Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 325 - Graduation, of a sort

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your other friend on the Pilgrim Road,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 324 Hemorrhage to Homecoming

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 323 M.C. Escher and the Bigger Picture

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 322 The Life Blood of the Emergency Room

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 321 Voyages, Sojourns and Pilgrim Roads

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 320 Going to War with the Enemy Within

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 319 An Update Like the "Old Days"

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Dessert nite is coming. Be there, fellow travellers.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 318 From Decay to Deliverance

Dear friend,

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 317 Delight in the Light

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 316 The Domain and Kingdom of Love

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 315 A Blessing in Confined Places

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 314 Book em', Danno!

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 313 The Torah of Kindness

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 312 Music and Bonfires, Not Death and Destruction

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 311 Twisting Like a Tornado as the Blog Winds Down

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 310 Bob the Mechanic

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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

Dear friends,

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

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

Two quick requests:

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

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

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

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 308 Money, a Very Spiritual Thing

Dear friends,

How much is enough? I'm wrestling with the lofty principles of simplicity, generosity and contentment, and using a mental machete to cut through the weeds of my own western biases to get to the answer to that question. I don't want a speck of greed, covetousness or discontent to put up needless barriers on my own pilgrim road, or on the paths of those I am travelling with. So this work of seeking the Great One for His perfect wisdom on the subject of money and its place in the life of a Christian is important.

Jesus makes some statements about money that frankly scare me to death. He tells the rich man to "sell all he has and give to the poor, then come follow Me". Wow. He says "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God". Ouch. The scriptures also say "the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil". Yikes. Thinking about these things, I've come to a few unfinished conclusions. (Is it possible to have an unfinished conclusion)?

1- Jesus was always careful not to create a law. He knew the precise need of each individual. He still does. I'm sure all of us need to learn to trust Him more, and to become more radical in our giving. But the problem with the rich man was his deep attachment to his money. Let's face it, Jesus let a woman pour perfume on His feet worth a year's salary, and put out the very best wine (miraculously) at the wedding of a young couple. He's certainly not against extravagance. But where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. And He wants our treasure to be in what has truly lasting value. Himself.

2- Jesus loves both rich and poor. A rich man provided His grave, and women of means made it possible for Him to do the hard work of ministering to people without a salary. So it wasn't the wealth that was the problem. Money is a necessary tool. But riches can easily become a snare. They can become the focus of life's pursuit. Both by rich and poor folk. They have no power to give life, so the Great One warns against their counterfeit satisfaction. The problem again is the attachment to money.

3- Money is the topic of a great deal of conversation in the Bible, because it is such a major contender for the hearts and souls of men. How we handle our money is a very real barometer of our faith. And it's got nothing to do with amounts. One man's ten dollars is worth another man's million. Only God can judge where we are with this. We can't look at the man driving the fancy car and assume he's greedy, nor can we look at the one in the beat up old Chevy and assume they are foolish with their finances. Money is a heart issue to the core. There are no formulas. The tithe was a guideline for giving in the Old Testament. Jesus says, lay it ALL down. What that means for each one of us is as individual as our DNA. Still, there's nothing like giving till it hurts a bit to beat up on some of that stubborn selfishness inherent in our natures.

4 -If you are hoarding your cash to protect you in your old age, forget it. (I'm not saying don't be wise and save - again, how much is enough?). What I am saying is putting your trust in that nest egg is a big mistake. Cancer could get you tomorrow. Or a heart attack. Or you could be hit by a drunk driver and killed. Then it won't matter whether you had money or not. In the long run, we took nothing into this world, and we can be sure we will take nothing out of it.

I, as usual, am preaching to myself and letting you overhear. I live in a lovely home, in a nice neighborhood. Both our cars run, we have 3 tv's in our house, and we go to Cape Cod every summer. All three of my kids have attended private Christian school. I've got shelves full of books in my house, a computer, and more than one pair of shoes. I've never been hungry one day in my life, and I can afford to get an occasional coffee at that fancy coffee place. By the standards of the rest of the world, I am wildly rich. And because of that, I must search and continue to uproot any place in my life not wholly devoted to God. Because I don't trust my heart for one minute. I know where my head can go, and it isn't good.

The crash impacted my relationship with money in a number of ways. I experienced great generosity, and the threat of overwhelming debt. By God's grace, our lifestyle has remained the same. Thanks to all of you, and the mercy of God, we have been fine. But I want to continue to find ways to keep my life free from the love of money. I never, ever want to get stuck on my way through and to the Kingdom of God in the eye of the needle. That would be a far greater disaster than any I have ever known.

Learning and growing, friends, learning and growing.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 307 Untying Our Knots

Dear friend,

I was tackled by anxiety today. I'm sure many of you are acquainted with that ugly, deceitful specter. Often it moves in slyly, while you're not paying attention. For me, when I lose focus on the bigness of God, and get too wound up in the problems of the every day, the creeping crud gets it's claws in and bam! It's hard to shake. Sometimes anxiety can be debilitating. I'll get too many things on my plate, or perceive it that way, and the tentacles begin to tighten. That's when I have to get right back to simplicity. What really matters? What is really essential? And most important of all, what does Jesus have to say about the problem? Because He was a walking example of peace in the middle of a storm. He's got what it takes to take down that soul crusher. As always, the solution is to get real with God, tell Him all about it, and listen for that little voice saying what to do about it. Lots of times I already know what to do. It's getting the gumption up to change where I lack strength. So even in that, He's the solution. I may sound simple, really I am simple, except when I'm being complicated, which is how I get into these messes in the first place…

If I could overcome anxiety by walking with the Great One in November, I can certainly overcome it now. Always it's a matter of changing our way of thinking. (Sometimes people with extreme anxiety need the help of medication too, but that's another topic). Here's what the Book of Life says about being anxious:

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Pray. Ask. Thank. That's what I call keeping it simple.

On another note:
I talked to a resident in the Albany Med ER tonite who was in the hospital on November 8. She was filled with joy to know Steve and Hannah are ok. She's going to put up the invite to the Dessert Nite in the break room. Dr. Dailey, the ER doc on call that night, got an invitation right in his mailbox. These folks see this as their job, but what a job! I've never come home from work and said "Gee honey, I just saved someone's life today…" God bless them for it.

Keep it simple. Please pray for me to climb up over this hump. I'll do the same for you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 306 The Amazin'

Dear friends,

Technology may drive me crazy, but it really does amaze. Stephen's not even home from the Mets game, and this photo came by email from Bob L.'s phone. Good lord, my grandmother would have dropped her polish stew on her lap seeing all this stuff. I mean, she lived before there was TV! The electronic world has its ups and downs, but one thing is for certain: it will never replace what you see in this photo. Relationship. The Great One placed that need in the human heart, and no cyber cookie skypey jpeg anything can trump it. So use technology, but have friends. That's my helpful tip for the day. Oh, and another stunner: the Mets actually won! Happy day for Hercules. And for me, not having to hear the sad drama replayed step by gawd awful step...

Officer Ernie, my favorite cop, has the invites in hand. He's the man who knows the peeps. He'll get our dessert nite word out to the host of folks that were responsible for saving Stephen and Hannah at the scene on Rte 151 and Miller Rd. We're even working on tracking down the helicopter medics. I'm praying we'll reach everyone who helped. It's a tall order, but nothing is too hard for God.

I'm noticing the trees turning a little golden, the days getting quite a bit shorter, and the quality of light changing with that autumnal equinox kind of feel to it. I better make this short, because I had a crowd for dinner tonite (it was sheer delight!) and we are clean out of milk. A Stewart's run is on tap before the man returns from Citi Field and I no doubt fall asleep on the couch. This blog tonite is the patchwork of a jumbled up mind. But you've known that for 10 months now. And you've put up with me all the way. Awesome friends. And we meet through technology. How it does amaze...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Check out the side bar for info on the dessert nite. And please help me by finding folks you know helped but don't read this blog. Thanks a million!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 305 Ride on the Peace Train

Dear friends,

In my 20's (lo those many moons ago), I was a big folk music fan. Among my favorites was Cat Stevens. I heard him on the radio today singing the classic "Peace Train", and my soul was filled with longing for the return of the Savior and the day I'll zip off this old, sinful suit and put on immortality. Only, only by the grace of God. But I thought of the scripture about those who "long for his appearing", and though I love life and the relationships that make it worth living, the deepest part of me stretches on the pilgrim road, looking over the next ridge, hoping to see the real Peace Train:

"Cause out on the edge of darkness
There rides a peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again..."

I'm sure Cat Stevens had a much different idea of the Peace Train than me. He saw it as something that would happen in this present world, when all folks lived together in harmony. It's a beautiful thought, but if I can honestly express my beliefs to you here, I just don't think so. Sin is too deep, the darkness too great for mortal man to fix. It takes more than human effort could ever provide - it takes the power and death defying salvation of a living God. The peace train is coming alright, but none of us can bring it on. Don't get me wrong; we need to do everything we can to make this present darkness a place of light and hope and love. We're commanded to do so. But if our hope is in humanity alone, we are the sorriest of creatures. It will be the Great One who will drive the peace train. For now, our job is:

"Get your bags together
Come bring your good friends too
Cause it's getting nearer
It soon will be with you..."

Living through the colossal heartache of a terrible, senseless car accident solidifies my trust in Christ alone. All other ground really is sinking sand. But seeing the love and tenderness of friends like you is proof that He truly does not leave us, and that He provides light in the darkness. Evil will indeed be overcome by good. He drives the peace train, but He's got lots of hands and feet on board. I love you all for that.

Everyone climb aboard. Everyone.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 304 The Mother's Dilemma

Dear friends,

One of my coworkers is having her first baby. I think: does she have any idea what this will be? Does she know that her heart will now reside outside of her body, exposed and vulnerable in a way it never has been before? Is there any inkling while the contractions do their job of bringing forth life while exhausting the momma, that this is a metaphor in a way for the whole process of raising kids? Lots of work, little rest, anxiety, anticipation, struggle, danger, pain and reward.

I can picture her joy when she hears her little girl laugh for the first time. I well remember that unsettled feeling the first time the child is left with someone besides mommy or daddy, even if it's only for an hour. How about when they get that first bite of chocolate, or play on the beach and try to eat the sand? So many moments - the green velvet Christmas dress, building a snowman, roasting marshmallows, jumping in a pile of autumn leaves, 1st grade jitters, 5th grade adjustments, middle school nightmares, high school madness.

There are a couple of universal things every true mother wants for her children. One is their happiness, the other their safety. Even before they emerge from the dark world of the womb, mothers have a fierce instinct to protect their offspring. I'm a pretty mild person when it comes to confrontation, but don't mess with my babies. There's a hair trigger that lives in a mother's heart on the lookout for danger for her kids. More quickly scalp me or run me over than hurt my kid.

So I think of my friends the Carey's, whose son was killed. And my friends Jackie and Steve, whose daughter is confined to a wheelchair with CP. (As an aside, these are the two families who did the lions share of taking care of my boys while I was otherwise occupied back in November and December). There are mothers (and fathers too) who are the walking wounded, living with the daily pain of being unable to protect their beloved. I am honored to walk the pilgrim road with them as they continue to struggle through and trust God in the midst of stuff that has taken many a family down for the count.

When Hannah was injured in the crash of November 8, there was that helpless feeling of knowing I couldn't protect her from danger. There was, for a time, a struggle with guilt, thinking "if only they had the van" or "if only we had a newer car with more safety features" or "if only I hadn't been working that night maybe everyone would have been home", etc…, etc… The bottom line was I was crushed that it was Hannah Mary Rejoice Smith, heart of my heart, with glass in her face, her eye cut open, her darling teeth slammed from her beautiful mouth, her arms and legs cut and bleeding, and her precious, one of a kind brain invisibly bruised inside her perfect head. It was the primal problem of every mother on earth, the thing we dread. For reasons far beyond my "pay grade" to understand, she lived and is recovering in a most astounding way. Listening to her chatter at the table the other night I had a profound experience of relief. She's alive. She is ok. Even if there is more healing to go. And for this I can only offer my everlasting praise and love to the Great One, who spared me sorrow upon sorrow, and heard my, and all of your cries for mercy. Still, what of those who die, or are disabled or broken for life? I deserve no greater favor, nor does God "play favorites". I still don't know why we went through this, never mind figuring out why other folks carry a much heavier load. In the end, I only know God is a relentless lover of our souls. He had to allow free will so there could be love, but He knew the wreckage it would cause. In His mind blowing understanding, He decided it was worth it. And He also determined to stick like glue to us when we suffered and stumbled. The greater the need, the greater His grace.

Jenna will know shortly the unyielding love of a mother. She will also know the pain. But there's not a chance she would turn back. Love is stronger than fear. It's stronger than suffering. Indeed, it's stronger than the grave. Love makes life worth living. Period. So march on, you brave momma's. And love your babies like there is no tomorrow. Because you simply never know.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 Months Since Crash

Dear friends,

Holy Cow, ten months out from that fateful November day. Two more months of daily blogs to go. I remember when I sensed God leading me to write every day for a year, that I wondered how the heck I would have anything worth saying for that long a time. Commitment is an astounding thing. It enables one to do things they never thought possible. One day at a time. I'm certainly not saying that any of these posts have been profound, but all of them have one thing in common: the truth. Hopefully my NYU professor Mark Dickerman would be proud. He always told our class "simply tell the truth the best way you know how." I still stand wide eyed at the way you have stood with me and my dear family through this whole stinkin' mess. It's hard to express the magnitude of gratitude I have to all of you, and of course to the Great One, for turning darkness into light and taking what the enemy of our souls meant for evil and stubbornly turning it to good.

Tonite is our cell group meeting, so I've only got a few minutes before some of the world's finest arrive. Maybe just some random thoughts as they come out of my head tonite?

* Cosette has been hard at work. She left her M.O. in plain view with the decapitated baby bunny next to my front steps.
* Hannah wanted to show me a poem as soon as she got home from school today. She's a little writing machine. Her friend Rebecca is coming as her visitor to Gen Church tonite.
* David did a spectacular job rewriting an Aesop's Fable for Language Arts. At first the attitude was a bit lousy, but as he got going he turned into happy David. Priceless.
* My high schooler's started school Tuesday, and have tomorrow off. Some gig, huh?
* Smitty hasn't used the cane in 10 days.
* Kevin K. came to look at some things that need fixin' at my house. At 6'5" (minimum), he stood on the edge of my stairs and replaced the light bulb. No ladder. No nothing. It felt like when the Abominable Snowman puts the star on Santa's tree in Rudolph. "Lookee what he can do!" (God Bless Kevin and his family, waiting for their Visa's to Israel to go there as a part of Bridges for Peace, an organization committed to meeting the needs of many Jewish folks emigrating to Israel from all over the place. They are showing the love of Christ by way of service to the "apple of His eye" with no strings attached).
* Happy Birthday to my dear friend Lisa C. - and to Kevin K. too!)
* David told me today he wants a room entirely covered in beach sand.
* I may have to put Joseph Smith in a large trunk with a lock for another few years. (Love you son, but I may have to take drastic measures...)

So, nothing earth shattering to say, no profound, spiritual insights, just ordinary me with thanks in my heart for all of you. As usual, we'll plug in again tomorrow, and the countdown continues.
As Cole Porter sings so perfectly: 'You're the top, you're Inferno's Dante, you're the nose, on the great Durante..."

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 302 Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Dear friends,

"He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."-Proverbs 19:8

I get a kick out of learning.

The kids are back to school, and I'm teaching David at home, learning right alongside him. I've always been a bit of a nerd, sort of dreamy when it comes to books - fiction and non fiction. I also totally dig maps! I could goof around with a map for a few hours and not get tired of it. Smitty used to tease me when I would watch the Weather Channel for long periods of time so I could see "the big map", showing the swirling fronts and unpredictable air masses. (My dear brother in law David makes maps for the U.S. Government! I think I missed my calling...) The only subject I'm not keen on is math. That might be an understatement. Thankfully, my husband is excellent at that foul discipline. Anyway, reading about the Bering Strait today, and Cameron Townsend, and taking apart paragraphs to find key words, and preparing a science notebook - I love that stuff. It's fun for me. The pursuit of knowledge is rewarding in a million ways. I hope I can keep some semblance of eyesight until I die, because if I couldn't read it would be sorrow upon sorrow. The cool thing is, there is a never ending reservoir of interesting topics on this earth. Our history, our natural world, people, stories, etc..., all make for a party for the brain. But there is a vast chasm between knowledge and wisdom.

I enjoy listening to smart people talk about subjects they enjoy. But there are a whole lot of smart people in the world without enough wisdom to fill a dixie cup. I will add that all of us could use a whole lot more of it than we have, because wisdom has to do with a depth and application of understanding, where knowledge can be superficial, or easily bumped by the next new theory. Knowledge is good, unless it produces arrogance. But wisdom is better, much better, and by its very nature doesn't produce arrogance. Because a prideful man has already proven himself unwise.

I have to say any knowledge I have gained, (and believe me when I tell you I'm not winning any Pulitzer prizes anytime soon) has been through a process generally enjoyable, though not always, and frequently a blast. What wisdom I have, which I long for more than anything in my cheesecloth head, has come through dismal failure, unwelcome loneliness, and at times, agonizing pain. Wisdom is hard won, and typically something you got when you weren't looking.

Sometimes when I watch my children make small, unwise decisions, I cringe, wishing like mad to protect them from the outcome I can see, even to something as simple as a wasteful purchase. But I am struggling to keep my hands off so they can gain a little wisdom. Ouch, it hurts.

I have seen an increased wisdom in my husband since the accident. He would never say it's so, but it is. His suffering has bought him something he wasn't looking for, and the Great One has provided understanding for a man who has been through something that makes no sense. Miss Rejoice, being a teenager, has not processed all that has happened yet. There are many reasons for that. But I am counting on God to give her "double for her trouble", and when she gets through this very steep place as a 15 year old girl on the pilgrim road, I believe she will have gained a profound wisdom that many never find. Above all the greatest wisdom is to know and love the Lord God. And in that, she is already on sound footing.

The Dessert Nite guest list continues to grow! Don't forget to sign up by Sept. 30th at For those of you who subscribe and don't see the side line on the blog, the date is Saturday, Oct 23. from 7-9. We can accommodate kids 12 and over. I hope you can all make it, I really do!

We're all learning and growing. And the more I learn, the more I know I don't know...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 301 The Parade of Life's Seasons

Dear friends,

It is the unofficial end of summer. Sigh. Tomorrow my older 2 children get on the school bus to Columbia High, and my baby cracks the books at his dining room table. It has been a first rate summer, albeit too short, and though it doesn't really end til much later in the month, the beginning of school really is the termination of vacation. Still, I love the fall. Autumn has charms unmatched by any other season. Apple picking, crisp, windy days, fires in the fireplace, an extravaganza of nature's color, soft, warm sweatshirts, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and my favorite of all the holidays, Thanksgiving. No doubt we'll squeeze out a few more days of that luscious, balmy weather, but there's no stopping the parade. November will be here before we know it.

Worked at AMC today (time and a half!), then to Hannah W.'s house to get the invitations done for the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Nite. Now the invitations are for folks who don't have access to this blog, or don't follow it. So if you know someone who prayed for us, or helped us along the way in any detail, please help me out by signing them up electronically using Hannah graciously used her photo shop program and did what I couldn't have done in a hundred years to make a lovely invite. I'm going to get them printed this week, and begin distributing them hopefully by next week.

Hannah W. also helped me begin setting up my own website. I plan to launch the site on November 9. At that point this blog will be history. I will maintain a link to it on my site, but will no longer write here. The chapter of a commitment to writing daily during a year of recovery will be closed. There will no doubt be other ventures as the Great One sees fit, but not here. I have loved, in fact treasured these nightly meetings with you, dearest bloggies. The memories here will always be among the sweetest of my life. But everything has a season. Happily, I will continue blogging but without a daily mandate to do so. And my new blog will be about life in general, not specifically related to the events of November 8. There is no way the crash will ever be completely gone from my writing, because it lives inside me in a thousand ways. But the focus will change. As I get the website completed, I will let you know. I also plan to begin writing a book using this blog as a loose outline. The progress on that will be on the site too.

Last night at the hospital I had to deliver something to an office upstairs when I noticed how near I was to a place I used to go, sometimes in the middle of the night, to take a shower back in November. I saw the door and felt compelled to go in. A wave of emotions swept over me like a mighty wind. I remembered vividly standing in that shower, crying, groaning, almost screaming in agony over the condition of my husband and daughter. The old pain was thick in the air, but alongside it was the immense wonder of the greatness of God. He pulled me through that black hour, and for that I am ever grateful. There were moments, before I knew the outcome, when it seemed I would not survive the next minute. But I was never, ever alone. Great is His faithfulness.

My heart is filled with love for you, friends, this evening. Be blessed as the quality of light changes from summer to fall, and life once again brings transition and variety. Nothing on this earth lasts forever...except us!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 300 Three Hundred Days Walking the Wire

Dear friends,

I’m a sucker for great picture books. I just read a new one to use in teaching the concept of line in art to David, and it struck me how the story relates to my own at the climax of the narrative. The book is called “Mirette on the High Wire" by Emily Arnold McCully, and it’s about a young girl in France who helps her widowed mother run a boarding house. Lots of actors, mimes and entertainers of all varieties lodge at their place, and one day a stranger comes to stay. (Good lord, I feel like I’m back in my Reading Rainbow days, writing a book review!) Anyway, the stranger is a high wire walker, and when Mirette spies him high wiring at the back of the inn, she gets the bug and begins to practice. At the end of the story, we find out that the high wire guy(Bellini) has become afraid, and because of this no longer takes the risk anymore…until a set of circumstances send him back on the wire. He freezes up there…but then Mirette climbs onto the rope toward him, and both of them together "think only of the wire, and of crossing to the end.” She gets him to the other side to the wild cheers of the onlookers, and to my eyes full of tears. (Great artwork too!)

This is kind of a picture of my life. I want to take life by the horns and live boldly. But I get afraid, or more often in my case, lose my focus. More than anything I want to follow hard after the Great One, and love people without strings attached. I want to live simply, defying the relentless call of a world gone mad with materialism, celebrity worship and technology overload. But I waver. I freeze. And then I see the One and Only walking toward me in this crazy balancing act in the form of His people, and I get the gumption to try again. Take another step. Keep walking to the end of the line…

Mirette fell off the high wire many, many times while she was practicing to become adept. The book of James says “we all stumble in many ways”. It’s not the falling that’s a problem, it’s letting the hindrances and failures get the best of us and keep us off the wire. We all need our friends to help us get up when, for whatever reason, we lose our balance, or our courage, or our focus. I couldn’t ever properly thank all the folks in my life, since I was a little girl, who have walked across the wire to meet me half way and get me to my destination. As for the last 10 months, well, I could write a book…(I think I’ll do just that!)

I don’t know what keeps you from getting up high to your place of perspective and daring, but I’m cheering you on with my prayers. If you have fallen down, get up! And if you’re getting a little bit good at it, go find someone who needs your encouragement. It’ll make your day!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 299 (A Bowling Score I'll Never Get) (If I ever tried Golf, though . . .)

Hi there! Stephen here. I haven't filled in in ages, but it appears that your luck has finally run out. It's not like I have anything really important or unique to say, either - I could just tell that Loriann could use a break tonight before we sat down to watch something together, so here I am.

I don't have anything breathtaking to say because today was a pretty normal day. And here's the thing - do you know how good it feels to write that sentence? There were days in December and January when we felt we would never have a "normal" day again. And I'll admit that normal today doesn't mean the exact same thing as it would have last October. As Loriann and I theorized months ago, there's a "new normal" (my doctors and therapists also said that this would happen).

Today, though, Loriann and I had a rare morning where we could sleep in without setting the alarm, and didn't get up until nine o'clock or so. After breakfast we talked about different things that we want to get done in the house, both short term and long term, and then we went to Staples with Hannah and got some things to help us get more organized (we can always get more organized!) and to Target for some odds-and-ends. After that I made a trip to one of my favorite places (Delmar Full Gospel) to get my new Sunday School classroom ready for tomorrow, when I start teaching for the month. On the way home I got the car washed, stopped and picked up the snack for tomorrow's class, and came home and had some lunch. My wife and I had some fun working together to take down an old storm window to let some more of the breeze into our dining room. Later in the day I picked up David at his friend's house, finished planning my lesson for tomorrow (which I had started earlier) and had a delicious dinner that my wife made me. And now I'm writing to you.

Mundane things, but wonderful to experience! Last night we went to have dinner at the house of dear friends of ours and got to enjoy spending time with their just-over-a-year-old baby. All of these are things that, eight months ago, we weren't sure we'd ever be able to enjoy so freely again. Sometimes when you're in the middle of a crisis it's almost impossible to see past it, to see the life that you'll be living later on.

I'm writing this on Saturday evening. I haven't used the cane at all since sometime on Sunday evening last week, and I'm going to try to get through tomorrow without using it so that I can have done a whole week. Even a month ago I was thinking that there was a very good chance I'd be using it for the rest of my life - barring a miracle, my left leg will always be about 5/8th of an inch shorter than my right leg. I'm not saying I'll never use it again, either. I've left it in my car this week because I thought I might need it if I went for a walk at lunchtime. (Between the hot weather and my shortened days due to my occupation therapy and a doctor's appointment, I didn't take lunch this week, though.) It was only last month at Cape Cod that I went without it for a few hours at a time, and then one whole day. God's healing continues for us. Not just for myself, either - Hannah and I both went to see one of our doctors this past Tuesday and she's doing so well that he said that she was discharged from his care. (He made sure to let us know that he's happy to see her at any point in the future is she wants to see him.) I took my princess out for a frappuchino at Starbucks later to celebrate her "graduation".

Sorry that this post is so disjointed. I'm feeling happy, though. One of our neighbors had a beautiful day for their daughter's second birthday party. The sun was shining today but the humidity was finally down, my daughter is doing better, and I've been walking all week long without my cane. When I saw that doctor on Tuesday I told him about the Smith Family Thanks You Dessert Night, and also got to tell a therapist who's just started helping with my program at Sunnyview. Loriann and I are really hoping to see many people there who've helped us along this road. Some did it with their medical training, some did it as first responders, some did it by providing meals. Some people blessed us by sharing their money with us, many blessed us by sharing time and many many blessed us by praying for us. We know that many people are still praying for us, and we appreciate every prayer that's gone up for us. Again, if you can join us on October 23rd (a Saturday night) so that we have a chance to thank you in person, you'd be blessing us again. Please let us know if you're able to come by clicking on the link on the right and sending an e-mail. If you don't see the link, you can e-mail your RSVP to

Loriann should be back tomorrow night. Thanks for sticking with us as we approach the end of this part of the journey!