Monday, October 31, 2011


In my totally biased opinion, Jackson was the cutest kid at the church's Fall Festival this year.  What do you think???

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Woman of Faith

One of the sermons that Pastor Maria preached at the Prayer Conference still has me thinking.  It touched on one of the great ironies of my life and the baggage that I carry around.

[I am telling this story with complete humility . . .]

Faith.  It's one of my spiritual gifts.  After the last service of the conference two complete strangers came up to me (at separate times) to tell me what a great "woman of faith" I am.  They could just "see it in my face."  I just "radiate" with love for the Lord.  And I have had many comments left on this blog during trying times about how "strong" I am, how in awe people are of me and how I handle it all.  So after the other night and those two ladies, I got in the van and just cried.  Seriously?  If people only knew the REAL me!  The REAL me struggles daily to keep my path straight.  To remember to lean on Him and not myself.  To keep my anger in check.  To reign in my jealousy.  To not totally drown in sadness!!!

I have lived a truly special life.  I have always felt unique and "chosen" in a way.  But along with that feeling comes extreme self-doubt when I fall by the wayside.  It's so amazing how I can feel so confident in some ways and then turn around and feel so cowardly on the inside.  Just shows you how the devil works on your deepest insecurities!  He can pick out the smallest thing, bring it to my attention, and then BAM!,  I've blown it into a full-fledged attack of complete despair.  But even in my despair, the one thing I'm sure of is My God.  Totally, completely, utterly unsure of myself--but totally reliant on Him.  And maybe that's what saves me every time.  When I'm in the pit, I always choose to look back up.  To look back up full into my Father's face and remember that He does indeed love me as far as the east is to the west!  He loves me despite my weakness, loves me despite my shortcomings.  He wants me to forget all that extra baggage, and MOVE ON.  Move on FULL IN HIS GRACE AND MERCY!  

Maybe it is this continual choice to get back up and dust the devil's dirt off of me that makes me a "woman of faith."  He has never forsaken me, so I will continue to shout and sing his praises, letting his light shine bright enough to carry me through still another day.  

These are the things I go over and over, 
emptying out the pockets of my life.
    I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd, right out in front,
    Leading them all, eager to arrive and worship, 
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
celebrating, all of us, God's feast! 

                                               Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He's my God. 

                            When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night!
My life is God's prayer. 

                                               Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
"Why did you let me down? Why am I walking around in tears,
 harassed by enemies?" 
They're out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day, 
"Where is this God of yours?" 

                                              Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.  
He's my God.
(Psalm 42:4-11 The Message)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Abbreviated Recap

Exhausted!  That is the only word for describing me at this moment.  Last Tuesday, we set out for Fort Worth to attend the Crossroads Tabernacle Prayer Conference.  And after basically a 72 hour prayer and worship marathon, we drove home this weekend to another spirit-filled service at our home church.  It was such a blessing to have been led by Corey Jones and Michael and Maria Durso.   Maria is probably the most dynamic speaker I have ever heard.  The Holy Spirit is all over her messages--almost free flowing out of her.  Not to mention that her and her husband are probably the two most knowledgable people on the scriptures that I've ever met.  All three pastors gave more incredible insight on the importance of prayer this year--I'm completely sold out to to this view of being in continual conversation with God.  I'm just praying my fleshly tendencies will be able to keep up with the deal . . . and while it may take me all week to recover from the crazy schedule we kept, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything!

Monday, October 17, 2011

40/52 Vintage

So behind on posting these . . .
Fence Row

Pretty much everything out at Ms. Toby's qualifies as "vintage!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthing a Business

Do you remember when Jackson was born and I had no time to blog?  Well, it seems the blog has moved to the bottom of the list of things to do once again.  Although I haven't given birth to a live baby, I'm still busy--this time it is a business that is up and coming, and constantly evolving.  Lately I've been scheduling sessions, proofing photos, and taking an online class.  My free time has been eaten up, but I'm loving every minute of the creative process.  One of my big decisions has been to officially "do business as" Photography by Ashley Smith.  I still identify with the brand of "I Never Imagined," but I decided it was time to put my big girl panties on and just go all in . . . 
And to think this is only the beginning . . . exciting things (and beautiful images) still to come!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Taking the Good With the Bad

Yesterday was a strange day.  Nothing crazy happened, but I felt like my emotions were being pulled from one extreme to the other.  When I picked up Clayton from physical therapy, I could tell his therapist had something on her mind as she followed us to the car.  As we began to talk, my tears started to form behind my sunglasses.  (And of course, Clayton started reacting in his always-tuned-in-to-mom's-every-emotion way).  Reesha has told me on more than one occasion that Clayton has them stumped.  "He's a hard case," she once said.  Uh-huh.  Exceptionally hard!  

She reported that lately his hamstrings are so extremely tight that Clayton is near tears during some of his exercises in P.T.  This means something.  Clayton's pain tolerance is such that he has always been able to hang tough with all of his P.T. exercises.  From a P.T. standpoint, they are doing everything they know to do to help Clayton's spasticity.  From a medical standpoint, doctors are offering no other viable options (read:  ones that we will agree to).  Any option we've been given up to this point would negatively affect his trunk, which even on good days, he has trouble controlling enough to sit up.  Meanwhile, his legs are getting harder to "straighten" (he can't actually straighten them out anymore), and he has a partial hip subluxation on his left side.  He hasn't made real progress in P.T. in a couple of years, which means The Powers That Be will want to cut it off if that happens for a couple of more years.  It is so scary to think that he has made as much progress as he is going to make . . .

I think one of the reasons I get so weepy is that once again, we are having to adjust our expectations.  And even though he is eight years old, for the past few years, we have found ourselves discussing more and more his deteriorating level of function.  Can you imagine hitting the height of your physical functionality at about 5 years old?  I can't even type how angry that makes me feel for my son!!!!  We used to talk about the few things he COULD do physically, and even on that short list, some of those things are already being marked off.  Breaks my heart!!!


I had a long drive to the doctor for Clayton's G.I. appointment to digest all of this information.  I cried my silent tears on Clayton's behalf while he sang and talked in the backseat, ignoring my sad mood.  (Thankfully!)  We went into the doctor's office with no real expectations--just there for a check up, when really she hasn't done much for Clayton in the last couple of years.  When we finally saw her, I knew she was going to cut the cord once and for all.  She declared that after eight long years, her work with Clayton was finally done!  So after beginning with a tiny and very sick preemie, sending him on the road of rapid weight gain, and then finally weight loss, she was instrumental in helping Clayton arrive at a healthy and very average weight for an eight year old boy.  Average numbers sound like A+'s when you are the parent of a severely disabled child!  

Our relationship with Dr. G.I. has been a close one--we used to see her quite often and our visits have always ended with hugs.  Such a milestone to have Clayton declared a "graduate," but I was sad to say goodbye to this lady who had guided my every move on feeding my tiny baby.  I was so overwhelmed with all of his feeding issues when she entered our lives.  She was a calm, reassuring and very authoritative voice--a voice I trusted from our first visit with her.  But she is right.  Her job is long done, and Clayton has more fun things to look forward to than G.I. checkups!  His "gut" is still sensitive and his bowel is still both weak and strong (depending on the day and his spasticity), but all of these are essentially non-issues these days--issues we have learned to work around in our day to day lives.  So after all of these years, his G.I. graduation is definitely a praise-worthy event!


So there it is.  The recurring theme of our lives.  Taking the good with the bad.  Continual blessings despite heartaches over a regular sense of loss.  Many of those blessings have come in the form of outright supernatural miracles performed on Clayton's behalf.  And guess what?  It will take another one of those miracles to help Clayton's legs.  A miracle straight from Heaven.  

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Stepping Things Up

For several months, Christina focused on simply riding the horse with Clayton.  Getting him used to the horse, stretching his legs, forcing him to use his abdominal muscles, etc.  It was slow going, but definitely needed in order to get Clayton totally adjusted to the saddle.  
But in these last few weeks, she's started to push him.  Pushing his balance, pushing his abs, and pushing his comfort zone.  It's been interesting to watch the transition!  And while any stranger passing by wouldn't think there was anything to these exercises, as his mother, I think it's pretty exciting!
So many complex things happening with his body in an entirely different environment.  An environment that he can actually continue to excel in--how cool would it be if he could become proficient enough in balance and coordination to let the horse be his legs in different settings?!  Gives me goosebumps to think about the possibilities . . . 

I don't think he gets that these skills could open doors for him.  All he knows is at the end of his lesson, if he's done well, he gets a ride with Ms. Toby on the four wheeler.
If that's what gets him motivated, then ride, baby, ride!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hide and Go Seek

Jackson is all about hiding and finding--has been since he was mobile.  And the reasons he's so good at it is because he is incredibly patient and not scared of the dark!  He'll hide in any nook and cranny and wait quietly until you indeed find him out.
 It is interesting though, how sometimes he thinks he is hidden, but isn't really.  :)
Know why he was hiding on this day?  I had my camera out!  My camera immediately puts my kids on strike and sends Jackson on a journey to find a hide out . . . I still managed to get his cute smile as I made eye contact with him.  He always greets me with an "I FOUND YOU, MOMMA!" 
Yes you did, sweet boy.  :)

Monday, October 03, 2011

39/52 Man vs. Nature

And this most recent week's theme was easy for me:
Reigning the River

The lock and dam near my house.  Perfect example of man's attempt to tame nature.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

38/52 The Eyes Have It

Yikes!  I'm behind!  I've been taking photos, but I've been seriously lacking at getting them processed and posted . . . here is my photo of the week for last week, when the theme was all about the eyes:

Jackson loves to hide, but sometimes his curiosity gets the better of him and he comes out of hiding to see what's going on without him.