“Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)
I could not think of a better way to start a year-end post than to share these words from Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman.
“The words “thus far” are like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. It had been a long time, twenty years in all.” (v. 2), but even if it had been seventy years, “Thus far the Lord helped”! Whether through poverty, wealth, sickness, or health, whether home or abroad, on land, sea or air, and whether in honor, dishonor, difficulties, joy, trial, triumph, prayer, or temptation-“Thus Far the Lord helped”!
It’s that time of the year when many take a deep breath and look back.
Tell me friends. How does it look from where you stand? As you glance back over your shoulder are you overwhelmed with gratitude or are glad to call it a wrap?
If I may be so direct as to say, “It’s been more than a heck of a year!!!” As I look back down the dirt road of 2016, I see love and loss, success and failure, laughter and more tears than I’ve shed in several years!
I grew up on a dirt road. My sisters, cousins and I ran barefooted as country girls do. Growing older and learning to drive we’d do our best to dodge the all-too-familiar-potholes. There were a few “potholes” I wish we could’ve avoided this year but then I remember it’s the running barefooted on the rocks, and unexpected potholes of life that make us what we are.
On this last year in my thirties, less is more. So instead of a month by month playback, I’m going to share just 3 areas of our life where we have lived, loved and been AWED by the faithfulness of God:
I had heard, been taught and even proclaimed to many the truth of Ephesians 3:20, that God can do exceedingly and abundantly but this year- we have experienced it. He has strengthened and stretched our faith in ways unexplainable. God is His wonder has taken the little 6-week prayer journal, written by a woman scared of punctuation to Honduras, Canada, a women’s prison in Georgia, to the Dominican Republic, and more states than I can count. I hope I never get over it!!
With it, He has birthed a message, a challenge, a movement for His people to #PrayBig. You all have supported us and made my dream of sharing His faithfulness a reality!! You are praying and listening to God. Many of you have learned to plead the promises of God through prayer and have seen the activity of God in your lives. You have seen your laundry list of requests transform into intimate conversations with Jesus!
You have bought “PrayBig” journals, mugs, hats, t-shirts, jewelry and you are sharing them with YOUR PEOPLE! (Pause for a –>SHOUT OUT to Gina Dorough, the salt to my pepper, a Godsend who has graciously traveled with me to all of the places and kept us organized and blessed each one of you with her kindness and selfless service!! I love u!)
We love seeing hashtag #PrayBig online and are overjoyed at how the community is growing! I can’t get over it, and I wish I could hug each one of you and look you in the eye and say, “THANK YOU!!”
Thank you for allowing Him to use YOU to grow our faith. Thank you for sharing your burdens and blessings with me through your emails, texts, calls, and conversations. It has been and is and my great honor to share with you through prayer. I consider it a privilege that you would invite me into the intimate places of your heart. You are loved and lifted up, and I am eternally grateful!!!
Lastly, for inviting me to speak to your women’s groups, your podcasts, churches, camps, your living rooms, Mentone Inn den, prison domes, parks and more. It has been my sheer delight to Skype, encourage, and exhort you in the Lord. He has fearfully and wonderfully made you and has the-most-perfect plan and purpose for your life. If I haven’t yet made it your way or you’d like to get together again, email SOON as we are working on our calendar and scheduling less this year because of area number two…
Just when I think I can’t love them more, I do.
J & I celebrated two decades of marital bliss in October of this year. Yes, that’s sounds cliché’ but for two who are opposites in every way minus our faith and rearing our children blissful is pretty spot on. We didn’t go all out and travel out west or get that getaway for a romantic weekend like I had planned because life happens but instead we enjoyed a quiet steak dinner and was able to share an uninterrupted, quality conversation. That anniversary meal fed more than our stomachs and was more than enough for the day.
To know J, (aka the Cowboy), is to know simple. Honest and upright. Quiet is his favorite. He’d rather be at the barn than anywhere else on the planet. Barn chores are where he finds serenity. Our feed store is where he makes a living. A very engaged father to our boys and now, a father to the fatherless. He was recently humbled having been asked to become an elder at our church. It is my honor to be his wife, now forever and always.
Are you following #adventuresoftuckandjake on Facebook? If not, why? No really, the hashtag started as a joke. In sharing one of the boys’ adventures one day with a woman, she said, “People don’t let their kids do that anymore!”
“We do” was my response as I share the video from my phone.
Boys need to be boys. Boys need to climb, run, hunt, scavenge, adventure, scout, explore, fight, rescue, fix, create, imagine, scream, innovate, pretend, swim, and jump!!!!!! Did I mention ROAR! We don’t own a gaming system on purpose. Before we start homeschool each day on more days than not, I have the boys run a few laps around the pond just because. Best I can tell, boys and dogs (according to the dog guy on TV) have some of the same basic needs: exercise, discipline, affection.
If you are a #boymom and you struggle as we all do from time to time– try this! Get them OUTSIDE, make them run, touch five trees, race back and forth down the driveway or sprint five laps around the house before they get in the car. It helps. I promise. Their teachers will hug you!!
Speaking of thanks, one of my most cherished friend’s, Jeanne Manning, sent our boys a Christmas card. In the card, (which just so happens to be my favorite gift this Christmas) she shared words of love & gratitude for our two superheroes. She encouraged and thanked them for the ways they have loved the new children God has brought into our home which leads me to…
I had no idea that prayer whispered from a porch in Honduras would lead us here.
I had to take a few deep breaths and wipe a few tears before beginning this final part of this post and believe it is doubtful you will feel the weight of the words shared in this last and very best part of 2016. It was a couple of weeks ago now that I wrote in my journal things fostering has taught and continues to teach me:
It’s not about us.
With each child that has visited our home whether for a day, a week or months God is his graciousness has reminded me this life is not about me. How comfortable I am, what I want or what we think we need. This life is about more-so very much more than that. Down to my bone marrow, I’m convinced the reason any of us are here is to bring God glory. We can do this by sharing and showing others Jesus. Yes, once again, I realize that sounds cliche, ‘ but it’s true.
More than what I know, may achieve or attain- Am I making the most of every opportunity? does my life cause others to marvel at Jesus in me?? Am I loving the unlovely? The unclean? Those invested with lice, the downtrodden, deserted? Do I love them like Jesus loves?
Love without abandon.
Unconditional, relentless, immeasurable love?
Fostering has forced me to stay offline and be present with the people under this roof. We look each other in the eye more. You can tell a lot about where a person is and has been by simply looking them in the eye.
We have read books, listened, talked, laughed, and cried. Lots and lots.
Fostering is HARD.
We have gotten attached and had high hopes of forever only to find ourselves disappointed and heartbroken. No words, class, or training could have prepared us for the gut-wrenching pain of the first removal, but God is near to the broken hearted-He binds up their wounds.
Just a few weeks ago after losing one whom we cherished new littles came in need of as much or more love than the one before. J turned to me as he closed the new little one’s bedroom door after giving big hugs and ‘sweet dreams-goodnight.’
“What will we do when they leave?”
My tear filled reply, “We’ll cry and love again.”
Which is what we are doing. Crying & loving again. While we are talking about crying. If Facebook doesn’t lie (LOL! surely Facebook wouldn’t lie???) Nonetheless, hundreds or according to Facebook thousands of you watched the video where I fought the gigantic lump in my throat the day after we lost out little buddy.
While we are talking about crying. If Facebook doesn’t lie (LOL! surely Facebook wouldn’t lie???) Nonetheless, hundreds or according to Facebook thousands of you watched the video where I fought the gigantic lump in my throat the day after we lost out little buddy. We were seriously overwhelmed by your compassion and comforting words. If you missed it or struggle with what to do when you #PrayBig and the things you want to happen you can catch it –> HERE
We’re often asked, “How do you do it?” “How do you bring them in, treat them like your own and then let them go?”
We pray more, pray always, pray hard, #PrayBig and trust God with the details.
Many people choose a word for the year. I have chosen words over the last few years and have been fascinated by the ways I have seen the word play out in my life throughout the year. My word for this past year was “watch.”
“Watch for the new thing I am going to do….” Isaiah 43:19 (GNT) I have seen Him do things I never could’ve or would’ve imagined. I will praise Him as long as I have breath for ALL of it. The good, bad, ugly and GREAT of 2016!
Dearest friends, from our herd to yours we wish the HAPPIEST OF NEW YEAR’S. May it be one of peace and hearts overflowing. Do not lose heart. Be confident:
“The Lord who “thus far” has helped you
Will help you all your journey through.” ~L.B. Cowman
Much love & always,
P.S. You know the post wouldn’t be complete without at least one P.S.
2017 plans/DREAMS/things to do:
- Turn 40!
- Finish the manuscript of our story
- sit on the porch more in the evenings
- adventure more WITH my boys instead of watching from afar
P.S.S. If you’re new or late to the #PrayBig party
Follow on Instagram @blessingsbrnyrd
Facebook: Blessings Beyond the Barnyard
Visit & share www.karmensmith.com for questions, prayers or speaking inquiries
Tammy Lacey says
I hope 2017 is even better than this one my friend. I continue to love, admire, and cherish you. You are using your God-given leadership abilities to inspire others yet you have not lost your humble heart. The foster children will never be the same after living with the Smiths! ( had to chuckle on that one!) I love you, my friend, Happy New Year! ?
Thank you for your gift of encouragement! I can always count on you! Happy NEW YEAR, my friend!
You are a wonderful inspiration!!! May God richly bless you and your family in 2017!!!!……#Praybig
Margaret Thacker says
Love you, love, you, love you!!!! Words cannot begin to tell you how I feel. You are the MOST caring, giving, loving, down-to-earth, honest., funny, admirable, beautiful, a great mom and wife, considerate, smart, and I am running out of adjectives ( although there are many, many more) to describe you. I am so blessed to have known you for a short while and wish it could have lasted longer working together.
May God’s richest blessing always be upon you!!! I DO treasure the time I have been with you….you are my hero and my blessing.
Leigh Gray says
I just wanted to say thank you. God has given me and my business partner a tagline from the beginning but we didn’t know what to do with it. When we met you and saw your #PrayBig it all clicked. We have done some of the same things with #AllThingsMadeNew Thank you for the inspiration and praying big things for you and yours. You are a jewel!
LOVE your hashtag! Isn’t God the BEST? I stand amazed at how He weaves the details of our daily lives together with His goodness! It was a pleasure meeting you @ the BB! Let’s stay connected!