Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Sermon on A Stump

He was just sitting there.

On a stump.

Looking away from the people who were working behind him. Looking toward the group of teenagers who filled the field in front of him.

And I won't ever forget him.

I was driving past a local High School and noticed that the marching band was outside rehearsing their formations and their flag waving protocols. A colorful group of kids, awash in high spirits and bright colors, filled with energy and focus.

Although they didn't realize it, they were being watched. The teenager across the road, a young migrant worker, was taking a brief respite from the back breaking work of harvesting crops under a scorching Carolina sun. He was turned toward the dreams he had no hopes of ever achieving, turned away from the sadness that comprised the narrow boundaries of his life.

I only had time for the briefest glimpse; however, I didn't need a week, a month, or a year to comprehend the look of naked yearning on his face as he watched kids his own age prepare to march into the next football game, the next year of High School, the first year of college, and from there, into a future that was brighter than the blazing sun.

It occurred to me that those marching students probably had no idea how truly blessed they were. Sure they had loads of homework, dating problems, tough teachers, summer job concerns, and worries about being accepted by their favorite college.

But all of those "problems" actually represented opportunities, opportunities that they didn't think twice about having.

The boy on the stump. The kids in the field. Teenagers at the same stage of life.

Some of them marching off into the great unknown of unlimited possibilities. One of them turning and trudging back into the not-so-great "known" of every day unfolding exactly like the day before.

That young man represented a sermon on a stump to me.

The sermon said, "Yes, life is complicated and challenging and full of decisions and choices and unexpected turns in the road. But all those decision and choices that make life complicated also represent freedom and opportunity. So stop your bellyaching about how hard life is, because you don't know the meaning of hard until you've sat on a stump and watched your dreams for a different future march away into the distance and all you're left with is the bleak, sad sameness of a thousand days passing. "

A sermon on a stump.

I will always see it, always hear it, always remember it.

And it will always remind me. I am blessed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Happy, Romantic, Lovely, Heartwarming Tale

I have a "happy announcement" to make today! But first, a little happy history behind the happy announcement.  
Take a look at this picture.

See if you can pick out Nate. (Not too hard, is it? He's the kid with the big smile next to the guy in the black shirt.)

Okay, now take a look at the young lady to the far left.

Got that? Good!

This picture is special because it was taken when Nate was ten. Meagan, the young lady on the left, was about twelve.  And it was the first time the two of them ever met.

Now let's fast forward a few years. Do these people look at all familiar?

Here's the story behind THAT picture.

Meagan and her family were in a time of transition after having been on the road as musicians/evangelists for six years, doing the exact thing OUR family did for fifteen years. During their wait to find a pastorate, Meagan's mom, Sheri, worked at First Assembly for six months as an interim choir director. (And did a fabulous job.)

Well, as it turned out, Sheri (who I've been friends with for a long time) asked me one day for a "little favor." She said, "Meagan has been home schooled for all of her teen years and has never been to a formal. Since JCA (the church's Christian Academy) is having their formal soon and Nathan isn't taking anyone, do you think he might be willing to take Meagan, just as friends, so she can have that experience?

Nathan and Meagan were not at all romantically inclined at that point; Meagan and her two sisters hung out with Nathan and Sarah just because the two families were friends.)

I broached the idea to Nathan and he was good with it, so he and Meagan attended the formal together. Which is really funny because he picked her up at their RV which is where her family lived full time. (Exactly the way WE lived all those years.) Just what are the chances that the very first girl Nathan takes anywhere important would live in a camper?

Here's Frank, reading Nathan the (pretend) riot act.

Nathan, Meagan and their "parental units."

So anyway, the formal went fine; they had fun and really enjoyed hanging out together. For about a year after that, they were "kind of" an item but didn't really date each other officially except for lone little "sort of date" going out to eat. (For one thing, Nathan didn't even have his driver's license during that time it made things a bit more complicated.)

Here they are, having fun in our back yard.

Painting our kitchen together. Nice to have "built in" workers!

Then Meagan's family moved to Florida and her dad took a a church near the college. Meagan went off to join her two older sisters at Southeastern University and she and Nathan decided that with the mileage distance and their busy individual schedules, it might be better to bring the semi-serious side of their relationship to an end. And so they did.

Four years passed.

The families stayed in touch and we visited each other back and forth. (Meagan's parents both have extended family near Smithfield so they pass by here fairly often.) Eventually Nathan headed off to Southeastern and started attending Meagan's parent's church while he was there. He remained good friends with Meagan and her sisters and they all enjoyed each others' company.

Now fast forward again.

Nathan has been home from college since December, since his trip to Israel counted as the second semester of his sophomore year. In May, he decided to drive down to Florida to hang out for a week, and see some of his college buddies before they all went home for the summer. As he was getting ready to head back to North Carolina, Meagan asked if she could ride along with him since she has a lot of friends in Smithfield who she wanted to visit.

During the ten-hour journey home, the two of them got to talking. And reminiscing. And talking some more. Throughout Meagan's stay in Smithfield, the two of them continued to have some "interesting" conversations. And then it was time for her to fly back home.

Some long distance conversations ensued. A couple weeks went by and Meagan's parents invited Nathan and another Smithfield friend to drive down to Florida to help with a week of Vacation Bible School since they were short on male volunteers.

Nathan and Meagan ministered side by side for a week and then late Friday night, Nathan had an important conversation with an important someone.

But it wasn't with Meagan.

It was with Meagan's DAD!

You see, Nathan and Meagan are a bit old fashioned and they decided that if they DID decide to date seriously, that Nathan would ask Frank for his permission.

Although Frank made Nathan sweat just a little bit, permission was happily granted.

And now Nathan is officially dating one of the most wonderful young ladies you could ever hope to meet. She's a wonderful Christian, a pastor's kid, has traveled a lot (in the U.S. and in other countries) is musical, intelligent, very funny, and is going to college to be a teacher. (She'll graduate this winter.)

Three days ago, he and Meagan finally (after knowing each other eight years) had their very first official date.


I'm just so proud of both Nathan and Meagan for the way they've waited on the right timing for their relationship, the way they've talked about it and prayed about it and treated it with the seriousness it deserves.

Somehow, in the midst of all this exciting drama, Nathan's one-week trip to Florida has morphed into a two-week trip. He'll return next Tuesday and I must say, I can't wait to see him. I'm so happy that HE'S so happy and he's so happy that Steve and I are happy and we're so happy that Meagan's parents are happy and Sarah is so happy because everyone is happy! And by the way, Meagan's really happy, too!

I told you it would be a happy, romantic, lovely, heartwarming tale.

And it was!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Groceries, Questions, and Toilet Paper

Steve and Sarah left for the grocery store at 3:35 pm yesterday afternoon.

I made doubly sure I had the telephone near me before sitting down with my computer. It didn't take long.

Call #1 from Steve:
Q. They're having a big sale on your favorite drink; shall I get some even though it wasn't on the list?
A. Yes!

Call #2 from Sarah:
Q. How many onions should we buy? And what color? White, yellow, or red?
A. Two. One yellow, one red.

Call #3 from Steve:
Q. You have grey poupon mustard on the list but do you really need that kind or can I get the brown spicy variety?
A. Since I NEVER eat mustard he got do whatever he wanted!

Call #4 from Sarah:
Q. They have four kinds of Rotel tomatoes--Mild, Mexican, Hot and Original. Which kind should we get?
A. Original

Call #5 from Steve:
Q. Do you want the foamy hand soap or the regular hand soap?
A. Regular.

Call #6 from Steve: (Talking really high to disguise his voice as Sarah's so that I wouldn't get annoyed with him for calling again. I was, of course, totally fooled.)
Q. What size tortilla shells do you want?
A. The smaller size.

Call #7 from Steve:
Q. What kind of toilet paper should we get?
A. Now THAT is a good question because, of course, the options are endless. There's Ultra, Ultra Strong, Ultra Soft, Charmin With Aloe, Charmin With Lotion, Large Roll, Big Roll, Giant Roll, Scented, Unscented, Basic, Charmin Plus, Diamond Weave, Septic Safe, and Plus.

I told him to take two aspirin and call me in the morning. (ha.)

At any rate, they finally made it home with victorious, albeit weary, looks on their faces and put all the groceries away for me. Aren't they simply wonderful?

The Widget Thingie!

Okay, my lil sis, Debbie, just signed in and said she didn't SEE a new widget thingie in the left column.

Am I seeing things? Is she NOT seeing things? Does anyone else see the widget in the left column?

Please let me know because either Debbie or I might be losing our marbles and we're both hoping it's the other person.

Actually, let me phrase it THIS way. If you DON'T see the new gadget on the left, sign in and let me know. That would probably be simpler.

And while I'm on the subject, drop on over to
My Charming Kids and look at HER widget thingie. That might give you a better idea of what the whole BlogFrog widget thingie is all about. My goal with this whole thing is to try and create a "discussion forum" here so that one of you can make a comment or ask a question, and then other people can pile on after you and comment on your comment or answer your question. It sounds like a fun, cool idea if we can all just get it figured out.

Whew! This is all requiring a lot of thinking, on TOP of the fact that I am also in the process of introducing Steve to the vagaries of Facebook this morning. My "technical mental quota" for the day is just about used up!

Look to Your Left

Hi all! I've added a new gadget in the left column and I'm not really sure what it does. However, I'm curious to find out, so I added a little comment over there to get things rolling. If some of you would also write a little something, too (I don't care what it is--maybe what you had for breakfast!) we'll see how the whole thing works.

If we all like it and think it's the coolest thing since sliced bread, I'll keep it there.

However, if we all think it's kind of a strange and non-useful gadget type thing, I will say, "Off with its head!" and remove it post haste. (Post haste means, "With the greatest possible speed." I've ALWAYS wanted to use that word and finally got to. Life is good.)

Anyway, later today, I will have an exclusive report on the Sarah and Steve Grocery Shopping Expedition.

Yes I know. Only the MOST exciting Smith stuff is posted here on the exciting Smithellaneous blog!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Three S's

I haven't "gotten around to" doing the grocery shopping three days in a row, and now Steve and Sarah have offered to do it for me! Is that nice, or what?

It would sure be fun to sneak into the grocery store and follow the two of them at a distance; I'm sure it would be a very amusing sight as they peruse the list and try to make the bazillion choices that we women have to make all the time.

Let's see here:

36 oz. or 52 oz? Store brand or name brand? 80/20 fat content on the ground beef or 70/30? Which of the 2,398 kinds of cereal do I choose? Should I choose sliced turkey or ham for lunches? Will the family shoot me if I buy frozen peas yet again? What brand of paper towels are on sale? How does this "price per ounce" compare with THAT "price per ounce?" Idaho potatoes or Yukon Gold? Blueberries, strawberries or cantaloupe for our "fruit of the week?" How many times have we had fish sticks in the past month? Is Steve out of popcorn? And most importantly, "Have they invented any calorie free chocolate yet?"

Ah yes. The joy of it all. And today, Steve and Sarah will have their little ol' eyes opened to that rich experience and will come home in great exhaustion and much more respect and appreciation for the family's Designated Grocery Shopper!

I am usually not so behind on my grocery shopping but I must say that the weekend in Charleston just wore me slap out. I took a two hour nap yesterday (which is highly unusual) and dragged around the house looking like, well, a woman dragging around the house. My voice is all ragged and hoarse again today and I feel like every ounce of my energy supply was sucked out by that wonderful but tiring sojourn on Sunday.

You know, we used to travel and sing like that all the time (for fifteen years) but it has occurred to me that doing that sort of thing in your twenties and thirties is just a teensy bit different from doing it in your late forties and early fifties. And with my throat, lung, and muscle weakness issues--well, I think I jolly well DESERVE a day or two to recover.

Which is why I truly appreciate Sarah and Steve braving the grocery store on my behalf and being such wonderful people in general.

And last night, Steve even did the evening reading with Sarah (Sarah and I usually take turns reading a chapter) so that I could rest my voice and my person. Although we usually read in Steve's and my room, I sent them off to Nathan's room for the session since I was going to bed early.

But before going to bed I, of course, had to snap a few pictures. What really strikes me funny about these photos is the way that Snowy is looking at me in every single shot. It's like he doesn't quite trust the wild woman with the mysterious silver colored, flashing object in front of her face.

Or maybe he thinks I'm going to grab him and carry him off. Either way, he did not ONCE take his eyes off me.

Don't you just love that cute little (suspicious) face? I also love the other two faces in the pictures, as well.

Steve, Sarah, and Snowy. What a blessing it is to live with The Three S's.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Few Comments on Recent Comments

Okay, as if my fingers aren't already bruised and bleeding from the world's longest blog entry(see below), I thought I would comment on a few of your comments.

And then Steve and I are going to the gym (yuck) and to a movie. (yeah)

And somehow I managed to NOT get groceries again today so I have no foggy idea what we might eat for dinner again tonight.

You might be thinking, "Well, maybe you should be getting groceries right now rather than writing!" And my answer is, "Naw."

Okay, on to the comments:

Sarah wrote and said she looked in HER fridge and saw only, "olives, ice cream and a hamburger bun." I think she has me beat in the bare fridge category. Although actually, I DO think that ice cream would do very nicely for breakfast, Sarah. I'd eat it in a skinny minute. (Or maybe not so skinny minute but you know what I mean.)

"Anonymous" asked if this picture (second from right) is of a younger Sarah. It sure is! It's kind of fun to see an old photo of Sarah that I've never seen before. I actually had to ask Sarah about it, to confirm it was her and she said, "Yes, I remember that ugly funny pack." Can't argue with ugly fanny packs!

And then
Sue G was giving Pam D. a hard time because Pam wrote, "Happy Father's Day to Steve.. having actually met him (and even shared olives with him!), I can attest to his fineness and wonderfulness. You are certainly fortunate.. but then again, so is HE.. so it's a never-ending circle of good fortune. And don't you ever forget it...."

Sue said, "Isn't it just like Pam D to let us know AGAIN that she has met Steve, you, and Sarah???? Such a name dropper. Or, rather, an event dropper."

And Pam responded, "Sue, if YOU met royalty, wouldn't YOU throw it out there every chance you get?"

I tell ya, Pam and Sue need their own TV show! And I bet when the day comes when they DO actually meet (and I have no doubt it WILL come) that there will be plenty of wild and wacky conversation floating around!

Actually, I was sort of glad Pam DID make the comment about Steve because it occasionally occurs to me that I say such nice things about Steve that some people might think, "Oh for crying out loud. No one is THAT wonderful."

Thanks Pam, for confirming that Steve really is a great guy! And Sue, Pam has MY permission to throw around the fact that she met us any ol' time she wants! :-)

And lastly, Guerrina asked if "unspiring" was a new word. (I accidentally mispelled "uninspiring" in my post.) I actually sorta like "unspiring," though. I think it's a cool word which kind of describes how I feel right now--sort of half way between inspiring and uninspiring.

Lastly, I would just like to thank EVERYONE who takes the time to post comments;you always make the time I spend here at the keyboard writing feel extra worthwhile and I appreciate you all.

Okay. Off to the (sigh) gym I (sigh) go. Sigh. Can you sense how unspired I am?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pulmonology and Leftovers

Hi all!

I'm still hard at work on the Charleston Story but I did want to let you know that my Pulmonology appointment went fine; there were no actual pulmonary function tests that had to be done this time around (they're only done every other visit) so it was mainly just a matter of reviewing symptoms and meds and a having a physical exam.

I continue to have a "fairly severe, non-reversible, fixed obstruction form of COPD." It's not really asthma because she said that with asthma, the breathing can be restored to normal with the use of albuterol. In my case, the meds make some difference in my breathing but not much; that is where the "non reversible" part comes from. Still no clear idea of what caused it (for a life, long non-smoker) or where the disease is headed but for the moment at least, I seem to be fairly stable at my 60% lung capacity.

Although I felt like it was, all in all, good news, it's still a sobering thing to even have to visit a Pulmonologist twice a year and be reminded that I have "sick lungs." I was already wiped out from the weekend when I drove to the appointment so I'm definitely not feeling overly perky at the moment.

I never did get up the energy required to go and get groceries and so our cupboards (along with Mother Hubbard's) are bare. I'm in the process of contemplating the leftovers in the freezer and wondering which one I can thaw, throw some grated cheddar cheese on and re-bake. (Cheddar cheese covers a multitude of leftovers!)

In other news, Steve talked to our realtor late last week to see where we were on the sale of the house. She said she has our house on FIFTY Internet sites and we have still have had only two showings in six months! She also said buyers are offering ridiculously low prices, sometimes $30,000 less than the asking price and then also demanding the seller pay the closing costs.

Can you say, "Buyer's market?"

The other reason that Steve called her was that our "For Sale" sign keeps disappearing from our yard. A couple times, he's found it in surrounding yards but Saturday it was gone completely and he couldn't find it anywhere. However, when we arrived home Sunday evening, it was right there, lying on our front lawn.

I guess some people don't have anything more exciting to do in life than remove For Sale signs. Hmmm. If they're THAT bored, I could have them come cook dinner for us tonight so I could take a(nother) nap!

Okay. I'd better sign off so that I can work a little more on the Charleston Story and also continue to ponder what delightsome icy lump of leftover I shall deem worthy of being crowned with cheddar and reconstituted, re-baked and re-presented as dinner.

I'm so glad Steve and Sarah aren't picky eaters!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gripping, Fascinating and Scintillating

Greetings and salivations! (Or is that "salutations?")

We just got back from Charleston which was a 525-mile round trip. I am happily exhausted and will head for bed (wonderful bed!) very shortly.

Tomorrow morning I have a pulmonology appointment in Raleigh so that will take part of the day but I'm hoping for a good chunk of time to write up our weekend. It was rather--er, interesting. (Good, but interesting.) Also, "challenging" and "stretching" are two other words that come pretty quickly to mind.

The good news from the weekend is that my voice was even stronger this time around than it was in the concert we did last month which Steve and I were very thankful for.

Although Nathan is still in Florida, he did remember to send a Father's Day card to Steve; the envelope said, "Mr. (Dad) Steve Smith." (smile) Nathan also called Steve today; I was very proud of him for remembering. Nathan obviously has inherited his dad's gift of thoughtfulness.

Okay people. Tune back in here tomorrow for a gripping, fascinating and scintillating tale about our gripping, fascinating and scintillating journey.

For now though, I'm goin' to bed!

Pastor Dad

Today I am attempting to publish a post when I'm not even home. Isn't that so exciting? I'm writing this on Saturday and hoping it will post automatically on Sunday morning. So if you're reading this on Sunday, my plot worked! If you're not reading this, well, never mind.

I've decided today to write about my son's sister's uncle's nephew's grandma's husband's son. (Did you get that?)

If you DIDN'T get that, I'll just tell you that I'm writing this post about Steve and about Father's Day.

And on Father's Day, what could be better than a few Father's Day quotes? (Well, that and "Soap on a Rope!")

It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping.
-- John Sinor

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.
-- Jewish Proverb

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
-- Mark Twain

And my favorite quote?

The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
-- Attributed to both Theodore M. Hesburgh and David O. McKay

I am very thankful that my children have a dad who opens the door for me, thanks me for dinner, isn't afraid to help with housework, compliments me, affirms me, and prays with me.

Will that make a difference in the way Nathan treats HIS wife? Yes!

Will that make a difference in the kind of man Sarah chooses to marry? Yes!

So today, I would like to honor a certain Steve Smith (whom the kids have lovingly dubbed, "Pastor Dad,") for being the kind of dad who affirms his children, laughs with them, prays with them, and teaches them--both by word and by example.

And I'm especially thankful that "Pastor Dad" is the kind of dad who loves his children's mother so well.

Happy Father's Day, honey!