Saturday, September 6, 2014


I’m sorry.  I don’t know what else to say.  But my jacked up personality (which, by the way, was God’s doings) has to sometimes write it all out.  Or say it to someone(s). Nobody wants to be the recipient of that.  So I’m writing.  It’s been a long time.  And the worst part here is that it will take me 10,000 words to say what most people can say in a sentence or two.  So, I’m sorry. I have tried to change. Really, I have. And it was nearly my undoing.  So I’m not going that route anymore. So here is what I threw up a couple of days ago in the “notes” section of my iphone….

It’s September.  And the people in charge continue to tell us that September is looking big for the Smiths.  And if history is any indication of my response to this sort of news (news confirmed again today), I am due to soon start my panicky running around in circles, running daily errands (only to get in the store and have no memory as to why I am there), weeping 2-40 times a day, and going countless times before The Lord too humbled to speak and then too wound up to shut up.  September is big.  Because sometime just after Fall is gloriously ushered in, Rod and I will hop on a plane (ALL BY OURSELVES) to Bulgaria to meet our little girl.  Another Smith.  A little girl who needs a family.  We have one.  A little girl who needs to know love.  We love because He first loved us.  A little girl who needs a real bed and daily bread and bubble baths and siblings to giggle and play with.  We’ve got that, too.  All that we have belongs to God.  To be used and shared for His Name’s sake.  Remember that one time Jarrod asked me if it was a sin to have unused bedrooms in our house, and I stammered around with some pathetic answer until I finally sent him to his room??  Yeah, that conversation never left my head.  Nor did the words that we sang in church a couple of weeks ago…”Light a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.  I want more of you, God….” And don’t even get me started on the countless times I have poured every ounce of every part of my soul to Jesus as I sang “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the Presence of my Savior.”  I can tell you with absolute certainty that loving and parenting and having broken hearts for orphans is God’s calling on our lives.  He has been so good to make it crystal clear to us, so that we don’t have to wonder.  Actually, we have never wondered if we were doing the thing we were created for.  We haven’t wondered or questioned it once.  Not even on the hardest of days.  And speaking of hard days…. YES, we have them.  And not just occasionally.  I can tell some hilarious stories (all of which are true).  But I can also tell you of the many times that I have royally blown it as a Mom and the times that have been incredibly difficult and the times that I was just living for bedtime.  I can tell you about having to get my hair colored way more frequently now and about coping by eating way too often and about flaking out in the recliner when I should take the time to exercise.

Asking God to break your heart for what breaks His is hard.  Pleading with Him to protect you from living a mediocre, boring life wears you out from head to toe.  And it can also cause folks (who love you deeply and just want to protect you) to question some of your “yeses” to God.  To say “enough is enough” or “you have done your part” or “do you have any idea how old you are???”  And I’m not just talking about adoption here.  ***This is not a never ending post to talk people into adoption.  Adoption is a calling from God, not something you get talked into.***  I’m talking about making a decision to hand God a blank check (as David Platt talks about) and asking God to fill it out while we say “Here am I.  Send me.”  It will look different for all of us.  But we were created for worship (with our lives) and to make much of Him and to know Him and make Him known as long as we are on this earth.  That’s what I know.  And while I love vacations on the beach and having absolutely nothing to do sometimes and laying on the couch and watching hours and hours of HGTV, it can’t be what I aspire to at some point in my middle age and old lady life.  Rod and I are so thankful that God has taken away that desire that we used to have to get to OUR TIME to daily lay on the beach and collect sea shells and join the “cruise of the month club”.  Now, God routinely whispers in my ear “Color outside the lines, girl” and “Don’t ever have empty bedrooms”.  And not to stir up the stink here, but hear me when I say that we are 100,000% certain that God did not steward us with a house bigger than we need because we had won favor with Him.  That kind of pish posh makes me cray cray (I just threw that in there because when I say it, it drives all 6 kids cray cray).  NO, NO, NO!!! It is His.  It is for Him.  For His glory.  For Him to show us what to do with it.  I used to say “One of these days I’m going to clean the rooms of my house and have a decorator come in and it’s going to look beautiful and neat and clean all the time.”  What was I thinking???? As a side note, I am not bashing those amazing people who can keep a neat, tidy house all the time.  I am amazed by you.  We Smiths just can’t pull it off.  And having untouched rooms just isn’t what God called US to.  The beauty, for us, is in the mess.  It’s in the loud.  It’s in the full table at night.  It’s in the obscenely ridiculous grocery bill.  It’s in the everybody talking louder and louder over each other because the Braves game (God, please help the Braves) is on even louder.  And, if I’m confessing, it’s in the farting at the dinner table.  And every night I fuss about it while high fives and fist bumps are going around.  That’s what God has called us to.

That’s why September is big.  Because a little angel from Bulgaria is going to join this holy mess.  I sure hope we don’t terrify her.  Please don’t think that allowing God to interrupt your life (WHATEVER HE CALLS YOU TO) is easy.  It’s not.  Don’t think it’s not scary, because it is.  Don’t think it is not tiring.  It is.  Don’t think it won’t cost you much.  Because it will cost you your very life.  Don’t think that we are super smart and spiritual because we know this stuff.  We know this stuff because we have discovered it along the way. 

Last Sunday, we sang (music moves me) “I give myself away.  I give myself away. I give myself away so You can use me.”  That’s the cost.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to give ourselves away.  To be poured out like a drink offering.  To be Christ-like.  There is no question that He gave Himself away.  If you think about it, please pray for us.  Once we go to Bulgaria the first time,  we will have to come home (without the angel) for about 8-10 weeks.  Then we will go back and bring her home.  There are a trillion hoops to jump through to make it all happen.  Not too big for God.  But I don’t jump as well as I used to.

Friday, October 26, 2012


It happened again last Sunday. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, because it happens several times a week, but this time I gave myself a good lecturing right in the middle of church, because I had really been a neglectful parent.  What happened was during the invitation. Which means that at this point in the service, I was worn out.  One particular adorable Smith is really really busy during church. To top it all off, someone had played a joke on the pastor and put a squirrel on the pulpit before the service. My gift from God found it hysterical and laughed the entire service. In between laughing at the squirrel, he was laughing at someone in the congregation’s hair, waving to the Pastor, waving to the Music Minister, and discovering that we were sitting in a prime area to see his raised hand on the camera on the big screen if he raised it high enough.  So by invitation time, I really needed a Calgon bath.  We began singing  worship songs, and my boy laid his head on my shoulder and positioned it so I could sing into his ear.  He loves to do that. For the first time in ages we sang “Jesus Loves Me” (“such a simple message that everyone knows” the Pastor had said). I whispered “You know this one, right?” He said “No.” I said “You’ve never heard this?” He said “No.” So I sang it into his ear. And as I sang, I thought “Ugh, Lisa, how could you have missed this??” and I mentally added it to the list of the gazillion things that we have GOT to remember to teach our three youngest children.  All of which feel like needed to be accomplished last week.

I’m not sure if this is the common dilemma for adoptive parents of older orphans, but I can’t imagine that we are the only ones battling it. And I’m not sure if I feel compelled to tell it to defend ourselves, or just to share our story, or to maybe cross paths with others on our same journey.  Or maybe I am seeing that our lives are different now, and a bit upside down, and I just want to try to explain.,  I don’t know.  I do know that Rod and I have been shocked and humbled and amazed at the number of opportunities we have had since we got home to email/talk on the phone with/message/encourage/be encouraged by other adoptive families.  This journey is an unbelievable one.  And when God leads you to adopt older, very wounded orphans, you find yourself hungry to talk to others who walk where you walk.  And may I just add here that you “meet” some of the coolest people ever? A family who has a bit of an alternative skateboard ministry, and are now on their third adoption from Ukraine. They are adopting THE cutest HIV positive boy and have started selling their own possessions and stuff off of their walls at home to get to him.  Another family with a tough large Marine Dad who was tough as nails until he met a little orphan girl they hosted. He told Rod he wept uncontrollably as God broke his heart for her and for orphans in general. He is now going back to minister in orphanages and adopt that little one. Another family who is in the public eye, on the road mixing it up with those on the red carpet.  They hope to be home any day from Africa with a beautiful little girl with all kinds of special needs who will need their 24/7 care.  The list goes on and on.  People who we didn’t know were out there but who “get it”.

And when we talk with these amazing people, one of the things that we talk about is this LIST.  The gazillion things that never ever seem to go away. The list that never gets shorter (kind of like the laundry pile). The list that Rod and I mentally add to every single day, and that others add to for us (as in “Oh, you mean you haven’t taken them to Disney World, Build A Bear, World of Coke, Six Flags, Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, water skiing, a Falcon’s game, Tahiti???” (just kidding). “Oh you have GOT to do that.” OR “Are ya’ll making progress with their English, Math, social skills, reading, fears at night, friendships, relationships, their malnourishment, eating, catching up in science and history?? And are you getting them some good counseling?” Except for the Tahiti part, we get asked this stuff all of the time.  Some of it right in front of the kids.  They aren’t big fans. All of the questions are valid. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to do it all. And I can’t figure out what should come first.  Which brings me all the way back to the title of this blog post anyhow --- THIS OR THAT??? --- There are so so many things that we taught our older three boys when they were toddlers or a little older that our newest three kids have never been taught.  We have learned to not assume anything.  Whatever your 8 or 13 or 16 year old is doing, we are slowly teaching ours.  It was explained to us a couple of  days ago by our friends Oleg and Lena that the orphanage was their whole world.  They have had no other beliefs or knowledge or behaviors outside of what was taught or mirrored for them there.  So we slowly teach.  And we continue to try to earn the right to be heard. And so every day – every single day – we decide (consciously or subconsciously) do we focus on THIS or THAT today? There is no possible way to do it all each day.  Like last week, I had to message AnnaBelle’s precious teacher and tell her straight up that no homework got done all week.  None. BUT, we put everything we had into helping our little one sleep in her own bedroom for the first time since she got here.  She mustered up everything she had (she has never been in a room alone at night in her entire life), she prayed “Jesus, please help me be brave”, she grabbed poor Sophie Grace (our dog) around the neck like a stuffed animal, and she moved into her bedroom AND OUT OF OURS!!!    Massive progress in one area, absolutely nothing done in another.  And on and on the days go like that: successfully sitting at the dinner table having real family dinner and conversation, but knowing that victory there means we ought to lay off on pushing for showers (they hate them); or getting amazing cooperation and actual enjoyment at church, so we decide not to come home and start digging through the backpack pushing the math drills.  But “the list” never leaves your head ( they have GOT to learn to read, they have GOT to stop interrupting, they have GOT to get past a second grade math level, they have GOT to remember to say please and thank you, they have GOT to get a few more social skills, they have GOT to quit sassing, they have GOT to quit lying like a survivor, they have GOT to quit pointing at people they think look funny, they have GOT to get a filter before they speak, the boys have GOT to learn to throw a ball like a boy, little Princess has GOT to learn to sit like a lady,etc. etc. etc. Oh, and none of that even BEGINS to address the whole begging issues we have.  Everywhere we go.).  Ultimately, they still need to know so much more of Jesus.  And they are, at different speeds and caution levels, dipping their toes in the water.

 My little sassy one (yes, we are working on it) told me just last night that the reason her bedroom was such a mess was because she got really mad and messed it up on purpose.  I asked her if it made her feel better.  She said “Yes”. Well, alrighty then…. Then she said “Mom, sometimes I just so mad about everything.”  I sat down in the middle of the mess that I had almost punished her for and my heart broke.  All I could say was “I know, sweet girl.”  Oh, how my children need The Healer. It’s not that they don’t need Math or Reading or Science or the fun of Disney World.  But when the difficult days come (they are still fairly frequent) and we have to choose where to put our energy for that day, their wounds are so deep and their brains so angry or tired or defensive, that Math won’t go in anymore.  So we have to choose differently for the day. And it’s really really hard to explain. It’s hard to explain that our whole afternoon just changed on a dime because I accidentally forgot and cranked the car before AnnaBelle got to it, which once again made her think I was leaving her for good this time.  And so she is a mess for the next hour.  And that’s why the other stuff on the MUST DO list just got pushed down again today. It is so unbelievably real, and I couldn’t have thought it all up ahead of time if I had tried.  The fear they all live with is so irrational and over the top and ongoing and insane and REAL.  Thousands of times we have said to ourselves “Maybe if we just explain to them…”, and thousands of times other people have said to us “Maybe if you just try to tell them…” And we add it to “the list” of stuff we should do or should have done or should get to doing really soon.  Then the next day, we remember that God is Sovereign, that this family is His, and we set about being a family another day.  Some days are pretty. Some are not. Just like yoursJJ

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


We have had to let go.  And so far, it has not been fun.  You would think that our very full plate and full dinner table and full house would cause us to want to let go somewhere.  But this one hurt.  It hurt because once you know one of these precious, fatherless children, your heart gets all tangled up in theirs.  Once they come into your home, they come into your life.  Once they call you “Mama” and “Papa”, you believe that you are just that.  Once God overwhelms you with a calling to adopt and a passion for orphans, you can’t walk away very easily from a little one who you have imagined as your very own child.  Even on the days when you think you could not possibly add one more thing, you never rule out adopting again.
But for now, we have become convinced that letting go is the right thing.  Our precious little Kristina (fondly known by the Smiths as “The Stallion”) won’t be with us this summer, and most likely, not at all.  She is the tiny blonde fireball we hosted last summer. Our plan was to rehost her over Christmas, but then we got the call to go to Ukraine to get Nick and AnnaBelle and Evan.  Another family hosted her for Christmas, and then we were to get her back this summer, along with her younger brother, Vlad.  The money was paid. The decision was made. A new picture of Kristina and Vlad was put on my bathroom counter right by my perfume so that, as far as my eyes, thoughts, and heart were concerned, it wouldn’t be long until these two were part of us again.

One afternoon very recently, Rod and I settled in for the conference call for all hosting families. I was excited to get all the final details for their arrival.  Pen and notebook in hand, I was ready. That’s when everything changed. Our hosting director began the conference call (with several families at once) by asking everyone to pray for one of the families. This family’s passion and calling is to host and adopt deaf orphans. (Isn’t God amazing? What a cool ministry.) They were a part of the conference call, but did not yet have a precious one to host and adopt.  A couple of children had “fallen through” for them.  One of those children was ours. This family is so certain of their ministry that they already have 2 children with hearing impairments, already know sign language in English and Ukrainian, already have a relationship with a deaf school.  All Rod and I could do was just look at each other. Vlad is deaf. This family is perfect for him. Vlad has a very specific need, and they have a very specific gift from God for him. For Kristina, they just need to double up on their vitamins and their abilities to say “no” when her 34 pounds of cuteness starts beggingJJ

Long story short (ok, not really), we let them go.  Not easily, but with awe at God’s orchestration of a perfect family for these two fatherless children.  Rod and I and the first litter of Smith kids grieved.  A lot.  The Stallion stole our hearts.  And in case you are wondering, it doesn’t help to hear logic or reason here.  You know, “Well, you and Rod have enough going on.” “Well, we didn’t know how in the world you were going to add anymore.” “You look tired already.”  Whatever truth lies in those phrases doesn’t make us miss her less.  As a matter of fact, “tired” is not a bad word. “Comfortable”, “complacent”, “mediocre”, “self focused”, “visionless” --- now THOSE are bad words.  Can I get an amen??? Anyway, they will call 2 others “Mama” and “Papa” beginning this week.  And we are completely at peace with this decision. Their picture still sits on my bathroom counter, though. I just can’t seem to move it yet.

And so we keep learning to let go.  We keep learning that the things and the people that God brings into our lives do not belong to us.  I am not my own. I utterly and completely belong to Him.  I am to KNOW Him and make Him KNOWN.  I am to make much of Him.  And, in the case of the Smith Family, the One to Whom we belong has made it very, very clear that we are to love, minister to, defend the cause of, have broken hearts over, and bring into our home, ORPHANS.  The fatherless.  Those children who are wounded beyond anything you or I could imagine.  Little ones whose biological parents (for lots of reasons) chose alcohol and other addictions over them.  I blogged in Ukraine that there is much we will not tell about our children’s stories.  I am even more convinced 6 months later that we should not and will not.  It’s hard to find the line, really.  On the one hand, I want to tell enough to plead the cause of the orphan and to break the church’s heart.  Honestly, I long for some folks to lose sleep at night and wrestle with God because of these precious ones.  I also sometimes feel like I need to tell a bit of their story to explain my kids’ bad behavior days.  You would think that by now I would have quit caring what other people thought.  I thought I had. But there are some very common “former orphan” behaviors that make people look at them funny, or tell them to stop the way they are talking, or look at Rod and me like they either feel terrible for us or think we “over extended ourselves”, or make them just tell Rod and me what disturbing thing they just witnessed from our children.  THAT is when I feel the need to share.  Truthfully, I don’t know if I am, at that point, defending them or us.  Sometimes I am just rambling and stumbling quickly on my words to gloss over the situation and make it all just STOP.
ON THE OTHER HAND, so much of the story is not mine to tell.  It’s not fair to bring a 16 year old into a foreign country, with a totally different life, different “friends”, different parents, different siblings, rules for the very first time, different food, etc.,  and say, essentially, “I’m going to tell every detail of your life to everyone I’ve ever met.  Oh, yeah, plus the people who happen upon this rambling blog whom I have not met.  Is that ok? You still trust me, right?????”    In any case, we continue to learn new parts of the story every few days.  It is disturbing, to say the very least.  What these fatherless children live through is wrong in every single way.  And once you begin to see and hear the common thread in most all of the stories, and you add that to a calling from God for this to be your ministry, you are forever thinking to yourself “there has got to be more that we can do.” Our younger three children still have a few friends that they BEG us to go get.  Our kids know all too well what these children are living through. And now, we are getting the picture of it too. And EVERY SINGLE TIME, Rod and I wonder together if we should attempt to go get them.  More than one of these children hugged us over and over before we left Ukraine.  You don’t forget.  You don’t forget what they look like, feel like, smell like. 

So, who knows??? We don’t know what to do with all of these new things in our lives.  A year ago, we had NO IDEA.  None.  We weren’t tired then.  We were restless. 
Welp, friends, we are restless no moreJ Yesterday all I wanted was to go to the bathroom without someone beating on the door and asking me specifically what I was doing in there.  It’s ok when the door beater is 2 or 3 years old.  But 16???? Not making this up.  Also not throwing my son under the bus.  When children are wounded their entire life, even a parent’s disappearing into the bathroom is unnerving to them.  They will sometimes move away from the group to be alone on their own terms, but to have us “disappear” without explanation is scary. And not ok. Our youngest still cannot sleep in a room alone or even go into a restroom alone. She has made some progress at home in that if I am not available to go into the restroom with her, Sophie (the dog) will do.  All three still need a person or a dog with them at night.  For now, trying to be logical with them about the safety of our home or the age of the child is completely useless.  The wounds are far too deep for logic or for monster spray under the bed.  I would give my eye teeth for my little girl to be afraid of the same monsters under the bed that I was as a child.  You know, the kind that caused you to be sure to never let your foot or arm hang out of the covers over the side of the bed.  Her nightmares and thoughts are of very real things that have been very real in her life.  Same with the boys.  I’m flirting with crossing the line of sharing too much here, but the boys still wake up swinging their fists sometimes.  Always on edge.  Always defensive.  Always prepared.  Rarely completely relaxed.  To drop your guard where they come from is dangerous and risky. And, I am learning, you don’t let that kind of thing go in a few months.  I’m starting to wonder if it will be years.  That’s why Jesus MUST be the Healer.  Otherwise, it’s just too big.  That’s why we never rule out ministering to “just one more”.  Our kids are not unique in the orphan world.  100% of them suffer beyond imagination.  Before we adopted, more than one person asked us what we thought the chances were of “getting a child with ‘issues’”.  We always answered “100%”.  And it’s true for all 147+ million orphans in this world.  And that doesn’t include all the trafficked children.  That’s why I want to tell “just enough” so that, for some people, sleep becomes difficult because of a broken heart for these little ones.

Nonetheless, we let go of Kristina and Vlad.  God provided perfectly for them.  It’s not all we have had to let go of.  There is a lot, really.  Personal time and personal space are two that come to mind.  Also, Jarrod has been in Greece this past week.  Yeah, Greece.  The same son who has been through countless struggles medically and neurologically and could not string together more than 3-4 “well days” in a row in his whole life is on mission trip in Greece. Who among us saw that coming??  He is completely convinced that God has spoken to his heart to spend his life on the mission field and he plans to go to mission school in Wisconsin in the fall.  God’s work in Jarrod’s life and Jarrod’s heart of obedience are overwhelming and precious.  And if you know Jarrod’s story, you know that there is much, much letting go that is having to be done by this Mom. 

For good measure, I have also let go of my 40’s this month.  50 years old.  Seriously?? 50 has done some weird things to me.  Turning 50, for whatever reason, makes you stop and take complete inventory of your life.  It confirms that life on this earth won’t go on forever.  For me, it has caused me to repeatedly say to myself “don’t waste your life, Lisa”.  It makes “complacency” nauseating to me.  When I was 25 and someone said “You only get one shot at this life on earth”, I didn’t think too much of it.  Now I do. I think very much of it.  And at 50, I am certain more than ever that “I want to live until I die”. And by “live”, I mean “LIVE”.  I don’t want to miss anything.  Whatever God calls us to next, I want to go for it.  Without reservation or apology. I long to “let go” of myself. Die to myself.  Seize the day and let go.  I’m realizing that seizing the day has a lot to do with celebrating.  Parker and Nick are our celebrators.  If you ever see Nick in church, the boy is celebrating.  If there is music, he is dancing. Last Sunday, I had a stupid moment and signaled for him to calm it down a bit.  Then I realized that he (and Pastor Mike) were the ones that understood seizing the day, so I danced with him.  Why the heck not????!!!! Have you taken a look at the Cross lately??  It’s a cause for celebration!  Nick also celebrates when each family member wakes up in the morning.  The greatest is when he has already celebrated you (with painful hugs and squeals), then you leave for a little bit (like to go to Life Group for an hour), then you come back into his day. He celebrates you again!!! He must get it from Parker.  Most every morning, Parker asks “what’s for dinner?”  Next question?? Is anyone coming over for dinner?  Tonight we have the blessed good fortune of having our celebrating Pastor and his family over for a cookout.  Parker headed out the door for work a few minutes ago, pumping his fist in the air and saying “See you at Smith-Stephens 2012 tonight!!”  We’ve got a lot to learn from Parker and Nick.  They seize the day.  They rejoice in it.  It’s Biblical.  So is the “letting go”.  Not as much fun as the seizing the day, but just as Biblical if God asks me to do so. 

Signing off now to prepare for Smith-Stephens 2012.  I’ll straighten the house because Betty is coming over.  I’ll move all the breakables, because Pastor Mike and Nick may break into danceJ

Saturday, June 2, 2012


You are more than welcome to take this particular blog title exactly how you want to.  I’m pretty sure that however you take it, whatever you are thinking, you are right.  There is a point somewhere in every 24 hour period that I’m certain I’m on the crazy train.  Yesterday it happened when just about the time I realized I will be 50 (grandma age) in 30 days, Evan brought in a new prized frog that had a severe peeing problem, the dog threw up on the couch, I discovered with my nose that onions had rotted in the back of the pantry, I tried my hand at giving Parker a haircut (something I have never done before), welcomed my sister in law in the door to fix the mess I made of Parker’s hair, and hugged Jarrod as he told me that even though he was on day 10 of meds for his pneumonia, he felt horrible. That was yesterday.  Don’t even get me started on a couple of days ago when things took a sour turn (meaning that we asked for a few chores to get done) and we were
promptly informed that America is sucky, our house is sucky and Rod and I are sucky.  Neither Rod nor I knew that this particular Smith even knew that English
word, much less had the ability to use it properly in an ongoing sentence.  Unfortunately, in the events of the afternoon, it was several hours before Rod and I realized the English progression that had taken place. 

This morning, I started reading “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan again.  I first read it 4 years ago.  I sat on my bed with my coffee with my jaw dropped as I re-read some things I had read and underlined before.  Before….  Before Smiths went to Belize, Australia, Guatemala, Ukraine, Eleuthera Bahamas, and an unreached people group in the jungles of Nicaragua to share Jesus.  Before we really understood that a surrendered life meant surrendering our kids completely for such trips for His calling and His glory.  Before we came face to face with the reality that being parents was not about us.  Before we hit empty nest life.  Before we accepted that, for us, a chilled out and self-focused empty nest was not okay. Or obedient…. Here is a bit of what I read this morning:
**“To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid ‘big’ sins – is this passionate, wholehearted love for God?”**
**”…we have an inaccurate view of God.  We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.”**
**”The point of your life is to point to Him.”**
**”People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.”**
**” Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.  They assume such action is for ‘extreme’ Christians, not average ones.  Lukewarm people call ‘radical’ what Jesus expected of all of His followers.”**
And how about this little ditty from Chris Tomlin in the forward of Crazy Love: “…but to sacrifice your own comfort and welfare for another may look like madness to a safe and undisturbed world.”
These things from a book called “Crazy Love”, which led me to remember a youth camp years ago that I chaperoned where the speaker was speaking from Hebrews 11:8-9 “BY FAITH Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, OBEYED AND WENT, EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT KNOW WHERE HE WAS GOING.”  That was July 22, 2003 at Superwow.  I wrote in my Bible that night “Lord, give me a crazy kind of faith.”

So this morning I ponder (I love that word. Jarrod just glanced over my shoulder and said “Now THAT is a fun word we don’t use enough) what would a “crazy kind of love” and a “crazy kind of faith” all mixed up together look like?  If the Smiths got crazy obedient, would people think we were crazy? Would we care? And even more personal and in my face, will I keep on loving like crazy if I keep on being called a sucky Mom? That’s how Jesus loves me. Will we allow Him to carry us further still in this new season of loving and ministering to orphans? What if that means crazier days? What if almost everyone we know begins to ask “Are you crazy? Have you lost your minds?” Remember that crazy two months  (before we got restless) Rod and I spent in Empty Nest Land where we did absolutely nothing of any significance because we were busy doing nothing and talking about cruises and weeks on end at the beach and maybe even buying a jeep for 2 people to ride around in and look middle-age cool while at the beach??  FOR US, those were the two months people should have been saying to us “Are you crazy? Have you lost your minds? The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Signing off with a word from The Word that both challenges and scares me.  It excites me and makes me feel a bit tired. But it is awesome truth that I long for Rod and me to live by. Paul writes to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 5:13-17 “IF WE ARE OUT OF OUR MIND (!), it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because WE ARE CONVINCED that One died for all, and therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has GONE, the new has come!”  CRAZY!!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


It's so hard to believe that we have been home for three months.  You would think that in three months time, we would have gotten ourselves back into a routine and caught up on all the undone stuff.  Not true. Apparently, when you go from 3 to 6 kids, things get chaotic.  So chaotic that neither Rod nor I have seen a television show since we got home.  Not one. I haven't finished one book, finished a single to-do list (which I make every day), gotten to the bottom of the laundry pile, put away winter clothes, or gone through stacks of paperwork that have been on my desk for all three months.  Every day is still an adventure and every night, we still collapse into bed and wonder where the day went.  But not once have we gone to bed at night and questioned whether or not we were called to this life.  God confirmed it to us in advance, and He is still confirming it to us.  Once again, I struggle with the blog, because I want it to be honest and helpful and authentic. I don't want to gloss over the very difficult days, because some of them are doozies.  On the other hand, I don't believe that the details of those difficult days are to be shared on the stinkin world wide web.  Goodness knows I don't want MY less than attractive behaviors published for folks to read and talk about. So I won't do that to my kids.  Somewhere in there, though, I long to tell the truth of adoption to encourage people to open their hearts and their homes to the fatherless as God impresses them to do so.  When He fuels a passion in you for adoption, you can't ignore it. You can't not adopt. He strengthens you for days that you have read about, but cannot imagine living through. You can't stop thinking about all the others. You are drawn to the lists of pictures, the stories of your children's friends you met in the orphanage. Several times, Evan and Nick have asked Rod to tell some friends of ours who plan to adopt to please go to their orphanage in Ukraine and get their friend. He needs a home.  And there are 143 million others like him. And it seems like you are always thinking that you could do more, give more, adopt more, tell more people.  That's what happens when God rocks your world about orphans. It's so crazy to realize that this time last year - Easter weekend - our family of 5 was sitting in Taco Mac making this massive decision together to pursue adoption. At the time we had no idea who or how many or from where.  We didn't know the process or the cost or the timetable. And we absolutely had no idea what was about to happen to our hearts.

Three months in, the most frequently asked question, by far, is "So how is everyone adjusting?" Rod and I have no idea how to answer that question. It depends on the day, really. Usually, we answer by saying "Most days are three steps forward and two steps back. Some days, it's the other way around." Everyone's English improves every single day.  Not everyone is happy to be here every day. If we think "Oh, they will love this", they don't. They are brave and industrious and curious and cautious and terrified and wounded and relieved and joyful and sad and angry and grateful and homesick. And all those feelings are so mixed up together and show up so unpredictably that we never know what the day is going to look like or how a new event is going to turn out.  All kinds of things can trigger awful memories that they are not ready to talk about or acknowledge, leaving us to wonder what our precious children have endured. They share things as they are ready, and each time, our hearts are broken all over again.  Truthfully, I wasn't prepared to have to work through forgiving those who have wronged my children.  People I have never met. People who have very likely also been wounded and wronged themselves.  One thing I am learning.... I am not The Healer. I am the Mom. I have been called to be the Mother and let the Lord be The Healer.  He alone is able to bind up wounds and heal the broken hearted.  I am not The Rescuer. He is. I am not my children's Redeemer or Strong Tower.  Our daily, fervent prayer is that soon our children will begin to long for The Savior, and in faith and surrender, will begin to allow Him to heal and redeem as only He can.  My heart swells with joy and anticipation when I take time to imagine what each of them might look like with a healed, redeemed life.

Bottom line:  At this point in the journey, our family is settling in. Love is increasing. So is grace. And trust. And laughter. Some really, really funny stuff happens at our house every single day. Just yesterday, I had to stop Nick because he was brushing the dog with his toothbrush.  I told him that was gross.  His response?? "Why, Mom?" Are you kidding me??? Or when AnnaBelle closed her finger in the car door and later told Nick "Nick, look at my boobie." Nick started yelling and covering his eyes.  I had to quickly intervene on that one and explain that she meant to say "boo boo".  A completely different thing. And I won't even go into this morning's conversation in the car, when Rod overheard Nick explaining to AnnaBelle how I became their Mom through documents, but Jarrod, Logan, and Parker got here another way. Then he went into the details as he thought them to be. They are forever asking what certain English words mean.  Some are easy to explain.  Others, like "because" and "stuff" are a bit tougher.  They still cannot for the life of them figure out what the big deal about showering is. Once a week has kept them alive all these years. Why change a good thing? We finally had to get blunt with one unnamed Smith and say "You smell like an elephant." As a side note to that, they don't say the word "elephant"'.  They say "NFL". We are learning to rejoice in baby steps and small victories.  Much is left to do. And much of what needs to be done will require the miraculous. The wounds that orphans carry are deep and very, very painful. You know that much has been taken from them when they still hide their prized possessions under their pillow, and waiting in car line at school more than 5 minutes causes sheer panic that I am not coming to get them this time. Too many people have lied to them, abused them, left them.  Their scars are visible and invisible.  The memories of each of them are very vivid and heart breaking. And we know that there are so many more stories that they don't dare tell us yet. Truly, they have no idea how to cope or respond to their fear and pain.  They know how to survive.  So even now, when something unpleasant or uncomfortable happens, their instinct is to go to survival mode. In so many ways, they are like overgrown toddlers.  Same attention span, same lack of ability to handle change, same need for 24/7 attention, same lack of reasoning skills, no filter when it comes to speaking their mind, and a certainty that no one else should ever be taken into account.  It is all about them  Whatever it takes.  This is what happens when children are not raised.  They seem to miss out on most major growth milestones and important teaching and training. Good thing God is more than able to heal the brokenness.  And it's a darn good thing that His mercies are new every morning, because some days we really do ask God what in the world He has asked of us.  In the end, I still get the biggest tickle out of saying I've got 6 kids.  And, as another side note, they are ALL our kids.  It makes me nearly hyperventilate when someone refers to the older 3 as "our own kids" and the newer 3 as "the others" or whatever.  I also about croak when we are asked about their very difficult story while they are standing there or if we are encouraged to "go get some counseling" while our kids are standing there. Not to sound like someone freaking out on facebook or something, but may I gently and with great conviction say that all 6 kids are our own kids. All 6 kids know and agree that they are all our own kids. None of them are borrowed. Just yesterday, one of them asked that they not be introduced as our child from Ukraine, but just as our child.  None of the 8 of us is comfortable with being anything but a regular old family.  May God wrap His everlasting arms of protection and healing and utter joy around our regular old family, and may His Name be praised through our family as we continue to seek His direction for us.  We know He longs to carry us further still....

Friday, February 10, 2012


We have officially been home for 13 days.  It has been nothing short of a whirlwind.  Our lives are so crazy right now that this weekend we are celebrating family Christmas.  On Valentine’s weekend.  Two days ago, as I was headed out the door to take the kids to their first day of school, Rod had to stop me and tell me my shirt was on backwards.  Yesterday, Nick’s teacher sent home information about his upcoming project.  I nearly cried.  At this point in the process, I am doing well to shower and brush my teeth on a daily basis.  More stuff that I am not making up.  It’s not just that we have 3 new kids in the house.  It’s stuff I didn’t even think about. Like yelling up the stairs “Time for dinner”, then realizing they don’t know what I am saying.  Or explaining for the umpteenth time that in America, we shower more than once a week.  And we put toilet paper in the potty instead of the garbage can.  And it’s ok to step on a spider in the house (they have the superstition that if you step on a spider in the house, you will lose all your money).  They are also flabbergasted that although I do not work outside the home now, Rod still shares money with me.  This has caused many questions.  Everything, and I mean everything, takes so much time.  So if you run into me at Target (who has time to stroll at The Avenue??) and I am wearing last week’s makeup or I call you by the wrong name or I wish you Happy Thanksgiving, just overlook it.  Each day we make new progress.  And each day, we mesh as a family a little bit more.  We have started school, and while it isn’t easy and much work needs to be done, they are courageous enough to step out each morning into a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation and try.  I can’t imagine how scary that must be.  Everything for them is new and different. “Family” is a brand new word for them.  They have never experienced having a Mom and Dad, a full pantry and refrigerator, their own clothes, riding bicycles, attending church regularly, having someone hug them good morning and good night, or someone to ask them about their day at school. Two out of three of them like school. Two out of three like church. None of them like that Americans are so loud.  None of them like to be in chaotic situations.  And none of them like that everyone is looking at them.  They feel “on display”.  Nonetheless, they are, for the most part, glad to be here.  If they could figure out a way to get rid of the new rules that they aren’t used to, life would be goodJ

I think it’s true for all of us that there are days we lose perspective of our purpose.  Sometimes, we are just trying to get through the never-ending demands of the day.  Today, God gave me fresh perspective.  He reminded me of His amazing, humbling, God-sized calling on our family’s lives.  He reminded me that I am the Mom to three kids who are wounded beyond words, who aren’t sure if we are safe or trustworthy yet, who are desperate for a family, and even more desperate for a Savior.  If that means that I sit and hold them and sing to them all day instead of catch up the laundry, so be it.  I am so grateful that God used the obedience of our good friend and Student Pastor to our boys to remind me today. I had about two free minutes to glance at Facebook.  I quickly scrolled through the posts and skipped past the complaints and rants and updates about last night’s dinner.  And then I stopped dead in my tracks. Tears flowed and my heart swelled as I looked at Matt’s picture from Kenya.  There he was, holding the frail hand of a sick lady and praying with this precious one.  She had just surrendered her life to the Lord.  Not to sound creepy, but I looked at that picture at least 10 times today.  I couldn’t let it go.  I don’t know her name, but I know that I am going to spend eternity with her.  All because one believer chose to carry the Savior’s Name to her.  He chose to meet her physical need of hunger and then meet her spiritual need.  He chose to go to the hard places this week.  It was inconvenient and tiring and uncomfortable.  Matt’s trip to Kenya was an act of worship.  To be honest, my prayer is that his obedience will fuel a passion within our student ministry to carry His Great Name into all the world.  Imagine what would happen if the passion went beyond student ministry, and parents began to be willing to go to the hard places.  And today, as I stared at that picture, I became so aware that that same opportunity exists in my home now.  So many physical and emotional needs must be met, so that we can begin to meet spiritual needs.  We’ve got to be willing to be inconvenienced.  Obedience is messy sometimes.  But so was the Cross. 

We’ve come a long way in just a few days, but boy do we have a long way to go.  AnnaBelle is beginning to learn to match her clothes (I started teaching her how to lay her outfits out in “pinterest style”. Not kidding). She is riding her new bike with training wheels and learning to help me cook. She has also learned to answer the telephone within 3 seconds of the first ring. Her English is getting better each day and several times she has asked me to stop using Russian words with her. She loves her teacher at school and making new friends. She hates bedtime.  Nick is thrilled with the opportunity to make new friends at school. He greets everyone each morning like he is running for political office. He learned to ride a bicycle in about 15 minutes.  He says American girls are “wow wow wow”.  He got his song flute at school yesterday and it was just a wonderful moment for him.  He screeched that blessed thing all afternoon.  He insists that I gel his hair every morning, and then he stands back and looks in the mirror and whistles at himself.  He also hates bedtime and struggles to believe that he is smart and wonderful.  Evan started school 3 days ago.  He was beyond thrilled at the opportunity to hang out with the soccer (futbol) team at school, and had me to “drive fast, Mozzer” to Dick’s after his first day to get him soccer cleats and shin guards.  He has learned to fish and is his happiest when he is not required to go anywhere and he can just fish.  Maybe he is a good ol Southern boy at heart.  He is daily picking up more English and is currently begging for a new big dog.  He wants a boxer named Jackie Chan.  He doesn’t mind bedtime. He hates getting up (just like his Mom). He hates being inside for any reason, and he loves that the ducks in the neighborhood pond now come eat out of his hand when he shows up.  Every day.  Jarrod, Logan, and Parker are, as always, utter joy to us.  All three have given me much needed advice throughout this journey when I couldn’t think for myself anymore.  They are Godly men with a passion to know Him and make Him known.  They are also very patient with their floundering mother and new siblings.  And Rod, he is the love of my life.  He is a selfless, courageous man who is willing to lay down his life and his rights and his time and his heart and his possessions.  Every woman should be so blessed.  He is a precious earthly father to our kids, always portraying an incredible picture of their much needed Heavenly Father.
To top it all off, it is starting to appear that I will indeed get to take a shower today.  Gotta hurry before there is a new “crisis”.  Please please please keep praying.