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.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Grandma

My grandma is a woman who never complains, who is always happy to see you, who is very caring and considerate of others. She struggles with arthritis and other medical issues, but you wouldn't know how bad it was, she always has that positive attitude - even when she has the "right" not to. It is admirable, something that I can't seem to master, but something that I hope to learn from.

Right now she is getting out of the hospital, she has been very sick again and I worry about her. She is a small woman, and these bouts have been difficult on her body. If you have a prayer list - please add Grandma Betty to it.

She turned 80 last year and I wrote a poem in honor of her. I wanted to post it here - to share it with you. I encourage you to find a way to honor those in your family. We don't know how many opportunities we will have to tell those we love, that we love them. Grandma - my prayers are with you for a quick recovery. I love you.

Grandmas come from a special place
Have a loving touch and a warm embrace
They seem to know your every need
And try to fill it, yes indeed!
A grandma has a unique way
Of cheering up the saddest day
She cleans our wounds and dries our tears
She reassures even our smallest fears
She keeps us safe and keeps us warm
She’s weathered every single storm
That God has sent her in this life
She’s been through pain and been through strife
She’s an example of how to live with grace
She always has a smile on her face
She’s taught us how to say our prayers
And to give to God all of our cares
What a legacy she will achieve
A love for God, to her family she’ll leave
And once she became a “great-grandma”
She was even greater still
It seems there isn’t any need
A great grandma couldn’t fill
We are so proud that we can say
We’ve loved our grandma who is 80 today
She been a part of so many things
We thank God for the joy she brings
To those of us who are touched to be
A part of her extended family!

Monday, July 21, 2008


I made a decision this weekend that I really needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling. The fact that things hit me so hard this month really overwhelmed me I guess and I felt like I needed some outside perspective. I know that when I hold things in and am afraid to share them that I tend to get more crazy in my head. I have a need to share my life - even the crazy thoughts and feelings with someone who will listen, understand.

So Monday afternoon I made an appointment to speak with a counselor. I share this not because I am terribly proud of the fact I needed this outside guidance - but I guess more to recognize it for its many times we are afraid to admit that we need help, we think that we can do this "life" on our own and often times we need guidance along the way...and I think that is ok.

I shared with her that I had been feeling sadness at the strangest of times, in the shower, hearing a specific song, times of quiet, when I heard my dad's voice on the phone this afternoon...all these things have caused the tears to come...I can't explain it and quite honestly I don't like it. I don't like feeling so emotionally out of control, and it was those feelings that lead me to make the call to the counselor.

We talked about grief, how it manifests in people, that the way I am feeling is "normal" and understandable. She suggested that the reason that I was feeling this strongly right now was that I was once again grieving a loss...this time though it was the loss of the hope of the pregnancy...and this could be why it was hurting a little more than previous months.

In my head I know some "facts". I am still young. We still have a chance to get pregnant - (although each month that passes my hope diminishes), we are blessed with 2 beautiful children and it is ok for me to have that desire for more. She said that she believed that God gave me that desire to have more children - and she felt I would be blessed with that opportunity again....I like that idea....but at times I loose hope.

She suggested that some women who had lost a child/pregnancy etc. have benefited from writing a "goodbye" letter to their child. One that only a mommy could write - a "goodbye for now" letter for those of us who believe in reuniting in heaven. So I am going to attempt to say my goodbyes here. I share it because I hope to become more transparent with you. Because I have learned in my program that when we share our hurts they are cut in half and when we share our joys they are doubled. I know I will share my joys with you also, so thank you for walking through the hurts with me now.

Dear Little One
Although I only knew of you for a short time, I loved you from the moment I realized that you would be a part of our family. I know that it is probably something only a mommy can understand but immediately I started to think about who you would be, if you would be a boy or a girl and if you would look like your brothers. Overwhelming Joy - that is probably the best way to describe the way that I felt. I could not stop smiling. I thought about how I could surprise your daddy with the news but I couldn't wait and called him right away and told him. It seemed like no matter what else had happened on that day - everything else melted away and the only thing that was important was you. We wanted to tell your brothers the good news but decided that we needed to wait awhile. When we would say prayers together in the morning we would praise God for the blessings He had given us, and daddy and I knew what that was. It was fun to have a special secret. Right away I started making all the plans that a mommy makes. I wanted to make sure that I took extra special care of myself and of you. I made my doctor's appointments and I wanted to know when my due date would be - it was October 24th, 2008. We had waited for so long to have you that we were filled with so much excitement about it. It makes me very sad that I won't have the opportunity to hold you. If I could have made things different - I would have. I wanted to be your mommy. I wanted to hear your cries, see your eyes, your face, wipe your tears, hold you, and love you. All the things a mommy loves the most I wanted so much for you. I wanted to see the look on daddy's face as he held his 3rd child. I wanted it to be different, but it can't be. Although my heart grieves now for what I can't have. I will not forget the happiness I felt when I knew you would be ours. Overwhelming Joy - that is what you will always be to me. Thank you for that gift, however brief, it is mine and I am grateful for it.
I love you

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Have you ever had one of those days where you just felt sad? Today for me has been one of those days. I am struggling today and I thought that I would write about it - get it out there and maybe it will help me to get rid of it.

Last week I wasn't feeling well most of the week. There were several symptoms or signs, if you will that led me to the hope that I might just finally be pregnant again. I held onto this hope all week - almost happy that I didn't feel good. If it meant that we were pregnant, I'd take it - embrace it...with gladness. I was wrong, and we aren't pregnant....

I really do try every month not to take this thing so seriously, but it is so hard. And so this morning the tears came, and sadness fills my soul. My heart is filled with such a longing that it has become an obsession almost, and every month that passes and no positive hope diminishes just a little.

I know that I need to focus on the blessings of Isaac and Gabriel, and I almost feel guilty for wanting something that some people aren't blessed with at all....but still my heart longs, and so the sadness comes.

I sat outside by myself this afternoon for awhile just to be alone. Gabriel didn't allow me much time to do that and promptly came out to share my juice with me and ask me if I would go to the store and buy potatoes. He is with me now as I type putting crayons down tubes of wrapping paper - even though I asked him not to. He has a way of making me smile, even when I don't feel much like smiling.

I know that it isn't good for me to stay here long - in a place of self pity, and I think that just by writing this out it is helping me get out of the "hole" so to speak. But right at this moment tears fall for what could not be again this month. I trust that God is with me now, even in my diminished hope, my mistrust and my sadness. I still don't see the plan He has in all of this - but I trust there is one. I have to - to keep moving forward I have to.

Now I have to go and play "slap the J" (slap jack) with Gabriel. He just asked me 17 times in a row if I would play with do you say no to that?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Progress Not Perfection

One of the posts that really had an impact on me on Angie's blog - was when she wrote about reading something about grief. How at times, it can be cathartic, to break something when you are experiencing grief. Something about the release it can help people feel. So she decided to try it - and you can read about it on her site...I encourage you to do so, her words are much better at describing it than mine! Anyways - she smashes a water pitcher and then feels as though God is telling her now she needs to spend time, with Him and put it back together. She chronicles her journey and then encourages her readers to, if also struggling with something, to break something and spend time with God putting it back together. And to be open to how He may speak to them as He did to her.

This whole thing intrigued me and I knew that I had to do it. So I went to Walmart to see what I could find. I couldn't find a pitcher - but was able to find this really neat looking vase and brought it home to smash it. I decided to break it in a garbage bag so that I could make sure and find all of the pieces, I was afraid that I would lose a bunch if I didn't do it this way. And so here comes mom on Monday night outside - whole family watching as I hold the bag over my head and drop it onto the sidewalk.

The sound that it made when it hit the ground, although I was prepared for it, made me jump a little but I was excited to go inside and see what I had to work with. As you will see from the pictures - it was broken in quite a few pieces. Again I expected this - but I was not sure once I had poured all of the pieces out that I was up to the task....but I persisted.

I was very excited for my chance to "hear God" and so I set out willingly to the task. I started with my hot glue gun. Very quickly I realized that this was not the medium for me. It was stringing all over the place, making large gaps between the pieces and drying too quickly. After a large and painful burn on my thumb I decided that I was done with the hot glue and moved onto something else.

All the while...patiently waiting for God to speak to me as he had to Angie.....I heard nothing.

I had purchased a couple of other types of glue and decided to try those. After putting a couple of pieces together successfully I found the glue that was just the right tool for this project. Now I was sure that this thing was going to go together no problem now!

Still even more patiently waiting for that still small voice, or something, anything that felt like God's hand in this project. Something was missing....maybe the problem was the sound of my own voice screaming in my head - is it possible I wasn't able to hear God over that noise? :)

Yet I wasn't ready to give up. I spent over an hour and a half that first night working on my vase. I didn't get very far during that time and felt a little frustrated that it wasn't going like I had hoped but I wanted to prove to myself I guess that I could do it, so I decided to give it a fresh look the next day.

Over the next several days I came back to the vase, turning it, seeing it with a new perspective, finding another piece of the "puzzle" that then lead to yet another piece. I would put a few pieces on in the mornings before I would go to work and then spend some time on it when I came home at night. Each day hoping that I would have that inspiration or whatever it was I thought that I needed as a spiritual wasn't happening in the manner that I had thought it should.

On Saturday afternoon of that week I placed the last piece of the vase on and my masterpiece was complete. I was so proud of myself. I just looked at it over and over, running my fingers over the cracks of a vase that now looked a whole lot different than I had expected. It wasn't beautiful in the way it had been when I first brought it home, but now it was interesting in its own way...there was a story there I just wasn't sure what God wanted to tell me that story was.

I am involved in a support group and one of our motto's is "Progress Not Perfection". Basically it reminds us that as we work at being better to ourselves and for others and we are willing to give our trust in a power greater than ourselves - whom I call God - that we make progress. And that is ok - we are not expected to reach perfection - only God can do that.

Regardless of what is in our past we have all experienced grief in some form or another. Whether it is a loss of a person in our lives, or a dream for our kids or ourselves - we grieve in this life here on earth. I realized that my vase symbolized my journey to the feet of God. The beautiful, shiny perfect vase is that picture of perfection that I always have wanted to be, but have never measured up to. Inside I have known that I could never be that person - often because of my own poor choices and I have found myself broken.

When I realized that all of my own efforts had failed me, everything that I had tried on my own had led me to be exactly what I didn't want to be - a broken individual - I was finally ready to let God do for me what I was so unable to do for myself. Put me back together again. It was with my support group and tools from that program, and a willingness to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, that those broken pieces were able to be put back together again.

The end result?? Not exactly what I had imagined for myself. But better perhaps? The cracks in my life have given me a median to connect with people I wouldn't have connected with otherwise. They have helped me to be grateful for all the good things that we do have every day - the little things, even when life gets hard. They have shown me that I can be ok with progress not perfection and thankful for the journey.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Camp

Today we brought Isaac up to Sioux Falls, along with his friend Brent, and put them both on a bus headed out to Hill City SD - destination Camp Judson! Isaac was really excited this morning - he woke up early, and was talking about all of the things that he loves about camp. The bus ride is all day, something like 9am - 4pm...and God bless the people that volunteer to drive a bus full of 4th - 6th grade boys and girls for that length of time. Two years ago (Isaac's first year) the bus broke down on the way home it - was over 100 degrees that day and the 2nd bus ended up overheating and they had to get a 3rd bus to come and rescue them. That bus ride was over 10 hours long. We have prayed ever since that a repeat of that situation would not occur!

Getting Isaac ready for this week at camp has caused me to reflect back on my experiences at Lake Shetek when I was his age. I remember also being so very excited, but yet nervous at the same time about camp. I usually went alone and so it was always a little scary anticipating who my cabin mates would be, would they like me, would I fit in? Would there be any cute boys in the cabin across the field?? :) Although initially my thoughts weren't always in the right "place" for bible camp - I always left camp having had some sort of spiritual experience.

It is difficult not to see God in the beauty of the countryside where Lake Shetek and Camp Judson are located. It seems that in places like those you can just feel His presence. Then add to the scenery - Bible teachings, worship songs around the campfire and counselor testimonies - bible camp is just one of those places that regardless of your heart condition going in, you will often find yourself changed coming out.

I enjoyed my camp experience so much at Lake Shetek that I went back as a Junior Counselor - never made it back as a full time counselor and sometimes I regret that, but even the Junior Counselor experience helped to shape a part of my walk with God. I realize that He has always been pursuing me, finding ways to make Himself known to me. I often have chosen to put my blinders on - to just get by in life, or do what is easiest, or just get lazy in my walk. But regardless of where I am - He has not changed as I have - He is always there ready to provide for me that "camp-like" experience of love that I felt so many years ago. But I have to be willing to seek Him, to ask for Him and to receive Him.

We will miss Isaac this week - Gabriel is not the same when he is gone. But I am glad that he has been interested in this opportunity, willing to start his journey of faith. I know that God is pursuing Isaac just as much as He is the rest of us. I hope that this week Isaac can experience God's love in an amazing way.

Isaac our prayers will be with you all week - we love you and miss you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Isn't it funny how a phone call can change your perspective on your day? Today has been so far like most, keeping busy with work, planning for the holiday weekend ahead etc. And then a phone call comes and makes me sit back and reflect on my priorities.

One of the bankers I work with called me today to tell me that one of our customers, I will call her "J", who has been dealing with cancer has just found out in the last week that her cancer is terminal. Apparently it is very aggressive - they are giving her 6-18 months, but with the fact that it is everywhere in her body and so aggressive, they aren't positive she will make it that long.

"J" is someone that I have had the chance to share e-mails with, visit with and gotten to know over the past several years. She is a funny and sweet woman and I am so very sad for her and her family that she is so sick.

Terminal.....what a harsh word, such finality. And how does one face something like this? I suppose, without faith in God and trust in a life after this one - "terminal" must be enormously scary. But what of those who know where this journey will take them - who have that faith and trust in an eternal heaven? Does that faith change "terminal" for them?

I, thankfully, have not had to experience this situation myself personally. But I would hope that if it were a part of my journey - that I would be able to walk forward, trusting in God and the reward He has set for me in Heaven.

For today, knowing that "J" is learning to adjust to the new life she has just been given, causes my heart to pray for her and her family. If you have a prayer list - please add "J" to it. I don't know if she is a believer or not. I pray that I may be a support to her and her family somehow during these next several months.

This also gives me cause to pause once again and be grateful for all of the many blessings that I have today. We don't know how long we have here and so often we miss opportunities to tell those people in our lives how important they are to us. I am so very grateful for my family and my friends. I have been graced with so many amazing people in my life - and each one of you has made me a better person. If you are reading this it means you were interested in taking some time to "get to know" me a little better. Thank you for sharing in my life, for walking with me, praying with me, laughing and crying with me. I thank God today that these relationships here on earth won't be terminal but will continue on.

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