Gina G. Smith

Not just another 'mom' blog….okay, that's exactly what this is.



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Adding Beauty Always: 2017 and Beyond

January 1, 2017

Our family has experienced a ton of change over the last 3 years. We no longer have any babies in the house, the husband is realizing some of his dreams (which brings me so much joy!) while also providing for our family with 2 jobs, and I have gone from homeschooling two kids, to four. The extra travel, activities, and lack of routine that accompany this craziness create a juggling act that I don’t always perform with a whole lot of grace, if I’m being honest here. (And I’m trying to be. I know my heart. It’s not always gracious.) I haven’t figured out how to navigate the changing terrain just yet.


If there is one thing I have learned (among many) over the last few years, it’s that life is constantly changing. I feel the most comfortable when I know The Plan. When I know what to expect, and how to accomplish what is required of me, I feel like I can thrive. But no matter how much I crave routine and reliable schedules, the pursuit of those things is like chasing the proverbial rainbow. So I’m often left with the false assumption that I’m failing. That’s where the concept of adding beauty comes in.


I’m sure it’s an age-old philosophy. But for me, it was brought to life by Sara Groves in her 2005 album Add to the Beauty. This will always be my all-time favorite, because it sparked in my heart the reality that beauty matters, and it can be present in every little thing I do. At first, for me, the concept translated primarily into creating things in and around my home that were actually pretty to look at, which I absolutely love to do. But eventually, in addition to those things, I recognized that all the little mundane jobs I did from day to day to serve my family were also ways that I could add beauty to the world. So now, after years and years of practice, it’s not so hard to stop, look around, and see that even the smallest acts of love and care for those around me, dull as they may seem, are beautiful and important.


There are a great many things I’d love to accomplish this year, many of which will take a back burner to the immediate needs of the hour or day. There may even be things we’d love to be able to give or do for our kids that we simply won’t have the time or resources for. It will be easy to focus on the things I have to say ‘no’ to, and feel like I’m failing, but that won’t be the truth. And now, because I’ve had years of practice, and because there are so many of you, my friends, who are finding and sharing with me and many others the beauty in your own lives, it is so much easier to remember that it all matters. “Like a single cup of water…”


I was delighted and blessed by Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas greeting over the holiday season. Her gentleness provided a brief moment of calm for all who listened in the midst of this crazy, noisy time in which we live. And she reminded me, once again, of the importance and beauty of doing small things that make a big difference, as she quoted Mother Theresa’s encouragement to “do small things with great love.”


I don’t know if there is much of a future for this little blog of mine. If the last couple of years is any indication, then the outlook is bleak. But I know that there are just a few of you who still read and follow, so I hesitate to shut it down, just in case I decide I have the time for it again.  If you’re still up for it, though, I’ll continue my Instagram Adding Beauty hashtag with #AddingBeautyAlways because there won’t be any constraints on time. How wonderful it will be to see a continuous stream of reminders that beauty is found and created in so many big and small ways. Happy New Year, friends!



Still Adding Beauty. Moving on to 2016!

January 4, 2016

Our family was blessed greatly in 2015. I can’t even believe how the book journey has unfolded. We still stare at each other in wide-eyed wonder from time to time, shaking our heads and shrugging our shoulders. There are no words for it. We don’t even know how to feel sometimes. Grateful, for sure.


In addition to feeling incredibly blessed and thankful, we were also busier than we have ever been. I keep thinking that on this parenthood journey things will slow down. Not so. After the exhaustion of babies and no sleep, surely we will feel a little more in control. Once everyone is potty trained, it will be easier and there will be less laundry. After all the kids can read, homeschooling will get more manageable. All of these little thoughts have proved to be so naive and laughable. So here I am, feeling both blessed and frazzled, happy and haphazard. Which appointment will I forget? Which assignments will we have to skip because it’s just too much? Which day will the soccer uniforms not get washed, so the only solution will be to wear dirty ones? All of these scenarios: not IF, but WHEN.


I’m continuously being reminded that I am not in control. Apparently that is a hard lesson to learn. However, the one thing I always want to remember is that I can control how I view my life. I can look at all these little inconveniences through a lens constantly clouded by disgruntled frustration, or I can choose to see beauty in the little things. I can acknowledge a day as being burdensome and still find something beautiful in it or add something beautiful to it.


Over our Christmas break, I read through Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s new book: The Life-Giving Home. It is excellent, and I’ve come away from it feeling refreshed, affirmed, challenged and inspired. I hope all my mama friends will read and enjoy it when the time comes, and it’s coming soon! I’m gonna go ahead and recommend that you pre-order it. The writing was refreshingly honest in acknowledging that things were not always consistent or easy in the Clarkson home. Sarah so graciously admits that she watched her parents fight for beauty all along the way:

“I saw the days when a homemade meal was an almost Herculean task. I saw the evenings when we didn’t quite manage to get the house in order. I knew the effort it took my mom to bring a sparkle, once more, to the eyes of all those hungry, restless little people around the dinner table, particularly when sorrow was in her heart.”

Seeing that a grown child can look back to remember and appreciate those things did my heart a world of good. Sally’s transparency was equally encouraging.

“…I used to wonder if the work of home building and investing in my children’s lives made any difference whatsoever. Quarreling, selfish moments, and daily messes challenged my confidence that I was doing anything of importance…. It didn’t always seem like they were paying attention, but all of them breathed in the oxygen of our home ideas and have grown up to reflect the values we wanted to instill in them.”

My notes in the margins after this part read: “You too, Sally??” I’m encouraged and resolved to keep on adding beauty to the life I’ve been given. I’m trusting that the Lord will continue to teach me and allow me to grow. I’m hoping my family will always be able to give grace when I fail, but more importantly that they will become people who make the choices to see beauty all around them.


I’ll once again be keeping myself accountable to the task of adding beauty this year, using the hashtag AddingBeauty2016. Come along, friends! The first picture I’ve added is the one I took of my 3 year old, just after I tried to fix the damage she did with the haircut she gave herself.


So much for those braids we had been working on…


I’ve been truly encouraged and inspired by all your posts throughout the last two years. You’ve kept me going with your beautiful lives and your commitment to bring life and light and beauty and rest and safety to all who cross your paths, including mine. Thank you! I truly hope 2016 is a beautiful year for you all.





Adding Beauty 2015: Fall Edition

November 24, 2015

I get to live life with the guy who wrote this. Read it! Even if the title scares you. (Really? Only pick a few things? You mean I can’t do it all?) Thankfully, he’s always reminding me of these very things, not because he’s got it all figured out, but because he’s a big fan of telling each other the truth and not listening to lies, the most destructive of which, often come from our own selves. All of this, before we even consider the culture of comparison we are all immersed in.


 ”The corners of our eyes are a paradise of lies. Don’t believe them. Go forward and do the few things you do. If done right, no one can defend against them.” -S.D. Smith

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself trying to do less, and striving to do it well. Admirable goal, right? But letting go of some of my ridiculous expectations felt, at first, like resignation or failure. Slowly, slowy, I’m learning to use my imagination to see that the few, small things I do can have “a million unseen consequences.” This is extremely scary, and incredibly inspiring. So if you’ve noted some silence from me in this space, that isn’t new, and you aren’t imagining things.


Our family has received many blessings and exciting opportunities this fall, so in the midst of exercising gratefulness for all of that, #AddingBeauty2015 has also looked a lot like fighting the frustrations of a busy schedule. In addition to meeting new friends from near and far, I’ve also been driving around in a dirty van, and washing muddy soccer uniforms. After all, that serves the people I’m called to care for best. In spite of being handed new art, and beautiful literature to explore, I’ve needed to set small reachable goals, like getting out the door on the way to a destination without snapping at any members of my family. Gentleness, when I accomplish it, is something truly valuable that I can bless my children with. I’ve feasted at some absolutely beautiful tables with delightful company, but the meals we’ve consumed at home have looked more like Little Caesar’s pizza than Smitten Kitchen. Filling hungry bellies in peace is always a gift, and it’s always beautiful. (This one is a particularly hard pill for me to swallow! I want a pretty table and slow roasted veggies! Every day.)


#AddingBeauty2015 has meant forcing myself to stop and observe a sunset or the mountains ablaze in color this fall, when I just wanted to clean or do laundry, or anything, really, to restore order to our ever changing routines. It has looked like making time for prayer, when sleep is beckoning. It has meant setting a reminder on my phone that says “Hugs.” (No mother wants to admit that she has to remind herself to hug the precious people she lives with. Yet, here I am.)


Thankfully, I have a great lot of encouragers in my life: people who are often in the same boat, or have been. They remind me who I am. They point me to excellent resources. They tell me to rest. They allow me to feel what I’m feeling without letting me stay in the place of pity for too long. They are the ones adding beauty to my existence. I’m embracing the fact that recognizing beauty resembles gratitude, if it’s not the same thing entirely. I guess that’s an appropriate assumption to make during the month of November. I reckon I’ll keep doing my small bit, and reaching for excellence in a few ways, rather than mediocrity in many.


Adding Beauty 2015: Summer’s End

September 1, 2015

School year transitions and preparation, home renovations, family relationships, soccer, morning walks,    weddings, apple harvest, last swims, developing routines. These are the things that have characterized the last half of our summer. Still trying to add and recognize beauty in our surroundings. There is plenty to be found.

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Adding Beauty in 2015

June 1, 2015

In case you’re wondering…yes, I’m still participating in this project. But as I’ve said in the past, when the blogging isn’t happening, the living is.

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We’ve spent the first month of freedom from school recouping, which has entailed putting the house back in order, pulling weeds, planting things, playing soccer, relaxing, and resting together. We’ve already taken spontaneous walks, stayed up too late a few times, eaten sweets, and spent a couple of mornings playing board games. These things may seem so simple, but they are truly things we’ve not had the time or space to enjoy for quite a while.

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After my morning walk/run, I took a little nap on the trampoline. Sun on my face, pretty trees framing that gorgeous blue sky. Beauty.

I’m feeling very protective of our family these days, as far as how many things we say “yes” to. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I’ve been doing this marriage/family thing for about 15 years now, and I’ve learned that I can certainly set myself up for failure by coming out of the gates with guns blazing. I’ve set the bar really high with birthday parties, only to realize that I can’t match my own enthusiasm from year to year. I’ve made grand plans for summers, only to come to the end of them and realize that we didn’t even do half of what I thought we would. It’s depressing. It’s discouraging. It can be downright devastating, depending on our outlook. So I’m cautiously optimistic about this summer. The goals I’ve set seem doable, and we’re really focusing on having thankful hearts when we do something fun, rather than being bummed about the things we miss, either by choice or by circumstance.

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I found an old bicycle wheel in the garage and hung it in a tree over a picnic table. Laced some twinkle lights all through and… instant garden chandelier!

How are you approaching summer? Are you going to conquer the world? Or maybe just the laundry?

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Adding Beauty in April, 2015

April 15, 2015

So far, this month is flying by. All of the sudden I have a twelve year old. (Also, no more family birthdays until October! Should a mother be excited about this? If no, don’t tell me. I don’t need anything else to feel guilty about.)


We’re nearing the completion of the bulk of our school work for the seventh year in a row. This is unfathomable to me. And as the rain and the sun keep making their alternate appearances, and things are turning green and the birds are piping up from their long rest, Adding beauty just seems to get a little easier. For this, I’m grateful.

So much color to enjoy! Yellow marks the beginning of spring for our yard. Daffodils were drooping from a particularly cold and frosty morning, so we rescued them to brighten up our kitchen window, which has not yet been cleaned in a spring-like fashion.


More yellow on these blooming forsythia branches! And all of that green is so delicious.



Adding Beauty in March, 2015

March 31, 2015

It definitely happens, no matter how much you talk about one thing or another, and no matter how passionately you feel about it. At some point, you find it difficult to embrace the thing you thought was coming easily to you. March was like that for me. I had to t-h-i-n-k really hard about finding beauty. I had to f-i-g-h-t to appreciate the mundane goodness of life. There was a lot of frenzy, a lot to do. There was so much time for making messes and not enough for cleaning them up. And I’m not sure why this kind of scenario is always so upsetting to me, because there is always an end to the chaos. There is always a day or two of recovery, then all is well, or well on the way. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to remember and hold on to that.

When reflecting on this month, I found it necessary to go back to my Instagram feed and find out exactly what I did to add beauty to my world. Couldn’t remember a thing. Some days (or months) are like that, I guess.

But lo and behold…the pie! I ended up making three of them. So of course, we ate some for breakfast when there wasn’t quite enough cereal to go around. (Why wasn’t there enough cereal? Oh, because we were buried in snow. Buried.)


A few warm days gave us spring fever, but that was quickly doused with another bout of cold. So, hot chocolate.


Another stresser? Homeschool testing. But my kids weren’t stressed. All they care about are the snacks. Do you see a theme to the ways I’ve added beauty? And actually, if we’re being really honest here…I actually wasn’t as stressed about testing as I would like to let on. I kept my kids out til midnight the night before so I could go see a concert with my man. For my birthday. My brother and sister in law kept them until it was over, then we all rushed home for the busy week ahead.


Also for my birthday, my mom gave me this framed cross stitch piece I’ve been eyeing and not-so-subtly hinting about. She made it when she was engaged to my dad. My Paw Paw made the frame, and it hung outside my bedroom the whole time I was at home. So history, sentimentality, intricate stitch-work equals beauty.


Today, on this last day of March, I gathered some daffodils that were drooping from a very cold night and brought them in. The sun shining in on my dirty windows and those golden beauties was just the reminder of hope I needed. Not to mention those little paintbrushes, just waiting to bring more color and light to this house.


Now, I’ve got to make some progress on working off all that pie…


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Adding Beauty in February, 2015

February 24, 2015

The month of February, for me, is a crazy whirlwind of love and birthday fun on top of all the responsibilities of home, school, and mothering. There are 3 out of 6 family birthdays plus Valentine’s Day during these few short weeks. It’s my biggest opportunity to show my family love and appreciation and I NEVER live up to my own expectations during this busy time. I will always struggle with this, I’m afraid. But I constantly tell myself that the goal is for my crew to know they are loved, no matter how fancy (or un-fancy) I get with my preparation. And that is an achievable goal.

Here is what Adding Beauty looked like in February…

This little bit of green was a welcome touch to my pantry window.I had no idea how welcome it would be after we were to be buried under 3 feet of snow, just a few short weeks later. (I just love this hanging planter from Ikea.)

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 And who knew how helpful it would be to have all our snow gear organized and ready for easy access? Apparently I did. Those dry erase labels are from the Martha Stewart collection at Staples.  I also use them on crock pots and drink pitchers so friends at potlucks or whatever know what they are eating and drinking. (Say what you will about Martha, but I would argue that she has done more to turn womens’ hearts toward their homes than most in recent times.) Come springtime, we’ll be able to use these baskets for springy things! I’m counting on spring BIG TIME this year.

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What happened next was nothing short of absolutely breathtaking. After a particularly rainy day, the temperatures dropped rapidly and we woke to the most amazing sight. Hoarfrost. Covering absolutely everything. You had to see it to believe it and no picture could truly do justice to the beauty we observed. The kids and I drove slowly home from errands and decided to chase this curiosity to our magnificent New River Gorge “backyard.” (It’s really about a minute’s drive from our house).

Couldn’t see a thing. We had to settle for some close-ups.

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My daughter snapped this pic of some barberries with my phone. Aren’t they exquisite?

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The very next morning, the sun came out and we knew it would all be gone soon. She and I raced out with our cameras to capture it as best we could before it melted away.


There was also some Valentine’s Day prep to attend to. Thankfully, we did have to opportunity to deliver these babies before the snow burial began. I de- mushified this version found through a Pinterest search, so there was no mention of love, just friendship. All my kids could deliver their cards with heads held high and no teasing.

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There’s almost nothing better than a muffin with tea for breakfast or a snack. These strawberry-banana ones were just about perfect. I had enough to freeze for another time.

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I neglected a lot of other responsibilities in order to give the girls’ room a little face-lift. A certain someone was transitioning to a world of no more crib and no more pacifier. It had to be special. I’ll do a full post on it soon. There are a few more little touches to add before it’s done-done.

Pom pom trim on a window treatment. Always a good idea.

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My biggest girl’s bed. (Which, incidentally, was mine as a child. I’m pretty sure I transitioned from a crib to this very bed. It used to be white.) I had an old chalkboard with two holes already drilled in it and just free handed a design similar to the one found here. (Aren’t they all gorgeous? Such sweet sentiments about books) My daughter made a finger knitted yarn chain to hang it from a little screw in the wall, and I added the tassels. I do love the look of it. (Except for the creepy Monkey. But it’s her bed, after all.)

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My little big girl’s bed. We’ve since added a basket of board books for her to peruse while she gets sleepy. (That’s the Black Apple Doll you see hanging out there beside the Ikea Cloud Pillow. Again, thanks Martha.)

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We had just enough time to celebrate her birthday with spaghetti and pink cake and friends before getting absolutely dumped on. It’s a good thing we had cozy new spaces to enjoy. We were in for the isolation period of the year. (Those muffins in the freezer came in really handy.)

I understand a lot of people are totally grossed out by the following. But in my humble opinion, it’s a childhood ritual. I’ve done my motherly duty and told my kids how gross snow is. It’s full of dirt and grime and nasty organisms. (Thankfully we don’t have a dog, so, one less thing to worry about) But the truth is, I send them out in the snow to play and I see them stuffing handfuls of the white stuff into their mouths when they think I’m not looking. I’ve chased them from window to window through the house, banging on the glass and shouting, “Don’t eat it!” But I’ve surrendered. This past week we collected a bowl full and added sugar and milk. Everyone participated. There were even cones to put them in. And we’re all still alive. And healthy. And happy.

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We still have one more birthday to get through this month. During the forever-long days stuck in this drafty old house, I found time to sew! So far, I’ve stitched up a quick birthday banner for my youngest son and hemmed a pair of pants for my husby. It’s been glorious.

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No-Fail February

February 2, 2015

It happens every year. For the homeschool mother of young children and teens, there is often a silent, steady build-up of anxiety, like the watched pot that never boils. Only it eventually does boil and that mama spills over the edge of her pot, with all her feelings of failure and her overwhelming list of to-dos that remain undone. I can’t do this. I’m failing. What time does that yellow bus drive by?

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February is often referred to as “homeschool burnout month.” Have you felt it? (And for that matter, I’m not sure this applies only to homeschoolers. There’s plenty of anxiety to go around for moms and even women in general. The gray days do much to add to the feelings of want, I’d venture to say.)  I’ve certainly felt it on numerous occasions, but I’m just not sure it must always be this way. There are plenty of articles on blogs and homeschooling websites with helpful encouragement and practical suggestions for coping and pushing through, (ahem, like Julie does here. Read it.)  so I’m not sure that I have anything new to add. The truth is, we’re all so very different. The needs and dynamics of our families are constantly changing. It’s exhausting. And there isn’t necessarily an easy formula for success. What is success, anyway? And who decides if you’ve achieved it?

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Over our Christmas break, I was thoroughly blessed by a study from Sarah Mackenzie at Amongst Lovely Things on the subject of Teaching from Rest. What struck me most profoundly was the fact that this business of running a household and being a parent and being responsible for the education of my children is seriously holy work. Within the often seemingly chaotic atmosphere of our days at home are hundreds of opportunities to model grace and gratefulness. If we’re honest with ourselves about whose stamp of approval really matters, then we have permission to truly leave our concerns at his feet. He knows. He cares. I love the idea that after we ask God to use us and help us fulfill his purpose, we can look at every little hiccup and every little setback as an answer to those prayers. We are free to see those frustrations, not as hindrances to what we’re trying to accomplish, but as opportunities to extend to our children the grace that’s been given to us. What a difference that change in perspective could make.

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Life Happens At The Table

January 27, 2015

Yesterday, I almost never left my kitchen. It’s the hub.


So much has happened there, around the table, over the last few months.

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I don’t think the dynamic is going to change any time soon, and I’m completely okay with that.


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But it’s time to start taking note.


My friend Anne and I have decided to do just that. Anne’s got this really great blog about her homeschooling journey that is basically her way of keeping track of her kids’ educational journey. What I love most about it, though, is that she’s chosen to share it publicly, so it also serves as a way to encourage other homeschool moms. She’s doing what she passionately enjoys and sharing it with others. If that’s not loving your neighbor, I’m not sure what is.


So after seeing this initial post, documenting all the life happening at her table one afternoon, I started thinking about how much happens around my own kitchen table.

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Hence, a new collaborative memory-keeping blog post series has been born. You can see what’s going on at Anne’s table here. (We’ll also document it on Instagram, if you want to follow along and join in! #LifeHappensAtTheTable)

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