Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 233 The Music of Recovery, The Sounds of Grace

Dear friends,

Sounds can be sweet.

Miss Rejoice is upstairs with Miss Lauren and Miss Becky, and they are doing what they love to do: SING! Hannah came down for snacks, muttering something about "double high C in her gut voice". (I may have that all wrong, but that's what it sounded like). To hear that child sing when I ponder what could have been, and when I think of those precious children at Sunnyview still struggling to speak after a brain injury, I am both grateful and sad. Sad for the parents whose uphill climb has been so much steeper than mine, grateful for the continuing recovery of my one and only daughter, a treasure so valuable it defies description. For all the tears I have shed, I have been spared many more. While Hannah keeps trekking her pilgrim road, I keep finding deeper levels of wonder, and I am truly humbled by the mercy of the Lover of our souls.

The other thing I'm hearing is Smitty chattering away with his momma on the telephone. Every night they speak, friends, every night since Stephen woke up, 8 days after the car crash. Of course in some of those earlier conversations, Hercules was a bit muddled. Like when he told me he was "going to come home tonite, but I couldn't reach you on the cell phone, and then it was really late...". I had to remind him that he had 2 broken legs so he wouldn't be going anywhere for awhile. It was actually very funny!

I can also hear the dishwasher swishing away. (It's an old dishwasher, and pretty noisy). It's music to my ears, though, because Stephen is back to his regular job of loading the thing. (He's happy too, and if you want to know why, ask him his opinion of my dishwasher stacking...) It wasn't so long ago he was in the wheelchair, with the fixator - I'm sorry, the BLASTED fixator. He even tried to do work in the kitchen with that thing on, God bless him.

Sounds. The cat purring on my chest while I write. The keys under my fingers, reminding me of the sweet communication I have had with all of you lo these many months. The crickets outside the window of my lovely Adirondack bedroom, a gift of love that reminds me daily of the outstanding folks who stood with us, indeed who continue to do so. (Fab Phyllis, the blinds are so perfect, and the curtains too! And brother Jim, we remember your long treks to Sunnyview. Thank you, thank you). The bathroom door closing, a wide door put in by Tom Terrific when Smitty was hopping about on that crazy walker. So many faces, so many names, so many blessings. The Great One sometimes brings us back to bring us forward. Wow. I will never forget the orchestra of love played out by countless instruments. The sound was like a heavenly choir. And the echo will be with me all my life.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 232 Passing By Ourselves Without Wondering

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Saint Augustine

After yesterday’s blog where I blathered about the problem of pride and encouraged us to not think too much about ourselves, I pondered the balance of that point of view. And that is this: One could pass through this physical experience and never listen to the proddings of their inner man to see more than meets the eye. And that would be a colossal tragedy. Because after all, we’re here for 5 minutes, and then eternity. My dear husband, who has considered and concerned himself with the invisible reality of his life, was up against the real and present possibility of stepping into that sphere on November 8. Now if you know Stephen, you know he is not a sour, introspective Pharisee. On the contrary, I know few men with more mirth and contentment than him. But he is sober in matters that one should be sober about. Sober meaning thoughtful and serious in his awe and respect for the Master of the Universe. He has need of a Savior, and he knows it. He lives the reality of a walk with Jesus Christ every day. Not perfectly, not without stumbling. But with a resolute heart. I think even more so now, having taken a nap with death, but not falling asleep altogether. Anyway, I wanted to get that on the table, lest anyone think self-evaluation is always a bad thing. It’s not, and Augustine puts it so much more perfectly than I ever could.

Joseph called us from Alaska, and I could hear in his voice the inspiration he is experiencing seeing the young, steep, jagged mountains and the icy glaciers of the Far Northwest . I’m expecting a new song when he gets home. He brought his ukulele with him, and no doubt he is regaling the other teens on the ship with his Tiny Timism’s. (I’m quite sure he has no idea who Tiny Tim is, and most probably neither do some of you young bloggies). His little brother is champing at the bit to see his hero, and they will get just a short visit. David leaves for camp on Saturday, his first time away from home without us ever. Yikes. Double Yikes.

Once again looking for your prayers for a dear member of DFG who has had a stroke. So suddenly, life can change. Don’t pass by yourself without wondering. The Great One is always speaking, always looking for a relationship with us. We’ve just got to get out of the noise so we can hear. (Once again, I speak to myself!) Way better to do it before we’re flat on our backs.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 231 The Downfall of Saul Looks for All

Dear friends,

Domino is trying to climb on the laptop while I write to you this evening. Her sharp little kitten claws are digging in to my legs, and she keeps hopping up and tickling my neck with her whiskers. She wants my attention. Undivided. I guess it's all about relationship even when you're a cat. Of course the motives are different, but the same outcome is desired. We're looking for some love. Still, one must remember that perfect quote regarding felines:

"Dogs have owners. Cats have staff".

Ain't it the truth.

I thought I'd tell you about one of my greatest fears. I was reminded of it while reading the biblical story of Saul, Israel's first king. More than any personal tragedy, (though the thought of another car accident does give me pause), more than financial loss or disease or death, I tremble at the threat of becoming proud. Now I know I have committed this foulest of sins more than once. But to have it become part of my character, and worse, to be blind to the thing, that would be the worst darkness imaginable.

Saul started out a humble man. In fact when I read the account today of how Samuel was in town to anoint Saul king, I noticed for the first time ever (having read the story more than once), that Saul actually hid in a pile of luggage to avoid being noticed. It was a very long descent from his comment to Samuel about his being from the smallest of Israel's tribes, to his arrogant attitude years later of keeping back some spoils God specifically told him to leave alone, and taking his anger out unrighteously on a young David. I have seen the mighty fall too, here in the 21st century. And I am far too aware of my own capacity to "think more highly of myself than I ought" or to practice the other side of pride, thinking too little of myself. Best not to think about ourselves much at all. Best to be grateful for our blessings and talents, and to celebrate those of others, and simply go about the business the Great One gives us to do. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about today. Arrogance is one ugly sucker. And it chills me to the bone.

My darling Smitty is sporting summer clothes. Talk about no arrogance, the man couldn't care less that his legs are, well, unattractive. I smile, though, seeing how beautifully that skin graft is healing, and I take pride (I think the right kind, not the ugly kind) in knowing I helped a little bit to keep that leg in one piece. Most of the credit goes to Dr. Bagchi, and all of it ultimately goes to the One and Only, who works the molecules and antibodies in the inspiring way He set up the healing process. May He be forever and ever praised!

Hannah has a piece of glass emerging from her hand. This could continue to happen for years to come. Some days the 8th of November is as fresh as the sound of the helicopter on the roof I still hear at the hospital from time to time. There's no running away from the process, there is only going through. Remember when Sister Laurie said "If this mountain won't be moved, we're going over it". With all of you, we have, we are, and we will. The glass is working it's way out. And so are we.

Domino is now purring in my ear, and making another attempt to hit the delete key before I finish. But I still have a much larger brain than her, and I think I can still outwit the adorable little thing. Though she will certainly take all money in the chipmunk catching contest...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 230 Rewind, Fast Forward, and "Shame Off You!"

Dear friends,

Philippians 3:13 "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus".

I so enjoyed being with my forever friends from my career days with Reading Rainbow at our reunion yesterday. From the moment I drove onto the FDR Drive, and exited at 34th Street, my heart was filled with reminiscences and precious memories of a wonderful and unique experience during my 20’s. These are friends I travelled with extensively, worked with on many very long days, and learned from in profound ways. Together again, time seemed to dissolve. I left New York last night with a big cup of coffee and many thoughts. In the spirit of full disclosure, some of my thoughts had regrets attached. I wasted a lot of time in those years, and made some bad decisions. Pondering those while I mainlined my caffeine, I brought them to the Great One and was reminded of the magnificent healing scripture above. Even now in my today’s, I have to “forget what is behind” on a regular basis.

Some bad things happen to us, and some we bring on ourselves. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. I honestly don’t know how I would manage the mess without the mercy of a real and present Savior. Even if your life has been fairly smooth, there is that nagging sense of “what am I doing here?” I’ve heard it come out of people’s mouths countless times. And if not out of their mouths, then out of their alcoholism, or people pleasing, or workaholism, or plain old boredom with life. I’m not judging anyone. Hey, I’m the first one to point out my own desperate need for a fresh start. I simply hope if you are reading this blog, that you will get hold of the words above from the Great One. Related so well to them is the saying Sister Laurie’s daughter gifted to her this week that she shared with us in church this morning. Laurie was kicking herself about something she said, and Miss Stephanie reached over and said to her mom, “shame off you”. I’m telling you I almost bolted out of my chair for joy with that one. In a powerfully witty twist on the oft repeated “shame on you”, Sister Laurie forgot what was behind,
and strained toward what is ahead (as she always does, and helps so many others do).

One thing I’ll never regret are the relationships I have forged along the pilgrim road. In these before and after pictures are me (around 24 years old) with my friend Eddie Wiseman, who I met at NYU and worked with through the “boot camp” years at Reading Rainbow. Most significantly, he is the final checkmate piece the Great One deposited into my life to show me the “life that is truly life”. Ed prayed for me for years, was kind, compassionate, and always a complete gentleman to me during the rough and tumble years of my post college years. I love him with all my heart, and his wife Orly too, who helped me over many a boulder on my highway. Ed is one-of-a-kind, one of the vastly colorful assortment of people I appreciate more than words can say.
Back then, I couldn’t see myself in upstate New York, with 3 kids and completely addicted to Maple Brown Excellence by Loreal. (For those unfamiliar, that's hair color). I certainly couldn’t see the calamitous car crash of November 8. I’m glad I couldn’t. The future is a mystery for good reason. Best to take it as it comes.

October 16 or 23 will be the date of the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Nite. I should know by the end of this week which Saturday it will be. I want you all there. Details to follow. You did the bitter with us. I want you there for some sweet. From the ambulance drivers to the chimney sweeps, you have all blown us away. So lets have a party. Maybe we can even get that Army Medic in from Ohio...

Your friend on the forward only pilgrim road,


PS Thank you, Smitty for pinch hitting last night. And for waiting up for me til 1:30am. I knew you would.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 229 - Odds and Ends

Good evening, dear people. Bad news for you - Loriann is one of the most truthful people I know, but she misspoke yesterday when she wrote "I'll be here again tomorrow." She won't be able to do the blog tonight because she's currently on her way home from her favorite city, the Big Apple, home of the New York Mets and some other baseball team whose name slips my mind at the moment. She was going to (I believe) the first ever reunion of people who had worked on Reading Rainbow, which of course she had done for years. I'm looking forward to hearing about it when she gets home tonight, and I'm sure that you fine folks will get to hear about it tomorrow. Perhaps there will even be some pictures!

Today something rare happened - Loriann and I slept in and we actually slept late. We woke up at 7, got Domino and brought him into the bed with us. He did his little pouncing moves, fell off the bed, climbed back up again - you know, the usual kitten things to do. Loriann and I fell back asleep and didn't wake up again until 9:30! I can't remember the last time we slept that late. When we woke up we saw Domino curled up in a ball, sleeping beside us. I think we all really needed it. Even Hannah and David were still asleep!

I had a cool experience at work this week. A young lady came up to me as I was walking down the hallway back to my office and asked if she could ask me a question. Thinking that perhaps she was going to ask me the story behind my cane I said yes. She then surprised me by asking me "Were you in a bad car accident in East Greenbush last November?" Well, that was certainly a lot more specific than I was expecting! When I told her that I had been, she told me that she's been praying for me and Hannah (and really, my whole family) for months, since the crash happened, and had been following our progress on this blog. A relative of her's goes to Generation Church at Delmar Full Gospel Church with Joseph and Hannah, so she had heard about the crash shortly after it happened. My new friend is named Cindy, and I got to have two delightful talks with her this week. Her husband leads a small group in their home and the whole group has been praying for us, as well. It's always such a blessing to meet another believer out in the world, and the fact that this woman is one of Loriann's "bloggies" just made it that much sweeter. I'm looking forward to Loriann getting to meet her as well. Something tells me that they'll hit it off just fine.

You all know by now that Loriann's favorite writer is C. S. Lewis, and of course he's wonderful. (I'm rereading The Screwtape Letters these days, in fact.) My favorite is a contemporary of his, another Englishman born in the 1800s, P.G. Woodhouse. If you've never read anything of this comic genius, do yourself a big favor and remedy that situation as soon as possible. (I would suggest Right Ho, Jeeves as a wonderful starting point, but it would truly be difficult to pick a bad work of his.) Let me just tell you two of my favorite lines of his. This one takes place after a young man refuses to eat, in order to prove his love for a woman: "Even Seppings, Aunt Dahlia's butler, a cold, unemotional man, had gasped and practically reeled when Tuppy waved aside those nonnettes de poulet Agnes Sorel, while the footman, standing by with the potatoes, had stared like one seeing a vision." Another classic line of his is much shorter: "If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled."

I thought of Wodehouse today because a quote from one of his classic characters popped into my head. Madeline Bassett said to Bertie Wooster "Life is such a muddle, isn't it?" Last Saturday I wrote on Facebook that the simplest things could be the biggest blessings, and how nice it was to make my kids a big breakfast of pancakes and waffles and sausages, and then be cleaning up the kitchen later. I remembered that it wasn't that long ago that I couldn't do those little things. Later that same day, though, Loriann came back into the living room to find me sobbing on the couch. Out of privacy concerns I can't share exactly what I was crying about, but suffice it to say that I was grieving a loss that was a result of the accident. She practically ran to me and we cried together for a few minutes over the situation. I'm blessed that I have a wife that I can share both the happy moments and the sad moments with, and doubly blessed that my wife is of the character of Loriann. [But you guys know that, don't you : ^ ) ]

I believe that both of those emotions, coming on the same day, we true and honest and that God was in both of them. He wants to share the happy ones with us, and - true to His Word - He'll never leave us during the sad ones. We just have to remember to turn to Him. Sometimes that's harder in the happy moments. I think we're getting better at it, though.

Thank you for your continued prayers, folks. Please continue to pray for full restoration for my Princess, who's gone through so much, through no fault of her own. Thanks for sticking with us and supporting us for all this time.

Tomorrow Loriann will be back. In the meantime I'll leave you with one more quote (about a golfer) from Wodehouse: "The least thing upset him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of butterflies in the adjoining meadows."

P.S. (Sunday morning) I just remembered the name of that other baseball team! I must have been thinking of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 228 The Roo Turns 17 Far, Far Away...

Dear friends,

It's almost midnight, so here are some loose thoughts for tonite's blog.Joe turned 17 today! Here's a photo of him at age 4. He used to wear his cowboy boots to bed. Today, he's on his way to Alaska. I remember holding him for endless hours as a colicky baby, never thinking the day would come when I could be separated from him. Now he's practically on the other side of the earth... The Great One gets us ready for life's changes a minute at a time. And when they come suddenly, like they did on November 8, He applies copious supplies of grace to manage the upheaval.Sweet Johnny B. and Beloved Micaela came over tonite for Ranch Pizza (Yum). These two are some of our friends from the younger set. How we love them! And how we laugh and rejoice when we are with them! Sometimes I think I'm truly the most blessed woman in the world with the people in my life. Every one is a gift greater than any material treasure. Far greater.
Micaela was Miss Rejoice's 8th grade teacher, but really has been more like a big sister to her. Mic was there day after day when Hannah was in the ICU, caring for her, crying over her, and working out her own questions honestly and courageously with the Great One during that agonizing time. Micaela speaks fluent Spanish, and carried on many conversations with Hannah when she woke up from the trauma. (If you recall, Rejoice was speaking Spanish at that time. And singing songs from "Wicked". ) The love between these two young women is inspiring. My heart is full.
My dear bloggie friends, words can't express how deep and wide my gratitude goes for the people who have walked this pilgrim road with me, even long before November 8. Only eternity will reveal the limitless value of the relationships I cherish. You all are part of that patchwork of companions making up the quilt of our lives. Thank you, God Bless you greatly, and goodnite. I'll be here again tomorrow. You know the drill - until day 365. Thank you for all the yesterdays you have spent here with me. It still means the world to me.
Happy Birthday my precious Joseph. Only when you have a child of your own will you get a glimmer of how much Dad and I love you. I'm so glad our whole family is here to celebrate your life. The alternative was unthinkable. Our God is full of mercy and love.
Your friend (and your Mommy, birthday boy) on the pilgrim road,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 227 North, to Alaska - West, on I-90

Dear friends,

So Joseph is off to Alaska with his friend Chris and his family, and I was charged with getting them to the airport. This simple trip followed Murphy’s law to a tee. I had to be to work by 3:30 (which didn’t happen – my first time late to this job ever), and we left the house a bit later than planned in Steve and Jackie’s car. They have a brand spankin’ new van, handicapped accessible for Gretchen and with all the bells and whistles. I don’t really like bells and whistles. I liked the old Dodge Dart we had years ago that had windshield wipers, a transmission and brakes. I was turning on lights when I wanted to swish off the rain, and I was pushing buttons for the GPS when I wanted to turn off the radio. Anyway, after I got them to the airport I realized the gas tank was on E, I mean really on E. (Jackie later apologized profusely for this from Chicago. She can’t see the gas gage through the steering wheel – likely story…). I now have about ½ hour to get to Albany Med, and I’m thinking maybe I can make it on fumes, when I realize in my distraction with figuring out the car, I am driving on 90 West instead of East. Now I know I have to stop for gas. I wind up in Schenectady, and somehow I went through the ezpass lane. I had to stop and explain, and then pay the 30 cent toll. On the way back east, I got off at the Empire Plaza exit, except I wound up going over the bridge to Rensselaer. There were some fairly foul thoughts in my head if not on my lips, and finally I got to work with an ER full of people needing me to get them beds lickety split.

Such is life.

The little aggravations are…aggravating. I just remind myself of what it was like when I was hopping between Albany Med and Sunnyview with coffee cups strewn about the car and overages previously unknown on my cell phone. The Great One uses these kinds of days to let us see what’s on the inside. Do I still need patience? Yes. Do I still need self control? Yes. Do I still need to grow in gratitude? Yes. I’m so happy to have a Savior who is invested in the life of my soul, in the big troubles and the little ones.

So here’s a picture of our new 7 week old kitty. David came up with a name we all like, Domino. He built a little fort for Miss Domi on the couch, since she is a bit skittish yet about her new home. Cosette is in a bit of a snit. These felines will have to adjust to change. God knows we humans do, all the time.

And here’s my baby boy, off to Alaska, bags packed. As I type this he’s on his way from Chicago to Seattle. Tomorrow he turns 17. I could cry with joy remembering him looking around with his big brown eyes as if to say, “Here I am, world!” More about him tomorrow.

Katarina, my Russian friend at work brought in Cinnamon Buns tonite. All the aggravation of the day was redressed. There are trials. And then there are pastries.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 226 Stretching for Gain on the Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,

This is Sweet Sandy, Stephen's occupational therapist. She has been working with him since January, and gets all sorts of gold stars for the range of motion Smitty has in his right arm. If you recall, I describe her as "a pit bull with a smile". She is one of the dearest, most pleasant folks you will ever meet, but watch out if you are a stuck shoulder or a stiff elbow. She works those bad boys for all they're worth. Sandy has been a gift from God, committed to Stephen's best, pushing him a little further all the time. She only applies pressure for the purpose of gain. Do you feel an analogy coming on?....

I was on The Rabbit Room website today, and one of the contributors was writing about the value of resistance in the life of the spirit. Hard places, tight places, difficult places are the laboratories of faith building. The blogger points out that when a parent keeps his child from all discipline and trouble, he grows up to be weak and unprepared. It's the same in the spiritual life. Without the trials and troubles on the pilgrim road our walk with God can get mushy, lacking purpose and meat. No one has to look for problems. They come with being alive. But when they come, it's no good to run and hide (I've done that), and it's no good to trade one trouble for another with some addiction (I've done that too). The thing is to hit the trial head on, (yikes!), not to try to go around the mountain, but to finally face it and do the hard work of going over. Here's the thing: God only applies the pressure for the purpose of gain. He's not in the business of torturing those He loves. God forbid we should even think such a thing of such a gracious Father. No, He's like Sandy, right there with us, monitoring how much we can take for the greatest value to our soul. Our problem is perspective. "Now, we see through a glass darkly. Then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part. Then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known."

Smitty has been using this cool stretchy stuff (I'm sure it has a real name) on his elbow scar, and it really has helped it fade! He still looks like a He-man, but with a little less He. Don't worry, the skin graft makes up for any lost ugliness on the arm. These Sunnyview folks have tricks up all their therapeutic sleeves. That hospital is some place of life! I'll ever be grateful for the people there who were with us in some of our darkest hours.

I'll have to roll out the big hello with photos of our new feline family member tomorrow. Tonite she's too busy hiding behind the pillows, and I don't want to freak the little darling out any more than she already is. But wait til you see her. Kittens. They can't be anything but cute. Unlike skin grafts.

If you are being stretched, well, I wish you weren't. But I'm not in charge of the Universe (for which you are grateful), and only the Great One knows your ultimate best. I still wish you weren't. But the One doing the stretching is even kinder than Sandy. And that's saying alot!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 225 Roller Coasters, Raina and Relationships

Dear friends,

I rode the roller coaster today. I mean literally (for a change)! David's class picnic was at The Great Escape, and momma took on the comet first thing this morning, after half a Dramamine, of course. Roller coasters are perfect analogy vehicles, well used since their inception by literary types looking for a metaphor. At once exhilarating and scary, unpredictable and full of ups and downs, roller coasters make you gulp and shout. I had a wonderful time.

Later in the day, David twisted my arm to go on the Tornado, a water park ride where you are vortexed down into a pool while seated on a raft. In my case my companions were 3 twelve year old boys who had as much fun hearing me scream as spiralling downward into the funnel. If it weren't for the freezing water, I would have done it again. My young thrill chaser is good for getting me off the couch and into the fray. God bless that baby boy of mine!

So here are a couple of snapshots of David with his pals, Robbie and Joshua, both of whom he has known since birth. These three musketeer's have hearts of gold, and give me hope for our future. I can only imagine the plans of the Great One for these special boys. I love the side of God I see in these guys: spirited, without guile, affectionate, brave... a wonder of creation! I could do without some of the bathroom humor, but every age has its blip on the radar screen.

Tomorrow we will pick up the new addition to our family (remember the kitten I promised the kids?), and without a doubt, photos will be attached for your viewing. Most kittens are rascals (like most 12 year old boys), so we'll see how Cosette, world's greatest cat, adjusts to her new relation. Hopefully the new whipper snapper won't use her claws on my beautiful Adirondack quilt!

Tired from the sun, the walking, and the general fatigue amusement parks impart. (Can't complain too much, we got in for $15). More than anything, I was glad to have time with 2 of my dear friends (Robbie and Josh's Mom's), and those one-of-a-kind-boys. Relationships, folks. They make the roller coaster ride a blast.

Now for news, on the march: Remember Peter the Great, my favorite techie, who along with Pastor Greg the Amazing set up a video link between Hannah and Steve when they were both hospitalized? Well, Peter's wife Sarah (one of our dear bloggies), gave birth to her 2nd child while we were whizzing around on carnival rides. Raina June Deeb (I hope I spelled it right) stepped into her destiny today sporting 8 pounds, 15 oz. Her Grandma was with me at Great Escape, rejoicing over yet another Deeb. (And believe me, there are plenty of them!) Raina, may the Great Lord of All, Jesus of Nazareth, make your pilgrim road one for the record books. May your mountains be conquered with all the grace He gives, and your joy be full in every valley you will ever pass through. You come to the world already loved. A million blessings to you, darling girl!

What a wild ride. Sometimes, like when babies are born, it takes your breath away.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 224 Summer Breeze, Makes Me Feel Fine...

Dear friends,

It would almost be an insult to be in a bad mood on a day like today. The official first day of summer makes me want to sing, despite the fact that everything is not okay, despite the fact that there can be shadows on the pilgrim road. Driving over the Hudson today, with that sky high sunshine and a hot wind blowing, it was impossible not to praise God simply for who He is. Magnificent. Lofty. Trustworthy.

My precious Hannah had yet another visit to the dentist today. Without going into all the details, she was sad and mad when we left. As her mom, I so wanted to point out the good parts, and help her "move on" beyond her negative emotions. But the Great Holy Spirit spoke to my soul saying, "sshhh." I realized I wanted to talk and force her (and especially me) to feel better. She has a right to feel angry and sad. And frustrated. The Great One will take her through the tunnels on her pilgrim road as she is ready to bear them. I know she will eventually find hope and healing from this ordeal. But there is no rushing this thing. I can't fix it. Good lord, I wish I could. She needs my unconditional love, and perhaps even more than that, my patient understanding. It's so difficult for me to be quiet and leave things alone. Here lies one of my greatest weaknesses. But even with the twist in my gut over the consequences of an accident nearly 8 months old, I still wanted to sing over that bridge. I talked to my soul, like King David did. Thankfully, we need not miss joy because of sorrow. They can indeed dwell in the same tent. Our happiness is not dependent on perfect circumstances, and it's a good thing it's not. There is mercy everywhere.

I read this C.S. Lewis passage today, and as usual he blew me away. I've read this before, but the truth in it means much more to me now:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

My dear friends, we are not here to live safe lives. Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and not feel another pang of pain. But I fear far more that "coffin of selfishness" Lewis describes. You have your own variety of heartache. Sing anyway on a beautiful summer day. I'm trying so very hard to practice what I preach!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Please pray for the family of the young man I mentioned with the post trauma brain injury. He died today... He loved the Great One. His faith is now sight. Summer for him goes on and on...

Day 223 Father's Day and Snapping Turtles

Dear friends,

Smitty is not only Hercules, he’s Dad. Dad to our 3 babies, who had a heck of a year this year, as did he. Tonite they went out for Father’s Day (while I was earnin’ the wage at Albany Med) to Steve’s favorite pizza joint, Spinners in Albany. He loves that Chunky Chicago Style! To round out and make his night perfect, all three kids agreed to play a few rounds of Euchre (his favorite card game), and the icing on the cake: Disney’s “Finding Nemo”. My husband is easily pleased. He’s always been a cheap date.

The year “Finding Nemo” came out, we saw it on Father’s Day with all three kids. Then there’s the Tale of the Turtle, which will live on in the annuls of Smith history for years to come. Driving down Whitehall Rd. on the way home from the movie, a large snapping turtle was crossing the street. Steve pulls over, maniac that he is, and rescues said turtle. Now, I thought perhaps simply getting it out of harm's way would be enough. But a lady standing by told us it would just walk out in the road again as it had been doing. So into a box goes this gigantic reptile. (If you have followed this blog you know my feeling on that particular animal classification). We bring the thing into our porch, still in a box, determined to bring it to Five Rivers the next morning, as stand by lady said it had to be returned to the correct habitat. Next day, Stephen is of course at work, and this turtle who hasn’t moved in 24 hours, decides to climb out of the box, snapping away, as I am driving to Five Rivers with 2 hysterical children in the back seat. I flipped the box over, holding it down over the turtle all the way to my destination, praying loudly and fervently that it wouldn’t get out. Finally, we make it. The ranger pulls the turtle out of my car, as it snaps and grabs my dashboard. She let me know the turtle was pregnant, and needed to go to a sandy bottom pond, which Five Rivers is not. There I drew the line. There I spoke up from my shyness (ha!) and let her know it was New York State’s turtle, and I was done turtle sitting. She told me stories of how these snappers bite the feet off of geese and pull them under to eat them… With that, I put my non-reptilian offspring into the car and drove home. Sans turtle. Steve told me later his dad had rescued a few snappers, and so it was kind of sentimental for him to do that on Father’s day. I am glad to have been part of honoring my wonderful father-in-law’s memory, but my turtle dues are now paid in full.

Words can’t express how grateful I am that my children have their dad with them this day. Stephen is not perfect, but no one who knows him would ever question his abiding, delighting love for his children. He’s a miniature snapshot of the Great One, who loves being with His kids even more than whipping up galaxies and creating black holes.

Happy Father’s Day, all of my bloggie friends. Enjoy your kids. Life is extraordinarily fragile. This particular Sunday almost wasn’t because of another Sunday in November…So tell them you love them every day.

Your friend on the snapper-free pilgrim road,


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 222 Looking for the Great City and the Front Porch

Dear friends,

Under beautiful blue skies, under mercy great, under the shadow of the Almighty, we joy and grieve. Our souls are thirsty for the day of final redemption, when every wrong will be made right, all the crooked places straight, and the limited will become limitless. We are restless in these mortal frames, which carry within them eternal beings made to soar in freedom. The things that bite, the things that sour, the things that die, soon enough they will be laid to waste. The bible says we "inwardly groan", waiting for the redemption that surely will come. This is faith: "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." The longing will be with us all our days, even the best ones. The longing for our true home, "a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Stephen and I shared our tears tonite, and this was our extreme comfort and hope.

I'm thinking alot about front porches these days. Judy the Good and I took a long walk this morning around the pond (my legs actually hurt after!), and she gave me some good ideas about porches, what with her husband being a carpenter and all. Our stone stairs in the front of our house are falling apart, so something has to be done, and we are contemplating a little white porch where we can put out a couple of chairs and sit and drink tea and talk. Remember the beautiful front porch in "The Walton's". This will not be that. But I would love to have a cozy area to go to for a sit down with the Great One in the out of doors. I think heaven will be full of front porches, with rockers, and swings, and teapots. Most of all, there will be time. Time for relationship forever. The tyranny of the clock will be history.

My problem with anything of beauty is I'm no good at visualizing anything. A story maybe, but not something concrete. My Adirondack room was a picture in sweet Cathy Rose's head before it came to be. Fab Phyllis sees the lovely garment before she sews it. Sister Laurie figures out the ingredients and "tastes" the carrot cake before it's made. (The best carrot cake on planet earth). I am not gifted in that way. So I need help picturing my porch. If you come to my house, throw your ideas into the pot. I'm a simple minded gal, but I want a chair and a cup of tea. The rest is up for grabs. (Within reason and ordinary people's budget!)

Tomorrow is Father's day, and I will tell you a little about the best earthly dad I know then. He's got ugly legs, but a beautiful heart. He sheds his tears, but never loses heart. To all you fathers who are my cyber friends, may the Great One bless you in your high calling. In the end, relationships are what matter.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 221 Rocking and Rolling on the Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,
The weather faeries seem to be in one fine mood today. Eighty something degrees, wall to wall sunshine, and a reasonable dew point. Can you stand it? I remember the days of helping Hercules hop through the slush and piling the wheelchair with its wet wheels into the van. Now the man walks, the driveway is hot and dry, and the wheelchair is history. One thing is for certain on the pilgrim road: change.

Thank you to so many for your kind words to my husband regarding his commencement message at Our Savior's School last night. I'm telling you, I was so proud of the man I could have burst! Humble as usual, funny as always, touching and deeply thoughtful which he is, but not as obviously in the every day. Even I was surprised by the depth of understanding and gratitude he communicated. So many of the folks in that room stepped into our darkness, and I believe it moved them to step into the light with us as well.

The hurdles we still face (some we may contend with for the rest of our mortal lives) are embroidered with grace. I cried alot yesterday. For some reason the whole thing with Hannah's teeth was really bothering me. Usually I'm ok, I've accepted it, but every now and then some switch goes off and there is sorrow. Mixed with overwhelming gratitude. Our electrician and friend Frank C. lost his 18 year old son this week after a 4 year battle with leukemia. Marvelous Mary Louise sent us an email about a young man suffering from complete brain death post car accident. I wept over these things, wept with a baffled feeling of being about 2 inches tall. So small we are, so very little in the vast mosaic of the Universe. Why must these people suffer such horrific loss? I don't know. I only know that far worse than loss is death without hope. And though the Great One doesn't often give us the answers to these big questions, He generously offers His presence and love in all circumstances. Yes, we are small. But we are not alone.

Joseph Stephen Smith (AKA Joe), my firstborn baby boy, played with his band tonight at the Nervosity concert in Tawasentha Park. What is it, when our kids put themselves out there, we suffer more than they do? I was on pins and needles waiting for them to start, through my boy's original songs, and on through the technical difficulties. They did a great job, and I was simply amazed that kids 16 years old have the gumption to stand in front of an audience of their peers and do the rock thing. It's not my kind of music, but I don't care. That's my kid up there. My heart is attached like crazy glue to whatever means something to him. I believe the Great One feels that way about us. He says "I have engraved you in the palm of my hand...I have called you by are mine". No power in the Universe can compare to the love of a parent for a child. Except the Love of The Parent for His children. Kind of boggles the mind. I put a couple of photos of my rock star up for you to see. If God had a blog, He'd put your picture up there too!

Time for a great old Preston Sturges movie tonite, "Hail the Conquering Hero". This one never gets old, and it takes my mind off of leukemia, and brain death, and 15 year old's without permanent teeth... Lord knows I'd give her mine if I could.

So good, so beautiful, so sad, so difficult, so short. I may kick at the dirt on this road, but I wouldn't trade it for a million. So thankful to have you in my rag tag band ... You are all rock stars to me!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday June 17 2010 - Day 220 - Graduation Day

Well, hi-di-ho, people! This is Stephen filling in for Loriann tonight, partly because I had an honor bestowed on me today and Loriann thought it would be nice for me to get to share it with you. Today Our Savior's Lutheran School, where all three of our kids have gone, held their second eighth grade graduation (for forty years or so the school only went to sixth grade). The principal, Don Gillingham, asked me to speak at the graduation ceremony. Loriann wanted me to share with you some of what I shared with the young people who were graduating, as well as the family and friends who had joined them. I started off by telling them how honored I was to get to speak at the graduation, and then this is most of what I said:

"The reason I said that most of you know that I was in a car crash last year is simple. All of the young men and women who are graduating today, along with the other students here at OSL, prayed for me here in the school, and I’m sure at home as well. As word of the accident spread to the parents of these young people, most if not all of you prayed for me as well. I was very blessed to have two large groups of people praying for me – the people here at Our Savior’s – the students, their parents and the people who work here - , and the people that I go to church with at Delmar Full Gospel Church. One of the great things was that people didn’t pray for me once and then just leave it in the hands of God – they brought me before our Father many times; many people did it once a day. Many people still are. They weren’t just praying for me, either. My daughter, Hannah, was in the car with me and she was also injured, and all the people I just mentioned were continually bringing her before the Father for prayer as well. She’s only a freshman in high school, and she was in the first 8th grade graduating class of Our Savior’s last year. Modestly as a father forbids me from pointing out that she was valedictorian of her class.

After I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks I went to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Center and was there for almost a month. I was blessed to be discharged three days before Christmas, so I was able to attend the Christmas Eve service at my church and to be home for Christmas. One of my most cherished memories took place right here at this wonderful school. It was December 22nd, the day I was going home, and my wife and I stopped here before we went home. I was still in my wheelchair, since I wasn’t allowed yet to put any weight on my right leg. We came into the building here and there was the excitement in the air you would expect in a school just before the Christmas break is going to start. There were also tears and laughter as I got to meet with friends who were here and who had been praying for me. The thing that really struck me, though, and the thing that meant so much to me, was the fact that children kept coming up to me and telling me how they had been praying for me, and praying for Hannah. It wasn’t one or two kids, either – there must have been twenty-five kids or more who came up to tell me that. Some of them came up kind of timidly, some with more boldness and confidence. And I was able to tell them, truthfully, that the reason that I was here was because of those prayers. I was able to tell them that if they hadn’t been praying for me I might have died, or I might have lost one of my legs, or I might have still been in the hospital and looking at being there for months before I could go home. It was the prayers that went up for me that got me out of Sunnyview in time for Christmas. Some of the teachers have told me of students in the classrooms getting down on their knees to pray for my daughter and me. I’ll never have the words to adequately express my appreciation for their faith and their faithfulness to praying expectantly for our healing.

You students have been very blessed to go to this school. God is not ignored here, and He’s not just talked about in a vague, undefined way. In this day and age not enough children are taught about God in school, and taught how to pray to Him. By learning about Him at this age you are being given a foundation that you will be able to stand firm on for the rest of your life. By learning how to speak to Him – and, just as importantly, how to listen to Him – you are setting yourself up to have a fulfilling prayer life going forward into high school and adulthood. Believe me when I tell you that nothing is more important than that. I wish I had had a foundation like that when I was your age.

The Bible tells us that God can work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That can even include major car crashes. Now, I can’t honestly stand up here today and say that I’m glad the crash happened, or that I wouldn’t avoid it if I somehow had the ability to go back in time to November 8th. But that doesn’t stop me from seeing the good that God has brought out of it. It brought my church closer together in prayer and in action as people prayed for Hannah and I and sought out ways to help my family. It brought people here together in praying in unity. The car that Hannah and I were in has been donated to Choices 301 and will be brought to different high schools so that young people can see the kinds of consequences that come out of drinking and then driving. Some of you might see it in the next couple of years. I know that it was at Bethlehem High a couple of weeks ago. The crash and its aftermath have strengthened bonds I’ve had with some friends and some family members who perhaps had started drifting away a little bit. My wife has blessed many people with the blog that’s she’s been writing faithfully ever since she began writing in the middle of November last year, and she has come to a deeper relationship with the one she calls 'The Great One'.

Possibly the best “good” that God’s brought out of this crash, though, was that many people – including you students here at this school – have gotten to see prayer answered in a visible, real way. I’m praying that God uses this to keep in the front of your mind the fact that He wants you to seek His face, and that He delights in giving us His best. He delights in you, too – in every one of you. Never forget that God is with you in all the places in your life. My daughter Hannah – you know, the one who was the valedictorian of her graduating class last year, but you didn’t hear that from me – has always been a wonderful writer, creative and witty. If you don’t believe me you can ask the teachers who’ve had her. Well, when she was a little girl she made up an imaginary dinosaur friend named Tiny. He was blue and purple, but you couldn’t see that because he was also invisible whenever he wanted to be, which was usually whenever anyone else was around. Hannah told me that he was as big as a regular brontosaurus, so I asked her once how he managed to fit into her bedroom in the house. She explained to me that he ate “squeezable soup”, and that after he ate it he could adapt to any size he wanted.

Well, except for needing to eat squeezable soup, God is like that. God can be in really big places with us, like in a hospital after a major car crash. God can be in small places with us, like when we have a chance to do a little sin that nobody else will ever know about – but you will. And He will. You ladies and gentlemen are going to be going off to high school in a few months. During your four years there you’ll come across temptations and opportunities that you haven’t had to deal with up until now. Remember that God is there with you at those times. Not in a scary “God’s going to catch you” way, but in a comforting way, reminding you that you’re never alone. He can give you the strength to resist any temptation, and to walk the path that He has for you, a path filled with life and beauty. There will be pain there, too, but if you’re walking it with Him it will never be too hard to manage. Remember always that He loves you and that He wants to spend time with you. Spend time with Him. It will always be worth it."

Hi again. Sorry that was so long, but I did try to cut out most of the stuff that didn't really relate to our relationship to God. (I also cut out a joke in which I talked about my injuries, and said that if people were interested in seeing the skin graft they could for $1.00 a view, but that if they didn't want to see it it would cost $3.00.) It was an honor, though, not just to address them but also to get to talk to them about what a precious thing we have - a chance to have a real, personal relationship with our Savior and with the Creator of the universe. That wasn't available to ordinary people before Jesus came to earth and used His death to tear the curtain that separated us from God. It's available to us today, though. Just writing that kind of staggers me how I don't take advantage of that gift as often as I should. God is never too busy for us and wants to spend time with us. I hope - and I know that Loriann hopes - that this blog has helped at least one person spend some extra time with Jesus.

Tomorrow I promise Loriann will do a post. In the meantime, love God and love people the best that you can. Thanks for reading tonight/today. Loriann and I keep you in our prayers as we know you keep us in yours. God bless you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 219 The Images Tell the Story

Dear friends,

We received the photos below this week. This top one is Steve today. The next three are from December at Sunnyview. The last one is in the SICU at Albany Med in November. A picture really is worth a thousand words. You've read many of mine, so tonite I'll let the images do the talking. Thank you, Jesus.

The Great One proves it. He truly is Great.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 218 Whose Part is Which Part?

Dear friends,

There are plenty of examples of things where we do a part and somebody or something else does a part. For example, when driving a car, the humanoid behind the wheel starts his engine, puts the vehicle in gear and presses the gas pedal. Turns out our part in driving is relatively simple, if you leave out all the complex chemical and electrical activity going on inside your skull. It’s the car that turns gas into energy, pushing pistons and regulating temperature, and a hundred other things I don’t understand at all.

When the human body is hurt, there are some things we do and some that our body does. We wash out the wound (a specialty of mine!), put on an antibiotic, and cover the thing to hopefully keep those nasty microscopic powerhouses out. When a bone breaks, Dr. Bagchi sets it, screws it together with a torture device called an external fixator, and says “no pool, no pool!” But it’s the intricate chemical dance of antibodies, enzymes, proteins and nutrients that do the lyrical orchestration of healing.

In matters of the heart and relationships, things are a bit trickier. Especially, I think, in the human/divine relationship. I’ve heard the saying so many times I want to spit: “Let go and let God.” I mean no disrespect. I simply don’t know how to sort that out. Because it’s difficult to discern what is the Great One’s part, and what is our part. When I read The Book this morning, a snapshot from David’s life shed a little light on the issue:

So David inquired of God: "Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?" The LORD answered him, "Go, I will hand them over to you." So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand." So that place was called Baal Perazim.” 1 Chronicles 14:11

I’m sure you have a number of things/people in your life that challenge you. I have important matters that are unresolved. If you are breathing, I’d wager you do too. I fuss over what to do about it. I get anxious and frustrated and blue. When I get that way, I know there’s only One who can help. But He’s no slot machine, question in, clear answer out. Because He’s after faith and true trust, and that involves the chasm between not knowing and finding out. He's also a mystery, wisely managing all things without consulting us. So when I read this verse from the annals of King David, I was comforted. Even though I don’t have it all figured, one thing is clear: Inquiring of God is the first step. If there’s something the Great One intends for us to do, He’ll show us in some way, at the right time. God took down the Philistines, but it was by David’s hand.

The Smith’s are still up against our own brand of invisible Philistines, just like everyone else on this cosmic ball. I refuse to be morbid about it, though. There’s too much golden mixed up with the gray. Still, talking to the Lover of our souls is the only sensible way to go. Ultimately He makes “the crooked straight”. But it may be by your hand.

Speaking of by MY hand, the freezer stopped freezing (turns out someone left it open, I think it was me), the propane tank is empty (someone left the burner on, again most likely me). Thanks to Judy the Good for the temporary use of her freezer, and to my husband who refrained from “raising cane” (ha, get it!) over the propane tank.

We'll talk tomorrow. As usual. Love you to bits!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Please pray for my darling nephew Daniel, on his way to Afghanistan.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 217 With God in the Busy

Dear friends,

Miss Rejoice had a friend from high school over this evening. I recalled the first day I took her back to school for the first time after the accident and explained to the kids in her 2 favorite classes what had happened to her and her dad, and how they (her classmates) now had living proof of the devastation of driving drunk. The kids at Columbia have been really good to Hannah. They have cheered her through and treated her like the other kids, which is very important to her. I'm so very proud of my baby girl, dealing with all the stuff of being 15 along with a super trauma that no one could have predicted. It hasn't been a neat, clean, storybook, "everything is just ducky" walk, but it has been drenched in grace. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" I say this verse for my precious daughter. I'm still holding on for "double for her trouble". Darn tootin'.

We did the "East Greenbush" thing tonite and went to Lickety Split for our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream. Joe and Hannah still have Regents in front of them, but regular school is officially over. Alas, David has to go on with his sorrow until next know, school olympics day, and parties and The Great Escape. I don't remember any of this from MY childhood. What is up with all this fun?

I put a scripture in front of my face today, to keep the main thing the main thing during this loaded month of activities. To really enjoy life, the inside of us needs companionship with God, and all the peace and grace that comes along with that. Which is why the busier I am, the more I need time with the Great One, and why I post all these bible verses all over the place, lest I forget who I truly am and why I'm here. Lest I get swept up in the madness of what is supposed to be fun, without any true enjoyment because my insides are empty. I've been there, friends. More than I'd like to confess. But confession is good, and besides, you'de find out anyway. I'm not exactly a closed book.

Do whatever you need to do to have "the life that is truly life". No amount of running around, no vacation, no material blessing, not even any earthly relationship has the savor it was meant to have without the Savior in first place. It's like that demonstration you see, where there are a bunch of little balls and some big ones. If you put the little balls in the glass jar first, there's no room for the big ones. But put those big boys in first, and all the little ones find room around them. Not a perfect picture, because the idea isn't to squeeze as many things as are humanly possible into the fabric of life. Still, the point is there. First things first. But I'm starting to sound a little 12 step, so I think it's time to retire...

Here's another quote by G.K. Chesterton that bears some thought:

"A man cannot think to little of his self, or too much of his soul."

Thank God for the wisdom of folks through the ages. They, like we, learned from failure. Lord, help us remember the value of our souls!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 216 Ease on Down the Road

Dear friends,

Talk, talk, talk. Too much of it comes out of the radio. The TV. My mouth. Stephen and I talked in the car today about how difficult it is to be quiet and listen to the Great One. It’s much easier to present our requests and even to worship God, but to hush up is contrary to the insane pace of 21st century life. Pastor Dave the Humble spoke this morning about a number of challenging things (whew, very challenging!) one of them being the time required to simply be with God, and how our culture works against that on so many fronts.

Some things simply can’t be rushed. I’ve been experiencing this first hand walking the pilgrim road of healing with Stephen and Hannah. Hannah’s had a rapid fire recovery, with hills still to climb. Brains repair on the cellular level, molecule by molecule, second by second, marching along through time. The child is a walking miracle, perhaps an overused term but dead on accurate. Her father’s healing is paced by heaven too, blood vessels reforming, lymph glands pumping fluid out of his still swollen ankle, scars becoming less red and more pink. We could scream at the cells and demand they heal, we could coach the bones to add bulk, but ain’t nothing going to speed this baby up. Some things simply can’t be rushed.

I’ve found sitting in my rocking chair and being quiet for 2 minutes to hear from God to be demanding. It takes a discipline I lack. But I continue on because the prize is so great. Sometimes I’ve found I don’t hear thing one from Him while I’m making the effort, but then later in the day, or week, when I least expect it, the Great One will take some little experience, or story, or person, and make the word of God pop up like a jack in the box and make all kinds of sense. You can’t rush God. And you can’t tell Him how to do anything. Like Aslan, “He’s not a tame lion, after all…”

On the fun side:
Here’s another random sentence that came out of my 12 year old’s mouth on the way to church this morning: “Did you know lizards can lick their eyes?” Good gravy, I love that kid. He’ll never let me take myself too seriously.

It takes time to write here every night. Believe me; I know this isn’t Shakespeare you’re reading. But I thank you for sticking with me. And I am grateful to the One and Only for giving me the power to do what He said: keep it going til November 8. One day at a time. Some things simply can’t be rushed.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 215 Rahab on the Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,

Home safe! We were pounded with rain on the way home from Connecticut today, after celebrating my sweet niece Becky's confirmation. In attendance were the Syracuse Smiths, Albany Smith's (that's us), some of the Virginia Smith's, along with Momma Smith and Aunt Debbie Smith (also Virginia Smith's). Missing was another set of Virginia Smith's. As noted, there are alot of Smith's! What sheer joy it is to see the cousins together like old friends despite the many miles between them. Relationships are what make living worth living. One of the many shafts of light in the landscape of the car crash is the renewed vigor of our relationships with family members. I cherish them in ways I never have before. Seems with anything bitter the Great One can mix in the sweet.

Rebecca took the name Rahab for her confirmation name. Not at all conventional. In fact, my brother in law John had to appeal to the Bishop to get permission for her to use it. But let me tell you why I totally dig her choice. Rahab is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and in the Book of Hebrews "Hall of Fame" of faith. I love it because Rahab was a prostitute. There is no way to sugar coat it, the words are written there in black and white. This woman of the streets stretched out her faith and risked everything, including her life, to help the people of God. She ended up being mightily redeemed, getting married, and was the Great, Great grandmother of King David. It's something that makes me want to cartwheel when I think of the wonder of Jehovah God. As a wise young kindergartner once told me "God likes to make bad people good." Yes! If that doesn't nail it, nothing does. And God likes people, even bad ones, even rough ones, even difficult ones, even drunkards and whores and liars. He specializes in shelling out redemption to the worst of us. The only people Jesus was really rough on were the self righteous, religious types, who insisted on their "goodness" as their ticket to heaven, instead of realizing their bottomless need for grace. Rebecca, Rahab Rocks! She knew she needed a Savior even before the Savior was born. What about that for faith?

I don't believe I'll ever say I'm happy about the accident on November 8. But like many of the folks in the bible, and throughout the long, messy history of the church, I have gained some faith through the struggle and the pain. I have made some friends I'll love forever. I have learned some new things about forgiveness, and about my own moral weaknesses. I always like the fairy tales the best that end happily, but not perfectly. Frodo returns victorious, but the cost is high, and he is changed. Pinocchio becomes a real boy, but the scars of his faithlessness remain in his non-wooden body. The Little Mermaid finds true love, but can no longer glide through the sea with her family of Mer people. And in the real story from which all myths borrow, Jesus purchases eternal life for those who want redemption, but the cost is a agonizing relational separation we can't even remotely understand. So here in my little life story, which will one day pass away as do all things of this world, I get a glimpse of glory from grief. and faith from fear. Since the price was fairly high, I'm fixin' to gain more as we travel the pilgrim road. And I'm praying hard that those I love will gain beyond all I can ask or think.

Thinking about October for the big Smith Family Celebrate Life and Those Who Give It shindig. More details will be forthcoming. I want all of you there, along with all the folks who helped us from the first responders to the activity companions who sat with the little princess night after night with me at Albany Med. I mean everyone. October will be here before we know it...

Walk in faith, friends. If Rahab the harlot could do it, we can too!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 214 Double Yawn - No Owl Camp For Me

Dear friends,
Friday nights at the Smith house rotate between tacos and home made pizza. Tonite was pizza night. Joining us for our evening of excitement (Ha!) was the one, the only, Jessica D. Jessica is like a great day at the beach - sunny, warm, and exceptionally bright. She was there for my baby girl in her darkest hour (as were many of you sweethearts reading this blog right now), and she is absolutely dear to our hearts. TGIF and Jessica, what a perfect combo.

Young Smitty and Old Smitty returned from their trip to Fort Ticonderoga and Sonrise today. David enjoyed the group games as you can see from the photo. That boy has had a very rugged 7 months, and truly needs alot of TLC and a good bit of fun. Each child processes trauma in their own way. My baby is very sensitive and feels things deeply. I continue to be surprised by the way he expresses his emotions. I love that little man to the core, and would do anything to help him through. Some things on the inside of our kids only the Great One can reach. But we can love them along their bumpy path. (By the way, David informed us he would like to attend "Owl Camp", where you stay awake all night and sleep during the day. We're sticking to Northern Frontier. Where do they come up with this stuff? )

Very, very tired tonite, even though it's only 10:20. (Not ever would I do "Owl Camp"). I didn't sleep well last night (never do when Hercules isn't home). Remember all those nights I went to bed with a little white pill? I'm so grateful Stephen is home with me at night. My heart goes out to the many who lock their doors alone...But even when I was flying solo, there was always the Mighty One there with me. And His grace extends to every soul in need. Every hour. Every day.
We'll talk again tomorrow, if the sun comes up and the creek don't rise. As we all know, anything is possible in this crazy, mixed up world. But no matter what; oil spills, floods, devastating car crashes - nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Ineffably sublime...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 213 Trailmix of Thoughts

Dear friends,

Some days, things are choppy, aren’t they? It’s not one smooth narrative from sunrise to goodnight. Perhaps, in fact, most days are like that. We put structures in place to give rhythm to our lives, and it helps. But you simply can’t tie everything up with a neat little bow and say, “Ah, here’s my perfect, orderly little life”.

So, in the spirit of the jumble, my post tonight is a series of random snapshots from Meadow Lane.

1. David John, my mighty 12 year old, is on an overnite field trip with his Daddy. He got to pretend to storm the Fort at Ticonderoga this morning (definitely what a boy wants to do), and then went to Sonrise Lutheran Camp for a day of group games, waterfront fun and a campfire. (Smitty's not storming anything with Frankenfoot and Mr. Cane, but he was there!)

2. I decided it wasn’t my job to run the Universe today. Excellent decision.

3. Trish Regan, nurse extraordinaire, is back to work. Thanks for the prayers for her. To top it off, in a wild rush of sympathy, her husband bought her a new car! I think I feel a hospital stay coming on...

4. Next week is Regents exam week. The mood among teenagers in my house might be a bit strained for the next few days…

5. Joe’s band has been selected to be among the groups to appear at Towasentha Park in Guilderland for the Nervosity concert on June 18. Go to for details.

6. I’m Jones’n for Panera’s black bean soup and a Greek salad.

7. Sang “Crown Him with Many Crowns” a bunch of times today. Here’s my favorite verse:

"Crown him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres,ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For thou has died for me;
thy praise and glory shall not fail, throughout eternity."

How about that phrase, “ineffably sublime”? You don’t hear that much in 2010. It would never appear as a text message. Ineffable means “unable to be expressed in words, indescribable”. Sublime means “awe inspiring, majestic, of high moral excellence”. That about sizes it up concerning the Great One. Singing that song helped me greatly with point number 2.

Fragmented or not, I’m glad for life and hope. I’ve got lots of reasons to sing. We all do. Sing all the louder when the clouds roll in. Stick it to the darkness.

I'm ineffably grateful that you keep walking with me...

Your fragmented friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 212 Meltdown at Planet Fitness

Dear friends,

For all the things I do know about the life changing car crash on November 8, there are still some things I did not experience first hand. Those are the things people like Officer Ernie, Officer Mike, Dear Dan Lane, and the other amazing people at the scene of the accident witnessed. So today, when I was on the elliptical at Planet Fitness watching Law and Order on TV, I got a little taste of what things must have been like on November 8.

Detective Benson was driving Elliot Stabler's pregnant wife to the obstetrician when BAM! A drunk driver crashed into the side of the vehicle, knocking them both unconscious. The sound of the crash stunned me, and I really didn't see it coming. But here's the kicker. Fire trucks and ambulances arrived, and the car had to be cut apart to get Mrs. Stabler out. I'm watching this unfold on television, hearing the sounds of saws and seeing what is really involved in taking the roof and sides off of an automobile. Then they bring in the jaws of life to pry the front of the car away from the character's legs so they can pull her out. I have to tell you, I was absolutely hysterical watching this drama unfold. The thing that got me the most were the sounds of the equipment needed to free the victim from the vehicle. There I am, sobbing my head off on the exercise equipment, processing in my own mind what happened to Stephen and Hannah. It was probably very similar, except their accident took place in the dark, so somebody must have had to shine some lights to get the job done. It was too easy to picture the scene of horrific devastation in my head. And I've seen the remains of our car in a photograph, so I know I'm not far off from reality. I wonder if anyone at the gym noticed me having a breakdown? Maybe they thought I was pushing myself too hard, or that my tears were just sweat. Maybe no one noticed at all. But for me, there was another piece of evidence that as much as I want to forget all about this thing, I can't. It lives in my head every day. The key is to deal honestly with the emotions, bring them all to the Great One, and know that I'll be done grieving when I'm done. It's just not something you can make go away. I only wish this happened in my living room instead of at Planet Fitness, scene of so many awkward and uncool moments...

Grief and sadness are not the worst things in the world. In fact, they can produce faith, and a hearty desire to commune with God. My enemies are not these two companions, but rather fear and unbelief. Those are the bad boys I have to contend with or I'm smoked. When they get their gnarly tentacles around my thinking all light leaves the premises and I'm heading down some dark alley off the pilgrim road. I'll be duking it out with them until I die, and so will you. But their demise is sure. The Great One isn't afraid of anything. And when you are the Great Eternal Fact, there is no need for faith. Always it comes back down to this: Will I trust and believe God, or will I take matters into my own hands? The turn my life has taken in the past 7 months only brings into stark relief what was really there all along. Some good, some bad. Some faith, some unbelief. But I'm not satisfied with that. I want every inch of joy and peace the Great One has in store for me and mine. And I desperately want it for every one of you too. That will require that we cooperate and not slink away into some dark, doubt filled corner. That will take some courage. Good thing God specializes in turning wimps into warriors. May He be forever loved for who He is!

I told you my boys have some special fun coming up. Well, Joe is going with his friend Chris on a cruise to ALASKA! And the ship disembarks from Seattle on his birthday, June 25. I'm so happy for him, especially given the kind of year these kids have had. David will be leaving in early July for Northern Frontier for a week, a Christian boy's camp in the Adirondacks. He is mostly interested in the rocketry, archery and shooting. If it blows up, is a weapon, or reminds him of Robin Hood, it's all good. No doubt he'll love the swimming and games and campfires too, but a boy must have something to shoot. He's going with two of his best buddies, so this is really special for him. None of my children have ever been to summer camp, so this is a big step for mom and dad too. We are trying to find something Miss Rejoice might like to do this summer just for her. She hasn't really figured anything out yet, so if you have any ideas (music camp, theatre etc?) let me know. She doesn't have to do anything, but we would like to bless her with a treat different from the usual.

I hope you can do something fun this summer. Even a picnic by a lake, or friends and fireworks on the 4th of July. Maybe an ice cream with someone you haven't seen in a while. Or lunch with folks you've meant to have lunch with for a while...Kim and Janine...

Thank you to my sweet neighbors, Cliff and Gale, who filled some holes in my driveway when I wasn't looking. That's the kind of neighbor I want to be... You guys are tip top!

Be well my friends. "Do not fret. It only leads to evil." Psalm 37:8.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

7 months since crash (Can you believe it?)

Dear friends,

I do not text.

Now I understand this puts me in the category of Neanderthal, but I think it’s ruining the English language and it is certainly making it impossible to decipher my children’s communication codes. I do know what BTW means, and recently learned that BFFL means “best friend for life”, but there are way too many shortcuts for my Catholic school trained mind. I mean, I come from the era of diagramming sentences, where predicates and past participles and prepositions (notice I used all p words – oh, the cleverness of me:)) were torn apart, put back together and dissected to the point of intolerable tedium. But here’s the rub: I don’t think there’s a better way to keep in contact with my children. This is the way they communicate, and since relationship with them is a top priority, I think I may need to learn to work the system. But I bristle. I resist.

Meanwhile, I stand slack jawed with wonder at how the Great One spent several thousand years communicating with the apple of His eye, the Jewish people, through creation and the prophets and the law. Then finally, He did the unthinkable. He humbled Himself, and the Spinner of the cosmos restricted Himself to a human body, and did Christmas. Then, with a passion for you and I that can only be faintly comprehended, He took all our darkness upon Himself through a brutal death, and demonstrated His love in living color. That, folks is true communication. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He texted us in a way we could grasp. He breathed our air, and walked on our dirt, and ate our food, and got viruses, and hurt feelings and a troubled soul. And for me, today, exactly 7 months after a devastating event that rocked my world, I can read that love in my own language. The sufferings of the Son of God purchased hope for us in this broken, fallen world. And His grace produces beauty and joy in the most remarkable places. Like hospital rooms. And courtrooms. And even cemeteries.

This pilgrim road continues to take my breath away. There are no words to adequately communicate the impact of a disaster on my life. Really, there is no way to paint a picture with the limitation of words, of the great gain that has come and continues to come from what looked like a complete catastrophe. But what the dark one meant for evil, God meant for good. And believe it or not, friends, I’m beginning to see it. At the 7 month mark, while recovery is ongoing, I can actually look back with a bit of cheer. Sorrow walks alongside the tentative steps of understanding, but there is some perspective here now. You all have helped me get there. There’s no walking this road alone.

Stitches removed tomorrow on Frankenfoot. Miss Rejoice sang in a concert tonite, but didn't want me to post her picture. She sings all the time. My boys are doing well, with some fun stuff coming up for them soon. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 210 Approaching the Darkness, Yikes!

Dear friends,

David is watching "Prince of Egypt" on DVD. To me, this Dreamworks animated version of the Exodus story is good, but no match for Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments", with the great Charlton Heston as a larger than life Moses. Of course the real Moses did loom pretty large, and still does thousands of years after the events depicted in the movies. Smitty took the name Moses as a confirmation name way back when, so enchanted was he with the character and gusto of this great man of God. How about this scripture that lets us peek not only into the heart of Moses, but his parents also:

"By faith, Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict..."
Hebrews 11:23

You could dissect the story of Moses, and the character of the man for a hundred years, and still have something left to say. But I wonder what it was like to be him. How did he handle all that power and remain a humble man? Was it crushing sometimes to think of the impossible duty before him, to lead millions of people accustomed to slavery into the desert and on to Canaan? And what was is like to actually see God, even if only from the back? Anyway, I ramble. But here's what I really want to share with you about the mighty spokesman of God. This is my top favorite thing about Moses, and something I know God wanted to show me.

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses "Speak to us yourself, and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses said to the people "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning". The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." Exodus 20:18-21

Here's what I absolutely cherish about this part of the story - Moses put aside his fears to go into the thick darkness, where God was. He knew his God well enough to trust Him, and was so compelled by the Ultimate Personality, that nothing could stop him from a relationship with The Loving Mystery. I truly believe that the dark, difficult places are simmering with the mercy and grace of the Great One. I watched as many of you entered into my darkest hour, unafraid to grip my sorrow with me, and I have asked God many, many times to help me run into places of grief, and mental illness, and disaster despite my trembling knees. I have found when I press past the fear of the unknown, the Great One is always there with an excess of grace. I stumble and trip many times in my effort to enter the darkness with my fellow man, but Moses is my shining example. And you all have been too. Again I must thank you for putting aside your "not knowing what to do or say" in order to simply love me and mine. We all got to see the Red Sea part too, didn't we? Amen.

By the way, I ventured out with a new recipe tonite, and everyone ate it. (That's as miraculous as the water from a rock, believe me!) It was called Chicken Osso Buco, a skinnied up version of the Italian classic normally made with veal. It was very yum! I was also much relieved to finish up on the details of David's 6th grade overnight field trip this week. I started planning the whole thing back in October, and got a little sidetracked in November...

Be blessed, friends, And if this stretch of the highway is dark and shadowy, fear not! We'll miss too much if we stay at a distance...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Day 209 Storming the Beaches

Dear friends,

Today is the anniversary of D-day. On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, in what was indisputably a whopper of a blow to the Axis powers and their plans to destroy the free world. So many things played into the outcome of that fateful battle: weather (not as good as hoped, but bad enough to put the Germans at a false ease); Rommel’s wife’s birthday (he decided to take off to celebrate that week); tides and moonlight, (the water had to be deep enough to keep the ships from smacking into mines placed closer to the beach by the Germans). A conservative estimate says 10,000 allied lives were lost on the beaches and in the air over Normandy. But the result of the bravery and self sacrifice of those young, precious lives was the cracking of the Nazi grip on Western Europe. Things would never be the same for Hitler and his minions after D-Day. So of course, here comes an analogy…(feel free to log off if you just can’t take another one!)

I’m just about the biggest wimp ever. I get anxious about calling school to tell them my kid is out sick. But I understand that every inch of spiritual ground we wish to gain will not come without a fight. Our land mines are pretty subtle, and not always intrinsically evil. You know what yours are. Mine are things like radio (I am a talk radio junkie), a pessimistic outlook, an ear for gossip, too much food, and some I’m not brave enough to mention here. My first request of the day with the Great One is always for eyes to see my own folly, lest I keep walking in it and the hindrance turns into a prison. The battle for internal light takes place not on the beaches of France, but in our cars, our kitchens and in front of our computers. Freedom will cost us something, for sure. But what we gain might possibly change the world. I’m not kidding. At very least it will change us. And in my case, that is no small war to win. Good thing the General is the Undefeated Champion…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It will take endurance, it will take sacrifice, it will take pluck. But what the heck are we here for? The Great One wants every one of us to be truly free. He’s with us in the fight, one hundred percent.

I’ve watched my husband and daughter go through a long, difficult recovery, and fight the daily battle against self pity, depression and denial. They storm their beaches every day with character that makes me incredibly proud. It makes me want to deal with the “Nazi’s in my closet”, and push past my own hindrances for my sake, and the sake of those I love. It’s a wild road, isn’t it? Challenging, and not for the faint of heart.

Pick one thing you want to beat up today, and tell the Great One all about it. Don’t get overwhelmed, He loves us while we’re figuring out our mess.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Couldn’t remember for the life of me where I parked my car at the hospital tonite. Wandered about in the parking lot til the light bulb went on. Forgot I had the Honda… Who was it that bonked their head on November 8?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 208 Weddings and Winning: A Sunny Kind of Day

Dear friends,
My main squeeze did a wonderful job pinch hitting for me yesterday. I had the mother of all headaches, the kind that make you want to hurl the minute you lift your head off the pillow. This was a wicked one, laying me out flat and keeping me from my bloggie pals. It pounded. It throbbed. And if you haven't figured out that I'm a drama queen after these 208 days, you must be dipping into Smitty's unused Vicodin. Oh well, as Popeye would say "I yam what I yam".

So there were a couple of exciting events in the Smith family today. I went to a love filled, joyous wedding. When I say "I", I mean without Hercules. It's not that he wasn't invited. And the photos probably give it away. But we'll get to that in the next paragraph... The nuptial stars were Princess Katrina and Knight in Shining Armor Tommy. Officiated by the ever fabulous Pastor Dave the Humble, this was a wedding to remember. The father of the groom, Tom Sr., surprised no one while he stood awash in tears as his daughter and son in law sang a lovely wedding song to his firstborn and his new wife. The wedding gown was made by the groom's mother (as were the other dresses), Miss Cindy, one of the most gracious, sweet and honorable woman I know. A few highlights of the night: Aaron the Strong from our table won the dance contest! This former marine could probably eat nails for dinner, but he's a gentle soul who loves the Great One with all his heart. I also sat next to Fleet Footed Sue, who I followed to get through the Electric Slide. (I think I finally had it by the end...) Suzie is one of those folks who make you smile long after you've left their presence. How I got put at the table with these top drawer folks, I don't know. And I also sat with Big Brother Dave, Suzie's husband and a remarkable encourager among the many at DFGC. Anyway, I'll say it again, I am honored to do life with the likes of people like these. Blown away by the goodness of God to a middle aged girl who talks too much and moans and complains to a man with multiple fractures about a headache. Crazy.

Speaking of that miracle man, you may have guessed that the reason he wasn't at the aforementioned wedding is because the New York Mets sent him 4 free tickets to a game at Citi Field. After Brian the Kind gave Steve that care package he solicited from the Mets (remember that from way back in December?) after the accident, Smitty called to thank the organization for their generosity. They responded by offering him tickets, and in a special VIP section, no less!

Well, he went today with his twin brother John, Big Bill the Best, and Dynamite Jacob. They got their hot dogs, had great seats, and miracle of miracles, the Mets won! (No D train to the Bronx needed this time, Darling Hugh!). The sun shined despite tornado warnings, and I believe with all my heart the Great One smiled on these big boys going to see the great American game. The crack of the bat, the green of the diamond, the seventh inning stretch, mean so much to me today, because the dear one of my heart was able to enjoy his favorite sport when almost 7 months ago he was, as one nurse put it, "circling the drain." God is absolutely, indescribably matchless in every way.
So, we continue on the road, with these refreshing pit stops along the way. I delight so much in sharing my life with you. It's been one of the sweetest joys in all of this bramble to relate my ups and downs to my friends across the cyber miles. You make me glad, gladder than any of my sad.

Weddings, your team winning a baseball game, and friends along the way. Car crashes, lonely nights, struggling children. Life is such a mixed bag.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,