Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happy 23rd Birthday, Little Miss Sunshine!

To celebrate Emily's 23rd birthday, we looked at old photo albums. Here are a few pictures I had forgotten about. So precious to see them now!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Heaven Is the Face of a Little Girl" - Steven Curtis Chapman

Heaven is the face of a little girl with dark brown eyes that disappear when she smiles.
Heaven is the place where she calls my name.  Says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile.”

God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more, but God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for.
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.  So right now...

Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep, lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing.
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms, being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams,

And God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more, But God, You know, that this is what I’m longing for.
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.

But in my mind’s eye I can see a place where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone, every mouth is fed, and there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love, and there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough, and there’s no more enemy (no more).

Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss and a thousand other little things I miss with her gone.
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand and leads me to You, and we both run into Your arms.

Oh God, I know, it’s so much more than I can dream. It’s far beyond anything I can conceive.
So God, You know, I’m trusting You until I see Heaven in the face of my little girl,
Heaven in the face of my little girl.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Emily's Birthday Party in India

          Each year, our family has traditions that we do together to celebrate Emily's birthday.  This year, though, I am on the other side of the globe in India to do teacher training at schools here.  So, yesterday, I asked Biswajit, our host, "What do you do to remember family members who've gone on to be with the Lord?"
          He said, "We help the poor and needy.  Would you like to visit a leper colony?"
          With just a day's notice, Bisjwajit arranged for chicken curry, dal, and rice to be prepared for 130 people and delivered to the leper colony in Emily's memory.  Today, when we went to the colony, Biswajit led the children in song.  (I was surprised to see children there, but whole families move there if they have a family member with leprosy.)  He then asked me to share Emily's story.
          I stood before the children sitting on the ground in front of men and women with just stubs for feet and hands. For a moment, I just stood there.  These are the "least of these" that Jesus spoke about. These are the social outcasts, the "untouchables."  I couldn't help but feel Emily smiling.  When she was alive, she taught our family so much, and -- even in this moment -- God was teaching me through her memory.
          As best as I could, I told them of the gift Emily was, despite her disability and health problems.  As Biswajit translated, his voice began to break as he paused for a moment in tears.
          You see, Biswajit and his wife Kuni also have a special gift in a precious little girl named Eva.  Biswajit's brother, Bapi, found Eva when he ran off a pack of dogs that was circling around a moving object on a sand pile.  The object was a baby girl less than a day old.  Bapi carried the baby through the village asking if anyone knew what had happened or if anyone would be willing to take her in. Several families told him, "If the baby were a boy, we would take it, but we can't afford to take care of a girl."
          Bapi then took the baby to his brother Biswajit and sister-in-law Kuni, who had been praying about having a child.  Eva is now 12, has developmental delays, and is not growing as she should, but she has the most beautiful smile and such a heart to help others.
          As Biswajit composed himself, I finished telling how God can use anyone to bless others and that every life, despite difficulties, is valuable to Him.
          We then distributed the "plates," which were large leaves connected together, placing them on the ground in front of each person.  A mound of rice was scooped out onto each plate and covered with gravy-like dal.  I had the honor of placing a bowl of chicken curry in front of each person.
          HAPPY 22nd BIRTHDAY, EMILY!  Only God could arrange such a party as this one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Ornament

This precious Christmas ornament that one of Emily's teachers helped her make hangs from our tree every year.  It's been 8 years ago this month that we said goodbye to our Little Miss Sunshine.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Grandma's Surprise

It had been a decade since the entire family had visited Grandma and Grandpa in Colorado.  So, this spring break we got that opportunity.  Upon our arrival, Grandma had a wonderful surprise for us.  "Here are some old pictures I thought you'd enjoy seeing again," she said, "and we have supplies for you to make scrapbook pages while you're here."  We had such a great time reminiscing!  This picture was one of my favorites. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Sonja recently dug up this picture of Emily riding with her on Grandpa's 4-wheeler in Colorado.  Emily would yell, "YeeeeeHaw" as we'd drive around Grandpa's property.  Sweet memories!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Surprise Visit to Remember 7 Years Ago

Donna and Amber surprised us by driving from Florida to be with us on the 7th anniversary of Emily's passing.  Here's what Donna wrote: "My first visit to the tree planted 7 years ago in memory of Emily Smith at her school in Lynchburg, Virginia, was today. It was also the last day I spent with her December 30, 2007. We all wore matching beads in her honor. Being together today brought me some comfort to that deep ache that is embedded within my heart. So thankful God allowed us that blessing. Especially thankful for the time spent with Zachary. God is so faithful, gracious, and omnipresent."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Of All Things! ~ Chicken Noodle-Loos

Of all things, you wouldn't think a midnight snack would bring on a rush of memories and emotions! Hungry from working on a late-night project, I went to the fridge and saw that Sonja had made one of Emily's favorite meals: "Chicken Noodle-Loos." It didn't hit me until after I took the first bite. I could see her enjoying every spoonful.

Emily was a celebrator. She celebrated little things with hand-clapping, kissing, and shouts of joy. When Sonja would serve her up a bowl of "Chicken Noodle-Loos" (as Emily called it), she would visibly be thrilled and could hardly contain herself.

I often think of lessons Emily taught us -- to celebrate often is one of those lessons: celebrate people, celebrate food, celebrate animals, celebrate music, celebrate birthdays. Oh, she would celebrate birthdays for weeks -- until someone else had a birthday. My birthday is November 2, and she would tell me "Hap-Birday, Dah-ee" every day until December 5, which is Sonja's birthday! Then Sonja would get the daily "Hap-Birday" until the Christmas season gave Emily something else to celebrate.

She taught us to celebrate life, despite its trials, confusion, and pain. The blessings God grants us by far surpass anything that might bring sorrow. So, as I eat another bite, I swallow hard to get it past the lump in my throat. I miss her, and the missing hurts. But I will carry on just as she did every day, with a smile and an eye to look for something to celebrate. Even if it's just another bite of "Chicken Noodle-Loos."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Video of Emily's Story

CLICK HERE to see the 5-minute video.
Pastor Jonathan Falwell preached a sermon series at Thomas Road Baptist Church entitled "When It Hurts Too Much to Cry."  As part of the series, several video testimonies were shared with the congregation.  Emily's story was one of them.

Monday, December 30, 2013

6 Years Ago Today: From Donna

From Donna Wyborny: Such a busy time of the year at my house. Cooking, decorating, family. I find myself keeping myself busier then usual these days to distract myself from the fact that two of the people who made my life complete are not here to share those times with me anymore. Some days are harder then others but the entire month of December, 6 years ago I spent Emily Smiths final time here on earth with she and her family at Arnold Palmer. The 10 years that I spent with her growing up with my girls, battling leukemia like a bear and learning what a gift of a human being a child with Down Syndrome could be taught me more life lessons then any book I could have ever read. She was as much of daughter to me as my very own and her absence leaves an ache in my heart because these days I could really use her simple humor to cheer me up. I have her beads draped about my home, they make me smile, but how I miss the sound of that monotonous spinning for hours on end. I miss her sleep-overs, swimming with her (for a whole two minutes) playing hide and seek constantly she loved that game. I miss trying to scrub the ravioli stains around her mouth that were always there. She would never let me, really miss that. And how she loved animals, and birthday party celebrations she never missed one. I miss trying to teach her to say Mitch's name we won't say what transpired there. God was so gracious during her illness to bless us with more time to make these memories I now have of her. But today was the day 6 years ago Jesus decided He was finished preparing her room. I will be forever grateful to both of you my precious dear friends Sam and Sonja for allowing Mitch and I to spend those last 38 hours with you and share that tender moment when The Lord showed her, her room. Complete with a huge treasure chest of beads I'm sure. We love you, so much. Miss her everyday, but revisit so many things this time of year. Our hearts are with you today and always. Much Love in Christ, Mitch and Donna