MC & HNY

Here’s the web-version of our Christmas Letter we sent out to our family.  After reading a few this season, we realized what a year this has been and it only seemed appropriate to share how God has led and blessed us this past year.

In January, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully God allowed the doctors to find it early and she began immediate treatments after her February surgery. We were both very thankful her mom was able to come and help out the week of her surgery.  Her radiation treatments started in March.  Her last treatment was May 13th. She is cancer-free but will continue with regular follow up visits.

Just two days after Laurie’s last treatment we made the trip to say goodbye to my nephew Zac. We saw him briefly on Sunday morning, and that afternoon he was able to see Jesus face to face.  It was an added blessing to see several family members for his amazing memorial service at NewSpring Church. I miss him on a regular basis.  You can watch a part of his story here.

A huge highlight from our summer was a few days in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  It was our first time there and Laurie had it planned out very well where we simply enjoyed down time in a beautiful setting. At the end of our week, we did a quick drive through Yosemite and came out the western side so we could have an afternoon visit with Laurie’s Grandma Clarice.  We were both so glad we made that trip. Grandma died just a few months later.  Laurie was able to join her mom in Three Rivers for a brief visit for Grandma’s memorial service. An added blessing was reacquainting with family.

In October I learned the reason for some unexpected weight loss was a condition called Graves Disease, a form of hyperthyroidism. Though the name sounds morbid, it appears this is not terribly uncommon and it is very treatable.  My good doctor has me on a medication with regular blood work to monitor the progression. So far so good.

Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to see several family members in Mesa, as Stacey hosted the main event.  We had a great Christmas Eve service with our largest crowd ever.  We were blessed to share the holiday with two of my sisters from Tucson, Janet and Sandra.

As we’ve exchanged gifts and shared precious family time together, we clearly think of our gift to God first and foremost.  What is it?  To give to God the praise and thanks He is due. We are so blessed.  And above all, we give Him thanks for Jesus, His Son. “For unto us is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Mark and Laurie Smith

Not Just One Day – Thoughts on GivingThanks

Laurie and I enjoy getting out and hiking.  By the term hike, what I really mean is a nice walk in the forest. We save the strenuous stuff for prepping for a Grand Canyon hike or pushing ourselves a little up the Lost Burrito trail.  But mostly, it’s getting out and enjoying the forest and watching our dogs run like they were bred to do.

Because we don’t get out enough, almost every time we do, one of us will say, “we really should do this more often”.  We don’t say that because we feel guilty about our health. We don’t say it because someone is telling us we should. We certainly don’t say it because someone said that to be a good resident of Flagstaff, you have to hike, eat granola and vote liberal.  No, we say it because we thoroughly enjoy it. There are several things good about getting out and hiking. I won’t list them out, because that’s really not the point.

Here’s the all too obvious point; giving thanks for God’s activity in our life is not limited to Thanksgiving.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1

Certainly throughout Israel’s year, there were days set aside for remembrance and worship.  So, we too get to worship each week on the first day. And we get to tell of His goodness and grace 24/7. Let’s give thanks today. And then again tomorrow, and the next day.  And not because we have to. We get to enjoy all of His blessings!

If you’re reading this, then you probably know me a little and I need to at least attempt a brief list of His wonderful deeds in my life:

  • Life eternal with God
  • My Laurie is cancer free and I love her more each day
  • That God allows me to serve Him by serving the wonderful family at Grace Community
  • Family and friends to share life with, sometimes randomly
  • That my house has been full the past few days with family
  • We get to eat. Every day.
  • That someone had the odd idea of a pie made of meat that is minced. That it sounds gross and few like it.  And for pumpkin pie as a chaser.
  • Good doctors who have helped us both this year
  • Grace that has saved me and kept me and allowed me to share that with people who God created to know Him.

October, rough month for blogging

Not sure how that happened, but I just noticed I wrote one time all of last month. I won’t try to catch up now, not all at once.
This Sunday at Grace we’re baptizing some amazing people who will share their story via video. I just LOVE our baptisms! People standing for Jesus!

We’re also at week three in our study in Ephesians. If you can, read the rest of Chapter one in prep for Sunday.

On a personal note:
Laurie’s grandma passed away last week in Three Rivers, CA. This past summer, we were able to stop in one afternoon for a sweet visit with this godly woman. I’m glad Laurie was able to go for the memorial service yesterday and spend some time with her mom and other relatives. She’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, for which I’m most anxious.

Why Grace @ Noon?

Last Sunday I visited 3 different churches in Albuquerque as I began my study break week.  I’m kind of a freak like that, I guess.  I love the church. I love how God is using the church today. I have a lot to say about my observations, so I hope to in future blogs.

But for now, just one quick observation from last week that will help answer the above question.

Each church was unique in how it welcomed me at the door. By far, my favorite was the church that greeted me with an older gentleman saying, “Welcome, make yourself at home”.  That was it. Simple and to the point. I won’t comment here on what they could have done better once I got inside, but I will say I loved that as an opening line.  You see, that’s what a church is. It’s a home. A home for family.

A couple of times each year, maybe more, we have what we call Grace@Noon.  Essentially we have a meal after the church service to encourage people to stick around and get to know a few more people.  It does involve a lot of food. We have an amazing crew of people working to provide a meal for around 500 people!  But it’s really not about the food.  It does use the entire Commons area at Sinagua.  Children’s Church adjusts a bit as we set up and prepare to use every possible corner in the Commons. But it’s really not about how many people fit into a room.

It’s all about extending what Grace is about to a wider circle of people.

Most everyone who attends Grace does so with the same group of people.  Call it a family, call it roommates, or ministry peers, we all have our circle.  Many even sit in the same part of the auditorium each week, again, surrounded by the same people that like that particular vantage point.  Nothing wrong with that… until.  Until you meet someone who goes to the same church as you but sits on the other side, or works most weeks in a certain ministry, and you don’t even know you’re in the same church. Or until you meet someone who ‘used’ to attend Grace but never connected with the people, the family of Grace.

As Grace grows and we see more people coming to our church services, we will have to work harder at welcoming others and making sure people feel ‘at home’.

So yes, that’s the biggie behind Grace@Noon.  Get to know just a couple of more people. Widen your circle just a bit. Guess what? If we all do that, the church remains friendly, welcoming, and best of all; family.

Thanks to everyone who serves at Grace in any way shape or form. Thanks for the team putting together our meal time so we can enjoy some extended ‘family time’.

Guest Blog From Jim Smith

James SmithToday is Zac’s birthday, His dad, my brother, is my guest blogger today:

Exactly 34 years ago today, on Friday, September 10, 1976, at 1 p.m., Zachary James Smith arrived in Denver, Colorado. He was in a hurry to get here. He was born two months early and weighed in at 4 lbs., 3 oz. Before he lived very long, his weight dipped below 4 lbs. Kind of a scrawny little guy, he was taken by ambulance from the hospital where he was born to the Children’s Hospital in Denver where he lived for many days in NICU. His heart and lungs were not fully developed. He had no sucking reflex. He was weighed every night at midnight. We would stay up and wait until 12:05 so we could call the nurses and see if had gained any weight.

His beginning was somewhat frightening to his dear mother. I think I was scared, too. But my memory works differently than hers and what I remember most was the overwhelming weight of responsibility. I had married an amazingly beautiful wife at a young age and now, all of a sudden,  I was a father. We went from two rather small salaries to the smaller of the two.

The 30 days in the hospital finally came to an end and young Zachary came home to our little house on Kansas Drive. By now, he was in a hurry again. He was quick to develop and catch up with the growth charts and the statistics. We could tell from very early on that his mind was advanced. He had inherited some stubbornness and some IQ from his grandfathers. That turned out to be a really good thing.

That first Christmas, he wore a newborn Santa outfit and we bought a long-play record of John Denver’s Christmas songs. Among them was A Baby Just Like You. This was a song Mr. Denver sang to his son, Zachary. Merry Christmas, little Zachary.  That turned out to be a long-standing tradition.

Zac learned to read, listening to his mother read to him incessantly. He knew his letters and was putting together words when he was 2 years old. He loved to read. Before he was two years old, his little sister arrived to complete the family. He knew from the very beginning his role as a big brother. (Further chapters to follow…)

He was in a hurry to exit, as well; wasn’t he? He has left his parents and sister and wife a heartful of memories. He has left his amazing children an incredible legacy. Join me in thanking God today for Zac’s life.

And a time to mourn

This Saturday, April 24th at 11:30 a.m. our church family will gather around Tom and Jenn Cutlip and their kids for a memorial service for their baby Noah.  Read here for Jenn’s blog.  We will meet at the Ministry Center and a light lunch will be provided following the service.  Let’s pray for the Cutlip family and show our love and support by coming alongside them on Saturday.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.  Ps 139:16

Thanksgiving and Family

Laurie and I are enjoying a few days here in Oregon with her mom.  Today, we’ll drive over to the coast and meet up with more family for the feast day tomorrow.

This Thanksgiving I’m very aware and grateful for my family.  I spent a few days in South Carolina early this fall with my nephew Zac and his great family.  I’m blessed with great family all around.  I have a great mother-in-law.  She’s easy to be around and is very grateful for the little effort I can put in to do a little clean up here and there.  Laurie comes from good people.

I’m also thankful for my side of the family tree.  I have lots of them to be thankful for. We don’t get to be together very often. But when we do, it is a highlight.  I could spend Thanksgiving with any of my family members and be a happy camper.

I’m reminded of how this all came about.  You see, my dad, and Laurie’s dad, came from what we would today call a broken, somewhat dysfunctional home. Had they carried on what they grew up with, I can’t imagine where I’d be today.  But, the Lord graciously saved them.  They single-handedly changed the world for a whole slew of us kids.  15 kids grew up in 2 Christian, God-honoring homes.

I don’t dwell on that very often, but when I think of it, I’m blown away.  Two young men came to Jesus.  Maybe later I’ll write more about that. Today…I’m just thankful.

TUESDAY Night Call to Prayer

Grace is gathering at the Ministry Center this coming Tuesday August 11 @6:30 for an evening of prayer for our church, our community, the ministry of Christ and the needs of one another.

NOTE: changed from Monday to Tuesday due to scheduling conflict. So, mark it down, plan on TUESDAY night! All are welcome, bring the family, all the kids, any and all that would like to take some time to pray with us.

Great California Adventure

During our long weekend away, we’ve had a great time in California. Thanks to a very sweet new friend, Helen, we were able to enjoy Disneyland on Friday with my sister’s family. They have what’s called a park hopper where you can go back and forth from Disneyland to California Adventure. Perhaps it will take a forthcoming post to review our time at Disneyland.

We also had something of a church hopper pass where we visited 3 different churches during our brief stay. Each church is doing an amazing job for their community. There were some similarities with the churches we went to, and some definite differences. Yet, I walked away from each thankful to God for what they are doing for the coming Kingdom. These people love Jesus, have a commitment to God’s amazing Word, and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading within their church and community.

As much as I miss being at home with my family at Grace, it was a great experience worshipping alongside other churches while on our brief vacation. There are things I learn, ideas I pick up, and ways I see God working beyond my own familiarity. Isn’t God good? Thank you Lord for the ways you use your people to honor You!

And now for that drive from the ocean, across the desert to our mountain home.