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 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 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 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

The Smith Family Journey

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