Saturday, October 31, 2015

seven year old guest blogger: blue ridge parkway fun...

Hi, everybody! This time our fun adventure is in...THE MOUNTAINS!!!! Our journey is with another family, too. This is a pretty picture of the mountains. It was a beautiful peek over the ground and this is the perfect time of year to go because the leaves are changing colors and the weather is perfect, too.
Jameson, Jackson, Maggie, and me are taking a fun kids picture near the side of the mountain. It's a great place to take a picture. There are several overlooks and we took pictures at two places.
Woooo! Slow down! You're pulling me over! Hey, Jameson! You could pull us all over. Watch it! Watch it! You totally could pull us off the mountain and make us die! Well, if I was dead, I would not be writing this blog.
Family picture time! Mommy, me, and Jameson! Love my family! SO MUCH! I love having a little brother (who is quite annoying and funny) and he is the silliest in my family besides Daddy.

Mrs. Kelsey and Jackson are having a fun time in the mountains together and all fun is going well!

Mrs. Kelsey and Jackson and Maggie are not getting all the family fun. So sorry Maggie has her face down, Mrs. Kelsey commented. Maggie had her face down because she did not want me making a silly face at her.
OH! Such a beautiful sight of the daylight! We went down to the lake and we took the Parkway path to this lake near the Peaks of Otter.  Lake in sight, bushes and trees in sight! Why not just head up there? Such a WONDERFUL sight! Fish also in the lake!
Now starring me, Jackson, Jameson, and Maggie, sitting on a turned over boat. Well, what a nice place to sit! Oh, such a jolly place to sit when you need a picture! And right behind you....BOO! A lake! Not so scary, but the lake waves went boo. Hey, no waves!
Oh     my     gooshness. (Gooshness is a weird word meaning gosh AND goodness.) Is this your favorite kind of berry? Red, ripe, and oh so pretty! It's not really my favorite. What is your favorite kind of berry? My favorite kind of berry is the pink kind. DO NOT EAT THESE BERRIES ! That was officially an alert when you go up the mountain. It's okay to pick and hold them but DO NOT EAT THESE BERRIES! Again, that was an alert when you go up the mountain.

We had fun picking the berries. I am not going to tell the secret that will come up in one of the next pictures.
Well, now you really can get to see the berries up close. They are red, ripe, and pretty! There was one berry that was bad on one of the sides and I tried to turn that one so you all couldn't see it.

Well well. The secret I was not going to spoil. The fish! There were 5 King fish in the lake I counted but there might've been more that we couldn't see. And the funnest part was when we got to feed the berries to the fish. (I already told you about that part so don't ask me again.) Ha! Well, they sort of nibbled the berries, but never actually ate the berries. We were so excited that we didn't even notice they weren't eating the berries.

Me, Maggie, and Jameson all LOVED the fish that we all just hung around the bridge and almost never wanted to go get ice cream. Who would never want to get ice cream?

 We drove to the Country Store and got PEACH ICE CREAM.
Well, the grownups enjoyed it too! Maybe the kids had a tad more fun than the grownups, but we all had a good time at the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mommy and Mrs. Kelsey are best friends and love being together. Me and Maggie are best friends, plus Jameson and Jackson are best friends, too.
Well, Happy Halloween! (I forgot to put that part at the beginning) Ha. VA is such a wonderful place to live, with the mountains. (sorry if you do not live in VA)  Bye!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

perfectionism and comparison...

I'll be honest.  This post might come across as somewhat snarky and raw.  I usually try to be so careful and measured in my words, but today it's just going to blurt itself out, and I'm gonna try not to worry so much about how it will be received as you read it.

I've had alot on my mind lately.  And until today, I didn't know how to put it all into words until Marc  mentioned a sermon he'd read yesterday.  In it, it said something about the two biggest sins women tend to struggle with (on a whole) are perfectionism and comparison.

And as soon as he said that, it put words onto tensions I've been internally fighting without even realizing it.

Perfectionism and comparison.

That's pretty much my life.

I've been thinking how I take my cues in womanhood from comparing myself to others.  I'm not like these women, I'm not like these other women.  Without intending to, I've created an ideal for myself, and I'm tormented by the ways I'm "failing" this ideal and the guilt and shame it causes me.

For some weird reason, it all surfaces for me in women's Bible studies.  I can hardly do them.  Maybe this is just what I've experienced, and it isn't true everywhere.  But I struggle with comparison the minute I hit the door and the house is perfectly cleaned and freshly-baked, gluten free, dairy free, organic, paleo-approved cookies are waiting for me.  (of course I've exaggerated, but do you get the idea?)

All the ladies, including me, are seemingly put together on the outside, and for the next hour and a half we'll talk about spiritual things to encourage one another... and share all of our childbirth stories, I might add.  (As an infertile woman, I honestly don't get why this subject has to come up so often in groups of women.)  The conversation rarely breaks down beyond the mask of smiles and nice platitudes.  It often doesn't touch the mess of my life.  The mess that's strewn across my living room floor.  The mess that's residing and multiplying in my heart, even in the moment!

I'm realizing there are just so many barriers (aka perfectionism and comparison) that keep me from feeling free to be myself.  I feel different from other Christian women around me. (I've got a bald daughter and a black son through adoption.  Isn't that alone enough to make me feel different?)  And it keeps me from entering into real relationships.

I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.  For many women, there's no other option financially.  But lemme tell you, it's harder than anything I've done.  It tests me in ways I never knew it would.  I'm afraid to even type it because of the overwhelming guilt I feel to admit it, but I'm not enjoying it right now.  Whew.  That was really hard to admit.

I guess I want to be some kind of Supermom.

And, sinfully, I want you to think I'm a Supermom, too.

I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids.

But I'm struggling to like the stay-at-home mom-thing right now.

We've been having some issues with Caroline finishing her work at school in two minutes flat.  She's reading on the level of a fifth or sixth grader in second grade.  I'm working with her teacher on ways to supplement and enrich her education while the other kids are completing their assignments, especially since we're paying for private school.  It's made me briefly consider the option of homeschooling in recent weeks, (this is where all the homeschooling moms yell "YES!  DO HOMESCHOOL!") YET it has more than confirmed I am not a homeschooling mom.  (Can I please say I have mad respect for those of you who do?  You are amazing and I have no idea how you do it.  And enjoy it.)

But that's not who I am.  And I can't do it.  ("Yes you can, Amy!" you say.)  
I can't.

In the Christian community, I feel shameful even admitting these things.  I'm sure every mom goes through times just like this.  I feel like I lose points in the comparison game if I'm not staying home.  And making homemade play dough for my kids.  And filling their bellies with perfectly nutritious meals and snacks with a smile on my face each day.  Do you get what I'm saying?

Every woman makes choices for her family, and I happen to think what's "best" doesn't always look the same in every family.  But I've obviously gotten some kind of ideal standard in my own head that I myself am not even able to live up to!

Is this the guilt that working moms feel?  Maybe I'm actually a working mom in the body of a stay-at-home mom...

I think I need to preach to myself the freedom of the Gospel.

I need to remember that Jesus adopted me as His daughter, and His love for me and His approval of me doesn't depend upon me being Supermom.  It doesn't mean I have to stay home or I have to homeschool.  It doesn't mean I have to lose ten pounds or keep my house tidy.  

His approval is worth FAR more than anyone else's.  Even my own.

the magic of unplugging...

He would've stayed here ALL DAY.
We found a new, off-the-beaten-path pumpkin patch, Dark Leaf Farms, this year.

(I don't think I'll ever go to another one again!)

No crowds.  Tons of activities for the kids.  Adults were free.  Kids were $10 each, and that included a free pumpkin of any size.

We started off in the "front yard" of the farm, and I literally had to peel Jameson away from these diggers kicking and screaming.


We decided to turn the phones off and leave 'em in the car.  We only carried my camera and the picnic we packed for dinner.

The afternoon felt so magical to be completely PRESENT as a family.  Unplugged.

tire swing

She pulled out some corn!

Jameson, almost 3 years old

Caroline, age 7 1/2

She picked this big one for our front porch.  

my girl

love them

Enthralled with the excavator...

Barrel ride

Tunnel Slide

How cool are these carts?

What a nearly perfect day with the three people I love most.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

cabell st collective...

I'll be honest, I struggle with the ordinary. 

I love having a little excitement in life, and I've learned that I function best when I have something to look forward to or something I'm currently working on.  I'm made in the image of a masterful Creator, and I've discovered how much I, too, love to create.

I thrive off of having something "extra" going-- a project, a performance, a service opportunity, an outlet of some kind.  Sometimes it's pouring myself into this blog, sometimes it's renovating old houses or putting together a special song for our church's worship team.  

But thought I'd share my latest one with you guys...  Cabell St Collective!

I've pulled together some willing musicians from around our church to form a band and perform a gig at the coffee house in our downtown!

Our band is Cabell St Collective and we'll be performing lots of fun, popular cover songs...  songs from Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, the Head and the Heart, and even Uptown Funk.  It's going to be SO fun!

I can't tell you how excited I am for this!  Not just to show off how well our little group sounds, (they sound great!) but I'm just as excited to bring this to our downtown. I'm committed to helping our little downtown thrive, and I want more people to see the beauty of the CITY.

Cabell St (pronounced "CAA-bull") is a street in my neighborhood next to downtown, and many locals have false mental associations of the street that would include crime and poverty and brown bodies, but what they don't see is the BEAUTY of God's image on full display here-- rich relationships and long-term community between neighbors, diversity in race and class, generosity and friendliness.  Cabell Street, and our neighborhood, IS beautiful, and while the locals might be wondering, "What good could possibly come from Cabell Street?", I'm so proud we put it in our name to declare that there's LOTS of good coming from Cabell Street!

So if you're in town or near by, I invite you to come out Saturday, November 14th!  Grab a nice dinner downtown and then walk over to the White Hart for drinks and the show at 8pm.  We'll be performing two sets of songs with a break in between, about an hour or so worth of music.  Sing your heart out with us or get to know someone new.

See you downtown!

Monday, October 26, 2015


My heart is so heavy right now for a little girl I've never even met.  I'm praying day and night, glued to my email for any piece of news or update.

22-month-old Zoe is the daughter of another RUF campus minister, and when one of us hurts in the RUF family, all of us hurt together.

Zoe is fighting for her life in the ICU a few days after she accidentally bumped over a carafe of boiling water onto her arm, and then contracted a staff infection in the burn as well as some type of terrible virus on top of that.  Over the past few days, her little precious body has mysteriously shut down in order to fight to save her vital organs.  Today, however, things changed and the doctors are claiming Zoe is now "out of the woods."  Numbers are turning around and it looks like she will live!  (the name Zoe literally means LIFE!)

Praise God!  It's amazing how many people across the country have formed an army to storm the throne of God for Zoe!  He hears our prayers.

updates on Zoe will be on facebook under "#prayforZoeSmith"
However, Zoe's got a loooong way to go.  And it's now likely she will lose some of her fingers and toes which have turned black from the loss of blood to her extremities.

My mama heart aches and groans for this little girl and that possibility.  Obviously, if you had to pick between life-without-fingers-and-toes or death, you choose life-without-fingers-and-toes every time.

But still.

No one longs for suffering in their story.  No parent dreams for the Lord to afflict their child.

We've involved our kids in praying for Zoe over the past several days.  Every meal, every bedtime, every time we receive a new update, we are lifting up our requests before the Lord, begging and pleading with Him on Zoe's behalf.

And tonight over dinner, we discussed Zoe's possible future without fingers and toes to Caroline.

Caroline at 22 months
"Let me tell you a story," Marc began telling Caroline.  (I had no idea what he was about to say.) "Back when you were about 22 months old, the same age as Zoe, something happened and you got sick.  Your hair started falling out, you were having lots of stomach problems, and we didn't know what was going on.  We were very scared, and we didn't know if you were going to live.

"But it turned out that God said,
'your daughter is going to live.
She's going to be okay.
But there's just one thing... she's going to have to lose her hair.'

"And that's kinda like Zoe.  It looks like God is saying, 'Zoe's going to live.  She'll be okay.  But there's just one thing... she's going to have to live without something.  In her case, some fingers and toes."

"Yeah," Caroline's wheels were churning.  "But at least she's going to live!"

"When you first lost your hair, I used to pray and ask God to give you your hair back.  But then I realized God had plans for you without hair.  And maybe God has plans for Zoe's life without that part of her body."

Marc thought he was teaching Caroline in that moment.  But really, he was speaking to me.

Because with years of perspective, I can now accept the loss God brought into our life and see it as gracious.  And I PRAY that yeeeeeeears down the road, that will be the case for Zoe's mommy and daddy, too.

But right now there is simultaneous rejoicing and loss.  I'm sure they are feeling the gamut of emotions.  I grieved the loss of my daughter's hair.  I can't imagine what it would've been like to grieve the loss of fingers and toes.

Maybe that's partly why Zoe and her parents are so heavy upon my heart.

My friends, please join me in praying for this precious little girl.  Pray for the doctors who are taking such good care of her around the clock.  Pray for her platelet counts to increase and ask God for a miracle to keep her digits.

But if God wills that this girl lose some of her extremities, let us pray that such a great loss might later reap bountiful blessings as God uses her "zoe," her life, to bring Himself glory.

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  Job 1:21

Friday, October 9, 2015

the comeback kid...

If ever there was such a thing as a Sportscenter covering a Poetry Recital event, this story might be right up there with the best of 'em...

Here's the quick stats:
-Each Fall: Schoolwide Poetry Recital/Contest
-Every student receives a different poem appropriate for their grade level.
-Students must memorize and perform poem with costumes, props, gestures, etc.
-Judging is centered on accuracy, diction/poise/confidence, and creative interpretation.

1st Round: Class recitals
    (top 2 winners advance)
2nd Round:  Grammar School Poetry Recital
   (chance of winning 1st place in their grade and a Jefferson cup for first place in the lower grades, upper grades, and kindergarten)

So here's the background....

In kindergarten, you may remember Caroline was a finalist in her class recital, and she did an amazing job in the school's Poetry Recital.  We were SO proud of her!

But another boy won the Jefferson cup that year, and maybe you can tell from the look on her face in this picture, but I think it was in that moment she became determined to win that Jefferson cup the next year.

So the next year, now 1st GRADE!, she worked so, SO hard on perfecting her poem.  Here was her dress rehearsal at home the day before her class recital:

Great job, right?

As you'd expect, she breezed through her class recital and was again a finalist for the Grammar School Poetry Recital.  She was ready to win that coveted silver Jefferson cup afterall.

And then this happened.  The bike accident that broke her wrist.

Her surgery was the day before the Poetry Recital.  
There was just no way she could compete due to her injury.   

("What a promising season cut short," the sports commentators might say at this point in the story.)

So that brings us to this year, where Caroline was given the poem "Tea Talk."  Again, she, Marc and I worked on it for several weeks.  Here was her dress rehearsal at home the day before the class recital:

She was ready!

And here's what's funny...Jameson had seen and heard the silly poem enough that he, too, performed it for us later that night:

Hahahaha!!!!  Great job, Jameson!

Caroline and her sweet friend were so giggly the day of the class recital!

All the students did an amazing job.
On the way home from school that afternoon,
I got the call that Caroline had been selected as a finalist for the school-wide Poetry Recital!
Caroline was ecstatic she'd be able to perform this year.

So the Poetry Recital was LAST NIGHT!  Marc and I were nervous wrecks for sweet Caroline, who was SO excited to perform and she was really hoping she could win the cup this year.  (Like a good mom, I coached her plenty on the "it's okay if you don't win" talk...)

Here was her performance last night in front of the judges and entire audience:

Great job, CC!!

Way to go, Caroline!
And lo and behold, this gal won first place in her grade AND  the Jefferson Cup against all the 1st and 2nd graders.

"Mom, this was the like the best day of my life."

"Am I dreaming right now?"

Way to go, my precious girl.

You're the comeback kid!!
Even more than winning, though, I'm more proud of the way you congratulated and encouraged all the other participants, especially the little kindergarteners.

I'm more proud of the hours you practiced and the way your mind developed as a result of learning and performing this poem.
And I'm the MOST proud that in God's lovingkindness,
I get to call you mine.

We love you, Caroline!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

not the boss...

"NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NO!  NOOOOOOOO!" Jameson wailed from the backseat of the car, kicking out of control, tears streaming down his face.  I had just dropped Caroline off at our beloved Miss Maria's house for some sewing lessons, and Jameson had decided that he, too, wanted to go.  (Not that the reason really mattered, since we all know toddlers can choose to melt down over anything.)

Instead of reasoning out why he couldn't go to sewing lessons or resorting to an alternative diversion tactic, I went straight for his heart.

"Jameson," I said softly and calmly through his screams at the stoplight.  I'm surprised he even heard me.  "Are you upset because you want to be the boss?"

A sweet, little voice innocently replied, "Yes."

"And you're sad because you're not the boss?"


SILENCE.  All screams stopped.

There's just something about being understood that quiets our hearts, isn't there?

It's why we pay big bucks for therapists.  When someone can hear, see, and understand beyond the circumstances that are immediately distressing us, it's like our hearts magically become tender, malleable, vulnerable.  And we don't feel the need to scream any longer.

I was easily able to diagnose Jameson's real heart issue in the moment because I'm all too familiar with it myself. When I'm upset that something didn't go my way, I may or may not kick and scream, but ultimately I'm upset that I, too, am not the boss.

I don't always get to call the shots in my life.
I don't control how the story will go.

Many times I guess that's for the best, but it still doesn't keep me from wishing I could.

Jameson, I'm with you.

You've got to learn that you're not the boss.

But so do I.

Monday, October 5, 2015

big boy britches...

This may be a little TMI to some of you, but those who are parents will know what a big deal this is...


Jameson's using the potty (sometimes he asks, sometimes you just have to set him on there and he'll go) and staying dry all day!  (We're still using a diaper at night.)

His first time trying them... much more comfy!
Would you believe it took us FOUR STORES to find toddler's underwear, of all things?  The first two didn't carry any.  In the third, I accidentally bought underwear that was way too big... mama failure.  But finally, on the fourth time around, he picked out his first undies!... Buzz Lightyear, if anyone's wondering... probably because the minions underwear was all sold out..

Way to go, Jameson!  We are so proud of YOU!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

we love this job...

Last weekend, all the RUF's across Virginia joined together for our regional Fall Conference!

The theme of the conference was on prayer, and the speaker was a PCA pastor from northern Virginia.

It was a weekend of relaxing, great teaching,  worship, small groups and connection to other students. 
Small boy.  Big umbrella.

We were in a beautiful spot on the edge of Lynchburg in the mountains, but it literally rained ALL. WEEKEND.

 But that may have been a good thing, actually, because the rain kept the students indoors, allowing plenty of time to hang out and develop/deepen friendships.

Students from 3 of our 4 colleges attended!
It's always good to see the new freshmen come to conference feeling like outsiders and by the end, truly feel a part of the group.

what other song but Heart and Soul, of course...

Caroline and our two piano majors couldn't keep their fingers off the conference center's pianos!

Dad is now HOME!

The GREATEST thing that happened last weekend, though, was thousands of miles away when my Dad, after 54 days in the hospital, was finally discharged to come HOME.

Words cannot express how happy this made me!

 After the weekend, one of our students tweeted, "Fall Conference with Lynchburg RUF was amazing. I've come away feeling closer to God and closer to my RUF family."
We love this job.