Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 295 No Guarantees, Only Promises

Dear friends,

"In this world you will have trouble. But take courage, I have overcome the world." ~Jesus

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, no do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." ~Helen Keller

There was a time when I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists, full of anxiety and unrest, waiting for something terrible to happen. You couldn't see this fitful affliction on the outside, but trust me when I say it was very real. Somewhere in the protective mechanism of my mind I thought that by bracing myself for disaster I would avoid it. Now I'm not going to tell you I never worry or fret, but I no longer live in that ongoing state of self deception. We can live our lives always doing the right thing, the moral thing (I haven't), and still there is no bargain to be struck saying "good for you - now no evil will ever befall you". If you need a biblical example, look no further than Job. There are plenty of others too, but the point of the book about him is that very thing: why do bad things happen to good people?

Job was a righteous man, and some really awful, painful, unthinkable things happened to him. In the end, all Job really found out was that God was with him in his misery. Things got better for him in the conclusion of the story, but let's not forget he never got his children back. He lived with that loss for the rest of his life. His help along the way was the presence of the Great One, and the renewed understanding that the Universe has a loving captain at the wheel. He also had the indescribable comfort of being a pilgrim. This world was not his home. There were no guarantees for him that his life wouldn't be hard later on. We read the story backwards. We know the ending. He didn't while he was walking along his highway. But there was no doubt that the man of faith was headed for an eternal life where there is no more sorrow, trouble or suffering. Done. It is finished.

1 Corinthians 15:19 "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." ~Paul the Apostle

Walking with God has been the weighty beauty of my life. It has been, and continues to be a messy, disorganized, imperfect business. On my end. On His end, it's been grace, mercy and unfailing love all the way. I'm grateful for a life with Jesus of Nazareth. But Paul's quote really says it all. If this is it, then our faith is in vain. But this isn't it. That's why a relationship with God through the unmerited grace of His Son must begin here. Not just for comfort and help and the forgiveness we desperately need while we live in this shadow, but for the unspeakable joy of an unhindered relationship with our Creator for ever.

I have no signed paper saying "You will never see suffering again. You've gotten all you're getting." I know you haven't either. Security, as Helen Keller so aptly put it, is mostly a superstition. But holding our breaths for the next problem will just make us turn blue. There's no telling what's coming. Here is our assurance:

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." ~Jesus

I bet my life on that truth. Fear not, friends. There are no guarantees, but there is the Great "I Am".

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 294 My Man is THE Man

Dear friends,

Smitty just killed a hornet flying around my dining room light.

My hero.

It's funny that happened just before I sat down here to write, because I've been planning all day to tell you all a few fun facts about Stephen:

* When he eats pineapple, it makes him laugh. I'm totally serious.
* He once chased a bike thief and retrieved said vehicle for the little kid from whom it had been taken. (Steve's not the intimidating type, but you should have seen that kid exit the bike and run!)
* He drinks at least a gallon of water a day (this is not an exaggeration). At restaurants he kindly tells the waiters that to save themselves some work they ought to just leave the pitcher.
* He is very good at math and loves Sudoku puzzles. Here, he and I part ways...
* When I met the man, he had a mustache. That, my friends, had to go. I am simply NOT the facial hair type.
* He once caught me when I fell backward off a rock while we were hiking. If you had seen it in a movie, you would have said it was staged.
* On our honeymoon we went on a whale watch. He chowed down happily on clam chowder while I heaved over the side of the boat.
* The first time he looked in Joseph's eyes, he cried with overwhelming joy.
* On November 8th, 2009, he was in a terrible car crash. Oh wait, you know about that.
* He is a wonderful husband, an outstanding father, and a lover of God and man.
* He did all sorts of nice things for me when we were dating. He did all sorts of nice things for me when we were engaged. He's never stopped doing all sorts of nice things for me.
* If you approach him with a magnet, it will most likely fly and cling to one of his legs, or perhaps his elbow.

The Great One has "learned me alot" through the sandpapering process of being married to Smitty. I'm walking the pilgrim road with a decent, God fearing, one of a kind man. He is my very best friend. He's a gift that really does keep on giving.

And he's made me laugh every day I've known him, except for a few back in November... well, I guess he had an excuse...

That make you laugh thing, that's not little. Especially for a girl like me, who you could almost say was born with the blues. God knew all that, and set aside this particular fellow to be my very closest fellow pilgrim for life. How outrageously blessed I am.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 293 Wash Away

Dear friends,

The Dunkin’ Donut Decaf is drained (alliteration – ha!), and I’m getting on fast to tired. Still I had to check in with my cyber homies, and give you yet another update on the good, the bad and the ugly in the life of yours truly, pilgrim blogger.

Too many sad things happened at the hospital tonite. Some days I kind of get into that mode where I run and hide from sorrowful stories. I was thinking about the song I heard on one of the “Lost” episodes. The song is called “Wash Away” by Joe Purdy. The melancholy strings in this song nearly perfectly mirror the mix of heartache over tragedy and joy over grace I think most everyone experiences on the human highway:

“I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they're gonna wash away
They're gonna wash away
And I have sins Lord, but not today
Cause they're gonna wash away
They're gonna wash away...”

Truth is we can’t carry all the bitterness of life in a fallen world. Heck, we can’t even manage our own personal demons. The child who arrived at the hospital tonite after a near drowning is a pit so deep only The Savior can plummet the depths. There’s a balance to be found between becoming cold and callous, and losing our way in darkness over the pains of worldly disasters. I have not achieved that balance. I tend to swing from one wrong side of the line to the other. But I stretch. I strive.

So many of you entered in to our black cave back in November. You brought cheer and hope where it could have been airless and sunless. Somehow you struck it perfectly. You didn’t run away, and you didn’t become so overwhelmed that you couldn’t respond. I’m looking to learn how to do that far better than I do. Even when I don’t know what to say, I want to be there. Even when I feel awkward, I want to have the right words to speak or the wisdom to keep my mouth shut. And when the time comes to go and take a shower and look up at the stars and rejoice in all that is good, I want to do that too.

After a relaxing time of “looking up at the stars” (metaphorically) this weekend, it’s time to go back to the testing grounds of learning to love like Christ through the trials of the everyday, big and small. Things are about to change again, with school starting and summer’s unstructured, breezy days ending. We rocket toward November 8, and the end of the public record of this particular stretch of our road. I can hardly believe it.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Dessert Nite by going to http://www.smittythanks@gmail.com/. There are details on the sidebar of the blog, but all I need is for you to let me know your name and how many you’ll be bringing. It will be one of the great moments of my life to publicly thank the best of the best. That would be all of you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 292 The Joy of Family on the Pilgrim Road

Dear friends,

All I can say is, love your families. Every family is an imperfect, dysfunctional, motley crew, but the love of our relations is in a category of by itself.

Going on 10 months ago now, my brother in law Tom took a ride on the Thomas Dewey Thruway to Albany. It was a ride he never wanted to take, and never would have dreamed of on that surprisingly warm fall morning. On the way from Syracuse, he had to wonder if his brother would be alive when got to Albany. On top of that, his niece was in a coma, and in concert with the rest of our relatives, he experienced the grief and agony of the unknown outcome.

With all that has passed since that surreal time, I can't tell you what joy it was to see the delight in my precious brother in law's eyes as he watched Stephen come down the slide in his pool, hang in the hot tub, and eat a triple yum meal at the Syracuse Smith's favorite restaurant. (We were treated like kings and queens! No resort could have been more fun or more pampering.) These dear folks are truly a gift from the Great One to us. The scripture says "He sets the lonely in families" and you can see why.

Of all the good to come out of a disaster, this has been among the finest. We do not take our families for granted. We may live a distance apart, and perhaps we voted for different people for president, but there is a special tie that comes with the people you grow up with. Smitty has always loved his brothers and sisters, but there is a depth to it now that wasn't there before, and I believe that it runs both ways. As for me, I love seeing my children in relationship with their cousins in such a natural and unique way. I remember it with my own cousins, and there's just something about those friendships that don't require lots of back story. They simply love one another. Period.
Hope you enjoy the pictures of our extended vacation time at Smith Resort West. Tom and Sandy and Steve and I have learned the value of family, and it has not always been a smooth road. But the pilgrim highway never is. Especially when the reward at the end is great. We bless them, as we do all of you, for their continued love and kindness to this flawed but wildly grateful party of five.
Looking forward to the rest of the evening, with a bonfire outside, maybe the hot tub, and smores. Best of all, I'm looking forward to Tom, Sandy, Samantha, Abbie and Jackie. Because life is all about 2 things. Love God. Love people. And our families, they get a chapter in life's book all their own.
By the way, I'm in the pool in the photos because the water is 88 degrees. Amen.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 291 A Brilliant, Blessed and Beautiful Girl

Dear friends,

After 291 days, I am still learning new things surrounding the car crash of November 8. Today Hannah had another follow up appointment with her neuro surgeon, the very sweet Dr. Adamo. Dr. A. was there the day after the accident, and saw the scans of our darling Rejoice's brain from the beginning. He told me today that Hannah actually had some bilateral damage, which I did not realize. I thought her injury was limited to her right frontal lobe, but that was not the case. However the main damage was done on the right side. But here's what turned me inside out; here's what had me crying on the way to Jiffy Lube: Dr. Adamo said many children with brain scans that look like Hannah's have a poor recovery. If they, like her, were in advanced classes in school, they typically drop down to special needs classes, and often don't even graduate from high school. He is delighted with Hannah's spectacular progress. The areas that are still challenging are still rugged. But she has overcome beyond anyone's expectations. I know deep in my heart, without a doubt, that God simply, graciously spared us from a far greater heartache than we have experienced. Why, I don't know. We certainly don't deserve it. There are precious, good, God-fearing people who have had to go down that more strenuous road. But I am grateful. And I take none of it for granted.

I thought what it would be like, if my darling girl, who so loves words and poetry and literature, was unable to appreciate those things anymore. If she was unable to engage in the classes and special relationships she has with the kids who share her passions. What if she had been unable to relate to people who share her life? I am not dismissing her losses, or ours, as a result of the crash. But it is plain that we have skirted around the edges of a complete, unmitigated disaster. It scares me to think what kind of person might have emerged from within me if Hannah had been killed, or incapacitated, or even separated from the life she knew. Yes, we are all dealing with changes, some of them like the tender spot on a sore tooth. But the light overwhelms the darkness by a mile. I could only cry out "thank You, thank You" on my way to get the oil changed.

As for relationships, I've told you before that our extended families have come to mean so much more to us during these months in Bizarro Land. We're visiting my dear brother in law Tom and his wife(and my friend!) Sandy this weekend. Their 3 beautiful girls and our Hannah will no doubt talk again like they just saw one another yesterday. Tom has the heat in the pool cranked up so I can actually swim! And it sounds like a number 10 weather weekend, so Miss Rejoice can reboot her Cape Cod tan. (Which reminds me, I really do have to return the key to Cindy and Bill's house at the beach...what a fabulous memory I'll hold dear of this year on the pilgrim road...)

Hopefully I can post a few pix of our fun with family weekend. I guess this is summer's last big hurrah. We are rocketing toward the first day of school. But it's not yet. I won't be sucked in to fall, even though it is a glorious season. Everything in its time.

Thanks for rejoicing with us over the miraculous grace of the Great One in the life of our only princess. Your prayers for her have meant more than you can ever possibly know. What the enemy meant for evil, God has most assuredly meant for good. Only the future will tell the great plans of the Great One for Hannah's beautiful life. We shall see.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 290 Hallelujah or Burst

Dear friends,

In a far from shocking development, C.S. Lewis helped me figure out something I've been puzzling over for a long time. It's about this whole matter of praising God. Now I know the Great One has no need to have us tell Him how great He is. He is the Supreme Fact, and does not have some large ego or a pack of insecurities to assuage. Our praise of God does not add a molecule to His perfection, nor does our lack of wonder and adoration take away a nano breath of His worth. So why the emphasis in the Psalms, to the point of extreme repetition, to continually worship God? Why the command from God Himself to use our mouths and our bodies to express His matchless value?

So Clive (that's C.S.'s first name) gave me insight today and I had one of those "maybe I get this a tiny bit" moments. Here's some of how he put it:

"(Previously) I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise - lovers praising their mistresses, readers praising their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game- praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least…..I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but COMPLETES the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."

So there it is. Maybe one reason God makes such a fuss about praise is not for His benefit, but for ours. Woven in to the fabric of being human is the capacity to know and enjoy our Creator. Because we are distracted from Him by the thin veil of this mortal world, it seems to me that praise can get blocked up, when it is meant to freely flow. To "practice" praise is therefore not foolish, nor does it have to be rote, but a setting of ourselves in a place to perhaps, even if only for a moment, feel the breeze of that enjoyment of God we were designed to experience without hindrance before the fall.

Again, brother Clive describes our efforts to enter into praise with all our earthly limitations:

"We are not riders but pupils in the riding school; for most of us the falls and bruises, the aching muscles, and the severity of the exercise, far outweigh those few moments in which we were, to our own astonishment, actually galloping without terror and without disaster".

With all the colossal goodness shown to me all my life, and in particular in the past 9 months, I know the feeling of praise in the back of my throat like a racehorse at the gate straining to break through. And on those good days when I can express it a little bit, I get what Lewis means about about it completing the enjoyment. Sharing it with you is like sharing a sunset or telling someone a good joke. Praise God, who was, and is and is to come!

Don't forget to sign up for the dessert night. You have time, but why not do it now? I got a list of some of the desserts. Two words: Double Yum.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 289 Gary Larson is my Speed About Now

Dear friends,

I don't really have anything to say tonite. Here's the truth of it: I'm blah. Ever been blah? Like gray sweatpants or a dry turkey sandwich? Like corn on the cob without butter and salt? I'm looking for a good funny story! That would put some color in my dull brain. But let's face it, every day can't be a box of crayolas.

Ever seen the Far Side cartoon where the fish is in the bowl marked "pirahna", and the cat is standing by with bald legs? Hysterical. I also love the one with the flies climbing up the screen, and one says to the other something along the lines of "first Al, then Pete, I'm telling you Whitey, we're dropping like ourselves..." If you care to, send me your favorite Far Side cartoon.

Sometimes I think way too hard about things, and I guess I need a break. This happens from time to time. I ponder, I ruminate, I brood, and then it's time for a change. By nature I am a muser. I like to cogitate on ideas and lean into the wind of understanding. But not tonite. Tonite my heart is far away from thinking through the ills of human nature (mine first of all). I'm no where near the car accident or the consequences of the fateful day that hang on. It's rather an "America's funniest videos" kind of mood, even though it's time for the 11 o'clock news.

Do you ever get this way? Of course you do. (At least I hope I'm not the only one...) This isn't to say I didn't do what I was supposed to do today. I even had a chance to dish out some love to someone who needed a healthy dose - sheer joy!
I worked on my song lyrics and made a big pot of beef barley soup for the family. I spent some time with the Great One. It's just that...well, it's just that I have no UMPH. I'm blah.

Fear not if you are blah too. It happens. We really are "treasures in jars of clay". Our bodies get old, get tired, are subject to the weather, what we eat, and a thousand other variables. We still have to do the next right thing, but there might not be any cayenne pepper in it for a bit. In a way that's the real test of faith. Living it out when you don't really feel like it. Putting one cement filled shoe in front of the other.

Anyway, I'm going to bed. Maybe tomorrow blah will be replace by "zing". Who knows? Doesn't matter though. There are still mountains to climb, people to love, floors to sweep. Jesus must have felt blah sometimes too when He was zipped up in flesh and blood. Too bad he didn't have that Far Side cartoon with the dinosaurs smoking, looking all shifty eyed, with the passage underneath: "the real reason dinosaurs went extinct..."

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


For those of you who get this blog by subscribing, the email address to let me know you're coming to the dessert nite is
smittythanks@gmail.com. I so want all of you to be there!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 288 Will Dan Lane Make It For Cake?

Dear friends,

Stephen is still in therapy for his shoulder. He seems to be making incremental progress, but it's very, very small. This is the kind of thing that could drive you crazy without the right attitude. Which he has. Every little bit is precious to him. Some days I want to simply crank that shoulder up and make it do what it ought to do. Hence the differences in our personalities. This morning I was telling Smitty about something that was annoying/frustrating me with our first born, and he very calmly told me that we don't understand Joseph's perspective on this, and we need to give him a little room to figure things out for himself. Wow. Patience. Wisdom. Now don't get the idea he never blows his stack, because indeed he does. But it's become more rare since November 8. In truth, the only laid back thing in our house is Cosette. Everyone is intense in their own way. But I cannot understand where our kids get their drama queen tendencies...

So every now and then, especially after a blue blog like yesterday's, I just want to pitch out my once-in-a-while bullet points. If I ever get a website going (which is in the planning stages), I will probably put these babies on there for fun. If you've been reading, you've seen these before:

Weather Outside: Gray, recovering from soggy, but I'm not at the beach. (Judy the Good and Mark the Lion Hearted brought the perfect sunshine with them last week. I wish everyone on vacation could have that kind of weather...)

Food for Thought: I made a Chili this afternoon, which I couldn't eat because I had to go to work (for the first time in 10 days!) Brother Steve B. and the one and only Sarge came over to share it with Smitty. At Albany Med, someone left a box of Krause's homemade chocolates for the staff as a thank you. That's what I'M talkin' about!

Children: Joe is on his last 2 weeks working full time, and should be going for his license within the next month. Miss Rejoice finished both her summer projects for school. We did not see her for several days as she holed herself up for the writing process. She, unlike her brothers, is looking forward to returning to academic life. David was last seen goofing around in the front yard with one of his BFF's, Joshua, doing something with various sized sticks. Don't ask.

What I'm awash in: Unfinished lyrics for songs for the Dessert night, stuff to do for the Dessert night, questions about creating a website.

Music in my Head: You'll hear it at the Dessert night.

Books I'm Reading: The Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton. Can't read anything else, that book is so dense. Entire paragraphs escape me. But the ones that don't, they make it worth the ones that make me feel like a "valley girl".

The Ponderings: What I'm really thinking about is what I wrote about yesterday. I'm on the lookout for moments to get outside of myself. I'm examining my priorities and wanting like mad to do the Philippians 2:3 thing:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

Take a look at the permanent sidebar that Peter the Great whipped up for me. (He set aside his priorities to help me in 10 seconds flat!) Peter put a blurb there about the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night. There's an email address so you can send me your name and how many are coming. You wouldn't want me to run short on brownies now, would you? The Fabulous Hannah W. is going to help me make an invitation for all the non bloggies, especially for the firemen, emt's, policemen, doctors, nurses etc... who I have to reach by mail or hand delivery. The Amazing Officer Ernie is going to be put hard to work gathering up all the folks he can who were on the scene that fateful night. If any of you know people who prayed, helped, called, visited, or in any way were involved with this incredible experience, and they are not technically oriented, please email for them until I can get the invites done. Anyway, I need your replies if possible by September 30. I emailed the Fantastic Daniel Lane (Army Medic) at his base in Ohio. We'll see...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 287 The Danger of Disappointment

Dear friends,

"We must accept disappointment but never lose infinite hope. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

What I feel compelled to write about today saddens me.

It came to my attention that there are folks out there, and I'm sure there are many more than I have heard about, who have been deeply wounded, indeed hurt with scars to show, by the failure of the church of Jesus Christ to act as it ought. In fact, the very powerful testimony of our family's experience of love and support in our darkest hour has poured salt on those wounds born by others in the family of God. There are those who have suffered under various heartaches and troubles, and no one has run to the rescue. No one has thrown a life line, or written a check, or offered a cup of coffee and a listening ear. Friends, this should not be so. For every person in pain there should be someone to care. For every lonely soul, there should be a friend. Every sick person should have a visitor. But we fail. We miss the mark. And because we do, there is a dagger where there ought to be a gauze. I was so sad today thinking of this tragic fact. Even sadder to know the times I myself have failed one in need. But the solution is not to wallow in our failures. The solution is to get before God and repent, which means, change direction.

I think because the car crash was such a visible, sizable disaster, it rallied the troops in a unique way. I have communicated over and over my inability to adequately express my gratitude for the outpouring of generosity we received on every conceivable front. But what about the day to day needs of the single mom, the struggling young couple, the wife of a man in jail? What about the man struggling with an unnameable sin, or the chronically ill college student, or the elderly lady without a ride to church? This is no guilt trip. None of us can meet all the needs out there. But what if we asked the Great One to show us one person with a need? What if we left a gift card for a pizza dinner in that single mother's door? What if we took the elderly lady to church once a month? What if we called the person who feels like an outcast? I think maybe if we only did what God shows us to do that day, many more people would feel a lot more loved. This is not the job of the pastor. This is too big a job for any one person. This takes an army of love, and as Pastor Greg pointed out in that kick butt sermon a few weeks ago, it requires a change in our priorities. I'm preaching real good right now to myself. I put two people on my "love them" list today, and I made those phone calls. You know what? I put them off for most of the day. But I did it. It's not my job to fix someone's life, but it most certainly is my job to love and encourage people. I'm working on changing the only person in my power to change. That would be ME. And that can only happen with the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life. That's why we need to ask God who it is we need to reach out to. He knows every unseen thing. He's the best director ever.

And for those who have been hurt, as all of us have, please don't give up and become bitter! Don't let the fact that it was done right for the Smith's make you angry. Ultimately people will let you down. Sometimes human beings get it right. Sometimes the circumstances are so dramatic we're shocked into getting it right. But as the book of James says so perfectly:

"We ALL stumble in MANY ways..."

My goal in my life is to love God and love people. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten it wrong. But I pray I will never give up the fight to get it right, so one less person feels like they are beaten and bloody, and no one cares. None of us can make it right for everyone. But all of us can make it better for someone. To those who feel forgotten or like they don't belong, it's a lie. Jesus says you do belong. And those of us who have failed you aren't Him. Hang on to your love for His people. We're all learning as we go...

"There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love." ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Your imperfect friend who wishes she wasn't on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Check out the side line on the blog. Please email me if you are coming to the dessert night. I am going to try to get a count by September 30. Details are there on the side.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 286 Ocean Waves of Change

Dear friends,

Here are a few final pictures from our trip to Cape Cod. Back in New York (greatest state in the Union), I took today off to do laundry, unpack and ease back into normal. Things really are pretty normal now. It is definitely a different life than it was 9 months ago, but that's true for everyone. We are always navigating through some changing territory. A child goes to college, a child gets married, a job is lost or gained, a natural disaster hits, a baby is born.... These things have happened to people I know in the last 6 months. Everyone is adjusting. We're never off the Potter's Wheel for very long. The security of "the same" is really an illusion. If you haven't hit a bump in your road yet, you will. The only sure thing is the Great One Himself. He "changes not" and with Him there is no "shadow of turning". Lest I sound like some know-it-all-sage, rest assured my skills at handling change are abysmal. I hate being shaken and I don't like rocking the boat myself either. But God loves us far too well to let us lounge about in our comfort zones. He's been right there with me as I bumble through, put my foot in my mouth, and foul things up. One thing He won't stand for is stagnancy. Move forward, despite your failures, or shrivel up and die. There is no "settling in". Good lord, how the frail, human side of me wishes there was. Still, I wouldn't trade the sights I've seen making my way on the pilgrim road...

The Bright and Brilliant Danny B. preached at church this morning about friendship in the community of Christians. As usual, he hit one out of the park. Now, I'm not sure anyone has experienced the value of healthy community like the Smith family. Let's face it, we would have been sunk without the mind bending volume of support we received through a pretty big crisis. But Danny pointed out the necessity for laying down our lives for others in the day to day. Not just in the big, but in the little. And he addressed the fact that yes, sometimes we let one another down. We get hurt. We do the hurting (God forgive me for my share in that one!) But that's why there's a mandate from Jesus to forgive. So we can go on and do the next right thing. I think the most memorable thing I heard this morning, so perfect I wanted to share it with all of you, was when Danny said "All we have to do is love people. Not feel like we have to fix them." Amen, brother. It would take a whole lot more than human words and human strength to fix me. It takes a mighty, life giving, personal Savior. And the process is life long. But relationships with people are essential to the fixing. So climb that mountain, friend. No matter how steep it is, the heights are hit when we let people off the hook for sinning against us.

Nice to be home, with the great Cosette Smith sitting on the bed next to me. No fighting for a WIFI connection. I hit the grocery store today so we're stocked back up to do ordinary life again. I'm about to iron a bunch of shirts for Smitty for work this week. Luckily, we have a few episodes of LOST to watch while I press and steam.

A thousand blessings to Bill and Cindy for a beach house we'll always remember. And to the one, the only Jessica D. for taking care of business for us back home. And to the Rock's and Steve and Jackie for taking care of our precious first born. As the poem I remember from first grade says "home again, home again, jiggity jog." The ocean is always in my heart, a picture of the boundless, matchless, wild and unfathomable untamed God. Home is a picture of the tender, merciful, gentle, intimate, Father God. Everywhere you look you can find Him.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

That's Stephen waving from the waves with the kids!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 285 Yawwwn...

Dear friends,

It's 11:10 pm, and we just pulled into the driveway. Home from the beach, back to the day to day. Thank you so much for your communication with me while we were gone!

This post is simply to say good night. We're all sporting minor sunburns and the exhaustion that comes from a day at the beach, cleaning a house, packing the car, and 4 plus hours driving. Not a complaint, just an explanation.

I'll have a few more pictures for you tomorrow, including Steve in the waves! They got milder as the week went on, and he was able to manage them well. His legs are awfully sore today from "fighting the currents" to keep standing, but he'll be ok with a little rest.

Robbie, David and Hannah are already passed out in bed, and that's the direction Smitty and I are headed in...

You guys are the top. See you tomorrow.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 284 Goodbye to Cooks Brook Beach

Dear friends,

There is no "TGIF" here on Cape Cod. It has been a beautiful week, in being outdoors, in being by the sea, and as always most of all, in relationships. There is a time for everything under heaven, and the time comes for the rest to end and the work to begin again. I love going away, and I love going home. No doubt I won't be singing "Here Comes the Sun" when it's time to do the laundry at home or clean the bathroom. But such are the rhythms of life. These are the natural undulations of the pilgrim road.

To my new friends Cindy and Bill, there are no words to adequately express the gratitude we have for the gift of a week in their warm, family friendly home. And thank you to Lynnie for suggesting the whole idea in the first place. I sure hope those New Jersey folks can make it to the Dessert Night on October 23. They are a part of all of you who have carved your initials in the tree of love and care in our lives. Stephen will always remember this as the place he "started to stop" using the cane. And the nights out on the deck under the moon and stars, hearing the kids playing Banana Grams upstairs will be fixed in my memory forever.

To the Great One, who always gives us much more that we ever deserve, I say "You are the Father of Fathers." To Him, who gave me hope in my heart in the cold, grim days of November that we would all once again stand on the magnificent shore of the mighty Atlantic, I give my all, as small as it is.

And to all of you, family and friends, who cheered us on and carried us at times so we could make it this far, I hope you know by now how much we Smitties love you. I hope our imperfect, faulty, messy road will remind you that God is an ever present help in any trouble. Your big ones and your little ones. I never want this experience to come across as having been a neat little package with a snappy ending. You know me better than that. And if you are breathing, you know life doesn't work that way. We walk with the Great One in a fallen world, as fallen people, and we hang on to His grace in all of it. There is no formula.

Going home tomorrow, but this particular year will stay with me for a bit. Miss my Joseph, and our kitties too. As Dorothy so aptly says it "there's no place like home".
Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Some pix of Mark, Judy and the kids. I love the 9pm cereal munch between games. Also, the sunset swim by the four kids was outstanding.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 283 The Abridged Summer Version

Dear friends,

It was a number 10 day. 80 something degrees, low humidity, ocean breeze, not a cloud in the sky. Those are the days you feel kissed by heaven. But the love of the Great One never varies. He loved us as much on November 8 when the sky was falling down as he did today when all was clear and blue. Still, sunny days at the ocean are cause for rejoicing. Praise God for who He is and all He has done!

Our friends Mark the Lion Hearted and Judy the Good are here, along with David's bud Robbie and Hannah's BFF Lauren. (Thanks to Cindy and Bill for the privilege of inviting these special friends for a few days.) Mark is a beach junkie like me, so we both got our fix and enjoyed the day immensely. Robbie lost his glasses in the ocean! The search party tried valiantly but couldn't come up with the spectacles, so David will be Robbie's eyes for a few days... We sat on the deck with pizza tonite, and watched the sun sink and the stars rise. It's past my bedtime, but I couldn't end the night without a quick check in with some of my favorite people - that would be all of you!

Here are a few photos. Didn't take many today - too busy actually living life to take pictures of it. I guess that's the way it ought to be. I'll meet you here tomorrow. Next week the blogs will have a little more substance to them. This week, I just need to be ok with "light summer writing".

Thinking of you my sweet friends! Vaya con Dios!

Your slightly sunburned friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 282 Make Like a Kite and FLY

Dear friends,
We forgot the kite at home, but we became human kites today! Yep, I finally did it. Parasailing over Provincetown, I looked down on the swirly little tip of Cape Cod and felt like the queen of the world. Of course, on the other hand, I looked out at the ocean and felt like an ant, so it all balanced out. It's sort of a story of the human condition. We think we're all that till we get enough perspective to see we're nothing but dust. We are both wildly significant and a small lot of nothin'. When the Great One dreamed us up, I wonder what He was thinking. I often wonder what He's thinking. Every now and then, when I read His book, I might get a little strand of that Mind above all. But it's like the ocean itself. Vast. Uncharted. Deep and full of mystery. Still, the shells on the shore have little stories to tell. Some of the stuff that washes in tells us a little more about what's out there...
Now Smitty, who is not fond of heights and is put together with glue and staples, was not planning on flying today. What got him was the thought of the grief he might have to put up with from certain male friends who will remain nameless, if the wifey and kids went up and he stayed on the boat. Whatever the motive, the man had the time of his life. Just look at those two "victims" and tell me you don't see "victors". Yes, there are still challenges, some deeply painful, but Great Scott, look at them! God gets the Glory, every drop of it. And all you folks, well you and the doctors and the nurses (thinking of you, Trish), get so much thanks. What a wonder!
Very short post. My brother is staying just a few miles from here and we're visiting. My nephew Sam pounded me in a game of Battleship, so I must get my revenge.
Thanks Jackie and Steve for picking up the baton with Joseph at home.
Take a look at my son on the boogie board! Keep in mind that water is 58 degrees. What a kid.
Talk again tomorrow, Lord willing and the crick don't run dry.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,

PS. Bill and Cindy, we are utterly spoiled. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 281 Storms: Scary and Enlightening

Smitty throws the Frisbee!

Sunset Swim

Dear friends,

I fell asleep on the couch last night and woke up at 4 am to the distant sound of thunder. Lightening was flashing at a tremendous rate, and I got up to watch as the Great One put on quite a beautiful show. At first it looked like the lightening was way across the bay, maybe even as far as Plymouth, but every time the sky lit up I could see the whole harbor for a moment like it was daytime. Stunning. Well, the thunder began to get closer, so I scurried around the house closing windows, (sadly, since the breeze was so refreshing, and unplugging the laptop and kindle. I woke Stephen up to help me get everything zipped up, plus I wanted him to see the show. When the storm hit us it was a little bit scary. But the kind of scary you kind of like. When I went out to the deck to make sure the umbrella was tied I was praying good and loud. Unfortunately we didn't get to the car windows before the deluge came. Chivalrous Steve caned his way out there and shut them, and returned looking very Noah-like. (Wet, not white bearded). Anyway, it was worth it to be awake for such a rich display. Double Wow.
When you go on vacation, you take yourself with you. All your insecurities, fears and sorrows stay attached. That's why it makes no sense to try to run away from your "issues" (to use a pop culture term). The best thing is to get square on with them and dig in with the Great One in the midst of them. There are still relational boulders to climb over, and you know I can't share the details. So many times I wish I could leap ahead in time, with an iron clad guarantee that all will be well... Without a stamped promissory note for a perfect future, I recall the great hymn:
"When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul...
Standing in front of the mighty Atlantic today, dwarfed by its awesome power and size, I could say in truth that though all the circumstances of my life- and I'm quite certain of yours too-
are far from perfect and straight, it can still be well with our souls. Big storms, big oceans, big car crashes - they all lend perspective. Amen.'''
Joe went home. Thanks to the Gentle Rock's for taking care of him!

I wrote more before and lost my connection. This blogging thing is really touch and go this week. Oh well, flexibility is key...
Thanks for the kind comments and sweet emails. I'm so happy you're with me on this trip.

Check out the photo of Steve playing Frisbee. He's doing it!
The photos of me are at my sister in law Sandy's request. There is no vanity at the beach. No blow drying and styling, no makeup... well, lipstick, we must remain civilized!
Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 280 The Ocean is Unmatched, Blue or Gray

Dear friends,
Today was a gray day at the start, but I love the ocean when everything looks all silvery and white. Later on the sun came out (it felt good with the chilly breeze on the beach), and the blue sky began spotting around the edges of the color of "November". Sometimes gray has it's own sad beauty if you have eyes to see it. During our rough patch last fall and winter (you remember it, right...that's a joke!), everything was covered in shadow. But there were patches of blue, many of them, and even the grayness of it all produced something strangely beautiful. Don't ask me to explain it. It would take a poet to do that...
So Smitty and I are are sitting in the car in front of a house near our "cottage" if you could possibly call it that. We are totally loving Bill and Cindy's home on Cape Cod Bay. The kids walk over the dune to the beach whenever they want. Joe and David spent a good part of the morning hunting for crabs. Hannah has been like the little mermaid, singing all over the beach. In fact last night we met one of our "neighbors" who has spent just about every waking hour down there, and has enjoyed Hannah's beautiful voice as she passes by. Anyway, we're sitting here because there's an open connection on WIFI, so it keeps us from travelling down Route 6 to the library. As my kids would say, "sweet!"
Here's a bit of cool news. Steve and I took a 4 mile walk this morning. For the second half of it, Smitty let ME carry the cane. Yup, he did a full 2 miles without it. Now he does fatigue easier that way, but he wants to begin trying to push it a little more to get his brain thinking "cane free". Who knows how often he'll be able to manage it. But it's great practice. He walked quite a bit on the beach too without the thing. Excellent! For all he can't do, there's plenty he can. Thanks be to God, who shows us His great mercy every day. On another important note, we did indeed go to Hole in One Donuts again today, which I intend to do every day I'm here. I'll eat bran flakes when I get home. Large coffee and a "whoopie pie donut" please. Tomorrow, I'm going for the cranberry scone.
Hope you like today's photos. I get all jammed up with the formatting when I put them on, but oh well. Tomorrow Joseph takes the bus home. Boo hoo. We loved having him here, and he got his lobster tonite at the Lobster Pound. That meal cost a fortune, but we've been planning it since December. It was indeed, Double Yum.
On the photo front: the house is the back of Cindy and Bill's, the side that faces the bay. The other pix I think you can figure out on your own.
Until tomorrow friends, from the Atlantic I remain,
Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 279 "Sea" Breezing in for a Minute

Dear friends,

I'm sitting outside the Eastham public library with the other folks looking for a signal. The posts this week are going to be short on text and longer on pictures (if I can get the darn things to stick!) because I need to spend as much time as possible with my family. I can tell you that Smitty did indeed put his feet in the sand at Coast Guard Beach, and you can see that for yourself in the attached photo of Frankenfoot (alongside normal foot).

Cindy and Bill's house is absolutely perfect. Outdoor shower (with hot water), back deck overlooking the bay (see photo of the upstairs view from the upstairs deck). We let Miss Rejoice have the bedroom with the porch. Huge family room with direct TV (we watched the food network last night which we only get to do at the Cape. We all fell asleep! Bright, happy kitchen, automatic icemaker (a must for Steve), lots of ocean air and a homey feel. Last night there were fireworks over the beach which we watched from the deck. Wonderful!

One thing I did not predict was the sadness I would feel as Stephen struggled to play paddle ball with David. Also, the waves knocked him down and he had to get out of the water. I am so grateful to God for his life, but I must confess the sorrow at the losses too. He always hauled the bulk of the stuff onto the beach. It's tough on him not to be able to do that. Still, we're all together, and we're at beach. That counts for alot.

Hope you like the pix. I'll check in tomorrow. Off to buy some fudge. I'm not sure my clothes will still fit when I get home.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,