Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Untitled Hymn and The Weepin' Mama

I told you that Nathan sang The Untitled Hymn (by Chris Rice) at my Dad's funeral two weeks ago and how special that was to me.

Here's a story from the archives about the first time I ever heard him sing that song. It helps explain why the song means so much and it also helps to explain why my oldest child is so stinkin' special to me. I just love that fella!


I remember about three years when Sarah was in the middle of an especially challenging chapter of cancer treatment and I heard The Untitled Hymn on the radio. The song talks about all the different chapters in a person’s life and then comes to a poignant, powerful section about the end of a person’s life ending with the words, “Fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus and live.”

Well, when I first heard that song, I almost had to pull the car over because of the tide of tears that swept over me as I thought about our precious little daughter battling for her life.

I hadn’t heard the song in a long time and then just last week, Nathan told me he had been practicing it because he wanted to sing it in church. Yesterday after lunch, he asked me to come to his room to listen to him practice and suggest any changes.

As I settled myself contentedly in his recliner, he planted his lanky, gangly self in front of me and started to sing. He has such a sweet baritone voice and the words to that song are so incredibly beautiful. In wasn't long before the memories of the first time I'd heard that song, and the thoughts of what was happening with Sarah at that time, came sweeping back over me.

I listened to his tender voice and I thought about loss and grief and comfort and death and hope and the journey of life. I thought about him flying off to Ecuador soon and flying off to college soon after that I thought about the possibility that Sarah might fly off to heaven sooner than we all hope.

By the time he finally got to those words, "Fly to Jesus," I was an absolutely, completely, totally teary mess. Nathan looked just a tad alarmed to see that his singing had made me cry but after casting a sympathetic look in my direction, he sang on to the end.

As I listened to his warm, resonant voice filling the sun-splashed room, I felt such peace. For a few moments, it seemed like the roles had been reversed and my child had become the lullaby singer, the comfort giver, the voice of healing to my soul.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, in a bedroom filled with all the precious pieces of his life, I listened to my son sing his heart and I heard the peace of heaven in his voice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Little Ol' Idea

Thanks to each one of you who commented after my "weepin' and wailin' 'bout weight" post yesterday. Your compassion, understanding, and wisdom were so therapeutic. (Not QUITE as therapeutic as Little Debbie's, of course, but very, very close.)

And in order to even more fully appreciate what you all said, I've taken an excerpt from each comment and am posting it below. The unifying theme in almost every entry is that we all struggle with many of the same issues, which I thought should be an encouragement to us all.

After the "comments" be sure to read down to the end where I have a little ol' idea for us to consider.

Without further ado . . . here are YOUR wonderful comments! (Also, if a commentor has a blog, I included the site address. However, for some strange reason, all the "clickable names" associated with links didn't change color like they were supposed to so you can just click on any name you're interested in to see if it links you to a blog.)

Becky, I am SO where you are...And like you, I know exactly how I put the weight back on that I had lost. I feel better just knowing someone else is in the same boat and I think it's time for me to get back out walking and eat better. I think we can both do it. We both did it once before!

I know exactly how comforting those carbs and chocolate can be. --Leesa

I have yet to get back to our gym since doing my first triathlon this summer. Here's to getting back into training for all of us. --Sheri

I think most of us would be gaining a pants size or two ourselves if placed in the same situations. --Karen

I feel your pain. Several years ago I lost 50 lbs. I maintained that loss until I got pregnant. I gained 50 lbs. during my pregnancy. Don't be too hard on yourself, you're going through some major life changes. Me? No real excuse! --Melissa

Start by forgiving yourself. Then move on. Immediately. --Vickie

You go girl! You lost all of the weight last year and you are a carb junkie to boot! I am envious. That is my downfall too. I just love those carbs. I need to take off and keep off about 10 lbs and it is ever so difficult. --Catherine

I have about 70 lbs to loose to get to a comfortable weight but can't seem to not eat the bad food. --Angela

Exercise will help reduce your stress and help balance your emotions. It will be easier to get back in shape this time, it really will. You have only been out of the gym a month, you have not lost all the strength you have gained. --Min ("Min" is a trainer/nutritionist and left a lot of very helpful advice.)

Just try to guess how many women read your post, sighed, and said "ME TOO." Everyone likes to shout successes, yet we cower and hide from our slip outs. The thing is that we can't have one without the other! --Tess

So, you see, you wouldn't have these problems if you weren't so dang thin to begin with! (I'm not saying I'm really, really fat...but it looks as if I swallowed Little Debbie herself!)

I just want to say that I agree with everyone here. Please don't be so hard on yourself. --Nancy (I couldn't get your website address to cooperate with a clickable link. However, you can access her page in my right side bar. )

A great side benefit of the exercise is all of those endorphins, which will even help lift some of the sadness. So, ya got ta move it, move it... and those clothes will fit well again in no time!

Becky, I do understand the 'call of the carbs' after such tumultuous days. It helps a lot to plug the holes that get poked into my high spirits! Kudos's to you for getting to the gym! Yippee! Myself, I am soo wimpy (and a little scared) to try it, so you are well ahead of me.

Oh gosh, I think we've all been there. (The "found pounds" and lost fitness, not everything else you're having to deal with).

I do empathise with the "dryer shrunk all my clothes" theory. I have thought that myself recently - but I am back with that exercise video - not as diligently as before - but it is a start - so, Becky, we are all in that waiting room with you again - only, thankfully, this waiting room is outside a gym!!! --Mary

And finally, an intriguing idea from Anna . . .

Maybe there are people who would like to organize a work out buddy system on the Internet. We could all post our goals for the week and then report how well we did. (We would all have to be honest) :)

I don't have anyone to work out with so this might make me more accountable. We could also have a buddy to whom we can send encouraging messages. I don't think we should focus on the weight loss, but instead the achievement of working out. If we work out, the weight will come off.

What do you think of that idea?

Here are a few thoughts I had:

The area in the right column called "My Community" gets a little bit of use, but not much. There is a very active discussion group over at MckMama's site that draws thousands of participants and so it's a great place to go to involved with a lot of input and discussion.

However, rather than reinventing the wheel and trying to build an active discussion group here, we could use the area instead for a support group forum for people who are not just trying to lose weight but also make make healthy living choices in general.

If you'd like, we could give it a try for a predetermined length of time, let's say until October 1. If there is enough interest to keep it going, we will. If not, well, it will have been fun to try!

So I need to hear from you whether or not you're interested and if so, what sorts of categories I should set up. Here are some ideas. Can you think of others or can you think of something you'd like to change on these?

  • Healthy recipes

  • Good books/resources that are especially helpful

  • Things you're struggling with right now in the fitness/health area

  • Things you're proud of about yourself in that area. (I'll brag on myself here: yesterday we went to a movie and I cut up an apple and put it in my purse. I ate that instead of my usual Peanut M&M's and it even tasted good to me. Hurray!)

  • How much weight and/or inches you've lost in the last week/month

  • Workout/fitness goals

  • General inspiration/information

Please chime in and let me know if this is something you'd like to try. I tend to get the feeling that many of us are in the same boat and could use an encouraging sisterhood to keep us accountable and rejoice with us when we succeed. (And give us a virtual hug when we don't.)

Thanks for stopping by and, again, thank you for all your encouraging comments yesterday.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Torpid Turtle-esque Self


Not so much fun.

Especially when it has to do with me. And my weight. And my discipline. Or the lack thereof.

Last year I lost thirty pounds, which was a wonderful and rewarding thing to do.

And for about fifteen minutes during that period of time, I actually dropped down to a size ten, from a size fourteen! Which was also wonderful and rewarding.

Unfortunately, my "ten-ness" was severely compromised by the arrival of Christmas. It's hard to maintain any consistent smallness when Christmas concoctions and fabulous fudge start showing up regularly in the vicinity of one's person.

So I went pretty quickly back up to a size twelve which I was really okay with. I'd rather be a size twelve and be happy than struggle and starve and be miserable trying to be a size ten.

And I've done really well maintaining that weight for almost a whole year, an accomplishment which I am quite proud of.

However, a few weeks ago I started getting just a wee bit lackadaisical about going to the gym because, as I whined to myself, going to the gym just wasn't fun. (Pitiful, I know.)

And then we traveled out of town to Nag's Head and Manteo and and I ate a lot of yummy beach food while we were there.

From the beach, I left almost immediately for Wisconsin to be at my Dad's side as he passed away and to attend his funeral. And I ate a lot of yummy "family gathering" food while I was there.

And then we flew home and we were in three airports and I ate a lot of yummy airport food while I was there.

And then? Well, then I got home and a fabulous, famous food group called Comfort Carbs and Calories started calling my name. And so I've been heating a lot of yummy comfort foods while I've been here.

And you've probably already guessed the rest of the story.

The rest of the story is that a few pounds have come back for a visit. In fact, earlier this week I was getting dressed and I thought, "Wow! These pants have really shrunk in the dryer."

Except of course, the pants hadn't shrunk. The problem was that I had shrunk earlier in the year and then unfortunately neglected to do any unshrinking.

And so yesterday I somberly headed out to Goodwill to purchase a couple pair of slightly roomier carpi's to get me through this temporary unshrunken state.

Not so fun.

Something else that wasn't so fun was going to the gym on Tuesday for the first time in a month.

I sat down on that little torture machine which is supposed to work the inner and outer thighs. (Not that my inner and outer thighs need any work, mind you.) I did one little 'ol rep and stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at the weights to make sure they were set at the lowest weight possible.

They were.

Then I looked to see if anyone had hung an additional weight on the machine, which people do sometimes do when they need a "half way" setting between two weight choices.

They hadn't.

I sat there and pondered some unhappy ponderments.

A month ago, I could do fifteen reps at that low weight and now I could barely do five?

Not a good thing.

I also made a heroic attempt to do my pre-treadmill stretches which was really pretty funny, in a nonfunny sort of way. The stretches I used to do fairly easily in the past were now throwing me into great contortions of flinging and flailing. There was not one part of my body that was willing to bend, flex, or stretch, no matter how nicely I asked.

After I had spent a mere five minutes on the treadmill, going at a pace that very closely resembled the torpidity of a turtle, I felt like I was going to fall over, pass out, and/or have a nonfit fitness fit, right there in front of everybody.

And the day following my pitiful, mini non-workout? I felt woefully weak and wobbly all over, as if I had just complete the world's most difficult Triathlon after having climbed Mt. Everest.

And yet as hard as it is to work out at the gym, I do know that staying home and eating Little Debbie's is obviously not a solution. (Although I think that somewhere in a more perfect world, it really SHOULD be a solution.)

I told Steve how discouraging it was and he said to look at it another way. He said, "At least you know that when you exercise it makes a difference, because you can tell such a big difference when you don't!"

Which is true. But I still don't feel terribly encouraged.

I just mainly feel terrible.

I'm still dealing with Dad's death, still bursting into tears for no reason whatsoever, still longing for my pj's, still hankering after creamy, comforting carbs and yet STILL trying desperately to get a grip on stuff so that poor choices don't completely short circuit whatever good health I have remaining. With major inflexibility issues, muscle weakness, and lung disease, I really do need to stay as fit as I possibly can.

Of course, in addition to those aforementioned challenges, I have a huge life change coming up that will affect where I live, what friends I have, what friends Sarah will have, what house I will live in, my husband's ministry and career, our finances, and just about anything else you can imagine. (Not to mention the wonderful challenge of homeschooling my lovely daughter.)

Obviously, there's been a lot on my plate recently. Um. Both figuratively and literally.

So that's my confession for the day. I've lost muscle tone. I've lost strength. I've lost flexibility.

However, if we want to instead focus on what I have found, then I will tell you that I have found six pounds. Yup! I just turned around and there they were!

If any of you reading this morose missive today should have any words of wisdom, or encouragement, or cheer--or even a recipe for a low cal item of comfort-- I would be most grateful.

In the meantime, I shall take my torpid, turtle-esque self away and engage in some sort of terrific, torpid, turtle-esque activity. (Do turtles eat Little Debbie cakes?)

A Blog Recommendation
and General Rowdiness

I'll be writing more later but for now I just wanted to invite you to visit Sue who has written about a subject very dear to me.

A lot of you recognize Sue from her frequent comments here which are witty, hilarious, wise, and entertaining. And since you already know that you love her writing, you're gonna especially want to head on over to her site so that you can read some more of it.

Also, may I also just add that Sue and Mary H. (another frequent signer) have been known to show up in the comments section (pretending like they're going to comment) and then suddenly start to warble raucous songs together like, "By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea."

Now just you know, this is a song that I have never even heard of. I'm thinking it's possible that Sue and Mary are just pretending it's a real song so that they have an excuse to indulge in bouts of chaotic, blog disturbing rowdiness.

Sigh. I may have to turn this matter over to the Internet police.

Unless of course, they happen to be singing in tune. In which case, I'll just sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

Thanks to Sue and Mary and ALL of you whose comments (and occasional songs) really and truly brighten my day.

More later . . .

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Expanded Middle Merriment

Your guesses about the above picture were certainly fascinating and entertaining; I just knew I could count on you guys to come up with some good ol' doozies. Here are the three main categories that the guesses fell into:

1. Nathan is engaged and the guys are getting their outfits together. (I must say that I gasped out loud when I saw that guess! I guess I could dub it a "gasping guess.")

2. Steve is getting his outfit ready to candidate at the church at the beach. (And you said it would be a great outfit as long as he stood behind the pulpit at all times.)

3. Steve is trying on Nathan's suit jacket and it's too small because he has gained weight. (Steve? Gain weight? You know not!)

All guesses were good guesses. And number three even came sort of, kind of close to the truth.

But now to lay all the guesses to rest, here is the rest of the story.

As I've mentioned to you before, Steve has gained some weight in the last year which he's actually been quite happy about. For his entire adult life he has been unable to put on any extra pounds, even when he's really, really tried. (I know. I didn't have much sympathy for him either.)

When he got into his early fifties however, his metabolism finally started to slow down. AND he started eating a large bowl of ice cream every night. AND a large, accompanying bowl of popcorn.

And you'll never guess what. He joined the rest of us! Things changed! Pounds arrived! (Which, by the way, he gets complimented about all the time.)

I can't say that I have ever been complimented on the arrival of protruding pounds on my person but hey, I'm not bitter. Much.

Well, a couple weeks ago, Steve started looking through some of the dress clothes that he hasn't worn in nine months. He wasn't too terribly surprised to discover that a lot of the stuff didn't fit any more. (Like the suit coat in the above picture.)

So what's a guy to do?

The first thing the guy did was to commence to call in the College Dude so that Nathan could be present for the "expanded middle merriment." Or maybe so that he could bring his own merriment with him. Nathan is all about merriment. (Although he has yet to experience the variety of merriment known as the "expanded middle merriment." Poor child; he is so deprived.)

The second thing on Steve's agenda was to start putting the "too small clothes" on his "just the right sized son." (I do realize that the tie still fits Steve, but he's a generous guy and was trying to create complete outfits for his merry-minded, non-expanded middled eldest son).

The bottom line here? (Or maybe I should say, "The expanded middle line . . .)

The bottom, expanded middle line is that Nathan has for a long while been wanting to "upscale" his dressy appearance. He's worn the same three shirts and one pair of Dockers to church for about fifteen years now and since he says that "spending money hurts his heart," he never had the gumption (or the finances) to go out and buy anything different. In fact, he's currently so "poor" at school that he's selling plasma to earn extra income. Doesn't that sound just like a college student?

While Steve was able to salvage several pair of dress pants and a few sport coats (by getting them altered) he ended up giving Nathan a whole bunch of dress clothes that fit him like a dream.

Good for Nathan. Bad for Steve.

Poor Steve stood forlornly in the middle of his closet and witnessed his entire dress wardrobe shriveling to next to nothing. And may I just say that shriveling wardrobes are not a real good thing for someone who's headed back into full time pastoring. Fortunately for him, however, a local men's store was going out of business so he hightailed it over there and found several great suits and sport coats for 70% off. (Woo-hoo for sales!)

So what has happened as a result of all this upsizing and downsizing is that Nathan has taken off for college with a church/business wardrobe that is far beyond what most 19-year old College Dudes own. And to make his wardrobe life even happier, one of our wonderful Smithellaneous readers has a son about Nathan's size who just cleaned out his closet and gotten rid of a lot of casual clothes. And guess what? This reader is sending the clothes to Nathan! Isn't that such a cool thing to do?

And so here is today's story in a nutshell. (And yes, there will be test.)

52-year old pastor gains a few pounds. (Which actually make him even more dashing than ever.)

52-year old pastor's dress clothes no longer fit him.

52-year old pastor has a 19-year old son who is the exact size that the 52-year old pastor was before gaining the aforementioned pounds.

The aforementioned 19-year old son tries on the aforementioned clothes of the aforementioned 52-year old pastor and discovers a whole new wardrobe.

The 47-year old wife of the 52-year old pastor and mother to the 19-year old College Dude sits happily in the corner and watches the 52-year old pastor and the 19-year old son try on clothes and laugh and enjoy each other's company and the 47-year old pastor's wife and college mom feels great happiness for weight gained (on other people), for blessings passed along, and for the happy sound of a pastor dad laughing with his merry son.

The end.

Oh wait. Not really the end. I have one more picture. Even with the coat stuck over the t-shirt, isn't he a really cute College Dude? Yes, I thought so, too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lotsa Lotsa Stuff

First of all, let me say hello and welcome to Traci, who is the One Hundredth Smithellaneous Follower. I had noticed a couple days ago that the number was at ninety-nine and I thought it would be fun to see who was going to be one hundred. And then Traci very thoughtfully noticed it for me. Thanks, Traci; it's great to have a "self service noticer" out there!


Someone commented on a post that I had written a while ago and then added to their comment, "I don't know if you'll see this or not."

Just so you know, the way the comments work is that even if you comment on something from several weeks ago, I will always get an email notification about your comment. So new comments, old comments--they're all good! I do see and read and appreciate and love every single one of them!


Many of you have had helpful advice on trying to get our house sold. Steve and I are taking your comments seriously and will be in contact with our realtor to see what steps we can take towards moving the sale of the house along.


It's been fun to see some new questions pop up in the
discussion area. I've had two fellow bloggers start discussions that I featured here on the "home page" and I'd love to have at least three more bloggers join in to give the discussion area jump start. Click here for more details.


And now, on to the subject of Manteo.

First of all, let me address the most important issue of all which is: Yes! Andy Griffith and his wife DO live in Manteo. But since they own a huge estate and have a wee bit more money than we do, I doubt we'll become their next door neighbors or anything! (smile)

Several of you asked the logical question summed up succinctly by a Smithellaneous friend from Canada, "Is the congregation voting for you simply a formality, or is there still a chance this will not work out?"

Here's the deal:

The search committee of the church is made up of the six church board members in addition to two extra people brought "on board" just for the specific job of finding a new pastor. (Their last pastor was there twenty-one years so they don't have to do this real often.)

The eight people on the committee study resumes, contact references, listen to sermon Cd's, and finally decide which of the applicants to invite for an interview.

After the interview, they meet again and discuss whether they want to bring in that interviewee to preach and be voted on. In our case, the eight of them unanimously voted yes. If they had instead voted no, they would have moved down the list to the next candidate and called him in for an interview, starting the process all over again.

To put it simply, we were (thankfully) their first choice.

Some of the people on this committee have been in the church over twenty years and they have an excellent idea of what kind of pastor the church needs and also, what kind of pastor would be a good fit for the congregation. In other words, the search committee is not going to comb through all the resumes and choose someone whom they think the congregation will heartily dislike! :-)

One thing that is especially helpful is that Steve and I bring musical gifts with us, in addition to Steve's pastoral gifts. The church's wonderful pianist of many years recently passed away and they don't have anyone to replace her on a permanent basis; the fact that Steve and I are musical is a very good thing.

I do realize that that was a very long answer to a very short question. As the years go by, I'm obviously becoming more and more like my husband; I always tease him that if someone asks him for the time, he gives them the history of the watch! (smile)

But I guess I took so long to answer the question because there really isn't a simple response. Yes, the congregation does have the final say, but the point is that the committee would not select someone to come in unless they felt quite sure that they would be someone the congregation would like.

We understand that there is always the chance that the majority of the congregation would vote no, but at this point in the process, that seems pretty unlikely.

The question was also asked if a parsonage would be provided, or if we would have to buy a house.

In years (and decades) gone by, most pastors lived in parsonages as a matter of course; however, that tradition has undergone some changes. The obvious advantage of a parsonage is that the pastor doesn't have to make a house payment. The obvious disadvantage is that when the pastor's family moves to another town, they have no equity. When a pastor gets to be in his fifties and sixties and has no equity built up, that is not a good thing.

So yes, we will be looking for a house to buy which will be a challenge, because houses in Manteo are twice as expensive as they are in Smithfield, mainly due to the cost of land. So we have the double whammy of not being able to sell our current house PLUS facing very pricey homes on the coast. PLUS we're just coming out of nine months of unemployment.

Oh wait. That's a triple whammy.

Hmmm. Sounds like a job for God!

Someone else asked if we would enroll Sarah in school once the move was made. As far as I can tell right now, probably not. Sarah has some learning issues that may be best addressed by one-on-one attention and plenty of time to go over and over something until she really understands it. However, we'll see how the year progresses and stay open to whatever is best for her.


Now! Just so that you don't think that in all the excitement of what's been going on, I've forgotten about my favorite son, here is a hint-dropping photo of what my next update will be about.

I'll let you ponder the picture for a while and see if you can figure out what the story line might be. In fact, if you have any guesses, I'd love to hear them! I'm sure you funny folks out there will come up with something quite . . . um . . . interesting.

See ya soon!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Transition Announcement (Ta-Da!)

I would have written about this earlier today but I laid down for a wee little nap and ended up taking a nap of marathonical proportions. Hmmmm . . . . maybe I ditched the pajamas prematurely in my attempts to relocate my misplaced vim and vigor!

Well, enough about that. This afternoon I have some good news to pass along.

I mentioned a few days ago that there were two churches interested in us--one toward the central part of North Carolina and one in Manteo, on the coast.

Before leaving for Wisconsin, Steve and I spent three hours with the Board and Pastoral Search Committee in Manteo; when we left that evening they said, "You'll be hearing from us."

Well, hear from them we did! The eight-member team met again after that session with us and voted unanimously to invite us to come back to Manteo the last Sunday in September! (Hooray!)
We'll spend the whole weekend there, meet the congregation in several different settings, preach, sing, and (drum roll, please) be voted on!

The members of the search committee told us how excited they are and how excited the congregation is. We would have all loved to have had the Voting Sunday earlier in September but this Sunday is a holiday and the following two Sundays, the leader of the search committee will be out of the country. And so the last Sunday of September it is.

Steve called the other church that is interested to let them know that we have received the official invitation to candidate in Manteo. The leader of that search committee told Steve how impressed they had been with Steve's preaching CD's and was disappointed that we were moving in another direction. I must say, it's nice to be wanted.

I'll be writing more about this as the days go by, but since so many of you have prayed with us and waited with us, I wanted to let you know the news as soon as possible.

Now we really and truly need to get this house sold. Quickly! And for a great price! I know God is in charge of that whole process, too, and He's not at all worried over it. So I guess if HE'S not worried, I should just take it off MY worry list, as well. (Easier said than done.)

Thanks for your prayers and support during these long nine months. Our family appreciates each one of you so much and we're excited about the future God has for us!

I'd celebrate with some chocolate but I'm trying to cut back. Maybe a few pieces of canteloupe would suffice.

Yeah, right.

Meet Our Second Blogger Discussion Starter Person

Beverly at Ramblings and Ruminations of a VHL Mom posted a good question about teen drivers and car insurance.

Hoo-boy. That topic sure hits close to home. What do you think?

Meet Our First Blogger Discussion Starter Person!

Cheryl at Real Mommy Now posted a question here about getting her baby to sleep through the night.

For all you moms out there who have been there, done that, what is your advice to Cheryl?

Thanks, Cheryl, for being our First Blogger Discussion Starter Person!

An Incentive For Becky's Blogging Buddies

A few months ago, I added a discussion thingie to the sidebar that would enable everyone in our Smithellaneous family to discuss a whole lot of stuff a whole lot more easily. I also polled you and you voted to name the discussion thingie, The Backyard Fence.

If you'll scroll down a little ways, you'll see the discussion widget in the right column. (Something went kapooy in the technical area and "The Backyard Fence" name disappeared. I'm waiting on the hosting company to tell me how to fix the aforementioned kapooyness.)

However, regardless of what it's currently named, the discussion area remains a really great place for all of us at Smithellaneous to ask for prayer, share stories, find new recipes, get advice, give advice and get to know each other better.

In case you're wondering how the Discussion Area differs from the the Comments Area, here is a 3-point lesson. (Being married to a preacher causes me to organize a LOT of my life into 3-points!)

1. The Comment Area (following each blog) is great for those times you want to say something about the particular blog post.

2. The Discussion Area is good for any general dialogue that doesn't necessarily tie into a current post.

3. The other advantage of the discussion area is that it is very easy to go back and find a certain topic from earlier days/weeks. You don't have to scroll through dozens of posts, the way you would if a discussion topic was posted in the Comments Area.

Instead, you just scroll down a short ways and click on "Visit My Community." Or else if you're feeling the creeping onset of a bit of Monday morning laziness, you can always just click right here. (Click on the "Forum" tab and then "Add a discussion" and you'll be good to go!)

See? Easy as 1, 2, 3! (I do love me some rhymes.)

And what sorts of things does a person post on a community discussion board? Here are a few ideas:

Self esteem discussions
Grocery budget tips
Baby's sleeping schedule (or the lack thereof)
Blogging info/questions/problems
Retirement challenges and joys
Favorite quotations
Losing a job
Advice about a cross country move
Child rearing
PC's vs. Macs
Book recommendations
Age appropriate video games
Travel tips
Whether or not you think chocolate is addictive (smile)

Just to get things going again, I've initiated a new discussion that you can access right here.

Traveling/Packing Tips

Just click in and start talkin'!

And in order to give my best blogging buddies the best blogging buddy incentive I can, here's a little deal for you.

For the first first five bloggers who start a discussion, I will post a link to your blog and mention your discussion question in a blog post reserved especially for you. And then you will start getting at least ten thousand hit day just like I do !

And everyone said, "Ha." (Not to mention, "Ha, ha, ha.")

Of course, if you don't have a blog, I'd be truly and terrifically happy to have you start (or participate in) the discussions, as well.


And Their Absence Thereof

At 6:30 am, Steve's hospital pager went off. When he called in, they said someone had just died and the family members were asking for a chaplain. (As a rule, if a family doesn't have a pastor of their own, a chaplain is called.)

Steve was out the door in a jiffy and since he's been gone, I've been sitting here thinking of that family, caught up in death's aftermath.

Birth and death are such universal experiences and both of them so drastically change the lives of those around them. One of the privileges of being a pastor (and a pastor's wife) is that we are invited into those most sacred, painful, intimate parts of a person's life. It's a trust we never take lightly.

And speaking of being a pastor, I would like to thank everyone from our previous church, First Assembly in Smithfield, who sent cards, prayers and compassion after my dad's death. You'll never know how much your love and concern meant.

In yesterday's post, I finished out my series on Dad's funeral and my trip to Wisconsin; this week I'll get going again on regular ol' Smith life. I also have an announcement I'll be making soon concerning Life Transition news.

There's lots of good stuff going on, including the fact that I am planning on getting out of my pajamas today and attempting to face the real world. Hurray for me! Hurray for the real world! Hurray for pajamas!

And their absence, thereof.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Hello To Heaven

It's been a week already since Dad was buried. Hard to believe. Hard to grasp. Hard to get used to.

A few days ago I was driving to the grocery store when the reality of his loss hit me anew and I suddenly just blurted aloud, "Dad is dead."

Almost instantly I felt my throat tighten and the tears well up.

After just a moment or two had passed I changed tactics a little and said instead, "Dad is in heaven!"

For him--what a lovely change of place. For me--what a lovely change of pace.

Sorrow to gladness in 4.5 seconds. How grateful I am for the hope of heaven.

We committed Dad to the hope and the hands of heaven last Saturday in the serene and lovely Shamrock Church and Cemetery.

For me at least, the small family ceremony we had there in the midst of that halcyon piece of heaven was the most meaningful, poignant part of the day.

First, as I've mentioned before, there was the graveside service. . .

And then we walked up the hill to the church so that we could spend a little extra time together. (My brother Phil is to the left of Mom; my brother Mark and his wife, Nancy, are behind them.)

On the way in the door, Mom gave the old bell a good pull which was a really nice way to send a hello to heaven.

The service in that diminutive sanctuary was not formal or excruciatingly well organized; we just meandered happily back and forth between the sharing of memories and the sharing of old hymns.

This is my oldest brother, Tim. His wife, Berit, and son, Andrew, are beside him.

Sarah said that her grandpa's nickname for her was "Bumpee" and that she remembered him coming to the hospital during her cancer treatment to cheer her up.

In between the memories shared, different people would yell out favorite hymns and away we would go on a song. Fortunately, I got cut my teeth on church hymns so I was quite happy to do the "piano honors."

One of the highlights of our informal gathering was when Randy invited the ladies forward to sing. Guess who played the piano for THAT musical number? Not me, that's who!

It was such an inspiration to witness a woman who had just buried her husband still be able to find the emotional strength to sit down at a piano and play, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus."

Although her husband and earthly friend was gone, her best Friend was very present in that room while we sang.

At the end of that lovely hour, we got ourselves organized for a family photo. I've always been the type of person who loves taking pictures before and after the "real photo" and so that's what I did.

Eventually, everyone got lined up and we photographed a memory.

Following the sharing of the pictures, the memories, and the music, all of us joined hands and said The Lord's Prayer together. To my mind, there are few sounds on earth any sweeter than family voices wending their way through the dusty sacredness of a tranquil, country church.

After the final "Amen," was said, some of the family members stayed around to chat.

This is my sister, Ruth, her husband, Arnold (on the left) and our cousin, Jonathan.

As a few of us walked back out to the cemetery, I happened to notice that my nepehws had developed their very own wonderful and wacky way of walking.

My siblings and I have grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents who are buried in that cemetery; after a bit of searching, we found some graves with familiar names.

This is the grave of my dad's parents. The last name isn't "Campbell" because Dad's birth dad died when my dad was just a couple days old. His mom later remarried.

Even though the afternoon at that church was so very special, the most meaningful part of the day for me was thinking back to when when I was a young girl and remembering how our family would occasionally drive half an hour or so from our home to the church. (The church was always unlocked back then. It is also also quaint enough that it still has "working" outhouses!) We would go and sit in the sanctuary during the week, just to enjoy its serenity and its beauty.

I remember so well how I would take my little girl self up to that platform (with mom playing the piano) and belt out songs to the empty pews, picturing in my heart the day when I would stand on church platforms and sing for real.

It's hard for me to even express how special it was for me to go back there for the first time in almost forty years and sing in that very same spot, surrounded by the members of my family and accompanied once again on the piano by a lovely, godly, musical mother. (The only difference is that Dad wasn't listening to me sing and cheering me on, which he did for me my entire life.)

During those magical moments last Saturday I kept saying to myself, "Don't rush through this. Don't think about tomorrow or next week. Don't worry about selling the house or finding a new church. Moments like these don't come very often and they're gone almost before they begin.

I reminded myself to honor the memories that brought me there, to honor the memories that were being made, and to honor the man in whose memory my family and I had gathered.

And most of all, I hoped that the memories, the music, and the prayers we had offered that day would all coalesce into a holy hello--a hello to both of my fathers who are in heaven.



I wasn't able to type this info in the video entry below so I'll introduce the video here instead.

In the post below, you'll find a video of us ladies singing, "What a Friend We Have In Jesus," the song that I wrote about in the post above.

Halfway through the video, you will also see my "unofficially adopted brother" Ron looking like he is catching a fly by hand. (Ron has many ways of making our family smile!)

I would also like to add (concerning the video) that it looks like Phil is lending assistance to my Mom because she can't walk easily by herself. The truth of the matter is that Mom takes many walks a week on her own and the fact that Phil is being so solicitous is just a wonderful picture of how thoughtful and caring my big (tough) brother actually is. (Love ya, Phil!)