June 19, 2017

The CBC Family Tour is Headed to South Africa!

Today is the day we've been waiting for! We're starting our journey to Bethesda today to work and serve some precious people. Here are some ways you can be praying for us:

Travel Safety
We first must drive to Chicago for our flight. Pray for safety as we drive. Ask the Lord to protect the bus we'll be riding in this morning. Pray that the drive will be a great time of fellowship and continuing to get to know each other better as we prepare to serve.

Then, of course, we have two flights before we reach South Africa. Pray that the planes will be functioning correctly, the pilots are rested and healthy, and that we can get what will be much needed sleep on each flight.

We won't be in South Africa until Wednesday morning, but pray for safety for those picking us up at the airport and for our trip to Bethesda.

We'll be making a stop in London on Tuesday. We are currently planning to take several hours and see some of the city. If you've been watching the news, London has had a lot of tragedy lately. Pray that the Lord would remind us that He does not give a spirit of fear and we can trust that He is the God who provides and protects. Pray that we will be attentive and listen to His voice for any changes that need to be made to our plan. And that we would have good attitudes if/when changes need to happen to our London plans.

Serving in South Africa
Of course, this is the main point of our trip. Pray that the Lord will fill our mouths with His words of love and truth and encouragement at all times. Pray that we would be open to any changes in plans because He knows best and knows where we need to be to make His name known. Ask the Lord to show us how to love well those missionaries on the ground at Bethesda. They do hard, holy work and it's tiring and it's not always easy to see God's hand moving. We want to be support and encouragement to them while we are there so they can continue to fight the good fight of faith with and for these precious young lives the Lord has put in their care.

Boldness in sharing the Gospel
This is probably where I need the most help! Ask the Lord to give us the boldness to share the Gospel and His story through our own story any time the Lord gives us the opportunity. Even if it means talking to someone on the plane instead of reading. Even if it means praying over our waitress as we eat in London. Even if it means chatting with the person next to us as we wait to board the plane. Pray that we will be sensitive to the Spirit's leading at every point of this trip so that others can know Him and put their trust in Him.

Our Families
We are all leaving family of some kind at home: spouses, children, parents, siblings. It's hard. It's more than a little scary, for them and for us. Pray that the Lord will fill us (and them) with peace so we can focus on serving and not on worrying about how things are going back home. We won't have lots of opportunity for phone calls and internet and posting things (which I do all the time, so it will be a huge adjustment for my family!) which will make it all the harder for our families back home. Ask the Lord to do great things in South Africa and in the hearts of our families while we are gone.

Thank you in advance for all of your prayers!

June 14, 2017

The Anniversary I Don't Know How to Celebrate Because I Am Honestly Not Sure I Should

My wedding anniversary. Kevin and I were married June 14, 2003. I was so nervous that day! I felt much younger than my nearly 25 years that hot, summer afternoon. It was one of the easiest decisions I've ever made, if I am honest. In fact, I thought he would never ask and that I would be doomed to be a single woman forever. I often wonder if I'd known then how hard for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer would be, would I have still said, "I do?" I'd like to think the answer to that is yes, but honestly, I am really not sure.

Admittedly, in the last year, I've found the "until death do us part" portion of the vows to be the hardest to accept. I still struggle with the thought that this relationship, that I longed and waited for so many years, is just done. Over. Never to be again. There will be no happy "Mr. and Mrs. Kevin McSmith" reunion when I cross into eternity. There will be no perfect marriage, no chance at this relationship minus the sin and addiction and just plain humanness we both brought to it here on earth. This makes me sad to think about. I know satan is using it to continually steal my joy for what is awaiting me on Heaven's shores. There is nothing about that last statement that I like to admit. It's not the "good, Christian" thing to say, but it's true.

This is an actual text I sent to some friends this week: "I am a big, crazy, emotional mess...The enemy is fighting hard to steal my joy this week. He's bringing up lots of 'should haves', 'what ifs' and 'you should haves/could haves' as I am looking back over my almost 13 (not long enough) years with Kevin as our anniversary approaches. I am specifically asking the Lord to make June 14 a day of praise and thanksgiving for the rest of my days because, honestly, I'm struggling for it to feel like a day of joy or anything that I should acknowledge. Which is weird, because I have no trouble celebrating his birthday and making that a day of joy..."

And I have struggled for over a month with what to do with this day. How do I celebrate the anniversary of something that so clearly has an end? Something that's really just a would have been? I should have that same feeling about his birthday, but I guess I look at that day as celebrating his life, which is such a joy to me. A day to celebrate our marriage, when the other half of that marriage isn't here to celebrate it, just seems ridiculous, sad, and impossible. I've tossed a lot of ideas back and forth and nothing really ever jumped out at me. So, here's where I landed:

 There's really no better way to start the day than Krispy Kremes and Sonic, right?!?! And the money from the donuts goes to missions, so I am pretty sure that means the calories don't count.

 Little surprise gifts to hand out.
 The first house purchase I personally made after Kevin died was a new shower curtain. I needed to wash it so I grabbed this cheap one from Wal-Mart and put it up today. I am really liking it!
 I have been repeating this phrase to myself a lot today.
 Flowers to match the ones I carried at my wedding 14 years ago today.
 14 silver and purple balloons (the colors from our wedding.) I really wanted to attach notes and gift cards to the balloons, but just couldn't find a way to do it, so I had to go back to what we did that first year we celebrated Kevin's birthday and I left the notes/giftcards on cars downtown.
 A beautiful resurrection spot.
 I had 14 balloons and there are 15 things that 1 Cor. 13 says love is. So, each balloon got one and all the envelopes got the 15th (Love Never Fails.)

I did release the balloons, but the wind was blowing so fast I couldn't get a picture of them floating away. But, as they were releasing, what kept coming into my mind was "Your love, oh, Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky." Oh, how true those words are!

And as I was sitting there, some of the words to a song from our wedding wouldn't leave my mind. The song is "The Potter's Hand" and if I could find the version we played at the wedding, I would play that for you because Delicia's voice is just too beautiful. You'll have to live with my horrendously off-key, I am trying not to cry version, for now. (CLICK HERE) I don't even know if these are portions from the same verse or not! 

And just so you know that I am so thankful for that beautiful June day 14 years ago (that's right, this would have been our "golden" anniversary as it would have been 14 years on the 14th), here are some pictures of that wonderful day:

I had a beautiful time of prayer at his resurrection spot today. Prayers of thankfulness for our marriage and all it taught me about my Heavenly Father, myself, and how to love others. Prayers of thankfulness for the two beautiful children that are the result of this marriage. Prayers asking for forgiveness for the many times I was not lovely, lovable, or loving in our marriage or in my parenting. Prayers seeking the Lord's will for my life and for my family. Just whatever the Lord brought to mind, I prayed over it. It rained just before I got there and was beautifully sunny and very hot for the 45 minutes or so I was there. It was lovely. There were tears and sweet memories and smiles thinking back over our time together.

Hold your spouses close. This is the only time you get with them. Don't take them for granted. Talk it out. Be honest. Be loving. Be real. When that last breath is taken here, there is no second chance, no do over, for this relationship. No, "we'll get it right in heaven." This is your one chance, so dig in, hold on tight to the Father, and give it your all!

June 13, 2017

I Am Getting All Sentimental

So, just packing and reading and napping and preparing for a big trip for the kids and I, though we'll be apart. And now, I am all shades of sentimental. So, thought I would share our wedding vows with you. Kevin's are way better than mine. He always said he wasn't a writer, but that just wasn't true. I have wanted to post these before, but Kevin would never give me permission to post his. But, I don't have to ask him anymore, so here you go!  😁 We wrote our own vows and, now that Kevin isn't with us, I am so glad we did. I love that I have his words to me on that very special day!

Heather's Vows:

It was 28 months ago today that we went on our first date. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey that has brought us to this day. As I sat across from you that night, I could never have imagined I would come to love you as much as I do today...but I did have full confidence that we were starting a relationship that would never end. I am so excited to become your wife today! Just as our dating relationship was bathed in prayer, I promise to pray for you, our marriage, and the family we will one day have. I promise to daily spend time in the oird, to continue growing spiritually, and to encourage you to do the same. I promise to strive daily to be the wife the Bible instructs me to be, to love you unconditionally, and to support you in all you do. I have full confidence you will be a strong spiritual leader for our family and, knowing this, I will support your decisions. I will hold your hand and walk beside you into the unknown as God continues to guide our path. I will remain faithful to you and prefer you above all others for as long as I live. I love you so much and I am very blessed that God has placed you in my life. I know that He will continue to guide us as husband and wife for the rest of our lives. I give this ring to you as a symbol of my love for you. Just as the circular shape has no end, my love for you will have no end.

Kevin's Vows:

The first time we met, there was no bolt of lightning or voice from the sky telling me that you were the one. “Love at first sight” might have been easier, but I know for certain this was not the plan marked out for us. I believe with all my heart that God chose not to reveal all your beauties to me at once, but rather, through much prayer, patience, and obedience, He allowed me to discover them---one at a time. The first of these were the simple, physical things---your flare for drama; your beautiful voice in the melody of a song; and the way your hands move so precisely to form sign language that can only be described as a masterpiece of art. These are all wonderful gifts, but they can only scratch the surface of what God created when He formed you. It’s true, the physical beauties are among the least, but I can’t fail to share what may be one of you most remarkable. I truthfully can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found myself in awe simply by seeing you walk into the room. Your presence alone can fill my heart with happiness without ever saying a word, and that ability is one that belongs to only you. I could speak almost endlessly about your physical beauty alone, but I want to speak only of your eyes for the time. So dark and gentle, it is not possible to put to language the effect they create in me, except that with only one gaze, you can tame the beast and make the rest of the world seem far in the distance. I will never understand how this works; I can only be thankful that God gave this to you, and only you.

Even more, the non-physical beauty in you is more than I could ever ask for. Your Godly qualities have put me to shame on more than one occasion. One of the first things that ever drew me to you was your amazing selflessness. The way you always place the needs of others, including mine, above your own, has often been the best example to me of how Christ cares for His people. I promise to you today that for the rest of our lives, your needs will be above my own, and I will always strive to do this more and more. In the same breath, your compassion and willingness to make peace are the fruits of your life that God frequently uses to remind me further how my life can be more like Jesus. You have provided many Godly examples for my life over the past 2 ½ years, and today I am promising to do the same for you and our family for as long as the Lord gives us breath. I’ve told you now many of the physical and nonphysical beauties that are part of who you are, but the very greatest of them is this: in every part of your life, the presence of Jesus Christ is very real and evident. He has taken complete control. This is why we’re standing here today. I tell you this to reassure you of the most important promise I can make to you. I promise right now that our family will be one that knows, loves, and serves the Lord with every heartbeat. I will always do my very best to point our focus at Him, to listen to His guidance, and obey in His calling, wherever that may lead. I believe that any other promise I can make to you today--promises of faithfulness, trust, and endurance, are included in this, and they each belong to you now. I love you with all of my heart, and I am excited to discover all that God has in store for us. Please accept this ring as a symbol and a reminder of the promises I’ve made to you today.

June 10, 2017

One More Week!

A week from Monday I board a plane with seven others to start our journey to South Africa. Oh, the feelings! I am having all the emotions! This week is going to fly by and be full of so many emotional ups and downs.

There will be lots of packing this week, as I have to pack all three of us. There will be lots of anxiety and fears and tears this week. Both for me and the kids. I plan to spend a lot less time on my phone this week and just enjoy the week with my kids. I'll check my phone when I get up, at lunch, and at the end of the day and keep it on airplane mode in between (or at least that's the plan. I know I use my phone as a crutch when I am feeling anxious, tired, or lonely.) So, if you call or text and I don't answer, don't stress, I'll get to it eventually.

I will be super emotional this week, so if you live around here or normally see me during the week, don't be too surprised if you don't see or hear from me much this week. I am stepping back a bit, enjoying my kids, and knocking out a to-do list while telling grief and anxiety to take a hike.

I am a little nervous heading into this week, but I know that God is in control and even if things don't go the way I am envisioning or hoping, God is still good. He knows what it best. He makes the ugly beautiful and He gives beauty for ashes.

I would love to have you praying for some things on our behalf, if the Lord leads you. Here are some things I am praying for this week:

*I am asking the Lord to remind me that He is the priority, regardless of how long the to do list feels. I need to have quality time in the Word and in prayer.
*I am asking the Lord for precious, teachable moments with my kiddos between now and when we leave. I want to make the most of the time we have this week, in laughter, quality time, speaking truth, and making sure they know I love them but that God loves them more.
*I am asking the Lord to be my peace, Sophie's peace, Ethan's peace. Again, I hate that I feel like I blame everything on grief, but all three of us respond to tiredness and emotions and pretty much everything since grief entered our lives last year, differently. We need His peace in order to keep the meltdowns to a minimum and so we can survive this separation. I am especially asking this for Ethan. His responses to things, especially when he is tired, are just unpredictable and over the top because he just doesn't quite have the words to express himself at this point. This causes him anxiety. I don't want him to have to experience that when we are apart.
*I am asking the Lord to help me trust that, even if something happens and I don't come home, He will provide for and protect my children. He loves them even more than I do and He has already seen all of their days. Nothing will take Him off guard.
*I am asking the Lord to move in ways we cannot even imagine on this mission trip. Whether it be in the airport, on the plane, while we are in London, or at Bethesda and the surrounding towns, I just want to be an instrument to declare His love and praise to all I meet. I am asking Him to show me how to serve the moms and other missionaries at Bethesda so that they are encouraged and uplifted and reminded that the Lord sees them and loves them. I want to be open and obedient to whatever the Lord asks of me.
*I am asking the Lord to move and work in the lives of my children while we are apart. I want them to see answers to their prayers, to see Him in new ways, to become more like Him each day.  I want Him to be more real to them each day. Oh, how I want Him to steal their hearts each day! Oh, how I want the Lord to bring salvation to Ethan's soul.
*I am asking the Lord to flood me with self-control during this trip. Emotions will be high. Sleep will be little. This is a recipe for out of control emotions and reactions. I do not want that to happen, so I need the Spirit to overwhelm me with His self-control.
*I am asking the Lord to fill me with a hunger for His word and a burden for the lost through the work He does on this trip. I too often tend to be focused only on what happens in our home and I need to be looking outside our four walls.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouragement. Though there are nerves, I really am looking forward to this trip. I know that God has opened my heart and opened the doors and He will do great things!

June 04, 2017

My Summer Prayers

The last few weeks have been fun, full, emotional, crazy, and everything has felt totally out of sync. When this happens it never fails that prayer and time in the word is always the first thing that gets cut short or cut out all together. I hate that! That's not what I want to be the first thing to go, yet it always is!

Also, I finished the Bible study I was doing and felt a little lost in doing more than just reading Psalms as I have been doing for awhile. Not having a plan for prayer and Bible study makes it easier for me to set it aside and not make it a priority because I feel lost every time I sit down to read or pray.

I've been tired and emotional and had some hard anniversaries in the last two months or so, and that, of course, makes the motivation to do anything pretty low. I knew I had to do something or the summer would slip away and I would miss some good things. So, I sat down and made a list of things I wanted to see happen in our home and lives this summer. Then I wrote out how I wanted to pray for those things. Then I found a Bible study I can do that also has a children's study to go along with it (it's a little young for Sophie, but I wrote in something extra for her to do on each day, so I think it will all work out.) I know the days this summer will still be scattered because I know that if my days are full or need to start early, I am horrible at making room for time in prayer and the Word for all three of us together. But, these things will be a good first step in keeping me (and the kids) organized and accountable. Two things I badly need.

Here is what I am praying for this summer:

  • Ethan's salvation
  • All three of us to have a hunger for the Word
  • Drawing closer to God and closer to each other
  • For the Holy Spirit to give us true understanding of His Word as we read it
  • That we would become prayer warriors
  • That we would have Christ's servant heart at all times
  • Rest and renewal
  • Renewed energy and love and passion for our homeschooling journey
  • An ever-developing love of learning in my children
  • Wisdom to teach my children to read and study the Word on their own
  • Revelation from God about the skills and gifts He's given each of my children and how those gifts can be used to serve God and others
  • Clear path for me to follow to know where I fit in this fight for addicts and against addiction
  • A new song of praise to our God that overflows from our hearts and mouths
  • Learning to be good stewards of our home by taking care of it all and good stewards of our money by spending it on God's priorities, not ours
  • Deepening current friendships and developing at least one more
Here's the study I got for us to do (though there are probably tons of other studies from other places you could figure out how to do as a family. Though admittedly, my plan for this study is that we will all sit down at the same time, in separate places, and work on our own studies. This is also something that we can be doing each day while I am in South Africa and they are still in the States so there's one thing each day that we are all doing the same.) She Reads Truth Romans Women's/Kids Study Bundle

Oh, how I am praying this keeps me moving, organized, motivated, and, most of all, in the Word and in prayer through this fun, crazy season called summer. Lord, move. Lord, work. Lord, make all three of us more like You this summer.