When life’s crazy turns to life’s crap

22 Oct

Every day of my life seems crazy.  But something about today’s crazy managed to be just plain out crap.  I won’t go into everything that happened, but if you spent much time with me today, especially this morning at church, then you know that I was in a rotten mood with a rotten attitude.  In fact, I spent the majority of our church service sulking and telling God just how irritated I was.  I was not going to sing or stand or participate even though our Sunday gathering is usually such a bright spot in my week.  So there, God.

And as I am ending this day, I know that God didn’t suffer from my vile spirit.  I’m the one who lost out, who missed opportunities to bless others.  I’m acutely aware that my own pride and ego got in my way today to my detriment.

But now, I am determined to end this day better than how I started it.  Instead of thinking about everything that went wrong or didn’t fit my ideas of perfect, I am going to be thankful because even in my garbage, I had so many people bless me today and add value to my day.  So here goes…

Thank you, Lord, for Read who weeks ago insisted that she should find people to help me with cooking for today’s church event.

Thank you, Lord, for Jordan who hugged me and let me cry in frustration and wrote me a note of encouragement.

Thank you, Lord, for my in-laws who at the last minute gave up hours of their day to help Matt work on my van and who took care of the kids while I prepped for our church event.

Thank you, Lord, for Aggie, Kristen, Shey, Jordan, Terri, Hannah, and Rachel who willingly and joyfully baked potatoes and showed up at our event with them hot, ready for our church family to enjoy.

Thank you, Lord, for several people (like Brooke and Jessica and Peter just to name three) who asked me how they could help me or just flat out started doing things that needed to be done when they saw them.

Thank you, Lord, for Chris and Tony who both got the things that I forgot in my preparations, who willingly went to the church and the store to help me.

Thank you, Lord, for Matt who rubbed my back and let me spend time alone in his truck and helped me corral kids at bedtime.

Thank you, Lord, for the names I can’t remember, the faces that aren’t even coming to my mind right now because there were so many people that I saw today who shared positive, encouraging words with me and kept me from curling into a ball and refusing to go on.

Thank you, Lord, for not giving up on a stubborn, self-centered, ego maniac who constantly puts idols before you, who worships self instead of you the Creator. Your grace is undeserved, God.  Help me to always be in awe of your mercy.


When God refuses the shortcut…

16 Jun

My parents moved to East TN for my dad’s job in 2003.  Matt and I followed in 2004 when he was accepted into graduate school at UT in Knoxville.  And we’ve loved living here and honestly cannot see ourselves anywhere else.  This is where we have spent most our married adult lives, and all 5 of our kids have been born here.  But living 500 miles from Matt’s parents has always been terribly hard.

Eight and a half years ago, my in-laws told us that they were ready to take the plunge and move here.  They had long dreamed of retiring to the mountains, and since we were here, they wanted to go ahead and relocate here.  Because I truly do love and adore my husband’s parents, I was ecstatic.  They both started looking for and applying for jobs, and I planned a trip to Mississippi to take them moving boxes and help them pack.

And because it is often the way of life, the plans were interrupted.  One of Matt’s sisters needed her parents there with her as she walked through several difficult years.  My trip to help pack Matt’s parents ended up being one where I packed up Matt’s sister instead as she made a transition.  Matt and I were so disappointed, and I think his parents were too.  My mother-in-law is so very wise, and when I was tempted to be angry at people for messing up what I wanted, she was quick to remind me that the Lord was not surprised by this hiccup, that they still believed in their hearts that God was prompting them to move to Tennessee but that they would patiently wait for the Lord’s timing instead of rushing it on their own.

I don’t remember when or how, but shortly after the failed move, God led me to Exodus 13:17-18, and it changed my perspective so much.

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.[a] The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

If you look at a map of the exodus of the Israelites, it seems insane to think about how far out of their way they went to reached the promised land.  But the Philistine country was heavily guarded and the unarmed Israelites would either quickly be killed or flee and return to slavery.  The shortcut ahead of them was not worth the cost.  God had so many things to teach His people that He knew they needed to go the long way around.

Matt’s sister eventually didn’t need her parents as closely, but my grandparents-in-law did.  My father-in-law was there as his mother and later his father battled hard illnesses that led to their death.  Then Matt’s mom cared for her own mother both at home and later in a nursing home until she died.  And finally, my mother-in-law cared for her only living aunt who was childless until she died the day after Thanksgiving last year.

As we had hoped would be the case, by Christmas my husband’s parents told us that they were ready for the move they had started to plan 8 years before.  My mother-in-law wanted to finish the school year working in the public-school system, and with about six months to go, they set a tentative move for this month.  I would be lying if I said that I never doubted over the last half of a year that they would make it here, but as I type, they are on the road here and we expect them in the next few hours.  Finally, after almost a decade of waiting, my husband’s parents are arriving, and their long way around is almost done.

When I reflect on my life, I see several times when God had me avoid the shortcut.  With more than one move and buying or selling of a house, we’ve gone the long way around.  With our jobs and my health, we’ve gone the long way around.  Even with the building of our family, we’ve gone the long way around.  In hindsight, I can see how the Lord spared us of some of the pain that would have come with those shortcuts, while other times I am still just as clueless about why our journey was detoured.

But He has faithfully taught me as he did the Israelites so long ago that He loves me and will provide for me.  He has my best interest at heart, and whether any leg of my journey is uncomfortably long or very short, I travel not alone for a single moment of it.

Praise God for that.

Food City Grocery Delivery with Instacart — Unpaid Review

30 Oct

Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that she had tried the new-to-our-area Food City grocery delivery service through Instacart, and it took NO twisting of my arm to jump on this.  On Mondays, the 3 little boys and I stay home all day which means that in order to get any groceries, I have to dress them, load them into car seats, go to the store, unload them into a buggy, shop, check out, reload them into car seats, put the groceries in the car, drive home, unload kids and groceries, and then put the food up.  If you think I enjoy that process, then I’ve got some property I’d like to sell you.

With milk running low in our fridge, temperatures in the 30’s, and kids happily playing, today was a great day to test this service.  I put the laptop on my kitchen bar and set to work.  I added a few things that I knew we needed (milk, coffee creamer, and shredded cheese) but as I combed through our fridge and pantry, I found several more things to add that weren’t even on my list.  I ended up with 13 items in my cart and set off into checking out.  The process was very simple overall, but I wanted to share a few notes on the pros, cons, and some things to consider or remember for anyone else who is interested in trying this service out for themselves.

(Also, let me note that this is a post that I am writing totally independently–other than a link I can share for credit when friends try this, I am getting no compensation for writing this.)

STORE: Food City

I very rarely shop at Food City, to be quite honest.  I have an ALDI and a Wal-mart 3.5 miles from me that I go to frequently where as the closest FC to my house is 5 miles away in a direction that I don’t tend to go.  ALDI consistently brings me in with low prices, and Wal-mart has such a huge selection compared to a traditional grocer so they are my usual “go-to” places.  (Plus, my husband passes them on the way home which makes it easy to send a “I need something on your way home from work” text for those spots.)

SELECTION: Brand variety

For the most part, I was pleased with the variety of brands and options for the items I searched for.  I was a tad disappointed that many of the store brand items did not have pictures like the name brand items did.  It took a little more time to make sure I was getting exactly what I wanted considering I couldn’t rely on a photo as much.  I think this will get better with time though as the service remembers items I’ve previously purchased.

PRICE: Individual items

As far as I could tell, the items were priced like they are in the brick and mortar store or were very close.  I’ve never associated FC with having the lowest prices around across the board, though, so I know there were a few things that were a bit more than I am used to paying at other places.

DISCOUNTS: Value Card & Credits

At the check out, there was a place to add my FC loyalty card number which lowered the price of my total by about $10.  I assume that on future orders, this will be reflected on individual prices as I am shopping.  Also, I received a $10 discount from using an individual’s shopping link.  (When you share your link, others can get the discount and you can receive up to $50 in credit yourself.)  Lastly, if I used my debit card for the purchase instead of a credit card, I received an additional 1% off of my order.  Yes, please!

FEES: Added at check out

Because this was my first time using this service, my delivery fee was waived which was a huge plus. According to the Instacart website, future delivery fees will be determined by order size and delivery time.  (So, a big order with a short turn around would cost more.)  There was also a Service & Tip amount that was automatically set to 10% of my order total.  You have the option to change this, and I did.  Because I went through an individual’s personal link, I received a $10 discount, and since my Service fee was smaller than that discount, I bumped it up to the 10 bucks.  The service fee is split evenly between anyone who works on the order, and let’s face it–this is a capitalistic society and if no one makes any money off of this venture, then there is no incentive to continue it.  (Plus my mother is a part of what she calls the “ministry of excessive tipping” which I tend to gravitate towards too.  If I can make someone else’s day a smidge better with a few extra bucks, I’m gonna.)

(Optional side service note–There was an option at check out to purchase an additional service in which you pay a flat rate fee in exchange for no delivery fees for a period of time.  If you would be using this service frequently, this could very well be worth exploring.)

UPDATES: Text & Email

Once I placed my order, I immediately received an email with a link to track the progress.  A few minutes later, I received a text to let me know that my shopper Jennifer had started collecting my items.  During the shopping process, I received texts about 2 different items I had requested that were out of stock.  I was given a link to visit to find replacement items.  One of the things was a food item that I need to look at carefully because one of my children is on a restricted diet due to a metabolic disease.  As I was trying to find the ingredients online for a replacement item, Jennifer actually texted me a picture of the item she suggested as a replacement.  I asked her about the ingredients and she sent me pictures of that part of the label.  She was super friendly and helpful!  Finally, I received a text saying that my delivery was on the way with an approximate delivery time.


This was a very positive experience, and I imagine that I will probably use it again in the future. Will it be my first choice? No, probably not.  If I can get to the store myself, I will.  Or if I have the time to wait for curbside pick up and avoid the delivery fees, then I will.  However, this service will be super handy for days when the weather isn’t great, and I just don’t want to get out with kiddos.


How much is your time worth?  If you have lots of free time or really enjoy grocery shopping, then this might not appeal to you.  (Also, if you fall into those categories, then you might want to consider working for Instacart!)  However, I loved the fact that I was able to get groceries without losing the time it would have taken otherwise because I was able to do laundry, load the dishwasher, and help the children with various tasks around the house.  Yes, in the long run, I may pay more out of pocket right now, but if it saves some of my sanity or my time, then it may be worth it.  And something I didn’t think about until after my delivery–this created a job for someone.  Jennifer is a “Full-Service Shopper” which means that she is an independent contractor through Instacart so I was able to help her earn extra money by using this service.

National Dog Day

27 Aug

According to Timehop, I wrote the following on Twitter 3 years ago today:

It’s #NationalDogDay. We have no dog, just 5 kids. A dog would be much cleaner and quieter though. Much.

Despite my insisting that we needed no more mouths to feed in the Smith house, the kids have long wanted a dog and tried to bargain their way towards getting one.  You know what I mean–I promise I’ll feed it, walk it, clean up after it–but of course, Matt and I were smarter than believing that.  In fact, whenever the kids begged for a pet, I told them that to even consider it, they had to keep their rooms clean for 30 consecutive days before we would even discuss it.  They never made it past Day 5.

However (and of course you knew this was coming, else I wouldn’t have written this blog), several months ago Matt and I started discussing the possibility of getting a dog.  One of our big reasons for this was the twins.  Henry and Nolan absolutely have a stroke when a dog comes near them.  They have a distinct cry that we call the “dog cry” that they do only when a dog is in their eye sight.  But in the few times that the twins have actually been around a dog for more than 2 or 3 days at a time, the fear dissipates… until they aren’t around the dog for a while at which point we start back at square one.  So basically, we figure that the best way to get the twins over their fear of dogs is to expose them to one every day.

That said, there was a very particular list of qualities that were imperative for this dog.  For example, we wanted a house broken adult dog.  We are in the final days of potty training the twins, and there is NO part of me that wants to house break a dog.  Five kids can put a world of hurt on our house so a destructive puppy was not even worth attempting.  We wanted a “sturdy” dog–one that could withstand being outside for long stretches of time but wouldn’t jump the fence in our backyard.  I just didn’t want a full time inside dog.

For all of the times that Matt and I had talked over all of this, we kept dragging our feet on actually trying to find this dog.  We were not willing to pay more than a basic adoption fee, but the thought of going to a local shelter and trying to choose a dog was daunting.  We didn’t want to involve the kids until the last minute because I knew that they would get impatient if the right dog was hard to find.  And I didn’t want to walk into a room full of dogs and each child get their hopes up on a dog that might not be a good fit for us.  I just kept thinking that surely the perfect dog for us would appear somehow, fall into our figurative laps.

Nine days ago, I decided that I would put out feelers on Facebook.  I wrote a post listing out our qualification list just on the off chance that someone knew of a dog somewhere who was exactly what we were looking for.  As I expected, people had suggestions on breeds and local shelters.  But one friend’s reply was exactly what I was praying for.  A friend had contacted her earlier that day about help in finding a new home for a dog whose family was moving to an apartment and couldn’t take him along.

My friend added me to a FB group message with her friend who then added in the dog’s owner.  And after reading our picky list, he said Max was absolutely all of those things.  Within less than 2 hours from my post, I was texting with him to set up a time to meet Max.  Matt ended up being unable to go meet our new dog, so I took the 5 kids alone.  I was very vague about where we were going and why, but by the end of the visit, the 3 older kids were thrilled with the idea of Max possibly living with us.

The next day, we made it official.  We were getting a dog!  His family took him to the vet and got his vaccinations up to date and had a few days to say their goodbyes.  I felt badly for them in knowing how much they will miss their dog, but they assured us that they knew this would be a wonderful home for their beloved friend.

Max has been here for less than 2 full days, and thankfully, the twins are already much less fearful.  And to see how much the older kids love and dote on him has been so sweet.  I know that the newness will fade, and the responsibilities will frustrate them.  But I can already tell that we hit the jackpot with this big old boy.  Since he is an older adult dog, I don’t know how long we will end up having with Max, but we will love every minute of it, I am sure!


Stupid Eclipse…

22 Aug

Well, today was the day.  The highly anticipated solar eclipse finally happened, and because we live so close to the path of totality, the children’s school was cancelled because why not.  And, today was Matt’s first day back to work which worked out super conveniently for him.

We were out late last night so I had hoped that maybe the children would sleep in a little this morning.  But you know what they say about assuming.

6 o’clock this morning, Norah climbed into our bed.  10 minutes later, here came Aaron.  By 6:30, they were both getting dressed for the day.  And of course, Aaron had to turn a light on to find clothes and woke Isaac up.  So yay for that.  Isaac crawled into bed with me, and I was determined to stay in bed for as long as possible.

At some point close to 7, I became aware of the front door open a few times, and I heard discussions (loudly near the sleeping twins’ door) between Norah and Aaron debating about sitting on the front porch versus riding their bikes in the driveway.  As Matt finished getting ready, I knew that he would head down soon and be able to make sure they were on the straight and narrow.

7:10 a.m. and Matt informs me that he just found our two oldest kids AT THE NEIGHBOR’S FRONT DOOR.  The little boy that lives there and told them all summer not to wake him up until 9:15 got his doorbell rung just after 7.  Oh, Matt and I were livid.

We called the kids back to the house in horror.  One of them wasn’t wearing shoes, the other was parading up the road in a bathing suit, and they both had dewy grass plastered to their legs.  And the poor little neighbor boy was slowly and sleepily trudging up the hill towards our house just in time to hear us reminding our kids that they were supposed to have done some chores before playing with anyone anyway!  They woke that kid up for naught!

I kissed Matt goodbye and headed up to work on getting myself ready for the day.  And by getting ready, I mean I was going to brush my hair and put enough deodorant on to cover up any stink.  In the short amount of time it took me to do that, Aaron apparently felt like he had cleaned enough.  He was pretty disappointed when I pointed out that everything he had shoved under his bed actually needed to come out and be put away.

Tears, begging, bargaining.  “But Mom, no one will ever even see it under there!”

After convincing him that I would not budge, I walked out of his room to see the previously mentioned next door neighbor boy PLUS the little girl from across the street.  And I honestly don’t know how my children managed to do it, but they conned those kids into helping clean the boys’ room so that they could all go out and play together faster.

Good news, folks… this story has a happy ending because by 8 o’clock, the 3 older kids were all across the street playing at someone else’s house.  And they managed to stay there for 80% of the day.

Plus, most importantly… they go back to school tomorrow!

(Just in case anyone thinks I am totally cold and heartless which it comes to my kids, I did sob unmercifully tonight at a commercial about kids growing up and had a slight panic attack at the thought of them getting older and leaving the house!)

Summer nights

3 Jul
It’s a Sunday evening in July and the air is hot, sticky, humid.
A water balloon war is raging at the house across from ours where 3 of my children are in the proverbial trenches with 6 other kids and 2 really fun dads.
One son, as if Paul Revere, runs up the hill and yells out a warning of an impending invasion from just beyond the driveway.
I’m sitting to the side listening to the laughter and screaming and battle cries.
I watch the hiding, running, chasing, throwing.
A few mosquitoes swarm, and I wipe perspiration from my face.
And I smile with the prickling of tears in my eyes, tears of happiness, of gratitude, of bliss.
Today, in this minute, there is peace in my soul, a satisfaction from the Lord that I too frequently let pass me by in the hectic days of my life.
Tonight, they play with innocence, safe under the watchful eyes of Mom and Dad, happy to play and be carefree and have fun.
Tomorrow, they will grow older and taller and hopefully wiser and leave this street to make their mark on the world and start their own lives and families.
But hope builds in my heart that maybe, just maybe, those grown babes of mine will remember the water and the friends and the euphoria of the hot summer nights of their childhood.

Where I’m From

9 Mar

I recently read a blog post from Beth Woolsey in which her son wrote a “Where I’m From” poem for school and then feeling inspired, she wrote one.  As someone who loves to write, I was excited by the idea and decided to do it for myself.  When I thought back especially on my childhood, all I could think of were wonderful, joyful feelings.  How blessed to remember my life in that way!  (And as Beth did, I strayed a bit from the template.)

Where I’m From

I am from smiles and joy, from Sonic ice and eating out, Big Red and back rubs.

I am from warmth and laughter, from hospitality and manners, from the genuine.

I am from the pine trees and the lake, the small towns and curvy, winding roads, from mosquitoes big enough to carry you and storms that will scare you.

I am from so many stories and lots of loud talking, from McGraw and Myers and Rogers, from teachers and preachers who seem to know everyone.

I am from thoughtfulness and cards full of underlined words and handwritten letters, bending over backwards, from hosting and cooking and sharing.

From “Jesus Loves Me” and “You are loved” and prophetic words.

I am from church every Sunday, mission trips, and youth trips, from true salvation and never-ceasing prayers and walking among giants.

I’m from the south, first from the flat, wooded places and now the hills and mountains.  From both the neighborhoods and the country.

From the Billy letters, the peanut brittle, the barbecued meat, the man who cannot slow down, and the prayers of a righteous woman.

I am from feeling loved and valued, from hectic and loud but feeling total bliss in the chaos, from deep, overwhelming peace in the soul.