatlesssugarfail I also recall saying I was going to start eating less sugar. But, I forgot how good sugar tastes. The scale doesn't forget how bad it is for me, though!

#teacherfail Other than buying the books we need, I've done nothing for school next year.  I've also done little to nothing to keep their brains from turning to mush over the summer.

#exercisefail I had such good intentions of exercising this summer.  Didn't happen. Except for the nights we've gotten together at church.  I'm hoping those T25 sessions make up for the myriad of other days I did nothing!

#friendfail I have spent maybe a total of 2 hours just enjoying friends this summer.  I had so wanted to spend time this summer soaking up friendships, enjoying the discussion, relishing what God was doing all around me.  Instead, I've, well, I don't even know what I did, but it wasn't spending time with friends.

#bloggingfail I had intended to blog more this summer, sharing my heart and need for helpers with our Afterschool Adventures kids.  While I have done a few blogs on them, I have yet to really feel like I've helped you all fall as much in love with them as we have.

#planningfail I had intended to have all of the Kidz Choir Fall Semester rehearsals planned and ready to go before July.  That did not happen.  I have now moved the goal to before I head to TX.  This goal may have to be moved again after next week.

#wifefail I can't even tell you the last time we had any form of date night.

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You, not all the distractions around me.  Use these failures, and all the others, as a reminder that I am in need of Your grace and Your strength to do all that You have called me to do.  Help me to turn to You each day, as I start my day, and place that day in Your hands.  Help me to trust You with my husband, my children, my plans. Mold me and shape me to be more like You each day.  I thank you that, as THIS SONG says, the cross has already won the war!

June 27, 2014

My Lighthouse

Not sure if you have heard THIS SONG or not, but Sophie and I cannot stop singing it! The tune is so catchy, and the words are good, too. A rare find, at times.

But, I have to admit, when I first heard it, I kind of wrote it off. I was thinking, "It would be nice if we were always led safe to shore, but we aren't. What false hope."

Then, God reminded me that we will always end up safe on the shore if we allow Him to truly be Lord and Master. If we truly follow where He leads. It's just that our "shore" and His "shore" may not be the same place. Of course, studying the Israelites recently, as they were led through the Red Sea, safely to the shore on the other side, had me turning to this song again and I can't get enough. I read something in those verses in Exodus about the Red Sea that I don't ever remember reading before. It seriously took my breath away when I read it. Then I wanted to jump up and down to exclaim the amazingness (is that a word) of this almighty God (but it was at the public pool during swimming lessons, so I restrained myself!) Exodus 14:19-20 says: "Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long." Did you catch that? Darkness to one side and light to the other. At the same time. And this kept His people alive and put His enemies right where they needed to be when He put the waters back where they belonged. Mind.Blown.

God also reminded me of a time when He was the "peace in my troubled sea." (Which has helped me a lot in the last few months being in the midst of another troubled sea.  I am so grateful for Psalm 89:9, aren't you?!?!)  Kevin and I were still dating, but I was working at a large church in Plano, TX and he was still a student at HLG (that's right, there was no U at the time).  During our first summer apart (we'd been dating about 4 months, but I already knew he was "the one"...not so sure he knew, yet, though) Kevin was asked to join a mission team and spend a month in Uganda.  I knew the moment he mentioned the trip that he was supposed to go.  Not one single doubt.  Then, shortly before he left, I began to worry about his safety.  Uganda is not a very safe place and he was going to be working with some of the worst people in the country.  I began to pray very fervently that God would bring him keep him safe and bring him home.  The most clearly I've every heard God in my life, His response to me was, "I will keep him safe, but that doesn't mean that I'll bring him home."  I was speechless, but completely at peace.  I knew in that moment all I had was trust that God loved Kevin more than I did, knew most what he needed, and would care for him as only God could.  All I could do was rest and trust in God's hand.  I'll be honest, I did not expect Kevin to come home.  I honestly thought that the phone call to talk to him before he boarded the plane would be the last time we ever spoke.  I was truly prepared to never see him alive again.  And it was OK.  I was totally at peace.  God was the peace in that crazy, swirling sea.  Of course, Kevin did return.  When he called from London on his way home I seriously about peed my pants because I was totally not expecting to ever hear his voice again!  God is good!  God is true and faithful.  But we must be prepared for His shore to be different than our shore.  Are we willing to still follow His light through the storm, even if we land somewhere we weren't expecting?  I am reminded of something Beth Moore said in her Daniel study.  Sometimes He spares us from the fire, sometimes He delivers us in spite of the fire, sometimes he uses the fire to take us home.  He may be leading you to Africa, Romania, Canada, across the street, to the city slums, or to Heaven's gates.  Seek His light.  Follow where He leads.  Trust and obey.  "You rule the raging of the sea; when it's waves rise You still them." Amen!!!!

June 20, 2014

Lord, Give Me a ten Boom Kind of Faith and Love

I had a lot of time on a plane in the last few days, so I spent it reading.  I picked up the book The Hiding Place at a yard sale recently and decided that I'd read that on the plane.  I must confess that, a) I've only heard bits and pieces of Corrie ten Boom's story, but never read the book and didn't know much about her, b) I thought she was Jewish, and c) I thought she was in her twenties at the oldest.  Man, was I way off! I had no idea her crime wasn't being Jewish, but playing an integral part in the underground hiding Jews.  And wonder of all wonders, she was in her 50's!  Never think you're too old to change the world, or at least your world! I also thought this book was all about Corrie.  It really wasn't.  It was about her whole family, but really about how God used each of them, with their own strengths and gifts, at one of the worst times in history.  It's  a story about how God used a concentration camp to reveal Himself and His love to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of women dying in the concentration camps.  Mind.Blown.  And the way they risked their own lives, loved those around them at the risk of death, and the concern and care Betsie had for the Germans who were causing the pain is almost beyond comprehension.  How one person could treat another person that way is unimaginable.  The things they prayed, the people they prayed for, and the wisdom and insight God gave them in the midst of such horrible circumstances was so encouraging to me.  I just had to share the quotes that went straight to my heart.  I hope it encourages you, too.  (And Kevin, if we ever have another girl, her name is going to have to be Cornelia Elizabeth and we will pray she will be as wise, loving, faithful, and God-seeing as these two ladies.)

  • Their mother had tuberculosis and suffered a great deal of pain for most of her life.  This never slowed her down.  Even when she eventually became confined to a bed and couldn't speak (which were all of the last years of her life.)  Corrie said of her mother, "It was astonishing really the quality of life she was able to lead in that crippled body, and watching her during the three years of her paralysis, I made another discovery about love.  Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before.  She loved the people she saw in the street--and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world.  And so I learned that love is larger than the walls that shut it in."
  • "Love. How did one show it?  How could God Himself show truth and love at the same time in a world like this? By dying. The answer stood out for me sharper and chiller than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world.
  • After losing one of the young boys working for the underground: "Once again we considered stopping the work. Once again we discovered we could not.  That night Father, Betsie and I prayed long after the others had gone to bed.  We knew that in the spite of the daily mounting risks we had no choice but to move forward.  This was evil's hour: we could not run away from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God's power alone be free to work."
  • Corrie's sister, Betsie, almost took joy in being in the concentration camps, not really even for their ministry for those in the camps, but for the opportunity to love and pray for those running the camps.  "'These young women.  That girl in the back at the bunkers. Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes...' I realized then she was talking about the guards. I wondered, not for the first time, what sort of person was this sister of mine...what kind of road she followed while I trudged beside her on the all-too-solid earth."
  • "But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here.  Why others should suffer we were not shown.  As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not  in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope..The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God."
  • After learning that prisoners were never released from a concentration camp if they were sick, Corrie started wondering what horrible thing would have happened to Betsie (who was ill and died in the camp) if she had been considered for release.  "There are no 'ifs' in God's kingdom. I could hear her soft voice saying it. His timing is perfect. His will is our hiding place. Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don't let me go mad by poking about outside it."
  • After meeting one of the S.S. officers who had mistreated her at the concentration camp and asking God to help her forgive him (which He did): "And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. It took a lot of love.
If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to do so!  Oh, Father, give me the strength and faith to love this world in Your name, whatever the cost.  Help me to train up my children to do the same. Protect this world from the crushing hand of Satan.  When trials and hardships come, give us the strength to look to You for our comfort, peace, healing, and protection.

June 12, 2014

Praying For This Beautiful Mess

As we look ahead to the next year of Afterschool Adventures, would you join us in praying for the following things?  We thank you in advance!!

  • Wisdom and Guidance: Please pray that God would show us just what we need to do with them every week.  In working with Family Quest, we try to do a service project and fun event each set of 5 weeks, plus we do a Bible story with them each week.  Join us in seeking God for what things He would have us do with them as we seek to have them serve and have fun each month.  Pray that He would give us the words we need to help explain to them the stories we read as we lead a devotion time with them each week.
  • Behavior/Discipline Issues: As you can imagine, having that many kids in one place, there are definitely some behavior issues.  And, as you can imagine, when dealing with other people's children, knowing just how to discipline can be a challenge.  Please join us in praying that God would show us how to deal with each child as situations arise.  Pray that we will be able to show them that discipline, when done correctly, is for their good.  Pray that God would show us how to effectively teach them how to deal with frustration and conflict in a godly and wise manner.
  • "Adoptive Families": Please join us in praying for God to send along some couples who would be willing to adopt these kids and take them to Family Quest.  This provides many benefits to the Afterschool kids (seeing a husband and wife working together properly, in-depth Bible study, learning scripture, etc), as well as those in our church (creates a mentoring/discipleship relationship, gets them involved in Kingdom work, positive impact in the lives of children who have very little positive impact, etc.)  Right now I am not sure how many couples we would need, but we'd be more than happy to pair up any and all we can!
  • Afterschool Workers: We start each Wednesday around 3:30 p.m. over at the apartment complex.  While there we work on their homework, play games, do service projects, have snack, read Bible stories, etc.  We really could use more help there, from about 3:30-5:00.  If you have kids, bring them along!  It's been a great experience for my kids having to meet new people, learn to get along with people who don't live or act like they do.  It's also been a great way to teach them about serving others.  They are not only seeing me do it, but they are walking right along with me in it.  You're a college student?  Great!  We need your energy!!!!!  Please join us in asking God to send more workers.
  • Home lives: Please pray that God would protect these children in whatever their home situation may be.  Some of them come from nice, loving homes, but several come from homes with parents who are rarely there, take little care of them, and move constantly in an effort to avoid DFS.  Most of us cannot even imagine the lives many of these kids are living.  I am thankful that several in our church have completed the classes to become foster parents and the reality hit me the other day that it is totally possible one or more of our kids could end up in their home.  The day may come when our Afterschool kids are living with some amazing church members, so I also want to ask you to lift up those who are foster parents/future foster parents.  Pray that they will have wisdom, discernement, and strength to love these kids as their own and fill them with as much God as they can while they are in their home.
  • Bridging the gap with the parents: We have had a hard time getting the parents involved in much more than bringing or picking up their kids. Jennifer does have contact info for most of them and does a great job of keeping up with them, but we still have yet to really make a connection with them.  Ask God to show us who to reach them, love them, and serve them.  Ask Him to show us how to connect with them.  
  • Encouragement: Pray that God would continue to encourage and strengthen all who are working with these kids.  It's hard.  Like, really hard.  And very messy.  Very, very, very messy!  It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.  Pray that He would remind us each week to spend time in prayer specifically for the kids we will be working with that day.  Pray that He would keep showing us the little changes and improvements that happen, even when we don't want to see them.  Pray that, if the time ever comes for any of us to step out, He would show that and we would be obedient. Pray that when we want to quit, but God has not told us we can, that He will give us the energy and passion we need to continue.
  • The connection of Afterschool Adventures and Family Quest: Let's be real, at times, this is a challenge.  We are very protective of both ministries and our families.  At times, it seems like these two ministries are at odds and can never work together.  I think, however, that it's beautiful to see how God has grown and changed Family Quest over the years, and I think this is just another way He is growing it.  FQ has beautifully fulfilled it's mission to train and equip parents to disciple their children. And now we're adding the element of allowing the rest of the church to come alongside and use FQ as a way to mentor, disciple, and love on some kids who need it badly!  Please pray that, as both ministries grow and change, that they will continue to work together. Pray that all families, those that are biological and those put together through Afterschool Adventures, will continue to grow, learn more about each other, and come to love each other through this process.  Pray that there will be no conflicts and no judgments made from either side.  Pray that all involved in Family Quest have prayed to ask God what they need to do for their family and that they will then have the courage to follow in obedience with whatever He has asked their family to do.  Lord, move in mighty ways during Family Quest!  Most of the children attending FQ, both our church kids and the Afterschool kids, are lost and need to know their deep need for You as their lord, master, and savior.  Help them all to see that! Give the parents the words to be able to explain the hard things, to answer the hard questions, and to be real so their children can see You in their lives.
  • Jennifer: Let's be honest, Jennifer does a large majority of the work each week and she is the one that stays in contact with the apartment manager and the parents.  She plans all activities and snacks and she's the one who does most of the discipline and comforting.  Pray that God would give her wisdom as she leads.  Pray that God will continue to give her energy and strength as she pours her life out with these kids each week.  Pray that God will show the rest of us how to support and love her as she leads.
Thank you so much for joining with us in prayer!  We have no idea which kids will be back next year and how many new kids we may have.  But, we have seen God's hand all over this ministry this year and feel confident He will continue to guide and direct as we move into year number two!!!

June 07, 2014

Confessions of a Real Housewife of Marion County

(WARNING: That was just a more interesting title for "this is pure randomness.")

  • My kids eat cereal and pop tarts for breakfast virtually every morning.  I am not exaggerating.  Thaaaat's right, I pump them full of sugar and all kinds of bad things to start the day...well...because it's fast, easy, and they can get it themselves while I am finishing up getting ready for the day.  I am THAT mom.
  • We are attempting to eat less sugar in our house.  Some days are better than others.  We'll leave it at that. (See above comment!)
  • My really-cute-$7-from-Wal-Mart-online-that-from-a-distance-almost-look-like-Toms-shoes shoes don't do well in the rain.  My feet were soaked!
  • I love that Aldi has so many organic products now.  Even the kids enjoy shopping there!
  • Summer's finally here!  And, now it finally feels like spring.
  • Ethan calls Angel Food Cake "Angel Fruit Cake."  It cracks me up every time!
  • I could sit and eat cookie dough all day.  I don't even care about the raw eggs.
  • Sherlock.  Genius.  Amazing acting.  Amazing writing.  I need more episodes.
  • We watched the movie Jobs today.  It's a "biopic" of the life of Steven Jobs.  I am still confused as to why they made the movie.  Did they want us to dislike him because he was a jerk to pretty much everyone he ever met?  Did they want us to be amazed at his change toward the end (even though they left us with huge questions that, in my mind, made that impossible?  What was the point?  Ashton Kutcher did a great job in the film, but the movie seemed a little pointless to me.
  • VBS was a blast!  It was so fun going in a different disguise each night.  It's going to be weird to go to church tomorrow and not be in a costume!  ;)
  • I actually had to wash dishes by hand this week because we had used every fork, every bowl, every plate, and almost every cup and they wouldn't all fit into the dishwasher.  Yeah, I was that lazy this week.  But, hey, it was tennis camp and VBS week, plus there were even some days that were great pool days.  OK, the real issue is, I just don't like doing all the housekeeping things.  Still working on a schedule so I can get better at that.  Still failing at getting that schedule together so I can get better at that. 
  • I finally got most of the laundry done...well...washed and folded...I still have four loads of it to put away.  I hate that part.  Ugh!  Living out of laundry baskets is perfectly acceptable, right?  That way if my kids end up doing something that requires a lot of traveling, they'll practically be used to living out of a suitcase already!  ;)
  • S'mores would be so good right now!
  • I love going to the pool with two children able to play on their own.  I love that I don't have to follow them around.  I love that they will play together or with other children and I can relax and just watch them from a comfy chair or even read a book.  It really is a blessing!
  • The West Wing.  I love it.  I could seriously watch it all day everyday.  Kevin and I have watched all 7 seasons at least 10 times.  I do not exaggerate.  I know.  We need help.
  • I really enjoy Breakout Kings. We found this series o Netflix and have really enjoyed watching it.  But, I have to be honest, the main reason I watch it is the character of Lloyd Lowery, played by Jimmi Simpson.  He amazes me!  The character is written and acted so well I just can't stop watching.
  • In fact, a lot of shows I watch, I watch because of just one or two characters.  Alphas is another show like that.  I watch the whole show for the autistic character.  He is so well done! (Not to mention the fact that the theme song is awesome.  It's my ringtone for Kevin.  Lots of electric guitar!  Listen to it HERE!)
  • I totally just started the dryer again with clothes for church tomorrow because they were wrinkled...and I hate I'm letting the dryer take care of that.  Again I say, I am THAT mom!
  • Prison Break season 2 may be the most well written piece of television in quite a while.
  • I love clothes. If we were wealthy most of my money would be blown on clothes that I would probably never need and never wear.  Probably a good thing we aren't wealthy (at least by American standards.)
  • How is it already like halfway through June?!?!?!
  • I've been reading some books so far this summer to see if they are OK to let Sophie read them on her own.  So far, they aren't bad, but nothing spectacular.  Thankful for the fun classics that we've been able to read together so far.  
  • I think I have become the bag lady.  There are so many bags in my bag for Sunday morning, one bag for Wednesday nights, and one bag for drama.  They stay in the van most of the time so that I don't forget to take them to church when I need them (because, yes, I am that forgetful), so now I look like a traveling bag lady.
  • We were able to take Jamarqus with us for a couple days of VBS this week.  It was so fun to listen to all three kids laughing and talking and singing together in the back seat.  It warmed my heart to see that my kids were genuinely sad the days that he couldn't come with us.  He really has become a little part of our family, even if it's just one day a week.
  • I am so excited to get to read to the kiddos next week at story time over at the Centerville St. apartments. We are reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and I love doing the accents!  I am almost giddy!!!!
  • When I get sent a big group Facebook message I can never bring myself to leave the conversation, even when I want to, because I know the sender can see who has left and I don't want to hurt their feelings.
  • I like still like totally have like VBS songs like totally running  like through my head, like totally. (If you were at CBC's VBS, you'll think that's funny...I think.)
  • Sunday mornings are usually disasters for us.  It's the only morning each week that I have to wake up my kids.  And, y'all, my kids are monsters when they don't wake up on their own.  And, even during the week, my kids (regardless of what time they wake up) are not ready to eat breakfast until about 9:00 or 9:30 a.m.  Yep, that's right.  That's right as Sunday School starts.  Oh, Sundays!  We've tried a lot of different things: get everything ready the night before, have a special breakfast, take breakfast to church, etc.  So far, nothing is working.  I think the next step is to just not go to SS and not go to church until time for the worship service.  I would do this in hopes that they could sleep a little longer and have breakfast at a later time.  Hopefully this will allow them to focus better and get more out of church.  This is a last resort and I am really hoping to not do that until summer is over and Family Quest has started back up.  This way it they won't be missing out on as much.  They'll be getting Bible time on their level at home with family devotions and Bible during school, and they'll be getting Bible time with others at Afterschool Adventures and Family Quest, so missing out on SS won't really be as big of a deal then as it is in the summer.  But, we're still praying about just what it is we need to do so that our kids can really be focused and learn as much as possible on Sunday mornings.  Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
  • Did I mention that eating less sugar is hard?  It's in everything!  And it tastes so good.  
  • Can't wait to spend time with the family at our annual Hazelwood 4th of July campout.  It's gonna be lots of fun!!!!
  • I really loved the movie Mother's Day Out.  I laughed so hard!  It was well written, well acted, and just well done. Made me really miss acting.  I love being part of something that can move someone from laughter to tears to frustration to anger back to laughter, etc.  I am so thankful that I get to act, even in small ways, here and there with church.  It really does my heart good!
  • Why is it that the shows Kevin and I end up really liking only last for one or two seasons? (The West Wing and Prison Break being the exception.) 
  • I had one other really funny thing that I was wanting to write...but alas, it's gone.  I have no idea what it was.