Pact with my Children

To My Children: Putting Words Toward the Pact

There are various kinds of promises people make to one another in moments of devotion or need that are significant to their relationships. Some are of their own making, others I believe to have been modeled by God and meant to be carried on. One of those is the pact that parents make with their children – probably more like a covenant since it is more of a unilateral promise. I believe that God extended to me an unconditional love guaranteeing his care, his forgiveness when needed, his support, membership in a spiritual family that I can’t quite comprehend, and all the other benefits he is able to provide. He knew I would have trouble feeling the depth of his commitment to me, so he came up with an idea to help me experience his side of the covenant. He gave me a family.

When you children came along I began to love you immediately. I watched you grow and studied your natures and found you fascinating. I loved being with you. There were hard times and disappointments but none of that lessened my desire to work toward your highest potential and greatest good. I saw what God was trying to show me through our relationship. The trouble was, I was not God. My performance falls so short of his, and my understanding is never going to be complete in this life. But he also enables me to have his help. His help often comes from a spiritual, unseen world that many have trouble believing in and accepting. But I believe it and do not need confirmation from those who haven’t experienced that other world.

I promise as much as is humanly possible to love you, my children, without end. Nothing depends on your ability to return love perfectly because I know you are human too. I will try to listen to you, understand your messages, not be quick to conclude or brittle in my responses to you. Whatever you are going through, I want to be a safe place for you to express it, to examine it, and to process without it becoming “all about me”. God will help me do this.

Others will love and support you, but none of them will be quite like me because I am your mother. It doesn’t mean I will always care for you as when you were little and needed so much direction and teaching. It will be more like a friend who is putting you as a high priority when you need physical help, financial help, supportive time, care when you are sick, and all those things we all need even as adults. I am here to go through life with you. I am held responsible for that, right behind my responsibility to God, and then to my husband. I am told in scripture that this will bring me purpose and fulfillment in life and so far that has been true. In all its stages, being your mother has been my favorite career.

I will grow in my understanding of what God is doing among us, but I’m just saying, I think I’ve got this right.

Tuesday Travels #2

Tuesday Travels (on Wednesday, because I forgot)

Yesterday before I went to work I got a facebook call from Cambodia. It was the houseparent of one of the homes there in Prek Eng. Since it was around 9am for me and they are 12 hours different, all the children were still up and gathered around the computer listening. On cue they all greeted me. House dad Ravy asked if I could hear him well, and yes, it was amazingly clear and easy to listen to. After going halfway around the world, the sound was still better than calls on my local internet phone, and way better than my cell phone reception. Modern miracles…

Several of the braver children (probably the ones more confident of their English skills) had short conversations with me about school and their activities. They all want me to guess who they are by the sound of their voice but I am not that good yet. Evidently the newest form of exercise for them is playing badminton in the courtyard in front of their home. Now I see why the list of things being collected includes badminton rackets and shuttlecocks. Ravy mentioned that they wish to have the courtyard paved so the kids don’t have to be in the dirt. That is one of the things I will be evaluating as a project for the funds I raise.

I am happy to say I have received one generous donation already, but no actual responses from my donor letter. I am not the least bit worried about that. I do my part and God does His, an interesting and exciting exercise of faith for me.

House parents  Suonbun Saravy (Ravy) on the left and Tharey Sorn (Rey) on the right.
House parents Suonbun Saravy (Ravy) on the left and Tharey Sorn (Rey) on the right.
Houseparents Kien Khea (An) on left and Raksmey Oum (Smey) on right.
Houseparents Kien Khea (An) on left and Raksmey Oum (Smey) on right.

Tuesday’s Travels #1

My friends in Prek Eng 5, children, houseparents and caretakers
My friends in Prek Eng 4, children, houseparents and caretakers

It is a little over four weeks until I am traveling to southeast Asia once again. On Tuesdays each week I am sharing my preparation and thoughts about this trip.When the trip actually starts I will share each day’s events in journal form for all who are interested in Cambodia and Asia’s Hope orphan homes.

And the family of Prek Eng 5, children and adults
And the family of Prek Eng 5, children and adults

I am very excited that I will get to see all the children I have come to know and love – it has been 18 months since my last trip! Many of them have done a great deal of growing up in that time. They are farther ahead in their schooling and better at speaking English. Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to see many pictures and have even had some internet calls from the families so I’m not totally in the dark about what has been going on. I am impressed with all the improvements that have been made to the campus in Prek Eng (suburb of Phnom Penh). They have planted gardens and harvested many fruits and vegetables. The latest project is raising chickens!

I finally got my letter written to last year’s financial donors in case they wanted to send money with me again this year. I know there will be some need that will be evident when I get there because I pray that it will be revealed and that the amount donated will be just right. I have been amazed every time to see that happen. But I know I should not be surprised, just joyful that I get to see it and have a part in what God intends to do.

We are gathering things to take with us for the medical portion of our trip and also gifts for the children. First on the list is prescription eyeglasses. The health clinic will be held in Phnom Penh this year and is an outreach to a particular community in need. Some living there need glasses but cannot afford them. We are able to test vision and supply glasses along with the routine health checks and counseling.

Gifts for the children include deflated soccer balls, simple jigsaw puzzles (100-250 pieces), yarn, card games, candy (no chocolate), badminton rackets and shuttlecocks, and girly things like headbands and barretts. I am also trying to take Rainbow looms and rubber bands since they were such a big hit the last time I went. It’s always a challenge to take things that don’t weigh much or take up a lot of room since we have restrictions on our luggage. I am always trying to think of things the children might like to do but don’t have access to where they live.

If you have ideas from past experience of games, crafts or toys that you think children would enjoy I would love to hear from you. Children range in age from 5 to 17. If you have prescription eyeglasses to donate please mail to Shirley Dietz, 5001 10th Lane E. Bradenton, FL 34203.

Getting ready is part of the fun of travel!

Can't wait to see them all again!
Can’t wait to see them all again!

A to Z Family Stories: L for Lamb

These stories are part of who we are and I want them recorded. Not all of them are pretty, but that is ok.  This is a collection of family stories that are told repeatedly anytime the Smith clan congregates during a vacation or a holiday.  I’m sure some of them are told more from my perspective than others but I welcome added insight from those involved.

“The farm”, those words will always mean one place to me and my brothers. It was a 320 acre plot in Sawyer County, Wisconsin about 8 miles from the small town of Hayward. My parents moved there shortly after they were married and my father started trying to make a living being a farmer. He tried numerous types of agri-business while we children were young, before he finally gave it up to become an excavator. The northwoods isn’t conducive to most kinds of farming.

One of the first attempts was the raising of sheep. I was too young to remember much of the actual work and this era probably didn’t last very long. What I do remember and what we sometimes talk about is our pet lamb.

There were times when an ewe (mother sheep for you city dwellers) would either die when giving birth or perhaps she would have twins and reject one of them, which would leave a lamb in need of rescue. The lambs were born in spring or early summer – and you know, lambs are really cute when they are little, really cute. I mean really cute. I won’t say that my brother and I were given this lamb, because we were too young to be responsible for it, but we were regularly allowed to feed it. We regarded it as ours. We named it Lambey Dammey. I know, but we were kids and it rhymed.

Our lamb, let’s just call him LD, was so cute (I did mention that they were cute, right?) and so much fun for us. When it was time to feed we would be given a bottle of warm milk with a special nipple and told to go find LD. We would call him loudly as we walked around the barn. I know people say sheep are dumb animals, but he would always come running. I think the promise of food makes anyone smart smarter. I was the oldest so I would hold the bottle, at least that’s what the pictures suggest. Much of my early memories are fed by the pictures I’ve seen over and over, and the stories I’ve heard. Here is a picture of me, my brother Ron and LD, the cutest lamb ever. Just sayin’…

PhotoScan (16)

A to Z Family Stories: K for Kitchen Play

Mothers work in kitchens a good deal of the time even if they work outside the home as well.  Long, long ago, before nintendo or play station, or remote control toys children also played in the kitchen while their mothers worked.  This was especially true as my brothers and I were growing up.  We played in the kitchen while mom cooked, baked, washed dishes and ironed clothes.  The radio played, it was warm and cozy since there was always an old-fashioned cook stove or later, a Franklin fireplace to keep us warm.  We emptied drawers, pulled chairs up to the sink to play in the dishwater, and generally got underfoot.  It was very much where we belonged.

Do Moms still work in kitchens?  Do kids still play in kitchens?  Do people still have kitchens?
Do Moms still work in kitchens? Do kids still play in kitchens? Do people still have kitchens?

But my favorite play was “pretend store”.  What better place to do it than the pantry cupboard?  Ours was a double cupboard under the kitchen counter. Two large doors opened up to a joined space with a narrower shelf in the back, and it was not a large space.  Looking at similar spaces now I can’t imagine being small enough to enjoy being in there – but I often have that reaction looking at the places I remember playing.  Crazy, but I know we children did it.

The first step, of course, was to empty the cupboard of all the canned goods and utensils that might be stored there. The next step was to crawl in and set up shop.  The things I wanted to sell would go back in, arranged as the storekeeper wanted them this time. Canned goods, cereal boxes, pots and pans, spoons, measuring cups – ready for business.  This was always a general store so it also sold toys for children (no problem there), clothing for the family (knew where to get that) and ready to eat food which mom would supply.  Paper and pencils for lists and a telephone (toy) for orders that  might be phoned in would always be within reach.  When all was done the final step would be to hang a kitchen towel as a curtain – just shut it in the overhead drawer.

It was such an inviting type of cubby hole that pillow and blanket would eventually find their way in for nap time.  I could have lived there, except I do remember that the shelf was a bit of a problem and I often bumped my head.  When I think about this pastime I have a renewed sense of appreciation for my mom’s patience.  She was probably glad that I was occupying myself with anything that kept me happy.

My children played in the kitchen too, and if I was at home, I would upload a way too cute picture of Esther in a plastic dish pan, boating around the kitchen floor.  I might add that for moms on a budget, don’t tell yourself that kids can’t be entertained with simple, inexpensive things.  They were and they can. Try it.  Just sayin’…

The Younger Generation

Yesterday, just by chance (or maybe by design, I don’t know) a lot of children happened into my day. It’s always a blessing and I end up realizing how important it is to have people from a different age group in my life. It’s refreshing and gets me to thinking.

Three young men and their slightly older sister came to visit, along with their mom. I’m always amazed at how this young girl exists calmly and patiently between the world of her rambunctious brothers and the adults that she is beginning to identify with. And oh, how she reminds me of my own childhood with four younger brothers. Girl, I hope your mom reads this to you so you will know that I am praying for you. You will survive.

While we adults talked, the children played in the backyard (crawled through the cat door! Or rather tried to crawl through the cat door…), played with legos and generally entertained themselves quite well. I remarked on this to their mom and she talked about her method of training. When they come to her with complaints of boredom, she suggests they help her clean. Voila! Suddenly they are able to entertain themselves with something else. They often come to her for little snippets of attention which she meters out judiciously but there is none of this hanging on, whimpering, dissatisfied “when are we leaving?” stuff that could keep us ladies from talking. We had a good visit.

And earlier in the day I had an appointment with eight year old GPLL to choose some sewing patterns for herself and her American Girl doll. In the car I usually have the radio playing on a Moody talk station. Sometimes we talk when we are driving around but a lot of the time we are silent. I’m never sure if she is listening to the programming or looking at the “Where’s Waldo?” book I keep in the back seat for her. Yesterday there were some pretty gruesome news stories about the killing of school children in Pakistan, and also a description of the Christmas event as the coming of a “baby born to die”. This last remark caught her by surprise and we had to talk about it.

But my respect for the listening ears and the depth of her understanding came later. We had heard most of one of the half hour long programs and it was closing out as we turned into the parking lot and I shut off the car. I had been concentrating on driving more than listening but evidently that was not the case with my young friend. “That was a good message.” she remarked. Oh really? I should have paid more attention… Again, I’m just sayin’.

Sign Me Up, Please

I was only two steps ahead of a giant lizard who had gained entry into the dorm and was sucking up hapless students as they tried to figure out what was going on. That one had Jurassic Park written all over it.

Last night I dreamed.  I probably dream every night but I rarely remember any of them. For some odd reason I remember two dreams from last night. I willed the Jurassic Park one to go away and not come back.  It worked and I slept again. But the second dream was different and I hung on to it in wonder.

We, myself, my two girls and my mother, were in a large medical building waiting to be called for appointments.  My youngest was only about three and I was carrying her.  I was feeling kind of like a mother who has been denied custody of her children and is suddenly reunited.  I asked if she wanted to get down and run around but she said no and we hugged closer and smiled at each other.  We sat down since the wait was interminable, but we were still content.  My oldest daughter leaning against my knee and the youngest snuggled close on the chair beside me.  It was the most pleasurable situation and I remarked “this is the way it should be”.

The strangeness of the dream is that we do not have a broken home and I have never been denied custody. My children are grown and live far enough away that I do not see them often but they have moved on in very natural ways. I wanted them to grow up and have lives of their own. They have done that successfully.

It was like a little gift – to have that time back again so vividly – when arms were wrapped around my neck and a small head rested on my shoulder. I’m just sayin’ that I would like a regular subscription to that dream. 5-Reasons-Why-Pregnant-Moms-Ignore-Advice-Lift

Speaking of Rubber Bands

I was speaking (writing) of rubber bands in my last post and this thought came to mind, Rainbow Looms.  Now for those of you who are not frequently in the company of children and may not know about Rainbow Looms, let me introduce you to a new craft/toy craze that is sweeping the WORLD.  It really starts with a very simple concept of stringing rubber bands of various colors and sizes together to make bracelets, etc… but goes on to some pretty complicated stuff.  The loom itself is a small plastic apparatus with multiple upright pegs.

I first heard of it when my cousin who has a young daughter started buying rubber bands in bulk to sell in her flea market business.  Honestly, I didn’t see the draw and kind of mentally passed it by.  Later at our Thanksgiving celebration her daughter and another young guest spent quite a bit of time making bracelets.  The other girl had been doing it for a while and was making some fairly complicated patterns – these girls were into it, seriously.

But I did not know the true power of Rainbow Loom craziness until we went to Cambodia.  The Rainbow Loom “people” had donated a number of looms and bags and bags of rubber bands for us to take with us as gifts for the children in the orphan homes.  There were a few extra so one day we gave some to the university students in the girls dorm.  The next day we found out that one girl had been up till 3 a.m. making bracelets and hair bands to give away as New Year’s gifts for her friends.  There is evidently no age limitation to the fascination.

Later we took the loom project to each of the orphan homes and our experts sat down on the floor to teach and demonstrate.  Hours later the madness was still continuing… They catch on quick.  Thank you Rainbow Loom for a really fun time.

Expert Sarah giving demonstration
Expert Nikki teaching boys.
Five minutes later everyone was busy.
This is fun and we are making pretty stuff!
So maybe we don’t really need the loom after all….
Just a few of the finished items.

Having Very Little



These children have just been to Phnom Penh Central Market for their semi-annual shopping experience. They bought $5 to $10 worth of shoes, jeans, or a school bag for each of them. Most of them had never had this experience until they came to Asia’s Hope orphan homes several years ago.

In Cambodia, these are not the children who have very little. These children have a home that is clean, house parents who love them, a school to attend, food to eat and clothes to wear. They have lots of reasons to hope – including knowledge of a God who has a plan for their lives.

Today our team from the U.S. joined with university students from a Cambodian church to visit a nearby slum area and interact with the children there. These children had very little clothing, some had none, there were no parents watching over them, they themsleves were coated with filth and grime and pestilence as were their surroundings. The garbage and stench was unrelenting, everywhere. They came running for the gifts being handed out… a piece of bread, a pencil, a ball. There was not enough for them all and chaos ensued. These are the ones who have very little. If only they could be taken out, one by one, washed with clean water and fed, and then put someplace a little cleaner, safer and friendlier to find hope. I’m just sayin’, we have a real problem here, a real evil to work against.


Heading East Again.

Group photo op Prek Eng 5 family
Group photo op
Prek Eng 5 family

But to be precise, I don’t really know which way you would say Cambodia is from where I am. I could get there in almost any direction because it’s pretty much on the other side of the world. I think the plane flies north over the pole.

After hours and hours of seeing nothing because it’s dark, I usually look out on what I am guessing are the mountains of Siberia. I remember thinking how cold, rugged and barren that area looks from up in the sky (and probably from down on the ground too – I’ve heard things about Siberia).  We land in Seoul, stand in several lines, change planes and fly for another six hours to Phnom Penh.

Things really warm up there.  Suddenly I’m back in a climate much like the one I left in Florida and surrounded by excited children. The hugs and smiles just don’t stop and their helping hands take all our bags and they lead us to the transport vehicles. All 40 plus children and house parents come to get us and come again to see us off ten days later. Kindness, gentleness, patience and love, love, love… from them to us.

This December I will be taking my third trip to Cambodia.  Things change so fast over there.  This year instead of being scattered all over the city of Phnom Penh in rented housing, the children have five new homes in progress on a central campus. There was not even one building on the property last year.  The church and education center was the first to be built.  The jungle has been cleared away, gardens have been planted. Thanks to Facebook I see pictures of foundations being poured, tile being laid, landscaping taking form. And yes, they take lots of pictures of their food too.  I am eagerly anticipating this visit.

And of course, the children are growing up, The older ones are making plans for educating themselves in university and the trades.  Last year a men’s dorm for university students was started and was amazingly successful.  This year the women are also getting a dorm and some of the Asia Hope girls will be living there as they go to school. I will probably get a chance to talk with them several mornings before they head out and I’m looking forward to encouraging them and telling them how special they are.

They are truly Asia’s hope for the future. I am so blessed to have a window on the changes taking place there – and an opportunity to meet needs as they are expressed.  Last year donations from many friends helped provide needed prophylactic medications for all 15 orphan homes for two years, plus some equipment for medical examinations.  That was one FUN shopping trip! I am asking for donations again this year, if any readers are so inclined. I can guarantee that the funds are put to good use. God provides, but you are his vehicle.

Being there always inspires me, and I think it will inspire you as well. I’m just sayin’, stay in touch if you want to watch this year’s trip unfold in December.