Happy New Year……

……to my wonderful followers, and blog readers! Thank you for being SO encouragring to me over this year, and for leaving me such sweet comments when you liked what you read here. It is a blessing to know that you all were blessed.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year, and I look forward to sharing about the many new endeavors God will take me on in 2015. For now, I thought you'd like to see the newsletter and photos we sent out with our Christmas card this year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Smythe Family!
We trust that you had a wonderful Christmas! We certainly did! We
enjoyed a nice time celebrating as a family, and had our traditional
meal of Christmas goose after opening presents. It was a blessing to
be able to spend time together and re-focus on God's great gift for us,

We were blessed to be able to see most our relatives at least once
this year. In June, We traveled to Florida to visit Erin and his family,
just before he went on a 6 month deployment with the Special Forces.
Then in October - November we took a month long trip to visit Ian and
our other relatives on the East Coast. We also got to visit friends, and
once again volunteer with the National Bible Bee, which we always
enjoy. And for the first time ever, we went to DisneyWorld for five
days, which was an amazing fun experience for all of us.

And now for a quick year in review from our family. Dad
continues to work from home running his telecommunications
business: ItgGroup. He is always a steady leader, and inspiration to
our family. No matter how busy he is, he always seems to find time to
participate in whatever we're doing as a family. A major highlight of
his year was taking us back to his home town in Winter Haven,
Florida, and being able to see his house where he grew up. He also
enjoyed being able to spend time swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. He
is looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us in 2015.

Mom continues to be an amazing organizer and encourager to
our family taking excellent care of all the household duties, and being
a wonderful example of a Proverbs 31 woman. She also does the
accounting for Dad's business, and helps us all stay healthy. One
major highlight of her year was being able to visit her Sister, Brother
and Cousin in New York, and share quality time with them. She looks
forward to seeing how God will use our family for His glory in 2015.

Evan has had a year of great adventures, and growth. He has
continued his successful Camera resale business, spent a few
months studying Real Estate this year, and has also recently coauthored
an online encouragement forum for young men to fight the
good fight of faith. (Check out boldlyfightthegoodfight.wordpress.com
for more information.) He is a steady source of fun and inspiration for
our family, and continues to amaze us with his piano playing and
hymn arranging. A big highlight of his year was being able to get his
driver's license and pass on the first attempt. He is looking forward to
expanding his camera business, and learning more about life in 2015.

Elanee has continued to study the Bible, and enjoyed
memorizing Romans and Ecclesiastes with friends from Bible Bee
this year. She also branched out in some new ways, and began
raising chickens, and started a dog sitting service. One of the best
highlights of her year was being able to play music with Evan for a
friend's wedding. It was such fun to be stretched in new ways as they
practiced and performed on the harp and piano together. She's
looking forward to learning and growing closer to God in 2015. If
you're interested in seeing pictures of our year, check out Elanee's
blog. elaneesendeavors.blogspot.com

Of the many great memories we've had together this year,
none of them would have been possible without the sacrifice of Christ
on our behalf. He is the reason we can rejoice, and live each day with
hope in the future. There is nothing too hard for Him, and we know
that with God all things are possible. And so as we move into 2015,
we pray that God would bless you and equip you with a renewed
desire to make this year the best year ever for God's glory. May you
know that your life has purpose and meaning and may you make that
purpose known each and every day!

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that
we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him
be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world
without end. Amen." ~ Ephesians 3:20-21~

Have a blessed 2015!

Oh, and please leave me a comment about what your favorite post was from my blog was this year….if you had one:) Thanks SO much!

Also, I think you all might be encouraged to read Isaiah 49. It has really been blessing me recently!

Special thanks to Mrs. Jennifer Selberg of Capturing Creation Photography for the excellent family pictures!

Merry Christmas!

I would like to take a moment on the special day to with you a Merry Christmas and a VERY happy new year! I recently wrote this poem to share with a friend's blog, and I hope it helps us reflect on the true meaning of Christmas! 

And if you get a chance, I'd love it if you would Leave a comment with your favorite event of the past year! 

And now for the poem.........

He's Christmas to Me!

From the moment of Creation,
Heaven and earth have proclaimed,
The expected hope of every nation,
One always spoken of, but never named.

The prophets and the scribes foretold,
That He would one day come to earth,
But no one thought they would behold,
Him as a baby in a human birth.

Everyone was looking for a prophet,
Or a priest they could crown king,
Someone victorious they could celebrate,
A happy ruler, of which the children could sing.

But on a very unexpected day,
Over two thousand long years ago,
Something happened in such an amazing way,
I have to tell the story so you'll know.

In the Gospel of Luke we read,
In chapter two how in days of old,
Ceasar decreed all come with speed,
To pay taxes in their city as told.

And so it came to pass in those days,
That as the people obeyed and went,
Joeseph and Mary went on their way,
To Bethlehem is where they were sent.

Now Mary was with child of the Holy Ghost,
But only she and Joseph knew,
Because they had been told by heavenly host,
And the days were near when she was due.

As they travelled into Bethlehem one night,
Mary's full time came that she should be delivered,
Christ was born in a stable manger before the first light,
Because no room was found in the inn to be given.

Shepherds in their fields abiding,
Kept watch over their flocks that same night,
When angels came and told them the tidings,
Christ was born to bring them light.

The angels told where they would find Him,
Lying in a manger stable den,
And then they sang that blessed hymn
Glory to God, and peace to men.

The shepherds found it as they said,
With haste they'd come to find him there,
In a manger for his cradle bed,
His parents watching him with care.

So as the shepherds retuned home that day,
They praised and glorified God above,
And told others who journeyed on that way
That God had sent us Jesus in His love.

And just like the shepherds, we too must find,
Our voice to share what we have heard,
With people of each and every kind,
That Christ's love to us has been transferred.

Now we can share this promised gift,
Through each and every year,
How Christ came down from heaven to lift
Our hearts from every tear.

He came to give us love and peace,
To live and die, and take our sins,
So that we might have full relief
And live forever praising Him.

And at this special most wonderful time of year,
When I see the decorations and lights on the tree,
I can't help but celebrate Christ with joy and cheer,
Because more than anything else, He's Christmas to me!

"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together." Psalm 34:3

I hope you enjoyed this poem as much as I enjoyed writing it! I'd like to give a special "thank you" to Rachel for asking me to write this post! You're inspiration was just what I needed.

I struggled with writing this poem over the last several days, wanting to make it as close to the Biblical account as possible. I hope it encourages you this Christmas season to glorify Christ, and make His name lifted on high throughout your life. Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year to all of you!

Month Long Trip Part 2- Visiting Friends!

So…. after we finished visiting our relatives we stopped by Niagara falls on the way to visit our good  friends in Tennessee. And so begins part 2 of our 4 part Month Long trip.

 It had been quite a few years since we had been to Niagara falls, and so it was very fun to see it again. 

First time ever to see a black squirrel. It was very beautiful in a unique way.

We went to the American side of the falls this year, which was a first for us.

There's always a beautiful rainbow in the mist.

Evan and I enjoyed exploring the different viewpoints.

Here we all are near the side of American falls.

Here's Evan and I on the walk to Horsehoe falls.

We thought this sign was simply hilarious.
Evan decided to attempt climbing the wall:) j/k

Here's one of the better views of the Horseshoe falls.

Family picture by the falls. I think it's funny how it looks like my Mom is about to drop her iPhone over the edge:)

The Maid of the Mist boat tours go very close to the falls. We saw people coming back soaking wet even though they had ponchos on.

Evan and I took the opportunity to do some funny pictures of us attempting to jump over the falls.

I take NO credit for this photo:) 

On the way back to the car we walked along the beautiful river. It was SO pretty with all the fall trees nearby.

We got to go up into the observation tower to view the falls from a distance. This picture doesn't even begin to capture the view, and the sound was amazing!

I thought this tree was really pretty!

Now you can see why they call this boat the Maid of the Mist:)

Evan and I capturing one last picture before we left the falls.

After we visited Niagara Falls, we drove to Northern Ohio to spend the night with a very nice family from the A Candle in the Window Network. We enjoyed a nice evening talking and getting to know each other, and then had a good sleep. The next morning we enjoyed talking more, helping them with chores, having a delicious breakfast, and then enjoyed playing music together, and hearing them sing as a family. Then we said goodbye and headed down the road to Florida!

The family we stayed with in Ohio told us about this really amazing grocery store named Jungle Jims that they said we had to stop by on our way out of the state. We decided to check it our, and ended up spending 4 hours ( not nearly enough time) in the store. 

Here's Evan and I taking a picture near their world famous restrooms. They looked like simple outhouses from the outside, but they were really full service normal public bathrooms on the inside. It was hilarious!

We had SO much fun exploring Jungle Jims, and were amazed by the tremendous selection of items they had for sale.

Evan and I took a picture with the singing monkey….which was supposed to be Elvis, but we sort of overlooked that part:)

Evan was overwhelmed by their selection of Ice Cream! And then we realized we couldn't buy any cause we had to drive 6 hours and we didn't have a cooler.

Throughout the store they had fun displays of different things from around the world.

We were amazed by their fruit selection.

They had many exotic fruits.

And even their "normal" fruits were amazing!

We thought this display was really fun for their hot sauce section….they had 4 isles of hot sauce.

And when you go to the international section, (which was huge) they had this fun Robinhood display.

And here's maid Marian. The display was complete with sounds, and motion.

And for the smaller countries they had little houses that you would go into to look at the products for sale. It was so cute:)

Evan and I liked the Holland section best!

And then we came to the soda section! It was HUGE! 

They had more sodas from all over the world, and some old brands that my Mom said she remembered having when she was younger.

We really enjoyed our time in Jungle Jims and we were more than glad that we made the stop. If you're ever in Cincinnati, Ohio be sure to carve out a few hours to stop by this store. You won't regret it:)

After Jungle Jims, we drove on towards Tennessee to visit our friends that used to live in Oregon!
On the way there, we saw this working coal plant.

And this beautiful old Steam boat on the Mississippi River.

And when we got to Tennessee we stopped in Hillsboro TN ( I think that's fun cause we live in Hillsboro too) to get dinner before heading to our friend's house for the evening!

We arrived at the W.'s house and had a great time talking and fellowshipping before heading off to bed for the evening. It's SO much fun to see them each year, and see how much God has been working in their lives. It seems like we just pick up right where we left off, which is great:)

The next morning Evan and Ian went for a nice long run……without me(; actually, I was catching up on sleep I hadn't had for quite a while, and we were being extra careful to not get sick before the Bible Bee. (thankfully we didn't)

And when they got back from the run, we had a delicious breakfast. But I'm not quite sure what happened with this picture:) 

Then we went outside to play volleyball in 75°weather in late October:) what are the odds of that? It was SO much fun!

And it was fun to take a group sunglasses picture:)

And here's Mom and I with sunglasses:0 

We had SO much fun playing volleyball, and enjoying spending time together. And it was SO warm we even got some sunburn:)

Here I am with Alyssa and Tirzah. They've grown up so much in the past few years. It's amazing to see them becoming such beautiful young women with hearts to please God above all.

And then after the volleyball game, we attempted to take a group photo…..

…..But, Lady (their dog:) kept distracting us. I think this is about as close as we came to a good photo:)

After that, we headed into town to go bowling and do some shopping together:)

We played a couple games together, and then we ladies went shopping at the nearby Goodwill, while the guys finished off their match.

Evan and Ian have many things in common, including liking Converse shoes:)

I happened to have mine on that day too:)

I really like the perspective in this photo:)

The guess which leg belongs to which shoe photo:)

Then after bowling and shopping, we went to Chick-fil-A

We always enjoy getting pictures with the cows:)

A three way back rub:)

This is what happens when you want to share a milkshake:)

Evan and Robert and I got to go inside the glass and take a picture with the life size cow:)

That was really fun:)

Then we went back to their house, and enjoyed singing LOTS of songs on the way there;) It was SO much fun, and we had a great time harmonizing together. Once we arrived at their house, we enjoyed playing games before going to bed.

The next day, we went to their church nearby, and heard a good sermon on the prevailing problems in our culture, and what we need to do as Christians to be prepared to withstand the challenges we might face.

We got there early to setup for the service.

And then we had extra time to talk before the people arrived:0

Evan and Ian after the service:)

We enjoyed talking and fellowshipping with many of the people after the service, and it was great to get re-acquainted with people we had met a few years ago. 

After church, we headed towards Franklin (otherwise known as my favorite town in TN:) to visit the town, and see if we could stop by a musician's house I knew lived there. 

Turns out, we were able to find his house, and by a random run of events we actually met his wife, and talked with her for quite a while. It was amazing to see that such a famous person was willing to take the time to talk to total strangers, and encourage us in Christ! It was a BIG example to me of how I need to be with the people around me! I'll let you guess who's wife this is! (And if you already know cause I told you, please don't guess:)

After that, we went to downtown Franklin and walked the streets. Ian and Evan saw this nice Mustang!

And then we got ice cream to celebrate Robert's birthday!

And apparently we went a little crazy with the pictures;0

This is what happens when you try to do a group photo with energetic people;0

Alyssa outside of the theater in Franklin.

Us walking the streets of Franklin!

And being silly…..again:0

Here's a picture of our families at the town square monument in downtown Franklin. 
Overall, we had a wonderful time with the W. family, and were SO grateful for their hospitality, and friendship for so many years. God is good to bless us with such special friends.

Stay tuned for part 3 of our month long trip focusing on the National Bible Bee. And don't forget to guess who the famous musician's wife is that we met:)

Here's a verse that has been really encouraging to me recently!
"Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee."