Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The New Blog is Up and Running

Dear friends,

HI! My new blog is up and running. If your interested, I'd love to have you visit. Just go to:


Love you all!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010 One Year Since Crash

Dear Friends,

Had to send one quick note to say thank you again! Tomorrow I begin writing the book. I'll need your prayers for perseverance and grace...

It has truly been an incredible year. There's so much to say...And I hope I can say it well.

I love you more than words can say. I'll be climbing with you always...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Early Goodbye From The Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,

I need your understanding more than at any time since November 8, 2009. This will be my last public entry on this blog. I made a commitment to write every day until November 8, 2010, and I will keep that commitment, but privately. It is with a profound sadness but a deep resolve that I conclude this communication, which has been a joy, a lifeline, and one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. But there is something far more important to me than even my own life. That is the feelings and needs of Hannah Mary Rejoice Smith, and it is for her that I leave this cherished endeavor behind, without regret, and not as a martyr, but as a mother.

Please don't ask her why. Please leave her to her own walk through a very difficult and steep path on the pilgrim road. More difficult and steep than I even knew. She is an extremely private person, unlike her momma, who deals with suffering in a far different way than her precious daughter. There are aspects to all of this I don't even understand. But I know you will treat her with kindness and understanding, as you have right along. Perhaps there will come a day when the last month of this blog will be published. If the Great One wants it that way, it will happen. He has a way of resurrecting things that have been put to death. I don't know how it will play out, I only know what I must do right now.

Eleven months ago, our lives were hit by a tornado no one saw coming. It changed everything, for ill and, ultimately, for good. To the first responders who came to the rescue, I say thank you once again. It is not adequate. But I have no other words to use to express the depth of gratitude that only the Lord really understands. In particular, I want to share my deep affection for Officer Ernie, who has been my friend through it all, from the moment he walked in the door of Albany Medical Center, to his presence at the sentencing of Oscar Lewis, to this very day. I will always hold you dear, Ernie, and pray the Great One will fill your heart with a knowledge of His love for you every day.

To the doctors, nurses and therapists and staff people who took care of Stephen and Hannah when their bodies were broken and bleeding, there are no words. Only gratitude equal to the stars in the sky for saving their lives and helping them recover. In particular, Dr. Bagchi, who put the pieces back together of a man who now can go to work and raise his children, deserves high honor. But so does Miss Rosie, the precious lady who sat with Hannah for countless hours, praying for her as she emerged from her injuries. And so do all of the amazing human beings at Albany Med and Sunnyview Hospital. Trish Regan, you stand alone. You are, and ever will be, my favorite nurse on earth. In all your troubles remember Jesus will never, ever leave you. When He created you for Himself, He broke the mold. And His heart will always look for yours.

To our families, I say I love you in a deeper and wider way than I ever knew possible. All our differences don't amount to a hill of beans after the year we've shared together. To my brother Donnie, you know well that I would step in front of a truck for you. As you would for me. And you've proven it in countless ways this year. To Richard, I will never forget you peeling me off the floor of the SICU at one of my worst moments. You are a man of action, dear brother in law, and God sees your great big heart of love. Remember He loves you even when you are sitting still. Tom, well, as a loyal bloggie you have made my heart so glad. Thank you for your kindness and love to us through this mess. I am so glad for the relationship we have recovered. To John, I can only imagine the heartache of a twin brother on the edge of death. How blessed he is to go on in this life with you! And to the rest of the family, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles: your love and prayers were rich and sweet. May every blessing you have given us be returned back to you a thousand times over.

To the many friends and strangers from far and wide who have loved us in a myriad of ways, I love you back with all my heart and soul. When I write the book of this saga, you will be firmly implanted in my memory. Indeed, far beyond when those words hit the paper.

And to my brothers and sisters in Christ from Delmar Full Gospel Church, well, all I can do is weep now, weep with joy and gratitude for all you have meant to our family. You have shown me up close and personal what it really means to be the body of Christ. You have been the very hands and feet of God in the thick of the worst muck that I've ever known. I'm glad we share the pilgrim road. To Pastor Dave the humble and Sweet Laurie - I love you greatly. I honor your lives of service and your true hearts of tenderness to the people in your care. May He who lives forever give you every great blessing this life has to offer. I already know He has life eternal and full of joy for you at the end of this winding, unpredictable highway.

If I did not mention your name here, it's only because this would be an endless ending post. You already know I go on and on, word upon word, probably way beyond what I ought. But I have loved writing these words. They have been the Great One's daily medicine for me. Still, if I need to let them go for now, I know that who I am is not defined by what I do, but by The One who created me for His own purposes. I am studying humility, and as often happens, we are put to the very thing we say we believe. I have tried my hardest to tell you the truth here, every day. I am certain at times my motives have been mixed. This is part of the human condition. But always, it has been my great aim to honor my Savior, and to show Him to you for the Great and Awesome God He is. Forgive me if I have missed the mark in some ways. But know this: my life is His. And I want yours to be to. Because He truly is the way, the truth and the life.

I so hope to see all of you, each one, at our Dessert Nite on October 23. Please come, to hear one more time how dear you are to me. I am humbled and beyond blessed to have shared my life with you lo these past 11 plus months. You are proof that there is no mountain too high, nor any valley too deep to keep friends apart. If God is for us, dear ones, who indeed can stand against us.

Forever and ever, your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, October 8, 2010

11 months since crash - 1 month to go

Dear friends,

Crazy, how life can change in a year. Last October at this time, I had no clue whatsoever how different my world would be in one short month. I was going about my business, struggling with my problems, enjoying the sweet things on the pilgrim road, and unaware that life and near death, love and sorrow, injury and recovery were around the bend on Rte. 151. So here we are, only one lunar rotation from the anniversary of the day that will forever live within us, but will never overcome us. God did not "do this to us". But He most certainly did let it happen. I'm quite sure He suffered when the world He created for beauty, truth and relationship once again let out an ancient groan as a result of sin and brokenness. When Oscar Lewis careened into our Cutlass Ciera, the Great One wasn't wringing His hands, wondering how this could happen, anxious about the outcome. Like any wise Father, he determined to ease the pain, bring His resources to relieve the suffering, and to provide comfort for the sorrow. He saw a way to turn darkness to light, not only for us, but for Oscar Lewis as well. For him, there is a chance, through the disaster of a prison term, to come to grips with himself and his Creator. More than his Creator - the One who has loved him from his mother's womb.

Here I am, 11 months out, and I still can't tell you why this happened. I doubt I ever will on this side of heaven. This accident, and the millions upon millions of nightmares that plague this fallen world are a mystery to me. I'm not tormented trying to sort it out, because in a way, it doesn't matter. I'm not trying to be flippant. It does matter when people are hurt, or killed, or suffering. What I'm saying is, the why's don't help. What helps is seeing the relentless, faithful hand of a God who will not give up on a planet that has practically given up on Him. What helps is the Spirit of Mercy, alive and well on this crazy, upside down ball in the Universe. What helps is being forgiven when we sin, being loved when we don't deserve it, and being held together by a kind, unseen but very real hand. Sometimes the best why question is this: Why in the world does the Great One stick like glue to this messy place? I can't answer that one either.

When I post my final blog entry here on November 8, 2010 it will be like closing a chapter of my life. Not that November 8, 2009 will ever leave the fibers of my being, but because there will be a sense of closure. We have travelled a section of a highway marked "big, nasty car accident", and that section of the road is far enough in the rear view mirror to feel more like a memory. I bless you all for helping me process the myriad of stuff in my heart lo these past 11 months. I'll never forget Dr. Rosati's words to me early on: "You'll probably start to feel normal in about a year". How right he was. The sustained troubles will still have to be dealt with. But my faith has grown a little bit more, where I believe we can contend with these things without drowning. In the end, our Savior alone is the only way home. He's there by the fire, ready to warm us up and cheer our souls.

Another fire fighter has signed up to come to our Dessert Nite on October 23. We owe the world to these folks. And to all of you too. I've heard a few of you say "well, we really didn't do much besides pray". I want you to know, prayer is where the action is. And it's not an easy labor. I don't care if you pulled one weed in my garden or said one prayer for my family, I want you there. Besides, there's a song I've written and I'm restless for you to hear it. I need people there who love me so they can overlook my inadequate singing voice. (Don't worry, it won't sound as bad as Bob Dylan).

One month to go. Thanks for hanging with me. At this point, you might as well stick around til the end.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 332 Hard Pressed But Not Crushed

Dear friends,

It was one of those days when you are blindsided by a problem, walloped and caught unawares, like being hit head on by a truck when you weren't expecting it. At least I responded instead of reacting. I went to my Adirondack room, cried out to the Great One for grace to find my way with this thing, and to have the wisdom to make the next right choice. Some troubles are so complex, and impact us in such a visceral way, that it's easy to react with panic or anger or withdrawal. And often times I have done that. But not today. Today I say "I am not ignorant of the enemy's devices", and I will not be controlled by something external, but by the Spirit of the Living God, who always promises to be enough for us in every need. I'm not saying I won't mess up the handling of this issue somewhere along the way, but I can only do one day at a time. And for today, I choose to trust and not fear.

Don't get the idea that I'm some spiritual giant here either. Just this morning I was flummoxed by how to dig my way through the scriptures, where to begin with the word of God. I got sidetracked, lost my focus, and never really got off the ground. But I refuse to make things worse with self condemnation and self loathing. Everywhere I turn - in the sermons of both pastors, in the books I'm reading, in things people are sharing with me, indeed in the very leaves on the trees - everything is about change. And the only way to truly change is to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds", and that is a process requiring great perseverance and grace. We've got to kick off the ankle weights (and at times the anvils) that we carry around. They're different for each one of us. Whatever they are, if they keep us weighed down on the pilgrim road, they've got to go. No one is saying it will be easy. Some things we've carried for so long, we hardly know what we look like without them. But the Great One is able to give us the power to put the blasted thing away for good.

I would really, really appreciate your prayers as I begin the uphill again on this matter before me. Smitty too. We have seen the great power of the combined requests of God's people when the road gets dark and steep. I can assure you I'm praying for you on your highway, even if I don't know all the details.

Don't forget to sign up for the Dessert Nite by October 14. I'm looking forward to seeing you all there! (See the sidebar for details).

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 331 A Flesh and Blood Treasure

Dear friends,

I have a friend on the pilgrim road who deserves a tribute this night. I don't know why it's today, because this fellow traveller has meant the world to Stephen and I lo these last 20 years or so. But, as I follow my heart and try to hear what God is saying to me each time I write here, it seems this is the time to tell you about a man who is really like Jesus, with skin on.

The man is in his sixties now, and he struggles with the normal aches and pains of aging, along with a disability he's had since birth. He walks a little funny, and lacks physical strength, but he is always about town, somewhere or other, doing someone some good. I am forever amazed by his tenacious endurance in the face of some daunting physical challenges. His love for others commandeers him onward and upward.

Is someone in trouble? He's the first one on the phone, seeing how he can help. He's got a pizza in hand or a prayer on his lips or just a kind, caring word. Is someone celebrating? He's there too, sharing the joy, cracking a really corny joke, or bringing an extra sleeve of paper cups. He and his dear wife have shared many a Thanksgiving with us, many a picnic, and many a difficult trial.

Often when our kids were small, he would put $20 in my hand and send me and my husband to Friendly's for something to eat. He even watched our children so we could get out for a bit. At every turn in the road, on many occasions, with a humility and sincerity of heart rarely seen in the 21st century, this faithful, kind and gentle man has been there for our family.

On November 8, 2009, he was devastated by the disastrous accident that nearly killed my loved ones. As expected, he was Johnny on the spot, ready to roll, ready to help, ready to pray, ready to jump in with both feet. I still remember looking straight down the hall coming into the SICU when my husband's life hung in the balance, and seeing him standing there weeping over Stephen's bed. He was present over and over again throughout that ordeal, as he had been in our ordinary life.

I think my favorite picture of the man I am lauding is on Christmas day quite a few years ago. There was a big snowstorm, and we were having a house full of friends for Christmas dinner. In walked this sweet soul, with snow all over his white beard and a grin from ear to ear. The snapshot of him there in my mind will stay with me forever as a picture of a man of grace and cheer, a man who has made my life, and the lives of countless others richer for knowing him.

So, to my adopted dad, my dear friend, and one whose tender heart and humble good nature is a picture of the Great One among us, I honor you. I bless you. I thank you.

The sojourner's highway wouldn't be the same without you, Barrie Baum. I am, and ever shall be,

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 330 The Power of Noblesse Oblige

Dear friends,

If you've never seen the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour TV movie version of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", you're missing a big treat. I highly recommend it for one of these upcoming late fall or winter evenings, particularly on a Friday when you're plumb tuckered out and want the feet up and the cup of hot chocolate.

If you don't know the basic premise of this legend, here goes: It's the time of the French Revolution (the first one), and the sentiment among the poor and middle class folks, (the bourgeois) is, well, it's "off with their heads" in regards the nobility, the rich, and in particular, the monarchy. A hero rises up from the ranks of the English elite who disguises himself in countless ways and with wit and cunning rescues some of the innocent French nobles from madame guillotine. In the meantime, he makes enemies with the evil Chauvlin, the cold, calculating up and comer in the new Republic. And of course, he falls in love with the beautiful Marguerite, but must keep from her his true identity. He plays the part of a fool, a fop, a nitwit, (hysterical!), and saves the day over and over again. I don't want to give the whole movie away, but suffice it to say you'll be satisfied with the swashbuckling, tongue-in-cheek, good natured adventure of it all.

One of the themes struck repeatedly in The Scarlet Pimpernel is that of noblesse oblige, or noble obligation to one's fellow man that is the duty of one who has been given much. I can't help but get happy when Sir Percy (Scarlet Pimpernel in street clothes), risks his own neck to get his men out of one scrape or another, and does it with cheerfulness and style. Not only that, he risks his own safety and comfort for the sake of people he doesn't even know. What a guy! I am such a sucker for an old fashioned, character driven story with a great setting, sticky conflict and an ample resolution.

You already know where I'm going with this. Isn't this fiction the way it ought to be in real life? In particular, shouldn't the children of God watch each other's backs instead of stepping on each other's toes...or worse? As for my family, well, we've seen the transforming power of noblesse oblige in action. And the mystifying thing is, we've even seen strangers stick their necks out on our behalf. This is the kind of stuff that turns darkness into light. Being a natural born chicken, I ask the Great One to give me the courage to do the hard little things that come my way in the day to day, hoping I won't face the big ones, but if I do that I'll act like He would. I can fantasize about sword fighting with the devil, but the real deal is can I say no to that chilling temptation that makes my blood run cold when I'm not standing in my shadow. Most of all, can I love my fellow pilgrims without judgement, accepting them where they are, forgiving them when they're miserable, and not being envious of them when they surpass me in talent, treasure or personality. And can I risk my comfort, my reputation, my sense of being "right" in order to get them out of some bog of trouble. I'm not at all there yet, but by God's grace it's where I want to be. And I've had some pretty fine examples in the shape of friends like you.

Love that noblesse oblige on the highway to the sky. Sink me, if it doesn't make the trip that much sweeter...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 329 Ten Now and Then

Dear friends,

Top ten reasons I'll miss doing this blog:

10. The great opportunity it affords to squirrel away into my Adirondack bedroom after dinner with a cup of tea.

9. The personal growth I've experienced in the areas of grammar and spelling via automatic spell check and that affectionate anonymous wordsmith commenter who taught me things like "derring do" instead of my feeble "daring do".

8. Where else can you vent about Walmart?

7. Running into people I don't know who know way more about me than I remember telling.

6. My checking account isn't getting killed by visits to a shrink

5. The mysterious technical glitches that come with cyber communication, like typing an entire paragraph, only to have it disappear into the virtual universe. (OK, this is sarcasm. I won't miss that part at all)

4. The connection I feel with all of you who read here. You are my homies forever. I owe you, big time.

3. Opportunity after opportunity to keep myself from becoming arrogant by sharing the really stupid things I've said and done.

2. The discipline of forcing the truth out of my brain onto (virtual) paper. Writers should write. Often. Even on the uninspiring days.

1. Telling you three hundred and something times that I am your friend on the pilgrim road. I am, and I always will be. You'll live in my heart forever.

I read in The Book today where the Great One reminds his people that if they will walk wholeheartedly with Him, He will bless them when they "go out and when they come in". I pray that for all of you this day. In everything you do, may you walk the highway with Him, and find the blessing that is the byproduct of living life with God. No matter what storms come your way.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 328 Make Like Leaves and Change

Dear friends

I am exceedingly grateful for the many people in my life who challenge me to live with more passion for God and a more zeal to live beyond the mundane. My natural, hobbit-like tendencies to “sit by the fire and read a book”, need to be shaken up so I can actually do a little good in my tiny sphere of influence. Catastrophic car crashes are fabulously helpful toward this end. But I still need encouragement and the occasional kick-in-the-pants to awaken me to the continued threat of inertia. Pastor Dave the Humble gets the gold star today for doing that for me.

If I were you, I would just go ahead and listen to today’s sermon for yourself on the DFG link on the sidebar. But to sum it up, PD reminded us that it’s the Great One’s job to cleanse and empower us and give grace for each day. But it’s our job to avail ourselves of the limitless advantages of the “life that is truly life”. At some point, friends, to paraphrase the inimitable C.S. Lewis: “We’ve got to tell our emotions where to get off”. If your feet feel like they’re in spiritual concrete, don’t despair. Ask for the strength to move an inch, then another. The tiniest effort by the frailest man leads to the Herculean strength of a willing God to help us.

My sweet husband and I prayed together today for the courage to make some changes that won’t be easy. Habits and attitudes get ingrained and need a good bit of forward momentum to roll away the stone. In particular, we need to tackle a few obstacles on the pilgrim road in the way we respond to our children. Our kids are the delight of our hearts, truly our earthly treasures. It’s worth learning to do things differently for their sakes, and the sake of our decedents. Good lord, can you imagine the DNA for drama given a few more generations! But that’s another story…

It’s October, and millions of maple leaves are hovering over my lawn planning their attack. All of a sudden one day they will come loose with some help from the wind. They’ll look lovely floating down onto my lawn. The smell of dry leaves will remind me of the days I walked home from school in my plaid skirt and knee socks. And the wind will remind me of the power of the invisible to crack the power of inertia.

Enjoy this brief season of the absolute splendor of color and light. Fall leaves me positively slack jawed with amazement. The Author of Life does His annual parade of color, and all I can do is drink in the wonder. And shout out the praise. For life. For love. For the power to change.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 327 The Steepest Climb

Dear friends,

We spent the morning as we have for the past 3 years on the first Saturday of October. We hoofed it in the Jonathan Carey Foundation third annual walk for vulnerable children. The photos are Smitty with Mike and Lisa Carey, and Hannah (right) handing out shirts with her friend Jessica.

For all we've experienced with the "wreck of the Ciera", nothing compares to the Carey's heartache: the loss of a child at the hands of folks who should have been protecting him. Jonathan is in heaven, and for him it's all good. But Mike and Lisa must continue on every day without their precious son, and that is perhaps the steepest climb any human being can make.

These two dear friends have shown the power of the Great One in their attitudes and actions. Their loss didn't make them bitter, but by God's grace it's made them champions for justice for those the world would dismiss. I think of these children often, and I am haunted by the words of Jesus: "Many who are last shall be first..." We had best treat these dear ones among us like gold. The One who made them has already marked them for a special place in His gigantic heart.

I felt as fresh as the October air today seeing my Hercules do the entire walk, just as he did last year, if perhaps a bit more tired at the end. And there was Miss Rejoice, handing out tee shirts just as she has done in the past. How great is the grace of God! The funny thing is, Mike and Lisa Carey would say the same thing. When your hope is beyond what meets the eye you can experience excruciating pain and loss, and still carry that essential ingredient for survival - Hope! Because we know this life is a vapor, we can adjust to it as such, not expecting a trouble free existence, but we are thinking of the country we will be entering, that many of our loved ones have reached before us. This world is not our home...we're only passing through.

Dearest Jonathan, I can't wait to see you in heaven, there with the "least of these", elevated to the glorious pinnacles of the Great One's kingdom. Every wrong is made right, every crooked place straight, every tear wiped away. Until then, we walk the pilgrim road, inspired by the courage and tenacity of people like Mike and Lisa Carey.

Please pray for Smitty. He's having a problem with his right hand. Just hopeful it's not some hardware thing pinching a nerve or something.

Love you friends. Don't forget to go to http://www.smittythanks.com/ and sign up for the Dessert Nite. We've got til the 14th now. Over 100 signed up so far. We want you all there.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 326 A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Dear friends,

Day 326. How many words have I pecked out here since "day the sky fell down" to paraphrase chicken little? I haven't the slightest idea. More puzzling is the delightful fact that you are still reading, still praying for our motley crew, and still saving me mountains of cash on therapy. Words have been healing. Words have been comforting. Words have been a gift from the Great, Eternal Word Himself. Communication is the original grace. That God would speak the universe into being is mind bending. That He would bend down and speak to us is beyond reason. But it's true.

I had the kind of day that Mark the Lion Hearted would have hated like poison, and that for me was water to the mind and soul. I use a writing curriculum from a company called The Institute for Excellence in Writing. The proprietor, teacher and all around interesting and intelligent mastermind of the organization is Andrew Pudewa, whose writing models and systems have-helped me greatly in teaching my reluctant-with-the-pen 12 year old. But way beyond the fun of listening to him explain essays and key word outlines, was the rich content I gained in particular in his lecture on Fairy Tales and the Moral Imagination. You guys know this is right up my alley, being a C.S. Lewis groupie and a Tolkien fan. Of course I can't tell all here (as Andrew would say, I must pick topics and leave the rest out), but I do want to share with you one insight I grasped.

Fairy Tales express ancient truths that resonate within our souls. To pick the most obvious, there is the concept of good triumphing over evil. (He put lots more detail in this which won't fit here, and might send you to the kitchen for a snack, so I summarize). The second is more complex, but equally satisfying: good may not win, but there is redemption. Read The Little Match Girl for an example. I pondered these things on the drive home, and considered the terrible truth of a husband with shattered bones across the length an breadth of his body, and a daughter with terrible injuries and wondered which fairy tale expresses best my current viewpoint on the matter. I concluded that perhaps it's more the second. Because a terrible, senseless, crushing blow was delivered to my dear ones (evil, part of living in a fallen world, due to someone's sin); and some of the fallout is permanent; but there has been a stunning visitation of hope and healing (redemption). I asked the Great One in the car half way up the Taconic Parkway "why?" I think it's only the first or second time I've asked. I got the sense from that still small voice of His that it's beyond my pay grade to understand, and to continue to trust Him for the final chapter. That may be a long way yet down the pilgrim road. Maybe not. No doubt you have stories with truths in them you can't see yet. Even in fairy tales what is to be is often veiled until the perfect moment. The frog does become a prince. Aslan saves Narnia from eternal winter. True love really does come to the rescue. Now we see through a glass, darkly...

Big fat change of direction here, with no transition.

Thank you to Smitty for pinch hitting for me (see photo). Also for pinch running (is that right?) last nite on the blog. That may be his last entry here. What would I do without the man? To keep with the fairy tale theme, he is indeed my Brave Prince Charming.

And a bit of truly terrific news, our dear Bob the Builder, Dr. Kaushik Bagchi, will be in attendance at the Dessert Nite. We are honored that he will be attending, what with his busy schedule of saving lives and putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Don't forget to call or email me by October 14th if you're coming!

Of all the words we come in contact with every day, there are some that will live forever. Here are some on my mind this day, by the One and Only Himself, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me."

The author of your personal story is also your Knight in Shining Armor. He's got you covered for the whole trek, no matter how steep and winding the highway gets.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 325 - Graduation, of a sort

Hello, friends. This is Stephen, filling in for Loriann for possibly the last time. (Try to keep the cheering to a minimum!)

Today was my last day of outpatient therapy at Sunnyview, and that inspired mixed emotions from me. On the one hand, I'm very happy that my progress has been good enough - miraculous, practically - that I can be discharged. On the other hand, though, I'm going to miss the people that I know there, and even the place itself. Sunnyview has been a big part of my life since the day after Thanksgiving last year, when I was still so weak that I could hardly lift my head up off the pillow in my bed. That's ten months of my life, a long stretch by any standard. More than the place, though, I'll miss the people that I've met there, especially the therapists who have helped me along the road of my healing. People like Brian, Mary, Becka and especially Sandy, who's been my Occupational Therapist for the last 8-1/2 months. (You can pretty much have a baby in that amount of time!) She's pushed me when I needed to be pushed and held back when that was needed. She's a terrific therapist and a wonderful person (I think that Loriann called her a nice pitbull once in these pages, or words to that effect) and I'm going to miss having her in my life twice a week.

There were a couple of others, no longer with Sunnyview, who were in my life again this week for the first time in quite a while. At lunch on Tuesday I drove to the new place of employment for my occupational therapist when I was an inpatient at Sunnyview, Jacob. Loriann mentioned him more than once last year when he was seeing me on a practically daily basis, but this reference (made the day before I was discharged) has always been my favorite: "Excellent Jake (who also is an army reservist with a heart of gold and a year in Iraq behind him), Holden's dad, told us how his boy likes to play with the manger set. Sometimes he makes Jesus ride the camel (don't you just love it!). And sometimes he simply puts Jesus in his pocket and carries Him around everywhere he goes. I want to be like Holden!" Loriann and I have talked about that more than a few times since then, the wonderful thought of carrying Jesus around in our pockets. Of course, Jesus has given us an even better option - carrying Him around in our hearts all the time. I saw Jacob this week because I wanted to hand deliver to him an invitation to our Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night. Have you heard about it? I believe that Loriann's mentioned it once or twice or twenty times. Anyway, I wanted to make sure that Jacob knew about it and knew we'd love to have him there. I don't think I'll ever forget the day he came to my room instead of waiting for me to get to the gym, tossed me my clothes and said, "Well, get changed." Up until then the nurses had been getting me dressed every day, and it hadn't even crossed my mind that I might be able to do it myself. That's like God, too - often He'll let us be helped with something, by Him or by others, but sometimes He reminds us that the time has come for us to take a stand, or stake a claim, and that He knows that we can do it even if we might have our doubts. I'm not sure if Jacob can make the Dessert night, but hopefully he can and a bunch of you can meet him there.

The other person I was able to get in touch with this week, no longer with Sunnyview, was a the lady who was the head nurse for my section when I was there. Although she was the head nurse, and no doubt had approximately a million things to do, she was one of the two nurses who changed my bandages when they needed to be changed - and back then, if you'll recall, I had a lot of bandages that had to be changed three times a day. (Both legs, and one arm.) I had never forgotten her kindness and was thrilled this week to be able to contact her via Facebook. She had gotten the invitation I had left for her and she'll be able to come on the 23rd. One more blessing that the Fabulous Tracey is giving to me and my family!

Well, this post has gotten longer than I expected, and I'm getting pretty tired. Soon my bride will be home, so I'm going to want to spend a little time with her. If you're planning on coming to our Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night and you haven't let us know yet, please take a minute to do so. E-mail us at smittythanks@gmail.com and let us know, so we can look forward to seeing you (or meeting you, even!).

God Bless. Today on the radio I heard the song "My Redeemer Lives" and it's been in my head ever since. He does live, and I'm so glad about it! (Your Redeemer lives too!)

Your other friend on the Pilgrim Road,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 324 Hemorrhage to Homecoming

Dear friends,

We are closing in on the one month countdown for this blog. I can't believe it's been almost a year since the hurricane in the form of a drunk driver smacked into us. And when I say us I include YOU, because everyone who reads here has been impacted by November 8, 2009.

A few bullet points for tonite, since I'm going to the mall with my princess to look for a dress for her for the homecoming dance. Which all by itself is a miracle beyond reason. I feel that acutely today, and here's why:

At Our Savior's Lutheran School this morning (where David takes Spanish twice a week), I was introduced to an OSL mom, Patty. Turns out she has a daughter in her 30's who was in the car with a drunk driver shortly after she graduated from high school. The long and short of it is the young man got up to a speed of 110 mph,and ran headlong into a house. Two girls in the car were killed, he survived unharmed, and Patty's daughter - traumatic brain injury. She was in a coma for a year, and when she came out was helpless and mentally a child. She is currently in a day program at the Center for the Disabled. She was supposed to go to Siena, instead she ended up in a hospital bed. For years Patty has contended with the agony of her daughter's frontal lobe hemorrhage (the same injury as Hannah), and then, only 2 years later, the death of her husband to cancer. I could only cry with her, and express my profound sorrow. I left school with a million feelings - guilt, relief, horror, sadness - and that overwhelming gratitude I catch in waves in the midst of my lack of understanding. Yes, we have our fallout. But why was I spared such utter devastation? I don't know. But since I only see a grain of sand on the beach of the universe, I choose to trust a good and compassionate God to make everything right in His time.

Connie O. is home! Thanks for the prayers. They are still trying to figure out what happened to her. These bodies of ours are some incredible machines, no?

Our dear Dan Lane cannot come to the dessert nite. But I told him I'm going to put up a picture of him, and honor him just the same. The Army needs him to stay put, so we'll party on with him in mind anyway.

RSVP's continue to come in for the Dessert Nite from various quarters. Please get yours in so I have plenty of goodies for all!

I'm going to a writing education conference on Friday. Goodness knows I've had alot of practice clicking the keys over the past 10 plus months. I wouldn't trade it for the world. The Great One and I had a conversation about this public diary, and I've tried to do what I think He was showing me - every day for one year. And what a wind we've ridden. Hurricane gales, tropical storm wind, low pressure breezes; but not all linear. What the heck is on this unpredictable pilgrim road?

I'm off to shop. You all know by now that I'd sooner eat glass. But Miss Rejoice is wanting to look pretty for the dance, and I am so grateful for that I would traipse across the mall of America for her... well, that may be pushing it.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 323 M.C. Escher and the Bigger Picture

Dear friends,

David and I have moved from studying line in art to shape. In particular, we are looking at the difference between 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. (For some crazy talent on the 3-D front, check out some of M.C. Escher's pen and inks. Mind boggling!) Now believe it or not, I relate this concept to suffering, and its power to enable us to see things in an additional "dimension" so to speak. Somehow, pain and grief in their various forms, physical, psychological, relational, financial, spiritual, etc.., give the bearer an opportunity to see a layer of life that may have been flat before. If I might use the car crash as an example:

I see physical pain now with an additional dimension. It's not that I never had compassion on people with messed up bodies before, but at this point even someone struggling with foot pain or headaches has my attention. I ponder their daily life - and often marvel at the way those with chronic pain carry on in the everyday. I know a number of fellow pilgrims suffering the aches and hurts that come with the tricky diagnosis of Lyme disease. I know some who work in heavy lifting jobs with arthritis and back pain. That's not even mentioning my friend in a wheelchair for life, or the one with continual digestive problems, or that dear one with a life threatening disease. This added perspective comes from watching daily as my non-complaining Hercules winces every time he stands from a sitting position, and groans quietly every time he moves his legs to turn over in bed. My daughter has frequent trouble with pain in her teeth, a manageable but annoying price to pay for someone else's bad decision. Because I live in the story of these 2 priceless lives, I've gone from a square to a cube in seeing the troubles of others. That's an example of "all things working together for good" that the Apostle Paul refers to. I hope this good fallout from the events of November 8 never goes away. This quote from a Japanese poet about sums it up:

My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon. ~Masahide

I thank the Great One for the healthy, pain free "house" I live in. I know there are no guarantees on this front. Physical pain is no respecter of persons. But should I ever have to walk down that stretch of the pilgrim road (and the likelihood is that someday I will), my hope is that I will get an enlarged view of the grace and mercy of the One and Only. At least I have a couple of beautiful examples at home, and my life is the better for them.

Go ahead and sign up for the dessert nite! There's still time, in fact the caterer has given me until October 14. But please don't wait til the last minute... it will make my life a little less hectic!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 322 The Life Blood of the Emergency Room

Dear friends,

What a night! Smitty and I went to Choices 301 this evening to record an audio/video segment to be used with the presentation of our smashed car on a flatbed. The tireless Ed Frank continues to bring the devastation of drunk driving right to the front door, reminding anyone who will listen that it's way more that broken glass and twisted metal. There are people in those cars. Some wind up in prison. Some in hospital beds. And some in coffins.

On our way home, we got a phone call from the dear sister Laurie that a precious member of our congregation, and of our cell group, was in the ER at Albany Med. Two years ago Courageous Connie had a massive stroke, a miraculous recovery and she now goes on to care for many people in her quiet, beautiful way. Send your prayers up for her! She was having some symptoms much like last time, and thankfully her daughter Jessica was on the double getting her into an ambulance and off to the hospital. Steve and I made a detour on the way home and stopped in to the AMC emergency room, and Connie is cheerful and peaceful. The Great One has stayed close by her side lo these many years, and he will stay there. (She spent plenty of time at Albany Med back in November and December, delivering pots of soup and all manner of food to feed Steve's family from distant parts. This is a woman with a heart of gold!)

On our way out of the ER, we ran into "Tammy to the Rescue", one of the 2 main ER nurses who took care of Smitty when he came in on the chopper on November 8. I can't describe the joy the 3 of us shared in the crowded A section (in front of the trauma rooms Stephen and Hannah were in). This dear woman actually had a hand in saving Stephen's life. She told us she had never, ever given anyone as much blood as she gave Smitty. She also said he had to receive a sedative normally given to animals and children, because all the other ones made him crash. Her eyes filled with tears (as did ours) at the memories locked within her forever. She also remembered looking in to Hannah's room and seeing Pastor Greg singing to baby girl. She was overwhelmed by that sight on such a terrible night. She's hoping to make it to our dessert nite, and I hope so too. We want to honor all of these people who were the hands and feet of God in the middle of disaster. May He bless all of them, (and all of you!) for the work of your hands and the love of your hearts.

That's a photo of Steve with the fabulous Ed Frank. I wish I had the camera in the ER so you could see Tammy, who was the loveliest thing I laid eyes on in these 24 hours God has given me. Isn't it amazing, the Great One puts people in our lives for a little while, and they can turn out to mean the world to us. Makes me want to make sure I do some little good to everyone I meet!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Don't forget to pray for Connie!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 321 Voyages, Sojourns and Pilgrim Roads

Dear friends,

Sometime in December, one of my favorite books comes to the big screen. I have read all of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia multiple times, but my best choice by far is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 3rd in the 7 book series. The opening line of this rich, vibrant adventure is this: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." I am a virulent fan of Clive Staples Lewis (in case you hadn’t noticed), and two of the things I admire most about his art with the pen are his razor sharp wit, and in the fiction realm, his ability to develop prized, memorable characters. Eustace and Reepicheep the Mouse are the two stars of this book (in my opinion as a Narnia groupie), Eustace for his transformation from detestable to humbled, and Reepicheep for his valiant loyalty and limitless courage.

The real meat of this book, indeed of all the Chronicles, is the concept of the journey, rather than the destination. And that intrigues me. Perhaps Lewis’ ripe imagination for the “voyage” was because, like the rest of us, he himself wasn’t familiar with the destination yet. But with the sojourn he was well acquainted, having lived a life full of hardship and wonder. He was injured in a world war, he went to boarding schools which would make the most stony hearted social worker shudder, he lost a beloved wife to cancer. He had excellent, brilliant friends (among them JRR Tolkien), he was an esteemed professor at Oxford, and he had a career doing what he loved. His life, like all of ours, was a mixed bag. But it was wrapped up in the sovereignty of God, and his works speak to that like no other author I know.

The pilgrim road gives each of us countless opportunities to choose. Choose to be bitter or to forgive. Choose to walk in darkness or light. Choose to be God’s friend or his enemy. One thing we are all familiar with is this: there are roadblocks and steep places on everyone’s ramble through the world. They aren’t evenly distributed either. I have no idea why. Eustace Scrubb is a picture of how one can change when one comes face to face with the road they’re on. He may be a fictional character, but the truth of his myth gives me hope. (Now you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean!) As for Reepicheep, well, I want to BE Reepicheep. His feats of derring do make me want to rise up in all my smallness and take on the powers of darkness. Alas, perhaps I should start by keeping my mouth shut when I ought…

C.S. Lewis has made my life better on the pilgrim road. After much searching and seeking, wrestling and stubbornness, he himself came to know the Great Savior of his soul. And now, he knows a whole lot more about the destination. His voyage on this side of the painting is over. He’s living the “live that is truly life” forever. Anyway, I hope the movie version is good. Otherwise, I feel a hissy fit coming on…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 320 Going to War with the Enemy Within

Dear friends,

I wrestled over the content of this post. Ultimately I decided to fess up, because I've promised to tell the truth. It's a difficult subject, but it's for real.

Over the last 2 days my darker side has reared its head. I have been struggling with a couple of temptations, both old head games that the bible would call "strongholds". Yesterday was really a rough go, whacking down thoughts and actions that belie who I truly am, threatening to strand me in a dark, isolated pit of sin where I could get messed up good before I chose to come home again. Ironically, one of those strongholds is alcohol. I'm not saying it's wrong to have a drink. But one knows when the mindset is not the pleasure of a special cocktail with a nice dinner, but the diabolical goal of forgetting problems and escaping pain in forbidden ways. Dealing with trouble by excluding the Great One from the picture, and seeking an alternative God. Feeling dissatisfied and seeking satisfaction in a counterfeit. Strangely enough, temptation to sin was much less palpable in the midst of some of the worst pain in my life lo those 10 months ago. No doubt there are times when disaster could drive someone to addiction and vice. But I found myself graciously free of that battle for a while. While we walk on this planet, though, there will be another temptation around the bend. It's common to all men. And it won't go away til we're dead.

The dark lords that call us are different for each soul. My dear friend who knew God did not want her watching soap operas duked it out with that one for years before she gained her victory. I have never, ever been tempted to watch a soap opera. For her, soap operas had become an idol, and the Great One wanted her to let them go for the sake of her freedom. It was a hard, rocky road with many setbacks, but she's got her liberty, and she's ever vigilant lest that thing get its tentacles around her again. Only you know what that thing is that could kill your body, relationships, calling, purpose, even your very soul. The Lord says when we are tempted, He will always provide a way of escape. Sometimes we see the safety hatch, and look the other way, hoping God won't notice that we were "tempted beyond our ability to turn". But that's never true. When we sin, we practice the very thing that makes us human: the power to choose. A soap opera seems like nothing - but each man knows his Achilles heel, and the tiniest stone in the shoe can make the pilgrim road a misery over the many miles...

I'm still like a woman on a boat, trying to get my sea legs with these things, choosing one minute at a time to hold on to what is good and right. I'm a little stronger today, by the grace of God, so it's a little easier to choose the light over the darkness. But I must keep a wary eye on my shadows. Telling you about this one is a way of doing that. (Hiding in the dark perpetuates the problem). That sly enemy of the souls of men can't hurt God, so he goes after the apple of His eye. All the while our Rescuer is saying, "get in the lifeboat, son, and you'll be safe". What a Savior!

If you've already landed in that pit of darkness, let me tell you I've been there too. And the One and Only is always on the ready to pull us the heck out of there. Repentance is a happy word, not a shameful one. It's the key in the lock of restoration. We'd be fools to stay in the garbage dump when our Father wants to bring us out into the place of peace. Always, though, the choice is ours.

How I wish I didn't have to admit to my own weakness! But if I'm gauging this thing right, I've got a feeling the rest of you have your seasons of temptation too. Our culture doesn't help much either. So maybe you'll be encouraged to know that I'm really going to pray this week for all the bloggies in that area in particular. The Dark one wants to take us out, with a car accident or by making us cave from within, or by any number of schemes. But he's no match for the King of Goodness and Light. Be strong, friends, and go to the right God to meet your deepest needs.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 319 An Update Like the "Old Days"

Dear friends,

Just a quick update on the Smith family. I realized I'm often off to the races on other topics on many of these blogs, and it's been a while since I filled you in specifically on the health and well being of the Meadow Lane peeps.

Smitty's recovery has been nothing short of outstanding. Less than a year ago his bones were smashed, his lung collapsed, he had a concussion, and his blood pressure hit 40/20 in the ER. Today he works out on the elliptical faithfully every morning for an hour, is back to work full time, (sharp as a tack, I might add), and is closing in on discharge from Sunnyview outpatient therapy. He has been through 4 major and 3 minor surgeries, and if all goes according to plan, there won't be any more. He is loaded with metal, but moves fairly well, far better than anyone predicted.

Hannah has also exceeded all expectations for recovery. Her young brain is still healing, but she can function well and enjoy relationships - both things that were in the balance last November. She continues to see the dentist frequently as the loss of her 4 front teeth has impacted the movement of the rest of them as she grows. She missed 2 months of school, and still finished the 09/10 school year on the high honor roll (amazing!) For the sake of her privacy, I will leave it at that, and just so you don't overspeculate remember she is on the track of healing. I will never, ever forget that God is for her, and I'm still praying as strongly as ever that she gets "double for her trouble". You betcha.

My boys seem to have survived the disaster in good shape. David, out of nowhere, said to me "November 8 was the worst day of my life". It will always live in his head somewhere, but it will be part of his history, and that includes all the good that he witnessed first hand. Joseph still struggles with anger over the whole thing, but he's an emotional kid, a drama "queen", much like his mama. He processed things like an elephant rather than a lamb. So time will do it's work, and the Great One will find a way to cause this too to work for good in his dear life.

You already know about me. I've been talking to you for 319 days, give or take, and you've watched as I've swung from pillar to post through the jumble of these days. If anything, I hope you have seen how relentless the Great One has been in my life, never giving up on me, my "very present help in trouble". There's no end date to recovery, but there's also no end date to the amazing grace. I'm still tromping along on the pilgrim road, looking for that city "whose architect and builder is God. I have seen the goodness of God in the land of the living. And I'm fixin' to see plenty more.

Dessert nite is coming. Be there, fellow travellers.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 318 From Decay to Deliverance

Dear friend,

Isn't maintenance the unending theme song of our days on this mortal plain? The super terrific Kevin K., ace handyman, came to my house today to do some needed repairs. Some of those repairs have been a long time coming. Smitty is the world's best husband, and sharp as a tack, but not exactly Mr. Fix it. He can do some things, but he now has the additional limitations of a body that won't cooperate. Thankfully, there are other fellows in the world with the mind and body necessary to take care of things like leaking toilets, broken closet lights, and fireplace stones badly in need of regrouting (is that a word?) The fact of the matter is everything in this world is on the fast track to decay. We keep it all up as best we can, but no toilet will last forever, no matter how many times we fix it. Those fireplace stones will eventually crack and the light in the closet will wear out too. In particular, these flesh and blood houses we live in will perish. No getting around that one. I don't care if you are a octo vegan work out master vitamin swallowing health guru. You are going to die. Period. And nobody knows when. Stephen and Hannah survived by the skin of their teeth, and he's 49 and she's 15. Both in wonderful health. Both nearly killed. Still, someday the part of them that's made of matter will stop working for good. Sorry to be so blunt. But it's an incredibly important fact that nobody wants to talk about.

Here's the deal. I am no philosopher or prophet. There is so much mystery to the unseen part of us, I spend good amounts of time puzzling over it all. But the Great One has made it abundantly clear that our life is a limited proposition. We live once. Then, it's time for the eternal part of us to kick in. And what will that mean? What offer does God make about our mysterious future? All I know is heaven won't be heaven without Jesus, because He says "I am the way, the truth and the life." So knowing Him, and accepting His dumbfoundingly generous gift of forgiveness of sin would seem to me to be step one on the pilgrim road, which ultimately ends at the "celestial city". Don't get all bound up with arguments about secondary matters. I'm doing my darndest to keep it as simple as possible. Love God. Love people. Take the Savior at His word. Most of all, don't be deceived by that seemingly correct but wrong doctrine that being a good person is what buys us a ticket to heaven. Forget that. According to the scriptures "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So God provided another way to "get clean" - because He really, really loves us and wants to live with us forever. But He can't say sin is ok, or He wouldn't be the Just One. His Son paid the whole price, and our only part is to accept the truth of that. To believe. That's pretty simple, but some of us (including me) wrestled with that thing for a long time before the light bulb went on. Now I cling to that truth for all I'm worth. Lest I sink into either the extreme of self righteousness or self loathing. May the Great One, the Only Wise God, be forever praised!

While we're still in these mortal bodies, though, lets live! Some of that includes celebrating, and that was a not-so-great transition into reminding you to sign up for the Dessert Nite on October 23. All the info is on the blog sidebar. I am so looking forward to seeing you all and personally thanking you for your prayers and service to our family.

Outwardly we may be wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day! I love you folks like crazy…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 317 Delight in the Light

Dear friends,

Some days, it's best just to laugh a little, at yourself and at the crazy, upside down world we inhabit. Some days, it's better to be extrospective instead of introspective, and to revel in the many lovely leveties of life, leaving the sadness and the weight on the porch steps. This day, I take a few hours not to think myself to death, but to read poems and "laugh at the days to come" as Proverbs 31 advises. The Great One has the world under control. I can stop trying to be the boss of the Universe. So this day, I share with you a poem from the inimitable Ogden Nash, who understood well the need to lighten up. No doubt I'll be all intense again by daybreak, but this evening I delight in the light.

Song To Be Sung by the Father of Infant Female Children by Ogden Nash

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.

For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.

No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.

Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?

Oh, first he'll want to crop his curls,
And then he'll want a pony,
And then he'll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.

But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.

He'll sell a bond, or he'll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He'll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I'll open all his safety pins,

I'll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I'll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
Then perhaps he'll struggle through fire and water
To marry somebody else's daughter. ~

Just for fun, friends. I think of you with great affection.

Far from my thoughts are wrecks and sorrow
I'll surely find them there tomorrow
Today there's time to run and roam
And send my friends a silly poem...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 316 The Domain and Kingdom of Love

Dear friends,

David and I are doing Life Science together, working hard on classifying organisms in their domains, kingdoms, phylums and so on. I love this stuff, but I won't give you any more detail lest you look to this blog as a sleep aid. His lab today required that he use taxonomy (the system of classifying living things) to create a chart showing the relationships between various animals, insects and birds. Now most kids would simply put this thing in a pyramid type format, but not my child. He did the work correctly, but had to switch up the layout making it trickier to tell what category these critters fell into. There was still no doubt about their relationship with one another. But the pathway required a second look.

So of course this got me thinking metaphorically, and I thought about how I tend to classify people quickly without taking time to see their relationship to other people and the world they inhabit. I may meet someone and think "she's arrogant", or "he's standoffisch" (if my grammar friend is out there, help me with this word!). I may categorize someone as authoritative or religious or highly emotional. I hate when I do this. And I am in hot pursuit of a pure heart that leaves all judgement to God alone. In David's classification system, it requires one to look at things globally, taking into account the whole picture. In the real world, only the Great One can do that! I love what the book of John says about Jesus in John 2:25:

"He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man."

He's the only one that knows the whole story on anyone. My, the things you learn teaching 7th grade science!

We learned today that Smitty only has 3 more days of outpatient therapy at Sunnyview. From now on, any progress he makes will be on his own. And as we've always known, there are some permanent limitations that will require supernatural intervention or supernatural perseverance. Either way, we have alot to be thankful for. Those folks at Sunnyview are precious beyond words. A few of them will be at our Dessert Nite, and it will be an honor to be in the same room with them. I can't imagine how Stephen will feel when he walks out of that hospital for the last time. I remember the tears I shed leaving both times: when Hannah was discharged and later Hercules. I categorize Sunnyview's people in the Domain of Amazing, The Kingdom of Tenacious and the Phylum of Positive. That kind of taxonomy is based on fact and evidence. Amen.

I found one of the surgical residents who helped Smitty in the SICU while I was working at the hospital tonite. No kidding when I tell you I prayed specifically months ago to find Dr. Mike, because I remember his kind face from the Surgical Intensive Care Unit when I could barely breathe. But I couldn't for the life of me remember his name. Tonite he walked by my desk, and he smiled from ear to ear to hear all the good news I had to tell. He's passing some invitations to the other surgical residents who took care of Stephen, and he himself hopes to come (if he's recovered from his own hernia surgery). God really does hear even our little prayers.

Hope you like the picture of David with his unorthodox chart. May we all be so flexible!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 315 A Blessing in Confined Places

Dear friends,

I can't get out much these days. Homeschooling is a big commitment, and an absolute labor of love. It doesn't afford much contact with the outside world though, except those 2 mornings a week we go to Our Savior's school for Spanish and lunch with the David's class chums. (We also took a bike ride today at the Corning Preserve. Fabulous!) I do of course go to work at the hospital too, so I guess I'm exaggerating a bit about the confinement. The point I'm trying to make is this: I'm asking God to bring people in to my life who need encouragement. There are times in our lives (when our children are very young, when someone in our family is chronically ill, etc...) where reaching out to others is not so easy. It's one thing to write a check and support the poor - and it is our duty to do so - but it is something else, more personal, more "costly" in a way, to be there for someone in their need. And since the top tier of my priority list right now features David John's education, there's a limit to how far from home I can go to be a friend to someone. So I prayed this morning, "Lord, bring someone to me, at the right time, even with my little time." (As an aside, this time with my son IS part of God's plan for my life. Our families are the royal flush of service to God).

The Great One doesn't lay a heavy burden on us to do for Him. First of all, most of all, He wants us to be with Him. The times I have strived to do for God have often ended in burn out and dissatisfaction. But when I have asked God to be the initiator of any kind of loving works, when it's been an overflow from the relationship between Jesus and me, it's been a true joy. If we're stuck in the house, as my friend Alma has been for years during the winter months, we can be incredibly loving and effective by praying for folks near and far. Alma has no doubt single handedly moved the heart of God in mighty ways. This little lady with a debilitating disease is a powerhouse of love and truth. And she's stuck in her house alot. The Great One sure isn't limited by walls.

I say all this friends, because I know what it is to feel guilty about "not doing enough". The enemy of our souls can mess us up good with that one. I remember the 180 that occurred in my thinking the day I read this scripture in the New Testament:

"This is the work of God: to believe in the One He has sent".

Can you stand it? Believing is the cornerstone of good works! Put your energies into believing the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fruit of good works will surely grow. At the perfect time.

Graciously, God did send me someone to encourage today. Someone dear and precious bearing a heartache only He can fix. But He does send folks like us to be a leaning post as those around us struggle on the pilgrim road. Or are trying to find the sacred highway in the first place. Since no one has more experience than I in doing the leaning, I know this to be true. A wicked disaster provides first hand knowledge of the power of faith proved real by works of mercy. I leaned on so many of you when I was not strong. Sometimes, you actually had to pick me up and carry me over the boulders and obstacles. How can I ever adequately thank you? I can only do my best to pay it forward, since it would be impossible to pay it back...

Don't fret about not doing enough. Stay close to the One and Only, and ask Him to bring the ones you're meant to help. He does it in a thousand different ways, so be ready for anything. Because if you are praying to be a blessing, that's a prayer that will get answered with a yes for sure. It may wind up being something that seems so small to you, but turns out to be the lynch pin of God's whole plan.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 314 Book em', Danno!

Dear friends,

I haven't ever been much of a big TV person. (My friend Jackie finds this wacky since I actually worked in television for a career). Last year there were 2 shows Steve and I watched consistently; 24 and House. Well, 24 ended, (although it sounds like Jack will be back on the BIG screen), and House starts up again tomorrow night. Despite my lack of TV fervor, I am totally psyched to watch the new Hawaii Five-0! Book em' Danno! Woo Hoo, I hope it turns out to be good! It is going to be totally cool to hear that theme song come up. I remember that show from my teen years - and I bet the music will bring me right back to the 70's. I typically like cop shows, though I never really got into the CSI's, probably because I only have so much time to watch TV and partly because some of those shows get too depressing. But I really like when the bad guys get their come-uppins. There's something so satisfying about being safe and sound, especially when you're a chicken like me, and watching those brave do-gooder's risking life and limb to smush the evil plans of the ones on the dark side. I totally love it. I would make a crummie cop myself. I wouldn't know which end of a gun to hold, and at the first sign of actual crime I'd be hiding on the floor of the police car. Good thing there are folks out there with some gumption and courage who do the work of protecting us. As for me, I'll watch it on TV, and give thanks for the real people who sacrifice their own safety for mine. Humbles me to the core.

Over the summer, Smitty and I started watching "Lost" at the behest of my brother in law Tom. At this point I am an addict. All I can say is thank God I don't have to wait through seasons and weeks to see what is going to happen next. Since I over spiritualize everything, I have formulated theories and thoughts on this series that make me ponder the concepts of "lostness" and redemption. There's alot to chew on in this story. Of course it's all only fiction. But stories can be rich in symbolism and bits of truth from the Greatest Story of Them All. Talk about drama! The story of the Great One's doings with His creation, His children, and His enemy is the ultimate in climactic tension. If only we didn't get so mundane in our measly little struggle to merely "survive", and opened our eyes to the invisible world of the cosmic battle between good and evil! It's really all happening, and we are a part of it in the small and big narratives of our lives. All our choices impact the way the story plays out. In the end, the Hero really does come to save the day. And His greatest feat is turning bad guys into good guys. Wild! Death defying! Perilous!

Ok, my drama queen tendencies are leaking out all over the place tonite, so time to go to bed. After all, I must get my rest for another day of my own story. Because as we all know, we have no idea what tomorrow's chapter will bring.

Sign up for the Dessert Nite! We've got some fun in store along with some yummy sweets. Details are on the side bar. Come meet your fellow cybernauts. And the other fine people who have helped our family make it through the "dark and stormy night" part of our story.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 313 The Torah of Kindness

Dear friends,

Beth Moore is a bible teacher extraordinaire. I have gained greatly from her gift of taking scripture and making it accessible, and from her humility and deep respect for the living word of God. Today I was at a simulcast where she was teaching 125,000 women all over the country and in 11 other countries, and as usual she hit one out of the park. The subject: having a "law of kindness" on our lips from Proverbs 31:26. The Great One used her mouth once again to transmit truth in a direct and inspiring way. I know for myself that kindness is not always the law of my speaking and dealings. But I want it to be. And by the grace of God, it can be.

I'm an expert, though, on receiving kindness. I've experienced it time and time again over these past 10 months. It has revolutionized my view on what the people of God can be, indeed ought to be, and for that I am grateful. I wish to take my place in the army of love that pulled me out of the trenches and went to bat for me mightily. Everyone has their particular part to play in dishing out the loving kindness of God, and it will play out differently for each person. More important than what we do, however, is the disposition in which we do it. No one wants help from a sour, miserable giver. But from a good natured, cheerful friend even a cup of cold water feels like the gift of kings.

This very day, Pat E. and MBJ cared for me with prayers and comfort for the still difficult fallout from the crushing disaster of November 8. I felt loved and understood by these 2 wise, beautiful women who have and are experiencing their own brand of trouble. I can't tell you how powerful it was to hear their understanding of the lingering grief I am still processing, and sometimes even feeling guilty about, what with all I have to be grateful for and all the grace that has been showered on me. But here's the thing. We're not over it til we're over it. I don't care what the thing is. And it makes me much more understanding of folks still grappling with troubles from many moons ago. I'm not saying we shouldn't make every effort to press hard into God for healing and recovery. We shouldn't wallow in our stuff. But there are moments when pain is raw, and needs TLC, not a lecture. Or a look. I have not received any of those negative things. But I am surrounded by exceptionally gracious people. I pray I will never be one to say "get over it". That would make me one lousy hypocrite.

Lots of learning today, so I'm tired. Glad to be here with my darling Hercules, Hannah the Overcomer, Joseph the Inquirer and David the Delightful. I love these people I live with, with all their flaws - and believe me, they come in second through fifth in that category in my house. In the lesson on kindness, no one should benefit more from the good changes we make than these dear ones we share our lives with. May the law of kindness be on my lips toward them first of all.

A shout out to two precious ladies who went with me to the simulcast today. What an honor to spend the day with Cara, so sincere in her desire to hear more from God that she spent the whole day at the conference after having worked from 7pm to 7am the night before! And Georgia, willing to come to something very different from what she is used to in the Greek Orthodox Church. Willing to be challenged in a new way. How is it God takes the likes of me and puts me around these awesome people? He must really love me... Oh yeah, He does! And not to sound too cliche, but He loves you too. Alot. No one can beat Him in the kindness department. To quote the cowardly lion, "not no way, not no how..."

Be kind to one another, dear fellow travellers...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 312 Music and Bonfires, Not Death and Destruction

Dear friends,

Maybe I experienced a brutal time in my life (as have most of you). And maybe everything is still not put back together the way I wish. But this evening, this night, I feel like the most blessed woman on earth. Right now, in my back yard, my 17 year old is playing music with his friends around a campfire, drinking Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew. Stephen, Hannah, David and I are watching one of my all time favorite movies, Muppet Treasure Island with the one and only Kermit the Frog and Tim Curry. There are many high schooler's this night out there drinking booze, and sadly, getting behind the wheel of a car. Listen, my family is no picture of perfection. Believe me, we do not fit into the nice, neat clean photos you see on the cover of Focus on the Family magazine. But there is love here. There is belonging here. (Important to me for reasons deep and primal). And there is the mercy and grace of a Great God here. I didn't earn any of it. And every day I am grateful for it.

I'm pretty tolerant of people doing stupid things. I have done so many stupid things myself that it would be hypocritical to point the finger. But I have no tolerance for drinking and driving, for obvious reasons. Never. Ever. I do not have a legalistic view on alcohol. For some folks it's simply a no no, for others, they can have a cocktail and be done with it. But there is never an ok time to consume alcohol and then put keys in an ignition. So I beg you, if you do this, stop it. And if you know someone else who does, do all you can to stop them. Because you may be saving their life. Or the life of someone you don't know. There are too many other options. Sorry, that's the last lecture you'll ever hear from me. Officer Ernie has stopped folks for DWI, with the memory of Stephen and Hannah hanging in his head. He knows, even if the one arrested doesn't, that he's doing them a favor. Oscar Lewis would most likely give his right arm for a DWI with a costly fine. Instead, he wakes up every day with the thought of permanently injuring a father of three (nearly killing him), and seriously injuring a young, beautiful, precious young girl. Please spare yourself this misery. And spare someone else ours.

Hope you like the picture of the boys around the fire. It makes me so happy.

Happy Birthday to Judy the Good, a beautiful, honorable and special woman!

Going to a Beth Moore conference at DFG tomorrow. The rain of goodness just keeps falling down.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 311 Twisting Like a Tornado as the Blog Winds Down

Dear friends,

It's one of those evenings when you are getting the abridged version of life in Smittyland. (I always say that, and then go on to write way more than I thought I would). It was a day when there was too much stuff and not enough hours. I'm looking forward to eternity, when there will be no rat race, and no battle with the clock. I think the problem of time is up there in my top 3 frustrations in life. I'm trying to learn not to hurry, not to worry. Both are challenges, and I confess that I lose ground as fast as I gain it in this particular arena. There you have it. The truth is it's up to me to slow down. The Great One has put no mandate on me to twist like a tornado through my days. It's learned behavior, and it can be unlearned. Despite a culture working in the other direction. Despite my drama queen tendencies. Brother Lawrence, who you can read about in one of my favorite books "The Practice of the Presence of God", found his way in slowing down and hearing from the One and Only. It took time, it took practice, but he was able to run a busy kitchen and be totally at peace in the middle of the jumble. I want to be like him here in the 21st century.

Anyway, it's another bullet point nite. These little bits will be a feature on my website. Which I am stalled on. Home schooling, blogging, working on the Dessert Nite, and the stuff I do at work take up a lot of time and gray cells, so that extra bit of writing is on hold. I'll get it ready by November 12, and the plan is to keep blogging, probably once a week, while I work on the book that will tell this story. I'm still sorting it all out, asking God which way to go so I don't get too big for my britches or too overwhelmed for my average abilities (no false humility here, just a realistic assessment of myself based on past performance…). Here's a little overview of life in the Meadow Lane mansion:

Weather Outside: Last I looked it was drizzling. Earlier today it was warm and windy (I love, love, love windy days), and Domino the Kitty was enjoying her early days of being outside (now that she has all her shots).

Food for Thought: David made Potato Corn Chowder with me for "practical arts" for home school, and next week he's making hard tack after we watch "The Magnificent Voyage of Christopher Columbus". (As an aside, that hard tack must have gotten pretty nasty on those long voyages…)

Children: Joe is playing guitar like a madman, and writing lots and lots of music. Of course the fact that he ought to be doing Physics homework is a a bone of contention, but that's another story… Hannah is now writing for the Columbia High newspaper, and tutoring a classmate in Spanish. In addition, Jessica D. highlighted Miss Rejoice's hair in a turquoisey kind of color. Hannah helps her little brother with his Spanish too, which is quite the hoot. They spend a lot of time laughing, but David is getting it! Speaking of the youngest Smitty, he was thrilled to hear he's almost done with the rubber bands on his braces. He's reading lots of cool stuff for school, and I am having a great time learning right alongside him. He's learning the capitals and we did Arizona today. There was a bit in there about the gunfight at the OK corral. It was news to me that the fight ended with the Earps ending the show in a hot 20 seconds. The things you learn when you're 50.

What I'm awash in: Dessert Nite details, pictures of dogs to classify for science, clothes David has rapidly grown out of!

Music in my head: The songs coming out of my firstborn's bedroom.

Books I'm reading: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989. by Michael Beschloss. All sorts of parts of books for the home school ride.

The Ponderings: Wondering why Walmart opens only one cash register and has 3 greeters. Thinking about what it felt like to be a 15 year old girl without the baggage of lost time and lost teeth. The gunfight at the OK Corral….

Sign yourself up now you darling bloggies, and come have cookies, cake, brownies, coffee, etc. on October 23. All the info is right there on the blog sidebar. Take a night off from twisting like a tornado and relax with some sweets and togetherness. It will be a nice spot to stop on this highway together!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 310 Bob the Mechanic

Dear friends,

My van is in the shop. It is being fixed by the Excellent Derek, son of the late Excellent Bob, my all time favorite mechanic and an all around good guy. I've always wanted to tell the story of Bob, so I guess now is as good a time as any. Bob didn't live to see our family experience the crash of November 8, but if he had I can assure you he would have jumped in with both feet to help in any way he could. So here's a little story about a man I miss, and who probably didn't ever think his life was very important, but it was.

I started bringing my car to Powertane back in 1989, when I worked in the marketing department for Mohawk Fine Papers, (a truly great place to work, by the way). Ed Sr. (God rest his soul too) recommended this little joint down the street when the car needed work, and so began our 20 plus years relationship with Bob and Powertane.

Bob was a very large man, probably at least 400 pounds, but it was 400 pounds of good will and kindness. His shop looked like something out of a sitcom - the plants, most of them dead, one with a piece of masking tape across the plastic pot saying "not for sale"; vinyl seats for the customers with most of the vinyl gone and the stuffing coming out; those machines where you put in a quarter and the skittle like candy drops to catch, except there was a quarter jammed in one of them for so long you wondered what the candy would be like if it ever got unstuck. Powertane was the host to many of Bob's "charity cases" - cats from all over the neighborhood, usually missing an eye, a tail, or one of their limbs, and probably abused or neglected by their original owner. Bob always had an overflowing dish of dry cat food and bowls of water in the waiting area for all his captain hook style felines. The parking lot was always full of cars in the works, many of which he fixed for folks on a payment plan since they couldn't afford the whole bill at once (despite his extremely low prices).

Over the years I had many, many conversations with Bob (I've always driven used cars, and back then they were even more used), and I overheard many of his with the parade of people who traipsed in there on a daily basis. One day while I waited for my car I saw the UPS man come in and sit with Bob, lamenting about his girlfriend troubles while the big man listened with compassion. Next came some fellow from Cohoes reporting all his plumbing problems, giving details on pipes and wrenches that could put an amphetamine junkie to sleep. Bob listened, offered advise, and shook his head knowingly. Then came the girl with some money trouble, and I can't be sure but I have a feeling she left his office with some cash for groceries. The man was the Counselor of Cohoes. Everyone came in to his ramshackle little garage all day long, with their various tales of woe. He listened. He cared. More than once he let people get gas without the money to pay for it, until finally he had to close the gas business because he was losing too much money. One time, after we moved to East Greenbush, he came down an gave us a free tow when our car broke down in the driveway. There were countless times he worked on our car at the last minute, when we got in a pinch.

There were lots of times I talked to Bob about God. He had never set foot in church a day in his life, and his understanding of a life of faith was very limited. But he was always interested in hearing about the good news of the grace of Jesus, and he always was glad when he knew I was praying for him. As time went on, Bob's diabetes got worse, and eventually he lost both his legs from the knees down. The last time I saw him he was in his wheelchair behind the bar of a new tavern he was opening named after his wife. I went in to talk to him, and actually wound up going behind the bar and praying for him right there. He was so receptive to having someone pray for him, even though he didn't understand theology and didn't know the scriptures. The Great One can meet anyone where they're at, with the light they have, with enough truth to show them the God who sent His Son in love. I never saw Bob again after that day. I cried when I heard he died, hopeful that he reached out his hand to the One and Only, knowing that he humbled me by the life of love he lived.

I wish you all could have known Bob. He made my life richer. I'm glad I got to tell you a little about the simple man who fixed my car, and took car of hurting cats and hurting people. May we all have a legacy so grand.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 309 Live From Mohegan Sun, It's Fixator Man!

Dear friends,

Hercules, once confined to a bed wearing those attractive fixators (yes, at one point he actually had 2 of those horror shows), is this very day on an overnite business trip for his job. They are having a big pow wow at of all places, Mohegan Sun. My husband, the tee totalling, non gambling, non smoker is at a gambling resort! Of course they're in a big conference room all day. But he called me to tell me how far back the slot machines go. The description makes the place sound like the palace at Oz! Sounds like the food is very good, and they have an elliptical so he can do his morning workout, so he's happy enough. So it's a very long way from the SICU at Albany Med to business with the big boys (and girls). I remember looking at those long term disability papers, so glad we had that option. But we never used it. God really has been gracious to us in a thousand ways. Unfortunately now, because of Stephen's pre existing condition, long term disability is no longer an option for us. As usual, as always, we must trust God for our future. And it's no gamble to do so. He's not a cosmic slot machine, but a kind Father. Even in our weakness. Especially in our weakness.

I'm flying solo tonite, the first time I'm in my bed alone since those long days of November and December. When I go back and recall those times, it does sometimes seem like someone else's life I watched in a movie. I just remembered the many times I would watch the Jack Benny show to fall asleep, and later when Smitty was home, we would watch it on our little DVD player while I did his wound care. Was that really me? I guess so, because I still have some of the purple plastic gloves in the linen closet! I've said it before, when this blog is completed on November 8, 2010, it won't be like the crash never happened. I know it will always live inside me. I'm permanently changed. But there really is a sense of moving on, beyond trauma land, despite the stuff still unfinished and the stuff that stays forever. When I write the book, I wonder if it will seem like writing about another person's life, or if it will all come back to me in living color. I don't know. There's no doubt there will be other hills to climb on the pilgrim road. Good lord, I hope they aren't quite so steep as this one, but I don't have any guarantees. One day at a time, trusting the One and Only, no matter what. By His grace, it's possible.

Two quick requests:

If you have any personal stories you recall from this crazy experience, would you write them down? There were lots of things I missed because either I wasn't there, or I was mentally fried. I want to have as much stuff as possible to use in writing the book about this wild ride.

And would you track down anyone you know who doesn't use technology and you know helped us in some way, and sign them up for the Dessert Nite? That would be a huge help. I believe Pastor Dave the Humble is going to make sure the DFG folks all hear about it in church, but there are lots of non DFG folks out there too. I'm trying to reach as many hospital staff as I can, and the Fabulous Officer Ernie is working on reaching out to the first responders.

Sign up at smittythanks@gmail.com. Already the guest list is growing daily, and making me smile along the way. I really, really do love and appreciate you people. Not just words. If you walked a mile in my shoes, you would know exactly what I mean... You are simply the best. No hype.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,