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!