My Leap-Year Mother

Today my mom would be 96.  Actually she’d only be celebrating her 24th birthday.  I think of my mom often. At least every Mother’s Day, and usually February 28th.

In my family, it’s not uncommon for any one of us at any given time to say something like, “Well, I’m a Smith after all”.  Honestly, we don’t always mean that in a super-positive way. We’re usually expressing a strong opinion, or showing our ability to exercise impatience, or simply just being kinda loud about something.

My dad was a really good dad.  He was a great preacher, missionary and leader among those he worked with and those who knew him well. However, he was not known for being patient, nor was he the quiet, passive type.  He was affectionately known as “Big Jim” by pastors and church members of the places he and mom visited as missionaries. I often wondered if people called him that for more than being a tall man.  If he was in the room, everyone in the room knew it. And I love him for all that and so much more. 

Today, I woke up thinking about mom.  Helen Josephine Darling.  And I wondered why we never said, “after all, I am a Darling”.  I know the last name is carried on by the father’s line. I get that. But I do see a lot of the “Darling” in my siblings as well as the stronger, more dominant, “Smith”. I’m thankful the Lord gave us both!

Mom was quieter. She was a worker. She was patient and kind. Always made room for whoever was going to show up.  She loved her kids. She was always present, always active. Her ten kids were never in the house all at the same time (thank goodness!), but there was always a full table. She kept the entire operation moving along.

We’ve all shared various memories of mom over the years, since her death at age 63. Most recall as kids coming down what seemed like a long hallway in the early morning to find mom sitting in her chair by the front window with her Bible and her Daily Bread devotional book.  I don’t remember her talking a lot about it. She just did it.

This morning I read Proverbs 29:23  “A humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Today, along with my 7 remaining siblings and a host of grands and great-grands, we honor mom.  I would like to be known as a “Darling” as much as anything.  Wouldn’t you? I miss her.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Gal 5:22–23

Twins for a week

Remembering Sandra


Today, my younger sister would have turned 57.  I’ll turn 58 in a few days. My sweet sister passed away this past year on May 29th.

It was a Sunday morning in 1962. My mother knew it was time. My eldest sister, Janet took care of things on the homefront while mom and dad made their way to the hospital. It would not be until the evening when 15 year old Janet would get a call saying that she had a new baby sister but not to get too excited because she may not make it home.

Sandra was born with a hole in her heart. The doctors in 1962 were not too optimistic.  Thankfully, Sandra Kay did come home.

Like all of her siblings, she grew up knowing the love of godly parents and a home that made a priority of knowing Christ and being faithful to His work, in missions, in the local church, in all of life.

Sandra loved life. She laughed easily.


She loved Jesus and the church and being a part of whatever was going on. Sandra mostly loved to sing. She loved hymns and choirs and any chance to participate in singing.  After her funeral, the family gathered and sang a few hymns around the piano. While we struggled to remember all the words it didn’t escape any of us that it was Sandra we missed. She new all the words. Of all the verses.


I miss my sister. I know God’s ways are greater than ours. Instead of wondering why she died so young, I choose to praise Him that she came home from that hospital and lived an amazing life that impacted hundreds of people through her love of teaching and singing and brightening up every room she ever walked entered!

Sandra’s favorite dessert was cookies. So today I enjoyed a cookie. Okay, maybe two.  Sandra would have it that way.

AZ1.27 a new ministry opportunity for all of Grace Community Church!

I often say whether in a sermon or a prayer, “let us be the hands and feet of Jesus here in Flagstaff”!  I love that.  I know many of you are loving and serving Christ throughout your place of work, your classes and your neighborhoods.  Here is another opportunity for us to do something together.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  James 1:27

Arizona 1.27 is a state-wide movement of churches working together to see every child in foster care placed in a loving home.

Grace Community is partnering with AZ1.27 to learn all the ways we can help kids and families.  On Monday night, April 29 we will be hosting an AZ1.27 Orientation. This orientation will help those that have interest and questions about fostering and/or adoptions here in Arizona.  But, just as important are all the ways the rest of us can lend a hand.  Together we’ll learn ways the local church can help kids and families.  I can’t wait for you to join me on April 29.

Grace Community Ministry Center 6pm-8:30pm

Go here for more information.

Go here to register.  Registration is not mandatory, but it really does help!  Thanks.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day isn’t about the perfect mom. It’s not about Proverbs 31. It’s not a day to compare. It’s not a day to idolize.

Mother’s Day is a day to say ‘thanks’.

I have a wonderful mother-in-law that lives right next door, and for that I’m grateful. I’m thankful for her and her love for her kids and grandkids and even the in-laws!

I have a mother who is with Jesus and has been there longer than I knew her here. I miss her. But I’m so very thankful for her.  I know she’s in heaven and I can’t wait to see her again.

So, with that, I say to all the moms, “Happy Mother’s Day”. And here’s a little bonus from when we all lived in black and white, 9 of the 10:IMG_2203

25 Years Ago



There are not enough words to express my gratitude to the Father for allowing me to be be born into this family.  Mom and Dad served the Lord as missionaries in Mexico for many years. And they raised 10 kids.

My mother would be so proud of her kids, grandkids and great grandkids.

I still can’t believe my wife never knew my mom.  Someday. For now though, we remember and we give thanks.

Father’s Day

I know, I know, Father’s Day has come and gone. In Sunday’s sermon, I talked about the significance of dads that have been touched by God.

Here’s where my thought came from:

I was reading last week in 1 Kings. You remember how you keep seeing this pattern of how the next king in the line did what his father did, whether good or evil?  For instance, “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.”  That is 15:26, but really there’s a whole slew of verses just like that. Point is, the sin of the father was easy to pass on to the next king, and guess what the consequence was?

Perhaps you’ve read or heard me say before how blessed I am by who my father was.  You see both my dad and my wife’s father were not raised in homes where they were taught the things of the Lord.  And actually it was a pretty dismal outlook when you consider the other details that I wont go into here. Looking on from the outside, you might assume that neither of them had a chance or would ever amount to much.


Then God touched them.  Without a dad, or anyone in the home to point the way, my dad was 12 when he trusted in Jesus for his salvation. Laurie’s dad was 15.  And guess what? Everything changed. Each would go on to marry amazing Christian women who were raised in wonderful, God honoring homes. Each would raise a large family of Christ followers. And each became missionaries.  I’ve never tried to do the math of the influence, I’ll let God keep that record, but I must believe it’s amazing.

You see dads, it matters. Yesterday at Grace as we were honoring our dads, we were also getting a quick report from our youth who just returned, (like seriously 6 hours earlier) from a week at Hume Lake, where 11 students trusted Jesus for their salvation.  Imagine the young person whose life changed this very week, and imagine the next generation who just may be impacted by each of those individuals.  Is there a Jim Smith in that group, a Larry Cardoza?  Maybe. Probably. How about most definitely?

Winter Vacation

Not sure I’ve done this before, but I’m writing from my iPad to see if I can blog my way through some vacation highlights. We’re in Long Beach anticipating our week on a big boat with a few hundred people, ok, probably a few thousand. Looking forward to some extended time with Laurie, some good food and great sights. It’ll be great to spend the week with the Johnson family as they break us into this lifestyle of life on the sea.

Yesterday was an amazing day @Grace. I devoted some extended time to cast the vision for our church family for this new year. It was a great way to start 2012! I’m pretty sure the recorded sermon and brief notes are available on our website

This may be the last post for the week, or I may find time to stay updated. Either way, Happy New Year and have a great first week!


Laurie had just completed her last treatment for breast cancer.  That was on Thursday. Our rejoicing was cut short, by making immediate plans to go to South Carolina to be with Mandy and her kids.  We didn’t expect Zac to be alive by the time we arrived.  As memory serves, it seems that from about Wednesday on, he was ready to go and seemed to be on his way to see Jesus.

We arrived Saturday night . . . me; my wife, Laurie; my sister, Barbara; and Zac’s sister, Stacey.  I remember arriving late and needing food.  I’d say it’s a Smith-thing, but really, we all gotta eat. The only thing, or at least the first thing we found, was a Waffle House. This would be a new experience.

Sunday morning, Stacey left our hotel and went right over to the house to say good-bye to her brother.  It wasn’t long after that we were invited to stop by as well.  I remember the mixed emotions of going to say goodbye to a young man that I loved dearly, my nephew, and a real good friend.  After a time, and some prayer, the family made their way to church while I stayed back with Mandy in case she needed any help.

After church, my brother, Jim, took the whole gang out to find some lunch while Mandy and Sharon remained close by.  After lunch as we were driving back, the cell phone rang.

Being there to say good-bye to Zac was a special moment.  Knowing Zac was much more rewarding.  I, along with those that knew him, had no doubts as to his faith in Jesus.  As sure as I’m sitting here right at this moment, I knew what happened to Zac one year ago on that Sunday afternoon.  Everyone that knew him loved him and would miss him greatly. And we still do.

In God’s sovereign care of Zac and Mandy, He moved them to Anderson, South Carolina where Mandy remains today and where Zac was given an amazing platform to share his story and where we all watched as God would use a couple of videos to tell countless numbers of his confidence in God’s goodness and His glory.

Tomorrow, is the one year anniversary of the day Zac went to be with Jesus.  It was the 16th, which this year falls on Monday.  Just a couple of nights ago, Laurie and I were reminded that she has been cancer-free for a year.

We remember and we rejoice. We rejoice in God’s grace, His kindness, His plans, His mercy, the life He gives us, the days that He has already numbered for each of us. We rejoice that He’s God and He’s got this.  He’s got us.

This weekend I’ll think of Zac a lot more. And I’ll think of his sweet wife and three pretty cool kids.  I’ll pray for them and for his mom and dad and his sister. And I’ll think of Zac’s message that is just as true a year later: God is still God, and God is still good. To God be the glory.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11


We called her Mother. Not mom. I don’t know why, nor do I know if it matters. It wasn’t about the title.

Mother was amazing.  She wasn’t perfect, she was a mom. I’ll bet $100 she never read a parenting book.  When would she have time?  A Parenting magazine, would have been too expensive.  It wasn’t about the technique.

She loving stayed by her husbands side until they were parted by death.  Her death.  She graciously brought up 10 children.  I wonder how many times she thought, “Never in my wildest dreams” or “did I leave anyone behind?”  I don’t remember what we ate. Isn’t that odd?. I love food.  I remember a few basic meals, like tamale pie, tacos on Saturday nights and waffles or pancakes on Sunday morning. Seems like we had a lot of hot cereal in the mornings.  It wasn’t about the food, or the amount of food!

My clearest memory of my mother from my childhood was me walking down what seemed like a really long hallway (which of course it’s not!) and seeing mother in those early hours of the morning sitting in a rocking chair by the front window reading from her Bible and her Daily Bread.  You see, what it was about was the relationship. Her relationship with Jesus is what made her mother. Not the bazillion kids, or the countless meals or all the laundry that could dwarf a mountain range.  It was WHO she was, not what she did or who she did it for. She was a real person. A human, numbered among the billions during her too-short a lifetime.  But she was God’s child, she was fully aware of who Jesus was and what He did for her. And she trained up her children to know Him and take Him seriously.  And so we do. That’s what it’s all about.