Twitter Personality of the Week #39: 10 Questions for Amy Smith (@watchkeep)

No two ways about it. Amy Smith is simply one of the most genuine people you’ll ever encounter on Twitter in any sphere.

To all the cynics who deride the rise of social networking and modern modes of connection as artificial and contrived, I would offer Amy as an example from the positive column in the social networking ledger. I haven’t yet met this lady, but I intuitively trust her…not blindly, but with reason, rooted in mutual goodwill. It is, in part, because of honorable women like Amy Smith that I strive to be a better husband and father, and to wage the fight for freedom and restoration in our country.

Amy’s indomitable, yet gentle spirit inspires me. She has faced challenges of severe magnitude and emerged with her faith and joy not only sustained and intact, but renewed and strengthened. As the father of a child who has faced multiple surgeries in her first three years of life, I identified completely with the resonantly human desperation and terror that Amy candidly reveals when sharing the details of Baby Jackie’s story with us. We both also know what it means to sense a strong Hand firmly clasping ours…a comforting Voice that guides us through the valleys and assures us we haven’t been forsaken.

If there is one single compliment I could pay that sums up what Amy Smith’s life and character mean to me, it would be this: She is a constant reminder to me, through her radiant joy and humble sweetness, of what really matters in life.

10 Questions for Amy Smith

1.  I pose this same question to every Texan I interview (and out of 39, there have been an above-average percentage, as befits Texas!): How has growing up in Texas shaped the person you are today?  

I proudly consider myself a Texan, now that I have lived here since 1983. I was born and raised in Foley, Alabama on the beautiful gulf coast, home of sugar-white sand beaches. We still have family there, and we enjoy making an annual beach trip to Gulf Shores. I feel like the sand and waves are in my blood.  I think growing up in a small town  made me much of who I am today, though I have lived in Dallas and now Houston since I was 14. I have two younger brothers and we spent days with our neighborhood friends riding our bikes around town, even riding to the Dairy Queen on our own, as well as to our grandparents’ houses. My mom and dad were born and raised in Foley. It seemed like everybody knew everybody, especially at the First Baptist Church . My Nana owned and operated Zade’s Beauty Shop. Ladies will track with me here…Think Trudy’s from “Steel Magnolias.”  I spent many hours with my Granddaddy on his boat fishing in the bay. It seemed a simpler time, and while technological advances have had positive societal advantages, I try to bring some of that childhood simplicity that I knew into my children’s lives, be it trips to pick berries and peaches at a local farm, or just spending time outside and weekends away to the Texas hill country. Go ahead; call me old fashioned.  I attended Baylor University in Waco, graduating in 1991 with a psychology degree, then a nursing degree from Baylor University School of Nursing in Dallas. Baylor will always hold a special place in my heart. I love going back to the campus, especially at Homecoming, and sharing it with my family. Sic ‘em, Bears! 

2.  You found me on Twitter, and through that interaction, I discovered your blog. What initially brought you into the world of social media and what is the genesis of your Twitter handle (“watchkeep”)? 

I had been on Facebook for a couple of years, and thought I would give Twitter a try after one of my friends told me about the connections she had made through Twitter with her blog Houston on the Cheap, @HouCheap. True story: I opened a Twitter account and closed it almost immediately. I was so overwhelmed and thought, “It’s not for me.” Then, last summer, I thought, Oh what the heck, I’ll give it a try. I started a blog, also, not being sure if that was for me and wondered if I would have anything worth blogging about. It became a place for me to post from time to time things meaningful to me or a place to post a recipe that I enjoy baking. In deciding on a name for my blog, the words of the lullaby “All Through the Night” that played frequently while I rocked my youngest daughter kept coming to mind:

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,

All through the night

Guardian angels God will send thee,

All through the night;

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,

Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,

I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,

All through the night.                                                                                                       

Amy and Matt Smith, with Texas Governor Rick Perry, in 2006.

And there you have it! “Watch keep:  to observe the course of mentally; keep up on or informed about; to record transactions, accounts, or events in; as to keep books, a journal, etc.” 

3. Tell us about Matthew and the supportive role he plays in your life!               

We just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary on June 3. He is my best friend.  Without a doubt, I know he is the man I prayed God would give me.  He is the best, smartest, wittiest, most handsome man I know.  He is a Texan. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C . his freshman year but was so homesick for Texas, he came back and graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio. He then graduated from SMU with an MBA.  He is an Eagle Scout. He is the best daddy in the world to our 4 girls. How could I ask for more? Also, when I posed this question to him, he said, “I dare you to answer, ‘He keeps my motor running.’” That’s my Matt.

4.  You and I are both parents of daughters. Furthermore, we have been granted the privilege of serving as guardians of young lives with a special need. Would you share some of Jackie’s journey with us?  

Baby Jackie, the day after her 12-hour open heart surgery. A photo that is worth 1,000 words.

What an incredible blessing it is to have 4 girls! When we thought our lives were complete with 3 girls, God gave us Jackie. Jackie was born on February 23rd, 2008. Being 5 weeks early, she was kept in the NICU for several days. During that time, she got better, needing less oxygen, no warmer, and she even began feeding. However, her lower oxygen saturation levels led the doctor to do an echocardiogram. It revealed that she had Transposition of the Great Arteries. She was immediately transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where they repeated the echo and found an atrial septal defect, a ventral septal defect, coarctation of the aorta, and that her PDA was still open.  Jackie was born with the two major arteries attached to her heart backwards.  We were told in no uncertain terms that Jackie would not survive without surgery. On March 5th at 10 days of age, she underwent a 12-hour open heart surgery, 6 hours of which she was on bypass with her small strawberry-sized heart stopped. Dr. Charles Fraser and the congenital heart surgery team at TCH performed the surgery to repair her heart. We brought her home 13 days later! We are so thankful beyond words. I will never forget the shock of February 28, 2008 that went from us being told we could take our baby home to riding in an ambulance sobbing on the way to Texas Children’s Hospital. It was a nightmare, and I felt like I could barely breathe. The shock and raw fear were suffocating. Yet we had hope.  I was changed to the core. We found comfort in pouring out the details on her Care Page. This was my post the day after her surgery: 

“Well, finally Mommy is posting an update. Daddy has done a marvelous job journaling our journey thus far. I am overwhelmed and exhausted, yet somehow by the miracle of God’s grace, not overcome. I now understand the last few words of the poem Footprints, ‘…it was then I carried you.’ In my mental fog, many Scriptures come to mind from God’s Word, but one has been sticking to my thoughts like glue: Psalms 27:13-14, ‘I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’ We are daily seeing the goodness of the Lord through each of you, your words of comfort and encouragement, visits, calls, emails, meals, and most of all prayers. We are forever grateful. May we all have ‘happy hearts’ in the Lord like baby Jackie.”

(Editor’s Note: Here is a link to an amazing video that covers Jackie’s ordeal. You’ll want to watch it! I can’t get it to embed at the moment, but I plan to later! Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHlmvgvjKn4)

5.  One of the reasons you quickly became a favorite follow of mine on Twitter was because of your fervent commitment to Jesus Christ. Tell us about the place that faith holds in your value system and how it impacts your outlook on life. 

I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord when I was 11, but as a child I had been raised in the church and knew way before I was 11 that Jesus loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life. In the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” and in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Thus “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8 

6.  It occurs to me that I generally know how you’ll come down on policy positions, but I really don’t know much about your level of political involvement. Have you ever participated in a campaign or done activist-type work and either way, how has it resulted in the camaraderie that is evident between you and folks like me in the conservative Twitter crowd?                              

Bluebonnets! The Texas state flower, which its residents love to photograph.

I have not participated in a campaign to date other than contributing to candidates who share my conservative values.  With 2012 on the horizon, and if a certain governor decides to run, but regardless who the Republican nominee is, I think I would like to do my part in lending support. I believe there is too much at stake not to. I have recently taken on a new role as the Houston SNAP leader. Though not personally a victim, I have some friends and personal acquaintances who were abused by a minister as children.   Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, http://www.snapnetwork.org/, is a volunteer self-help organization of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters. The most powerful tool is the light of truth. 

7. What, in the following categories, are some favorites that resonate with you in some fashion: Books, Music (Artists or Songs), Foods, Movies, and some other miscellaneous activities/pursuits?

Books: devotionals- My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert; For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus (I have taught this Bible study several times), as well as books and Bible studies by Beth Moore. I currently need to finish reading Bringing up Girls by Dr. James Dobson and President Bush’s book, Decision Points.  I think I have ADD when it comes to reading books through.

Music: Contemporary Christian, praise and worship, country, and Sinatra/Harry Connick Jr/Buble.

Movies: The Sound of Music, The Fugitive, Apollo 13, Secretariat, Shawshank Redemption, Sweet Home Alabama, You’ve Got Mail, Raising Arizona, Naploean Dynamite, Nacho Libre, Nanny McPhee, The Heart of Texas.

Food:  seafood, burgers, Mexican, red velvet cake, good coffee, sweet tea, diet coke with lime.

Other activities: not an avid runner, but I have run 4 full marathons, Houston twice, Dallas White Rock and Disney World, and several half marathons and shorter races. I also love to bake. 

8.  Besides your parents, who are 3 people who have left a positively indelible imprint on your life, whether personal acquaintances or figures in public life you admire? 

1. L. B. Cowman whose daily devotional book  I have read over and over, Streams in the Desert. L. B. Cowman and Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, met when Cowman and her husband were missionaries to Japan and Chambers traveled there to preach. Both were greatly influenced by Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher of the late 1800s. Chambers came to a saving knowledge of Christ through Spurgeon’s preaching, and Cowman used more of Spurgeon’s writings for Streams in the Desert than any other.  “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” Isaiah 35:6. 

2. Louie Giglio: Pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta.  Louie and his wife Shelley began a weekly Bible study called Choice at Baylor University where he was doing graduate studies.  Choice Bible study had a significant impact on my personal walk with Christ. For four years I gathered on Monday nights with about 1000 other Baylor students for worship and authentic, passionate teaching from God’s Word. One summer during college, I had the privilege of traveling with Louie, Shelley and about 50 others from Baylor and a church in Houston to England on a mission trip. Louie founded the Passion Conferences, which seek to inspire a generation to live to make Jesus famous, a desire rooted in Isaiah 26:8 – “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” 

3. Tina Smith: my close friend that I have known for 14 years. By the age of 31, Tina had suffered the loss of her first husband to cancer (at the age of 22) and her young daughter who was born with a rare, fatal brain abnormality. She is living a legacy of faith, and I am thankful to witness it. In her own words, “God reaches into a life filled with tragedy to offer guidance, encouragement, provision, and above all, love. It reminds me of His redemptive power in my own life. No matter what comes my way, God remains faithful.”

9. I want to hear all about the “Heart of Texas” project…how it was birthed and what the story is that is related through the narrative of the film. 

The Heart of Texas movie is a 2008 documentary that is made up of individuals from a small community just west of Houston.  It is an amazing true story. My husband’s parents Larry and Carol Smith are in the film. It is the story of Grover Norwood, a close family friend, and Ulice Parker. When tragedy pierces the heart of this small community on the quiet Texas plains, its townspeople witness what can happen when grace and forgiveness triumph over anguish and outrage. Against the traffic of our crowded lives, a story of such forgiveness can seem more of a work of fiction…yet every moment of this story is true. Texas Senator Dan Patrick is the executive producer.  It originally was a shorter documentary shown at the nationwide Promise Keepers conferences. You can watch the trailer and purchase the movie online at the website http://www.heartoftexasthemovie.com/. It has been shown in prisons all over Texas. My mother-in-law once accompanied Grover Norwood and Dan Patrick to a women’s prison to speak after the movie was shown there. Through the message of the movie, Grover founded The Heart of Texas Foundation working to impact the entire Texas prison system in a positive way, http://www.heartoftexasfoundation.org/.                 

Matt and Amy Smith and all four girls. Look at that little miracle baby!

10.   As the last question, I often ask about a “bucket list,” but for you, I want to phrase it a little differently. What would you desire to have accomplished in life in order to know you have been successful?

For me and my husband to raise our daughters in the way that God has planned for them, and so that as they mature, they would never depart from the path of knowing and loving Jesus all the days of their lives.  And when they leave home, I hope they can say “It was a blast.” When God calls me home, to hear him say, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.”

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