Thursday, 7 December 2017

Our family's Christmas Newsletter 2017

Greetings, friends. 

I know I haven't been very active around here and I'm sorry!  I keep thinking I'll do a bit of a life update post but I haven't had a chance.  Someday soon, I will!  

In the meantime, Mum has written our family's annual Christmas newsletter.  I am posting it here like I have done in previous years.  Hopefully this will serve to be a good interim update since I have been rather slack in my blogging.

Anyway, if I don't pop in again this side of Christmas, may you all have an absolutely wonderful Christmas and holiday season.  Oh, and happy new Year.   May the Lord richly bless you all. 

Glory to God in the Highest

Happy Christmas from the Smithies. How has your year been? We are looking forward to hearing from you.

A few of our many highlights from this year…

  • Last Christmas we set up a 250m illuminated bush “time tunnel” on our property celebrating the wonder of the first Christmas, and over 1000 people from the community came through it. It was a good family project and we hope to do an expanded version this year.
  • Shortly before last Christmas our dear border collie was run over by someone driving past our property. We were all devastated. To help with the grief, we began looking for another dog immediately. It was close to Christmas and there was nothing available. I mentioned to the Lord that a breeding pair would be ideal and the Lord sent us a Christmas miracle. We heard of someone with a dog to sell. When we made contact, it turned out that she was downsizing and was getting rid of a stunning breeding pair of pure-bred border collies. Wow! They have now produced eight adorable roly-poly puppies who have no trouble finding new homes. What a blessing.
  • A delightful February holiday exploring Karamea. We loved the many caves, the amazing Oparara arches, jumping off the incredible sand-dunes, magic evenings swimming, kayaking and tubing in the lagoon and cooking tea on the beach before watching the sun set in a spectacular blaze of glory into  the sea. We always seemed to have the beach mostly to ourselves. What a special place.
  • Prayed about a dishwasher since washing dishes by hand was consuming a vast amount of the children’s time each day. Then we went to look at a caravan on Trademe and noticed a dishwasher sitting on the driveway. The man told us he was going to take it to the dump. He did not know if it worked or not as it had belonged to a previous owner of the property. We offered to save him the dump fee, put it on the front seat of the van (it didn’t fit in the boot!) and wedged ourselves in around it. We were thrilled to find it worked perfectly!
  • Discovered that we had to have the house re-roofed and so got rotten cladding replaced and solar panels put on too. A rather large undertaking (but the children thought it was worth it as we got some pretty cool two-storey scaffolding up for weeks and the new game of trying to guess which builder was who based on the boots and legs appearing at the top of the windows!)
  • We shelved our plans for house-bus accommodation and ended up purchasing a small self-contained cottage unit and have enjoyed hosting various people, especially Israeli travellers (mostly young people who are having some time-out after the stress of compulsory military service in an active war zone).
  • Our lovely house-cow died following calving complications, but she left us a gorgeous calf to hand- raise.
  • Roger and the boys went to Warbirds over Blenheim while we were holidaying in Nelson with Gwenda’s parents.
  • Discovered the delights of the Richmond (Nelson) aquatic centre at night – we had the pool, spas and giant inflatables to ourselves, all under romantic subdued lighting. Very nice! We could very happily stay on a permanent holiday in Nelson!
  • Found a nesting pair of little blue penguins in the woodshed of the house we stayed at in Golden Bay.
  • We saw a spectacular extremely bright rainbow near our house and incredibly we could see both ends where the rainbow hit the grass and spilled rainbow colour all over the ground. We have never seen the two ends hitting the ground like that before. Sadly there was no pot of gold at either end!
  • Our darling Grandma (Gwenda’s Mum) had a heart attack in July and has been having on-going heart issues and investigations ever since. Amazingly the week of the heart attack, Bonnie had the strong impression from the Lord that it was very important to pray for Grandma that week, so we prayed a lot for her, having no idea that she was about to have a heart attack. We were so grateful that we did.
  • In September Grandad and Grandma celebrated their 50 th wedding anniversary. A very special occasion. They have packed those 50 years with so much love and acts of kindness, not just for each other but also for so many other people. We honour them.
  • A treat to have Gwenda’s sister’s family back in the country (semi-permanently) after many years overseas.
  • Had an opportunity to experience the wonders of Auckland for 3 days at an incredible price for airfares and accommodation, so we had to make the most of that. So blessed to have this opportunity to make some very special family memories. Stayed at the lovely Orewa Beach and explored Rainbows End, Kelly Tarltons, Sky Tower and Auckland Zoo. What an amazing weekend.
  • Several dear friends passed on to the next life. One never knows how long one has. None of us is perfect and therefore none can earn the perfection of heaven on our own merits. We all need a Saviour. Christmas reminds us of the lengths God went to in order to provide a Saviour and thus make a way, for those who are willing, to live in heaven. Isn’t it amazing that when we offer to Him all that we are and have, small as it is, He offers EVERYTHING and says, “Let’s share”. What a deal! Such is His love. Such great and perfect love that it honours the decision of each individual whether they will accept or reject that offer.

Abigail (20yrs)

Blessed with an incredible array of horses and opportunities (and the many associated challenges that go with such things) Abbie has had her usual fast-paced interesting year. She was very disappointed to get appendicitis and have her appendix out in time to miss out on several very important horse events, including South Island Equidays for which she had been selected as a demo rider. But she is grateful for some very special blessings, including a wonderful month in Kerikeri working with two of NZ’s leading horse-trainers, becoming a sponsored rider for ‘Calm Healthy Horses’, the gift of a valuable special horse, and some spectacular successes training some very difficult horses that other trainers had given up on. She works up to 27 horses in one day. The problem with working with animals is that they are not always very sensible (although the same can also be said of people!) and one of her best horses managed to blind itself in one eye while another kicked a fence and tore a piece of its hoof off. The amazingly resilient Abbie always has plenty of tales of woe and wonder to keep us on the edge of our seats each day! Can you believe that she was out in winter in the pouring rain and freezing cold preparing for a horse show despite being so sick she had a temperature of more than 39 degrees and such an abnormally rapid pulse that when she later went to the afterhours doctor they said that if they couldn’t quickly reduce her pulse she would be admitted to hospital. (She jokes that she thought she was actually going to make it to the end of a year without being in hospital, after barely avoiding hospital earlier in the year following months with a nasty chest infection, however her appendix put paid to that and she clocked up yet another year with a hospital stay. Perhaps next year Abbie…)

Bonnie (19yrs)

It has been such a happy year for Bonnie. She had a wonderful 10 weeks in the USA helping out at the Above Rubies ministry and checking out San Francisco and Nashville. Then she came home and completed her legal executive qualification and gained an excellent job which she really loves at one of the premier law firms in Christchurch. Her extra-special news is that she is in a courtship with a wonderful young man, David Sampson. He is an IT support desk analyst and the oldest in another family of eleven children! It has been a joy to have had him (and a certain brother of his!) around our home during the year. Watch this space. Bonnie continues to be involved in lots of different groups and ministries and continues to fill the house with sunshine, music and jokes. We can’t imagine our home without her grin and are making the most of the pleasure of her company before her prince whisks her away.


Danella (18yrs)

Diligent Danella, with an amazing gift for language and beautiful heart for service. Much to her joy many doors of ministry opportunities have been opened for her this year and she has helped a lot of students, particularly Asians, in their journey to God. Gentle, thoughtful, and full of enthusiasm, she is often singled out by Asians.
Despite her extensive involvement with numerous students and multiple groups at Canterbury University and her attendance at many events and conferences, she still kept up her exceptional grades in every subject. She had a regular “job” selling her beautifully written lecture notes to the University for students with disabilities to use. She was also awarded a Prime Minister’s all-expenses paid scholarship to study advanced Chinese for 6 weeks over summer at the Mandarin Institute in Taiwan. She is sad that there is only one year left to go of her degree as she has loved it all so much. Continuing as the music teacher for our family (she is completing her ATCL performance diploma in piano this year, in addition to her BA in Chinese, linguistics and maths!), and an incredible cook, she is a blessing to us all.

Sophie (17yrs)

Sweet Sophie, who also has a servant heart and lights up our family, has had a very special year as well. She finished some Uni papers and then became a certified bookkeeper. She also went on all sorts of interesting camps, including one to Great Barrier Island (to do the Edmund Hillary Outdoor Adventure course) and had lots of adventures. She represented the Selwyn District Council at the excellent Youth in Emergency Services camp and received training from a number of different emergency services, including Search and Rescue, Civil Defence, and St Johns. She continues with street evangelism at every opportunity and whenever she is home cheerfully helps out with anything needing doing. There is someone very special in her life too.

Benjamin (15yrs)

Ben is a very good student and could have chosen anything, but he loves the outdoor life, so he has decided not to have an office-type job and instead is looking towards being a plumber. Long term he would still love to be a farmer, but is gathering another skill (ie plumbing and gas-fitting) and income source along the way. He has also been collecting up various other skills. He joined the local wood-turning club and learnt great stuff from them. We now have a wood-lathe and a metalwork-lathe so he is pretty happy! He is hoping to join the beekeeping club next year too, if he can fit it in. He absolutely loves the various camps he helps out as a leader and is wonderful with the children there. He hopes to do more of that too. And of course there is all the farm- related stuff on our property that keeps him busy. Abbie would be sunk without Ben’s capable and obliging help fixing stuff broken by horses. (She says that she wants to marry a man just like Ben!)

Jonathan (14yrs)

An acrobat, a juggler, sleight-of- hand tricks, dry sense of humour, and an unbelievably speedy solver of Rubiks cubes of all shapes and sizes, including solving them blindfolded with only one hand. A member of the speed cubing association, Johnny even made it onto TV. He can solve a random 3x3 Rubiks cube in 8 seconds. Not sure how useful all Johnny’s various “skills” are except in a future career as a clown!! Johnny runs an organic egg business with Ben. He was delighted when we acquired a ride-on mower since he and Ben used to have the unenviable job of using a standard push-mower on our large grass yards and enormous road verges. Now they are thrilled when the grass grows rapidly since a ride-on mower is pretty fun – so fun in fact that Dad doesn’t get an opportunity to get near it!

Lydia (11yrs)

Our lovely Lydia got distinction in her ballet exam and was also awarded a trophy for ‘outstanding potential in ballet’. Some interesting things cropped up this year with her health, one of which was the discovery of what appeared to be a large lump in her neck. The doctors were concerned and it was referred to the specialist where it was diagnosed as a “rib”. Apparently around 1 in 500 people have an “extra rib” in their neck. Most people don’t know about it if they have one, but because Lydia’s was slightly larger, it was discovered. It is so uncommon to notice them that the specialist called in an assortment of other people to see this phenomenon. She felt like a celebrity! Lydia loves art, crafts, reading and animals. She is a great help which is wonderful especially now that the older girls are often out at their various jobs/activities.

Caleb (10yrs)

A total book-worm. Books even trump tree-huts and almost the swimming pool. He also loves Lego. And did I mention books?! When I asked him what else I could put in the newsletter about him, he said that he loved herding cows! This useful interest came in handy when we were chasing our entire herd of cattle around the neighbour’s organic market garden (which has very few fences and thus required three vehicles from the council to guard the roads so there would be no unfortunate accidents). An adventurous cow had trampled two of our fences in order to go exploring in the world and her friendly paddock mates thought they might as well join her. Caleb enjoys trampolining and is in a trampoline group. He also really enjoys playing tricks on people. And, did I mention books?

Jacob (7yrs)

Jacob loves ICONZ and adores listening to music on the ipod he got for his birthday. He has also discovered the delights of reading and it looks like it won’t be long before he is a serious rival for Caleb’s title of bookworm king. Lately he has been helping Daddy sort out the irrigation and hopefully this growing helpfulness will soon spill over to enjoying assisting with the dishes (which is very definitely his least favourite activity at the moment!)

Jana (3yrs)

A chatterbox who is in a hurry to grow up. As you can see from the quotes in the section below, a youngchatterbox in the family is a source of much amusement for the rest of the family. Jana is indignant if anyone does something for her that she could have done for herself. She loves following everyone around and ‘helping’. She also really, really loves animals and beaches.

Michael (1yr)

Our little darling who is a delight to all. His favourite activity is sampling dirt in pot plants and seeing how manypiles of dog manure he can locate and examine that others have missed removing. His favourite place in the world is a beach. He has taken after his mother in that regard. In most other regards he is a very cute replica of his father.


Changed jobs and is now working at Alliance Wholesale dealing with and fixing security equipment. He is enjoying the job and the interesting challenges (eg fixing a $10000 surveillance camera for the navy). He is also very happy to have finally replaced two family vehicles with more economical ones. Our previous vehicles were gas-guzzlers. He continues as an ICONZ leader, and helps out where needed elsewhere. And of course, he is the world’s most wonderful father!


Still gets a kick out of hearing the huge amount of birdsong outside our window each morning, along with the heady perfume of all the roses planted by a previous owner against the bedroom wall. She loves nurturing the large number of newly planted fruit and nut trees and trying to keep rampant pasture grass from taking over the vege garden. It is very tempting to spend all day outdoors in this delightful setting. She is also involved in lots of other projects alongside a steady stream of visitors. Given that she is an introvert, she has surprised herself by really enjoying having so many guests. Nowdays there are often extras for meals and it is a lot of fun and so interesting. We never want to be too busy to have time to love others. Gwenda continues to homeschool the children. Only seven left to launch. Oh how the years go by. May they be invested in things of eternal value.

Heard Around Our Place This Year

(Son) “I like the old van way more than the new van. I like the rattles. How can we get the new van to rattle?
It’s too quiet.”

(Son) “Can I be a bridesmaid at your wedding?”

(Son) “I’m not wearing a singlet. A singlet is just a bra pulled down to a tummy button.”

(Son, after hearing that Bonnie was going to have three hours to fill in at the Nashville airport) “Oh why didn’t she take a Rubiks cube.”

(Toddler) “Are you real Mummy? Me is real.”

(Toddler, while looking at the new dog) “Our other dogs love God but this dog doesn’t.”

(Toddler, explaining why she wanted to wear socks outside, but no footwear over the socks) “My socks need fresh air.”

(Toddler) “I don’t like my bedroom, it is not sensible.”

(Toddler) “Bonnie is pretty. She is like me.”

(Mummy to toddler) “Do you have a younger sister?” Toddler answers, “Yes, God.”

(Toddler to a friend) “Why are you Angela?” Friend replies, “Because one day my parents had a little baby girl and thought that Angela would be a nice name. Why are you Jana?” Toddler replied, “One day my parents had a little baby girl and thought, ‘Oh dear’.”

(Toddler, when older sister who shares a room with her, creeps into the room late at night and tries to slip quietly into bed without waking the toddler. Toddler sits up.) “Are you going to bed now? Yay, let’s sing.”

(Toddler, after Mummy put the thermometer under her tongue to take her temperature) “Please heal my bugs Lord. The bugs in my mouth. Under my tongue.”

(Toddler, while riding on a merry-go- round) “Who made this?” Brother jokingly called back, “Jana did.” Toddler replied indignantly, “No, God did. This is real.”

(At the zoo looking at a pygmy monkey which was really tiny – the size of a finger) Daughter said, “It almost has a slight rat-like look, see its tail.” Mummy said, “And its face almost has a pig-like look.” Next daughter said, “You can see all animals in it. I can see giraffe.”

(Daughter who is a highly innovative chef) ”I put leftover potato in the ice-cream. I thought it would thicken it and give it a nice texture and nobody would be able to tell.”

(Small son) “Can I buy something at the shop? Don’t worry I won’t waste my money on junk like lollies. I have saved up for something bigger – a chocolate easter egg.”

(Son) “Why did you name me Caleb? I wish you had named me Sir Francis, it is such a great name.”

(Small child, commenting on artificial cattle breeding) “They inject the bull into the cow.” Older child laughed and said, “No they don’t.” Small child replied, “Well, they inject the bull’s intestines.”

(Small son overhearing that Mummy’s year of birth was 1971) “Are you 71 Mummy?”

With much love and many blessings,
Roger, Gwenda, Abigail, Bonnie, Danella, Sophie, Ben, Jonathan, Lydia, Caleb, Jacob, Jana and Michael