Thursday, February 26, 2015


I'd like to start by sharing some fun facts of which you may be unaware.  Growing up I attended a church where we sang only hymns and the only instruments played were the piano and the organ, not that this was a negative thing because I do so love a good hymn.  I learned some core truths there that shaped me in the most important ways,  met so many special people, and made wonderful memories, but we absolutely didn't listen to "contemporary Christian" music.  This makes it sound like it wasn't allowed and I'm not sure that was the case, I just know we didn't do it.  I think I had heard of it,  but I literally did not have a concept of what it was until I was 16 and started going to a different church.

My friends would talk about these different singers, and I felt so out of the loop and intrigued by this special type of Christian music that had drums and guitars.  Sometimes people even clapped their hands.   I don't think I knew that there were entire radio stations dedicated to this type of music until at least late college.  As a result of this upbringing, to this day I am sadly lacking in knowledge of the "cool" Christian singers of the 90's, a topic of conversation that actually occasionally comes up in my life.  I smile and just pretend like I know who these people are.  

I tried to catch up, but it was hard to keep up with current Christian "hits" when I was just trying to learn the words to Lord I Lift Your Name On High.  However, one CD did catch my attention, the Nichole Nordeman Woven and Spun album.  Since I lived 30 minutes away from town I spent a lot of time driving each day, and I usually spent it listening to these songs.  And while it's SO funny to think of my 18-year-old self being baffled by this new music, to this day I love that CD.  I didn't really understand anything about what worship meant back then, but that's exactly what I was doing listening to those words.  

My favorite song by far was the song Gratitude.  I would listen to it over and over again and think about the words.  A couple of nights ago I was sitting in my bed, trying to pray, but feeling so worried and anxious about so many things that it was hard for me to focus.  I prayed that God would calm me down and the words to this song popped into my head and I wanted to share them. 

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case 

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case 

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead 
And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
Everything we want and what we really need
So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case 

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace
But Jesus, would You please 

As I thought about these words, I thought about how they mean something different to me today than they did ten years ago.  Ten years ago they represented some ideas that I was only just beginning to learn about, and now they represent things that I have experienced--how the hardest times can be a lesson in looking hard for God, how there is often a difference between what I want and what God knows I need, how He provides in ways that I don't expect, and how I am ultimately blessed beyond what I could have ever dreamed ten years ago. 

I think telling God everything that we are thankful for is a special kind of prayer.  When I am very worried about the future I try to make a list and thank God for all of the things He has done for me in the past, and I find that my perspective changes and I start feeling thankful instead of so worried.  And I remember that no matter what my circumstances are, no matter what I think is going wrong, God has put so many good things in my life.  And when I think about it that way, the things that I worry about don't seem so big anymore.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Simple Things

 This weekend we celebrated a special birthday.

This guy turned 91!  My Paw Paw is a special man.  He and my Maw live just a few seconds down the road from my parent's house.  There is a path cut through the woods that makes the trip even shorter, and growing up my sister and I must have made that walk thousands of times.

Paw Paw likes a cup of coffee, reading, growing tomatoes, and going to eat fried fish at the fish house.  He is a natural story teller and loves to laugh, a trait which my dad and I most definitely both inherited.  He is a World War II veteran and vividly remembers his time spent on ships in the Pacific.  He loves my dad and always calls my parent's house to make sure that my dad has made it home safely from work.  And I will never forget the image of him faithfully holding the light while my dad worked on various broken down vehicles late into the night, something he still does to this day.
Though I will leave her age a mystery because ladies don't tell, my Maw also recently celebrated a birthday.  She has been a door greeter at Wal-Mart for 27 years, has a sharp sense of humor, and is super smart.  I think she might start Christmas shopping in February, she makes a dang good Sunday roast, and she has an extensive jewelry collection that I always liked to look at when I was young.  Every Christmas Eve she loads my cousins and I down with gifts to give the neighbors across the street before we come back and open our own presents, and there is always room for one more person at her house on Christmas Eve.

LOUD storytelling and LOUD laughing, everyone talking at once, Sunday lunch, Easter egg hunts, hummingbird feeders, a cold can of coke, a twenty dollar bill to help with gas, and a storybook Christmas Eve--these are the things I think of when I think of Maw and Paw Paw's house.  They do not worry much about anything and they absolutely do not meddle, and I think this has kept them young.

Sometimes I have a tendency to make things complicated.  I get worried about what people think, the future, my clothes, my things, or about how 1983 called and wants the bathrooms in my house back--all manner of things that don't matter or that I can't control.  When I think about my Maw and Paw Paw I am reminded about how it's the simple things that matter.  The simple things are what matter to them, and the simple things are what we love about them most.

In my life full of busy and fast, their house is a throw back to a slower time.  It's always the same, always comfortable, and always a place where you can come as you are.  As I sat there tonight I thought about how telling loud stories with family, visiting with cousins, and eating 91st birthday cake is about as good as it gets.  I'm so proud of my Maw and Paw Paw, and I'm so lucky to be their granddaughter.

Happy birthday Paw Paw! We love you!


Sunday, February 15, 2015


I have spent six years of my life in college, with a one-year break between undergrad and graduate school.  Throughout the duration of those years I maintained a perpetual twitch in my left eye as a result of a constant lack of sleep or rest of any sort.  I am not proud of this, really I consider it to be a personal low.  I know it started during my freshman year, but the eye twitch really kicked it up a notch during the first semester of my sophomore year.  I had become very concerned about maintaining my grades by that point, and I had also been lucky enough to meet a group of very fun friends.  I think it’s difficult for most people to find the balance between studying and social activities in college (for the record, I think they’re at least equally important), but I made it especially difficult on myself by being very intense about both.  It’s tricky not to miss a single dinner, party, dance, weekend trip, or event of any kind while also not cutting yourself any slack in class.  The result was that I never went to sleep before 3 or 4 am, fell asleep any time I was still, and had a constant eye twitch. 

I think the true highlight of this time period came during my junior year when I was running for a spot on our student government’s executive council.  I was sitting up on the auditorium stage, all dressed up in a suit, waiting on my turn to speak and my eye just went crazy.  I felt it and later my friends were kind enough to give me a full report on the situation.  Here's the bottom line-I could dress up, put on make-up, and speak intelligently, but my eye would always give away the complete exhaustion just under the surface.  Why, WHY did I do this to myself? They should have called me Whitney “Left-Eye” Smith.  Instead, my friends gave me the endearing nickname of “Twitchney”.

I wish I could say that I kicked all these habits once I was finished with school, but they have followed me firmly into adulthood.  They might look different--I definitely cannot stay up until 3 or 4 am anymore if I would like to function like a normal person the next day--but I am still tempted to ignore the need to rest, and I’m guessing this is a struggle for most of you too.  This looks different for all of us, but for me this looks like doing what feels like a million things at once, planning a million things at once, staying up too late working, and having weekends full of events. 

I dare say that no one wants to feel exhausted all of the time.  We keep going without stopping because we feel like we have to, not because it’s great fun for us.  We live in a society that moves really fast, and we feel like things will fall apart if we slow down.  The problem is that a lack of rest doesn’t just result in an eye twitch.  It can make us irritable, emotional, and distractible. It can lead to or increase feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.  No rest can make us less productive, mess up our appetite, and can cause us to get sick more easily. When we are constantly exhausted it’s easy for us to return to old bad habits and ignore taking care of ourselves.  Ultimately, a lack of rest can suck the joy out of life.  I’m not just talking about physical rest, I’m talking about spiritual, mental, and emotional rest as well.  The older I get, this past year more than ever, I am realizing that rest is not optional.  It’s a crucial part of living a healthy life. 

The Bible gives us lots of examples of rest.  Genesis 2:2&3 tells us, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” I can’t be exactly sure of what God specifically did on that seventh day, but I can be sure that He spent it resting.  It doesn’t say that He snuck in a little or a different kind of work on the side, but that He rested.  Why do I sometimes feel like this example does not apply to me, and that what I’m doing is so important that I can’t stop to rest?

Jesus gives us a lot of examples of rest too.  He set aside time to spend totally alone with God or with just His closest friends after intense periods of busyness, before making important decisions, or before big events.  He encouraged His disciples to do the same thing.  In Mark 6:31&32, just before the feeding of the 5,000 it says, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”  Without spiritual rest we will quickly feel ourselves feeling far from God.  

Physical rest is crucial for survival, spiritual rest and renewal are the basis for living a life of joy and purpose, but I also think mental/emotional rest is an important part of a balanced life.  I spend my entire day hearing and thinking about intense topics, and I bet that's true for many of you as well.  When I get home it's important for me to spend at least a little time watching or reading something light hearted, happy, or encouraging.  If I'm feeling fancy this might mean a light hearted Christian book, but most times it means reading a book or watching a show that is pointless and not at all high quality.  My brain just needs to rest and not think. 

The best rest looks different for all of us--you know what works best for you.  The main thing is to plan out your rest time and make it happen, preferably before you become exhausted.  Time to rest doesn't usually just show up, we have to be intentional about it.  So go ahead, plan it out, and be protective of that time!

Getting enough rest is something that I have really been trying to work on in 2015.  I'm definitely not perfect at it, but I'm getting better.  I'm planning to keep it up, because believe me, no one wants to have an encounter with Twitchney the eye twitcher.  


Friday, February 6, 2015


Hello and happy Friday friends.  I am feeling quite accomplished right now, because I have managed to 1. Add my picture to my blog and 2. Participate in my first link up.  Technology is certainly not my area of strength, really I'd call it an area of extreme weakness, so I am just delighted that I managed these things without assistance.  I still don't have a Twitter account, because I certainly don't want to have all of my technology fun in one week!

I found out about the Currently link up, hosted by Jenna of Dearest Love, from my friend Jessica at Meet the Magnolias and I thought it would be fun to join in.

Hearting / I'm loving the fact that the heater in my 11-year-old 4Runner is working just as fine as ever on these cold mornings, lysol lemon scented all purpose cleaner, my new Skinnytaste Cookbook, and my leather bracelet with some "pearls" on it that all the kids have explained to me is very fashionable right now.  Clearly, it's been a wild week around here.

Pinning / Tragically nothing, because when I'm busy I forget about Pinterest really quickly.  But, if I were pinning something it would be these gold framed botanical prints from Emily A. Clark's blog, because I love them so much.

Reading / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (for the 95th time) in preparation for my trip to Harry Potter World in March, Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson (I'm happy to report that my friends and I were able to behave a little more calmly last night at her book signing that we did we when saw her in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago), and The Underground Girls of Kabul, a book about the practice of dressing young girls up like boys in Afghanistan so there are more opportunities available to them.  I have really liked this book so far.

Eating / Wheat toast with avocado for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I have literally eaten this at least once a day for the past two weeks.  I usually put a fried egg on top, but a couple of times I've gotten wild and topped it with turkey and melted swiss cheese.  Of course I got the idea at
Doesn't hers look good? I promise you, mine is not nearly so lovely.

Anticipating / Celebrating Sara's new baby girl coming in March with some of my best friends tomorrow night.  All of us being together in the same place is about as good as it gets.

Hope you have a good weekend!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Feeling Sad

Sometimes, sad things happen.  Losing someone we love, losing a job we hoped to keep, an unexpected move, a special pet passing away, an unwanted divorce-some things are just sad.  And when these things happen, it's ok to feel sad.  Just like when happy things happen we feel happy, just like when exciting things happen we feel excited, feeling sad is a natural part of being a human.

The thing about being sad is that sometimes our sadness makes other people really uncomfortable, or even sad themselves.  Some people might hate seeing us feel sad so much that they go to great lengths to try to cheer us up, and we start feeling pressure to pretend like everything's ok.  Other people might belittle our feelings in a way, and make us feel like it's time to "move on" or "get over it".  And there does come a time in all situations when it's right to accept that the situation is different, to find a new normal, and look for things that make us happy again.  But no one can put a time limit on that, because things are different for each person.

And truthfully, it isn't healthy, or fun for that matter, to spend the majority of our lives feeling sad.  It's not good if you constantly feel sad for no reason-if you spend your whole life feeling so sad that you can't eat, sleep, or get motivated and you can't figure out why.  But those big sad things, the things that matter deeply to us, it's just fine to feel sad about those for awhile.  To talk about it, to write about it, whatever we need to do.  Those things are a part of healing.

Feeling sad doesn't mean that we have a lack of faith, it doesn't mean that at all.  In Ecclesiastes it says, "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven...A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance." The Bible is full of people who felt sad-women who couldn't have babies, people who lost the ones they loved, people who knew they had made huge mistakes.  Even Jesus felt sad.  God created us with a huge range of emotions and He is not made nervous or offended by our sadness.  Feeling sad doesn't mean that we lack faith, it's what we do with our sadness that matters.  A really low time can be an opportunity to depend on God and grow like we never have before, even if we also feel confused and angry.

This isn't really a cheerful message, but it's what was on my mind.  But this is a cheerful thought-if we have Jesus we can know, absolutely know, that we have a reason to hope, even during our saddest times.  Not just after this life is over, but today and every other day.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33