Monday, October 31, 2011


My father, Colonel Howard F. Smith, was a career military officer in the U.S. Air Force.  He served in the Vietnam War in the 60’s, and Desert Storm in the 90’s.  When he was not overseas, he walked through the front door of our home every evening at 5:00 p.m., wearing his blue uniform decorated with ribbons and pins he earned in his 30 years of service to our country.
When he passed away, I requested a pair of the silver bars which were always fastened to his hat. The blue hat with pins was a constant in our home, and it represents the consistent work ethic and military commitment of my father.
Just as a missionary or a pastor is called to the ministry, I believe military personnel and their spouses feel a similar calling.  It is a unique person who is willing to invest their very lives in the risky unknown. Unknown danger, unknown housing options, unfamiliar living conditions, constant moving, unpacking, and moving again. One might wonder what kind of toll this takes on the spouses and the children.  While I can only hypothesize about a spouse’s point of view; I am able to speak from a kid’s point of view.  These are the reflections and values I learned as a Military Brat.
Always, always stand at attention for the National Anthem. 
Whether in the movie theater on base, in the classroom or at a football game, we must stand up for the National Anthem.  Give the anthem your full and complete attention and respect.  No talking.  No squirming.  No hands in pockets.  No hands touching anyone else. No fumbling in your purse.
The National Anthem represents our story; the story of the United States of America, her fight for freedom, and the ones who gave their very lives for the freedom we enjoy.  The anthem represents our own grandfathers, fathers, mothers, siblings who risk their lives daily so we can live freely.
If any kid dared to goof around during the National Anthem on base, that kid and his friends were kicked out of the movie theater, game, or classroom.  No exceptions.
So my friend, if you ever try to talk to this girl or attempt to do business with me during the National Anthem; expect to be ignored.  That’s just the way it is.
Make new friends and keep the old
I remember vividly coming home from school, after laughing and enjoying my friends, and hearing the words, “We got our orders.” That meant we must move to another base, another state, possibly thousands of miles away.  It happens frequently. Sometimes we received our orders to move, only to have the location changed again.  Flexibility becomes a common character trait.
It takes a person an average of 2 years to become comfortable with friends and settle in to a new community.  It is tough on a military family who just begins to warm up to their new friends, then it is time to pack up and leave again.
Tears, fears, lost friendships and the stress of starting all over again can take its toll on a kid. Many of us learn through inevitable trial and error to make friends quickly and support one another.  I am often saddened by the friendships I have lost over the years.  There were no social networking options to keep us connected. But I gained the ability to make new friends, and the compassion to help others feel included.
When I first attended a big public school in my teens, I heard friends say they went to school with their cousins.  I thought it was a joke.  I had not lived near extended family.  I rarely saw my grandparents, cousins, Aunts and Uncles since my father joined the Air Force when I was 5 years old.  A military family rarely has the luxury and support of living close to their extended family, and the children don’t have the same opportunities to know them like the civilian families.  We learn to support those around us when anyone is in need.
I am grateful for the opportunities to travel, to see our country from different perspectives and landscapes.  I write a funny cursive “r” which I learned in Alabama and I have a mild mix of accents due to living in different regions.  I never knew what city to call my hometown.  But, the travel helps a kid understand their narrow world from a broader perspective.  It is important to me to expose our own kids to travel, world studies, different cultures, and the National news.
Respect the American Flag
We were taught how to respect the American flag.  Our instruction included how to fold the flag properly, not to jump up to touch it when we walked near it, not to wave a ragged flag, and the list goes on.  As I grew up, I loved to sing songs about America and the flag.  How obnoxious my dorm mates must have thought I was as I sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag” at the top of my lungs down the hallway.  I did it frequently.  Did I mention I attended a college in Canada?  Years later, my Trinidadian roommate asked me to kindly quit playing Lee Greenwood’s song, “I’m proud to be an American”.
What can I say?  I am a proud military brat.  I know our freedom comes at a great cost. I benefit from it every day, I am grateful, and sometimes I gush!
Sacrifice for the greater purpose
There were many times I did not fully appreciate the fact that my dad was a Prosthodontist.  Often times when I was having my teeth worked on, young airmen in training would stand around the dental chair to observe.  As a junior high student, I didn’t enjoy good looking guys standing around me while I was drooling and having spit sucked out of my mouth. I’ll never forget the day one of the dentists walked into the waiting room and reprimanded me for leaving the chair too early.  I sat horrified.
I clearly remember the long days my dad worked to identify bodies from the Canary Island plane crash.  He had the job of examining the teeth in order to identify the horrifically burnt bodies.  He worked round the clock and changed his toxic clothing outside our house before entering in.
It wasn’t until my twenties when I entered the fabulous home of a local civilian dentist, that I first recognized the contrast between a civilian dentist’s pay and a military dentist’s pay.  My father had made a great financial sacrifice when he chose to serve our country.  It is admirable.
Do you know there are military personnel and their families who live on the poverty level?  Yes, they serve our country daily, and scrape to make ends meet.
Respect a person’s title and leadership
Military kids learn to call people by their official titles.  This gives military personnel the respect they have earned.  Everyone is addressed by their rank.  We answer those in authority with a “Yes, Ma’am” or  ”No, Sir”.
We may not personally believe in the political decisions of our leaders, but they deserve our respect.  This is a biblical principle as well.  Submit to those in leadership, even if they are unreasonable.  That is my role.  The Word of God tells us our leaders will have to give an account to God.

When my son was in fourth grade, we attended a Pearl Harbor reenactment downtown.  It was a rainy school day, but I thought this was a great learning opportunity for our boy.  We stood in the small crowd, squeezed together under the umbrella and listened to Veterans reenact radio announcements from Pearl Harbor.  They read the names of local heroes whose lives were lost that day.  My son soaked it all in. I nudged him to shake the hands of the Officers who stood in their decorated uniforms.  We thanked them for their service.
“Even though we feel shy about it, and don’t always know what to say,” I teach my boys, “always shake the hand of a Veteran and thank them for their service on our behalf”.
Stand up for what you believe in

I don’t remember the day my father left for Vietnam.  My mother tells us that I made such a scene crying in the airport, that everyone around me was in tears.  I do remember my father’s phone calls from overseas.  Our phone calls were monitored, and whenever we took a turn talking, we had to say, “Over” and wait for clearance to talk again.  The scheduled phone calls were brief.

I remember receiving letters from my father, sent in envelopes trimmed in red, white and blue.  He sent pictures of himself in his fatigues and holding weapons while riding on the back of a truck.  I didn’t know much about the war, only that my father was gone.
One day my mother brought us to Mather Air Force Base where we were stationed in Sacramento, to see President Nixon.  There were crowds of people and “hippies” on loud motorcycles.  There was shouting and a chaotic feeling in the crowd.  We viewed President Nixon stepping off of the plane as the crowd protested and yelled profanities at him.  My mother pulled us kids close, and then she told those hippies off!  I guess that’s where I first learned to stand up for what I believe in and who I believe in.

Life as a military brat was a good life.  I have fond memories of playing kick-the-can in the streets and enjoying the guards at the gate of the base with their fancy salutes.  I have a broader world view and an ingrown respect for our country. Life was good and I thank you, Mom and Dad, for the valuable experience of being your military brat.


Monday, October 24, 2011


Today’s Proverb vitamin is a sobering one, taken from Proverbs 21:13
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
Will himself call out and not be answered”
Throughout the Scriptures the heart of God is revealed for the poor and needy.  Caring for the poor is considered true religion in God’s sight, it is an act of justice and worship.  Often times our hearts are filled with good intentions, but we make gross oversights in putting those intentions to action.
The statistics of hunger in our own communities unveil the poverty crisis.  In my state of California, there are 6,053,473 individuals who are considered food-insecure.  To consider our national statistics, and those of starving people around the world, it is both devastating and overwhelming.  (You can learn about your local state’s statistics at
I have shared many opportunities shoulder to shoulder with youth; feeding and serving those in poverty in local cities throughout California.   But, I will never forget the day my eyes opened to a new face of poverty.  Working together with beautiful high school students in a soup kitchen; we were seating and greeting people as they came to Loaves and Fishes for a good hot lunch.  These weren’t the homeless folks I had rubbed shoulders with before, instead they were working people.  Construction workers, builders, many others who were in their work clothes, coming to eat for their lunch break.  They are the working-poor.  This is sobering to me.  In fact, the 2010  U.S. Census Bureau states there are 21 million people who live in working-poor families.
The face of poverty includes the working poor, Senior Citizens, and children.  Feeding America  explains new findings on child hunger:
“Child hunger hampers a young person’s ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult.  Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens.”
Wait, don’t turn the channel!  Instead, consider how to turn your grief and good intentions into action.  You can easily incorporate these actions into your lifestyle:
  • Check out Food for the Hungry or Feeding  Both organizations can lead you to local opportunities to assist the poor in your community.
  • Make a Google Search for Food Bank’s in your city.  Find out where the nearest food collection truck is in your neighborhood.  If there isn’t one, ask what you can do to help them out.
  • Put your heads together with your children, their school or church, and organize a food, coat, or blanket drive.
  • Make Fair Trade purchases at your local store to help assist global poverty and keep those most vulnerable to selling themselves into the slave trade, working!  Check out for a smart phone app which helps you identify Fair Trade items in your stores.
  • Make a simple plan to buy 5 extra cans of food or baby formula every time you grocery shop.  Let your kids pick the food and help deliver it.  This will instill a lifestyle for your children of serving others in need.
  • Call your local soup kitchen and schedule a date with your family, Bible Study group, or friends.  (Note: soup kitchen’s get a lot of volunteers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season; so plan ahead or schedule your day for the new year).
You may be a little nervous at first, but I guarantee, it will be one of the best things you’ve done all year!  Because you  are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), I know you will feel blessed in your practical act of worship.  You may even hear your kids ask, “When are we going to do that again?”
Serving the poor is serving Jesus Himself.  In the words of Jesus:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:35-40


Friday, October 21, 2011


It feels like we never have any money.  This, of course, is not the case but based on our current choices, money seems to just dissipate into the air.  We are trying.  Trust me.  We completed the Dave Ramsey course, we have almost paid off our debt (hoot and hollar for joy) but we still have a long way to go until we are feeling Financial Peace.  In our attempts to be good with our money, we have had to make some big cut backs and had to say no to a few thing we really wanted to have/do.

It came up in a discussion between my husband and I, that it seemed like, based on our current financial forecast, that there would never be money for fun things.  That by the time we had it all straightened out (very aware that we created the mess) that our kids would be all grown and far from excited to want to do such things like baseball games or the county fair.  We were throwing ourselves a pity party.  But we knew that all our hard work would not only be worth it but it would be handling our money the way God intended us so we forged on.  We prayed for assistance with our desires with the things we wanted vs. the things we needed and how to handle all the dollars that crossed our palms.

A few days later, my husband tells me we get to go to the Seahawks game thanks to free tickets from some odd mix up at his work.  They were nosebleeds (four rows from the very top of the entire stadium) and it would be a hassle to find care for the two younger boys since there were only four tickets but we were going for it!  Way too excited to turn them down!  

We ended up having a blast at the game.  Our position in the seating arrangements made us feel as if we were defying gravity, the food was expensive and we had to walk forever to get to our seats but we didn't even think about those things as annoyances.  It was actually by force, just now, that I was able to list these negatives...they truly never crossed our mind, we were just so thankful and excited!  As I was sitting down the following day, remembering all the fun we had and how the kids just couldn't stop talking about it...God gently whispered to me "See.  I told you I would take care of you."  

No.  Tickets aren't a necessity, but when God tells us to be anxious for nothing or that he knows are needs as supplies as he sees fit, it's for real.  And I love the sweet reminders I find in odd a set of tickets to a football game.


Monday, October 17, 2011


We sat around the breakfast table, chowing on good food and drinking our favorite breakfast drinks. I love meeting with these young ladies. These 20-something girls are hungry for God and His Word. Their hunger is sobering to me. It keeps me reliant upon the Holy Spirit for God’s direction and His Words as I grow with these girls.
While we talk through the Scriptures, real-life questions emerge. I too, ask similar questions over the years as I walk with Jesus.
Does my life honor You?
Am I too comfortable in my life?
Does my life still honor You when I am comfortable and content?
Does my life really look like a true disciple?
No wonder these thoughts are on the minds of young women who desire to give their lives entirely to Jesus, as His disciple. Sometimes our flesh gets tangled in our questions and we privately add these thoughts:
Shouldn’t I be doing bigger or greater things for You?
Do I need a title or a position of status in order to really make an impact for the kingdom?
Am I Your disciple if I am not living on the mission field and risking my life for You?
We poured over the Scriptures to find answers to these nagging questions. What is God’s desire for us as Christ followers? There are so many verses to ponder.
We discovered that Paul was content in little and content in much; as He relied on the strength of God (Philippians 4:11-13):
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Then we were challenged by his yielded life (Galatians 2:20):
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.
Lastly, I read a newly discovered prayer by John Wesley. His words date back from 1755, and are taken from the Puritan Richard Alleine. This is not exactly a new prayer, but it is new to me, and renewed in its ability to meet the passion of our hearts on this day:
“I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt,
rank me with whom Thou wilt;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for Thee or laid aside for Thee,
exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee;
let me be full,
let me be empty;
let me have all things,
let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.”
This is the prayer of this Christ follower today.


Monday, October 10, 2011


some kids are afraid of the dark.  i am too.  not so much the dark but things in the dark.  i have a sadly morbid mind and retain all those awful news stories about murder and fire and death and in the dark...those thoughts are really loud.  when i was little, i was afraid that a panda bear was under my bed (think miniature kung fu panda with his scary destructo face on) and if i kept my leg too close to the wall, he would take a butcher knife and stab me with it.  seriously.  that is what i was scared of.

later in my youth, i walked in on the scene in Pee Wee's Bigtop Adventure where the truck driver's eyes get big and shoot out of her face and it scared me so bad, i wouldn't come out from under the end table i had dove under.  that wooden leg and my screaming like a banchee were my only safe holds!

in sixth grade, i would stay awake in my bed, terrified as i listened to unsolved mysteries and rescue 911 (dating myself via tv shows) while my parents watched, unaware.  stories of all sorts of awful things streamed into my brain and never really left.  even now, as an adult, i think about the tragic/horrific events i heard as i laid there.  no joke, i have to force my eyes closed and beg Jesus to fill my mind with sweet thoughts lest the fear overtakes me.

i can't watch commercials for horror movies.  i turn on all the lights in the house at night.  i have escape routes in place (in my mind of course) for any possible number of events.  i am a big ol scaredy cat.

the other night, my daughter asked me how i can be downstairs all alone in the dark.  we talked about being scared and i told her how i sing amazing grace to myself if i get scared.  her bottom lip started to quiver as she told me about her scary dreams at night and how singing didn't help her.  we prayed together and asked God to fill her sweet mind with things like lolipops & puppies, or rainbows & beautiful swans.  we cuddled and sang amazing grace together (while i laughed as she overexaggerated "wretch" each time) and then she slept sound through the night.

it didn't hit me until i ran and jumped into my own bed that know, to be sure that the person or ghost under my bed didn't try and grab me by my ankles.  i guess i should probably start practicing what i preach.  i fell asleep thanking Jesus for that scary, furry, high contrast bear that scared me so many years ago and the clarity to understand exactly how my daughter feels.  maybe i can move on to allowing butcher knives in the house again...

Friday, October 7, 2011


Have you been lying sleepless in your bed of late? Do pictures flash in your mind of your teenager racing his car in the streets or your daughter abusing alcohol and getting in sexual dilemmas at the parties she attends? We hold our breath and pray our children will survive the teen and young adult years. There are so many distractions for a young driver these days, they don’t have to be racing to be in danger. The “what if’s” are enough to make us crazy.
Dr. Daniel G. Amen offers validity to these fears in his book, “Magnificent Mind at Any Age”:
“Teens do best when their parents know where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Teens do best when they know their parents check on them. You need to be your teen’s prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that provides supervision, judgment, and impulse control), until they can properly monitor themselves. The prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until we are twenty-five years old, so even supervising young adults is appropriate.”
A parent’s job is not complete when their children are able to take the keys and live more independently. We get confused about our parenting role in this American culture. So, what can we do? Do we follow our children everywhere; hiding behind trees and trucks to spy on their every move? Do we attach a GPS to their cell phones?
Active parenting includes asking questions, checking out our teen’s plans, and supervising certain situations. But, we must also learn to give our teens growing independence and practical tools to make their own healthy, godly choices. If we are the ones making all the decisions for them and shielding them from life’s experiences, they will never learn from mistakes and struggles. But where do we begin?
A parent’s wise Christ-centered instruction helps to grow children spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. The instruction is deliberate. In Proverbs we read about the father teaching his son to get wisdom and instructing him not to forget it. He instructs his son not to turn away from his father’s words, but accept them fully. What are the results for the children who have been instructed and have chosen to honor their parents’ words? Wisdom will guard them and keep them from stumbling. Now that’s what a teen’s mind needs!
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight
Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away
from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:1,5-6,10-13


Monday, October 3, 2011


Wednesdays are busy for me. Pre-school for my 4 year old, early release for my 8 year old, dinner, bible study and AWANA…throw in an errand and we are packed for the day.
Normally, on a day where we are so crunched for time, I would say no to my children begging me to take them to the store because they have money burning a hole in their pocket. Today, for some reason, I said yes.
It was sunny but crisp outside as we turned out of our neighborhood onto the main road, I happened to see a woman on the side of the road, off a ways, near the briar bushes sitting on a duffle bag with her elbow on her knee and her head on her fist. She was in her late 20’s to mid 30’s and had BEAUTIFUL dark skin, a handkerchief covering her hair, a flowing calf length denim skirt, a flannel long sleeved shirt with a warmer coat on top, and one inch platform flip flops. I had seen this before…but not in my community. 
We kept driving and spent a good 45 minutes spending our money. I treated myself to a five bucks (that’s Starbucks to you) which is something I hadn’t done in a long time. With a new pair of jeans and a warm coffee in my hands we set off to drive home.
There she was, still sitting there with her hand on her fist and her elbow on her knee. Something in my heart said STOP. 
I looked at my rear view mirror and hanging there, was the reason why the image of that woman was so familiar to me. She reminded me of South Africa, where it is not uncommon to see someone sitting on the side of the road with a bushel of something to sell, or someone just resting for a minute. It, in fact, is normal there. In South Africa there are so many people on the side of the road…but not here. Again my heart said STOP.

I tried to dismiss it as I pulled into our neighborhood. Rationalizing it by telling myself that I don’t have time, my kids are in the car, I need to make dinner before our evening activities…Louder: TURN AROUND and just ASK her if she needs help.
I looked at that Starbucks cup and was immediately embarrassed for buying it. It was such a luxury. In fact, the last time I got back from South Africa, I didn’t buy a coffee for an entire year to make a statement about the frivolous lifestyle I wanted to leave behind. 
I could not, go and ask to help this girl, with a Starbucks cup in my car. Again: TURN AROUND and ask her if she needs help. 
What if my kids freak out because they want to go home and play with this new trinket they just spent their money on? What if we are late? What if I can’t get dinner done? TURN AROUND!
We pulled into our cul-de-sac and I pulled over before we got to the house. My 8 year old, Ty, asked me what we were doing. This is how the conversation went:

Me: “Ty, did you see that lady over by Laura’s house sitting by the side of the road?”
Ty: “Yes”
Me: “Do you think we should go ask her if she needs help?”
Ty: “Yes, mamma”
I turned the car around and headed back to where the lady was sitting. FEAR came over me and I broke into a sweat. The decision had been made, we were going back! I repeated over and over “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” 
I drove my car to my friends house, who was half a block away from where the woman was sitting, left my kids there and started walking. As I rounded the corner and had her in my sights she was just getting up and grabbing her bag. 
“Excuse me, I saw you sitting here, and I was wondering if you need any help?”
She hadn’t seen me coming, so a little startled she said: “I was walking, and I got tired, so I stopped here to pray, I’ve been here praying about a lot of things, and one thing was for someone to help me.”
Sticking my hand out toward her I said “Well, My name is Adrian and God placed you on my heart to help. What is it that you need help with?”
Assessing the situation, I could tell she was running from something and she had just left. She was clean, I could smell her soap. Her clothes were clean, her bag was clean…She was not strung out on drugs and she looked me in the eye when she talked. I HAD TO KNOW this girls story. 
She was looking for a ride to Tacoma, and after talking to my friend who I left my kids with we decided that giving her some bus money and driving her up to the park and ride would be the best idea.
I cleaned out the front seat of my car and was embarrassed again. I saw that target bag with the jeans in it, a GPS, an ipod dock, and a smart phone…along with that dang Starbucks cup…I looked at her and realized all she had, was all she had with her and there she was…praying on the side of the road in her flip flops on a crisp fall day.
As we drove, I tried to pry and ask questions, she didn’t budge too much. What I did find out was she has family here in Puyallup that “she just needs to get away from.” And she’s looking to get to a truck stop in Tacoma where she will try to make her way to <something tells me not to put the city name in this blog> because the one time she visited there…it was nice. She was hoping to start a new life there. 
I pulled into the mall parking lot near the bus station and asked if I could pray for her before she left the car. She agreed. Then she reached across the car, hugged me, and called me blessing as if it were my name. She got out of the car and I watched her walk away.
By this time, I had 2 text messages from my husband telling me that my friend had called him and told him I was doing something crazy. The other one was telling me to turn the GPS on my phone on. TOO LATE!
I don’t know what she was running from.
I don’t know what she has ahead of her, although I cringe at the thought of her making it to a truck stop.
What I do know is that the Holy Spirit moved me. He asked me to step up and be a part of the plan. I am humbled that I was asked, but ashamed of the process it took for me to say yes. When it comes down to it, I’m a chicken! I obey out of fear not out of excitement. My thought process is this: Would I rather have a little discomfort now or untold pain later?” There will be punishment for disobedience either while we are here on this earth or when we meet Him face to face. 
I have to trust that He has this young lady’s life in His hands and that she will have a great story to tell someday. 
Thank you God for bringing this woman into my life for the hour that you did. She put a mirror in front of me, and I see that there are some things that need to change. I will call her blessing.

Adrian Kashporenko