Tag Archives: spiritual journey

Confessions of a Self-important Slow-Learner

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I will start off by just admitting that this is not the post that I thought I was going to write today. Over my morning cup of coffee, I felt a very strong urging in my heart. Naturally I pushed it aside thinking, “Oh, lovely idea. But I can write about that later. I have a plan.” Hmmm…why does this sound so familiar?

For those of you who know me already, you are probably aware that I am a bit of a slow learner when it comes to my spiritual walk. Reluctant. Recalcitrant. Stubborn. Obstinate. Disobedient. At my age, I really should know better. Whenever I make plans and hold on to them very tightly, God usually has another idea.

So, here is the first part of my confession: I thought that I had figured out the purpose of this blog. I had a plan. I had mapped out topics and scheduled them. I was primarily going to focus on our house refurbishment (Project Take Back Our Home). Now don’t get me wrong. I had every intention of sharing some personal stuff but I was definitely planning on directing (deflecting?) the topics away from me and toward more generalized commentary.

But this morning, God reminded me—in the way only he can do—that the purpose of this blog is about giving him the glory, not me.

Now for part two of this confession. Remember back to that whole “slow learner” business? Well I have just now figured out and am living into my purpose at home. Five years after I returned home.

Here is a quick summary for those who came in late. Five years ago I left my career and came home to care for my husband, teenage daughter and aging mother. I had worked outside of the home for almost twenty years—first as a museum curator and educator and later in children’s ministry. Although I believed (and still do) that I was called by God to come home, I struggled (fought) with God about being a stay-at-home mother and wife. I constantly told God (yeah, I know…) that I knew he had something b i g for me during this season. A new ministry? A novel? A business? Surely he wanted me to do something more than just care for my family. Yes, I do realize how prideful and ridiculous this sounds. I can’t believe he didn’t strike me down.

I was grumpy and whiney and quite difficult to live with (sorry, family). I am sure my friends have been sick to death of all the “Woe is me…I am a stay-at-home mom but I was meant for bigger things” (sorry, friends).

Two months ago my husband and I started a much-needed, long-overdue home refurbishment (Project Take Back Our Home). Suddenly I was completely immersed in the de-cluttering, simplifying and organizing. I began to have more time to do the things that we needed to keep our family and our home running.

So this morning as I was fixing breakfast for my husband and daughter, it hit me. This is my purpose. Simple as that. I am meant to love and care for my family and to keep our home running as smoothly as possible. It is big stuff.

It seems that once I was willing to embrace the purpose and the role that God had called me to in this season of my life and quit struggling to find “more important things to do,” I could finally see just how important my job is to my family. I think we glorify God when we are passionate about our calling.

So how does this confession and realization affect my blog? Well, I’m not quite sure, but I am pretty sure God is. What I do know is that you can probably expect a bit messier version of the typical lifestyle/decorating blog as I write about Project Take Back Our Home. My guess is that home refurbishment will not be the main focus.

I told you I was a slow-learner.

Thanks for struggling along with me, friends.

God’s peace–Amy

Lessons from Miss Frances: On Living, Loving and Laughing

"Lessons from Miss Frances on Living, Loving and Laughing" on www.amywatsonsmith.com

Lessons on life come from many people.

I have learned a great many things from the women in my life. Generations of women: mother, daughter, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, teachers, mentors, employers, . . . .

These women came from different places and different times. Our paths crossed perhaps for but a minute or we may have walked together for many years.

Not all of the lessons taught were ones that I wanted to learn–or for that matter, thought that I needed to learn. Many were learned the hard way.

The wisdom they shared ranges from the practical to the philosophical and includes: entertaining, parenting, graciousness, marriage, having a thankful attitude, being a lady, maturing spiritually, etc.

So, who is Miss Frances, you may ask?

Well, for the purposes of this series of posts let’s just say she is an old friend of the family. In all honesty she is an amalgamation of the many women in my life and as such, she is the wisest of us all.

I look forward to sharing with you on a regular basis lessons from Miss Frances on living, loving and laughing

Moving Ahead While Looking Back

Amy Watson Smith

This is the time of year that most people look ahead, plan, make resolutions. But it is also a time for reflection, a time of looking back, assessing and reassessing. This is a time to learn from your mistakes.

Believe me when I say that I love to move on. I fully appreciate the value of a clean slate. I am a planner so the start of a new year is welcome and full of possibilities.

At the same time I am an historian, a writer, an observer. I have known for many years how important it is for me to learn from the past–my past.

I try to reflect during the Christmas holidays but it seems it is just too busy and full of activity even if the activity is basically non-activity (e.g., reading books, taking naps, eating, talking with family, eating,…). Every New Year’s Day I am shocked that I haven’t really done the thoughtful preparation that I meant to do and instead scribble a few generic resolutions on my [symbolic] list.

And every year a week or two into January I realize that I have not followed through on any of these resolutions. I might feel a twinge of guilt or disappointment in myself for a few seconds but I wasn’t really invested in those things anyway, I tell myself.

This year I am trying something a bit different. I am using the month of January as a time to look back and reflect as well as a time to begin crafting some thoughtful goals. I am focusing on learning some things about myself, asking myself some difficult questions and looking around for resources that might help me.

I want to know why I am doing what I am doing (or why I am not doing something I should be doing). I want to be invested in my future. I want to live intentionally, to be authentic and to love wholly. I want to learn from others and to share my experiences.

I have invested in several tools that I believe will be useful and I will share these resources and some of the results on my blog. I will continue to document my journey both verbally and visually though I have not decided yet how my editorial calendar will be affected by this period of reflection, learning and planning. Once I have figured this out, I will post about it here.

I hope that you will continue to check in on my blog and to share with me your thoughts about my posts as well your own experiences in looking back and moving forward.

Blessings for 2014!

Amy

 

How to Prepare for Christmas

How is it possible that even though it is only December 3rd, I am already behind on Christmas? Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly feel that way.

Joy tartan banner by Elisabeth Hunter $15

Just to be clear, this is the only decoration I have up yet!

Maybe it’s because Christmas decorations began arriving in stores before Halloween. Maybe it has something to do with my favorite radio station playing only Christmas songs by the second week in November. Maybe it’s because half of my neighborhood had Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving day.

Whatever the cause, I am beginning to panic.

December is a big month for my family as my daughter and husband both have birthdays on either side of Jesus’. It’s hard to compete with that…

In my sane moments, I try to remind myself that we aren’t actually even in the Christmas season. This is Advent. The time for preparation: preparing our hearts for the birth of our Savior.

If I allow myself to slow down, breath and think about this–Advent–the panic fades and peace returns.

This pre-Christmas season is not really about decorating my house like never before or buying presents I can’t really afford or going to as many parties as possible. When I focus on these things, that is when I feel overwhelmed, anxious and, frankly, sad.

I can never, on my own, create (or recreate) what I imagine to be the perfect Christmas.

Will I, this year, be able to resist the urge to scurry and buy and do and make merry? Will I be able to slow down long enough to prepare my heart for Jesus? I pray this for myself and I pray this for you, my friend.

Blessings and peace to you during this season of Advent.

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Handmade Advent stockings made for my daughter c. 1998

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging Christmas 2012. I have not gotten them up yet this year!

 

Glimpsing God’s Glory in Grocery Stores and Garbage

I’m not even going to pretend that my life is glamorous. If you have read any of my previous posts or know me at all, you already know that. I’m not complaining about my “not glamorous life”, mind you. I suspect that glamour isn’t all that. I imagine it is more hype and spin than anything else. Hmmm, this sounds a bit more negative than I intended. Let me try this again.

My days are a series of seemingly simple, relatively normal moments punctuated periodically with the complexity and beauty of relationships, adventure, love, disappointment, joy, intention, confusion and enlightenment. Twisted together these multiple threads are transformed into a rich, colorful, strong strand that is my life that is then woven together with the unique yarn of others’ lives into God’s grand tapestry.

I suppose one can choose to see one’s life from either vantage point: a series of moments or part of a larger, more beautiful picture. I would love to say that I am the kind of person who always sees the big picture, but alas…sometimes I am slow to come to this perspective. Yesterday evening is a perfect example of this.

Sunday 7:30 pm. The evening before me held little hope of adventure–just a series of mundane duties I needed to complete so that the week would proceed more smoothly: laundry, garbage collected and put in can out front, quick run to the grocery store to get staples of cereal, milk and bread….

Driving down Mathis Ferry Road to the nearest grocery store, I looked around me and saw a hint of red in the sky between the low hanging branches that arched over the road. I realized that the sun was setting and, miraculously, my camera was in the seat behind me. I was actually going to be able to get a few shots before it was too dark. I continued past the turn to the grocery store and quickly headed toward the waterfront park along the Cooper River.

Putting off the mundane, I forged ahead into adventure!

Getting closer to the waterfront away from the alley of oaks, the vista opened up before me–all water and marsh grass and painted sky. The Ravenel Bridge arched across the Cooper River, its cables gleaming white against the red-orange sky. The lights on the bridge were just beginning to glow.

Sunday sunset bridge

Grabbing my camera I raced the sun as I headed toward the visitors’ center and the pier praying enough light would remain to capture the magic of this moment.

On the pier the wind picked up and cooled the air. Couples and families strolled along stopping to take photos or to look out into the harbor with its twinkling lights.

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The lights along the boardwalk were so bright that it seemed early but minute-by-minute, the sky beyond the pier turned purple then indigo then black.

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I sat for a moment in one of the swings to enjoy the coolness and the quiet.

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Heading back the breeze stopped abruptly as I stepped off the boardwalk. I wandered through the war memorial and along the landscaped path beside the salt marsh to the parking lot transitioning myself slowly back into the world of Sunday evenings, grocery stores and garbage.

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Sitting in the cool of my air-conditioned car, I flipped through the images I had just taken smiling at some and wishing I had been more patient (and still) with others. I was satisfied. I had captured in some of these photos that moment of beauty of which I was a part.

I laughed to myself when I realized that this amazing moment was, in reality, quite mundane. The sun sets every evening. Yet there is remarkable, astounding beauty in this ordinary, everyday event. God not only allows beauty in the mundane, I imagine He revels in it. He created it to be that way!

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Driving back toward the grocery store I wondered, Will I remember this next Sunday evening when I am gathering garbage, folding laundry and running to the grocery store? Will I have the courage to see through the mundane to glimpse His glory?

Photos by Amy Watson Smith, September 2013

Praying and Pondering Change

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Three years ago I came home…literally home. I had always worked outside of my home and my career was very important to me. At the time I was leading ministry to children and families in my church as a full-time staff member. While I felt called to this ministry and loved working with the children and families at St. Michael’s, I began to feel that the Lord was ready for me to go home to minister to my family–my teenage daughter, aging mother and my husband who had recently started a private medical practice. I prayed about and pondered this change for several months when I finally felt the Lord speak to my heart, “Now.”

The first month was restorative. I began to feel reinvigorated. I tried to create a rhythm to my days. I had time to reorganize long-neglected areas of my house, enjoyed planning and fixing meals for my family, looked forward to the twice-daily trips downtown to my daughter’s school for carpool, assisted my husband in his new practice and caught up with friends over long lunches and frequent coffees. We even made the leap to enlarge our family. We brought home two English springer spaniel puppies (litter mates)–but that is a story for another time.

I wish I could say that things continued this way for the the next three years but in realty things began to get a bit bumpy by month three. Apparently I was not as self-disciplined as I thought and the organizational skills others had so admired in my work situations did not translate to my home environment. At first I tried to blame everything on the puppies and the constant attention and training they required (it did feel very much like caring for a toddler). It wasn’t until I had volunteered for everything I could and tried to take over every committee meeting I attended that I realized it wasn’t about the dogs. Being at home full time was killing me!

Looking back I can see so many reasons why the Lord led me back home for this season and I am so grateful. My family experienced some very difficult and heartbreaking challenges and I can’t imagine how we would have gotten through it all if I had been working full time and focused on other things. I can also see that He was allowing me a Sabbath of sorts–an opportunity to slow down, engage, focus and breath.

My daughter began driving several months ago and while I enjoy sleeping a bit longer in the morning, I miss the time we had every day going to and from school. The puppies are now three and while not as needy as they once were, they are a bit wild (so much for my dog training abilities). My mother’s health has improved considerably and is as independent as she was over a decade ago. My husband’s practice is full and going well but he is only needs my help in the office two days a week.

So…I am praying and pondering change…again. What does this next season of life look like? What plans does the Lord have for me? What doors are opening and which ones are being closed? I am praying for patience and clarity, courage and obedience. And in the meantime I will write about this process. Join me in this journey. Share your own experiences. Offer suggestions. Pray for me and allow me the honor of praying for you.

Getting Your Feet Wet (A Journey Launched, Part 4)

Getting Your Feet Wet

By Amy Watson Smith, Department of Christian Faith Formation, Diocese of SC

I can still see my daughter’s face as she came down the slide that Saturday morning. She was a kindergartner attending a classmate’s birthday party where the primary entertainment was one of those enormous, inflatable slides. It was intended to be fun, I am sure, but my cautious child wasn’t going to be so easily convinced. After some coaxing and gentle threats, she finally made her way to the top of the slide. As she pushed off from the landing, a look came over her face that I will never forget. As other children whizzed past her, arms in air, screaming with delight, my daughter had a look of terror hiding just beneath her plastered-on smile. With hands and feet dragging along the rubberized material, slowing her descent, she bumped along eyes darting back and forth desperately looking for something to help her feel more secure. As she reached the bottom, she let out a huge sigh of relief, and, looking around at her friends, she shook her head in apparent disbelief. She wasn’t going through that again!

I hate to admit just how much my own spiritual journey resembles my daughter’s experience of that slide. I have “dug my heels in” on more than one occasion and have resisted the Lord’s call to trust Him far too often. The idea of surrender is almost incomprehensible to me. But praise God! He shows us a way to learn how to trust Him and to surrender—through His word, through the experiences of those who have come before us, and through our own journeys with Him.

What comes to mind when I think about my resistance to trusting God is the contrast of the faithfulness of Joshua and the Israelites as they approach the Jordan River. The Lord tells Joshua over and over to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1: 9). I don’t know about you, but anytime anyone tells me not to be afraid, it is usually because there is something that I should be afraid of! God did not promise Joshua and the Israelites a trouble-free life in the Promised Land. No, but He did promise that he would be with them wherever they went.

What really gets me about this passage is that he doesn’t show them the way across the Jordan first (which is running at flood stage at this point, by the way). He doesn’t stop the flow of the river and then say “Come on over.” No, he tells the priests to go and stand in the river. As soon as they set foot in it, the water starts piling up on either side and the Israelites are able to cross over to the new land that the Lord has given them. God called them to surrender their place of safety on one side of the river and to trust Him to make a way for them across it to the other side—to the Promised Land. He asks us to do the same: surrender this place of safety and trust me to get you to this new place.

I can definitely relate with what the Israelites must have been feeling that day. My place of safety is really feeling pretty comfortable right now—I finally feel like I kind of know what I am doing, good things are happening, things are running pretty smoothly…you know the feeling. But the Lord has called me to cross through the Jordan—and believe me! The river is running at flood stage. There seems to be a lot at stake and the journey across the raging waters looks pretty risky. And to top that all off, I don’t even know what is on the other side! But what I do know is that it is good for the Lord has called me to it. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Joshua could take the risk of surrendering his place of safety because he had seen what the Lord had done through Moses. I too can trust because of what God has promised in His word and because of what I have seen the Lord do through me and so many others.

You know, it’s funny. I thought that my daughter would never go back up that big, inflatable slide that Saturday morning, but she did! She was able to talk herself into taking a risk because of her previous experience and that of her classmates. The second time down, she didn’t dig in her heels as much and the ride was a bit smoother. By the end of the party, she was throwing her hands up in the air and screaming with abandon with the best of them!

Is the Lord calling you to a place of surrender? Does he ask you to leave your place of safety and step into the river? Go ahead—get your toes wet! He is trustworthy. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5) Thanks be to God!

May 2007