Archives For Christian living

A Life So Small

Renee Ann Smith —  August 25, 2014 — 22 Comments

Growing older doesn’t discourage me. But sometimes looking back does.

My birthday was last week. I turned 53. And on that day I asked myself, what have I to show for my half a century on earth?

I’ve seen some of my personal dreams come true, and some die. But other than that, I’m pretty empty-handed.

  • I don’t own anything that’s worth anything.
  • I haven’t seen the wonderful places in the world around me.
  • I can’t claim any impressive accomplishments.

Mostly I’ve lived my life at school, giving my time and energy and heart to other people’s kids.

Twenty of those years were spent sacrificing to help start a Christian high school, spending day after day, talking about the grammar rules no one remembers and trying to drum up enthusiasm for authors long gone and coaxing . . . bribing . . . prodding reluctant students to channel their thoughts into words.

Working in the summers. Doing without. Eking the last bit of life out of everything I own. So I could teach at a ministry school.

Watching cars break down and clothes fray and fall apart and my body grow worn.

And losing some of my best friends and loved family because they moved on to Heaven ahead of me.

Watching the school I loved and gave so much fall victim a shaky economy and oppressive culture and struggle and weaken and eventually die.

Now being the new teacher on the block, starting all over again to build a program and a ministry and a life . . . at my age.

Easily overlooked . . . disdained . . . forgotten . . . 

Even now, when I say the words aloud, they pierce my heart.

I’ve lived small . . . my life is so small.

And immediately, I hear ancient words reassuring me . . .

“He must increase. I must decrease.” ~John 3:30~

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He must increase

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.“ ~I Corinthians 1:27~

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I am chosen.God’s words remind me that I don’t need to be noticed here, when I’m remembered, watched over, and cherished by Heavenly eyes. 

I find myself turning to Psalm 73 to commiserate with the guy who lost all hope—until He let God give him a new perspective.

Here’s Psalm 73 from The Message . . .

“What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
Nobody’s tending the store.
The wicked get by with everything.
They have it made, piling up riches.

I’ve been stupid to play by the rules.
What has it gotten me?
A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
A slap in the face every time I walk out the door.
Still, when I tried to figure it out,

All I got was a splitting headache . . .

Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
Then I saw the whole picture.

You’re all I want in heaven!
You’re all I want on earth!

When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
GOD is rock-firm and faithful.

Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.

But I’m in the very presence of GOD—
Oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord GOD my home.
GOD, I’m telling the world what you do!”

I think that guy’s got the right idea! So I’m telling the world—

What I’ve learned in half a century is that  . . .

Christ’s hand in mine makes letting go of everything else

So very worth it!

Thanks for encouraging me with a visit! Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics from iPhone pics of my niece’s beautiful garden. Of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking the pic & adding the quote!

Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

A Good Talking To

Renee Ann Smith —  August 11, 2014 — 30 Comments

I awoke anxious and afraid almost every morning during my school-age years.

Nothing traumatic had happened in my past. No one in my family had died. Two stable parents left for work every morning & returned home every night. We always had a roof over our heads & food on the table. The bullies at school didn’t have time to bother me.

Yet still I woke with a sick feeling in my stomach and the urge to hide from the world and the certainty that no one could protect me from the fearful things that were coming my way. My morning alarm was the signal for my current “What Ifs” to begin circling in my brain . . .

 . . . “What if I miss the bus again & this time Mom gets mad? What if the history teacher gives a quiz on the chapter I didn’t read? What if I can’t find anyone to sit with at lunch? What if I do something embarrassing & the whole class sees? . . .”

Somewhere along the line, I learned to give myself a “good talking to.”

Back then, my early morning mantra went something like this . . . “You’re fine. Everyone you know is fine. This is just life. You can handle it. And when you can’t, it’s okay to ask for help . . .”

I didn’t realize until after I became a Christian, what a valuable lesson my young self had learned.

As a dear friend who battled depression for years told me, “When I started talking to myself instead of listening to myself, that’s when I began to heal.”

Talking to Myself Inspre Me (Click to Tweet)

In the dictionary, talking & listening are opposites.

When it comes to our inner life, not so much.

But in the Bible, we see that men like David understood the subtle distinction. Psalm 42 shows us the conversation he had with himself . . . 

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

How freeing to learn that we don’t have to be the victims of the fearful, anxious thoughts that try to take up residence in our brains. Are you experiencing fear & anxiety?

Maybe it’s time to give yourself a good talking to!

Here are a few verses & quotes to start you off . . .

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~II Corinthians 10:5~

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” ~Colossians 3:2~

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8~

“For God has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” ~Hebrews 13:5b~

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” ~Psalm 56:3~

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” ~Isaiah 26:3~

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~William James, philosopher, psychologist, physician, 1842-1910~

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie ten Boom~

“When fear comes knocking at your door, send faith to answer.” ~Joyce Meyer~

Fear and faith Joyce Meyer(Click to Tweet)

What are some of your favorites?

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics with backgrounds from my account at RGB Stock Photos.
Of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking the pic & adding the quote!

Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

God Loves Names

Renee Ann Smith —  July 14, 2014 — 46 Comments

A woman I never knew gave me my name.

At least that’s what my sisters tell me. I was only child #4, but I guess 3 kids were enough to deplete the girl names my mom and dad could agree on. So my mother got my name from a French friend and called me Renee, with an accent I don’t use anymore.

As a child, I always wanted a cool, all-American, popular-girl name like Kim or Julie or Amy. I didn’t appreciate having to spell out my name for adults and then trying to explain where the accent went.

It’s interesting how names go in and out of style. The names that were popular in the 1840s or 1940s—or 1960s when I was born—are not necessarily popular today. And even the popular names vary according to each country’s traditions.

When preparing to welcome a child into the family, moms and dads often agonize over choosing a name. They pick names they love or names they hope their kids will live up to or names that carry a legacy of family or faith.

I don’t think my mom intended to give me a name with a legacy.

Most Sundays, dad stayed home to read the paper, and mom went to church to sing in the choir. They did send us to Sunday school when we were little—since we could walk there. But we never prayed or read the Bible at home. My parents never talked about God or told us we should seek a relationship with Him.

As far as I know, my mom didn’t know what my name meant when she chose it.

So years later, after I became a Christian and looked up the meaning, I found it ironic to discover that Renee is French for Rebirth.

And it tickles my fancy that God watched from heaven as my mother gave me a name that only He truly understood the significance of.

God loves names—
Listing them in His Book of Life,
Calling them out to challenge & change us,
Whispering them in the dark to let us know we’re not alone.

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New Name Good Shepherd John 10“The sheep hear His voice. He calls His own sheep by Name & leads them out.” ~John 10:13~

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And He loves changing names.

Remember how He called timid Gideon, hiding in the wine press Valiant Warrior? And Simon Peter who sank in the water & denied Christ became Peter, the rock?

God gave them those names because He saw something in them that they hadn’t seen themselves—and maybe didn’t even believe was there.

And someday he will give us each a NEW NAME, too.

New Name Revelation 2:14

“I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror. I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with Your New Name, your secret new name.” ~Revelation 2:14~

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I’m confident we’ll love those NEW NAMES, specifically chosen for us long, long ago by the One who knows us better then we know ourselves!

Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you.
~Jeremiah 1:5~

I’m looking forward to that day, aren’t you?

Thanks for the blog visit! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I snapped these iPhone pics at a recent baptism in the creek that borders our church property & tweaked them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

Dayspring 1Through the tender mercy of our God with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us. To give light to those who sit in darkness & the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. ~I John 1:78&79~

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Dayspring 2ab

CPhoto Backstory: The first pic is from last year, when my students pulled out all the stops to decorate our little corner of the school. I created the second graphic with I’ve been playing with how to use the site for school & made a few graphics for myself. (As always, feel free to download & share any graphics.)

Dayspring is one of my favorite names for Christ. I found this little story from an unknown writer to explain the concept of Dayspring . . . 

“The picture is borrowed from the caravan which has missed its way in the desert. The unfortunate pilgrims, overtaken by the night, are sitting down expecting death, when suddenly a star brightly beams above them. They take courage at the sight. The whole caravan leaps to its feet.

It is the Dayspring, the herald of the coming day, and soon they see the great orb himself filling the east with orient pearl and gold.”

Such a beautiful thought! How have your lives been illuminated by the Dayspring this week, sweet friends? I’d love to hear! Continue Reading…

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This week I’m linking up with Wednesday Walkabout, Word-filled Wednesday, Almost Friday Thursday Blog HopThis and That Thursday, Favorite ThingsSimply Link, Faith-filled Friday, Photo Friday, Just for Fun Friday, Fellowship Friday, Friendship Friday, Weekend Whatever, Still Saturday, Sunday Snapshot, The Simple Things, Heart Reflected, Fresh-brewed Sundays, and The Sunday Community.

I’m a morning person. When 5:30 rolls around, I easily rise to silence my alarm and start the coffee. Snuggling in my favorite robe, I savor that first, best cup of the day in front of my laptop while sampling a few Bible verses, an insightful quote, or a short devotional from the online inspirational news feed.

Often something beyond the words woos me—invites me to linger, to delve deeper—but I resist and jump into the Rush-About phase of my routine: tidy the kitchen, choose clothes, fix hair, ready school bag, grab lunch, go.

Teaching at a small Christian school nestled in Clinton-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-Corners means a 45-minute drive for me. On my way out of town, I snake through side streets and back roads to avoid school buses. Near the diner/gas station plazas, the work trucks slow me down. But once I hit the Taconic Parkway, I can fly. I let my mind drift with the radio until I crest a familiar hill.

There the newly-risen sun lights the trees into luminous beauty. The tableau makes me gasp. The brilliance overwhelms me. I blink away tears and wonder if this is how Noah felt when he first saw God’s bow in the sky.

And I savor this sign that God is here, close, real in my world.

Are you like me? Too often sidelining God. Too often flying through the day. Until I stumble upon some sweet treasure tucked into an unexpected corner of my life and once again draw close and adore Him.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.”

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A common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated sign. So a miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself—like the treasures with which He fills our days but on a grander scale. 

I want to live 2013 with an eye out for the signs that point to God’s nearness. Will you join me? Here’s a hint of where we’ll find Him . . .

  • In something beautiful that catches our eye
  • In an answer to prayer that lifts our souls
  • In the way He uses Scripture in our hearts
  • In a passage from a fiction or non-fiction book that touches us
  • In counting our blessings
  • In the small joys of daily life

I’ll be offering a link-up at the beginning of each week. Let’s promote what God has done for us! I’d love for you to share in the comments or in a blog post about how God has revealed His presence in your life. What sweet signs has He given you? What hidden treasures has He revealed? What practices do you include in your day so that you don’t overlook Him? Here’s a linky in case you want to share this week. I may not get to visit your post right away, but I faithfully pray for each one who leaves a comment. Blessings, sweet bloggy friends!


Bonus graphic: A pic I snapped on one of my many trips up and down the Taconic Parkway. This scene is half as lovely as the photo I didn’t get—the incredible view described above!

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This week I’m linking up with Monday Musings, Hear It on Sunday, Soli Deo Gloria, The Better Mom, Covered in Grace, Rachelwojo, Modest Mondays, GraceLaced Mondays, Raising Arrows, A Mama’s Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Gratituesdays, Just Write, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Tell Me About It Tuesday, Tuesdays Unwrapped, Teaching What Is Good, Mom’s Library, Tuesday Tips, What I Learned This Week, Heart and Home, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, God Bumps, Wednesday Walkabout, Think Outside the Blog, Word-filled Wednesday, Thankful Homemaker, Wisdom Wednesday, Wholehearted Home Wednesdays, Thursday Favorite Things,Thriving Thursday, Hearts for Home, Legacy Leaver, Thoughtful Thursday, Life in the Comments, Almost Friday Thursday Blog Hop, Favorite Things, Faith-filled Friday, Friday @Homemaker by Choice, Just for Fun Friday, Fellowship Friday, Womanhood with Purpose, Weekend Whatever, and Heart Reflected.

How do you view the world? Are you the cynic who sees only sadness, sickness, and sorrow? Or are you the ostrich who can only be happy by refusing to acknowledge any shadow of ugliness? I’m convinced that through Christ we can see the world as it really is and yet still focus on joy, hope, and love. For we know that Christ came to make all things new, and someday He will finish the work He began on the Cross. Until then, we catch glimpses of His beauty in the miracles which surround us every day.

Be encouraged by Romans 1:20 as interpreted by the Message: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine being.”

And soak in this poetry from the Old Testament book of Job . . .

“God stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.
He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.
He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.
He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.
By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are the fringes of His ways!”

I’m thankful God shares with us what He sees in the world! How about you?

I love showcasing people like Corrie ten Boom and Darlene Deibler Rose, women of faith, character, and principle, who touched people’s lives for Christ and changed their little corner of the world. What I’ve noticed about these folks, is that—before they reached the big tests—they learned important lessons from interacting with Christ during their everyday lives. And many of them began their journey of faith while very young.

Helene Reed Vance

During my years of teaching, I’ve been privileged to spend time with some of the finest Christian young people in this country. I can’t help but think that one of them might be the next Billy Graham or Catherine Marshall. They give me hope for the future of the church and inspire me to give my all for Christ.

One such former student is Helene Reed Vance. My first memories of Helene are of a radiant young woman with a tender heart and a smile that brightened everyone’s day. Always a hard worker, Helene held down a job during her high school years to help pay her tuition in our little Christian school. She was involved in every activity and a friend to all.  Some of my fondest memories include Helene and her best buddies from Northern Dutchess Christian School.

Helene and family

Helene was gracious enough to answer my questions for a blog interview. So here we go . . .

Helene comes from a close-knit Christian family of seven—her parents, twin older sisters, younger sister, and younger brother. One of her goals is to be as involved with her kids’ lives as her mom and dad were. Helene says, “The most special memory of my childhood is reading and memorizing Scripture with my family each morning before we started the day. We did that for as long as I can remember. I believe that is what has held us together and molded us into the people we are today.”

Who has provided the greatest inspiration for you during your life?

Helene and sister Amber

“My parents have taught me so many lessons that I hold dear to my heart. Their wisdom has been an invisible strength and help to me over the years. My grandfather is another person who has inspired me and helped me grow. He passed away about nine years ago, but his legacy was one of love and selflessness as I’ve never seen in a person before or since. My sister, Amber, has always been an inspiration to me. We are opposite in so many ways, but she is always encouraging me, pushing me, and holding me accountable, whether she is making a conscience effort to do this or not. Also, you have helped guide me as well! It was during my high school years that my love of reading continued to grow. Because of that, I chose my college career in English.” (I know–wasn’t it sweet of her to mention me?!)

What degrees do you and your husband Jordan have? What are you and he doing now?

Helene and Jordan

“I have a Bachelors in English from Liberty University. I will be finishing up my Masters in Business Administration in May. Jordan received his Bachelors in Religion and Philosophy from Eastern Nazarene College. He is now working on another Bachelor’s degree in nursing, here at Liberty.”

“I’ve been working at Liberty for the past 2 ½ years. I recently accepted a job promotion as Assistant Registrar for Liberty University Online Undergraduate Programs. I love the position and the team I am a part of. Jordan works as a Sales Rep for a regional phone company, while going through his schooling. He is an incredible salesman and I am so proud of his hard work and sales abilities!”

Graduation at LibertyWhat are your future plans? Continue Reading…