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Imagine When We See

By Donna Tobin Smith

It was the 1990s and my husband and I were raising three sons. Anyone who says that raising boys is easy hasn’t done it. I loved every minute of that full-time exhausting job. But it wasn’t easy. If I wasn’t trying to retrieve green peas out of noses or popcorn kernels out of ears, I was scrubbing the mud off of something or someone.

The boys were busy all the time and each had his favorite things. The oldest one liked dinosaurs. The youngest one liked to build with Legos. And as most boys do, the middle one liked all kinds of cars. Big cars, little cars, fancy cars, and fast cars. He loved the roar of the monster trucks. He was crazy about Hot Wheels. He rumbled and raced remote control sports cars. Cars of every make and model were strewn all over our house. After tripping over the umpteenth car one week, I decided that I needed a little peace and quiet, away from booming engines and squealing tires.

Thank goodness for grandparents. They offered to keep the boys at their house for the weekend. My husband and I headed for Lynchburg, Virginia, far away from the young boy “vroommm, vroommms.” Or at least that’s what I thought, until my biggest boy, my husband, just happened to drive by a car dealership on our way to our hotel in Lynchburg. There it was – the brightest, canary yellow car I had ever seen. A 1994 Corvette. It looked just like one of the Hot Wheels that I had been tripping over. But this one was life sized.

By the time our weekend had ended, I was driving the car we had driven to Virginia toward home. And, yes, you guessed it. I was following my husband. He was driving a bright canary yellow 1994 Corvette. After spending our quiet, peaceful weekend haggling with a car salesman, he had bought the car.

We hid the car in our backyard at home before we picked up the boys. When we got the boys home, their daddy cleverly lured them out back where they soon discovered an honest to goodness life-sized Hot Wheels car. The oldest boy was speechless. The youngest one screamed. The middle one started to hyperventilate and I actually thought he might pass out. They didn’t understand. They had a million questions. They could sense the wonder, yet the mystery almost trumped their excitement. Their response was priceless.

My sons are grown men now. But their individual reactions to seeing that yellow Corvette for the first time is forever etched into my memory. I could never have predicted how awesome it would be.

Every time I remember that day I think about what my reaction will be to my ultimate surprise in this life. What will I do the day I see my Jesus face to face? “Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah or will I be able to speak at all?” (“I Can Only Imagine” by Bart Millard)

Of all our earthly treasures, none can compare to our Savior. There is no surprise that will ever match the glory of the day we meet our Lord. I wonder if it could be anything like the looks on three boys’ faces the day they saw the most wonderful thing they had ever seen in their young lives.

I can only imagine.


Are You Weary? Come Home – Devotional

By Donna Tobin Smith

“How often do you come back home?” I asked. I had been talking to one of my oldest son’s high school friends. It had been a while since I had seen him. He had graduated from college and taken a job out of state. He and my son still kept in touch and had planned a ski trip during the holidays.

“To tell you the truth,” he had answered, “I really don’t get back very often. In fact, I actually come home as little as possible. After all, it is Lexington. When I come here, I feel like I’m regressing. No offense.”

Regressing? Ouch. I was glad my grown son was out of earshot. Like a mama bird, I felt the need to protect my chick. Yes, even the chick that had long flown my coop. I had lived with this son being out of the nest for many years. I had endured his absence on birthdays and holidays. I understood his restlessness and his sense of adventure, knowing that there was a big world out there, ready to be explored. But I wanted home to always be special to him. I wanted home to be that safe place where he could return when the stresses of life began to overwhelm. And if I was perfectly honest, I wanted him to settle near home some day, close enough to be part of those family times that we hold so dear.

Yet, here was one of his buddies saying that for himself, at least for a while, that wasn’t going to happen. As silly as it was, I didn’t want him to say that in front of my son.

I’d always been a homebody myself. My husband and I lived away from home for the first six years of our marriage. But when we had our first child, this oldest son, the thought of that child calling another place home was something that neither of us wanted. So we rearranged our lives and within two years, we brought that little son home to Davidson County.  We have made this our home ever since.

But the friend’s comment all those years ago has certainly made me think. Spiritually speaking, I would venture to say that many people experience similar thoughts and feelings.

I didn’t ask questions, so I don’t know why my son’s friend felt the way he did. But I can count numerous times when I had been a spectator to a battle to bring a wandering one home, only to see him plant his feet and refuse to budge. How many sons and daughters are clamping their ears, refusing to hear when the Lord calls, softly and tenderly, as the old song says, “Ye who are weary, come home?”

My son once joked with me about a scene from a movie that he had watched. In the movie, the weepy mother cried to her nearly grown son, “Why are you doing this to me?” she had asked. “Because,” her son answered, “that is what people do when they graduate from high school, Mother. They go to college.”

I admit that mothers can be super sensitive. But I also know that to be raised in a Christian home is a blessing. To have neighbors and friends who have the same godly values is a blessing, too.

I know that it’s not the Lord’s plan for everyone to settle in his or her childhood home. My son has done mission work in Mexico and Ecuador, and will soon spend a whole year in Australia. I don’t know where the Lord will call him to make his home. But I do want him to know one thing. I will try really hard to make the home of his childhood a perfect stop, a peaceful resting place on his journey in life. And most of all, I will remind him that to go home is not regressing at all. In fact, it is a step in exactly the right direction and the only place to revive a weary soul.


Devotional: Keep me Singing as I go

“Aunt Donna, will you sing at my wedding?”

I looked at the beautiful child. As the mother of boys, she was one of only a few girls that I had the privilege of loving her whole life. I only had to look into her eyes to be instantly taken to another place and time. I remember her giggles and her energy. She had always been too happy and bubbly to waste a moment being still. And yet as I looked at her again, the picture in my mind of the bright-eyed little girl riding the big blow-up dinosaur around in our den was beginning to fade. The beautiful young woman standing in front of me was waiting for an answer.

“Well,” I hesitated. I hoped she couldn’t hear the “groan” that was growing inside me. I loved her. That is true. And I love to sing. One of my mother’s favorite memories of me is when I, at three years old, sang in front of the congregation at church all by myself. “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see,” I sang for everyone to hear. If only l had realized what l was doing. I’m sure I would have fainted.

That’s right. Fainted. I don’t know what it is about singing that makes me so nervous. As I think back, some of my own favorite memories are times of singing. Some are just glimpses now, like faded photographs of long ago, when I see myself with my mouth open wide without a care in the world. My daddy and I, sitting in the front yard at home, singing a duet in perfect harmony to my ears. “When they ring those golden bells for you and me,” we sang. Other times I would hear his bass voice booming before the sun was up, “Wake up, wake up, you’re oversleeping, wake up, wake up, it’s almost day.”

I remember my mother singing to my brothers as she put them to bed, “When my little Boy Blue, closed his eyes and went to sleep, he prayed Dear Lord above, hear my plea,” and “I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,” as she worked in the kitchen.

The truth is, I can carry a tune. But I’ve never considered myself to have a solo voice. I can hold my place with the sopranos in the choir, although I’m usually at the piano these days. I have even been known to sing second soprano in a trio once in awhile. But all by myself? The thought makes me tremble.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t sung by myself in a long time. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t sung much at all lately. But as I study the Bible now, I am reminded that even in the most difficult circumstances in my life, the song in my heart is still there. It has never left me. And if there is a song in my heart, surely there should be a song on my lips.

You’ve probably guessed my answer to my niece’s question. Of course, I will sing at her wedding. I can’t promise her perfect pitch or a flawless performance. But I will sing because I love her. I will sing because I love her compassion and her Christian witness. I love her devotion to her family and to the fine young man she has chosen to marry. But most of all, I will sing because “There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low, fear not, I am with thee, peace be still, in all of life’s ebb and flow. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.”




Devotional for Davidson Focus for July

Donna Tobin Smith

I called myself a stay-at-home mom when my three sons were young. But the truth is, except for their “baby” stages, we rarely ever just stayed at home. Some of our favorite things to do were to make regular trips to the library for the weekly story hour and enjoy usual trips to the park or the pool. As the boys grew older, not only did we add new activities that the boys would enjoy, but I also took them to places where I thought they might have experiences that would help them grow into responsible young men. One of those places was a local nursing home. I had been asked if I would conduct a weekly craft activity with the residents. I quickly agreed. It sounded like fun to me and I felt that my boys needed lessons in serving others by volunteering to help the residents. The boys could pass out materials and assist the older folks with the activities like cutting and gluing, things that older, arthritic hands may have trouble doing. I can’t believe how much I learned through my experiences with the residents at the nursing home. In fact, there was one lesson that I hadn’t expected to learn. I learned that God will often take my purpose and change it to His purpose, especially in the lives of my sons. I had taken my boys with me so they could learn to serve. I wanted them to have compassion for older people. And although I do think they certainly developed compassion through their weekly visits to the nursing home, I believe that they learned far greater lessons than I could have ever imagined. For example, although my oldest and youngest sons were quick to assist the residents, my middle boy always seemed to be missing when the assignments were given out. One minute I would see him and the next he was gone. I found myself thinking that maybe I would have to sit this boy down and have a little chat with him about responsibility and compassion. Until, that is, I realized where he was spending his time. It seemed that my son had found a friend. Yes, my nine-year-old was mesmerized by am impeccably dressed elderly gentleman. With a coin or a string or whatever he could find, the old man was fascinating my boy with magic tricks. The more I watched, the more awestruck I was by what the Lord was doing. My purpose had been to expose my sons to the residents in the nursing home so my sons would develop responsibility. The Lord’s purpose was that my sons would be friends to people who may have otherwise been forgotten or discarded, to see worth in some of the finest and most productive lives that had ever been lived. Like in the life of my son’s new friend, Mr. H. Lee Waters. I had no idea who my son’s friend was at that time. It was weeks later that one of the nursing assistants told me his name. I still didn’t know the significance of his life, having never heard about his fascinating career as a photographer. And although I never saw him pick up a camera, with a coin or a rubber band, I saw his love for people, especially a nine- year-old boy who could sit by his chair for hours. The Bible says in Psalm 71:9 “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Mr. Waters’ life on earth was nearly over when my son met him. But the memories of this man will stay with him forever. In a life that made a difference to thousands, Mr. Waters also made a difference to one. Even to the very end.

What a shining example of God’s love to us all.