Thank you Abi.
Thank you for coming home last week and saying you’d been sitting in Starbucks looking over old blog posts and laughing at the memories of the antics of when you all were young. Thank you for reminding me that I haven’t been blogging recently and telling me that I should. Thank you for the prompting to keep up the chronicle of our crazy chaos. To document our days and to leave this little legacy of shapshots and my discombobulated stream of consciousness for you all to one day look back on.
Today is the last day of September.
The month we took a deep breath and plunged into at the beginning of the month feeling a little overwhelmed!
We made it – whew!!
A big event this month deserves honorable mention….my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. We had a precious gathering of siblings and spouses for a nice dinner before moving to a venue for a dessert reception in Atlanta honoring them and their half-a-century together.
There is nothing my kids love more than time with cousins. In fact, totally unplanned and unprepared for, when we left the reception, we ended up with our big kids cramming in the car to go home with their Atlanta cousins and our backseat full of a gaggle of little girls coming to Columbia for the weekend.
We get suckered in every time.
These girls adore each other!
September is birthday month for Britain and I. We spent last weekend in Charleston with my sister who just moved down from up north where she and her husband have been residing for the past 5 years. Thrilled to have them a day trip away in our favorite US city, and so happy for them to have a view of the coastal marsh instead of the eternal winter and drab snow in Wisconsin!
Aaahhhh the beach! It does my heart good. every. time.
Eden was happy as a clam deep fried and battered in sand!
Clearly, he’s a Smith!
And that man-bun just kills me!
Kids got in some surfing practice with their daddy and some peppering with Aunt Di!
My sweet sister made us dinner and my favorite dessert – tiramisu!
Seriously the best way to spend a birthday.
My mom says I took my first steps on the beach.
First kiss on the beach.
Got married on the beach.
Its my thing.
And someday….someday, I’m gonna have a little shack on the beach and grow old and wrinkly with a seascape in front of me.
But until then, Im pretty content with this view! My handyman hubby built me my dream porch bed. A huge queen-size, handmade (drew up the plans himself!), teak wood southern charm farmhouse porch bed. Its like a porch swing, only…. not. Big enough for Sunday afternoon naps, stargazing, thunderstorm watching, reading and snack time every day with Eden and even board games with a whole mess’a kids seated on it.
Quite possibly my favorite gift ever!
I asked Chad if it was social acceptable to find his wife still in bed when he comes home from work….so long as its the porch bed??
“If you need me kids, this is where you can find me!”
For those of you just meeting our “Smith-Party-of-9”, I wanted to take a minute to pull back the curtain behind the senes and share who we are and why today is significant…
You may perceive “settled and stable” from our instagram posts, celebrating beauty in the everyday.
I love being home with my tribe.
I love farmhouse decor and fresh baked cookies and little girls in big hair bows.
I love what God has done in our marriage and date nights are the best!
But these gifts are all just GIFTS. Not entitlements. We constantly have to be intentional about holding them with open hands. What we share through these little squares is only a reflection of the highlight reel of our family. A photograph can paint an oh so picture perfect portrait, but it is only one-dimensional.
The make-up of this tribe is eclectic and “steady and stable” may actually be a lot further from the truth than you think.
This is a season of life that we are embracing with great joy and gratitude, but our story has been one of extreme dichotomies and the stability of now is a tide that we know will ebb and flow.
You see, we’ve lived most of our life overseas in circumstances that have been very different. We’ve navigated both the bitter cold of Ukrainian winters and the unbearable heat of tropical south east Asia and her year-round 100 degree, 100% humidity…. We’ve weathered monsoons and political uprisings…. We’ve sat for hours at boarders for visa runs and been shut in for weeks when daddy traveled and the babies were young. We’ve spent a Christmas under the glow of twinkle lights in Budapest, and a Christmas under the tin roof shacks of migrant worker camps and with refugees. We’ve lived without a car, without a clothes dryer, without a dishwasher and have learned that ‘necessities’ in life are far fewer than we think. And those life lessons have too, been gifts of grace!
We’ve spent seasons lonely and longing for “home” and now find that we have redefined “home” in very loose terms. I was making plans to see an old friend from Thailand at my childhood home over Thanksgiving and she referenced looking forward to seeing me “in my natural habitat“. It gave me pause to think. My “roots”, maybe, yes. But my “natural habitat” is morphing with the moves and cultures and languages and lifestyles that have influenced mine.
Our kids only friends at times have been each other. But it has strengthened their bonds in a unique way as they navigate what it means to be a third-culture-kid and share circumstances and memories unique to them. They’ll always laugh about food poisoning from street food our first week in Asia and they still pray for the little Cambodian kids who stole our hearts.
This is us.
We currently live in the US, but our hearts and mission and ministry still center around the hurt in the world outside of the comfort of the American Dream. Our commitment continues to serve the local church in regions of the world that need leadership training, development, resources and churches planted. This isn’t a side job, or an occasional mission trip….its full time ministry and its our heartbeat! Our tethering to the US and its comforts and conveniences is temporary, we know. We embrace it…loosely…and pray for the strength to let go when its time to uproot again and pioneer a new country and anchor a new team.
Our ability to do this work is enabled and funded by the generous financial gifts of friends who partner with us. Chad is currently in Asia for 3 weeks developing leaders who are passionate and sacrificial and who humble us as we observe their dedication to the fulfillment Great Commission.
These are long days as a ’single mom’, but there is grace for each, and that brings us to today…
Today is significant because it’s #givingtuesday
This day ushers in a season of intentionality and giving back after a week of giving thanks for Gods blessings. Many people at this time evaluate end of year giving in this charitable season. We say it often – our work is possible only because of others who share Gods heart for the world and take ownership to see the Gospel go forth. We could not do it without you!
We know the needs are many and money doesn’t grow on trees and everyone is finding budgets tight around the holidays. Just inviting you to link arms with us for a cause, for a purpose, for changed lives! To support a work that we are vested in with all our heart. Because the reward, the reciprocation, the treasure, the investment….. is eternal!!
Special thanks to the amazing Olivia Long Studio for a fun family photo session. This sweet photographer had the patience of a saint to deal with a cancelled shoot (thank you hurricane Florence) and then our family rocking up 30 minutes late to the postponed session. She was flexible, accommodating and just delightful in her engagement of our family….a daunting task for many! Unruffled by a toddler throwing tantrums when we ran out fo fruit snacks and calm, cool and collected with the inferno we shot in late summer in the south with no air conditioning! If you’re in the Greenville area, hit her up for Christmas Card photos!! A gem of a sweetheart.
The Fairy Tale Beginning
Today feels strangely significant. A silent “anniversary” of sorts.
I was 19 years old.
And I met him 19 years ago today.
Today signifies knowing him longer than I havent known him.
Today I have spent more of my life with him than apart from him.
Today Im struck by the fact that, this is not the man I fell in love with….
The guy I met the first day of bible college, strode up to me with unabashed confidence and and a firm handshake and an engaging, extroverted personality. He was tall, handsome, charming, and for heaven sake, we met in a castle in England! I found myself caught off guard by how quickly my strong resolves began to unravel and my heart began to flutter. The day after our meeting in the entry way of the massive college hall, we bumped into each other again and he asked me if I wanted to go on a walk during the afternoon break from studies.
The first weeks of our friendship still carry vivid memories nearly two decades later. That one mile loop became a path that we frequented. Trudging through cold English countryside pastures, sidestepping puddles and sheep manure, scaling rock fences and summiting the hill to watch the afternoon thunderclouds roll in. Our friendship began to grow and bud in the dead of the bitterly cold British winter. Time wasn’t wasted on superficial conversations of casual friendship. Neither of us were interested in recreational dating. We dove into the deep end of discussions on families of origin…life calling and a shared passion for missions in our futures….theology….faith….and Greek!
(yes, Im embarrassed to say he talked me into being a study partner in an optional Greek class, in which I had no interest other than time with him).
He pursued me.
He listened intently.
He asked intentional questions and gave me space to respond.
He was a safe place.
I felt cherished.
The center of his world.
And then our year at bible college ended. A beautiful year that cloistered us away in a fairy tale alter-universe protecting from a reality that we collided into shortly thereafter.
The Plot Thickens
The stage was set for Act II of our relationship to look very different than the dreamy happily-ever-after I imagined when our story began in a castle.
Constant unsettling moves. A husband who traveled 50-70% of the time for work. Isolation at home with small children in an unfamiliar country. Culture shock living in cold Eastern Europe. Baggage we’d both brought into marriage. Loneliness.
Demands on our time left us little space to cultivate our relationship and we discovered, the language barrier wasn’t only with the foreigners. Our conversations were often soured by expectations, complaints and ungraciousness. Our commitment was steadfast, but we were both just surviving.
Striving, but not thriving.
I woke up one day and discovered this wasn’t what I signed up for when I married him.
I no longer felt cherished and adored, and I was certain I was a chronic disappointment to him too. My heart felt it had been exposed and discarded and my immature perception fueled a sense of betrayal. I convinced myself he’d done it intentionally. Lured me in with the charm and charisma, only to be cast aside as he pursued the next “damsel in distress”….work that required all his time and emotional energy and focus.
So I retreated. Bitterly.
This is not the man I fell in love with.
Id be surprised if this realization isn’t a common one in any marriage that has withstood the onslaught of time, trials or transitions.
But the true tragedy is that I began to buy the lie that it would always be this way. That we’d just follow the pattern of other marriages we’d watched simultaneously working, raising kids and getting by, with no spark or shared passion.
A dear older couple came to visit us overseas about 5 years into marriage and took us out to dinner. They began asking hard questions. How was our marriage? How were we managing overseas with small children?
I poured out my unmet expectations and crippling fear of failure as a wife. Then bit my lip and mustered up a profound resolve that I needed to toughen up and stop being such a hopeless romantic and get it together!
Suck it up!
Our friend looked at me across the table and corrected me, “Dont ever stop dreaming. When you stop dreaming, the marriage starts to die“.
The words stuck with me. Gritting your teeth and sticking it out in marriage sounds noble, but apathy in relational growth is an infection. An infection that untreated, will poison a marriage. C and I both wanted a vibrant marriage, but life was getting in the way….. good things…ministry, family, work….but poor substitutes for the oneness we knew was Gods design for marriage. We renewed a resolve that we would not become another marriage like that.
That we would not settle.
That we would fight for it and keep dreaming!
Pursuing Happily Ever After
Change didn’t take place overnight.
There were no quick fixes.
Resorting to old patterns came naturally and for years it felt like two steps forward, one step back. But we began a long journey of re-learning how to put the marriage first. How to communicate openly and how to listen again. We began to dream together about what Gods design was in putting two people together who were so vastly different. We purposed to understand each other instead of correct each other. We started to ask God to change us instead of begging Him to change the other. We haven’t “arrived”, but I can say today with great joy that that this is not the man I fell in love with.
The change has been transformational.
I love this guy even more than the man I started to fall for 19 years ago.
Today as I launch Glittering Grace Magazine, Im humbled by the man God has given as my life partner. A man who has sought God. Who has mellowed over the years and whom God has used to shape and refine me. In the past months of preparing for the launch, he has been my biggest advocate, my champion, my encourager when Ive doubted, my technical troubleshooter, my rock. Ive been absolutely awed by the sacrifices he’s made, meals he’s prepared, childcare he’s offered, time he’s gifted me and encouragement he’s bestowed in this endeavor. My prayer is that this magazine will encourage other women who feel their marriage is lifeless. If God can breathe life into dry bones, (Ezekiel 37:14) he can spark hope in stagnant marriages and redeem what has been lost!
I hope in another 19 years….or when we celebrate our 50th anniversary, that we will be different people still then.
That our love will continue to mature as we change, conform, submit, understand, compromise and grow in grace for one another.
This is not the man I fell in love with.
He’s even better!
Take a moment to visit Glittering Grace. Ive just launched this new online Womens Subscription Magazine endeavoring to be a source of strength, encouragement, and extension of grace to women in the throes of marriage in parenting. To celebrate women and inspire beauty for the home and heart!
This outreach to women additionally helps to support our family and ministry overseas. Thank you for considering subscribing!