From Gold Chain To Seminary Degree, The Noah’s Dad Prequel

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This post is going to be a little different than usual, but today’s video marks such a significant event in my life I thought I’d share with you guys, and tell you a little bit about my story before becoming Noahs Dad in the process. The story behind the story so to speak.

So I hope you’ll accept my apologize for Noah only being in about 3 seconds of today’s video. However, I included lots of pictures from our weekend to make up for it.  And don’t worry, tomorrow’s video will be jammed packed with lots of Noah cuteness.
:-)

down syndrome pictures baby family kid

At the pre-graduation ho-down. Noah isn’t a big fan of cowboy hats. :-)

Those moments you think will never happen….sometimes do.

Sometimes in our life there are moments that we think will never happen.

They seem so far off.

So impossible. So unlikely to ever happen to you that when they do, it’s almost unbelievable. Like you’re watching a movie and your watching s a character playing you, doing what you wish you were doing.

Then you realize it’s real. The event really happened. It’s really you. Doing something you either dreamed you were doing, or doing something you never in a million years thought you would be doing.

That’s what today was like for me.

Today I Received My Master’s Of Theology (ThM)

dallas theogloical seminary commencement class 2012

The class of 2012!

But to quote one of the first phrases in To Kill A Mockingbird, …It started long before that.

I’ll save you the long back story, but I’ll tell you this: 15 years ago no one (especially myself!) would have ever thought that I’d one day be receiving a Master’s degree, much less a Master’s of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. But after a five very long years it happened.

walking across stage graduation DTS dallas seminary DTS 1

“I can’t believe we let this guy in here…”

walking across stage graduation DTS dallas seminary DTS 2

“I’m going to double check your admission application on Monday…” :)

president mark bailey dts commencement

“No, seriously. We are.” :-)

And I seriously can’t believe it. Today as I walked across that strage I was once again reminded that God is faithful. And He can do things in and through your life that you never thought possible. It’s amazing. And I’m humbled.

rick smith mark bailey Dallas seminary 1

It’s real! I really did it! Woot!

A Few Thoughts On Seminary, Religious Crazies, And Cool Pastors

For those of you who only knew me from as “Noah’s Dad” l wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit of my story with you. If you have any questions about any of the stuff I talk about in today’s post, feel free to  ask them in the comments. I don’t mind at all. :)

Why I Hesitate to Tell People I Went To Seminary

I wrote in a previous post a little bit about what a seminary students’ actually like. But to be honest, I hesitate to tell people I went to seminary because there are so many misconceptions about people that go to seminary, that are pastors, that are “in ministry,” etc. I’m also well aware that lots of people have been hurt, judged,or treated wrongly by a religious person (read: religious crazy) and the last thing I want is for someone to think I’m anything like the religious nut they may have met once. So I usually try to get to know someone first before talking about what I “do.” One of the best things anyone can ever tell me is, “Wow, you’re not anything like the (fill in the blank with some religious term) I meet once.”

I love breaking stereotypes.

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“Yah…!! Daddy did it!”

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“I REALLY can’t believe he did it.” (Just joking, she always knew I could.)

If you’ve been following our story the last 22 months then you probably already knew I went to seminary, but if not, now you do. Hopefully we can still be friends. :-)

Why I Went To Seminary? (or) How A Cool Preacher Changed My Life.

About 15 years ago I slipped into the back of a large singles Bible study. There was a guy preaching name Todd Wagner. I had heard a lot of preachers in my life, but none of them sounded anything like this guy. He was authentic. He was honest. He was cool! No offensive, but most of the preachers I had seen on tv looked like the kind of guys who got picked on (a lot) growing up. (And they all had those awkward “evangelist’s haircuts.) Not this guy. He actually looked, and dressed, cool. I know it sounds pretty superficial, but realizing that pastors could be cool (read: normal) was a turning point for me.

todd wagner watermark community church noah smith

Two of my favorite people, Noah and Todd!

I went back week after week, and bought as many tapes (yes, tapes!) as I could afford. I consumed them. I played some of them so many times I have sections of them memorized to this day. He was teaching truth, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to hear. I had never heard anyone teach the Bible like Todd did. It blew my mind (and changed my life.)

One day Todd invited me to hang out with him at his office in Dallas. I had this beat up car, with no A/C and drove that thing all the way to Dallas in the heat and traffic (it barely made it) just to hang out with him for a little bit. It really meant a lot to me that this awesome preacher took an interest in this 18 year old, punk kid’s life. (Quick reminder: You never know the impact you can have on someone else’s life by investing in them. Don’t ever count anyone out. Ever.)

I remember thinking to myself that someway, somehow I would learn to communicate the Bible like Todd. I found out Todd went to Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and I wanted to go there also. I was an 18 year old kid, so I didn’t know much, but I knew I had to do whatever it took to go where Todd went so that maybe I could learn to talk about the Bible that way he did.

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Turns out 15 years later, I actually would attend DTS.

But man, it seemed so far off. I didn’t even have a high school diploma! How the heck was I ever going to get my Master’s degree ?

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And I needed to work on getting these braces (and my gold chain) off first!

old scanned wedding pictures 1

My wife (almost) married a thug! Oh man….ha,ha.

Todd, thanks for investing in my life all those years ago (and for continuing to do so today.) Thanks for showing me a “different” kind of Christian. And thanks for your faithfulness as a pastor, friend, and follower of Christ. I can never repay you for all the ways your friendship, love, and Biblical teaching have shaped and guided my life for ever. Thank you.

By the way to all my friends reading this blog post, if you enjoy hearing life changing messages I encourage you to check out some of Todd’s sermons. I think you’ll see why I speak so highly of him. And if you aren’t plugged into to a good church you can even watch Watermark’s services live and free online anywhere in the world! So be sure to check it out.

What A Difference A Decade Can Make

family picture after thm dallas seminary graduation

I lost the braces. And grew up. :)

Let’s just say a lot of things happened in my life over that that next decade that God would use to eventually get me to DTS. I met one of the most loving, gracious, and encouraging people I’d ever meet, my wife. She believed in me. And my dream. She saw things in me that no one else did. And she loved me. A lot. I don’t think anyone else (including myself) ever thought I’d actually make it to DTS.

But she did.

dallas seminary graduation husband wife

She ALWAYS believed in me…even when I didn’t believe in myself. I love this girl!

I had to first go to undergrad. (And do well enough to somehow get accepted into graduate school.) I moved to Houston to attend the University of Houston (Go Coogs!) I moved in with some guys that would become some of my closest friends, and got involved with a church that God would use to transform me. I graduated with a bachelors degree in corporate communication.

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She was right by my side here too!

My wife graduated from medical school.

 

utmb galvaston medical school commencement

She rocked Med school!

We got married (a miracle.) :)

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Isn’t she a beautiful bride? (And don’t worry…it’s just juice!) :)

iphone wedding groom cake

i had an iPhone cake before many people even had an iPhone. Yes, I’m a geek. :)

I got accepted into Dallas Theology Seminary (another miracle.) My wife got accepted into the residency program she wanted to be in, also in Dallas.

utmb residency acceptance childrens dallas

It was a happy (and very bright) day!

My wife finished her residency program. We had an amazing (and adorably cute) son.

new born baby down syndrome delivery room c section

Our son had lots of surprises in store for us. :-)

Then….it happened.

I graduated from seminary!

dallas theological seminary hood diploma

Pretty cool hood, huh? :-)

…but it wasn’t easy.

Every Story Has It’s Challenges….

baby down syndrome petting rabbit

Life’s not all rainbows and bunnies….

As I was writing this post and reflecting on the last 15 years of my life I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and grace throughout it. I faced some pretty big challenges in my story, and God allowed me to overcome them. Many of the challenges I faced I brought upon myself, but some I had no control over; they were the sort of challenges we all face. But again, I look back over the last 15 years of life with a heart full of praise as I think about how God guided and shaped my life through all of these circumstances.

I could write about a million challenges I faced during that time, but I’ll share a few of the major ones:

  • Lost my grandmother to cancer.
  • Lost my grandfather.
  • My dad (who I hadn’t spoken with in almost a decade, but planned on doing at some point) died…before I had chance to talk to him. Here’s a letter I “wrote to him” after his death.
  • My wife’s grandmother died.
  • My wife’s grandfather died.
  • My brother in law got cancer (and beat it!) :)
  • Our son surprised us by being born with Down syndrome. (Not a bad thing, just something we weren’t expecting.)
  • We were told in addition to Down syndrome our son could also have a very rare (and deadly) genetic condition know as GA-1, and that it would take 3 months for us to know for sure (right in the middle of my final exams.)
  • We thought our son was having seizures.
  • We thought our son had leukemia.
  • I had to take (and pass) 5 semesters of Greek, and 4 semesters of Hebrew. (which is another miracle.) :)
  • And just today we received a call in the middle of the night from my wife’s mother telling us that her grandmother had passed away. (While this didn’t happen while I was going through seminary I found it interesting that it happened while I was working on this blog post. In fact, this is the point in the post where I quit writing last night, in order to finish up today….) 

Man. It’s been one heck of a journey lately. That’s for sure.

But the truth of the matter is struggles aren’t unique to us. We aren’t the only ones who have faced challenges recently, and honestly our struggles pale in comparison to some of the struggles that others are going through. The bottom line is we all go through challenges. It’s part of life. The question isn’t will you go through challenges / hardships / surprises in life. You will. The question is how will you respond to life’s challenges when they come your way?

As I’ve said once before;

…in this life fear is going to constantly be knocking at your door. And every time it does it’s up to you to decide you will win; fear, or truth. And in this house we’ve made a decision that fear doesn’t win in this house, God does.

I encourage you to make the same decision. It isn’t always easy. But I’ll promise you that 100 out of 100 times hope is always better than fear. Always.

…And Every Challenge Teaches Us Something.

dallas seminary petting zoo

Sometimes you have to meet a goat before you realize you don’t like them.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you! As I mentioned about one thousand three hundred words ago, today’s post is a little different than others. I hope you didn’t mind. I just wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit more about my story with you. We’ll be back tomorrow with more epic Noah cuteness. But before I end this (super long) post I wanted to share a few nuggets of truth with you as a take away. Sort of a moral to my story in progress. :)

  1. Make time to invest in the life of other people.
  2. Never doubt God.
  3. When it looks like the odds are against you, watch out, because God REALLY likes bad odds.
  4. God’s plan for your life is probably much different, and certainly much better, than you ever could have imagined.
  5. Telling someone you believe in them is a much bigger deal to them than it is to you. Take time to encourage someone today. It only takes you a few minutes, they may never forget it.
  6. You have no idea what you’re capable of.
  7. Friendships and relationships matter.You aren’t meant to live life in isolation. Find people who are sold out for the things that really matter in life and hang out with them as much as you can.
  8. Who you date and marry matter.
  9. The underdog sometimes wins.
  10. Each of us are only one phone call / conversation / Doctor’s visit away from news that could change the entire course and direction of our life.
  11. Not all preachers have to look dorky and have funny looking hair. :)
  12. We will all face challenges in life. And when we do we have a choice to choose fear or truth. Choose truth.
  13. In the long run, God always wins.
  14. Greek and Hebrew are hard. Avoid it at all costs. Unless you’re trying to earn a ThM. In that case, find a really good tutor.
  15. Dreams that you think are impossible, may actually be more possible than you think. (I also think I’ve heard that somewhere before….)

I Hope We Can Still Be Friends. :-)

Thanks for letting me have a chance to share a little of my story with you. It’s so much fun sharing our son’s story with you and getting the chance to learn more about yours as well!

dallas seminary commencement 2012

Noah’s not all that impressed….

I hope you found some encouragement in today’s post. And for those of you who aren’t Christians, anti-religion, etc. I hope we can still be friends. It’s amazing how many people get upset when I even mention God on my Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Etc. I get messages like “I come here to read about your son, not a bunch of religious talk.” Many of those same people have sent me kind messages in the past, commented on our blog, etc. It surprises (and hurts) me that people could be so quick to write someone off simply because they are Christian. I have lots of friends who aren’t Christians and their relationships mean a lot to me. I hope those of you who aren’t Christians know me well enough to know I’m a pretty normal guy. (Ok, maybe normal’s not the right, but you get the idea.) :-) I hope that you don’t tune me out or stop being my friend just because I talk about God sometime. I promise, if you give me a chance you may find out that I’m not like some of the other Christians you may have met. :)

And if you’re one of those preachers with weird hair…I’m sorry, but you and I can’t be friends. At least not until you get a haircut. :-)

I leave you with one question. What’s one dream you have that feels like it’s completely impossible? Completely out of your reach? I want to know about about! So please take a second to leave a comment below and tell us. (And don’t worry, no dream is too small…or too silly. So don’t be afraid to leave a comment.) 

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About Rick Smith

Hi, I'm Noah's Dad and I'm passionate about giving the world a window into our life as we raise our son who was born with Down syndrome. I also enjoy connecting with other families, so let's stay connected.

Comments

  1. Wow! Just taking the time tonight to backtrack through your blog. Our 4th little boy has DS and is now almost 14 months old! I found your blog sometime earlier this year, but wanted to read more about y’all and was able to tonight. No idea if you will see this, since its almost a year after you posted, but I love this post! I believe 100% everything you mentioned and am so thankful for your witness to others! I love that you are spreading our faith and that your family’s life is reaching so many others! Thank you for encouraging your readers in so many facets of life! Congrats to you on your degree, your upcoming new addition and your awesome Noah and fam!

  2. Well, I really enjoyed this post and I love seeing all the pictures of Noah usually. You said to write one dream that seems impossible… so here goes nothing!

    My dream is to someday have a second chance at having a family the way that I imagined. You see, I spent my twenties invested in one relationship that didn’t work out and then another and another. I invested all my time in someone outside of myself instead of in me and in my relationship with God. So, after having my heart broken one too many times, I met a guy who promised the moon and stars and who I thought I loved (at least I loved who I thought he was) and we got married after only six weeks. I thought that it was too good to be true and we conceived a child almost immediately. I was overjoyed, but very soon after, this guy of my dreams started to become abusive. I don’t want to bore you with all the details or give you a sob story so I’ll cut to the chase. My daughter is the best thing in the entire world. She is two now and I am divorced. My ex-husband (I cringe at that in so many ways) turned out to be of the worst moral fiber that you can imagine. I am raising my daughter alone and her father is not in her life whatsoever, not that I want him to be because he has put her in harms way on a few occasions. I am putting myself through nursing school with help from family and financial aid and it is hard. My dream is to have a father for my daughter who is also my husband who loves her like his own. A home. A happy family. I realize that I contributed to this situation by not getting to know who I was marrying well enough, but I was thinking that it was finally what I had waited all these years for. I don’t want my daughter to have to suffer for it. Now, I know you were probably looking for dreams of people, as in GOALS that they are in control of. My dream is sort of left in God’s hands because my priority now is parenting and my degree and career, not looking for romantic love. But, that’s my dream. You asked!

    I hope that this doesn’t come across as pathetic or that I got what I deserved, because if you has known me before all this, I was the one who people would have least expected to wind up in this position. It’s not like I intentionally had more than one relationship. In fact, my first love I would have stayed for for the rest of my life had he been so inclined. One bad heartbreak turned into loneliness that I thought would eat me alive and I began looking for someone to fill this big empty void that I had. That I probably had since I was a little kid when my parents separated. Now I just feel like I have ruined my chances forever of finding true contentment in this life and also ruined my daughter’s chance of having a mommy and daddy who are both invested in her. I’m sad for her all the time and I’m sad for me too. At the least, can you say a prayer for us? Than you.

  3. I love your blog ! I’ve just recently found it so Im going back through it to see what I missed. Since you asked, my dream is to work with children that have Downs Syndrome in some capacity. My problem is I dont know how to go about it or what to do exactly. I’ve always been drawn to the most precious people in the universe….people who have DS. When I was growing up I had a cousin with DS so I think that’s why Im so drawn to these wonderful people. The thing is ….Im 48 with no college degree and absolutley no funds to get one. So this dream of mine will be left in Gods hands because I know he is the only one that can make this happen for me. Have a wonderful and happy day with Noah and this blog going :)

  4. Heather Antoine says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m mom to an 11 year old girl with a chromosome deletion, 9 year old girl, 6 year old boy missing 1/2 his brain with CP, 3 year old girl, and soon to be mom of a 13 year old girl with CP. I’ve enjoyed your blog for a while now without commenting.

    My dream… to begin and run a non-profit that ill support an orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda for people with disabilities, and to eventually move my family there.

  5. Monica Threeton says:

    Enjoyed your post so much!!! You have a beautiful family! I know God has big plans for you! Please continue to write your blogs, love reading them. God bless you and yours from Louisiana.

  6. My dream is that I get a lung transplant soon. It’s been 13 months on the list my disease is getting worse. So that’s my dream.

  7. Julia Peddigree says:

    Hi, Noahs dad! (and mom too)! I have 5 children myself, ranging in ages from 16years old to 15 months old, so it seems as though my first name is lost to time, and the world knows me as “Charles’ Mom or Mattigan’s mom” (Insert any of my childrens names here) anyway, your right I have recently become aware of some rather positive christian ppl who influence my life greatly. I hope that its alright to say that you and your openness with your life expeirences that you share with us, have helped transform the way that I do look at some things. I have had rather interesting expierences with christian ppl before, and following your blog and your facebook page, has been an amazing influence on my life. I have made some choices in the past that were not to smart (when I was rather young and not smart-my father called them learning expierences) but they tended to follow me (Not smart relationship choices) That being said, I want to share that I was driving home from work one morning (I work third shift) and I have to drive through a rather deep valley where tuning in a radio station is next to impossible and usually the only station that comes in is a country station. Country music is okay, but it really wouldnt be my first choice. I had been faced with making some rather difficult choices then (it was about 2-3 weeks before christmas) and I was very torn about what I should do and what the right thing to do is. The song by Carrie Underwood came on “Jesus take the wheel” and I remember looking at my 4 yr old and 15 month old asleep in the back seat in their car seats (I had picked them up from their dads) and just got tears in my eyes and as i looked up in the sky, I said “Listen I know I dont talk to you as much as I proably should, but I want to say this. Thank you for my gifts, my children. they are my world. But I need some help too. I cant do this by myself. I need some guidance and strength, to make the choices on whats right for my children. Please help me. I cant do this by myself.” And you no what, Rick? I got these goosebumps as I was finishing my little talk with God. And from that point on, I have been finding reserves and strengths that I didnt realize I had. I was able to make the choices that I needed to, for my children. We were amazingly blessed the week before christmas, too. And I think its cause I talked to God that day on my way home from work. Following your blog and following you guys on FB, I saw that it was okay to pray and ask for guidance and help, but to also thank Him for his blessings, too. We dont know what is in store for us, and your were right in this blog, today. when it seems as though the odds are against you, watch out cause God really likes it when the odds are a bit out there.
    So, in part, my dream? to somehow be an inspiration to someone like you were an inspiration to me. So, thanks for all the time and effort you put into your blog and that you put into FB. It really pays off.

  8. Thank You Pastor Smith for who you are :) Our good thoughts are with you and your family daily and thank you most for sharing Noah with all of us :)

  9. This is excellent news! We are very proud Papa Noah! The Lord bless you with his blessing! Yes circulate the limits of your own! Yes the Lord will protect you from all evil!

  10. Dianne Brooks says:

    Dear Noah’s Dad ( glad you don’t have any identity issues )

    I follow “Noah’s Dad” faithfully and daily on FB and was happy to learn more about the big guy in the cuteness pictures. I was delighted to learn that you are a pastor, but not all that surprised. Love and joy shine through the posts and in your smile, that transcend the ordinary.
    My DS grandson has shone on our lives for 16 yrs. and enlarged our hearts in a way that nothing else could have. I never knew it was physically possible to love so much. I see that same feeling posted by the parents on “Noah’s Dad.” God has indeed bestowed a great honor on all the parents of Down Syndrome children; He has trusted us with the care of His special treasures.

  11. Sue Large says:

    21years ago my grandson Zachary was born with Downs syndrome not a illness ,just a little boy with a big smile and even bigger heart he has been a blessing in our life,i told my son when he was born God don’t make mistakes he knows who to bless with a special child,God bless you and your family in your journey

  12. Thanks for sharing your story Noah’s Dad!! What an awesome journey!
    Our big dream is to adopt a child who has that special magic that only comes with an extra chromosome! We’d love to bring another child into our family! ♥

  13. Steve Wolfe says:

    Your positivity is very refreshing. Rock on :)

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