Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 264 It's Still Summer

Dear friends,

Tomorrow is August 1. School supplies sales are in the flyers. Summer clothes are on clearance. (Try finding a bathing suit! They’re gone!) I refuse to say (as I have heard from a few people) “Oh, summer’s just about over.” No way. I will not succumb to such thinking. I will stretch the thing out to October if I can. Besides, I haven’t had my beach fix yet. I’m an Atlantic Ocean junkie, one of the reasons I’ll never be able to leave the east coast. I’ve been to Hawaii, California, Florida and the Caribbean, but nothing compares to the beauty of the Northeastern shore. In my opinion, the Great One added a special quality of light, and a crisp, salty smell and a lovely “loneliness” to the dunes and grasses and rocks of New England’s coast. Something about the shore in this part of the world takes me down about 3 notches so I can better rest with God. He seems very near in the pounding waves and the swaying beach plums. Life with God is always an inside job, and can happen in the ghetto, or the bathroom, or a palace. But the natural world helps take us back to basics. It’s like an internal stripping mechanism in a noisy, scattered world.

My youngest son is a Norman Rockwell painting of summer to me lately. He has spent many a happy hour in his friend Robbie’s pool, and his skin is the color of those beigey olives you see in Greek salads. His hair is sandy blond and always messy, and his freckles are everywhere. David has a sensitive soul, and an unstructured summer of play and friends is just what the doctor ordered for him. Soon enough he will have to knuckle down and learn something, but for now he simply needs to live and grow. David was devastated by the events of November 8. But as children often do, he is bouncing back and learning to live with some of the changes in his life and family. There is a film by Francois Truffaut, a French filmmaker, called “Small Change”. It is my favorite of Truffaut’s films, and I recommend it. That very theme of the resilience of children is visualized beautifully when a child falls out of a window in a high rise apartment building. It's a movie worth seeing, if you don't mind the subtitle thing.

On the pilgrim road there are many venues: long, lonely stretches; short, aggravating, rocky spots; deep, dark valleys; sweet, restful shorelines. There is one constant. One “ever present help”. He is the One that gives us the power to recover, to overcome, to make the steep grade. As C.S. Lewis puts it:

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Whisper or shout, beach or ghetto, child or adult, He is Emmanuel. God with us. Always. Everywhere. So, let US be with Him.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 263 Whirybirds on the Wind

Dear friends,

Science definition for today:

stratification - subjecting seeds to cold, moist conditions.

Out my picture window today I watched as the maple seed whirlybirds spun their way down from the sunny, twinkly treetops to my lawn. I remember as a little girl chasing about my yard trying to catch helicopters with my brother Donnie. I loved to watch them spin, like little green ballerinas in a great windy dance.

I'm a science lover by nature, so I like to see both the poetry and the reason in how things work. Form and function, when they are entwined, create the beauty of the natural world. So I did a little reading on maple seeds. Turns out our whirlybirds are tough little suckers, some remaining dormant for several years before germinating. The hard seed coating must be softened up by stratification, including frost and weathering action. "This cold, moist period triggers the seed's embryo. It's growth and subsequent expansion eventually break through the softened seed coat in it's search for sun and nutrients."

Or, as the Great One puts it "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it bears no fruit".

Who knew, that the mighty maple in my front yard had to endure frost and "weathering" to begin its trek toward greatness? Who thinks about the fact that the seed must literally fall apart before it can get what it needs? And who in the world, without prior knowledge, would ever guess that the little helicopter would become a tower of strength and endurance, giving shade and oxygen and a home for critters and who knows what else?

When I'm broken by circumstances, or when it feels really dark and frosty in my soul, I want to remember the dancing whirlybird. My personal stratification, and yours, are part of the process of getting us to be more like Jesus. More kind. More compassionate. More understanding. Less touchy. Less angry. Less hard. If it takes a financial beating, a relational problem, a health issue, a loss, or even a terrible accident to get us to germinate, so be it. Eventually the life inside will come out, find the sun and nutrients, and grow into something truly remarkable. That is the hope in all our troubles. God Himself is the secret mystery behind the process, turning evil into good and darkness into light by the power of love.

I love maple trees, tall and strong, and lovely, lovely in the fall. They were all once puny little whirlybirds dancing in the wind. Who would have guessed?

Thank you to the Wonderful Walkers for the picnic tonite. Your family always makes me happy!

To all my fellow whirlybirds, I love you, bloggie dears!

Your friend on the maple lined pilgrim road,


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 262 The Wisdom of Mortimer Brewster

Dear friends,

A tractor trailer was hit head on today by a car driving the wrong way on 787 in Albany. As soon as I heard the news (before it was made public that the driver of the car expired), I was looking for bets. How much money did anyone want to wager that alcohol was involved? Whether it was or not, do you see where my head goes? The truth is most of these kind of accidents are alcohol or drug related. Needless carnage. It makes me sick. Stomach acid wreaks havoc on the inside of me like a microcosm of the BP oil spill the minute I hear the news headlines. Are there no cabs? Are there no buses? Are there no sober people to drive? Can it possibly be worth it to take the chance of killing or seriously injuring someone? Do I sound bitter? I’m really not. More frustrated. More baffled. More fed up.

I’m not smart enough to know if more laws will help or not. I’m fixin’ to learn, but at this point I’m getting the idea that the laws already on the books are not enforced. My friend Bill Dikant, whose family was wiped out by a drunk driver 30 years ago, worked as a court officer in Rensselaer County and told me one lady came in to be arraigned on her 9th DWI. Count em’, NINE. What’s wrong with this picture? To quote Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster in the one and only Arsenic and Old Lace, “It’s not only against the law, it’s wrong…”

I wonder sometimes, seeing the world as it is, that the Great One doesn’t just wrap the thing up now. But He’s not a pessimist. He’s the ultimate realist. Since He runs the show, He knows exactly when to pull the curtain. Besides, alongside the wreck on this planet there are still moments of great beauty:

The National Seashore after 6pm
Cosette stretched out in a sunny spot on the living room rug
Joseph carrying David on his back and dumping him on the couch laughing
Miss Rejoice singing harmony
My crabapple tree, any season
A windy, October day
Injured people learning to walk at the aptly named Sunnyview Hospital

The grace of God is in full operation in this upside down world. In fact, there’s a scripture that I love that says “Where sin did abound, grace did MORE abound.” (Drama queen emphasis mine). That’s the very good new of the gospel. No one needs it more than me. And everyone needs it.

Dr. Bagchi gave us the news. Stephen’s rotator cuff tear is very small, too small for surgery. Hopefully physical therapy will eventually give him back his full range of motion. But it may not. He may have to live with what he’s got. No way we’re settling for that at this point! We may have to come to terms with that later, but not yet.

Smitty passed his test for the special license he needs! Thank you all for your prayers for him. What a relief for Hercules to have that in the rear view mirror before we go on vacation. I’m terribly proud of him, fighting back from catastrophic injuries, getting a new job AND passing a difficult exam. He is quite the fellow. Cute too. Great smile. OK, he reads this blog so I better back off or his head won’t fit through even our widened doors…

Where the headlines can be the bitter, talking to all of you each night is the sweet. I really so wish I could sit on some deck with each of you, on a windy day, drinking coffee (or whatever YOU like), eating chocolate chip scones, and talking about all the moments, great and small, that have meaning to you. Your top ten lists, your favorite movies, your moments of great beauty. Perhaps one day we'll have that time…when time is no longer our opponent…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 261 Laughing My Head Off and Pocketbook Metaphors

Dear friends,

I laughed so hard in the car today I nearly had to pull over to the side of the road. I was listening to a fluff story on National Public Radio, and the lady was talking about going shopping with her teenage daughter for a bathing suit. I'll never report it right, suffice it to say that "$90 and bottoms like a string of dental floss and a top like two elbow patches" were at the heart of the story. At any rate, it felt fabulous to laugh so hard at something comical. I mean, my gut hurt. At a certain point I think the laughing was about relief and there was no joke needed. I'm sure the bloke driving down the road next to me watching me laugh was highly amused himself. Glad to make someone's day.

If you need a good laugh, come over to my house and take a look inside my purse. My husband calls it the black hole of Calcutta. That purse is the outward expression of a common inward state for me: too much junk, unorganized, itchin' to be thrown out. Good, useful stuff mixed in with rubbish. Good Lord, sometimes I hate metaphors. Especially when they describe me perfectly! Still, I've finally figured out that the cleaning out process for the purse has to be ongoing. And it's the same with my soul. The Great One keeps forgiving, keeps sanctifying, keeps unloading our darkness all the days of our lives. It all goes much better for us (and I imagine for Him too) if we don't let things get too out of hand for too long. I've got a heap of receipts to put in my computer, but if I did them daily for just a minute my anxiety level would decrease and so would the mess in my purse! Keeping short accounts with God, that's the ticket. Every day, bringing our pile to Him, seeking His life changing forgiveness asking for His grace to let go and trust Him, looking to His power to change. There is no shortcut to this process. It's a daily matter living in a world of sin and being sinners ourselves. But nothing, nowhere beats a clear conscience before God. No money can buy it. No fame can create it. It's freely given in the transaction between a redeeming Savior and a "glorious ruin". We were made to walk in freedom. Time to get our knots untied.

Smitty has a big day tomorrow. He sees Dr. Bagchi in the morning to hear about the results of his MRI. Then he's taking a really important test for a license he started studying for back in February. Please pray for the man to recall all he's learned. He was still a little muddled when he first started that process...

Guess I better go. I've got to clean out my pocketbook. I believe there is a very old cough drop melting in there, along with some shopping lists from April and 20 or so purple pens from Planet Fitness. (Now why can't I ever find a pen when I need one?) And by the way, you know that usually I really love metaphors. You guys, however, are probably ready to string me up if you hear one more...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 260 Love and Danger, Side by Side

Dear friends,

I have to back pedal a little bit on something I wrote. (I guess I get paranoid about being misunderstood. It's one of the insecurities I still contend with...) Yesterday (and a thousand other times) I made the point that relationship with God, not religion, it what sets us free. And that's 100% true. The song I posted "More Like Falling in Love" makes that point, but leaves out something equally important. There are times in any relationship when feelings are dull, and the real work of living it out is plain old discipline. Just doing the next right thing. Now if it was always about that, we'd be in the realm of religious legalism. That's not at all what I'm talking about. I'm just trying to say that a walk with the Great One on the pilgrim road really is about a love story, but in every love story there are tests, troubles and trials. And at those times it may not feel at all like "falling in love". It may feel like "where are you, God?", and hanging on for dear life for love's sake. Anyway, I didn't want to give the impression that reason and duty are not part of the highway we're on. They certainly are. But the motive is love. The driving passion is love. The final reward is love. That's alot different from saying prayers the way a Pharisee says them. It breeds humility, not pride.

Last night Stephen and I were honored to spend the evening with Ed Frank and his wife Shirley. I've mentioned before that Ed is the director of Choices 301, a DWI awareness center that brings the truth and pain of the consequences of drunk driving to the folks who need to hear the message. Ed has our car mounted on a flatbed trailer (funded by SEFCU), and soon there will be a sound system on it too. I have written a 5 minute piece to tell the story of what happened in the wreck people see before them, lest twisted metal and shattered glass overshadow the story of the living, breathing human beings (including all of you) impacted by the crash. It was a powerful moment for Hercules, looking at the car, finding a piece of his watchband still on the floor, seeing his sneakers squeezed under the misshapen brake pedal. Most difficult of all was looking at the tiny spot occupied by our beautiful baby girl. How we both grieved the fact that she was in that hideous mess. A beautiful, rare princess trapped in what is hardly recognizable as a front seat. She only wanted to ride with her daddy. Love and danger, how often they live side by side... How wondrous is the Great One, to have delivered them both from death. Any further from the hospital, at another time of day, 2 more miles per hour, and the outcome could have been unthinkable. Heartache and gratitude held hands as I thought of my beloveds in peril. I pray each one who looks upon it will be shockingly sobered, and determined to drive sober as well. After seeing the car we went to the Frank's beautiful home for pound cake with strawberries! Double Yum. Shirley and Ed are incredibly gracious, giving people, having suffered their own sorrows. You can meet them at the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night on October 23. Get that on your calendar friends!
On a lighter note, our new kitten (Domino) is a true member of the Smith family. She likes ice cream! (Only a teeny bit, don't email me about how bad it is for her...) She slept with us last night, and I woke up to find her so tucked in next to me that I feared rolling over on the darling thing. But she loves us, so that's where she wants to be. Love and danger, always side by side.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 259 Faith, Hope and Love: But the Greatest of these is Love

Dear friends,

I never usually post this early in the day. But I'm home alone, and just finished filling the bird feeder, and the quiet and the warm air demand a response. Hope is the meditation of my heart. Very late last night I fell into a deep pit of darkness, a place so desperate I lost heart. Without tempering my emotions I wailed before the Great One, (looking back I must have looked like one of those old testament prophets tearing their clothes and covering themselves with ashes) not holding back the torrent of sorrow. In that cave of discouragement, God was there. He stood beside me as I poured out grief. When I thought I couldn't bear another minute of it, there came the beginnings of that same numbness I felt in the hospital on November 8. I think that numbness is a gift to all who sorrow.

This doesn't sound like a meditation on hope, but I'm not done yet. I finally fell asleep, and as for Stephen's piece of it I will leave that alone, it is his private portion and his to tell. In the morning I remembered what someone once said to me long ago "things are always darkest at night". The light of day is a balm to the broken heart. So off I went to the kitchen to help out at the Delmar Full Gospel Vacation Bible School (which is a wonder deserving a blog all its own), and as I worked dishing out food and talking with the most beautiful, cheerful people in the world, I saw a horizon over the next hill. Stephen's words "this is a very deep trial" came back to me, and I thought of the scripture "when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold". For all I'm worth, I will not turn back. Forward through the fire, as the Great One does the work of turning a clay pot into something that will live in heaven forever. God knows left on my own I'd be a bitter, insufferable prig. But He's working in the troubles of us all in one way or the other to make the desert a place of life. Every suffering is seen by him, and transformed into great worth. No idea how He does it. I only know it is true. Here is hope: "If I make my bed in hell, you are there." (Psalm 139) No darkness can hide the Almighty. Hope is hanging on for when the wind changes. And if the wind won't change, God will simply make the vessel stronger for the gale. Either way, we reach the shore.

I heard a song today that magnificently expresses what I wish I could say about my relationship with the Great One. I'm leaving you the lyrics and the youtube link because is describes the relationship thing I have been harping on since this blog began. Religion won't work, friends. Not when the fire gets hot, not when the wind blows, not when the water threatens to drown you. Only love can save the day. I love you so dearly! I pray this song will speak to you about what it really boils down to in the end...
More Like Falling in Love by Jason Gray

Give me rules I will break them
Give me lines I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet
It ought to be

More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
It's like I'm falling in love

Give me words I'll misuse them
Obligations I'll misplace them
'Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free
It's gotta be


It's like I'm falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made Me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

Thanks for sticking with me. Through the ups and downs. Love is the most powerful thing in the universe. When it's true love, you'll never lose hope. Never.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 258 Bogie Sticks His Neck Out

Dear friends,

The steamy weather always puts me in the mood for the movie Key Largo, starring the inimitable Humphrey Bogart and the enchanting Lauren Bacall. (That tall lanky beauty makes me want to get on a rack and stretch this 5 foot nearly nothing stature to look like hers. Alas, nature makes tall, graceful beauties…and hobbit like folk. But I digress…) This 1940’s film noir takes place in the Florida Keys, when some bad guys take over a hotel where Bogie is visiting, and their plans are curtailed by a major hurricane. At one point Frank McCloud (Bogart) makes the following statement in a pressure situation: “I stick my neck out for no one…” Later on, of course, he does stick his neck out, for everyone, and Nora (Bacall) tells him that he says one thing, but his whole life tells something else.

There’s something beautiful about that part of the story line. It makes me think about how much it doesn’t matter what we say, but who we are. And it plays out both ways: sometimes we talk big and disappoint ourselves, and other times we talk timidly and surprise ourselves. I’ve heard it said: “ it is better to remain silent and appear a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve done that, I would be one wealthy woman. In the main, we are all a mixed bag. Just like Peter the Apostle. Gary W. the Profound preached a kick butt sermon this morning about the disciples in the boat when Jesus came walking on the water, and Peter’s faith filled, doubt filled step into the waves. One moment he’s declaring Jesus as the Great One when no one else had the courage, the next minute he’s denying Him 3 times. Good grief, aren’t we like him! I love the bible, full of folks like us, mixes of greatness and folly. The thing is, Jesus picked Peter up every time he messed up, and saw him for who he was becoming. He always looks at us with unreasonable hope. Keep that in mind when you make a complete disaster of your circumstance. Or when you sin again despite your desperate desire to change. The One and Only will always pick you up when you call Him. He sees the hill you’re climbing, and he sees you already making it to your destination, no matter how many scars you have when you get there. And in the end, you’ll take not one ounce of credit, because you’ll know the joy of a great Savior who got you from point a to point b.

Since the accident, I am more acutely aware of my weakness than I’ve ever been. If I’ve gotten from point a to point b, it’s only because of the greatness of the Great One. He’s the ultimate hero, who “stuck his neck out for everyone”, even those who hated Him. I’m the world’s biggest chicken. I got out of the boat only because it tipped over. But my greatest longing is to be brave for the sake of Christ. Like so many of you have been, sticking your neck out for my family. It’s been stunning to see folks get out of their nice dry boats during our hurricane. Bogie would be proud.

If you’ve never seen Key Largo, go get it! Edward G. Robinson is positively diabolical as gangster Johnny Rocco. Lionel Barrymore as James Temple is fabulous. And of course, there’s Bogie and Bacall and light and shadow. Doesn’t get any better than that…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Post Script IMPORTANT: After I wrote this post, Smitty informed me that Bogie uses that line in Casablanca, not Key Largo. The Bacall line is correct. However, he basically says the same thing in different words: "One Johnny Rocco more or less isn't worth dying for..." Sorry for the mistake, but you get the gist anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 257 In the Pool and on the Brink

Dear friends,

Another landmark today: Smitty went swimming in a pool! Our cell group picnic, attended by some of the best folks on the globe, was a sweet time. Even yours truly took a dip. That's saying alot. It has to be VERY hot outside for me to get into the water. I did whine a bit getting in, but that's par for the course. Hanging with Steve in the water was sheer delight, and my heart was bursting with gratitude for his health and well being. No one knows what their days hold for them. Some are balmy summer picnics, some are spent in the ICU hanging between life and death. The line between serenity and peril is far thinner than we think. This quote from a famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards way back in 1741 sums it up well:

"It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect to his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, un-thought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable."

I am striving to live in the light of knowledge. I love to learn, I love to understand and to grasp the view of a fellow human being formerly a mystery to me. But the greatest knowledge is to know the Great One, as much as one can know Him day by day as He graciously shows Himself. And alongside that, the wisdom of the ages cannot match the wisdom of living in the recognition of what Jonathan Edwards so eloquently expresses: that we could be at any moment on the brink of eternity.

All this being said, and sobering as it is, there is plenty of room for laughter and merriment in the mix. Living in the light of a Redeeming Savior, there is beauty and joy even on the edge of the cliff of eternity. My husband stood looking over that cliff, and was pulled back to walk this road for awhile. Without the salvation of the Great One, it would be dark and scary - even terrifying. But I know He lives, and not in buildings built by hands, but in hearts that love Him, His church, those grateful, rescued souls for whom the moment of death will only be the beginning of real life... And the best part is, it's not an exclusive club, no matter how distorted the message has been. All can get on this train. But will all accept the invitation?

I probably sound a little philosophical tonite. Funny how Smitty in the pool brought it on. (And he wore sandals too!) I mean, don't get the idea that I'm introspective all the time. Most of my day was spent in stuff like making macaroni salad, and cleaning the cellar, and petting the cat. But always somewhere back there I want to remember I'm only here for a minute. Rather than making me no earthly good, I hope it makes me much more concerned about the people I spend my brief moment with. Because in the end, people are all that matter.

Thanks again for all you've done for me. You've made this bumpy road a place of richness.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 256 A Little Slumber in Peace

Dear friends,

A rainy afternoon in summer is ripe with possibilities. For me, a lie down on the couch and a nap were in order. Fab Phyllis took me to The Country Trunk for lunch, and after a double yum experience I was up for a siesta. Plus I've been so tired lately and my machine was screaming for a shut down. The pitter pat of the rain was the perfect lullaby.

For many years, many many years, I was unable to sleep during the daytime. It is a testament to the delivering power of the Great One that I can take a nap now. After my mother became ill and was gone from my life at age 10, I lived rather chaotically, going from house to house, in a situation where I was very nervous much of the time. It's a long story, and it's another lifetime, but I bring it up to say that the aftermath left me far too anxious and riddled with a vague feeling of guilt to ever rest during the day. Laying down in the afternoon equaled lazy. Even when I was pregnant with my first 2 children I fought off the powerful exhaustion that would hit me in the afternoon. I would go to bed at 7pm, but avoid the afternoon nap. It may seem silly, but it was a stronghold in my life, an affliction in my psyche that I feared would always be with me.

And then, slowly, but surely, the Sweet Savior began to gently lead me "beside green pastures", and assured me that it was ok to rest. I remember the first time I took a nap, guilt free, when I was pregnant with David, and the gratitude I felt in my heart for my heavenly Father. There are wounds only He can heal. There are closets only He has access to. Now I can sleep soundly at any time of day. But it was not always so. More proof that God cares about the deep matters of the inner man that no one sees. May He be forever heralded as the One and Only!

So this assurance I have about my little Rejoice. And here I must be circumspect to protect her privacy. But I know that the events of November 8 have left their mark on her precious mind. And I also know the Great One will take her through that dark room when she is ready. She is my heart's delight, and a blessing to this world. Who knows what God will do in her matchless life? And who knows what color will be next for her hair...

It's Friday nite, and Joseph is out recording with his band. Most likely a movie this evening, or a couple of episodes of LOST. We're quite the exciting bunch around here. Stewarts ice cream is in the plan, so I'm a happy girl. I really am - a merry traveler on a dusty road, because the destination is beyond my very best dreams, and the highway is chuck full of people like you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 255 Living in the Moment with the Birdies and the Breeze

Dear friends

Today it felt like I was walking through wet cement all day long. I kind of experienced the feeling I had back in November when I was so dog tired I worried about driving. I don’t know why, but for the past few days exhaustion has been my continual companion. I haven’t changed anything, so I’m not sure what the problem is. But it’s made me think about the people with chronic illnesses, struggling to put one foot in front of the other all the time. I hope to be more aware of those folks when they cross my path, and to offer whatever little help I can to make their loads a bit lighter. Sometimes it takes a little baggage of your own to remind you of what others are schlepping.

Nothing was going to stop me from cleaning my picture window today, inside and out! I was up on the ladder, squeaking away with the Windex and paper towels. The warm wind was blowing and I just decided to live in the moment, looking through my nice clear glass and feeling the sheer delight of the breeze and the sun. I stopped thinking about the living room floor needing a vacuum, and the phone calls to be made; the thank you notes to be written and papers to be filled out. I had a second or two of timelessness, a brief taste of eternity. How often I don’t stop and take in what’s happening now! I’m often two beats ahead of myself, trying to keep everything under control, trying to be a step ahead of the next problem. The only thing is I know that’s impossible. This blog is a witness to the stubborn fact that control is an illusion. Your life could radically change in 2 seconds. That’s why Jesus said without skipping a beat:

“Give no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow will give thought to the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil therein.” Mt.6:34

Mr. Hercules continues to strive for maximum range of motion. Now there’s a man who knows how to focus. He can live in the moment better than anyone I know, except for my son David and some of the other little people in my life. Stephen, not surprisingly, is great at math and puzzles and reading the fine print on insurance papers. I stink at all three of those things. Sometimes I get irritated with him for not fretting about something I think should be fretted about. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid? I’m learning and growing, and thankfully both my husband and the Great One have shown tremendous patience with my bustling, scattered ways. Oh, in my heart of hearts I’m a contemplative all the way. But the shadow is always rushing, always planning… So it was lovely to watch the birdies out my clean picture window today, and to listen to them tweet. Nature is a constant reminder of the gracious care of God. Even in the rough and tumble of a fractured, mixed up world.

I think of you all every day. My great hope is that sometimes, you might find something here to remind you of the bigness of God that will help on a day you feel like your feet are slogging through cement. You sure have done that for me.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS Remember to put Saturday, October 23 on your calendar! It’s the Smith Family Thanks You dessert night. Time to stop and taste the sweetness of life…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 254 Bullet Point Blogging for the Weary

Dear friends,

It's going to be another one of those "bullet point blogs". Some days I simply can't form a coherent paragraph. Little sentence fragments get me off the hook and keep me honest with my promise to write every day. I don't like to do it too often, because part of the value of daily blogging is exercising the brain muscle to improve and sharpen the writing skills. There's no better way to master something than by doing it. So stretching for the right words to tell the real truth about a matter is work. It's supposed to be. Don't get the wrong idea, though. This daily venture is a labor of abundant love. I think I'll shed quite a few tears on November 8, and not just because of the memories and miracles of this year. But because this forum has become so dear to me. It's like a rope tied around my waist as I ascend the mountain, and I see all of you tied on with me. We're going up, and aint nothin' gonna stop us! I know the Great One opened the way for this blog for many reasons, not the least of which has been my own personal joy...

So, do you remember my categories? Feel free to suggest others if you like.

Weather Outside: This is not summer, 2009. This is a real, grown up summer! I love it!

Food for thought: Joseph wrote the following on the shopping list: strawberries, blackberries, watermelon, peaches, pineapple. Do you think maybe he's in the mood for fruit? I made lemon chicken on the grill, rice and sauteed summer squash for dinner. (Trying like the dickens not to cook inside and heat up the house!)

Children: Joseph has a full time job! He's working at a paper company for the summer. Good thing, since he's got to pay for car insurance. Hannah Rejoice is at her former Spanish teacher's home (Hannah is good friends with Mrs. M.'s daughter too, so it's been lots of fun for her), and has spent the last 3 days in total Spanish immersion. No English. She comes home tonite after Gen Church (that's our totally cool youth group). David is swimming at Robbie's house. That child has had some kind of fun summer!

What I'm awash in: Home school curriculum materials for fall.

Music in my head: Oh, Domino by Van Morrison. (The kitten being named Domino has precipitated this).

Books I'm reading: Jesus in Blue Jeans by Laurie Beth Jones, K12 Life Science Teachers Guide, The Joyful Christian by C.S. Lewis. On order at library: Foreign Influence by Brad Thor (thriller). And of course, the Book of all books.

The ponderings: Wondering when I will hear about a DWI on the news and not feel that tight tangle in my gut. Thinking about folks who are not thinking about what they ought to be thinking about, namely, if you pick up the alcohol, put down the keys. Also pondering this beautiful scripture from the Book of Romans:

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."

This world is full of disappointments. But the love of God trumps all.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 253 The Geography of the Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,

Believe it or not, what's on my mind a whole lot today is geography. I am totally into maps, and have a new atlas on order with Amazon as part of my home school curriculum for David in the fall. I want the young whipper snapper to have a basic understanding of where things are in the world, especially in his own country. Where things are has had a great impact on the history of this cosmic ball. You'll notice no great wars have been fought over the Arctic. Large swaths of tundra have been passed over, while a tiny slice of land smack dab in the heart of the Middle East has been the bull's eye of countless battles for control and power. I remember watching that movie "Men in Black", and at the end of the film the earth gets smaller and smaller til it's a marble being tossed around by some crazy alien. Lousy theology but great fun! And to see the earth in all that smallness is to see it correctly. Which is why it is such a wonder that the Great One puts such stock in this planet.

I've had a few things happen during this week of turning 50 that have given me the overwhelming sense of the unreasonable love of God. Believe me I'm not being "too hard on myself" when I say I am undeserving. The thing is, God is not about giving us what we deserve. He's about extending extraordinary mercy to the objects of His affection. And we are all objects of that affection. The sad thing is many don't recognize it, or won't respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit out of fear, or pride, or reluctance to let go of some cherished idol. Like I've said before, I don't judge folks hooked on drugs, or work, or any other thing, since I can't even control myself with a cookie. But at some point we've got to let Him have all. Not because He wants to take from us, but because He's looking for our absolute joy, and it can't come from some cheap imitation. And they're all cheap in comparison to the towering inferno of the love of Christ.

"… 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." ~ C.S. Lewis

There has been a blessing in the experience of the mess created on November 8. That blessing has been a bit of perspective on the things that one can let go much more easily than previously thought. I'll say it again: Relationship is the currency of life - first with God, then with man. You'll do anything for love. It's what makes the world go around. This is a very tiny, infinitely important globe. I'm still striving to lay all my stuff down for the great trek still before me on the pilgrim road. What is it you need to leave behind? Don't let it own you. Don't let it weigh you down. The Great One wants us to fly. But the baggage has to go. Don't misunderstand: there are many wonderful, lawful recreations along the way. I'm no Puritan. There are a million things to celebrate! It's really a matter of the heart. Is our heart tangled in anything less than the kingdom of God? Ouch, it hurts when I talk to myself this way...

Smitty and I are going to see Ed Frank next week, our first look in person at the wreck of a car from which he and Hannah were rescued. His shoes are still in the thing... One tiny piece of geography, the corner of Rte. 151 and Miller Rd., was suddenly a very important place on earth. For the first responders, it was the bull's eye. Thank God.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS Another dear soul from DFG finished her pilgrimage. Please pray for comfort for the family of Florence G. Florence needs no more prayers. Her well run race is over. We can only speculate on the geography of heaven...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 252 The Value of Prayer

Dear friends,

When I was a child, I prayed for things to happen, or to get things, or for things not to happen. Sometimes my prayers were answered, sometimes they were not. It's the same as an adult, only perhaps I've gained a teaspoon of maturity to see that prayer is more than little me asking big He for something I want. That is where prayer begins, and it's a fine place to begin. It's honest. But to grow up from there, perhaps just a little bit at a time, is critical. Lest we become disillusioned. Lest we miss the joy of relationship with the One and Only.

When I learned my husband and daughter were on their way to Albany Med in a helicopter and an ambulance, I got to my knees in a hurry. So did many others, including a host of you reading this blog right now. I asked, strongly and with passion, that they would come through those hospital doors with minor injuries. That request was denied. I asked that they would survive, and see the "goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". That request was granted. I don't know why. But I was reading a passage by C.S. Lewis today that is new to me, and one particular part stuck me as so very insightful:

"...And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable "success" in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something much more like magic - a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature.

There are, no doubt, passages in the New Testament which seem at first sight to to promise an invariable answering of our prayers. But that cannot be what they really mean. For in the very heart of the story we meet a glaring instance to the contrary. In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. After that the idea that prayer is recommended to us as a sort of infallible gimmick may be dismissed."

That's the thing, friends. The Great One really does see the big picture, and His answers to prayer are always, always with a motive of our greatest good. It's not an overused cliche. It's the reality of the relationship of an "infinitely wise Being" to the likes of us. He loves us like crazy, and just like the parent who knows why 4 ice creams and a third trip around the merry go round are out for the 4 year old, the child may have a tantrum at the "injustice" of it all. But the kind parent picks the child up in her exhaustion and foolishness, tells her it's ok, and rocks her gently to sleep. Prayer is the child with her head on the father's shoulder, trusting Him when she doesn't get her way. That's relationship. That's what prayer is really about. And how I long to understand this great truth! I love it when God answers in the way I was hoping. I'm learning to relax when He doesn't. Because He's a much better boss of the Universe than I am.

Keep praying! He wants to hear, and will answer in the way that is truly best for our freedom and deliverance. We get stronger, wiser, and closer to our Father when we spend time talking with Him. Through every tangle we seek to untie.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 251 Messy Business in the Gulf and in Us...

Dear friends,

The oil leak has been capped. This national disaster has a plug in it (let’s hope it holds up), but by no means is the problem solved. Gazillions of gallons of oil have slithered all over the Gulf Coast, and only God knows how far the tentacles reach. I can hardly stand to think about it. And I’m not even directly impacted. Let’s pray for those folks who live and work on the coast in the deep south. Their misery continues after Katrina turned New Orleans into a parking lot a few years ago. "These are the times that try men's souls", as Thomas Paine so eloquently stated during the revolutionary war.

Trouble visits all of us in one form or another. Some trouble is swift and dramatic, like we experienced with Steve and Hannah in the car crash. Some is slow and under the radar, like a woman toughing it out year after year in a difficult marriage, or a man who experiences long term unemployment. When people you know and care for are in trouble you want to fix it. For that matter, when people you don’t know are in trouble you want to fix it. A young man who visited Delmar Full Gospel for the first time last week had just experienced his house burning to the ground. The good people of DFG rose to the occasion to help his family financially, though nobody really knows them. So we can ease the burdens of hurting people, but ultimately we can’t make everything all better. I’m not an expert on how healing and recovery works, I’m only learning as I go. Some things seem to get better, and some wounds seem to create scars. The thing is, scars don’t go away. There is damage that can be done on the inside of a man that only the Great One can get at. And even then, He may not immediately solve the problem. Look at Abraham. Look at Joseph. Look at Jacob. Years of frustration, years of confusion, years of disappointment. Even in the end, though great and mighty deeds were done and miracles happened, everything wasn’t perfect. It didn’t all zip up with a happy ending. There was a lot of messy business to clean up after sin and circumstance had their way. But those men became strong, faith filled examples of flawed lives tested in the fires of disaster. And one thing was never in doubt: Jehovah God’s presence to “cheer and to guide”. Ultimately, they found the city they were all seeking. But they had to pass through the curtain of death to get there. They knew this wasn’t the final stop on the train. Thank God it’s not...

There is one particular sorrow of heart I’m communing with at the moment. It’s a circumstance that plays out on the new stage of my life, the stage set on November 8, a stage that brings both sadness and joy. I embrace them both. Not without some fussing and struggling. If I try to push either one away I will miss the great mixing God is cooking up in my soul, doing some good thing I can only see by faith. Like the wind that blew in the Berkshires on our way home today, I can’t see it, but it makes itself evident.

If you can figure out this crazy, mixed up world, drop me a line. You’de be the first, and I’d like to shake your hand. For the rest of us, we just have to hold on to hope. And in the meantime, do the next right thing.

There was an oil leak, brutal and damaging. But there is still clean, sparkling, beautiful water in the world. Acknowledging both truths is the only way to keep perspective.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 250 A Beautiful Nifty Fifty Celebration!

Smitty in front of the arbor at the Bedford Village Inn.
The Bedford Village Inn

And Above : Glenn and Mary, Pop Flebotte, Momma Flebotte.

Dear friends,

I'm in Hollis New Hampshire! We started out in Bedford NH at the Bedford Village Inn last night, and I felt like Princess Loriann in the gorgeous room we occupied for one day. Smitty ordered the modified American plan, so we got a 3 course dinner and a beautiful breakfast. I had a lemon blueberry scone that was from the kitchens of heaven, and I'm not exaggerating. I asked for the recipe, but was denied. Probably a good thing. I think I gained 10 pounds here in 2 days....
Then we drove to Hollis to see my dear high school friend Glenn and his wife Mary at their home on Heron Pond, which feels like a nature preserve. They have a neighborhood bear that frequents their back deck, and every variety of bird imaginable. Their house feels like a country inn, and their gracious company has been a real treat. As usual I feel completely blessed by the relationships in my life! And this trip was a nice blend of time alone with Smitty and catching up with old and precious friends. Part of our visit with Glenn and Mary was a side trip to the assisted living home of his parents, who I have always called "Momma and Pop", and who took care of me at a very rough patch in my life back in my late teens and early 20's. These folks were a gift to me from the Great One, and now Momma has Alzheimer's and Pop is getting on, and I realize (as if I didn't before) that things change and nothing lasts forever. It hit me like a ton of bricks when Pop (one of the most cheerful, upbeat men I know) teared up when I hugged him goodbye. There are no words to express my gratitude to these generous, tender people who have made my life rich. God has put people in my life all the way along the pilgrim road to show Himself to me. I am awed by His consistent, relentless love.

I'm keeping this one short so I can spend some more time with our friends, but I am posting a few pictures for fun.
How great was Pastor Dave's blog yesterday? Good Lord, I love that man. He is truly a humble person, with a huge heart of love and a laser focus on PEOPLE. Thank you, PD, for filling in for me! And for being our friend lo these past 21 years. Those we travel with us are not there by accident. I'm grateful to be on the road with you!

And all of you too!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 249 God's faithfulness


It’s Pastor Dave here filling in for Loriann and Steve. Loriann asked me to be a “guest blogger” while she and Steve get away for Loriann’s birthday (i’ll let her tell you how many years she’s celebrating). I’ve been called a lot of things, but this is the first time for “Guest Blogger”. Anyway, Happy Birthday Loriann!!!! You deserve a break today.

A good friend of mine, Chris Lierheimer, went into hospice this past week and is not expected to live. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt the same pit in my stomach as I did the night Steve and Hannah were brought to Albany Med’s E.R.

I’ve been reading Chris’s blog the last couple of months along with the Smith’s blog and thinking to myself, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s a question I’m not sure any of us can answer and I’m not sure that any of us have the right to ask God, but I think most of us have asked it just the same. I’ve had my share of heartaches and losses, but not like some folks that I know. And certainly nothing like some people that I’ve only read about in history or those living in third world nations. But the question begs an answer. Why God? My best guess is still the same: I don’t know! Even though Loriann is the master communicator with the pen… it’s Steve and Hannah that have had to really walk through this valley the past eight months. I’ve been keeping my eye on them and wondering (to myself of course) “Could I handle that kind of pain and trauma with such grace?” Could I go through operation after operation with such a positive attitude???? Would I keep myself from bitterness or self-pity????? And after asking myself these questions, I confess that I’m not sure how I would score, but I know that I’ve picked up some valuable pointers along the journey by observing the Smiths. The truth is we will all face some painful times, some disappointments, some dark days and we need to know how to navigate our way through those times while maintaining our faith, our relationship with god, and our relationships with people.

When Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, heard that 58 of his fellow missionaries and 21 children had been killed in the boxer revolution, he fell into a deep depression. He admitted to his wife, “I can’t read; I can’t think; and I can’t even pray, but I can trust God.” He repeated two phrases over and over again that saw him through the darkest hours. “You may trust the Lord too little, but you can never trust Him too much.” and “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13)

In reading the Smith’s blog and my friend Chris’s blog, I've concluded one thing: I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but God is ever faithful. God has proven to be incredibly faithful to Steve and Hannah in ways that we can’t even comprehend this side of heaven. He has been wonderful to Loriann and He has used many of you along the way to express His faithfulness.

I have fallen in love with a new verse over the past couple of months.

Gal 5:6 (NIV) The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I know that I have thought about God’s love more this past eight months than I have in previous years. I’ve thanked God for my family and for this church family more than ever before. And I want to thank all of you bloggers for being such great examples of what C.S. Lewis calls, “little christs” (there … I’ve fulfilled the mandatory “C.S.Lewis quote”).

Let me express to Steve, Loriann, and Hannah that you have been an inspiration to all of us. I know this has been the most difficult year in your lives, but I can also testify that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

It’s obvious to me that all you Smiths love God…. and you’re called for a very special purpose!

May God continue to heal those areas that need healing and may He continue to express Himself through all of us along the journey.

In Christ Alone,

Pastor Dave

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 248 Summer Ramblings

Dear friends,

Thank you for the many happy birthday wishes via email, FB and comments and telephone. (Jim and Phyllis, your singing on my voicemail is one for the annuls...) Changing the number from 49 to 50 is kind of like when the odometer turns over on your car: it looks dramatic, but nothing really changes. Life still advances in increments, one second at a time. I have continued to work my husband over for info on my little birthday trip, but all I know is it’s within driving distance and to someplace we’ve never been before. I’m very excited: I love surprises! (So why do I keep looking for information? Because I’m a nosy Nellie, that’s why!)

Mostly I’m glad for the opportunity to spend some time with my best friend. (Thanks to all my excellent fellow travelers taking care of my children!) Steve told me not to worry about counting calories this weekend, so I intend to put plenty of butter on my bread! I do feel rather decadent going away somewhere when summer vacation is only about a month away, but I’ll get over it. You only turn 50 once…

I’m blessed by these little excursions in life, but I’m not foolish enough to confuse them with the meat and potatoes of the pilgrim road. These charming rests are only satisfying in the context of “seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” I’m all for a break and a change of pace, but our lives truly consist of relationship with God and man. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating (for myself most of all!), that no vacation, amusement, entertainment, material gain, worldly recognition- can give our souls what they need to be nourished and content. Still they are a part of a balanced life, and when the Great One remains in center court, they become the proverbial icing on the cake. I hope all of you get a chance to rest and play sometime this summer, even if it’s only in your own back yard. And what a summer it has been so far! Sunny, hot, steamy. When February had a grip on me, and I was white knuckling it to March, I dreamed of this weather. I told you, I never complain about the heat. But I whine about the cold.

I think this particular blog post is kind of like summer: content light, relaxed, and somewhat rambling. When I think back on some of the things I wrote about in the winter, I exhale with relief. The major surgeries are over. Wound vacs, orbital plates and BLASTED fixators are past tense. Plastic surgery, rotator cuff repair and tooth implants are still in our future. For today, we will simply leave it all go for a bit, like tubing on a river with the Great One before the next push. From a writing standpoint, I am giving myself til September to consider how to turn this discourse into a book that tells the tale. And then too I will begin to open my mouth (you're shocked, I know) about the misery caused by drunk driving. Always laced in our story are the broad strokes of mercy and grace we have experienced.

You are all part of the story. That’s why I want you at the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night on October 23. And if you have any stories from your point of view about this wild ride, I’d like to hear them.

Look for your Guest Blogger tomorrow. I'm totally psyched for this excellent stand in. I’ll be back Saturday from the undisclosed location, Lord willing and the creek don’t run dry!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 247 Card Carrying Member of the Nifty Fifty Club

Dear friends,

Hope you're up for a hodgepodge tonite. I'm running on very little sleep, so if I make any sense at all we're running in the black.

First of all, I thought I would share 10 profound things I have figured out in a half century of life on planet earth. Yep, tomorrow I officially join the "Nifty Fifty" club. So here goes:

10. Bread is merely a vehicle for butter.

9. This old Jewish proverb is on the money: "If you want to make God laugh, make plans."

8. Jello is a ghastly food. (Second only to Velveeta. Sorry, Smitty)

7. Sometimes I actually like hearing Judge Judy yell at people (guilty pleasure).

6. I would run in front of a truck (if need be) for Joseph, Hannah or David Smith. I hope need will not be.

5. Never undervalue your bones.

4. Fixators are rotten and wonderful at the same time.

3. Dr. Bagchi has a spare brain in his briefcase.

2. There's nobody like the Bloggies.

1. Except the Great One, who tops them all...

Hercules has planned a mystery trip for he and I for a few days to celebrate my birthday. He drives me nuts because he's the best at secrets, and cannot be cracked. Every time I ask for a clue about where we're going I get some smart aleck remark. Anyway, you are going to have a guest blogger in a couple of days, and I'm quite sure it will be a treat. Watch for that special pilgrim here, same bat time, same bat channel...

Can you believe the AARP is sending me mail. Outrage! I am not that old! Am I?

At any rate, I'm another year older and closer to home. I trust that Unmatched Creator to have perfectly planned my arrival time here, and He's got the departure date already ticketed too. My great hope is to live my life for Him and for others, and never to become a small, insulated, selfish soul who misses the Great Adventure. By His grace alone this can be.

Your friend on that relentlessly advancing pilgrim road,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 246 The Goodness of God on Cape Cod Bay

Dear friends,

Why the Great One is so generous to the likes of me, I'll never figure out. But His goodness is not based on my performance (good thing) but on His grace.

You all know from reading these daily scribbles that a great motivator for Stephen's recovery has been the promise of our summer vacation on Cape Cod. This annual family trip means the world to us, and is packed with precious memories. I could cry with joy recalling one evening when my kids were still playing in the waves with their dad when it was actually getting dark! Those crazy kids (all 4 of them!) didn't know it was time to go home...Anyway, we have been happily anticipating our trip, especially this year, and looking forward to staying in the snug, rustic little cabin we rent every year (which we love!), only about 5 minutes drive from Coast Guard Beach.

Yesterday I received an email from Lynne A., one of our bloggies and a dear young woman I haven't seen in quite a while. Her grandparents own a home on Cape Cod, not far from where we stay. Her grandma, Sweet Cindy, a fellow pilgrim and incredibly kind and generous woman, felt the Great One wanted her to offer us their home for our vacation, for FREE, if it fell during the two open weeks she had available. (Thank you to her husband too, and may the Great One give it back to you both in multiples!) You've already guessed that yes, the week we have off is one of those 2 weeks. Their house has a wrap around porch overlooking Cape Cod Bay, and is not a snug little cabin but a real, furnished house, one minute (walking) from the beach. I called my husband to ask if he thought we should accept such a kind offer, and he had that sound in his voice like "what, have you gone mad, of course!". I have to tell you I got into the shower and sobbed like a baby, thinking of the absolute unmerited favor of our God, and the kindness of his people. That evening I spoke to Cindy, who hadn't known us at all, for about a half hour. She reassured me that the whole thing was real, and I tried, but failed, to express the profound gratitude I have for this gift.

When I think of myself lying on the floor of a bathroom near the PICU while my daughter was intubated and unconscious, not knowing if she would ever recover, and I consider this summer that same child given the chance to walk over the dune and onto the beach, I am beyond undone. I can only say once again, I can never pay it back. But I will do my very best to pay it forward.

Smitty had his MRI this morning, and he said he almost fell asleep in the machine! That's my man! Never had trouble falling asleep since the day we were married. But I sure am glad he woke up from that long nap back in November. I know he'll be overjoyed watching sunsets over the bay...

I'm blessed beyond measure. Way beyond.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 245 Don't Build Here, Just Pitch A Tent for Awhile

Dear friends,

Maybe you wonder why I end all my posts with "Your friend on the pilgrim road..." Long before this blog came into existence, I signed letters and emails that way. Something in the scripture, indeed in life that has always captivated me is the changing nature of the ways we take, and the sense of destiny in our hearts. The Bible is full of references to the temporary nature of this world, and the brevity of our time here. It also highlights the great meaning in these few years on earth, insofar as they are the stage setter for eternity. The kingdom of God begins in the here and now. And no earthly trouble, not injustice, no disastrous car accident can thwart the Great Author's story. But ultimately our present experience is headed for the flames. We are travellers, not lodgers. We'll never feel completely at home here, because we haven't yet come to that place of perfect rest and peace. One of our dear blog friends, Sue C., sent me an email today that expresses so much of what I'm trying to say. Here are a few excerpts:

"I am a stranger and sojourner." Psalm 39:12
Here we have no continuing city.
Our journey lies THROUGH the world, but our home is beyond it.
...Nor let us wonder if we are annoyed, opposed and tried- for what can strangers and travelers expect? Certainly not to have everything smooth and easy.
Let us keep at a proper distance from the customs, pleasures and practices of the world. Let us beware lest its politics, speculations and schemes swallow us up.
We are not placed here to amass a fortune, or gain a name, but to glorify our father who is in heaven.
"They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13

Those are a few of the thoughts from the email. If I might comment, I would like to say that this is not saying we are to disengage from this life. On the contrary, engagement is critical. But the kind that brings the love and light of God into the fabric of life, rather than us being sucked into the shallow ways of this present darkness. I want desperately to influence the world for good, rather than be a pawn of a passing kingdom. This takes the ready knowledge that we're here for a hot five minutes. Anyway, that's the travelers road, the pilgrim road.

Smitty has his shoulder MRI tomorrow, but won't be seeing Dr. Bagchi for a few weeks after that. Dr. B. is on a well deserved vacation. Heck, if Steve were his only patient, he's earned a week off right there. Hercules had to take off his wedding ring tonite in anticipation of going into the machine tomorrow. He had a rough time getting it off. As our friend Glenn said at our wedding "it has barbs going in the other way, that's why you can't get it off". Wise guy.

Gotta go watch episode 3 of LOST. The main character is Jack, just like in 24. Jack's must be good guys. My father in law, God rest his soul, was the best Jack I ever knew. Indeed, one of the best men I ever knew. Can't wait to see him again, at the end of these travels...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 244 The Pediatric Floor at Albany Med

Dear friends,

“Those things that hurt, instruct.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Today Pastor Dave the Humble talked to us about transformation. I think it’s something we all want – to see changes in ourselves where long held wrong ideas or wrong turnings have robbed us of some peace and freedom. In truth, the more we are transformed by the Great One, the more good we’ve got to pay forward to somebody else. But like PD said, “It’s gonna cost you…”

Sometimes we reach for transformation and sometimes it is thrust upon us. Difficult, painful circumstances often do a yeoman’s job of changing a soul. I’ve got miles to go in the need-for-changing department, but I can tell you for certain I’m not the same woman I was 8 months ago. Perhaps my perspective couldn’t have been changed any other way. I’ve told you before my theology doesn’t say God “did this to us”. But in His sovereignty He can certainly take the disasters of a fallen world and use them for good. In fact, The Book says that very thing: “He causes all things to work together for good to those that love Him.”

This evening I walked upstairs to the 7th floor at Albany Med. Many, many of you have been there. Many of you hung out long hours there just to be available to help, just to pray for Stephen and Hannah. I saw the painting of the rabbit on the wall near C7, and the Ronald McDonald room, and that bench outside the elevators where Tommy F. jr. took notes with his laptop for one of the first of these blogs before I was writing them. I was stunned by the emotions that rose up within me, and the pictures that ran through my mind like a movie. I wept uncontrollably right there in public, unable to push back what felt like the tears of a hundred years. It was shockingly present, all the sorrow, joy, love, fear...simply overwhelming. I'm not sure I can put into words my experience there tonite, or where in the world it came from. But it was powerful, and a reminder of the different person I am today from the one I was on November 7. The joy and the sorrow seemed to blend into one, like salt in the sea, stinging and refreshing at the same time. Transformed? Absolutely. Glad about it? Yes. Costly? Very.

I love you folks for a thousand reasons.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 243 Would Jesus Mind That Creeky Smell?

Dear friends,

It's never boring, being the mother of boys. Yesterday Joe invited 6 friends to the house for a sleepover (aka "wakeover"), and planned for all of them to sleep in the rather small "fun room" we have down in the cellar. I couldn't imagine how the heck they were all going to fit down there. Well, before the indoor activities began, the boys took a hike down into the gully beside our house. There's a creek down there, which was the scene of another Smith family story when Joe and a friend wound up in the water in March about 4 years ago. Anyway, these 7 strapping lads decided a dip would be dandy, so in they went, clothes, shoes and all. They arrived back at my home dripping, dirty and smelling like a swamp. My shower looked like a mud hole when they were done. They were talking and laughing in the basement when I woke up at 5am, and at 6:30 when I got up for my day, all was quiet. Crazy, maddening, wonderful boys.

I look at it this way: I am a blessed woman. My son hangs around with kids that don't drink or do drugs. They don't mess with other people's personal property, and they go to school every day. So swamp clothes and all nighters are small things. I'm learning the best I can not to sweat the minor things. I mean, my daughter had a brain bleed and my husband's blood pressure hit 40/20, so what if my breezeway is littered with...yucky stuff. Perspective is a marvelous thing. But the tub was still pretty disgusting...

You know that saying "what would Jesus do?" He probably would have gone swimming in the creek with them, and given them some meaningful words for the life in their difficult world. I gave them Doritos and soda, and didn't yell about the mess. Still, wish I was more like Jesus...

David John is home from camp! He had to soak in the tub (after I cleaned it!) to get the camp dirt of a week off of him. His dirty clothes smelled alot like the big boys clothing from the creek. Today is a major laundry day. When David said "I feel closer to God" after a week in the woods, it made my day. Because really, that's where true, lasting joy finds its foundation, and there are no greater riches our kids could ever have. I am amazingly, undeservedly blessed.

We take it one day at a time with our children. No one knows what will come into their experience to challenge them, delight them or give them the run of their lives. My daughter's road was not one I would have ever chosen for her. I get sad about it sometimes, and angry too, but I know she has seen, and will see "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." She is 8 months out on an 18 month physical road to recovery. But there is more to us than flesh and blood...

I can't control what comes into the lives of those I love, never mind my own life. But while I have breath I can, imperfectly but with passion, love them, stand with them...and wash their swampy clothes. That's after all, what Jesus would do.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 242 The Good Old Days

Dear friends,

"Reckless automobile driving arouses the suspicion that much of the horse sense of the "good old days" was possessed by the horse." Anonymous

Stephen and I took a walk in our neighborhood after dinner and met up with dear Flo, an elderly lady around the corner. She was with her friend Anna, whose husband died a few years ago, but left her with countless memories of trips all over the world and the warm blessings of a rich and meaningful relationship. Flo told us how her father was a pin setter for a bowling alley that no longer exists. (For you Delmar folks it was in the building now housed by Peter Harris). There was a feed store at the Four Corners (long gone), and a magnolia tree there that finally had to be cut down. Smitty and I revelled in their talk of "the good old days", and when I got home I wondered how I would look back on this year of my life. It made me glad to be keeping this public diary as a way to remember the thoughts and imaginings on this stretch on the pilgrim road.

Of course these past 8 months have not been "good" in the common sense of the word. Good in the language of the material world means prosperity, ease and comfort. But good from a non-material point of view can mean something entirely different. It can include the blessings of an easier road, but it goes to the heart of what really fulfills us: relationship - with God and man. And since that is the true currency of life, it is not necessary to always have things go my way. It's ok that there are struggles, and heartaches - and even disasters- because none of those things can destroy what really matters. So I believe that someday, when I'm as old as Flo (should God give me those years), I will indeed look back on these precious, beautiful, difficult times as the good old days.

At the recommendation of my much loved brother in law Tom, Smitty and I are going to begin watching the "Lost" TV series tonite. My cyber friends at the website
seem to love this show, so we're giving it a try. Once again, the Smith's prove they are true "hobbits". I'm surprised we don't have a round front door! Friday nite, in our living room, eating a special treat and watching TV. This is the exciting life on Meadow Lane. But we love it!

For the Great One, there are no "good old days". He sees everything outside of time, in a big, eternal now. One of these days it will be the same for all those who "long for His appearing". The past, present and future will be swept up in complete redemption, with all darkness and sorrow removed forever. Those will be the good new days. Until then, we walk the highway learning and growing, and with gratitude in our hearts, holding someone else up along the way.

Like you've done for me.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


PS My baby comes home from camp tomorrow! Can somebody say Hallelujah! I miss my David!

8 months since crash

Dear friends,

At times I think I’m the push me-pull you from Dr. Dolittle. This scripture about sums it up:

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:22-25

The pilgrim road is no place for leaning back and kicking off. There’s a war going on down here, and it’s not merely physical. If oil spills and financial crisis’ and terrorist attacks don’t convince you this is a tinder box, then most likely your own struggle to do what’s right does. At least I can say so for me. My tendency to be irritable over minor things, and to make subtle, unseen judgments about people and to envy other folks are three examples just from today of the “law of sin at work within my members”. I hate seeing these ugly things in myself. But I no longer rummage around in them, feeling crummy for days on end. "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" I can keep short accounts with the Great One. Repentance is the solution to self loathing. The Son of God paid a sturdy price to open the door to relationship and peace with God. To wallow in our darkness would be a tragedy, given that facing up to the thing, turning from it and getting back up to walk with God is offered by the grace of the Great Liberator. Anyway, I thought one of you dear ones might need to be reminded that you’re not alone in your battle to live a life of love. The llama’s pull both ways. But if the llama driver (is that what you would call one of those guys?) shows the way and gently pulls the rope, the push me- pull you can go in the right direction. Still, it takes a little want-to – and a healthy dose of rugged humility. Plus a watchful eye on the look-out for our shadows.

Happy, happy news! Smitty can go swimming! Bob the Builder (the brilliant Dr. Bagchi), gave the all clear signal today for pools, lakes and oceans. He also ordered an MRI of Stephen’s bad shoulder, since the blasted thing is still stuck. The medical folks will be checking for a torn rotator cuff, which Dr. B. and one of the therapists suspects. I’m hoping it’s not that. Because I think that means more surgery. To be honest, here’s how I feel: enough with the surgeries already! Of course if I get an iron clad guarantee it will help I’m all for it. HA! Guarantee. I made a funny! The only guarantee is the unending faithfulness of the Almighty in every circumstance. Anything beyond that, and we’re living in Dr. Dolittle land…

More happy news! The Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Nite has a date: Saturday, October 23 at 7pm. In the future there will be a tab on the blog to enable you to let us know you’re coming so we can make sure there are plenty of goodies for everyone. I’ll be reminding you of this festive event from time to time. Put it on your calendar now, because before you know it the crisp will be back in the air and we’ll be trading sandcastles for pumpkins. But believe me, I’m not rushing summer along. I love the summer...

You push me, I'll pull you, and together with the Great One's help, we'll finish strong on this crazy highway.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 240 The Great One Interrupts Like Mary Poppins

Dear friends,

"We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sail." I love that. Love it. Life in the Smith house is just like it is in yours; ever changing, unpredictable, wild at heart. Like the father in Mary Poppins, we would like our nice, neat, orderly little lives. But the truth is, it doesn't really go that way. Ms. Poppins sticks her foot in the door and reveals what was really fouled up all along. If we're growing, then there's a wind a blowing. Best to adjust the sail, and go where the Great One leads. Best to find the peace within the storm, because even if it's relatively calm there are clouds in the offing... By the way, if you've never seen Mary Poppins, get thee to and order yourself up a copy. I could write a book of analogies from that movie, but I'll spare you. I want to BE Mary Poppins. Especially when she goes into the cartoon with Bert. But I digress...

Since November 8 we have some added complications we could not have foreseen. But underneath all that, we still have to do the laundry, make meals, clean the bathroom, feed the cats, and care for our children (which thanks to you, we didn't have to do when it was impossible). What I love about God (among many beautiful things) is His heart to be with us in all our affairs. While we load the dishwasher, or fix the bike chain, or mix up the pasta salad, He is there in the midst of it. As present as He was when Stephen's BP dropped to 40/20 in the ER, as near as He was when Hannah's eye was stitched by plastic surgeons after her orbital bone plate was put in. Given that He is involved in the everyday stuff, I thought you might enjoy a little "laundry list" of simple things here at home.


Weather outside: Hot, and you'll never hear me complain about it! But I'm grateful for the AC in the bedrooms.
Food for thought: Made a delicious pasta salad for dinner. Smitty wanted way more pepperoni in the mix.
Children: David at Camp (miss that boy!), Hannah swimming with a friend earlier, eating chocolate ice cream; Joe needs steel toed shoes for a job he starts next week.
What I'm awash in: Tiny teacups I will no longer leave out since I'm on a clutter clearing rampage.
Music in my Head: "He Aint Heavy, He's My Brother".
Books I'm reading: True Spiritual Community by Larry Crabb, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Bible- Book of 1st Samuel.

The ponderings: Thinking about Saul's fall from humility and subsequent consequences. Creating a website. Wondering why my basil wilted in the refrigerator. (Actually, I'm thinking about a million things, so I had to pick the top three. Number 4 would be that fellow who fell out of the stands trying to catch a foul ball...)

Enjoy the Great One in the every day. He'll be there in the big stuff. And the little.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 239 Only Passing Through- So How About the Beach?

Dear friends,

Ever been in the car just about all day? Ever felt like a taxi driver? Ever think you had all the paperwork you needed, only to find out you didn't? That was my day today. Then, when I got to the hospital, we were short staffed dinner break. Instead, there was the shoveling down of the sandwich at the desk. Time was my enemy all day long. There wasn't enough of it. Everything was stuffed into it. And I was reminded once again, for the thousandth time, that this world is not my home, I'm only passin' through. Makes you pine for a long, unscheduled day at the beach...

Smitty goes to Dr. Bagchi's office on Thursday. Please pray the guy will be cleared to go swimming! This is no time to be kept out of a pool! Stephen continues to have a bit of trouble with walking normally. (But I bet he'll swim like Mr. Limpet!) The cane helps, but the other day I told him he was walking like Frankenstein. His body simply won't do things the way it should. I'll tell you though, you'll never hear a peep out of him. He trucks along with dignity. Some days the limitations really stink. But the world is not his home, he's only passin' through.

I'm dreaming a bit about Cape Cod these days. The foamy, icy surf under my feet, the sand between my toes, the smell of the bayberry, the sound of the waves... The ocean is a place I feel the presence of God in a unique way. There's a frightening aspect to the sea - big, powerful, relentless. Then there is the rhythm of the tides, and the sounds of people enjoying the controlled risk of manageable surf. Salt in your hair, salt in your eyes, salt in your mouth! Windburn and sunburn, and that glorious, chilly feeling that comes when the sun gets low and you need your sweatshirt over your bathing suit. Even on cloudy days, the ocean is glorious in its grayness, soulful and just a little sad, grabbing hold of the melancholy part of me and reminding me this world is not my home, I'm only passin' through. I love the sea. But only from the shore.

"For whatever we lose, like a you or a me,
it's always ourselves we find in the sea." ee cummings

If you're hankerin' for a little cyber ocean, check out

Next year, we will have the Smith Family Celebrate Life vacation. Since Miss Rejoice took such a large hit in this jumble, we asked her preference for a special destination. My boys aren't picky. Their bags are packed to go wherever, whenever. But we couldn't get anything out of the girl. We have really always had modest vacations; a week at the Cape, and once we did the Disney thing in September with a free meal plan! So we're not exactly world travelers in our house. While she thought about it, I prayed to the Great One. "Anything but a cruise" said I. I love the sea. But only from the shore. So at this point you know the punchline. She wants to go on a cruise. Good gravy. I don't like boats. I spent a year one day on a whale watch with my head over the side while my husband chowed down on clam chowder. But I would go to the moon for that child if that's what she wants. So I will board the ship and remind myself all the way "this world is not my home, I'm only passin' through."

So glad to be passin' through with all of you!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Prayers please for Pastor Greg the Wonder, whose dear father had a heart attack. And for Melanie and the kids back home. And the team he had to leave behind in NYC. One life effects so many...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 238 Writing and Hearing, In the Heat and the Chill

Dear friends,

You'll never hear me complain about the heat. I reserve the right to moan and groan about the cold, so I figure at least I can be quiet (regarding the weather only!) in the summertime. The Northeastern winters are so long, and the summers so brief. When I open my door and it feels like walking into a pizzeria, I don't mind. It won't last. Before I know it the AC will be coming out of the windows and the electric blanket will go back on the bed. Time hurtles by. I'm in no rush to speed it up. Except in February. Good grief, that is one long month.

Now to the subject of the day. Before the events that brought this blog into existence I did not write every day. I really believed (and continue to), that the Great One wants me to keep pecking away on this keyboard every day until November 8, 2010. Now hearing God right can be a bit sticky. Goodness knows folks of much greater faith than me have gotten it wrong when trying to discern the will of God. Hearing God's voice takes time, faith and quiet. I mean, it's not a big voice from the sky, booming and unmistakable. I've never heard God talk in an audible voice. But the One and Only is a communicator, and at times we have to sort out what He means for us to do as best we can, and trust Him to clear away the obstacles, most of which come from within us. Fear, pride, distraction - and many other boulders can block the way. I'm still figuring this thing out as I go, so there are no great words of wisdom here. Only encouragement to say if we really are sincere in our efforts to do what we believe God wants, He'll take us there, step by step. And of course we do have the Map... a written guide that helps tremendously when the Holy Spirit is in the driver's seat. Anyway, I write every nite, and am so overjoyed by the people who still read these ramblings. But I say at the risk of sounding ungrateful (which I am not!), that I will continue to write until November 8th, whether anyone reads or not. This blog is a testament not to me or my family, but to God, and to all of you, who continue to be our dear companions through the hardest thing I have ever faced. That the Great One considers this story worth putting on paper is enough for me. And like I've said before, it's way cheaper than therapy!

All of you have something to tell. Some write it, some sing it, some build it, some say it: there are a gazillion stories worth expressing. We all need to muddle through and find what God has for each of us to communicate, whether we preach it in a sermon, or shine it with a rag, or bake it in a cake. There are a world of people who need our little light to help find their own way. And there's no getting too proud about it, because "every good and perfect gift comes from the Father...".

Every evening when I sit down to write to you, I ask God to help me. Some nights I have no idea what I'm going to say. But that's the great thing about doing what you think He wants you to do - He'll never leave you in the lurch. Like I've said, I'm not looking for a Pulitzer Prize. I only want to tell the truth.

The Smith's continue to heal and grow. November's chill has given way to July's balm. In more ways than one.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,