Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Half way done!

I can hardly believe it – but this week I am at the half-way point with this pregnancy! Already I am so excited for our little man’s arrival – not that I am hoping he comes sooner than May – but I can’t wait for those “new baby” experiences!

I know that Dominic’s preference was to not find out our baby’s gender and he gave that up for me – but I have to say there is something really fun about knowing that I am carrying our son. Maybe it is the pregnancy hormones, but I am enjoying it all so much.

And if I ever doubted, it has been confirmed in the past couple of days that our son is going to be a feisty little guy! He has been kicking and moving around so much and Dominic was able to feel him move a few days ago! It is all pretty amazing. Knowing how small he really is right now and yet feeling the force behind some of his kicks – WOW!

And it has been fun documenting my growing belly. Dominic takes my picture every week and at some point I am going to print them all off and get them into this really cool album Karlena gave to me to track my entire pregnancy! With as fast as this first 20 weeks has gone I better get going – May 18th will be here sooner than I realize!

There is one member of our family that isn’t enjoying mom’s growing belly though. Gabriel gets a little stressed at times when we talk about how my belly is growing. He is afraid that it is hurting me and does not want to see my belly get big. He started crying one day when he saw a picture of another mom’s pregnant belly! He kept saying to me “I am so sorry mom that it hurts”!! It was too funny – we try and reassure him that it doesn’t hurt me but he seems unconvinced! And he still likes to sit on my lap…that is going to become increasingly more difficult very soon!

Aside from that – the boys are excited about welcoming another brother into the family. Isaac asks all the time what week I am at and wants to know how things are going with the baby. He got a kick out of the ultrasound pictures too! I am so glad Isaac is happy about a new baby, especially at his age this could have gone the other way and it is good to know that he wants this as much as we do!

Now I wanted to share a little humor from my pregnancy thus far – I do have to warn you though this may classify as one of those TMI (too much information) situations. So if you don’t want to share in the sometimes-scary details of my personal life – STOP READING NOW!

So one of the “problems” I have had throughout the past 20 weeks has to do with the increased pressure on my bladder – our little man loves to lay really low – and varying “acts” which seem to bring on a slight incontinence problem. Yes that’s right I said it…..I seem to have a problem of peeing myself at inopportune times. The first time happened when I had terrible morning sickness and was spending another moment familiarizing myself with the minute details of my toilet. Recently though, it occurred when I had a sneezing fit. I don’t know if this is a problem because of the pregnancy and the fact that I have already had 2 kids or if I am just moving towards a reliance on Depends at an early age. I hope it is the first!

And as an update – again for all who care to know – I shared the content of this post with Dominic prior to my posting it and he wanted to know where his TMI button was! I told him that as my loving and accepting spouse – he doesn’t get one. No detail is off limit for me to share with him…no matter how gross. Gotta love having a relationship like that!

Anyways, I am learning to laugh at myself through this and to appreciate all of the things that I am experiencing throughout this pregnancy! Thank God for the gift of laughter!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ultrasound

Well I just got back from our ultrasound and although we are still waiting for the "final" results from the radiologist everything that we saw looked good.

The baby has a 4-chamber heart.
The stomach, kidneys and bladder looked good.
All the legs and arms had the appropriate bones in it.
The spine looked good and we could see the brain.
The face looked good and there isn't a cleft palate problem.
The heart rate was 140, 149 at the following doctors visit.
The baby weighed 11oz and is growing at the appropriate rate.
The amniotic fluid around the baby was good and the placenta was in a good place.
We got some really good photos of the baby's profile usually with the little hands around the face.
She got a photo of the baby's footprint and my doctor said that just by looking at the size of the footprint we were going to have a tall baby.
She said that the baby would most likely take after Dominic in height, and in other ways too! :)
That's right - our SON was not too modest and had no problem sharing his "parts" with us. We have a picture in case anyone wants proof! :)

Dominic said that if she showed us the view and I could tell if it was a boy or a girl then it was ok if I knew....Well she showed us the shot and I saw it right away - Dominic didn't see it the first time and we didn't take a picture of it...but at the end she asked again if he wanted to see it himself and try to figure it out and it was quite obvious. Our son is ALL BOY!!

He was moving and kicking (Dominic commented that he was boxing) and actually flipped completely around at one point and the tech had to really work to get the photos she needed but it was a fun experience and it was so good to see that everything looks healthy.

Now we have the dilemma of agreeing on boy names - I had a girl name but not a boy one yet. We better get to work! :)

Anyways we both are very excited – I honestly just feel giddy right now and so thankful to have this good news right before Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mystery

A song I want to share with you is one that I recently discovered on Selah’s Christmas CD – “Rose of Bethlehem”. It is an AWESOME CD and one I would recommend if you were looking for something new. The lyrics to the song “Mystery” really stuck with me from the first moment I heard the song. I am really a music person – I love singing and Christian music especially touches my soul – causes me to “think” about the message.

“Mystery” talks about how God knew He would have to send His Son to save a fallen world, and yet He still created man. Knowing the sacrifice He would have to make for a sinner such as myself. The concept is overwhelming and something that I really want to try and reflect on during this season. The true magnitude of the gift of the Child – a gift freely given to me, to us by a Father that loves more than I can comprehend.

Mystery” by Selah

A child was born on Christmas Day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His death was sure
The pain and strife secured

Mystery, how He came
To be a man
But greater still
How His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this
That His death was in His hands?

The Christmas trees
They glow so bright
With presents all around
But Christmas brought
A tree of life
With blood that sacrificed
The greatest gift in life

Mystery, how He came
To be a man
But greater still
How His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this
That His death was in His hands

I am just a man that
Cant begin to comprehend
When You look into this traitor’s eyes
What do You see that justifies the Lamb?

God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this
That His death was in His plan
Mystery, mystery

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reason for the Season

I have been reminded lately of how out of touch we are with the true meaning of the CHRISTmas season. We have missionary friends who are overseas in a country where Christmas is not recognized. Yet they have shared that they are finding ways, daily, to be intentional about their celebration of Christ’s birth. That even if they leave the comforts of their apartment and are not surrounded by the commercialism of the “Holiday Season” that we are, their children will still be reminded of what is most important at this time of year and all year long.

I admit that I get caught up in the commercialized aspect of the season. The sales, the decorations and music etc. And we try to talk with our kids about what CHRISTmas is really about – the birth of Christ. But I don’t know that they really “get” it.

Gabriel has lots of questions right now about Santa, if he really lives at the North Pole, why he lives at the North Pole, why he comes down a chimney, what he will do at our house because we don’t have a chimney. I try to patiently answer all of these questions when he has them – over and over – but then I try to follow it up with talking about Jesus being born, which usually leads to questions about the baby in my tummy and if it is Jesus too.

We got this interactive Nativity set from Family Life that is really good – it has 7 boxes with a figurine inside each box and a pop-up manger scene and a story that goes with it. The concept talks about what God wants for Christmas and on the last day/box it is opened to reveal a mirror and information about how God wants us for Christmas. Gabriel really liked that – that God wanted him for His present….but I don’t know that he understands what that means yet.

One of my favorite songs is from the Point of Grace “A Christmas Story” CD. The song is titled “Not that far from Bethlehem” and I wanted to share the lyrics.

Underneath the stars
Just a simple man and wife
Somewhere in the dark
His words cut the silent night
Take my hand, for the childThat you carry is God’s own
And though it seems the road is long
(chorus)
We’re not that far from Bethlehem
Where all our hope and joy begins
For in our arms we’ll cherish Him
We’re not that far, not that far from Bethlehem
Let us celebrate
As the Christmases go by
Learn to live our days
With our hearts near to the child
Ever drawn, ever close
To the only love that lasts
And though 2000 years have passed
We’re not that far from Bethlehem
Where all our hope and joy began
For when our hearts still cherish Him
We’re not that far, not that far from Bethlehem

Over the next two weeks, if we haven’t already, let us all try to remember that we have been given such an amazing gift in the Christ child. God sent His son to earth, knowing He would have to be the sacrifice for me, for you for the sins we would commit daily. He knew in advance this was His fate and He chose to offer us this gift some 2000 years ago. I can’t understand it or comprehend the magnitude of that sacrifice, but I am so very grateful for His unconditional love. Merry CHRISTmas friends!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

16 weeks!!

Well I can hardly believe it but another 4 weeks has passed and we are now 16 weeks into this pregnancy! We had our appointment yesterday and got to hear the heart beat again. Something I will never grow tired of I think! It was hard to find at first because our little one kept kicking and the doctor would lose the sound, but finally she was able to get it at 145bpm.

I am still trying to guess whether this baby will be a boy or a girl – without the official ultrasound test. Although I like the idea of the surprise at the end I am feeling like a child on Christmas morning, too excited to wait for mom and dad to wake up to tear into all the presents. So I want to “shake the box” a little and try and guess what it will be without knowing for sure.

So I have enlisted the help of some very reliable (ha-ha) gender predictor tests and have come up with the following…

Chinese Gender Chart – it’s a boy

Gender Heart rate Theory – it’s a girl (although I remember Gabriel’s heart rate right around 142)

Wedding Ring Test – it’s a girl

Babyzone Gender Predictor Test – it’s a boy

So as you can see by these very scientific methods unless I am having twins, which I am NOT, I am no closer to knowing what our little package will be in May! For now I am just loving the fact that I get to be excited about the unknown and trying to practice a little patience in the process!

So what’s your guess for the next Smith family member?

Monday, December 1, 2008

What a trooper

I wanted to take a moment to brag a little about my husband today. After the weekend we had he deserves a little praise!

First we had the opportunity to host the Thanksgiving meal at our house this year. Usually we do this at his parent’s house, but I offered to do the work this year and although we have a smaller setting to have people over in – it worked out very well and I think everyone went home quite full!

Bob and Becky took the boys home with them Thursday night and Dominic and I went up to Sioux Falls to stay at my parents house. I wanted to do the traditional “Black Friday” shopping and I roped him in to come along so I didn’t have to go by myself!

Dominic has never experienced this phenomenon and I tried to prepare him for what he could expect. He has a great love for crowds and shopping so you can imagine how excited he was to get up at 4am so that we could be at Wal-Mart before 5am. J

As in other years, we had to park a LONG way away from the front doors – in another store’s lot in fact and walk. It was a brisk 20 degrees. We got a cart and headed out to stake out a spot to wait for the “5am bell” that announced we could begin the search for those amazing, once in a lifetime deals!

We found the first item on the list and decided to start there. Oh and I should describe this “list” to you before I go on. I had cut out pictures from the ad of those things we were looking for and had them taped on a sheet of paper. Sad – I know!!

So we are waiting and he tells me to go on up ahead and look for the next “thing” on our list and he will wait to grab 2 of the first item. I don’t know that the “bell” ever sounded, but he said that one woman picked up the item just to “look at it” and then another and another – feeding frenzy. He looked at the diminishing pile of that particular item and realized that he could be “polite” no longer. If he didn’t muscle his way in a bit and grab the 2 we wanted they were going to be gone!

Ahh, my hero. Weaving his way between crazed women for a present for our kids!! And I am not kidding when I say crazed. One woman lost all patience – if she had any to begin with - and started screaming and cursing at the mass of people who weren’t walking the way she thought they should be walking! It was almost comical!

After an hour and a long wait in line we made our way to freedom and decided where we would go next. Yes, we do have serious problems I know!! We made our way to Home Depot where we returned not once but 2 more times. They had some really good deals, friendly staff and NO LINES! Then made our way to a couple more stores where again it was nothing like Wal-Mart and then went for the best part – breakfast at Perkins!

We were back at home by 10:30am but the hopes of a nap were nowhere in sight. It was warm out – 43 degrees and Dominic decided that he should take advantage and try and get up our Christmas lights. So we spent the afternoon digging through piles of icicle lights in the hopes of finding just one strand that worked completely, and finally gave up and opened up the new boxes I got on clearance last year!

We – mostly he – worked non stop through until 5pm that night when we had to return back to Sioux Falls again for dinner with my parents and Beth and a meeting at 7:30pm. The meeting ended up being cancelled and so we went back to Wal-Mart, I know seriously you don’t even have to say it, where we found some more things in a much calmer environment!

Saturday was the day to put up the tree. Our nephew Casey was visiting and helped us with everything. And when I say us – I really mean me. At this point my back has all but stopped functioning for me and I had to sit on the couch and watch as the boys did all the work.

We have one of those older artificial trees where each row of branches has to be put in one at a time. In addition we have this “technique” where we weave lights in and out of each branch on each row so that it looks like the tree has lights within it. It is really beautiful but it is a lot of work!

Oh and to top it all off we couldn’t find our tree lights. I searched every bin and bag (with the exception of one) so we had to resort to opening up new lights I got last year so we could have lights on the tree. Hours later – when the kids were in bed – Dominic opened that last bin that appeared to have the stuff to put up our nativity set and lo and behold under all of that were our tree lights. Of course!!

Sunday was church and Sunday school and then it was decorate the church time after the service. We helped put up the tree in our fellowship hall. It is a sad, sad tree that is broken at the top and the bottom. Dominic, in an effort to help get the tree in an upright and safe position, sliced open his hand and said if it had been any deeper he would have needed stitches!

We – and again I mean Dominic and Isaac - finished off our Sunday by putting the garland up on our house outside and a few other things in the house. And fell asleep to a Star Wars rerun on TNT. Did I mention that Dominic is getting a bad cold and felt sick and miserable all weekend too?

Seriously – what a trooper! He made an effort all weekend to do the next right thing – even if it meant a sacrifice on his part. He was helpful, patient, understand and positive. We wouldn’t have evidence of Christmas all around our house this year if it weren’t for all of his hard work! So thank you Dominic for everything you did for me and for our family this weekend! I appreciate it more than I can express in words!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Isaac!!


I can hardly believe it, especially because I have most definitely not aged it, but Isaac is 12 years old today! Wow sometimes I still can’t believe that we have a son that old!

Just as I did with Gabriel – I wanted to take some time today to reflect on what it was like bringing Isaac into this world and share with you what an amazing young man he is becoming.

We were young, naive and inexperienced when we were pregnant with Isaac. I loved kids, had done lots of babysitting growing up, but was really in no way prepared for what it really meant for us to be expecting a child of our own!

I remember in the beginning being so self-conscious about how my body was changing. I wasn’t always comfortable about how I looked and this new experience pushed that envelope a bit! But feeling those first kicks and seeing that ultrasound made us both so excited!

As new parents we did a lot of reading and took some of the classes that would prepare us for labor etc. (Yeah right! No offense to the people who put these on, but I had no idea what to really expect when the time actually came!)

It was a Monday morning, very early 1-2am and I woke up and felt “funny”…I was sure that I had heard/felt a “pop” and upon further examination discovered that my water had broken.

I think we maybe called my parents and then headed over to the hospital in Vermillion to see what they had to say. They verified that my water had broken and that I was 2cm dilated. They gave me this card that said something like “Do not Stop, Do not pass Go, Go directly to Sioux Falls”.

So that is what we did – went to SF and began the VERY long labor process to bring Isaac into the world! Lets just say that things weren’t progressing like I had hoped and the whole “breathing through the pain” went out the window at hour #1!

I can’t say I remember many of the details except that I cried A LOT and apologized A LOT for all of my crying and begged and begged for an epidural that I couldn’t have until I was dilated to a 4, which took hours. Once I was able to have that things started to progress a little faster, probably because I was able to relax a little!

One memorable moment – and I apologize this is going to be a TMI moment – so skip it if you don’t want to experience it with me – but Dominic’s aunt Monica stopped up to see us and said she had some advice to when it came to pushing the baby out. She said just remember to pretend you are “pooping out a watermelon”. I didn’t get it at the time – but when it came time to push I got it and it worked! Thanks Monica!!

The whole time I was pregnant, my doctor at the time, told me she was sure that the baby would only be about 7lbs or so. I didn’t look real huge so I guess she figured I had a smaller baby inside me.

She was wrong!! Isaac came into the world around 8pm that evening and was 8lbs 15oz – he was a BIG boy! And perfect in every way!!

Isaac, being our first, has had to endure our parenting mistakes and blunders. He has been the one to be the first to experience all those new things with and it has been so much fun! I found a picture of us together at his kindergarten graduation and I can’t believe that he is now in Middle School. The time has gone too fast!

Isaac has been such an amazing help to us with Gabriel. He is patient, kind and caring and has expressed his excitement about the new addition to our family. He is everything that we could want in a son – and then some.

Today I feel truly blessed to have Isaac in our family. I know that God has something very special planned for him. Isaac has a huge heart and love for people and it shows in his everyday actions. I can’t wait to see where His road takes him and I am so proud to be his mom!

Happy Birthday Isaac may this year be extra special for you and may you know what a gift you are to your dad and I! We love you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Convicted

Have you ever had one of those times where you have felt very convicted about something? Where it seems like God is trying to send you a message through others?

Well I have been going through one of those times recently! Several weeks ago I posted about Dominic’s comment about limiting the time we spend watching TV. And I shared how this thought initially makes me a little “uneasy” as I have become so accustomed to having the TV on at all times.

Wouldn’t you know that since then I have seen articles on the internet about the very topic, received e-mails from Family Life Today titled “What are you letting your children watch when you watch TV”, read of other bloggers who have had 2 years of a TV free environment and most recently listed to our pastor give a sermon and challenge us to where we are spending our time.

Alright already – I get the message! Although still hesitant I find myself more and more becoming critical of the sitcoms you see on TV now. Most, even those at 7pm, use inappropriate language, send messages about relationships and dating etc that I don’t want Isaac to be seeing as an example and although funny at times, overall just don’t do anything to add to our overall quality of life. Now Food Network and HGTV on the other hand…..

Justify, justify, justify! It is so easy for me to justify.

I still can’t honestly say the TV is going off for good – but once again I am feeling very convicted about how we are spending our time, what we are allowing our kids to see and what impact that is having on our family.

This week I have a big “to-do” list to complete in preparation for Thanksgiving at our house next Thursday, so I may be able to pull myself away from the TV a little more in the next couple of days.

I am no “Superwoman” here and don’t claim to know it all – much really, but it is interesting to me the ways in which God challenges me. And I know that even if I am resistant He will still be finding ways to work on my heart. Thankfully He is patient!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

7x7 Prayer

I have a new link on the side bar to a blog that is one of my favorites. Angie has decided to be intentional about praying for her kids 7 times a day. The idea is that in various times throughout the day we can pray for and over our children. While they are sleeping, waking, eating etc. With each situation she has found a relevant bible verse and is encouraging parents to pray these verses over their kids. I love this - what a great way to pray God's Word into the lives of the ones who are so important in our lives.

So if you are interested in joining this prayer movement - click on the picture 7x7 prayer on the side and it will link you directly to the list of seven bible verses! May our children be blessed by our intentional prayers for them!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Halloween






I finally figured out how to post a photo to my blog - I will try to do more now that it seemed to work. But for now here are the boys in their costumes for Halloween.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

12 weeks and counting!

Today we had our 12-week doctors appointment. I almost can’t believe that we will be starting the second trimester. Although I am not really feeling any better and I am starting to get more headaches I am trilled to know that up to this point everything is going as it should.

This has been a tough few weeks for me because I am in that in-between phase – where besides feeling sick, I don’t look too pregnant yet and I can’t feel the baby moving yet – so it still almost seems surreal to me.

But each visit comes with reassurance that things are just fine. The heart rate today was 165bpm, and although I can’t tell, the doctor said that it sounded good – no problems. I shared how I was dealing with this anxiety about things being ok and she said “Don’t worry so much about things – just trust God with this little one”.

And she is right – that is what I need to be doing. Trusting that God is taking good care of this new addition to the Smith home. Know that whatever happens – good and bad – He is there to walk with us and I should spend more time trusting that He has us in His care!
Today I am so thankful once again that I am experiencing this miracle – Thank you God!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cravings

So far I haven't had any of the "traditional" cravings that one has when pregnant. I haven't had a pickle yet and ice cream only a couple of times. But lately I have been craving one thing - a lot!

Chocolate!

I don't know what the deal is but it seems to be my "it" item the past several days. And to make matters worse, due to to season, it is readily available in large quantities in my house right now.

Today at work I had a good portion of one of those large Symphony bars...you know the ones that are the extra big bars that they sell at Wal-mart for $1.75 each. I keep taking it out of my drawer and havig "just one more piece".

This will not bode well for me if it continues in this quantity. I have to take it easy!! Maybe I can have another apple or a cheese stick....right after I finish this one last piece of chocolate! :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Letter to our child

I commented yesterday that the days seem to be slipping away from me. I have been so excited about this pregnancy and don’t want to forget how I feel during this time so I decided to find some way to document some of the things I have been thinking and feeling so that in years to come I won’t forget or take for granted the true gift that we have been given right at this moment. I got this idea from another blog in which the mother put together a compilation of letters that she wrote to her son before he was born. It seemed like a precious way to celebrate the life that is growing inside of me.

Dear little miracle
Did you know that is what you are to us, a miracle? Not just because of the months and months that we tried to have you, but also because you hung on through my surgery in early September. We didn’t even know about you then and might not have had the surgery done if we had. But God did, and He had something special planned for us in you. When we saw you on that first ultrasound and heard your tiny heart beating, we almost couldn’t believe it was true! We celebrated initially with caution, worried that something might happen but you have continued growing and now at almost 12 weeks along, we are able to openly express our joy over your presence.
We got to see you in another ultrasound almost 2 weeks ago. You were active and kicking and it made us laugh seeing your little arms and legs moving around. Your heart rate was strong at 178bpm. We are so very excited to be given the opportunity to add another child into our family!
Isaac and Gabriel are excited to be big brothers. Gabriel said he hopes you are a girl. He said he won’t play dolls with you but he will play "tools" with you. He did say that he thinks he can be nice even if you aren’t a girl! Isaac has been praying for you in his Sunday School class. His teacher told me she knows how much he cares about you already! Can you see the impact you are having on our family?
Today I am grateful just to be allowed this experience once again. I know that God has a special plan just for you and I am excited to see what that is in the years to come! Welcome to our family little one. We love you!
Mommy

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Priorities

I got an e-mail from a good friend that asked why I hadn’t posted anything new on my blog recently. Truth is things have just been crazy it seems. Nothing special really just life passing me by, day at a time until another week is gone. It is scary sometimes how that happens. There are times in my day where it feels like my day will never end and then poof it is 3 days later! With work and meetings, basketball practices and piano, family get togethers, church and alone time – life seems to be getting away from me.

Beth also e-mailed me today and said how we needed to get together and just spend some time hanging out, enjoying these pregnancies that we both have been blessed with. She said she doesn’t want the next several months to pass us by and we realize what we have missed out on. And she is right. I don’t want to have the next several months pass me by and realize too late that I have missed the journey because I was so focused on the destination.

It causes me to pause and reflect a little on my priorities. I know that this is a constant struggle with us. Making sure that we are using our time wisely. Dominic said at dinner on Sunday that he was contemplating the idea of taking a break from TV for a while. WHAT?! He said he wondered what would happen if he spent time reading the Bible or a book instead of watching TV. Secretly I was thinking to myself that I hoped he wouldn’t want me to be a part of his plan.

Honestly I get a little sick feeling in my stomach when I think about missing some of my favorite shows, this is sad I know!! But if I really stop and think about it – what do most of those shows we watch offer me? Usually it is a half hour by half hour ticking away of my evening. Whether it is a sitcom or the Food network, usually the shows last a half hour and pretty soon it is 10pm and I am ready for bed.

That isn’t entirely true either. Better stated, I usually fall asleep on the couch around 9pm and Dominic wakes me up when the news starts and tells me to go to bed. Sad I know!!

And if I had to tell you what I watched a week ago and what I remember from it – I probably couldn’t do it. So even though I can’t stand the idea of giving up my TV crutch I can see why Dominic would consider it.

Now am I going to put this plan into action? I would like to confidently say “Yes I am” and then do it. Maybe we could replace our background TV time with some good music. Or dare I even suggest it – conversation with my family?! In reality I don’t know. I will have to let you know how that is going later.

For tonight I am having dinner with my parents before I go to my regular Tuesday night meeting. I usually don’t get home until 9:30pm so “No TV” tonight might just be feasible. Wednesday is a whole other story. It will be a challenge to myself if I can go through with it. And as I type that I am embarrassed by the fact that it has become such a crutch for me!

But God wants my priorities to be on Him. He desires that I spend time seeking Him and learning about Him. And although I can do this for Sunday School I don’t spend much time doing it because of my own self-motivation. We pray each morning that He would show us His will for our lives and give us the Power to carry it out. If I really desire that prayer for my life, I need to be open to what sacrifices that might mean for me.

Lots for me to think about and pray about. For now I can commit to at least this - earnestly seeking His path even if it means giving up my crutch for a while. Lean on something – better yet Someone instead.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Churched" Contest Winner!!

Thank you to the few of you that left comments for me about the review of "Churched". :) The winner of the extra copy is Dee F. I also thought it would be nice to share the copy that I had a chance to read so I am giving that away also - and the second winner is Kristin (yes great name!!)

I hope that you both enjoy the book and if you do pass it along to someone else that might need a laugh too! If you both could e-mail me your full names and addresses I will get the books out to you next week! My e-mail is kasmith03@gmail.com.

Thanks again and have a blessed weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gabriel is 5!

I meant to post this yesterday on Gabriel’s actual birthday but I just didn’t get to it.

My baby is 5! I can hardly believe it, he isn’t a baby anymore he is a little boy and I wanted to take some time today to remember some of the things that are so special about our amazing, youngest son.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel I really thought he was going to be a girl. We didn’t find out what we were having at our 20 week ultrasound. I really wanted to know but Dominic didn’t and as much as I hate to admit it – that was the one surprise we had at the end! So husband you were right about waiting, it was worth it!

Apparently it was clear on my ultrasound that we were having a boy – my parents took one look and knew but they didn’t let on. Although looking back they did encourage us to make sure that we had boy names picked out too! I never figured it out! Blonde moment!!

My labor was pretty quick, we were rushing to get to the hospital that Wednesday night. Isaac was only 7 so we called my parents to meet us at the hospital and take him. I was in so much pain and I didn’t want Isaac to see me that way. I think we checked into the hospital around 10pm and Gabriel was born at 12:10am.

His heart rate kept dropping with every contraction I had and they were getting concerned. I remember the doctor telling us that if I couldn’t push him out with the next contraction that they were going to have to take me into the OR for an emergency C-section and because we were out of time they wouldn’t have time to give me a block so I would be put totally under. There was no way that I was going to miss the birth of my child so one more push and he was out. The cord was wrapped around his neck, thus the reason for his distress. But he started crying a minute later and we knew he was going to be ok.

7lbs 5oz. Ten fingers, ten toes and lots of dark hair. And he looked exactly like Isaac did when he was first born. He was perfect and beautiful.

When Gabriel was just a few months old he got RSV and was very sick. Dominic and I didn’t realize how serious it had gotten and my parents happened to come down to our house for my birthday one of the nights we had been home with him. My mom took one look at him and could see the distress he was having breathing and my dad called the ER and let them know we were on the way.

That was a terrifying moment. I remember my dad sat in the back seat next to his car seat and kept shining a light on him to make sure he was ok on the drive up. Our doctor said he wouldn’t have lasted for too many more hours in the condition he was in. His little heart wouldn’t have handled the stress because every breath was difficult for him. We spent 9 long days in the hospital with him. I left once in that time for about a ½ hour. I was lucky to have a job to go back to when it was over! And Thank God that my parents came when they did, they helped save his life.

He scared us again when he got a little older. I got a call at work one afternoon from our daycare. One of the women had been showing the young kids these flashcards with animals on them. She held up a lion and said “the lion says roar”. This scared Gabriel and he turned to crawl away and passed out on the floor. He looked like he might be having a seizure and turned a bluish/grey color. The called they ambulance and then me as he was being brought up to Sioux Falls.

More time in the hospital, and this time lots and lots of tests. We met neurologists, cardiologists, had MRI’s and heart echo’s and probably every blood test they could run. He didn’t have any of the signs that he actually had a seizure and after every test was run they decided that he had a pallid breath holding disorder.

Gabriel continued to have these “episodes” over the next several years. They told us that they eventually would end around the age of 5 – we haven’t seen one in probably a year or longer so I think we are in the clear. But boy at the time he sure gave me some grey hairs!

Now Gabriel is a healthy, strong and happy young boy. He got his first bike with training wheels and a new helmet for his birthday and he loves it. It was so cute the day we gave it to him he just hopped right on and went off riding. I am so proud of the boy he is growing up to be. He has been such a blessing to our family and I wouldn’t trade even a moment of it.

Gabriel you are a gift from God and I am so grateful for every day God allows me to be your mommy. Happy Birthday little man! I love you.

Mom

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15

Today, October 15, is the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss. In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, it has been suggested that grieving parents and family members light a candle at 7 p.m. in their respective time zones to create a wave of light around the world in memory of babies lost to pregnancy and infant loss. Would you join me in this today?

When we experienced a loss of a pregnancy in February I found great comfort in Angie’s blog - www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com - because she was a woman working out her faith and love for God in spite of the terrible situation she was in – pregnant with a baby girl they knew couldn’t survive outside the womb.

On her site today she has asked all who have experienced a loss of a pregnancy/child to post a comment and she will be in prayer for each one. Last I checked there were over 1200 comments. My heart is heavy for all women who have suffered a loss of a precious little one. I will be praying for these women today, that God will be real to those who still struggle, that He would comfort those who continue to grieve and He would protect and guard the hearts of those of us that have been given an opportunity to carry life again.

If you have been personaly affected by a loss and would like me to pray for you specifically, please leave a comment and I will add you to my prayer list.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“Churched” Blog Tour

Ok – so this is something new for me on my blog so please stick with me! One of the other blogs that I follow is of a woman from Nashville TN who is married to a man that is a Christian author. One day on her blog she talked about the new book he had written and that they were looking for volunteers to participate in a “blog tour” review of his book. I was intrigued so I signed up!

As a participant I received 2 hardcover copies of Matthew Paul Turner’s new book ‘Churched”. One for me to read and review and another for me to give away on my blog as a contest! So if you like contests and free stuff like I do – all you have to do is leave me a comment on this post and I will draw randomly from the names and someone will win a copy of this book! And if I don’t have any takers I will be donating the book to my church library!

For those not familiar with leaving comments…you don’t need a Google identity/password to do so, just choose “anonymous” and leave your name at the bottom of the post so I know who you are!

If you want to find out more about the author please see his blog site at: www.matthewpaulturner.com!

“Churched” is the journey of a young boy, Matthew Turner, who grows up in a family that decides to become “Fundamental Baptists” switching from a different religion. I found this very idea funny – is that what a lot of families do…”decide” to be Catholic, or Lutheran or Methodist…etc when one religion or another doesn’t suit them any longer? He made a point to say that his parents weren’t Christian before this decision they were Methodist. I sometimes find myself making that distinction if someone asks what religion I am “in”. “I am a Christina who attends a Baptist church” - for me it is my personal walk with Jesus that is more important than the building I call my church home.

This book chronicles his journey of faith, how his years of strict church affected him and how he eventually found God in the process. It is a funny book and a quick read. And one that really made me reflect on how we are presenting God to our kids. Am I encouraging a relationship with a Savior or just giving my kids a list of rules that one needs to follow in order to get to Heaven. Too often I am afraid we see people who turn away from the church because of this very reason instead of falling in love with and developing a relationship with Jesus. Although the “rules” are important for our children to understand it is so important for us to be fostering that relationship as they grow too.

Matthew was submerged in a life of rules and regulations and examples of Hell. Men had to have their hair cut above their ears, Barbie dolls were burned in Sunday School to give young children a glimpse into what Hell would be like for people who smoked, the Pastor had an annual boxing match with Satan and all Christian music was of the “devil”.

He finds a way in these short excerpts, to give us a glimpse into the fear he felt towards God at the time. And although it is good I think to have a healthy fear of God, his was much more than that and after telling a lie as a child spent a long time begging God to please not send him to Hell. But despite his rigid upbringing he later found his way to a God of his understanding. A God that he can call a Savior and a friend.

I do wish the author would have shared more about his current “walk” with God, a little more into how he values that relationship today, because it is those stories that I am encouraged the most by – but maybe that is for another book! If you are looking for a book that is a humorous and quick read you will enjoy the book “Churched”.

And if you are interested in this little “contest” please leave me your name and/or comment by the end of this week – October 17th and I will pick our winner after that!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fear

I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it and I know it is irrational, but today I seem to be filled with fear.

I don’t suffer from panic attacks or anything like that but I do have a very active imagination and I often allow my mind to wander to places I know it shouldn’t go. Quickly and very easily everything can become a catastrophe and I begin to consider the “worst case scenario” in different situations.

Today I seem to be consumed with fear over this pregnancy. I have no “legitimate” reasons for this fear. In fact I have a host of reasons to believe that everything is fine and going along as planned – but yet my mind wanders to that dark place and I am filled with fear.

I feel the fear of the possibility that we could still lose this pregnancy, or the fear that something will be “wrong” with our baby, or…the list could go on and on.

Fear – it is ugly. It masks the truth, it darkens hope and it makes me feel out of control.

I believe that satan is real in our society today and I believe that this is where these fears come from. He wants me to succumb to these fears, to believe them. Because when I do I am shutting myself off from the Light and the truth.

I did a search for bible versus related to fear and here are some that I found.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41: 10)

"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you should eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?" (Matthew 6:25-27)

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? (Psalms 56:3-4)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Promises – promises to us that no matter what we face, real or not, He is with us. He is my rock and my salvation, He is the strength of my life. Do not fear for He is with me.

What do I want to believe today? Promises or lies? Real truth or unrealized fear?

It is my choice really. I holdfast to the promises today and I will shield myself with His word and His truth - that the lies of one who seeks to destroy me will flee in terror of the almighty truth of a God who love me.

And the truth shall set me free….

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today

Today I was getting ready for work and went to put on my dress pants that I had chosen to wear.

They didn’t fit!

They zipped up and everything but it was that kind of not fitting when the pockets on the side were pushed out to the max and I was afraid that if I did sit down at all for the day I would break the clasp that was keeping them closed.

This clothing problem seems to be coming on a little early and in my defense they were weird fitting pants to begin with – the kind that sat a little higher on my waist. But regardless, I brought them into the bedroom and told Dominic that they needed to go into the “not so much anymore” pile. This is the first addition to that pile but I am sure there will be more – and soon!

We started 2 weeks ago taking a picture of my belly every Sunday morning so that this time we could document the changes. We never did that before – I was always too self-conscious about it. Although I loved being pregnant I never was comfortable with the fact that I was getting heavy, even if it were for a good reason.

But this time – although some of those lurking feelings still remain – I am trying to rejoice in every change. Even if it means that I am getting “thick” around the middle.

This is probably the worst phase to be in. Besides the “morning sickness” – which by the way lasts on and off ALL DAY – things are changing, but in a way that just makes me look like I am packing on the pounds for winter! So if you don’t know I am pregnant you would probably just say I look “solid”.

I am laughing as I type this, really I am. It is good to poke fun at myself a little and to not take myself so seriously. And even though I don’t feel great most days and I am getting too big for my regular pants and yet still too small for maternity pants, I am thankful for each and every moment.

Dominic said it in church yesterday and it is true. This child is God’s. It isn’t mine/ours, it is God’s and He is allowing us the opportunity to care for this baby. What a great responsibility we have as parents. What a gift we have been given – I am so grateful!

In our church we don’t have infant baptisms – we leave that until the child is willing/able to make that choice to accept Jesus as their own personal savior. Isaac made that choice last year and it was amazing to watch him confess his faith and love for God in front of our whole church. Instead we have what is called a “Baby Dedication”.

Dominic made an interesting observation yesterday. He said it really isn’t as much a baby dedication as it is a “parent dedication”. Knowing that this is God’s child first we don’t really need to dedicate this baby back to Him. But we do as parents need to dedicate and commit to God that we will raise this baby in a Christian home, teach him/her the bible and bring him to church. We really do have a great responsibility to lead this child to a personal relationship with the One who gave this child to us.

For now though, I will just pray that God will guide us in the month’s to come, preparing us for the journey we have ahead.

And I might just need to begin my search for a couple pairs of pants that will “grow” with me. I am going to be needing them – and soon!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Blessings, Blessings, Blessings

Alright I have a confession to make – this post was written awhile ago, but because of respect for another’s wishes and timing I was unable to post until now. But I have been given the go ahead and so I am shouting out my list of blessings today!

A few weeks ago Dominic and I were out for a dinner together alone and I had a missed call from Beth. I didn’t think much of it and called her as soon as I got the message. After a little talk about how and what they were doing for the weekend she said she had some news for me.

Yep – you guessed it Beth is pregnant!!! I can’t tell you how very excited I was when I got that call. I mean really – in all honesty I had not been so excited for something in a long time. I was thrilled for her and Jeff. And from the moment she told me – and I shared this with her – I had a feeling that she was going to have the first girl for our family! Call me crazy but I guess we will see huh?!

As some of you know Dominic and I have been trying for a LONG time to be pregnant again. It is something I have struggled with and truth be told in certain circumstances, around people that are pregnant or with their new babies I have had a really hard time.

But when this call came I felt nothing but sheer joy. Joy that they were going to be experiencing kids of their own, joy that they live close and I could walk along with her on this journey, joy that Beth and I have established a relationship and a friendship that I am grateful for. This is such a gift for our family and I was so excited. I have been praying for her daily that God would bless her with a healthy, easy and enjoyable pregnancy. She is due May 8, 2009!

I remember thinking the next day that I was glad she got pregnant before I did again. That she deserved this. I have had almost 12 years of “firsts” with Isaac as the only grandchild for a long time and they deserve a “first” of their own – thus the hopes for a girl for them.

I guess I really felt for the first time that I was healed from the loss I had experienced back in February, that I was finally able to let that go and just jump for joy over someone else’s miracle.

Well God has a sense of humor and just when I think things can’t be any better…well, He changes things up a bit.

When I was with Karlena in Denver I had terrible heartburn – which for me is out of the ordinary - that is unless I am pregnant. But I dismissed it until after I got home that next week and I was continuing to feel “icky” in the morning.

I knew the chance of me being pregnant was slim to none, but I had a test left over from before and I decided to take it.

I was wrong about the slim to none – it flashed positive so fast I could hardly believe it! I literally fell to my knees in the bathroom and cried. I knew how early it must be and all the fears of losing this pregnancy just flooded over me. All I could do was just pray that God would prepare my heart for whatever this might mean – good or bad. I didn’t pray for the pregnancy to be safe just that I would be prepared to walk whatever path He had for me.

I saw my doctor that same day for a follow up from my surgery and told her the news. She said she would do some blood work to see where my “numbers” were and we would go from there.

Again I waited – asking for my heart to be prepared. I got a call the next day that my numbers were higher than expected and they wanted to see me the following day for an ultrasound. Here is where I tried to understand and control what was happening….I Googled. Darn the google! Let me say from experience – sometimes the not knowing is better than all the stuff that Google has to offer us. I found every terrible thing I could find that it might be – all mostly bad and prepared myself for the worst.

So after another day of waiting and now praying that He would be with me when we got the news that something was wrong – we went to that ultrasound appointment. I was terrified. I kept reminding myself that God was God regardless of the outcome and I had to trust in His plan.

“There’s your baby”. Three simple words and the tears started falling. “And it is where it is “supposed,” to be” – that was their main concern. And then “there’s the heart beating”, “122bpm a good, strong heartbeat”.

And then something I didn’t expect – you are 6 weeks, 3 days along. WHAT?! Tears again. “But I don’t understand – I had surgery 3 weeks ago, they tested me that day, it was negative, how could it have survived?”

Our little miracle was conceived before my surgery, and somehow, by the grace of God, survived that whole ordeal and is now growing, just like it should. What a little fighter we have on our hands!

Then she told me my due date – May 18, 2009. Here is where God’s sense of humor comes in I think…Beth and I are due only 10 days apart! You know there is no way we could have planned this ourselves – no way if we had tried this on our own would it have turned out. But with God – anything is possible!

God chose to bless us both with this amazing gift. The gift of being able to share in a similar experience at the same time. The gift of having kids that are the same age and will grow up knowing how special this time was for their moms. This very well may be the only opportunity for us to be pregnant at the same time, and living so close. It truly is a blessing and I am overjoyed!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Warm towels and other morning routines

We have this routine every morning with the boys that started as a fluke but has developed into a necessary part of our morning. One day when the boys were getting done with their showers they needed clean towels. I had been running the dryer that morning and there were a couple of clean towels in there so I grabbed them….thus started the tradition of the warm towels.

The next day Gabriel wanted to know where his warm towel was. I hadn’t made it warm and he was very disappointed. So from that day on it is something that I have done every morning. Before I get in the shower when I get up I put their towels into the dryer so that in an hour when I have to get them up their towels will be toasty warm!

And if you think about it, what would be better after a warm shower and the cold air of the house starts to come into the room and then you are covered with a warm towel to dry off with! Hey I think I need someone to get me a warm towel every morning! Don’t feel too bad for me though Dominic doesn’t get the warm towels either!

There is something comforting about being wrapped up in a warm towel, or a warm blanket when it is cold. So I can understand how they enjoy this. And really it is very little out of my time every day to give them a good start to their morning. And mornings can be difficult at times with sleepy kids so this is something that hopefully will make good memories for them of their childhood.

Another routine that we have developed over the past couple of years has been that before we leave in the morning we say prayers together as a family. We have a couple of “recited” prayers that we say first and then one of us will say a closing prayer. Although Gabriel is only 4 (almost 5) he is a smart little guy. One day he surprised us and said the prayers along with us, reciting every word! We were so impressed because it took us awhile to memorize them. But I suppose hearing them over and over stuck in his mind.

For a long time he wouldn’t say them with us even though we knew he had them down. Just his way of showing his defiance I guess! But in the past few weeks he has been saying them with us again. It is the way that he says them that has me laughing almost every morning. He starts out all sweet “God…” and then the rest of the prayer he says in this almost angry sounding loud whisper.

I have to really concentrate not to laugh when he does this because it sounds so hilarious! And I don’t really think he is angry but it sure sounds like he is! Oh well, God loves to hear our voices even if the “tone” isn’t the best. I am glad that for today he was at least willing to try! I thought I would end by sharing these recited prayers with you – we enjoy them because they help us focus on God’s will for our lives and how we can help our fellow man.

“God, I offer myself to thee
To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt
Relieve me of the bondage of self that I might better do Thy will
Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to
Those I might help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life
May I do Thy will always.”

“My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad
I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character
Which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding. Amen”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grace and Karlena

I was blessed with a fun, inspiring and relaxing weekend with Karlena again and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be in Denver with her. We stayed in the heart of downtown in a hotel on the 16th street mall and walked to and from the Pepsi Center and it was fun seeing all of the diversity that Denver has to offer!

This year’s conference was on celebrating God’s Infinite Grace. And a celebration it was! We were entertained with awesome music, speakers and as always the message of hope. Hope in life everlasting because of the amazing grace that God has poured out onto us, given freely at little cost or sacrifice to us, because He loves us. It is a gift that I find myself overwhelmed by still and so very grateful for.

And then I wonder how am I living out that gift in my own life? Am I giving freely to others of my time and gifts? Am I grateful for the life I have – even when at times it isn’t what I thought I wanted for myself? Am I finding ways to spread His message of hope with others or am I holding it in because I am too afraid of what other will think of me if I do share the Truth? Am I setting an example of grace and love in my life for my children to see?

Karlena is….

She is an amazing woman. I know that I said that on a previous post – but it is worth saying again. When she was 18 she found out that she carried the gene for a disease called Ataxia – something that runs in her family and took her father at a young age. She knew then at 18 that there would be a chance that she might develop the “symptoms” of the disease later in her life. But instead of letting that seemingly negative information bring her down she chose to live her life to the fullest regardless of what path would be given to her.

And she has been doing that ever since.

Several years ago she started showing some of the typical “symptoms” of ataxia and we all knew what future was in store for her. When I found out I was angry with God – it isn’t fair that someone so young, so beautiful, so filled with Christ should be faced with something like this. It isn’t fair. I struggled with that for a long time.

I am sure that there must be times Karlena struggles with that same feeling – but you wouldn’t know it if you spent any time with her. She is faithful in her walk with God – trusting that He knows the plans He has for her and although not always “fair”, she doesn’t question His will for her life. She is grateful for the time she does have and lives life that way.

She is an example to me each and every time I am with her. Life isn’t fair. It isn’t right that a 33-year-old woman should be planning her own “celebration of life” ceremony. But she has and it is something she needs to do. I am grateful that I can support her in that – even if it isn’t fair and even if I want to deny the truth of the situation. I know that some day I will get that “call” – the call that I dread because it means an end of something on earth here for me.

But again as I talk with Karlena and we remember the promises that God offers, I am reminded that we have something more wonderful to look forward to. She maybe sooner than I – but we both have the assurance of that reunion again someday, and that is a reason to celebrate.

I shared with her this weekend the lyrics to a song I recently heard. It is from Chris Tomlin’s brand new CD “Hello Love”. It is an amazing CD and one song in particular has really touched me. The first time I heard it I thought of Karlena. Because as her body continues to fail her, as she continues to struggle with some of those daily tasks we take advantage of – she holds onto the promise of a Savior that loved her enough to die for her and make a place for her where one day she will dance unassisted, rising in worship to a God that loves her, loves me, loves all of us.

What an amazing gift we have been given – the gift of GRACE.

I hope that the words to this song will touch you as it did me. I am lucky to have Karlena in my life – someone that has made that difference in me – who is it in your life? If you have that someone, tell them what they mean to you. Don’t wait – our time here is precious.

I Will Rise
By Chris Tomlin


There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say, “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagle’s wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When the darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagle’s wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagle’s wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Off to Denver!!

Well tomorrow (Thursday) I am headed off to Denver! My flight leaves from Omaha at 2pm and I am so excited!!! This is my annual trip out to see Karlena and to attend the Women of Faith conference on Friday and Saturday. It is always so much fun to spend the weekend with Karlena - she is an amazing woman. Every time I am blessed to be with her I walk away grateful that she is a part of my life.

We get to stay in a hotel in downtown Denver Friday and Saturday and it really is a mini vacation for both of us I think! And to top it off we get to be in the Pepsi Center with 20,000 other woman praising God together.

If you haven't been to a WOF conference - you really should go. It is an experience and one that I enjoy like it is my first time each year I attend. The speakers, the dramas, the worship songs, all of it revives my spirit.

None of this would be possible if I didn't have a husband who was willing to let me "escape" like this every year while he stays behind and takes care of our life at home. I know my leaving means that he will have to take care of "all the jobs", the kids, the lunches, the dog, the cooking, the entertainment. And I know that it can be stressful at times - but he selflessly encourages me to go and be with Karlena and I am so grateful for the way he loves me like that.

So if you read this - please say a prayer for Dominic and the kids this weekend. That their time together, just the boys, would be blessed with laughter and fun and little stress. And pray that I can be an encouragement to Karlena as she always is to me, that our short time together would be memorable for both of us. And that we both would feel the Holy Spirit move in our lives this weekend and we would be inspired to share that with others once the weekend is through!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Isaac

Isaac is an AMAZING kid. When I stop and think about all the wonderful things about him I wonder how is it that this could be our son? He is caring and kind, he has always been such a good brother to Gabriel. Whenever I need help with something I can count on Isaac, whenever I need someone to spend time with Gabriel - Isaac knows what to do.

He has always been an excellent student and we have been so lucky that he doesn't struggle in school. His homework levels are manageable and if I leave him a list of things to do after school I know that they will get done.

He started taking piano lessons last year and has really excelled at that quickly. I almost wish I hadn't given up on lessons when I did because when I hear him play I get a little jealous. His teacher says he has a raw talent and rhythm and although he says that his lessons are sometimes too hard he always masters them in no time.

This year he started middle school - 6th grade. It was probably harder initially for me than him because I remember what those years were like for me...and I don't really have the happiest of memories. I was never the pretty girl or the popular girl or the athlete or the smartest student. I guess I was just average and my whole life I wanted to be so much more than just average. I had braces and glasses and a pretty terrible hairdo. I wasn't the girl that all the guys "asked out" and I was terribly shy and insecure. Looking back makes me wonder how did we all survive that?

So because of my flop as a popular, smart, beautiful, outgoing middle schooler - I had such high hopes that things would be different for Isaac.

But I am realizing that some things don't change...kids are mean, they say terrible things, they hurt people's feelings - mostly because of their own insecurity - and the pressures to be "perfect" are still there.

I didn't want Isaac to face these challenges. But he is, and he does, and some days for Isaac I am sure things seem dark. There are pressures to be involved in certain sports and teasing if you are not....especially in a smaller school. There are kids that are nasty - just to be nasty, and somehow he has to learn to be an example to them. Pray for them, understand that they must be hurting inside to treat someone badly. Easier said than done right?

So I found myself frustrated tonight - why can't Isaac love football and be the star of the team, why can't he be the biggest, fastest kid in gym class. Why can't he be the most confident, outgoing, smart kid in his class.

And then I realized that if he were all those things he wouldn't be the amazing son that we have today. If it all came too easy for him, if he were over confident would he care about the little guy? Probably not. I see those kids in his class now and I am sure they aren't looking out for anyone but themselves.

Do I want my son to grow up to be a star or a man of God? Of course the answer is a man of God...but I realize that as I type this that probably means his road will not be easy, his burden heavy at times. It can be painful at times to walk an upright road with the Father. Painful because of what this world tells us is the "way". As a parent I don't want to see my child suffer those truths, but knowing his eternal destination is at stake, it is important that I lead him on a journey with a Savior that loves him. Encourage those Godly things in his life, help him to establish a relationship with God so that when he journeys alone he knows the way.

I am a person that "wants her cake and eat it too". I want the "good life" that the world has to offer, but I also want the eternal life that God has to offer. I can't always have it both ways. I have to continue to search for that peace in what we have now and what is yet to come. Find the reasons to be grateful, even if they are small things, and celebrate the life we are allowed to live now instead of wish it could be different. Set that example for my kids so that they can be grateful too, they can see the good in difficult situations. Keep my heart and my mind focused on the precious gifts we have been given from a God who sacrificed more than I have ever been asked to sacrifice. Knowing that this journey is but a fleeting moment compared to our eternal journey.

Isaac I am so proud of who you are, you are a wonderful son and I wouldn't change a thing about you. I know that God has special things planned for you and I can't wait to see what they are!

I love you, Mom

Gabriel "isms"

Gabriel just has a way with things. He cracks us up all the time with his funny faces and comments and he makes our hearts overflow with his sweetness.

He didn't really understand the reasons why mom's tummy was hurting this past week, but he knew that he couldn't sit on my lap and I couldn't pick him up. This is unusual for us, so he knew something was different even if he didn't know why.

For as long as I can remember one of the "isms" of Gabriel is that when he would sit in my lap he would ask me to "pet" him. I am pretty sure that he picked this up from learning how to be gentle and pet the kitties, and he has always used that word for it.

So when he is tired and cuddly he climbs up close to me and I "pet" him. He doesn't like scratches, he tells me so, but he likes soft "pets" on the arm.

So this week when I was recovering from my surgery and Gabriel had to be careful around me, he came over and told me that he would "pet" me and I would feel better. He was right.

I stayed home until Wednesday this week, but on Monday because it was cold out and I was bored decided to make homemade soup. It is easy really I just let some meat simmer on the stove the entire day stirring every once and awhile and added the veggies late in the afternoon. I love homemade soup!

Gabriel LOVES homemade soup too. It is probably the only thing that I make for dinner that he really enjoys. You should have seen him eat. He wanted his own bowl and after every bite would say "Mom, this is good soup mom", "I love it mom". Bowl after bowl he ate this soup. Green beans, corn, tomatoes, meat, he ate it all. He probably wouldn't eat those things separately if I begged him, but in the soup it is wonderful.

So for 3 nights now he has had my soup, he has loved my soup and he has made me feel happy! He had to take a shower after eating his soup because "it was all over his whole body mom"! Gotta love that!! If the rest of the family wouldn't get tired of it I would make it all the time - just for Gabriel's reaction! :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

60 years

This weekend we had the opportunity to celebrate with my Grandpa and Grandma Johnson for their 60th wedding anniversary! What an accomplishment - 60 years! When I think about today's society and the trends of marriage, this certainly is amazing! Their example is a gift that they have given all of their family members and I am so grateful for that.

Dominic and I have only been married 12 years so to even think about 60 is almost hard to comprehend! But we see that it is possible. My grandpa takes care of my grandma as she does him. And although there have been some health scares in recent years, both looked healthy and happy this weekend!

We had a special meal with close family on Saturday night and they had a few of their wedding items on display, an album, her wedding dress...and all of their children stood up and shared a favorite memory of their family. Each one shared stories about the family vacations they took together, camping, fishing, long drives - sometimes with sick kids...but with laughter and funny stories to reminisce about.

Sunday we went to my grandparents church and as an extra surprise myself, my sister Beth and my cousins Greta, Annie and Rachel sang the song "Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone" in honor of their 60 years together. It was really neat to be able to get us girls together and do that for them, something I think we will all remember. My dad recorded it on this devise that he says can download directly to YouTube - so when I can figure out how to do that I want to add it to this post!

Then we spent Sunday afternoon in Northfield MN at my great uncle and aunt's house and they served us a wonderful meal and we had time to visit as a family once again. We don't get these opportunities to get together all of us like this very often anymore it seems - so it is fun when we do!

I am very blessed to have the extended family that I have. I have amazing parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And I am also blessed with an awesome "in-law" family. It doesn't matter which/whose family gathering we are at - there is always good food and lots of laughter. I know that not everyone can say that about their families, so I am incredibly grateful to be blessed like this.

I hope that Dominic and I can create these same memories and situations for our kids in the years to come. So that they will be able to look back on their childhood and feel the great blessing of family as I have and continue to pass that along to future generations!

60 years....well Dominic and I have a ways to go on that goal, but if we forge together with God in the center of our lives...it isn't that far out of reach. I look forward to every coming year Dominic, you help make our journey together fun and I wouldn't choose anyone else by my side. Thank you for all you are in my life. I love you. K

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chicken Nuggets, Bridges, Train Tracks and Gabriel

Tonight, for awhile, it is just Gabriel and I alone. The other boys are still in Sioux Falls and will be home later tonight. I really wasn't in the mood for cooking - we are leaving for the weekend early tomorrow morning so I don't want a lot of leftovers (at least that is how I justify it!!) So when I picked him up from daycare tonight and he hid behind a door to "scare" me as he jumped out - I told him that I thought we should go and get chicken nuggets at BK.

Gabriel LOVES chicken nuggets. He won't eat the fries - I know bonus for me!! And he likes the little toys that come with the kids meal. So we headed over to BK. Our conversation went something like this....

"Mom, are we going to go and get chicken nuggets mom?"

You see he has been doing this - mostly when he talks to me, putting my name at the beginning and the end of EVERY sentence he says!! It is cute at first...but after about the 30th one...well lets just say it drives me a little nutso. But he is adorable and I love him...so we continue.

"Yes we are going to get you some chicken nuggets, how many do you want?"

"Mom, I think I want seven mom, that's not a lot mom"

"It's not? It seems like a lot to me!"

"Mom, no mom, 30 is a lot!"

OK now I know what a lot is!! I have always wondered! :)

"Mom, I want a toy and some green pop (Sprite) too mom"

"Gabriel, I don't think they make kids meals with 8 piece chicken nuggets, I don't think we can get a toy."

"Mom YES THEY DO Mom"....

He was right...the lady in the drive through asked if I wanted a 4 piece or an 8 piece with my kids meal...schooled! 8 piece of course! He asked if he could eat one in the car - promising that he would not spill. He counted his 8 nuggets, making sure they were all there and was very happy when he discovered that his toy was something Spongebob. He is easy to please!

There was LOTS more conversation just like this as we waited for what seemed like an hour in line...it is much too lengthy to add here, but I am sure you get the picture! :)

Besides his love for the nuggets, he also has a fascination for bridges. All bridges we see he has to point out. Usually he wants to know why we aren't going over them as we drive under them. So tonight I decided to turn right instead of left to head home and take him across the 1-29 Interstate bridge.

This is less than 1 block from the BK and basically I drove over it, found a turn around spot and drove over it again. That was it - to most people that would be very weird, boring, but to Gabriel he was gleaming with joy.

Next he asked if we could drive past the golf course in our town. It is called Bridges at Beresford. and yes - you guessed it - it has several old bridges placed throughout. There is a road that you can drive on near the course and see several of them. So we did that too.

Finally, a few nights ago Dominic took us on a little drive out in the country and by accident we crossed some train tracks. Gabriel loves trains and train tracks. He saw where I was driving and asked if we could go see the tracks again. How can I say no?!

So we headed out of town a short ways, drove over the tracks, turned around, drove over them again and came home so that he could finish his nuggets.

A pretty successful evening for a boy who takes pleasure in the simple things around him. Sometimes I have to stop and try to see things from his point of view. Recognize the beauty in the simplistic and be grateful for it. Tonight I am grateful that I had the opportunity to make Gabriel smile, to see him excited over chicken nuggets, bridges and train tracks. God is good!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A week from today...

I found out yesterday that I will be having a minor surgery a week from today. It is funny even as I write that I am not worried about it at all, I feel totally at peace with this decision. I saw my doctor for an annual visit and I expressed some concerns about some pain I had been having for awhile.

Based on my descriptions and her exam she feels pretty confident that I have endometriosis again. I say that because apparently there is no way for her to "officially" diagnose it without going in with a laparoscope and checking it out. And so, a week from today, that is exactly what she is going to do.

About 6 years ago I had an emergency surgery, a very critical surgery, in which this very same doctor came in and saved my life. I remember that night going into the operating room and they were prepping me and she came in because they had called her and I remember saying "Please don't take everything out - I want to be able to have more babies". She promised me that she would do everything that she could, but that if it was between saving my life and saving my reproductive organs - she would choose me.

She was able to save both, and by a miracle we got pregnant with Gabriel the following year. I have complete faith in my doctor and her ability to take care of me. I am very lucky. During that surgery they found endometriosis that I didn't know I had and removed it. Apparently it can come back. And so we will try again to take care of this pesky problem!

I have told people that I am excited in a way for this surgery. I know - crazy lady talking! But I know that after the healing time is over, there is a very good chance that I will feel much better than I do today. And who knows, maybe this is just the thing I need to be able to successfully carry a pregnancy.

I/we both struggle with what is God's plan for our lives - and more specifically does that plan include more children? I would love to believe that it does, but I don't know for sure.

Remember that old movie with Steve Martin in it where a electronic highway billboard sends him messages, and I think he somehow meets his true love and falls in love. But he is driving on this highway, talking out loud, basically asking for answers and this sign answers him. Clear as day.

Sometimes that is what I wish for. Wouldn't it be easier if I could just have this conversation with God, driving home from work, and instead of an Amber Alert message I could see a message that said "Kristin...this is God - you will/will not have any more kids. Stop worrying about it already".

I probably would crash my car off the road or totally miss the sign because I was zoned out after a long day - but the theory is good. It would just make things easier for me.

Of course that is the problem...it isn't all about me is it? Bummer, I never liked that realization. Although throughout my teenage years I said otherwise - my parents could attest to that...the truth is the world doesn't revolve around me.

And I find that the more I obsess about "me" the less I am focused on the One who is really important and what His will is for my life. So today I am trying to really relinquish my control over my life and seek to follow His will in all things. It really is the only way. Why do I fight it so hard? Why do I think I know what is best for my life? I want to be free of the need to control my destiny and allow God to do it for me.

It is something I have to battle with daily, and I am sure will continue...but I press on because I know there is peace in following a gentle Savior. A peace that only He can offer. I am grateful that I know where to turn when I am ready and willing to give up the reins and following the pathway to peace.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vacation

We had the opportunity last week to go on an amazing vacation with my entire family to California. My brother Mark was graduating from the San Diego Golf Academy – with lots of honors I might add, way to go Mark!! So my parents generously decided to take our family and my sister and her husband out to CA with them to spend the week as a family again and to celebrate Mark’s accomplishments!

From a young age I remember my parents taking us on different vacations. We went all over, camping, hiking and fishing. We always had fun and I have lots of memories from those various trips. It was important to them that we spend time as a family, as much as that irritated me as a teenager – I see the value in that now!

We had such a wonderful week in CA. They rented a house in a town called Cardiff by the Sea. It was just blocks from the ocean and we just had to walk through a city park to get to the beach. We each had our own bedroom/bathroom but then we had a wonderful open common area for cooking, eating and relaxing as a group. We had an ocean view from the rooftop and were surrounded by beautiful plants and palm trees everywhere we looked! During the week we went to Disneyland and California Adventure Park. Gabriel got to see some of his favorite Disney characters in a Pixar parade and ride the Monsters Inc ride 2 times in a row and Isaac got to spend some time with the “big kids” riding all the scary rides. Gabriel rode on Space Mountain - our very first ride – got a little scared about rides after that, but when we were done with the ride exclaimed with joy “We made it Daddy!!” We went to Sea World and got lots of cool pictures of Shamu and the dolphin show, got very sunburned at the beach, used bottles of aloe lotion soothing the burn and trying to prevent the peeling (which didn’t work by the way), tried surfing with little success – this is why we HAVE to go back again, were attacked by monstrous aloe plants in the neighbors yard – this seriously happened…a guy driving by even stopped to say he thought it looked like it hurt, the girls did some shopping together and the boys saw the USS Midway, we made dinners together, had lots of egg bake and lots of fruit, got to meet new friends and see old friends again, we watched the Olympics together and we did lots of laughing.

It was such a good 9 days together. After we got back Dominic and I were talking and we commented how we couldn’t believe that it had gone by so fast and we were already home. It really was a great time together. It was the first time in a very long time that my brother and sister and I and our families had the opportunity to spend some real time together. I am so grateful for the opportunity. I hope that we have the chance to do this again, and sooner rather later! My perspective on our time together is different than it was when I was younger. I definitely see the value in it, and I am not annoyed by my siblings like I once was! :) Thanks everyone for an amazing week! I love you all!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Heal the Wound

I sang a Point of Grace song in church this past winter called “Heal the Wound”. From the first moment that I heard it, the song resonated with me and it still does today. I love the way that Christian music can do that for me. Sometimes it seems the writers of these beautiful pieces have a way of explaining exactly how I feel in a much better way than I ever could….

I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
That I could just pretend
I never knew the me back then


How many times have I wished that I could change something in my past? Begged God to take it away, usually so that I didn’t have to deal with the way I felt about myself because of it….

I used to pray that you would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I’ve been
But it’s the memory of, the place you’ve brought me from
That keeps me on my knees
And even though I’m free


Shame….I could easily admit if I was ashamed of someone else’s behavior – but it has been much harder for me to deal with my own shame of myself. Realizing that I do have a part to play in every argument/problem I am involved in. Knowing that I have refused to take responsibility for so long for my actions….Oh hide that evidence Lord…but if you did would I have a reason to run to You? To beg for Your mercy and to seek reprieve in You?

Heal the wound but leave the scars
A reminder of how merciful you are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
Heal the would but leave the scars


That chorus part is my favorite…heal the wound but leave the scars, a reminder of how merciful You are. If I didn’t have the reminders of my past – would I learn from them, would I see the One who has rescued me? Would I be grateful for where I am now because of where I have come from?

I have not lived a life that boasts of anything
And I don’t take pride in what I bring
But I’ll build an alter with
The rubble that you found me in
And every stone will sing
Of what you can redeem


When we are finally ready to let God do for us what we have tried to do for ourselves for so long our lives are often already a pile of rubble. But He redeems us, picks us up and helps us to rebuild our lives so that we can be a living reminder of what He can do. My heart sings with praises for the gifts You have given me!

Don’t let me forget
Everything you’ve done for me
Don’t let me forget
There’s beauty in the suffering


I would not have believed that beauty could come out of suffering, that I would be grateful for the journey because I could see everything that God has done throughout it to create beauty in my life. My eyes have been opened to the truth and I am grateful.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Glimpses of Grace

I am one of those people that is always looking for that answered prayer, the “signs” or the meaning in situations. There are times that I catch glimpses of God’s grace, in my life and in the lives of those around me. I tend to quickly forget though and have times where I am not “seeing” what is the truth in front of me.

The other day I was confronted with one of those “truths” and thought that maybe I should start making a record, keeping track of those times where I have seen God’s grace in my life. Times where I have witnessed an answer to prayer, times where I have felt the Holy Spirit leading me. If I had these times recorded, then in those periods where I struggled with doubt I could look back and see how God has walked with me, answered me, lead me and remember that I am not alone. He does answer prayers, not always in my time frame or in the way I would hope..but the answers are there. Do I always see them? Am I catching those “Glimpses of Grace”?

We support a missionary couple from our church. They are in a foreign country with 2 small children. I miss having them close as friends, but I have so enjoyed developing a new friendship by e-mail and through prayers. This week we are committed to pray for them. On Tuesday morning our family was saying our prayers together before heading off to work. In the middle of the prayers a “thought” came to mind that I should have e-mailed this couple and asked if they had any specific prayer needs over the next week. I had forgotten about that passing “thought” until I got into work. There in my e-mail was a message sent from them the evening before with just that – their specific prayer needs. I know that God speaks to us, sometimes in the strangest of times and places but He does speak to us. Am I listening??

I had lunch with a good friend today and she was a bit frazzled. She had lost her purse at the grocery store the night before and had spent the morning canceling her debit cards and checking account, all the stuff that comes with that kind of situation. She had gone to the store 2 times to check if someone had turned it in with no luck. After lunch we hugged and I said I would say a prayer that someone would at least bring her purse back – she didn’t care about the cash, but she wanted back some of her more prized personal effects. An hour after lunch she e-mailed me and the store had the purse all along!!

In March I had the opportunity to host a speaker at a conference for the program I am involved with. It was an amazing experience and Dominic and I spent the weekend with a wonderful woman Stephanie. She was such a joy to be around and she has continued to enrich my life since that time. In addition to spending time with Stephanie I had a chance to meet some of the other speakers. One of them was a woman named Sarah. I connected with Sarah again after the conference by e-mail and was invited to be a part of her Prayer E-mail Circle. Once a month a group of 30 or so people submit prayer requests and we all pray for each other. One of the other “prayer warriors” was a woman named Suzanne. In one of her requests she asked for prayers in regards to their struggle with getting pregnant and recent miscarriages. I e-mailed Sarah and asked her to pass along a message I had to Suzanne, and Suzanne and I have been e-mailing almost daily ever since. Sarah and Suzanne both live in California. Next Saturday our whole family is going to – you guessed it – California!!! I am so excited to see Sarah again and to meet Suzanne in person. They have been a blessing to me in ways that I can’t possibly explain. I would have never guessed that when I said yes to being a host that my life would be so blessed – and for so long!!

I know that there have been and will be many more “Glimpses” to come. I hope to continue to share them here from time to time. For now I hope to keep my heart and my ears open to hearing that still small voice that is inside of us all.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Cross

As a parent it is fun when you recognize those “teachable” moments with your kids. Dominic took an opportunity with Gabriel recently and I wanted to share it with you.

Gabriel for some reason has always had a fascination with crosses. We have this huge, beautiful wooden cross at the back of our church. There are many Sunday mornings that you will find Grandpa Smith at the alter after church holding Gabriel up so that he could see the cross up close. He loves that cross. I wish I could describe the look on his face when he sees it – it is awe, a wonder almost.

We have coloring books filled with pages with nothing but crosses on them. Mostly blue ones, but big ones and small ones. When he couldn’t draw them he would have us draw them for him. He would point somewhere and say “Draw a cross here”, over and over again until the pages were filled.

His Grandpa Johnson brought him a colorful cross home from Nicaragua after a mission trip there and Gabriel would carry that cross around with him. Just fascinated with crosses.

Not far from our home on our commutes to church and to see family we pass this hill on the interstate. Recently someone put a cross up on that hill. It is a plain and simple wooden cross, but beautiful non the less. Every time we drive by it Gabriel points it out to us.

Dominic must have taken an opportunity on one of those drives to talk to him a little more in depth about what that cross stood for. We hadn’t discussed that he did this, but we were headed to church this week and came up on the cross. Gabriel pointed it out and Dominic started asking some “follow-up” questions.

“Gabriel, what happened on the cross?” “Jesus dies on the cross” he replied. “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross Gabriel?” “So we can go to Heaven”. Then in the sweetest, almost sad voice Gabriel says “Why Mommy, why did Jesus have to die? It makes me so very sad that he had to have big owies”. It was the most beautiful thing I could have heard that morning. A child’s view into something that even I at times can’t understand.

How do we explain to Gabriel the enormity of the gift that we have been given? The fact that in spite of who I am most of the time, the bad choices I make, the attitudes I carry, my daily choice of self-will, that over 2000 years ago God loved me enough to send His son into this world for me, to carry my sin upon that cross and suffer for me that if I choose Him, believe in Him, love Him and follow Him I will receive that reward with Him in Heaven.

It is almost too overwhelming to really understand. For now we can do our best to teach our children to love God. Gabriel will someday understand in his own way what the cross really means to him. For now it is a thing of wonder, of beauty and at times of sadness. For now – that is enough. I like that verse from Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” That would be my prayer for our kids, that regardless of where life takes them – that the knowledge of the God that loves them will be with them and will be their strength through it all.


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