Author Archives: Traci Smith

Mentor Monday: Love Your Kids for Who They Are (not what they do), Lynn Smith, Supermom

How fun and exciting to think about having my mom as the second mentor on Mentor Monday. Nobody’s mom is perfect, but mine is pretty darn awesome. She inspired many of the activities in my book, she is hilarious and creative, and she’s always there for us. I knew I wanted to feature her on Mentor Monday, but I couldn’t decide which of her many life lessons to include. As I thought about it, though, I kept coming back to one of her most constant refrains: “Remember, I love you for who you are, not for what you do.” What a lovely thing to have ringing in your ear as a child.

 I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my favorite Bible verses mirrors this language almost exactly. Titus chapter 3, verses 4 and 5 “When the kindness and love of God our Savior came, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Growing up I was a fairly success oriented kid. I liked school so much that I cried when I couldn’t go, I wanted to be in the science club and the environmental club and the band and the writing competition. I liked to achieve things. My parents were very supportive of all these endeavors. They proudly displayed awards and sat through band concerts, they took pictures and hung them on the fridge. They were encouraging, but they were very clear that the things I achieved didn’t earn me their love. In fact, my mom regularly said “Remember, Traci, I love you because of who you are, not what you do.” She wrote it down and put it in envelopes and cards, and she whispered it in my ear all throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I don’t know if it meant a lot to me as a child, but I remember it now, all the time.

Of course we want success for our children, but more than this, we want them to be at peace with themselves, confident that they are loved by God and loved by the adults in their lives. Take a page out of my mom’s playbook: tell your children you love them for no other reason than that they are yours.

mamaAbout my mom: My mom, Lynn Smith, is amazing. She’s funny and silly and she takes lots of pictures. She’s a master at connecting with her grandkids through Skype, hates to sew with a sewing machine, and loves her children unconditionally. Thanks mom!

photo credit: Sarah Clapp

 

 

 

It’s Here! It’s Here! 2016 Family Practices Calendar!

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Back for 2016, the wildly popular Lenten Practices Family Calendar! Families loved this calendar last year, and this year it’s available for $1.00 for personal use. See other listings for church use.

The activities on the calendar are based around the “3 Pillars” of Lent. Prayer [P], Fasting [F] and Almsgiving/Service [S]. The pillars are rotated throughout lent with simple activities. On the prayer days, use the word provided to inspire a prayer you write, draw, or sing. All of the activities are suggestions. Modify them for your own family. © Traci Smith, 2016. All rights reserved.

There are some notable changes with the calendar this year.

1. Based on feedback from last year, there are no fasting activities on Sunday, in accordance with Roman Catholic Tradition. (Note: severe restriction of food is *not* the type of fasting recommended in these activities, they are much milder, such as refraining from sweets for a day, or similar.)

2. This calendar includes a coupon code for FREE SHIPPING for my book, Seamless Faith, from Chalice Press.

Please see last year’s calendar for an example of the kinds of activities included. This calendar is very similar, has some duplications from last year, but also has plenty of new material to keep it fresh and interesting.

Get it here

Valentines Traditions & Little Love Letters from God!

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It’s impossible to think that Valentine’s Day is coming up in a couple of weeks. I seriously need to get my Christmas Tree down #notkidding. Annnyyyyway, even though it’s coming up alarmingly fast, Valentine’s Day is a great day for kids and traditions. Last year I made up this fun list of 50 things to do with families on Valentine’s Day. Feel free to print it out, post it on your Facebook wall and send it around. Which one might you do this year?

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This year, I’d like to add another Valentine’s Day tradition: Write a Love Letter to God. Sit down and think of all of the reasons your family loves God: God is gracious and slow to anger, God is merciful, God is our friend… The love letter could be quite simple and a sweet way to connect a secular holiday to a faith practice. To make the practice even more magical, after your child wrote the love letters to God, you could say “Guess what? Now we’re going to read some love letters from God” and you could present your children with the book Love Letters from God! I think it would be memorable and fun. You could even make it a yearly tradition and stash the book away as the Valentine’s Day book.

 As I mentioned when I interviewed the author, Glenys Nellist awhile back, it’s a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations littlelovelettrsand the thrilling ability to read a love letter to your child with each story. One of the things I asked Glenys about in that Q&A was whether or not a board book would ever be available and… huzzah! It is now! It’s called Little Love Letters from God, and it’s a mini version of the original. I don’t like it more than the original, but I definitely like it just as much.  Predictably, when we read it through the first time, all Samuel wanted to do was open all of the letters and read them. And you know what? It’s not a bad thing for a child to hear over and over and over again. Dear Samuel, I love you. I love you. I love you. There’s even a place to write the child’s name in the book if you like. Each story comes up with  different attributes for God and a different reason that God loves the child. It’s absolutely the message that we tell our children every single day. God loves you.

So… tell your children that you love them, but also tell them that God loves them.

Here’s the fun part… Zonderkidz is giving away a copy of Little Love Letters to a reader of this blog! Yay! All you have to do is type a comment on this post saying who you would read the book to (or give it to) and you’ll be entered! I’ll use random.org to pick a winner and announce it on January 28!  (Note: Zonderkidz requires that entrants have a street address — no PO Boxes, please. This giveaway is also only open to US addresses.)

Note: Please submit your comment only once, comments need to be approved, so they may take up to 24 hours to show up. 

 

UPDATE: Congrats to Dena who was the winner!! 

 

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Coming Soon: Lenten Family Practices 2016

Friends, we’re already getting lots of inquiries about the Lenten Family Practices Calendar for 2016! The 2015 version was a huge success and I’m excited to put out another version that will be just as exciting and meaningful.

This year the lenten family practices calendar will cost just $1.00 for a personal download and $35.00 for a church license that can be reproduced up to 100 times. This helps keep this blog running and compensates for the extra time I put in to these special projects.

The calendar will launch on February 1, 2016.  Watch this space, the Facebook page, or sign up for the email list for all of the advance scoop! 

Can’t wait!

Mentor Monday: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Tracy Germer, Arbonne Area Manager

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I’m super excited to start a new blog series called Mentor Monday where I share wise advice from friends who have mentored me in one way or another. It seems to me that life is made up of small pieces of good advice that end up being life changing. The best advice I’ve gotten about life or work or parenting has often been the simplest. The goal of this series is to pass along little stories like this and to highlight the advisors themselves. My hope is that the simple advice that I’ve received will be helpful to you and that you’ll get to meet some incredible people along the way. No promises that I’ll post every Monday, but when I post, I’ll post on Monday. Because who couldn’t use good advice on a Monday?

The first piece of advice comes from my friend, businesswoman, and detox-guru Tracy Germer. It’s the most common sense advice we never follow: eat more fruits and vegetables. Awhile back Tracy posted this funny meme:

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And then, a few days later we had the following text conversation (paraphrased, per my memory.)

Me: Ugh. I’m overwhelmed, and busy and kinda sad and still in my bed.

Tracy: You need a salad for lunch.

Me: What? I have no time for salads. No to the salad. Plus, that’s not what I need.

Tracy: I’m bringing you a salad. Dropping it off. Salad drive-by.

And know what? She did. It was a homemade salad with fruits and vegetables along with some Yerba Maté  tea (which is for another post) Guess what happened? I felt better that day. I felt better, in part, because a friend cared enough to drive across town and deliver me a salad, randomly. (I mean… who does that?!) but I also felt better because instead of my usual scrounging around the church for leftover cookies or fast food drive-through, I had a real lunch. The Tracy G salad drive-by changed my lunch routine. I eat salad now for lunch, most days. Every day I have more veggies. I don’t have some fancy new year’s resolution to lose 50 pounds or follow x,y,z, diet. I do have a plan to eat more fruits and vegetables. Why? Because it’s the most common darn sense advice in the universe.

It’s so basic, in fact, I feel like it’s hardly worth mentioning, much less starting a blog series with it. Here’s the thing though: It is worth mentioning, because nobody ever does it.  The CDC recently found that only about 13% of us eat enough fruits and vegetables. Fancy diet advice? You don’t need it, just… Eat a salad for crying out loud. Tracy’s begging you.

tracyAbout Tracy (the very first mentor featured on Mentor Mondays!) In addition to being the only person I know who will bring you a drive-by salad because you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed, Tracy is an area manager for Arbonne. I love Arbonne products. My favorites are this body scrub that smells like sunshine in a jar, the sleep well spray, and (recently) these energy fizz sticks. (Note: I received no compensation from Arbonne or Tracy for this shout out. Well, other than that salad, of course.) Check out the Arbonne, and buy it from Tracy.

 

 

 

 

Ask, Bless, Sparkle, Memory, Give, Receive, Love, and (Letting G0)

At about day 18 I stopped writing my daily reflections as I challenged myself to do. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would come back and write them later and post them, or if I would let it go. A lot of things started going on: getting ready for Christmas Eve service, caroling the neighborhood, our church potluck and music… a woman who was visiting our congregation was put on hospice care (she died on Christmas Day, her service was yesterday). At first I felt guilty for not writing every day as I had planned, I sat down on Day 19 to write about ask and I realized that what I really wanted to ask myself was this: Is it ok to just let this challenge go? I often struggle to finish what I started, and so there was a part of me that wanted to press on with sheer stubbornness just to finish, just because. But I realized that the writing was a spiritual challenge, meant to provide discipline, yes, but also to provide rest and comfort, and it was causing more stress, another thing to “do.” So I axed it. It was the right decision. It occurs to me that as we think about the new year and what we’d like to take up, we ought to think as well about what we might put down.

 

 

 

Day Eighteen: Ask

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Photo Credit: Elias Cabarcas

Today’s Prompt: Write about asking for something

I’m going to break the “rules” of this prompt and write about not asking for something. Elias (my husband) isn’t a big fan of “on command” gestures of love and appreciation. He doesn’t really do Valentine’s Day. He acknowledges my birthday with our family birthday tradition breakfast. We don’t really buy each other Christmas presents or anniversary presents. What he does do, is grand gestures of love and affection when they are not asked for. One of my favorites is the roses he planted outside of my office a year ago. He cut them way down to almost stubs last year, and I questioned it. What are you doing?  I asked. I want them to grow big and tall. 

This is how they grow big and tall he said. 

And wow. They’re big. And tall. And beautiful.

He told me that he wanted me to think of him every time I walked by them on my way to the office. And I do. Every single day.  Even when they’re not blooming, as they are now.

Elias doesn’t like cut flowers. They make him anxious and sad. It’s one of the things I love about him. He much prefers flowers that are attached to their stems, attached to their roots. As such, he has a lot of roses. In pots and coffee cans and empty peanut butter jars. I criticize the containers. He ignores me.

His mother, Marina, grew roses. When my mom and dad left San Antonio a few weeks ago, Clayton started talking about family connections and realized that his dad had a mom, his other grandma.

When will she come to San Antonio? Clayton asked. I swallowed hard and said Well, she’s an angel.  She won’t ever come to San Antonio, but you can see her in your dreams. Ask God to see her when you go to sleep, when you dream. I bet you will. 

I thought he had forgotten about it, bur a few days later he said “Mommy, I saw my other grandma in my dreams. With all the flowers.”

You can believe that he’s just four years old and that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that he’s influenced by his overly spiritual, nonsense talking mother, or you can believe (as I do) that four year olds have a special spiritual sensitivity and knowledge and that he really did see his other grandma there, with all the flowers.

Keep dreaming, sweet one. Your daddy’s roses and your grandma, they’re all connected in your dreams.

 

 

Where are days sixteen and seventeen you ask? Well, I took the photos, but I didn’t do the writing. They’ve been busy days and I’ve had one of those nagging sore throats and dull headaches that seem to happen two or three times a year. I’ve been to bed before 10 pm for the past two nights. Back at it for Day Eighteen and ask.

 

Day Sixteen: Water #npcadvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about water. 

 

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It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about water… it’s that I have too much. The waters of baptism. Swimming as a kid until my toes were wrinkled. Working for water justice in Honduras and Colombia. My coffee is water, so is my tea and wine and salad. *I’m* water. How to write about water in any meaningful way? I promised myself that this writing challenge wouldn’t stress me out. If I didn’t have anything to say (or if I had too much to say) I’d let it be. These past 20 minutes have been a great daydream about water, even though I don’t have much writing to show for it.

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Fifteen: Nourish #NPCAdvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about what it means to nourish your soul or someone else’s soul

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One of the advantages of posting later in the evening is that I get to see what others have written. Several people have posted about the importance of nourishing oneself before offering nourishment to another. I couldn’t agree more. We have to fill up our cups before we can pour them out. There are many things that nourish my soul these days: meditation, time with friends, writing, hanging out with my boys. Recently the idea of mindfulness has come up a lot in podcasts and articles. People seem to define mindfulness in different ways and offer different ways of cultivating it. For me, it’s the discipline of noticing something beautiful I might have otherwise passed by. It nourishes my soul. The feel of my soft fluffy socks on the carpet, the extra sweet berries, the way the grey sky makes the colors on the leaves more radiant.

I love this photo. It’s a simple plant outside of Clayton’s school. It’s nothing fancy. I walk by it every time I drop him off or pick him up. Yet one day (a grey and dreary day at that!) I noticed it. No Instagram filters, no photoshop. Just a boring plant that was somehow spectacular on a grey day.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

 

Day Fourteen: Joy #NPCAdvent2015

 

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There’s so much to love about San Antonio. Breakfast tacos. So many sunny days. Fiesta. Bilingualism. That “big yet not too big” feel. One of the things I don’t love about San Antonio: no snow at Christmas. For one, I grew up with snow at Christmas. For me, snow = Christmas. For another, since I moved to San Antonio, I realized how many Christmas stories and songs feature snow. Let it Snow, I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Frosty, and on and on and on… Seems petty, but it makes me homesick.

Today I decided to take my boys to the Zoo Lights. In the car on the way there, snow was a topic of conversation.

C: “Santa comes, only when it snows, right?”

Me: “No, Santa comes on Christmas, no matter what the weather is like.”

C:  “So it will snow on Christmas?”

Me: “Probably not, it doesn’t snow in San Antonio.”

C: “So it will never be Christmas in San Antonio?”

Me (wanting to cry) “Of course it will be Christmas in San Antonio. Santa lives with the snow all year, he loves to come to San Antonio where it’s warm. That’s where he sees the sunshine!”

C: “oh, ok.”

When we got in to the zoo lights exhibit there was this 3 foot area where they had “snow.” — I don’t know what it was, but it was some kind of amazing machine. I’m certain it’s what they use in hollywood, because it fell and looked like snow. It felt cold to me, but I’m not sure if it was the power of suggestion or not.

Joy.