Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Promise

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
(Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV)

On December 4th, 2011, we stood in front of the body of believers at our church and dedicated Charlie to God.

We promised to do our best to raise him to know, love, and serve God.

We promised to work diligently to lead him to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

We promised to try our very best to model God's love as we teach him, discipline him, and take care of him.

We acknowledged our belief that God created Charlie with a specific plan and purpose for his life, and promised to do our best to prepare him to fulfill that purpose.

Most of all, Greg and I spent a lot of time that day just laughing out loud. 

When we prayerfully made the decision to have a fourth child, we had no idea how it would be. Would we be totally exhausted? Would we be overwhelmed? 

Would he be left out by the other kids? Resented by the other kids? Would there still be time to teach well, to keep the house clean, to take a shower, to have a date night every once in a while?

Were we crazy to believe that God had one more child for us, and was waiting to bless our lives with him?


We thank God for our boy. What a joyful surprise he has been.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seven Months Old!

 Hi Charlie! You're seven months old buddy!

You are one happy little guy. 

You're talking up a storm - nothing we can understand, of course, but you don't seem to realize that.

You love apples, bananas, yogurt, and carrots, which means you also spend lots of time in the bath.

You are starting to crawl!

 Your big brothers are super great coaches.

Forgive me, sweet boy. I just couldn't resist.

I figured I only had another month or so and this would be wholly inappropriate. I just love this little bum.

 Despite your morning oatmeal and fruit, yogurt at lunch time, and rice and veggies at dinner, nursing is still your favorite pastime. You still usually wake up once a night; I told Daddy I was about to start making you cry it out, but oh, I just don't know... who can resist this little face at 3 am?

You are sweet, gentle, and so easy to love. 

Happy seven months darling boy.

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."
Luke 2:40

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sister Cousins

I have two sisters. And they are truly my best friends. It wasn't always this way, but it is this way now, and I am so grateful for that. We talk every day, and if for some reason a day goes by without me speaking to one of them, I call my mom (who is always in the know, as only a mother of three girls can be) and demand to know what is going on with the one I haven't spoken to in 24 hours. Is she sick? Husband out of town? Kids down and out with the flu? Pregnant? If we haven't spoken, something's up.

The past few months, I've been giving some thought to the fact that, unless God has plans Greg and I are not currently aware of, Chloe will never have a sister. I trust Him completely with the architecture of our family, and know that if this is the case, it is His plan and, therefore, the best plan. I know He will give her closer friends than I will probably ever have, and He has already given the two of us a closeness that I always dreamt I would share with my daughter. Even still... every time I have a heartfelt conversation with one of my sisters, every time one of them encourages me or inspires me or makes me laugh as only a sister can, I get a pang of sadness that Chloe will never have that.

A few days ago I was reading a blog and happened upon an idea... SISTER COUSINS! The blog writer was talking about the fact that she and her sister call their daughters "sister cousins," because they each only have one girl. Perfect! Chloe just so happens to have five simply adorable girl cousins, two of which are within a year of her age!

I wish like crazy that these sister cousins lived closer than six and ten hours away, but I suppose that beggars can't be choosers. These cousins, after all, are five of the sweetest, kindest, most lovable little girls anyone would want to meet. I feel so very blessed that God chose us to be part of the same family.

This is our darling sister cousin Hailey, who was born only five and a half months after Chloe. Her mama drove eight hours to be at my baby shower, and was twelve weeks pregnant with this little girl at the time. These two have more than their last name in common... they both love to dance, they both love horses, they're both shy until you get to know them, and they both have those huge, responsible, eager to please, firstborn-child hearts that just make you want to weep sometimes, they're so earnest and sweet.

We already have some special things planned this summer to spend time with all of our sister cousins. Though it's only January, the countdown has begun.

Cousins by chance. Friends by choice!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Half-Birthday to You!

This little girl is no longer seven, she will have you know.

She is now, officially, seven-and-a-half.

We celebrated in fitting fashion, with ice cream sundaes and a  visit from Nana.

Hooray for sweet treats and sweet little girls!

"But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.”
Proverbs 1:33

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Unlikely Ministry

I hate my husband's car.

It is a tin can on wheels.

More specifically, it is a 1999 white Honda Civic.

It has four doors, an odometer with 117,000 miles on it, and a rattle that would dumbfound Click and Clack. Seriously. The entire car vibrates when you hit 45 miles per hour.

The heat only works when you're pressing the gas pedal, giving a whole new meaning to long stoplights in January. Both headlights just went out in the same night, so we've been driving around high-beaming everyone in the North Hills while we're trying to figure out how to change them.

These are some of the adjectives I've used recently to describe the tin can on wheels:

Jalopy. Junker. An Embarrassment.

A few nights ago, Greg refuted my descriptions. He was recounting the events of his day at the dinner table, laughing at the fact that he had to take someone that works for him along to the airport. He could tell that the kid was intrigued that his boss drove a car with windows that you have to roll down yourself and a seat that will only move back if you jerk violently on the metal bar at your feet and then push yourself backward with all your might. Greg works in an industry where cars and homes and country club memberships are the tools used to trumpet your success to the world. More often than not, he parks the tin can between a Benz and a Lexus when he pulls into the garage in the morning, so it was interesting - though not surprising - for me to hear his passionate defense of the car.

It's not a junker, he said. It's a ministry.

I considered this and then jumped in. You're right! I agreed enthusiastically. Just THINK of the kinds of cars we could be driving if we decided to keep all of our money for ourselves! I stood up with a huff and self-righteously marched my dishes to the sink - but that wasn't what Greg had meant.

I think it's good for people to see that you can be happy and content - maybe even more happy and more content than they are - driving around in a hunk of junk, Greg said. 

I thought about that for a minute or two. I thought about how I often feel when I've just visited someone's particularly elaborate home... am I the only one this happens to? I come home and suddenly my house doesn't seem quite as nice as it did when I left it a few hours earlier. I notice the dirt marks on the white trim, the spotted carpeting on the stairs, the old Craig's List coffee table that I so carefully sanded and painted last year. Suddenly, everything looks... shabby.

Now hear me on this: I do not think for one minute that it's unbiblical to live in an elaborate home or drive a fancy car. Some of the people I consider to be my strongest Christian mentors do both. But think about how flat-out refreshing it is to come across someone who actually could drive the fanciest car on the block if they wanted to, but chooses to drive their old Subaru into the ground. How about that person that still lives in the home they bought when they got married, even though they could have upgraded five times over? Maybe they're doing it because it allows them to give even more money away - and that's amazing. But could it be more than that? Perhaps... they just don't care. They're not defined by their stuff. They've figured out that the car will just get old, and the neighbor will eventually build an even nicer house than their upgrade. They've stopped trying to fill up their emptiness with stuff. I'm always so drawn to people like that. I find myself angling to get close to them in social situations because I want to know them more. I want to understand them more. I want to be more like them.

There's no heroics here. The tin can isn't parked in our driveway because we secretly have millions in the bank and want to make a statement to the neighborhood. It's parked there because it's what we can afford. We give to our church as God has directed us to, and then we feed our family and pay our mortgage, and we buy a necessity or maybe a treat, send a tiny amount to World Vision, and put a little aside for college and piano lessons. After that, what we can afford is a tin can on wheels. The real test will be the future, if and when we can afford more. What then will be our ministry? Could we be the ones a young couple wants to know more? Understand better? Be like?

Only time will tell.

"13Someone out of the crowd said, "Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance."
 14He replied, "Mister, what makes you think it's any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?"
 15Speaking to the people, he went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot."
 16-19Then he told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!'
 20"Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?'
 21"That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God."
Luke 12:13-18 [The Message]

Friday, January 13, 2012

The View From Here...

The view from my front door...

The view from the playroom...

The view from the nursery...
The view from the "things to do pile"...

The view from the sick bay (aka, Mom & Dad's bedroom)...

We are recovering from a nasty bout of the stomach flu, which swept through our house like wildfire Wednesday night. We're sipping soup, eating strawberry jello, and grateful - so grateful - for the health we normally have. 
"O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I'll bless his holy name!
   O my soul, bless God,
      don't forget a single blessing!
 3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
      He heals your diseases—every one.
      He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
      He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
      He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
      He renews your youth—you're always young in his presence. "
Psalm 103: 1-5


Christmas with the Cousins

I am behind in blogging - not how I wanted to start out the New Year! We have been busy with schoolwork, a few fun field trips, and an attempt to get back into some sort of routine, and I have fallen woefully behind in some of the December 2011 experiences I want to document on the blog. They will be posted over the next few days if I can get my act together.

Our annual Smith Family Christmas weekend was the weekend before Christmas this year, and Greg's whole family came in to the Burgh from all over to celebrate. It was so much fun. We packed a ridiculous amount of food, celebrating, and present unwrapping into one weekend. Herewith, a few of my favorite moments captured:

There was lots of fun in the playroom...

The incomparable Uncle Steve, ready to make things merry....

Delicious meals and special times together at the dinner table...

and of course, presents galore. Grammies sure do love to spoil their grands...

It probably goes without saying that, hands-down, the best part of the weekend was having the chance to spend time together. Before everyone left for home, we had a chance to get a shot of all the cousins.

It was a wonderful weekend!

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.