Thursday, December 30, 2010

i've flipped

After making some switcheroos with a few gifts, I managed to scrounge up enough dough to get an UltraHD Flip camcorder. I have to say, it's pretty darn cool.

Things I like:
1- It's super light.
2- It's super small - fits right in my pocket.
3- It's super easy to work. I recorded without even looking at the directions.
4- It's super fun.
5- It's super fast and easy to upload.
6- It gives me the illusion that I am a young Spielberg.

Here's my very first video, starring the "always emotionally raw" talent of Matt Smith.


video

Monday, December 27, 2010

unshaken...a book worth reading

I just finished this book and was really stirred by the author's personal account of the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Dan Woolley was actually trapped underground for nearly three days, in the pitch dark, under Haiti's collapsed Hotel Montana.

This book is different in that Dan shares with us two stories at the same time. One of course is all about the struggle being trapped underground, wondering if he'd ever make it out alive. The other is about the early part of his marriage and the intense struggles his wife Christy suffered through her years of depression. Although both stories are very different, both situations required a rescue.

Great, fast-pace read, with an important message for the reader.

Here's a video teaser about the book.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

adoption day.....holla!

So after 2 years and 7 months, the Lord added two children into our family...permanently. Or, as David puts it, "fowevah and evah".

Welcome David Josiah and Jayda Hope into the Smith family!

I have learned so much these past years through the process of foster care and adoption. I've learned about compassion and mercy. I've experienced the ongoing unknown and possibility of loss. I've learned (and am still learning) how God is truly the only one we can totally trust in and He is worthy of our trust. I've been the recipient of so much care and love by so many in our church family. I've seen my self-righteousness rear its ugly head and I've seen how God has amazingly put a love and care in my heart for the birthmother. It has been a full two and half years! This journey was so different than that of our international adoptions.

Just the night before, I was remembering the first moment I met D. He was with two social workers in a conference room, dressed in overalls, quietly standing there, seeming afraid. He was just 14 months old and I'm sure confused as to where he was and why. I knelt down in front of him and said, "Hi buddy! You're our number one!" He just smiled, shyly. When we decided to become a foster family, I imagined having lots of children come and go. I imagined a wall in our basement filled with pictures of children we would have the privilege of caring for until they went back home to their birthparents. I never anticipated adopting our first foster children. D was our number one, but I imagined numbers 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7...child after child coming and going.

Wendy Gill wrote the following in a card to us:
Who would have imagined stepping out in faith and obedience to God would end like this!

I never imagined it, that's for sure! God's goodness and blessing to our family has really overwhelmed me.

The official adoption ceremony took place on Wednesday, December 15th. Friends and family gathered to celebrate the big day with us. Enjoy the pictures below:















Judge Whitfill really makes it special for the children. Underneath his desk is a box full of stuffed animals and each child gets to choose one. David chose Pluto and Jayda chose a stuffed bear.
















Judge Whitfill holding the children after signing the final adoption petition.



















Amanda and her children...all sporting hand-knit hats. How cool!















Family and friends on the other side of the court room. What a great crowd!















Judge Whitfill, our family and the proud grandparents.















“The joyful news of the gospel is that God the Father brings us to share in the loving communion that he forever enjoys with his eternal and natural Son through the work of his eternal and natural Son in our place and in our stead. Through adoption God graciously brings us to participate in the reciprocal love that ever flows between the Father and his Son. Not only is this the very heart of adoption; it is also the very heart of the gospel.”

- Dan Cruver



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

this is why i love new york


















Number one...and in no specific order: Rickshaw Dumplings. It's a neat little eatery that serves up fresh steamed dumplings, delicious soups and chocolate dumplings for dessert.


















Number two: Washington Square in Greenwich Village is just a cool place. It was pretty empty when we walked through, except for the small army of squirrels that were chasing us. Yes, they were chasing us.


















Number three: The Empire State Building at nighttime at Christmastime specifically. Just beautiful.














Number Four: Bryant Park at Christmastime in the evening. I love this park. It's become one of my must sees anytime I visit the city. There are great little shops they set up during the winter holiday time and they are so unique.


















Number Five: The famous tree at Rockefeller Center. I mean, can you go to NYC around Christmastime and not see this?


















Number Six: Seeing numbers one through five with a good friend! Plus, Times Square is exhilarating each and every time I walk through it. Don't we look silly in our hats?

Friday, December 3, 2010

"God painted your face red so that you could be my daughter."

From that first sentence, my heart melted and I sat sobbing and reading through this article written by Christina Dubell.

Adoption is a beautiful picture of the gospel. I never tire of hearing Dan's story and how it all began with a sermon one Sunday at Perry Hall Middle School.

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1q14s/TheZoneMagazineDec20/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fthezonemag.squarespace.com%2F%3Bjsessionid%3D1056A8E22336709F2A9255C5D93B3716.web122

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

a gift from my husband

Matt shared this quote with me a few weeks ago and I keep reading it over and over. It's worth sharing...

“What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?”.

- Gresham Machen, Christian Faith in the Modern World


Sunday, November 28, 2010

a WINNER

Ever end up disappointed with a movie you rented? Even a loser from the Redbox can be a bummer for me, and that's only a dollar wasted. Ultimate two biggest let downs: Jaws 4 and The Last Song (I am NOT a Miley Cyrus fan but Nicholas Sparks usually tells a decent story).

Tonight I saw a true WINNER movie: Temple Grandin.

First off, the acting is incredible. Good ol' Claire Danes from My So Called Life is simply amazing! The supporting cast is impressive as well. This film is interesting, thought-provoking, funny, sad, curious, and inspiring. I can't think of anything offensive in this film unless bull testicles on a windshield bother you...

Since Allyson was responsible for the pathetic choice and viewing of Jaws 4, I'd like to mention that Temple Grandin was her pick. She has certainly redeemed herself with this one!

Check out the trailer and then rent it via netflix.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Call

If you haven't taken the time to read or listen to John Piper's, "The Prodigal's Sister" then you are missin' out.

Here's his final prayer of the imaginative retelling of the parable of the prodigal son.
And now, O Christ, let there be light
So we can see the way aright
Between two dismal forms of death,
And with that light, O give us breath
To live again, and bring us back
From pleasures in a foreign shack,
Or from the pride of weary arm,
While working on the Father's farm.
From demon sloth and pleasures raw,
Or demon toil and pride of law.
The pathway home from either place
Is opened by the word of grace.
O Christ, pursue us till we see
That all of God's bequests are free.
The ticket that we have to show
Is this: that we are glad to go

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Favorite Things

So Oprah gave away cruises to her entire audience on day one of her Favorite Things.

On day two, she gave everyone in her audience a brand new 2012 VW beetle.

OK, so I DO wish I was in the audience on day two.

But.

We got some pretty amazing news which translates into a HUGE GIFT for our entire family.

On Wednesday, December 15th at 9:00am we are going to officially adopt David Josiah and Jayda Hope!

Beat that Oprah! ;-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

mom jeans - a classic

mama said there'll be days like this...


...there'll be days like this, my mama said (mama said, mama said)!

Come on, sing along with me, don't be shy.

These are the facts about the day that Mama said I'd have:

The day: Thursday
Significance: Co-Op
Required time to leave home: 8:20 a.m.
Required time to get everyone up in order to leave on time: 7:20 a.m.
The only day of the week that every child decides to sleep in: Thursday
Extra details: Matt is away at conference; flying solo on crazy morning

I woke up at 7:15, got a quick shower in our quiet home, because like the facts state, it's the only day everyone sleeps in. Go figure. Got dressed and by 7:35 the little kids (3 1/2 and 2 1/2) were getting up. Big boy and Big girl moved quick. They understand time and knew we were running late. Baby girl jumped up with more energy than Tony Robbins. Little boy was a little slower. Actually, much slower. With curls sticking up and sleep in his big brown eyes, he shuffled (sort of like Matt's sick shuffle) to the bathroom. He's been potty trained for some time now with only a handful of accidents and we're so happy about that. All should have gone well on this rushy-rush Thursday morning.

But all did not go well.

Not for little boy and not for me.

Little boy adjusted his sleepy self on the potty and somehow dozed off mentally right before liquid substances began squirting from his body. Of course this is meant to happen and is normal, but let's just say that the positioning of his firing weapon was a bit off.

That's when I heard the screaming/crying.

Leaving gusto-filled baby girl downstairs, I ran back upstairs to find baby boy in a most unhappy state. I also found a puddle of pee on the floor and on the carpet. OK - a misfire. It happens. It's not fun, I have to take the time to clean it up, but it's not the end of the world. Mama did say there'd be days like this.

The drama is far from over though.

Little boy is still unhappy.

That's when I notice that part of his hair is wet. Not sure why but I have a sneaky suspicion. The second I ask him why his hair is wet, the crying gets louder and louder.

I do what any curious mother would do. I bend down to sniff his hair, only to prove my suspicions are accurate. There is definitely pee in my little boy's disheveled curls. Why did this happen and more importantly, how did this happen?

I ask.

And ask.

And ask again.

The crying went on and on and on.

Through tears and sobs and a bit of fear, here's the answer I got:

"Mommy....the squirter came out and I couldn't stop it from going everywhere so I put my hand in front of it and then wiped it on my head."

Operation Wash-Half-of-your-child's-head because there is pee in it -before-CoOp was in full swing!

Amazingly, we did manage to get to Co-Op on time.

But...

I forgot the power cord for my MacBook so I couldn't do what I intended to do for my art classes. Bummer.

And, to top things off, I attempted to heat up a cup of oatmeal for breakfast, before helping out with another class. The oatmeal exploded in the microwave, creating a disgusting mess and leaving me with exactly three spoonfulls to eat. That's what you call a double bummer.

Mama says not to worry though...just listen!









Thursday, November 4, 2010

takin' it all in

When my little fam' made the decision to be a foster family in April 2008, we never expected to be where we are now. I didn't at least. Matt always had a sense that we would end up adopting our first placements. Not so with me.

In May of 2008, two little munchkins joined our family. They are still with us, after 2 1/2 years. Looks like we're going to adopt them. This was God's plan from the very beginning, and I am still in awe of the many twists and turns we've taken on this road of fostering to adoption.

Adopting via foster care is almost always an "open adoption". Having only adopted internationally, this is new to me and I am takin' it all in. I want to learn all that I can about what is best for the child(ren) regarding appropriate contact with their birth families. There is a way to walk this out that will bring glory to Jesus and that is what I am after; not what is easiest on us, what others we respect may think we should do, or even what seems to makes sense. These books are a tool and only a tool.

I'm pretty sure that the road ahead will have all new twists and turns for our family.

But isn't that true for all of us?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Congratulations to our dear friend, KATHY SZELIGA, on her sweet victory!!






Tuesday, November 2, 2010

i can vote

I can vote and it brings me tears.

Every time. Every election since I can remember.

I miss my early voting days when I snuck behind a thick curtain like the Oz in Wizard of Oz. I can still picture my ballot, holes punched out indicating my choice for the various offices. It was a private and unique experience.

Now it seems less special as you stroll up to a barely even semi-private desk with a computer touch screen. I feel like the whole world is watching what I do, not that it makes a difference, but still.

This year, since my older children are both under 13, they joined me on each side, creating a bit more privacy. I wish I would've brought a big blanket with me; they could've each held a side to give me that closed in curtain feel, like the good ol' days.

Anyway, with all the changes, one thing still remains the same for me.

I cry when I vote. My husband laughs at me for this. But seriously, when I stand at the voting booth, two things come to mind and these two things lead me to tears:

1- I see the faces of those in other countries who are not allowed to vote. They literally flash before me. They are the faces of women.

2- I ask, why me? Why was I born in this country with these rights? Why am I so fortunate in this way? I thank God for the privilege and it makes me cry.

I love putting the little "I Voted" sticker on my jacket. I love walking out of my local high school having casted my vote. I love my freedom, although I rarely think about it or thank God for it.

But I did today, because of this election.

halloween

This year, in addition to sending our nerd, pirate and little tiger out to collect huge amounts of candy, we decided to do a little something to bless our neighbors. After all, Halloween is the only holiday where people you don't know actually come to your door and talk to you!

Thankfully, our "condo-home owners" joined us since they don't typically get trick or treaters. We could not have pulled this off without their help! Robin and Becky made delicious homemade cookies that turned out to be a hit and Allyson made huge crockpots full of creamy hot chocolate and wonderfully spiced hot cider. My son Stephen set up a long folding table at the end of our lawn and we set up shop. Matt and Stephen plugged in some strobe lights so our house was lit up and could be seen on the other side of the court!

We prayed just minutes before people started arriving at our home and it was so exciting to see how the night unfolded. As adults arrived to our home with their child(ren), Becky would joyfully greet them with "Happy Halloween! We have treats for the children at the front door and we have treats for the adults here." People seemed to really love and appreciate the thought. At one point in the evening as I was returning to our house after taking Abbie and D to another part of our neighborhood, I could see that there were a few people at our table. As I got closer and closer, I started laughing because Becky and Stephen were mobbed with teenage boys who were loving the hot chocolate and cookies!

All in all, it was a perfect night! We hope and pray that this act of hospitality opens the door for us to share about our wonderful Savior as we interact with our neighbors throughout the year.

Here are some photographs of our night.





Monday, November 1, 2010

nyc, again, in 2010

The tradition lives on! My sister and I took the Megabus with our oldest two children - the "tweens" as we call them - to NYC for our annual trip.

We had absolutely perfect fall weather: crisp enough to wear a jacket or sweatshirt, warm enough to not have to wear a bulky winter coat. The sun was shining and the air was cool.

Here are some photographs that capture our time.

I call this one: waiting for the subway, hoping to see a rat! The Uggs and Converse capture their their personalities and style without ever seeing their faces...


What's a trip to the American Museum of Natural History without meeting up with Rex?


Me want gum gum you dumb dumb...


The Pond at Bryant Park is simply magical, even for the Chinese boy that we kept seeing fall on his face. Poor kid!


Would it even be feasible to visit NYC without stopping in to visit our favorite toys at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue? I must admit, the store was super cool from the outside. I know what Stephen is thinking, "Is it really this thin?"


My son, after he bought something from a street vendor. I love that he loves NYC as much as I do. :-)


And my favorite picture of the day? It has nothing to do with our personal time there, but it still remains my favorite:



Friday, October 29, 2010

judgement house


Two things:

1 - I remember going to a judgement house as a new Christian.
2- I really respect Russell Moore. His book "Adopted for Life" changed my life. Read it, even if you never think you will adopt a child.

As a baby Christian, I remember one Halloween night where a bunch of us squeezed into a car and drove to a local church that was doing a judgement house. I didn't really know what I was getting into. I was a new Christian and lacked discernment at the time, but even in that state, something seemed a little off to me.

Hell seemed "cheesy" for lack of better words. The people dressed up as demons looked funny. Some of them were trying hard not to laugh themselves. When we had to take the elevator down to get to the pits of hell, I had to refrain from laughing. I'm pretty certain I held it together, but I remember thinking that it all seemed like a joke. I am sure the people that put this judgement house together were sincere and well- meaning, wanting to reach the unsaved with the seriousness of God's wrath. But I never remember feeling scared or sobered or even concerned. It was just cheesy.

Reading Russell Moore's post today was very helpful. He put into clarity my broken thoughts from my earlier judgement house days...

Take time to read it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

apple pickin'

A few weeks ago, I loaded up the ol' Odyssey and headed out to a local farm to do some apple pickin' with my good friend Amanda and her crew of 4. It was my first apple pickin' experience and I really enjoyed pickin' the apples. I like saying "pickin," can you tell?

Not sure how your pickin' experience goes, but this is how ours went:

Step 1: Unload all children from vans and exchange your driver's license for a wagon. This wagon will be used to transport children and fruit alike.

Step 2: Head to the apple trees, if you can find them.

Step 3: Stop every now and then to play Star Wars. If you can find a stick, you've got yourself a light saber. Battle it out while adults continue to look for the apple trees.


Step 4: Chase after a 2 1/2 year old who ran ahead of our pack, took off her shoes, and decided to walk through thick, slippery, mud in her white socks.


Step 5: Pause for a picture before searching for those trees again!


Step 6: Find the trees! Admire them apples, imagine being Adam and Eve in the garden (minus the 7 children that are asking you questions simultaneously and the 1 perfect little baby that is gnawing on a toy), and get that wagon ready!



Step 7: Let the pickin' begin! To make this an official homeschool field trip, I asked the question, "Is it better to pick apples or is it better to pick your nose?" Ezra yelled out, "Apples, Mrs. Tracy!" Smart kid.


Step 8: Let the eatin' begin! Sure, we did a little eatin' before buyin' which maybe isn't the best example, but hey...look how happy we made those kids!

Step 9: Load apples in wagon and head back to weigh in...


Step 10: Weigh in....whoa!


There is always one photograph of the day that ends up being my favorite. This one did it for me:


I don't know what Keely and D are doing or saying. Maybe Keels is sharing a raisin from that gigantic bin she is clutching in her left arm.

Bonus Step: Exit the apple farm as quickly as possible as your youngest two are having meltdowns because you gave their juice boxes away to other children!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesdays with Stephen: Chapter 2

Well I am back with chapter 2 of Tuesdays with Stephen.

This week my topic is about a new group that me and my friend Mike Preisinger started. This week we are kicking it off at Mike's house with a Wii party, worship, prayer,and snacks. We hope that everyone we invited can come.

Also this week I will be going to New York City with my mom, my Aunt Jen, and my cousin Hannah. I think we will be going to the Museum of National History, and to Times Square. It will be my last year :( but it will be fun.

Last night we went to Mrs. Kathy Szeliga's fundraiser at Boordys Winery. We met Mrs. Kendel Ehrlich and stood behind Mr. Andy Harris (or as Abbie called him "Mr. Bob Ehrlich"). We had our picture taken with Mrs. Kathy and Mrs. Kendel!

That's it for now. Next time I'll show you a video that I really like.

evangelism and social justice: a delicate balance

Monday, October 25, 2010

top model

Some of you may be surprised to know that my husband secretly desires to be a model. Laugh if you want, but it's true.

When we were first dating about 20 years ago, Matt planned a special date for us. He told me we were having a picnic lunch at the Gunpowder, (how sweet and romantic and thoughtful) and that he also wanted to have a photo shoot. Not of us as a couple, mind you. Of just him, in various outfits. We called them "get-ups" back then. While I was packing up my camera, tripod, rolls of film (yes. actual film.), Matt was busy packing up his various pants, jackets and shirts all of which were purchased from Chess King. Does anyone remember that store in the top floor at White Marsh Mall? It was Matt's second home.

Matt is beside me now as I write this and he wants to make sure that I explain to my handful of readers, that there was a purpose for this. Some of you may be surprised to know that in addition to wanting to be a model, Matt, at age 18 was a one-man-show touring across Baltimore, doing concerts. He had a road crew (Greg Dutcher), a sound man (his brother Jeff) and a videographer (me). He would sing and preach from a tiny square stage that was all of 3" off the ground. No, I'm not lying.

So...this photo shoot was intended for self-promotion. After all, this tour required posters, brochures, and flyers. I took several rolls of film on our picnic date and Matt changed his outfits at least 3 times that I can remember. His blonde mullet blew in the wind and I snapped shots of him standing on rocks with water crashing behind him. Think Petra singing "I Am On The Rock."

I guess today, 20 years later, the modeling bug came back to my husband. The kids were all happily playing on the playground equipment, I had my camera on hand taking shots of my little loves, and that's when the request came from Matt.

"Can you take some pictures of me like you used to?"

I chuckled. He must be kidding.

He wasn't.

"Seriously, Sweetie. I could use some new shots for the ya Brochure," he inserted.

After I began taking a few shots and giving him some basic direction, it was like we were 20 years old again. He was fully engaged, posing, smiling, laughing (at himself).

Here are his poses.





We laughed. Then I posed him and we took these:



As much fun as I had photographing Matt minus the blonde mullet, these are my favorite shots from the day:




Twenty years never looked so good!