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August 7, 2013 / Erin Smith

Sun & Sand















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August 1, 2013 / Erin Smith

Leaving & Moving (quick thoughts)

photo-16I wrote a quick update on Tuesday about our move. I’m getting ready to head to the beach for a few days with the boys and my mom and it looks like the weather is going to be great. I can’t wait to spend time reading books and hanging out with the boys in the sand.

Here are just a few scattered things on my mind this week.

1.  Jumping in a pool, at night, with all of your clothes on, after a day and night of packing, driving, itching, swelling & flea-killing feels amazing. 

2.  Leaving friends is hard. I know it will be the people we miss the most. With facebook and email and all the other ways we communicate, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch, but I already miss the day to day. Catching up is not the same as living lives together and knowing what is happening between the first cup of coffee and bedtime. I tend to think the love of friends and neighbors is a quotidian love at it’s best, and that is hard to do from any distance. Not that it’s impossible, it will just be different. I’m worried about forgetting all those little moments from these past years – which is going to happen. I can’t even remember where I left my wallet or keys from this morning. But I’m sad about it.

3.  It feels really good to be around family. Especially at dinner time when we all crowd around a table that isn’t quite big enough and we eat a meal we made together.

4.  Orioles or Nationals? We’re equal distance from DC & Baltimore with cable and the ability to watch games. We’re just not sure which team is our team. Can you just choose….or are fans made? I’m not sure. But football is covered. And it’s going to be an excellent season.


5.  Sometimes it feels really good to be still, float in a pool, not talk, not check email … and fold laundry while watching Orange is the New Black.

6.  I’m learning that simple feels better… I say this knowing that our simplicity is a bit of an illusion. We have stuff spanning a couple states, four houses & a storage unit, but I’m digging our new basement living arrangement. There’s a bathroom, a laundry room, a door that leads to a patio, a place for our bed, a couch, a chair, and soon, a small kitchen (sink, electric stove, no oven). It’s compact with wood paneling and it feels a little like a beach house…only with gun cabinets.

7. Clothesline beats dryer. I’ve fallen back in love.

8. I like hanging out with my kids. They’re funny and they tell really good poop and fart jokes.

9. Learning grace and forgiveness takes time. (Also intentionality)

10. Conflicting emotions are Ok. (More on this later)

Hope you have a great start to August.

Mancave at Jason's brother's house. Go Steelers.

Mancave at Jason’s brother’s house. Go Steelers.


July 30, 2013 / Erin Smith

Quick Update

Some swimming downtime

Some swimming downtime

In the last couple weeks, whenever I have sat down to type out what’s going on, I have either been pulled away from the computer or fallen asleep. It’s been a busy few months with a bunch of changes. We sold our house (we’re still waiting for the closing) and decided to move in with Jason’s parents outside of Martinsburg, West Virginia.

We’re square in the middle of the move, with a foot in New York and the other in our new basement home in West Virginia, and there are lots of thoughts and emotions about everything (leaving my job, Jason leaving his job, leaving our home, leaving Ithaca, what God is doing in the middle of all this chaos, etc.), but mostly the last couple weeks have been consumed with fleas.

I had no idea what a pain a flea infestation is before this week. One of our indoor cats snuck outside and now our house is filled with them.

Two Sundays ago, we packed both of our vehicles with as much as they could hold, set a bunch of bug bombs, and headed south (and spent the past week washing everything we owned). We expected to come back to a bug-free house this past Sunday. Wrong. More fleas. Big Sigh.

So we called an exterminator yesterday, and hopefully we are on our way to eliminating the suckers for good.

In a way, I feel like it was a good thing that we are in the middle of moving and able to clean everything as we moved – and I’ve also found that by focusing so much on rescuing our cats and clothes from the fleas, we’re mostly moved and haven’t even really had time to notice.

The bad thing is that in all of this craziness and exterminators, we’re out of our old home and into our new even earlier than we had planned – without much of a goodbye to people who have meant a whole lot to us over the past few years. We’re working on a plan to visit in September to remedy this. Goodbyes are important, and we’re looking forward to spending a less-stressful and flea-free weekend hanging out with friends and spending time in this place that has been our home for the last seven years.

But even in all the craziness and bugs, the move has felt really good.

We’re moving into Jason’s parents basement and I’ll have studio in his brother’s basement (and we could not be more grateful to both for making space for us). It’s a very cozy temporary home and the boys are excited to be near their grandparents (we are too).

I look forward to writing here and there about living in this strange place of processing all the change, not really knowing what happens next, and learning a lot about grace in between.

The boys and I are once again escaping the fleas tomorrow morning and heading back to West Virginia.

On Thursday, I want to share a few scattered thoughts from the past couple weeks before we head to the beach.

Thanks for reading!

…below is the surprise benefit of moving my studio – Paintings, it turns out, make an excellent barrier for road-weary boys…


January 18, 2013 / Erin Smith

When God Says, “Stay” (part one)

Our Snow & Gray

Our Snow & Gray

In a blur of diapers and spit up, we packed our bags and our child to escape for a long wine-tasting weekend in the Finger Lakes. Soon after, we sold our house, packed all our belongings, and moved our life to upstate New York.

It was autumn when we landed, and the beginning of winter when we moved into our house in a little village outside of Ithaca.

I don’t know what we were looking for, but somewhere between the waterfalls, the organic farms, and Ithaca’s fanatical commitment to composting, we found ourselves home.

Ithaca is a special place. We always feel a little funny whenever we have to do the “how did you end up here?” dance without an answer that mentions anything conventional like, “grad school at Cornell,” or a “teaching job at IC.”

We landed here by accident but also by choice, unsure of what we were looking for – but somehow finding it in the rhythm of a year marked by seasonal produce, school schedules, and the gray of winter that can last well beyond the time we used to trade in our sweaters for short sleeves.

Even from the beginning, the pace felt different. Seasons felt like events. Canning fresh produce grown down the street was something to be celebrated. So were the early crocuses and daffodils, bravely fighting their way through the snow every spring.

We joined a CSA. I learned to knit. We became friends with our neighbors.

Somewhere along the path, while not particularly looking, we found our way out of the “nones” column and into a church.

There is a thoughtful series this week on NPR called “Losing Our Religion” about why Americans are choosing to leave organized religion – even if they might believe in God or consider themselves spiritual. They call this group the “nones” in demographic research, as they are a group who doesn’t identify as atheist, but as having “no religion.” The report is multi-faceted, approaching this group from a bunch of different directions: addressing  familiar and important questions about evil and suffering, frustrations with the entanglement of religion and politics, questions about the role of women and homosexuality, concerns about justice and serving the poor, questions about doubt, and the cruelty of unanswered prayers.

I hear myself in the voices of these people. I hear questions that I still have  – questions that have only intensified the more I search for answers; and I hear the echoes of words I used to say all the time: “I wish I could believe in God, but I just can’t.”

We’ve been out of this group of “nones” for a few years now, and when I get up to go to work in the morning, my work is serving in a church.

It’s good work with good people who are humble and loving, and many days I come home and feel I have found what my life is supposed to be about; but I still find the label of “Christian” clunky to wear,  and I struggle everyday to find words to talk about my faith in a way that feels as real as my reasons for not-believing.

I struggle to find words as real as the God I found in the midst of my doubts.

I never thought that this would be my future.

But here I am learning how to talk about where here is and why changing my whole life around for this feels important, albeit tension full.

And in the middle, if what I write sound like the ramblings of a teenager’s love letter, bear with me. This has been nothing if not a love story.

(to be continued…)


January 5, 2013 / Erin Smith

On Generosity

On our own, we conclude:
that there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short

of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life

we should seize the day
seize the goods
seize our neighbor’s goods
because there is not enough to go around.

And here in the midst of our perceived deficit:
You come
You come giving bread in the wilderness
You come giving children in the 11th hour
You come giving homes to the exiles
You come giving futures to the shut-down
You come giving Easter joy to the dead
You come – fleshed in Jesus.

And we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing.

We watch
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we do not deserve it.

It dawns on us – late rather than soon -
that “you give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance…mercy upon mercy

Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving, we may endlessly give,
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder
without coercive need, but only love
without destructive greed, but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness…
all things Easter new…
all around us, toward us, and by us
all things Easter new.

Finish your creation…in wonder, love, and praise.

-Walter Brueggemann,



December 1, 2012 / Erin Smith

Preparing to Wait

photo (10)This week has been busy with preparations for advent. Buying trees, cutting out ornaments and gluing them to bits of burlap, cleaning our house and making room for the Christmas decorations, painting our living room – which is not necessarily tied to preparing for Christmas other than I wanted to have a Christmas party, but I am still counting it as preparing.

And finding readings to accompany the count down.

I am not very good at maintaining daily regimented anything. Somehow I have managed to observe “daily offices” for sometime (if at times it means only once a day), but I look at this as somewhat of an anomaly and it baffles me how I have stuck with it so long.

But during this advent season, I find myself with three different sources for daily readings, and a couple other books as resources, and I am pretty excited to start the ones that have already begun, and read the ones yet to come.

For me as well as my family, celebrating advent is still fairly new to us. I have distant and fuzzy memories of wreaths, poinsettia, and pastel candles lit every Sunday leading to the lighting of the giant center candle on Christmas Eve – which we lit while singing carols, holding candles and wearing velvet dresses.

Those memories feel warm and innocent, and any waiting I felt had more to do with what was waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning, rather than anything else.

Now is different and it feels like I am hungry to join others in waiting, because everything feels like waiting these days. Waiting for winter to come, waiting for this endless season of transition I find myself in to be complete, waiting to have both vehicles to be running and working at the same time, and waiting for God to swoop in with the direction for the next step.
And I already find myself connecting to themes of expectancy and hope when at times I feel so fearful, helpless, and sad.

My husband is new to advent too, so in some ways it feels like we are just kind of winging it, and I am grateful that we have found these resources to help us in our waiting.


1. The Jesse Tree: This year our family is making a Jesse Tree. Our church is actually going through this as a community. We’re using Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Journey that can be found on her blog, and so far (we started on the 29th), the readings are great.

The booklet comes with these charming ornament cutouts, a passage and a reading for everyday, and a next step where you can do something in response to that day’s reading. Our family cut out the ornaments, glued them to some burlap, and we are going to hide the remaining ornaments on our Christmas tree today. Each day one of our boys will find that day’s ornament on the tree, we’ll read together as a family, and put the ornament on our smaller Jesse tree.


2. 25 Days of Christmas: Another great resource out there is a .99 e-book , 25 Days of Christmas – A Devotional for Incredibly Busy People by Ray Hollenbach, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Students of Jesus. The great thing about his e-book is that each of the daily readings are short. I am assuming (as I have not started reading yet) that they will be as insightful and challenging as I find his blog to be, plus, as I mentioned, they are short and not long.


3. Embracing Hope: The last readings I was not expecting and I could not be more excited. Embracing Hope Ethiopia is non-profit that comes alongside women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and offers them childcare and a safe  and loving place to leave their children so they can work and provide for their families. Jerry Shannon is one of the overseers of Embracing Hope Ethiopia (there is a great video here, and more info about the cool stuff they are doing with family and church partnerships on their website) and he will be sending out daily advent readings talking about poverty, mercy and justice during this season. Here is an intro to the readings and you can sign up here.


In addition, there are some great essays and excerpts in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, and God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas that we will be reading this season as well.

Hope you find these resources helpful, and we’re looking forward to embracing the waiting this season.

In the meantime, Jason has just brought in our Christmas tree, and the preparations continue…


November 29, 2012 / Erin Smith

And So We Wait

“The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for that which we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously, so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what is already begun, expecting its fulfillment – that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life”

Henri Nouwen

“The Spirituality of Waiting”


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