Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 203 Vietnam, Afghanistan and East Greenbush

Dear friends,

I was outside for nearly 8 hours straight today, enjoying what was indisputably a perfect start to summer. Besides weather from heaven, we were surrounded by friends, and in particular 2 stars who made Memorial Day what it was meant to be. In the picture are men who deserve our praise and prayers. On the left, my nephew Daniel, a Marine Sergeant who is leaving for Afghanistan on June 15. On the right, David (most people call him Sarge), a Vietnam Vet who was seriously injured in combat near the DMZ during that terrible Asian war. How do we thank these precious men for their willingness to face hardship and even death to protect us from the kind of evil that flies airplanes into buildings in New York? They consider not themselves, but us, and they look at it as their jobs. God Bless them, mightily!

I played a little volleyball until I hurt my wrist. That always seems to happen to me when I tackle that particular sport. My favorite sport is sitting in the lawn chair talking to people and eating macaroni salad. Ah, summer. Seems a million miles from the waiting room at Albany Med in November when Dr. Dailey warned me my husband might die that very night. Well, he can't play volleyball (and he was good at it!), but he certainly isn't dead. He's a bright light in my every day, and who knows, maybe someday he'll be able to play again.

The other picture is a group shot of our company, another snapshot of the grace of God in our lives. People are the best, aren't they? We'd never make it on the pilgrim road without the ones the Great One gives us along the way. How wise God is! We'll never figure Him out, but He is unfailingly good. And He's there at picnics. And in emergency rooms. And in Vietnam. And Afghanistan.

Happy summer, friends. Bring on the corn on the cob, bonfires, bare feet and beach sand. I'll be here with you through it all. How bout a good idea for a beach book? I'm on the last "Lord of the Rings" installment, so suggestions for summer reading are welcome.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 202 Pride Takes a Whacking

Dear friends,

How can you nag a man with umpteen broken bones, who is doing everything he can to get back into fighting trim? He even does laundry, for crying out loud. So how is it that this afternoon I sat the poor fellow down for 10 minutes and gave him a laundry list of the things I’m dissatisfied with, covering him with a dark shadow and living out of a part of myself that I loathe? No matter how long we walk the pilgrim road, the issue of SELF rises to the surface, demanding to be addressed. I left for work, feeling like I stripped the man down who has walked a thousand miles in 6 months, and it didn’t take long for my very active conscience to hear the Holy Spirit saying, “You’re wrong”. I knew it too. I immediately called Smitty on the phone to apologize, and this time I couldn’t even do what I often do: justify myself in part for my complaints. I don’t tell you this to berate myself, or appear falsely humble. I tell you because I think this is part of the human condition, and despite all I have learned about what really matters, the “old man” in me still tries to step up to run the show. And I’m thinking all of you deal with this same problem, the problem of sin, which at its root is always pride, no matter what form it takes. The remedy for this darkness was purchased at a hefty price, nothing less than the life of the only Son of God. In a reason-defying act of love, the Great One, who would be unjust to overlook sin, instead took the judgment for our darkness on Himself because He never wants to live without us. When I think of that kind of love, I don’t feel under the burden of a rule, but I run to repent because I’m broken by grace. I could write about this all day, the amazing grace of God. But this paragraph is getting very, very long…

Taking the “I’m sorry” pill is such a relief. But I know myself, and my need to replace the old thoughts with new ones lest I burrow back down into the sludge of discontent. I think of the scripture which says:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

So here’s what I do. I think about all the good that hovers over my life. The list is so long, it could circle the earth twice. But here are a few:

A sound mind, despite a family history of mental illness. (OK, some may dispute the "sound mind" bit)
A body free of disease and injury.
A beautiful little Adirondack bedroom, where I can read and think (and sleep)
Three positively lovable offspring, all alive and with me.
A community of believers, (DFGC), who display what the church is meant to be. (Not perfect, but tenacious to love and serve).
A tender hearted, forgiving partner for life, who’s the best friend a girl could ever have!

I’m driving my soul right back to November 8, to remind myself of the many reasons why I can be content. Believe me, bloggies, you are not the least among them.

Thanks for the love as I stumble and bruise my pride. It needs a good whacking. The air is much better away from its ugly stench. Praise God for freedom on the inside!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 201 Writing, Freedom Fighting, and Relating

Dear friends,

I do wonder at times why the Great One has directed me (unless I'm missing the boat) to keep writing every day until November 8, 2010. Some evenings I sit down in front of the laptop and have no idea what to write about. I have a conversation with God about my fried brain and my tired body, and that this was His idea, and somehow, always, something comes out on the screen. I write about the mundane things, and the confusing ones, and always I do try to tell the truth regardless of the lack of craftsmanship I see in some of my compositions. It's important for me to simply keep putting words on paper, honest words, without fear of imperfection or need to say something deep and meaningful. This blog has been the scroll of my own walk through the varied and turbulent terrain of a life suddenly changed. No doubt there are posts that are a snapshot of the gray, sloggy days along this jagged pathway. Some reveal the loveliness of the God who made the road, and the people who travel it with me. Some are clips of great drama- pain, joy, wonder. Regardless, it always comes back down to the truth. My simple hope is that somehow I can convey the Greatness of God in the midst of trouble, and the smallness of man in the hurricane of life. I waver. I'm guessing you do too. The grip of grace must be so very strong to bring us up the mountain. And strong it is.

Steve's foot is still pretty uncomfortable. I'm watching that bad boy like a hawk, making sure no nasty little bacteria tries to bore its way in under the stitches. We've dodged the infection bullet too many times to mess with it now. So I'm keeping a wary eye out for redness and pus. Even the slightest problem and we're off to the emergency room. I work in a hospital. I know too well how fast infections can get out of control . But so far, so good. We don't really appreciate our feet the way we should. But my husband certainly does. That foot deserves the podiatrist's medal of honor for all it's been through...

Joe did some yard work for our dear friend Sarge today. Sarge is a Vietnam vet with more metal in him than even Hercules. And when he had all his surgeries, they didn't have the kinds of techniques and technology they have today. We will have the privilege of having Sarge at our Memorial Day picnic on Monday, where we can try to properly thank him for putting himself on the line for our freedom. We'll have another young marine with us too, who will be going to Afghanistan in less than a month. I should be serving filet mignon instead of hamburgers and hot dogs to these guys! It is because of the likes of them that we can have picnics, and rest in a hammock, go to the library and give our opinion public. These are the folks who deserve our praise and need our prayers. "No greater love has any man than this: that he lay down his life for his friend..." Thank you to all of you who have purchased my freedom to spit out these words every day. And so much more. So much more.

Beautiful evening with our friends Excellent Anthony and Sweet Hobbit Mary Ann. (She's shorter than me, yay!) Mary Ann is a regular commenter on this blog, and I have told her she writes so eloquently, she ought to take the thing over herself! They are another example of what makes life on a fallen planet still so sweet. Relationships are where it's at. I want to be a better friend than I am. A better mother, wife, etc... I'm so glad the Trinity has the power, love and motivation to handle my case. Yours too. Because God is all about relationships. From Genesis to Revelation, that's the main refrain.

So many of you I long to meet, talk with, walk with and know face to face. I pray time and fortune will make that possible. I continue to cheer over the friends on this highway. Good Lord, I wish I could adequately tell you what you mean to me. Thank you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 200 (wow) Miss Rejoice and her Starbucks...

Dear friends,

I just drove 3 happy teenagers to Starbucks for a yummy Friday nite treat. Of course my daughter was antsy for me to get out of there, which I did, AFTER purchasing a Strawberries and Cream (triple yum!) It was a joy to see Miss Rejoice having fun and leaving her troubles behind for a while. She is truly a wonder to me, brilliant, beautiful and alive with youth. Despite the terrible trial she has endured, she carries on as a regular kid. There are things she will need to unpack as time goes on and she is ready, but the Great One has her well in hand, and He knows the perfect timing of all these things. The Momma sometimes struggles through much more clumsily, because Momma's can carry burdens they ought to give to the Great One when it comes to their children.

Heather and Greg have both been wonderful friends to Hannah (among others who are too many to name here), and visited her at Sunnyview when things were not at all certain. I love all these wonderful kids in my daughter's life! There are so many loyal companions by her side. It's like a Tolkien book, where a whole band of wildly different personalities come together to stand side by side with their companions. In a world where the under 20's are looked upon with little hope, I see powerhouses for the future. I see relationship oriented people who care deeply when one of their own is down. I see the kind of true friendship many adults long for.

It was a beautiful summer day, and I took my gift card to Troy's Landscaping and picked up a beautiful hanging basket of red impatiens for my shady front doorway. This basket was like none I've gotten in years past. It was huge, and filled with flowers, bursting with color and fullness. (Hopefully I can keep it that way, given my track record with plants...). It made me feel blessed. Really blessed. Like a message from God about His abundant goodness to me here in the land of the living. Absolutely takes my breath away.

Extra kids in the house tonite, one out for the night, and tomorrow Smitty and I can sleep a little later. We don't deserve the extravagant grace we experience, but that's just the way our God is. He gives us something good, many somethings good, every single day. May I always have eyes to see that, even on my darkest day.

I feel like a happy teenager tonite. Must be contagious!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 199 From Eternity to Five Fruit Pie

Dear friends,

Between emails and comments, the name “Frankenfoot” wins in a landslide. Stephen and Frankenfoot went back to work today, but it will take a while for the pain to go away. As predicted, the oxycontin was discontinued as soon as Smitty could stand it, and he switched to Advil. If it was me, with my addictive personality and powerful inner wimp, I would be on the Vicodin until the script ran out. I’m wondering how that foot of his is going to like sandals this summer. And canes don’t do well on the beach…Guess we’ll just have to cross those bridges when we come to them. But the sandals bridge is around the corner.

I got word from our friend Ed Frank at Choices 301: our crashed car is now on display, complete with Stephen’s sneakers still on the floor of the driver’s side (what’s left of it). That was a piece of information I hadn’t known before November 8; that many people in high speed wrecks are knocked out of their shoes. I can’t fathom how that can happen, but it does. It’s one of the eerier details of a horrific car crash. You’ve lived with me through many ugly details. But funerals and cemetery's would have been far uglier.

Even with the lingering problems as a result of this experience (which touch every aspect of our lives), I hope you know how wildly grateful I am for life and hope. Where there is life, there is indeed hope. And for the redeemed, even when there is no longer life, there is still hope! But how sad and broken would have been the road for my boys and I without their sister and dad! So many folks, including some of you, have experienced the death of someone precious. My heart sorrows with you. I think of my friends the Carey’s, whose son was killed in the back of a van by those entrusted to care for him. They have cried many tears, and we have with them, and their pilgrim road will never be the same. But they have the grand hope of the Strong Giver of Life, who created us for eternity. That’s why we always feel uncomfortable in time. It relentlessly ticks away, leaving us as slaves to its religious drum beat. It ever seems to be going by too quickly. We were never made for time…but forever.

Still, we are alive today, and I’m glad for it. I love this scripture:

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

Hard working Sandy was talking about a “5 fruit pie” at work today. That’s something else I haven’t tried yet, like parasailing (this summer)! 5 fruit pie interests me exceedingly. One fruit pie is good enough, I can only imagine a five fruiter. I’m turning 50 this summer, and I think I’m going to have the man track me down a five fruit pie for my birthday. How I went from eternity to pie I don’t know, but my friend Dick Whitbeck will tell you, there is definitely pie in heaven.

Wish we could have pie and coffee together. When we have our party in the fall, I’ll try to remember the 5 fruit pie!

Your pie loving friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 198 Days of Barreness, Days of Plenty

Dear friends,

With Stephen's permission, here is a photo of "Shrek Foot", or sporting its more recent name, "Frankenfoot". I had to laugh when the nurse yesterday asked me if I was comfortable wrapping his bad foot. After doing pin care on an external fixator, and washing out an open skin graft with saline solution, I'm ok with ace bandaging a stitched appendage. I remember how scared I was when Hercules came home from Sunnyview, a mass of wounds to be dressed every day, twice a day. It took 45 minutes per session to get him fixed up. I was so ill equipped for the job at hand. I cried and prayed on the way out of those hospital doors. And then, by gum, by the grace of God, I became a nurse. They'll never hire me in that capacity at Albany Med, but I can clean and wrap a wound pretty well.
I had kind of a neat experience this morning. Nature helps me understand things better. I believe the Great One set it up that way. The very nature of the created world is full of metaphors and poetry that illuminates truths my limited brain can't sort out in the raw of everyday. But make a story out of it, and I get it... Each morning David goes out the front door, and I watch him through my bedroom window at the corner until I see him get safely on the little yellow school bus. He started this in November, after the accident, since prior to that I worked at Our Savior's and drove him to school in the morning. All through the winter months I kept my eye on him through the bare trees, until he got on board. Through the spring I watched faithfully, as the little buds started to appear on the mature trees between my lot and the corner. Little by little, the lush green began to obstruct my view of the all important treasure. This morning I realized I could only see him faintly when he moved, until the yellow bus pulled up and he stepped on, easy to see, safe and sound.

So a light bulb went on somewhere in this mysterious orb of gray matter. And I thought about those barren days of fall and winter, when there were no leaves on the trees, and there was a stripping, in the world and in my life, allowing in a great deal of light and clearing the way for my eyes to see the truly precious, valuable things. That it happened on the day after Smitty had a 1 hour surgery, instead of 9 hours, only drove the point home more clearly. Sometimes our darkest hours bring clarity we could not have imagined. We don't love the pain, but we value the vision. The trick is to hold on when the leaves start to come back in. To remember the vast wealth we gained in the dark and bring it with us into the light.

I need desperately to do this. Though we have tread a thousand miles from November 8, and I have gained inexpressibly, there are still shadows that could drown me. I need to see the value in the shadows, and believe for the continual growth and healing that will surely come. Writing this blog is part of the process of recalling the mighty works of God, and of the dear people He has designated as fellow travellers: our friends and our families. You. Remembering the insights from the barren days makes us wiser for the trip through the growing season, and eventually the harvest time. There are dangers to the soul in every season of life, and an enemy ready to exploit those dangers. Often the easier times put us off our guard, and cause us to forget what really matters. Sometimes the difficult times tempt us to despair. Rescue me from either such fate, Oh Great One!

Let's just keep walking with Him, and keeping Him in the uppermost place where He belongs.
And when we fail, we have a forgiving Savior, ready to give us a do-over when we repent. Let neither self sufficiency nor self hatred wreck us for the purposes we have along this swift way.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

P.S. Shrek foot or Frankenfoot? What's the more apt name?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dear friends,

Bob the Builder, can he fix it? Bob the builder, yes he can! Dr. Bagchi told me today "one of those screws didn't want to come out...", as if he was discussing disassembling a swing set. They got it out, but there was a good deal of drainage (sorry oh squeamish ones), and quite a bit of pain. The recovery unit contemplated admitting Hercules to get the post op pain under control, but he was not going for that. So it took quite a few hours with Vicodin, and then he was ready to go, hungry as a bear but quite tired and still working through the big ouch. Now he is lying on the couch, medicated, iced and well fed, with a big old swollen foot and a shoulder with a bit more rotation.

Turns out the shoulder may have a rotator cuff tear. Dr. B. said that everyone was so focused on Smitty's lower extremities that the shoulder was kind of put on the back burner. So in a couple of weeks he'll go in to get his stitches removed and the office will schedule him for an MRI. Since he's not a major league pitcher, if surgery is required it should fix the problem. Well, let's not put carts before horses, or borrow trouble, or whatever metaphor you can think of. Steve has suffered gracefully through the whole ordeal. One more thing is not surprising. The unexpected is kind of expected.

Thanks for the prayers. Please send some for our dear nurse friend Trish Regan, who is very ill in the hospital. I work with Trish, and she has been a loyal friend over these past months. Not to mention a member of our blog community. I know the Great One will hear us intercede for this precious woman. She's discouraged, and so far they can't really figure out what's wrong with her.

Time for me to go sit with my main squeeze. What a delight to have my best friend here with me. In the hospital today I remember the many hours he "slept", and how I missed him so. But the Great One sent me some wonderful folks to help me through. That would be you...

I love that fellow in there with his too big foot, his weird looking scars, his metal elbow and a sense of humor the size of Texas. Thank God for that. Thank God for that.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, May 24, 2010

Surgery on "Frankenfoot" Day 196

Dear friends,

It’s kind of strange to be going back to Albany Med for another surgery (albeit a minor one). Tomorrow Smitty will return to the OR where he spent many an hour, and have some of the hardware removed from his right foot. All of his other metal stays in – elbow, tibia rod, internal femur fixator - but for some reason some of the foot screws and pins have to come out. Bob the Builder (Dr. Bagchi), who is better acquainted with Stephen’s bones and joints than anyone (save the Great One), will once again put him out, cut him open, and fix him up. He’ll also be doing a manual shoulder manipulation, in an effort to break up the scar tissue in Hercules’ busted (now healed) shoulder since physical therapy hasn’t been able to budge the blasted thing. There is a risk of rebreaking the shoulder, so your prayers are appreciated. He has to be at the hospital at 5:30 AM for a 7:30 surgery. He’ll take all of tomorrow and Wednesday off, and barring any complications it’s back to work on Thursday. I told him when he gets home it will be Vicoden all the way (although knowing him he’ll try to get by with Advil), and feet up and lunch on a tray. We’re going to watch the season finale of 24 together (on tape) so don’t give away the ending before tomorrow whatever you do! Jack Bauer will no doubt save the day for the last time (until the movie comes out). Anyway, it gives my sweetie something to look forward to besides a sore foot and a really sore shoulder.

Bought my first watermelon of the season today at my most frequented grocery store, Aldi’s. $3.99, and the fruit was firm and sweet. Double yum. I also purchased a pint of blueberries in honor of Judy W. (and they were the cheapest I’ve seen them this year). Ah, summer. Stuff on the grill, corn on the cob, potato salad, ice cream… The ocean, the sky, the heat, the thunderstorms, bare feet, hot seats in the car, baseball, summer tomatoes… It’s a million miles from November, even though November is never very far from me. The seasons change, and it’s the ultimate metaphor for living. God satisfies our need for variety and sameness, using the rhythm of the seasons as the vehicle. Just when we need to get out of winter’s grip, spring peels back that season’s icy fingers, and summer takes the baton from spring. Over the many moments of sorrow these past 6 plus months, I have had to remember the changing nature of life. Nothing lasts forever. Night becomes day again, thank God. I’m grateful beyond words to the Great One, who was with me on the floor in that crummy bathroom at Albany Med when no one else could help me. He continues to stick with me when the long arm of consequence again entangles my soul. And the wave passes. It will no doubt return, but I’ll never ride out any storm alone. All of you, friends, have been in the boat with me right along. I say it all the time, but only because I mean it so profoundly. Thank you.

Well, we’re getting up with the birdies tomorrow, so I’m thinking it’s time to sign off. I read something today I’d like to leave you with. Sometimes when I write these blogs, I share the spiritual stuff I’m struggling to understand. More importantly, that I’m struggling to live by. And it occurred to me that, like the writer of this quote, I risk being a hypocrite. His words helped me greatly:

“I often call people to a life I am not fully able to live myself. I am learning that the best cure for hypocrisy is community. Hypocrisy is not so much the result of not living what I preach, but much more of not confessing my inability to fully live up to my own words.”
Henry Nouwen

If I haven’t done it already, let me confess to this community “my inability to fully live up to my own words”. But more than anything, I want to. And even though I am weak, the truth remains the truth. Thank you for being a friend in my weakness. Love makes us grow strong.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, May 23, 2010

28 weeks since crash - A change of scenery

Dear friends,

Here is a very nice picture of our friends Hugh and Joelle in NYC. We did have a marvelous time with these dear, generous hearted folks who opened their lovely home (also featured here) to us for a couple of nights. We left behind our troubles and enjoyed relationships (my recurring theme), and it is like medicine to change scenery after a long, rather dark night. Joelle is from France, and their 2 charming, bright boys are bilingual, making the “chatter about the flat” interesting and lyrical. The fact that I couldn’t understand it didn’t seem to matter. It was simply a pleasure to listen in.

New York City is filled with people of every color, language, personality and fabric imaginable. Smitty and I talked on the way home about how much heaven will look like New York. People from “every nation, tribe and tongue” will be there. So if you don’t like variety, you had better get used to it in a hurry. The Great One loves it, and didn’t set aside redemption for any particular strain of humanity. He says “whosoever is thirsty, come!” Jesus died for all. Sadly, not all will say yes to Him. But the offer is freely given in expansive, wild, reckless love. It’s given to all. Our choice is to believe or not. It’s the most important choice we will ever make. Because none of us knows how close we stand to the edge of eternity. Airplanes crash into buildings, cancer attacks the unsuspecting, drunk drivers drive head-on into fathers picking up their sons. Our world is full of distractions that keep us from thinking too long or too hard about the invisible reality all around us. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us distracted, laser focused on the here and now, with its problems and pleasures. The Lover of our souls wants us to see Him through our problems and pleasures, and find our ancient sonship so we can begin living the eternal reality now. How easily distracted I am from the truth of what my life is about!

Luke 21:34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.

The definition of dissipation is “scatteredness, lack of focus”. Most of us won’t miss God because of some great evil, but because of the million other things that call our name. I am at the head of the line for this sin. But my heart's desire is to “Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul mind and strength.” So we’ve got to duke it out with ourselves by keeping the temporal stuff in its rightful place. Second.

Now it’s back to the everyday. Let’s face it, every night can’t be wonderful Moroccan food and music and long walks. But every day does have joy to grab hold of, in all its ordinariness. It’s fun to have a mini vacation, and it’s good too to come home and go about the business of common life. The Great One is in all of it. But I sure will miss those French toast bagels…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Happy In Brooklyn Day 194

Dear friends,

As we speak, I am sitting in the back garden of a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone, recovering from an exotic Moroccan dinner, and enjoying my anniversary abundantly. The Dear Hugh and Shining Joelle opened their home to us this weekend for a charming anniversary getaway, complete with mouth watering french toast bagels and buoyant, joyful conversation. The Quaker parrot is in the backyard with us, showing off saying "stop it", and the ivy is climbing the wall in this lovely, private garden. Sometimes time does seem to stop, and a little taste of true rest gets hold of us. The Great One gives many gifts: work, play and rest. This weekend was the time for rest.

Smitty's got his foot up, a bit sore from all the walking, but I know he would say it was well worth it. We travelled to Oyster Bay Long Island this afternoon to the home of Teddy Roosevelt, Steve's favorite and well studied president. I was inspired by the many quotes of the 26th president, and his sense of obligation to his fellow man. Not to mention his devotion to the Great One. Here was a man who grabbed hold of life, and determined to live it to the fullest. Even though he inherited great wealth and assumed great power, he felt the sting of death and sorrow that is common to all. His wife and mother died on the same day, leaving him with a daughter to raise. (As an aside, here's what T.R. said about his first daughter, Alice: "I can either control Alice or be President of the United States; I cannot possibly do both.")

Later in the afternoon it was a perfect, traffic free ride (on the Long Island Expressway!) into Manhattan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We actually found a parking space on the street. There are miracles, and then it is kicked up a notch to finding parking places near Fifth Ave. on 83rd St. Not so good going back to Brooklyn, however, waiting to get on the Brooklyn Bridge for 45 minutes. We finally decided to take the Battery Tunnel, and zipped back to our friend's house.

Can you believe it? I forgot my camera today. I'll try to snap a few before we leave in the morning. But, my dear bloggies, this was a wonderful time for Steve and I. Our first trip since the crash, and it felt like starting a different chapter. At one point on the grounds of T.R.'s home, I caught the smell of the ocean and the breeze was sweet, and a wave of happiness swept over me for a moment. You can't predict those wonderful life vignettes. Or the terrible ones. So we continue on our pilgrim roads, willing to risk, because if we don't we will miss the will of the One who gave us life. I'm a scaredy cat by nature, but as the scripture says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Those are way more than words. It's a truth as solid as the stones beneath my feet.

Tomorrow I'll give you a few more details. Tomorrow, I'm having another french toast bagel. And I'm getting some to bring home. Tomorrow, we go home. There's no place like New York City. It's where I met the Great One, so part of my heart will always be here. But about 150 miles north there are 3 people who light my world. They make home what it really is all about. No matter where I am, they live in my head. They're worth more than all the wealth of this beautiful, exciting city.

Talk to you all tomorrow. It's 1am, and everyone is tired. A good tired.

Love and blessings, my dears!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 193 Farewell, Judy W.

Goodbye to Judy

What is it like, friend,
When the pilgrim road narrows to the end point
And all the shadows are swallowed up in light?
The nature to sin, now completely tossed aside
With your eyeglasses and morphine drips.

What is it like,
When love is unhindered by fault and folly and fear?
All you were ever made for is before you.
Earth is both now and eternal
Heaven the solid ground, the real home.

What is it like,
To have Him finally show you how stunningly beautiful you are
Without the dangerous weight of pride?
A son, brought to the table of her father
Not a slave to a master.

What is it like,
To fully breathe free a liberty your old home could not invent?
Walking merrily with the Eternal Fact, the Alpha and Omega
Friend to friend, as He always wanted it
Boundless, fetterless, wild at heart.

Here, it is like
Wondering. Hoping. Waiting. Longing.
Grateful to have walked with you on the pilgrim road
Where eternity tips its cap to the temporal
And friends share a moment or two.

I love you, Judy.

Until we meet again, I will forever be

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Update 5/20/10 Day 192

Dear friends,

I was a one armed paper hanger at work tonite. Albany Med was hopping, and I work in the equivalent of air traffic control, communicating with people all over the hospital to get patients into appropriate beds. I enjoy the hustle bustle. And I see things differently now, having been on the other side of the desk. I’m really much happier when there’s just a bit too much to do. The challenge is fun. When I was first hired at the hospital (I only work part time), I told the boss the only thing I can’t do is boredom. Sometimes we make noise in a workplace kind-of-way when things get sticky, but really, without a problem to solve none of us would have jobs. I so enjoy the different personalities of the people I work with. Wildly different. From quiet, get it done types to class clowns to drama queens. (Which of those categories would you guess I fall into…) I like to work. I think most people like that feeling of accomplishment. Except cleaning bathrooms. I pawn that one off on my kids.

We’ve got a little fun planned for the weekend. But first, the sad part, saying our final goodbyes to our friend Judy Whitbeck. We shall miss this dear woman greatly. She was always like a summer picnic in the middle of January. Thanks to all of you for praying for a miracle for Judy. We didn’t get the answer we hoped for, but true wisdom belongs to God alone. I love the scripture in the New Testament, the herald of Christian expectation and confidence, which says:

“We grieve, but not as those who have no hope…”
1 Thes. 4:13

It’s only goodbye for a little while…

I’ll post some “having fun” photos soon.

Some great things about today:

I remembered why I’m writing this blog – because the Great One wants me to. There’s no pressure, no one to please. Hallelujah!

The sky was spectacular with blue from pillar to post.

I bought a non-solid shirt, purple. This will astonish my daughter, who says I only dress in funeral wear. But as you all know, I’ve been breaking out of the box. (Maybe I’ll wear those yellow sandals too!)

David’s WW2 report, after a near tooth extraction, is done.

I made 2 beautiful lasagnas, and left no dishes for Smitty.

No matter my failings, the One and Only says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

That’s mighty good news. Outstanding news. And it’s true every day.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Update 5/19/10 Day 191

Dear friends,

If you have never heard of the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, I recommend you get the NOVA special on him at the library. This is a case of truth being stranger, more suspenseful and more riveting than fiction.

Ernest Shackleton was on my mind today, because of the theme of my current song: endurance.
This early 20th century explorer is one of my heroes in history.

Shackleton was an Irish born explorer, who in 1914 took a crew of men to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica with a mission to cross the continent. Sailing on the aptly named ship "Endurance", Shackleton and his men found themselves stymied by nature's unforgiving unpredictability. The Endurance became trapped in the ice floes, eventually breaking into pieces and stranding the crew on frozen pieces of sea, at the mercy of wind and current to get them somewhere near a shipping lane. But it didn't go that way. Shackleton and his men drifted too far from the eyes of civilization. Over the course of 3 years, Shackleton, determined to get them all out of there alive, had to set a new goal. Through a series of grueling tests of physical and mental strength, he and his men made it to the stark and lonely Elephant Island, only to be faced with an 800 mile open boat trip to South Georgia Island to get help. Too make this long, but jaw dropping story short, Shackleton and a few of his crew members made it to South Georgia. This dogged captain sailed another ship back to get his men. Starving, frostbitten, exhausted, every man in that crew survived. Endurance was the key. Endurance on every level. And Providence on every ice floe.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that he testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..." James 1:2-4

When things get ugly around here, I try to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Every one of you has something in your life that requires patient perseverance. The Great One didn't put the thing there to torture you, but to build you up to be "mature, not lacking in anything". Anything. That's a pretty staggering promise. I've had to endure very little compared to some of you. But the past 6 plus months have indeed been a test of my stamina. One man's decision to drink and drive set our whole family out on an expedition we didn't plan. But that's the nature of life. The currents take us places we may not want to go. The question becomes, how do we respond to the thing? Sometimes I've responded with faith, hope and love. Other times, not so much. But the Captain of our souls has the rescue under control. We just follow. It's the only sure way to life.

On the light side (I think), Cosette bagged 2 chipmunks today. That sweet, darling kitty becomes Jeffrey Dahmer when she gets outside in the spring. No rodent is safe with her around. But does she have to play with them? What about a clean kill? Talk about patient endurance, that cat will sit by the stone steps for hours, watching and waiting. All for a chipmunk. I guess I can get the gumption to endure for the sake of my soul.

The road is long, but there really is breathtaking beauty along the way. Coffee with my friend, hearing my children make music, watching the "dead man walking" (Smitty) alive and enjoying the baseball wrap ups on ESPN. Talking to all of you every day. Every day. Until November 8, when some new venture will no doubt begin. One which will no doubt, require endurance.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Update 5/18/10 Day 190

Dear friends,

I sorrowed today hearing the stories of 2 women who lost their daughters: one to excessive speed and one to a drunk driver. In attendance to listen to this victim impact panel at Choices 301 were local high school students, whose school required they attend before being admitted to the prom. I wondered if the kids heard what these broken moms were saying? There’s no way to really know what happens inside the invisible room of the heart. There was no lecturing, no finger wagging, only the stubborn truth that 2 young girls were killed when an automobile became a dangerous weapon. I could only tell these dear ladies how sorry I was for their unthinkable loss. There really are no adequate words of comfort for the loss of a child. I found anger rising up within me at the thought of these senseless disasters. And I felt the wind of my own very close shave with the same outcome. But mine didn’t die. The Great One alone knows the when and how and where of our final day. And for reasons known only to Him, mine were spared. Again I thank you for the gazillion prayers. Again I ponder His unsearchable wisdom.

We’ve told our kids (until they’re ready to scream) about the dangers of driving drunk, and the unpredictable peril of drug use (i.e. Len Bias). We haven’t had the need to discuss this with them for the past 6 months for obvious reasons. We have an agreement with our children, that no matter where they are, or what time it is, we will come get them if they call us, no questions asked. And any of their friends as well. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that we’ve already had our turn with this nightmare, so we’re home free now and it can’t ever happen again. NOT. And even if that were the case, it’s not all about us. There are other lives at risk. Whatever God shows me to do to bring light to this particular brand of darkness, I will do. Not because I’m some noble soul (please, you know me too well by now), but because I can’t stand the thought of the whole thing. I think sometimes aggravation can be a great motivator. Not nearly as great as love, but pretty good. The story was told today of one high schooler who was punched in the nose for taking keys away from his intoxicated friend. I bet you all the tea in China that Oscar Lewis wishes someone took his keys away on November 8. It’s a hard thing to stand up to someone making a bad choice. But wouldn’t it be better to have a bloody nose and know you may have saved someone from a subdural bleed, or a mass of broken bones, or prison or death? Ultimately, the choice and responsibility belong to the driver. But I can tell you I would stand up to my full 5 foot 2 and take on Sasquatch to keep a drunk off the road. (I was going to call him “Big Foot”, but didn’t want you to confuse him with Steve…)

Smitty is all set for his surgery next Tuesday. Hopefully frankenfoot will look a little less ghoulish (and function well) afterwards. The shoulder manipulation is the tricky thing. But that’s a week away. In the meantime he continues to go to the gym and exercise those leg muscles. We still need to visit a cobbler. Just been a bit busy lately.

My friend Susan K. sent me something by a writer I like, and it got me looking at some of his other work. Here’s a quote of his for the road:

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.
G.K. Chesterton

Something to think about.

Your friend on the pilgrim road (valley and peak),


Monday, May 17, 2010

Update 5/17/10 Day 189

Dear friends,
Some parts of this road are impossible to navigate. Without going into details, I need many prayers right now for a boulder I can't get around as a result of the accident. This is the deepest place of heartache for me. It requires strength I don't naturally have, and endurance I wish I didn't need. Today I so wish I had a time machine and could reverse everything that happened on November 8. You've heard me lament this way before. Sorry, I have to do it. Some things are simply too brutal to go alone. Thanks for being my friend.

Took a road trip today to my old hometown, Springfield, Massachusetts, home of Dr. Seuss, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Awesome Auntie Evie (shown here). I had to get a copy of my birth certificate, so after that I took a detour to Ludlow (a suburb of Springfield) and the home of my sweetest Christmas memories. Auntie Evie is 86 years old, and still has the same green and white checkerboard kitchen floor I remember from my tomboy days. (Auntie Phyllis danced quite a few steps on that floor!) Many a turkey and ham were served from that dining room table. My Auntie Evie was a prayer warrior for me and my brothers from the time our Mom became ill (I was about 10). Schizophrenia is a devastating illness, and its impact on families is hard to measure. Even then, the Great One was with us through the fire, and had this beautiful person battling the darkness for us. I love you, Auntie Evie! The bloggies will no doubt pray for that broken hip to heal up quicker than expected.

Tomorrow Hercules goes to Albany Med for preadmission testing for next week's surgery. I will be heading out to Choices 301 in Altamont, where the Determined Ed Frank wages war with wrong ideas and mindsets in bringing awareness to the problem of drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, and excessive speed. These are the folks who will be displaying our wrecked car for high school students to see. I haven't seen the vehicle yet myself. But I already get the impact. I get it.

I can't really write anymore tonite. I know the Great One is with me. I'm simply wiped from the steepness of the climb today.

March on my soul, be strong.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Update 5/16/10 27 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

My daughter was at her friend’s house this evening, and called to ask if she could watch the movie Titanic. Now that she’s 15, we decided to let her see it. But I wrestled with the whole idea, even after the decision had been made. She’s seen enough disaster this year. Still, there’s no escaping the reality of sudden change and the risks we take walking out our front door every morning. Ultimately, our times are in God’s hands. That’s not a license to be an idiot, but it does lend perspective to the unpredictable nature of life.

I remember the first and only time I saw Titanic. One scene that will be forever burned in my mind was of the magnificently posh dining room after the great Atlantic began flooding the ship. All the stunning china, the beautiful linens, the fantastically expensive furniture, and every other signpost of wealth represented there was shown crashing from cabinets, floating on debris filled water and losing all its value in a split second. That evening when I pondered that scene, it was as if the Great One was speaking to me saying “Don’t call that which is worthless, precious.” A few hours later, most of the people on the Titanic were dead, frozen or drowned when the ship that “even God couldn’t sink”, sunk. I’m quite sure they couldn’t have cared less about their fancy dining room then. Life was immediately and brutally brought into its right alignment. What matters is relationship. With God. With people. Period.

It was 27 weeks ago when those values most precious to me were threatened. I can tell you all the things I was worried about at 6:00 didn’t matter at 6:30. I’m determined to keep that perspective, but I can’t tell you I don’t still struggle with the whole thing. Anxiety is kind of built into my DNA, and is one of the dark streaks to my personality. It takes a daily walk with a Mighty God to work through the mess inside my head. But I’ve come a long way. Every bit of the credit goes to the One and Only, who won’t let me stay the way I am. But good grief, there are still many miles to go…

This week will take many turns along the road. The wake and funeral of dear Judy Whitbeck. A trip to my hometown in Massachusetts to visit my sweet Aunt Evie (86 years old and full of faith!) Stephen’s pre admission testing for next week’s surgery. A little overdue anniversary fun. What a mixed bag living is! And as we have all seen in stark relief, it’s wildly unpredictable. So we make our plans, but remember:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

I really don’t mean this to sound pessimistic, only to share what I’m learning. That is this: We are really all on the Titanic, only we don’t know when it’s going down. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Thankfully, the Great One is there with us. He’s the lifeboat. Hang on tight.

By the way, Hannah Rejoice wound up skipping the movie. Whew.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Update 5/15/10 Day 187

Dear friends,

In the midst of sorrow, joy and laughter. I wish Judy W. could have been here to see my David John in "Dear Edwina". She would have loved it. But where she is, there is no lack of laughter, joy, delight and humor. So even as we experience sadness over her passing, we embrace the wonder of life, which is exactly what she would have wanted.

Here are some pictures from the show. I laughed and cried, watching my baby boy nail the part and show a side of himself seldom seen. It was all the more poignant to see him having fun, after a conversation we had in the car the other day. He asked me what "supernatural" ability I would have if I could. I told him I would love to be able to heal the sick. Then my baby shocked me by saying "I would go back to the past to change the future." He tried not to let me see, but there were tears in his beautiful blue eyes. He said "I wish I hadn't gone to Robbie's house on November 8th." It was the first time I was aware of his feelings of responsibility for the accident. Of course I reassured him that it was in no way his fault, but children process things in their own way. How I wish I could make him understand it all! But I don't myself. Still, I trust the Great One to help David on his own pilgrim road. I pray hard for my children. It's a wild, dangerous world.

So here he is, my little star, but he has been since the day he was born. He wasn't planned, but he sure was wanted. How diminished this earth would be without him! David, you are the delight of my heart! I love you with all I've got. And what's better, the Great One calls you the apple of His eye.

It's the same for you, my dear friends. Don't despair! The Great One is no respecter of persons. He created you in love, knowing full well the "trouble" you would make. (I think I make more for Him than anyone!) He paved the road back for us, because He couldn't imagine a world without us. What a Savior!

Bravo, David! You have given a sad time a reason to smile. Don't you worry about November 8. Your Jesus has it all figured out.

And bravo to you, my bloggie friends. You've made the rugged path a place of joy. I appreciate you as much today as I did those many months ago.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, May 14, 2010

Update 5/14/10 Day 186

Dear friends,

Tomorrow I will post photos of David's wonderful play. He was magnificent. But tonite, I have something else to say.

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?...The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Our dear friend Judy Whitbeck went home to heaven this morning after a year long battle with melanoma. Judy W., who many of you prayed for and asked about, was a one of a kind, beautiful and precious woman. It's hard to imagine this world without her. She encouraged everyone she knew, and found a thousand ways to do small things with great love.

I'll always think of her when I eat blueberries. She was famous for bringing fruit salads with blueberries in the middle of winter, just because I loved them. She picked up a boatload of Glad containers for me one day because she thought I might be able to use them with all the leftovers we have in the house. She made huge pots of meat sauce for the feeding program we assisted in downtown Albany. She was up most of the night praying for my husband and daughter on November 8, despite her own dire illness. There is an endless list of her acts of charity. She was quick to smile, quick to love, quick to laugh. She was one of the dearest, kindest, most faithful souls I have ever known.

We prayed hard for Judy to get a miracle. Why some live and some die, I couldn't begin to tell you. But the truth of it is this: More than anything in this world, Judy loved her Savior. He was her all and all. She adored her husband Dick (another one of those folks you feel honored to share the road with), and her children and grandchildren. But from the beginning to the end, her heart was always drawn to be closer to Jesus. She struggles no more. Her faith is sight.

I wish I could see with these human eyes the plunder of reward she has gained from her faithful trek on her pilgrim road. No doubt she smiled at it with that darling, sweet grin, and cast the treasures at the feet of the Great One. Because He was her treasure. He was her dearest reward.

O Death, where is thy sting? It's not with Judy. We feel the sting powerfully, but for her there's nothing from here on in but joy, glory and everlasting peace. And relationship. Without the hindrance of sin, darkness or sorrow.

I love you Judy. I already miss you like crazy. You did your life well. If I could do mine one tenth as well, I would be glad. I'll see you before we know it, thanks to the grace and mercy of our One and Only. Your pilgrim road is over. You made it home. Thank you for making mine that much better for knowing you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Update 5/13/10 Day 185

Dear friends,

Tomorrow is my 22nd anniversary.

I just want to tell you a little about the fellow I tied the knot with lo those many moons ago.

To keep it simple, I’ll do a top ten “Swell things about Stephen Smith” list.

10. He always makes great coffee in the morning (just for me) even though he doesn’t drink it himself.

9. With him, the glass is definitely always half full.

8. He has created a silly, make believe character which he routinely plays just to amuse me and our children.

7. He is not, in any way, shape or form, a Yankees fan.

6. His prayers aren’t fancy or long, but they are sincere and without guile.

5. Saturdays he has made breakfast for the kids since they were toddlers.

4. He never forgets to tape 24 for viewing without commercials.

3. He’s the king of contraptions: fixators, hopper walkers and multiple dynasplints.

2. When he wrecks a car, he doesn’t do it halfway.

1.He knows how to pick em’. (Only kidding).

Stephen makes me laugh every day, and has always been a kind, decent and faithful husband. I am grateful to the One and Only this year, more than any other, for the companionship we share. The world would have been the worse without him. There are many anniversaries that dazzle (10, 25, 50), but to me, 22 will always be the sweetest of all. Because it almost wasn’t.

I love you Smitty, and for all my words, there are none to adequately express it.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Update 5/12/10 Day 184

Dear friends,

I spoke to Detective Matt from the East Greenbush police for just a minute today. My mind flew back to November 8, when that hard working policeman came to the hospital to tell us he had gotten a warrant to collect blood from Oscar Lewis after calling multiple judges on a Sunday evening. Thanks, Matt. You went the extra ten miles on that one... When I tell you the accident lives in my head, I'm not kidding. Some days I wish I could wipe the slate clean, and remember it no more. Something will pop up that can usher me back so quickly I don't know what hit me. I happened to notice my bedroom door handle today, (now that is odd, but remember who's writing this..) and quickly I got a picture in my head of all the wonderful people in and out of my house during the month of December, scrambling to get the bedroom ready for Stephen's homecoming. So you see, some of the memories are precious. Bittersweet. I can't get away from the crash, but I can put it in context now (a little bit), and by the time this blog is done, I 'm sure I'll be that much closer to some decent perspective.

This evening I was on hand to fold programs for the Our Savior's Lutheran School musical "Dear Edwina", starring, among others, David John Smith. Once again, the Great One uses music in the lives of my children to bring great healing and joy. David goes from nerd to fabulous (although I think some nerds are already fabulous, not mentioning any names), in the role of Scott. If you're looking for a cheap family night out I recommend coming. These plays are so well done! The curtain will rise at OSL on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7pm. There's a Sunday performance too. Of course I will post a photo as any self respecting proud momma would do. My youngest has had a rugged 6 months, but he's rounding the bend, and I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it together when I see him singing. God has truly done great things for us, and this is just another signpost of His grace along the pilgrim road. By the way, to Kim and Melissa: it was a joy folding with you!! I've got a juicy blister from the stapler...

Kim's daughter Jordan is on a mission trip to Haiti this week. As soon as I heard, my heart once again sorrowed for the inconceivable challenges the folks in that county have had to contend with. I still hope to do more that write a check for them, but I need the Great One to show me what my part is to help. Do you ever feel helpless? Do you ever look at the world around you and become overwhelmed? So did Moses. So did David. So did Nehemiah. So did Rahab. (My amazing niece is taking that name for her confirmation!) Their solution wasn't found in feeling guilty or drowning their anxiety in alcohol, or forgetting it away in senseless pleasure. They called on the Great One, and He showed them THEIR PART, and then they did what He said. If I could have a nickle for all the times I've launched out haphazardly to fix something, or tried to hide from it, I'd be some kind of wealthy woman. Here's what God says to do:

What does the Lord require of thee?
To do justly, and to love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God.

Now that will take on a different form for everyone reading this post. In your little world, you can ask the Great One what your part is. And then, with the qualities of justice, mercy and humility, you can make a difference in your sphere of influence. This isn't Pollyanna talk. (By the way, Pollyanna isn't the sappy movie everyone thinks it is...) This is true stuff. I saw it in action and I was the beneficiary. Everyone played, and continues to play, their part in this particular scene in the cosmic story. Friends, it is so not all about me. But I can't help but see the reality of God in the beautiful character of the many who played a part in our personal drama. All it does is make me bow my knee in gratitude, and long to be a far better person than I am.

Time to go check on my little star. He's going to be one tired pup by the time this play is over. But he's gotten quite a bit of stamina over these miles we've travelled. Remember, for quite a while my kids were getting to bed way too late, and I was writing to you at 1am. They survived that chaos. This should be cake. Cake... that sounds good. It all comes back around to sugar...

Wish we could eat dessert together tonite!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Update 5/11/10 Day 183

Dear friends,

This is Marvelous Margo, my hairdresser, who can wield a pair of scissors like Zorro wields a sword, and at the same time hear all your tales of wonder and woe without missing a beat. She can also make Joseph happy with a haircut, which is akin to satisfying the piggy bank of Bernie Madoff! Just thought you might like to meet another member of our friendly fellowship. This lady's smile eliminates the need for any incandescent lighting in the room she's in. She and her husband are some of the hard working folk that make our hometown of East Greenbush hum.

So what is it about hair? I've never had good hair. I can list on one hand people I know with really good hair. (Sister Laurie, you're one of them). I like all different kinds of hair, but that thick, straight, shiny hair, who gets that? When I was a kid I hated my hair. And then came Dorothy Hammill. Remember her wedge cut? I got that cut, and I thought I was all that. But alas, pride goeth before the fall, and within 2 days the thing didn't swing like Dorothy's. Once again I was disappointed. I just didn't have the right hair. I have since made peace with what I've got. The vanity level drops significantly when one approaches nifty fifty...Oh yeah, Farrah Fawcett. She had great hair. It was big. It was shiny. Sigh...

Joe got a ukulele. He was playing it at 6:30 this morning. He plays very nicely, and the sound really does make me dream of Hawaii, but 6:30 is a bit much. His long fingers don't seem to fit that little instrument. I envy those fingers. I cannot do bar chords on a guitar to save my life. He reaches across the miles and nails them. Dissatisfaction with fingers and hair. What's next?

To further the musical melee at my house, David used his allowance to buy a pan pipe. This is simply too cute for words. And it serves as another excellent distraction from math, science, and the other useful disciplines which must be avoided until late in the evening, when teeth should be being brushed and hands and faces being washed. Still, music pours forth from the Smith castle from every corner. That's not a bad thing. Not at all.

I'm fighting like Tyson to keep out of the shadows. Thanks for your prayers, they really help open the curtains. The Great One reminds me in different ways that He's still quite capable of handling the problems of my life. That goes for you too.

Dan the Delightful gave me a CD of Michael Card music, a favorite of mine from way back. I was listening to these words in one of his songs today, and it brought me back to how Great the Great One truly is:

We in our foolishness thought we were wise,
He played the fool and He opened our eyes,
We in our weakness believed we were strong,
He became helpless to show we were wrong...

And so we follow God's own fool,
Only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
Come be a fool as well.

He bowed down low though He reigns on high. He loves hairdressers, musicians and movie stars. He confounds the wisdom of even the wisest. Some day, every eye will behold Him. And all of our "foolish" faith will become sight. No one will give two hoots about the condition of their hair, only their hearts. Help me, Great One, to give heed to this truth every day!

I'm so glad to do this life with all of you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Update 5/10/10 Day 182

Dear friends,

The guys across the street are putting a new roof on my neighbor’s house. I was watching them for a while through my blinds when one of them began to slip, and my heart went into my chest. It’s dangerous work, getting up on those high places and tearing down the old, worn out shingles. Especially when the wind is blowing. Thankfully the young fellow caught himself, but it took a while for my adrenaline to slow up. I know, I know. You hear an analogy coming. If it makes you feel any better, I drive myself crazy with analogies all the time. But the world is full of them, one story giving meaning to another.

Anyway, as I thought about the work of tearing off a rotted roof, I considered my own quest to “be transformed, by the renewing of my mind”. I must admit, I’ve got some crummy mindsets that have to go so I can have the maximum freedom the Great One wants for me. But it’s dangerous business, getting up there where fear, envy, pride and a host of other decaying shingles threaten to turn the inside real ugly. Trying to change ourselves is just another “self help program” destined to break down. But when we let God really get down to the wood, under the shingles, and rip out the old stuff before putting on the new, we can find enduring change. And He will not let our foot slip. Because he’s all about building a healthy human being, the way we were originally meant to be. That’s it. No deep, theological stuff, just something I noticed when the guy almost fell off the roof. I’m gladder than all get out that he didn’t. I’ve seen enough broken bones to last a lifetime.

Before you know it, it will be November and this blog will be history. The first half went by like a shot. (Except for February, the interminable month). The drama has definitely died down, but the inside job the Great One is doing in my life and the lives of everyone touched by this accident continues. At some point before we close up shop, there will be a gathering of all the folks involved in this sojourn, from the first responders, to hospital friends, to family, to DFG, and most of all, to this blog community. I owe you all more than the world, but cake and coffee and a little time together can at least be a token of my gratitude. At the end of summer we’ll get the ball rolling on something.

Summer approacheth. (Although you would never know it today!) My crabapple tree is all green now. Balls and bats are making their appearances about the house. June is bearing down, with the multitude of school events and tests that come with that territory. I am actually grateful to have the struggles of lots of homework and a tricky schedule. The alternative that could have been is pretty grim. But in my mind still are those people at Sunnyview, dogging it out with brain injuries and orthopedic disasters. They live in my prayers, and I pray I will never, ever forget them. As the Great One shows me how, I plan to use the troubles of the past 6 months to bring the little light I have into someone else’s darkness. Stephen was invited to go to drug court, to talk to the folks who have or may potentially get behind the wheel of a car under the influence. I have been encouraged by many folks to write a book about all of this. I’ll be working with Ed Frank and some of the other dedicated advocacy people to communicate what drunk driving can do. Number 1, I want to be there for my family, in particular my precious daughter, to walk beside them as they climb the invisible mountains still before them.

The One and Only will keep working on our roofs all of our lives (and every other part of us too). But He absolutely loves us as we are. Too much to leave us there. Here’s a great C.S. Lewis quote for the road:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

He’s not tearing out the old to hurt us. He wants to make a palace out of a shack. The process can be painful. It can take the form of a multitude of troubles, from an illness, to a job loss, to a devastating car accident. The raw material God uses is up to Him. But His chief end always has been to bring us out of the soul’s ghetto to the free, open spaces of a friendship with Jesus. That’s the life that’s truly life.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Update 5/9/10 26 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

Maybe I’m reading too many stories, but I can’t help but relate the themes in my head right now to the real world. I finished “Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring”, and the rag tag band of hobbits and their fellow travelers remind me of real folk like you and I. First, there is the wizard Gandalf, a wise and lofty, but totally down to earth fellow who loves delighting children with fireworks and at the same time figures out the strategy of the ultimate bad guy. Then there is the conflicted but brave Boromir, the heroic but insecure Aragorn, the bullheaded but loyal dwarf Gimli, and the gentle Elf warrior, Legolas. Of course the hobbits are a mixed bag too, Frodo the contemplative ring bearer, Merry and Pippin, rascals with heart, and my favorite, Samwise Gamgee, a friend to the end. What he lacks in sophistication, he makes up with heart. Pastor Dave the Humble (a real person, and one of the finest,) once again preached an inspiring sermon this morning on community, and the way it ought to be. I’ve pondered his theme today, and thought about all of us in community, the rag tag crew that we are, and the power we have when we walk the pilgrim road with a mind toward the ones walking with us. Like the “Fellowship”, we can’t paint anyone with a single brush. The quirky personalities and habits and talents of those we share the road with are part of what makes life work. It’s up to the strong to help the weak, the smart to cover for the feeble minded, the cheerful to encourage the downcast. Sometimes those we least expect save the day. I’ve seen up close and personal the power of community lo these 26 weeks. The amazing individuality of the people I have rubbed shoulders with in time of crisis fills me with wonder. The strength of their unified, tenacious love gives me no end of hope. Stories grip us because of the truths they embody. Not to mention what fun they are to read!

Stephen played catch with David today! Smitty had to throw underhand, but he managed to get the ball into Young Smitty’s glove. It made my Mother’s Day to know they can still do a modified version of this age old father-son tradition. Steve’s been in a happy baseball place lately too, with the Mets doing well. But as all Mets fans know, one must take it one day at a time… (And no wise guy comments from a certain friend of ours who once said “for a more rewarding experience, take the D train to the Bronx…”) Insufferable!

It is a cliché, but one day at a time is the wise, and biblical, way to live. For Pete’s sake, someone almost blew up a car in Times Square last week! You can’t plan for disaster, trust me. I’m not saying to be a fool and throw out reason and responsibility. Far from it! But as far as I can tell, (and granted, I’m no sage), it’s best to plan without putting your hope in anything but the Great One Himself. The proverb says “Man makes his plans, but God orders his steps…”. Aint’ it the truth.

I haven’t been to the movies with my husband in a year or so. But is there anything to go and see? Nothing appeals. Maybe we’ll go play mini golf. Except I completely stink at mini golf. But now that Steve’s elbow is whacked out, perhaps I can beat him…

Here’s a nice little link for your viewing pleasure. Hope it works. It’s a live web cam of Coast Guard Beach. Keep in mind, the camera doesn’t do it justice. Still and all, it’s a cheerful glimpse.

This verse was running through my mind during worship this morning, and next thing I know Brother Dave M. was reading it into the microphone. I close with this wildly encouraging word from God through the Apostle Peter:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

26 weeks out from disaster, I can say this is true. But we still have to do the thing, friends, one day at a time. Thanks for being a community in the true sense of the word. Thank you, Pastor Dave the Humble, for spelling it out so perfectly and living it so well.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS: Please remember my friends Dick and Judy W. in your prayers. More loyal pilgrims you’ll never find. Thanks a million.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Update 5/8/10 6 months since crash

Dear friends,

The cold and damp stick stubbornly to my soul today. The Great One brought me through the worst winter of my life without a hint of depression (sadness, yes, but not "the great gray cloud"). And now, here I am in the heart of spring, with the tell tale signs: wanting to sleep too much, eat too much, withdrawal, etc... I know the signs all too well. I usually battle this thing every winter, with its corresponding let up in the spring. But for some reason I feel the slope now. Don't worry about me. I have passed through this shadow before and I will again. In fact, I am only telling you this for 2 reasons: one, I know without a doubt that God is there with us when we can't feel His presence at all. Have hope, friends! Number 2, I promised to tell the truth in this blog, and to pretend I'm feeling fine when I'm not would be dishonest. So there it is. We all go through the sludgie times. It's part of walking the pilgrim road.

Can you believe it? It has been exactly 6 months since the terrible accident that brought this blog into being. Half a year. Some days it seems like yesterday. Other days it seems like a hundred years ago. But it always lives somewhere in the back of my head. Life has changed, and the changes are permanent. My launching point for viewing life is altered. But mostly for the better. You bloggies have been a big part of that. That so many have cared, and listened, and loved my family has given me courage in the storm. Thank you again.

Tonite's post is short. I'm making chicken and rice, and keeping busy. No fetal positions here. The fight is on, again, to stay out of the pit. One thing I know for sure: The Holy Spirit brings light in the darkness. I went to see my friend Judy W. in the hospital today, and the light was all over the room. And they've battled the monster like true warriors. There are men in Afghanistan right now whose troubles make mine look like melted ice cream on a hot day. They have no time to coddle their sorrows. There are some of you, who have lost children, and jobs, and health, who beat back the darkness when you get out of bed in the morning. You are all my heroes. There is One, who descended into hell and made it possible for the captives to be set free forever. His light never fails. He's my all time most beloved champion.

March on, be strong. There's a world of good out there. You are a big part of mine.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, May 7, 2010

Update 5/7/10 Day 179

Dear friends,

There are days on the pilgrim road where you seem to hit every pot hole, run into a traveller in front of you and the rain makes mud that cause your feet to sink. Today was that kind of day. Listen, I'm not going to bellyache (too long) because we all have those days. Sometimes they are strung together to make a few in a row. Sometimes, they last weeks. Sometimes longer. Crummy circumstances are often the catalyst for the "wet blanket" that can descend on the soul, but not always. Sometimes there are simply gray, mirthless days that come from who knows where and who knows why. Some blah days are the result of our own folly or sin, and some are related to the complex chemical dance going on in these ingenious machines we drive our spirit around in while we live. These are the days where the Great One seems far off (He's not), and the enemy of our souls can lie like a rug to us (he does). In the end, a day is just a day. We can still make right choices when we feel lousy. We can still hope despite our troubled minds. I've quoted C.S. Lewis a thousand times, but this is definitely one of my favorites: "Sometimes you just have to tell your feelings where to get off". Amen, brother. The truth is the truth, regardless of how I feel on any given day. I'm not saying feelings don't matter. Good Lord, of course they do! But they belong downstairs in the servants quarters, not upstairs where the governor lives. The will. The choosing part of us.

On May 25 Stephen will be going in to Albany Med for his foot surgery. At the same time, Dr. Bagchi will manipulate his shoulder. We won't be going out dancing the next day, I can tell you that. I'm hoping after some of the hardware is out Smitty's foot will begin to approach a more normal size. I've got a new name for the Shrek foot: "Frankenfoot". Hah! It really does look that way. Poor Steve's body is so different, but thank God for the function he's got! Miracles have been our portion. I've got nothing to complain about...and yet I do....

Do any other parents of teens experience the following:

Mom: Joseph, don't forget your tennis clothes for your match.
Joseph: You already told me that mom...
(5 hours later....Ring, Ring....)
Joseph: Mom, I forgot my tennis uniform. Can you bring it over.
(small lecture)
Mom: Where is it?
Joseph: In my room, on the desk.

Mother does not find it on the desk, but in the dirty clothes pile in the laundry room.

Mom: This is the last time I'm doing this. You need to grow up.
Joseph: Click.

The child is a joy to my heart. But I am going to have to find a shed for him to live in for the next few years...

By the way, Smitty mowed the lawn for the first time this year. The dandelions were having a convention! He couldn't do the side of the little hill, so the aforementioned teenager will get that part tomorrow.

I'm all out of joint, and so is this post. But I'll keep writing because I choose to do so. The Great One says go, and I'm ok with what I lack. As long as I'm going where He leads, it's okay that I'm a mess. That's the way it is some days on this wacky pilgrim highway.

Hang on in the bad days, keep doing the next right thing. The story is still being written. And remember this: "Resist him (the dark one), standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1Peter 5:9

Your friend on the gnarly pilgrim road,


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Updated 5/6/10 Day 178

Dear friends,

Dr. Bagchi (our very own Bob the Builder) was glad to see Smitty today, gussied up in his work clothes, walking upright and asking about sunscreen for that wicked ugly scar on his leg. Turns out he only needs to sunscreen it well, and he can go in a pool, or in the ocean, but no hot tubs. Tomorrow he’ll be notified of his surgery date, and while Steve’s under general anesthesia Dr. B. will also manually manipulate his shoulder to break up the scar tissue and try to get he shoulder moving. As Steve put it “he was all over that idea”. Of course, Dr. B. gave the caveat that there’s always the risk he could rebreak the shoulder trying to fix it. Nice. I think we’ve had our fair share of broken bones, thank you very much. But if I trust anyone, I trust the guy who spent many hours in the O.R. with Steve when he wasn’t just at risk of a break, but of death. And I trust the One who made the fellow holding the scapel and the one being scapeled (not a real word). Besides, some risks are worth taking. The trick is to figure out which ones…

After yesterday’s art post, I practiced what I preached, and spent the morning with young masters Noah (3) and Ian (5), with the watercolor paper, paints and some picture books of animals. Both boys really wanted to paint cows. So cows it was. These were not your ordinary cows. These were colorful cows; these were “out of the box” cows. I personally did a landscape with trees, a swing set and a bicycle. It was worlds of fun. Then, we went for a walk and saw Jack the dog, and I thought how grand an artist the Great One is as displayed by the animal kingdom. Think about a dog. Then think about all the different varieties of canines. Absolutely an artistic feast. Amazing.

Tomorrow I will loiter in an entirely different artistic venue, the kitchen. I am searching the cookbooks for some new dessert to make for tomorrow night’s worthy extravaganza. What might that be, you ask? None other than the information night for Mercy Medical, the compassionate dream (now reality) of the Guilzon family from right here in our home town. Mark G. is a physician’s assistant who heard the call of the Great One, along with his wife and exceptionally bright and witty children, to build a medical clinic where he gets paid with a chicken, if he’s lucky. These folks humble me to the core, leaving the comforts of America to live in the middle of nowhere to care for folks the world has forgotten. Feel free to come out for some yummy dessert, with no pressure to open your pocketbook. But you won’t find a better place to deposit your green where people of integrity will use it for good. Click on the church link on this blog for details. And if you come, try my dessert…if you dare.

We continue to climb the winding road. For now, the incline is much less steep than it was almost 6 months ago. I hope when the next tough uphill comes along, I’ll be stronger and better conditioned for the exercise. There are some moments when I am again struck by the heartache of it all, and then by its wonder. I still wish, without wavering, that Steve, and especially Hannah, had never experienced such a nightmare. I wish my boys had not either. But there’s nothing for it. The wishing doesn’t change a thing. What I will say is this: “I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Good has fought its way up from the deep waters and taken a breath when it was threatened with drowning. A man on life support now puts on his tie (with difficulty, but he does it!) and makes an honest living. A young girl in a coma is now tutoring a classmate in Spanish (for money!) and studying for her AP History exam, despite the dragons she has yet to slay. But slay them she will.

May all your dragons be undone too. There is a Savior who specializes in destroying those dark monsters. He beat them to smithereens on the cross.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Update 5/5/10 Day 177

Dear friends,

"A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle." ~Robert Henri

I am far from an expert on fine art. Everything I know about the great painters I learned from my dear friend Chris while we were tromping around Greenwich Village together as poor college students at NYU. "Bubba", (our mutual nickname for each other), spent time showing me from his collection of art books, many of the great painters of the world. Then he took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a look at the originals of the masters. I remember seeing my first "real" Rembrandt there, and standing in front of it, crying like a baby. I didn't understand why, but I kind of do now. In most of Rembrandt's (my favorite painter of all time) paintings I experience the "magnificent struggle" of the artist to tell the truth. This unmatched Dutch master has a melancholy streak (to me anyway), that makes me relate to him across years, across cultures, across the ages.

The Book says we are made in God's image. My puny understanding only gets that a little bit, but I really think part of it is this: He's the Creator, we're little creators. Each one of us has a thing inside that wants to express some facet of the Great One's world. Some do it on canvas, some at the stove, some with ink and paper, some with their voice. Some do it while they bring healing to a sick person in the hospital, some do it in a classroom full of noisy toddlers. Some build, some design, some do the math (that one is NOT me). "Whatever you do, do heartily, as unto the Lord..."

Today Rembrandt reminded me of the Great One as I looked at his painting of the Scholar in a Room with a Winding Stair. Light washes over shadows, and the master painter gives me joy by reminding me in some corner of my soul of God's grace. Take a look at some great art, and don't worry about what some fancy art critic has to say about it. Of course, sometimes it is enlightening to hear about where an artist is "coming from". But you can simply appreciate art just because it tells a story, or reminds you of something, or evokes a sense of eternity in your heart. Smitty loves the sculptures done by the Italian artist Bernini. How the heck that guy ever made those stones "come alive" the way he did, I'll never know.

Speaking of Smitty, he needs to go to a shoemaker, or "cobbler" as he insists on calling them. Turns out he needs a bit more lift in that left shoe, but the shoe has to be taken apart to do it-not enough room on the inside for any more heft. So, another new thing since November 8. We've got to find a shoemaker - sorry dear - cobbler. Tomorrow he goes to see Dr. Bagchi, and will most likely get a surgery date for removing the hardware in his right foot. Good gravy, sounds like he's some sort of digital something or other. He's also going to ask Dr. B. if anything can be done for his stuck shoulder. This will be the first time I don't go with him. I have the sheer delight of hanging out for a couple of hours with two little men tomorrow, Ian and Noah, so their mommy can pack a little for Disneyworld! Wish I was going with them...

Do your day with art in your heart. Whatever you do, create something beautiful for the next person. Even if it's just leaving a short note for a great waitress at the coffee place, or putting an ice cold water bottle on your coworkers desk, or speaking a kind word to someone sad. And if you paint, by all means do it. Delight in your very own "magnificent struggle".

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update 5/4/10 Day 176

Dear friends,

Hurray for Hannah! She can go back to her regular gym class! She’s glad to participate with her friends again in all sorts of fun and games. I guess the fitness room was a bit boring for her. Dr. Somaio still wants her to be careful, and so do I. (As an aside, does anyone remember those hideous gym uniforms we wore in Catholic school in the 70’s? Maybe that’s why I hated gym so much…)

Dr. S. was also encouraging about Smitty’s progress. Last time we were there I remember his surprise at how much function Steve has in his legs given the extent of those nasty injuries. He did get signed up for another 6 month round of a handicapped parking pass, which he definitely needs. However he often parks somewhere else if the distance is reasonable to give someone “worse off than himself” a better spot. I’m telling you, I married a decent fellow. A bit OCD, somewhat nerdy, but excellent nonetheless.

Thank you for your comments yesterday, your teen job suggestions, and the encouragement in general. (Jessica, your comment made me cry…). I really am so honored to share the pilgrim road with all of you cyber friends, keeping tabs on us, praying for us, and laughing and crying with us in all the big and little things. Even the goofy things, like when I drove over grass (gravel) and got the handsome young police officer mad at me, or made a fool of myself at Planet Fitness, or way back before Christmas (remember the Drano incident?). You’ve hung with me in the dark and the light. Thank you again, a thousand times.

Judy the Good dropped in today and simply chatted with me while I made beef stew. These are the moments of life that give it lustre. Seemingly mundane chatter among friends, laced with life’s truth, comedy, confusion and drama. Relationships really are where it’s at. If you’re getting tired of hearing me say that, I’m sorry. I just can’t shake it off. It looms large…

Some things I’m looking forward to:

Hole in One Donuts in Eastham on Cape Cod
David John Smith starring in “Dear Edwina” at Our Savior’s Lutheran School
A Reading Rainbow reunion in New York City in June
Soup for lunch (Butternut Squash from The Moosewood Cookbook) with M.A.
Beth Moore simulcast in September at Delmar Full Gospel

Things I’m glad for right now:

The grace of the Great One, every minute of my life
A good, sturdy roof over my head
Dick and Judy W., fine friends who endure
The prices at Aldi’s
Hannah, back in gym, without a stupid gym suit

I hope you all get the very best parking spots at Walmart. You deserve them.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,