Saturday, September 19, 2009

Update on Caleb

Just talked with Debbie.

Caleb has a fractured skull and some blood pooling inside but after observation through the night and a few more scans, it looks like he'll be released later today. His skull will take at least three months to mend.

Debbie said Caleb had been riding bike with his dad when all of a sudden, Randy saw Caleb's bike start to weave; the next thing he knew, Caleb was lying on the ground, unconscious. Caleb doesn't remember any of that; it's not real clear why he suddenly passed out.

Debbie got to ride with him in the ambulance to their small local hospital and then in the other ambulance on the way to Madison. She said that was extra special for her because when Caleb was a baby, he had to be transported by ambulance and she wasn't allowed to ride with him. It made her mother heart very, very happy to be able to be by his side through this particular trauma. She is a wonderful mother. (And a wonderful sister, may I add!)

Thanks for your concern and prayers; I told Debbie that our Smithellaneous friends were praying and she was so grateful.

We're off to Charlotte in a few minutes for a concert tomorrow. I'll sing as long as my voice and lungs allow; unfortunately, it's not been a good week in those two areas but the Bible says that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. I guess that means that God will be showing up strong tomorrow--for us, for Randy, Debbie and Caleb, and for you! We're all weak in some way and we all need His strength in some way.

My Mom's favorite verse is, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." That's such a good verse to hold on to--with both hands and with my whole heart!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Prayers Needed

Caleb is on the left; his cousin, Andrew, is with him. (They're at the cemetery where Dad was buried a month ago.)

It's 10:35 pm.

My sister, Debbie, just called from Wisconsin. Her and Randy's brilliant and funny 13-year old son, Caleb, had a bike accident a few minutes ago and was knocked unconscious. They rushed him to their local hospital for an MRI and he is now being transferred to a large medical center in Madison. She said there is bleeding, but didn't talk long enough to let us know where it is.

Thank you for remembering them in prayer, as the first hours after an accident like this are always crucial.

Read My Moments

The church in Orlando that we sang at last Sunday put us up in a resort hotel on Saturday night. As much as I really dislike badmouthing provisions that have made for us, in this case I don't have much of a choice. Sadly, so many things about the place were woefully substandard. Not up to par. Not up to my high standards of life and living. Not according to Doyle.

Let me list them for you.

The trees were not nearly tall enough. I mean, come on people! Get it together! Grow yourself some trees, already!

Transportation around the grounds of the resort was partially provided by golf cart. There weren't enough golf carts to go around and we had to wait and wait and wait for one to become available.

Lovely architectural detail was sadly missing from the building design.

The bathtub was way too small. How do they expect a person of my, um, girth, to even begin to wedge herself into such cramped quarters?

There was hardly any space available for Steve's and my bed. (Sarah had her own bedroom and bathroom.) And the beds were incredibly undersized and completely claustrophobic.

They didn't even provide any space to sit and eat a meal. I mean, where in the world where we supposed to sit while eating our pizza? Hmmm ?

There were not any interesting architectural items to look at from our balcony.

The TV was one of the smallest I have ever seen and we had to use binoculars to even see the screen.

There were hardly any mirrors to be found in the whole place.

Comfortable seating options were nil.

The balcony overlooking the pool was so small we had to take turns sitting out there.

The fish were as minuscule as minnows.

There were NO lovely backgrounds to pose in front of.

The resort had only a measly seven pools and the pools were always teeming with people.

They kept the pools pitch black so that no one could swim after dark.

There was an appalling paucity of greenery in the place.

And the artwork was bland and uninteresting.

(Actually, this particular picture was so interesting that the three of us had an argument as to whether or not we liked it. We'd be curious to know your opinion? Is it sort of dark and creepy? Or is it creative and appealing? We never did make up our minds.)

So anyway, that pretty much sums up our Saturday night stay in Florida. Pretty pitiful, huh? (smile)

I think you can probably guess that we actually loved the place and felt utterly pampered and spoiled while we were there. And as a bargain lover from way back, I was especially happy to know that the church got that suite for less than what a room at the Holiday Inn would cost because one of its members is a resort employee.

Beauty AND a bargain! Nothing could be better!

We left the resort early Sunday morning and went to McDonald's for breakfast. This particular McDonald's is one of the largest in the country.

We had actually eaten there a long, long time ago, back when we were on the road and both kids were small. My, how our family has changed. One of our kids is fourteen and the other one turns twenty today!

In fact, looking at the clock right now, I see that it is 6:29 am and Nathan was actually born at 6:30 am. Ladies and gentlemen, we are within one minute of being exactly twenty years past the birth of my firstborn!

I know it's not all that exciting to you, but I'm pretty jazzed about it! Especially since, after giving birth to Nathan, I lost fifty pounds overnight. (In addition to the regular baby weight and the "eating for two" weight, I had also gained a whole bunch of water weight and was pre-eclampsic.) It was the first and last time I lost weight that fast. What a rush!

Okay. I think I have drifted from the story line. Back to Orlando we go.

After our McDonald's visit, we drove about twenty minutes across Orlando. When we turned off the main road, it only took about a minute for us to be gazing at this sort of scenery.

It was amazing to me how quickly the transition was made from urban to rural. And since I'm a rural-loving gal myself, I was especially enthralled.

After our morning service, we had a lovely meal with the pastor and his family. We had sung at their church several times when we were on the road and it was great seeing them again. (Especially when the pastor's wife and I happened to discover that we had been born in the same state, the same city and the same hospital!)

After lunch, we made the 2 1/2 hour drive to our evening concert locale. We were invited to sing there by our good friend Gordon Goertz, and his wife Nancy. When they were pastoring in N. Stonington, CT, we sang at their church there several times. And when Sarah was facing her first cancer surgery, Gordon surprised us by driving eighteen hours one way and showing up for it! Now that's a real friend!

Once again, we were housed in a lovely room, not as big and fancy as the resort, but beautiful and homey and welcoming.

We were especially impressed when we walked into the room and saw this envelope on the table.

We have never before stayed at a hotel that greeted us with a handwritten, personalized note of welcome!

Steve and Sarah ended up meeting the manager of the hotel (Homewood Suites) the next morning and Steve complimented her and told her how impressed we were with the note and the facility in general. She told him about her philosophy of hotel management and then they got to talking about what he did for a living. Eventually Steve told her about Sarah being a cancer survivor and then finally ended up giving her one of our music Cd's.

It's such a cool thing to get to travel to different places and meet such interesting people. It's especially wonderful to get to know their stories and get to tell our own story because really, in the end, life is a lot about stories.

Every life has a story, every life is a story, a story written from the moment of birth. From day to day and from year to year, our moments are being lived and our words are being written.

My goal is to live and write my story well, because I know that people read my moments, just like they do yours. We learn from each other in so many ways and the people we come across in our daily lives--whether at a hotel, a church, at work, or in our homes--become a part of the fabric of who we are, and who we are becoming.

No one writes a a life story alone and I'm thankful for the people who are writing with me.

I'm thankful for my family, for dear friends from the past, and for interesting new acquaintances. I'm especially thankful for you, thankful that you come back over and again to be a part of my story, even while it's being written.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'm a bit glum today. A bit overwhelmed.

The older I get, the longer it seems to take me to recover from those really long road trips. That's really sort of disheartening since I used to do them all the time and never even had one teeny twinge of after effects from them.

Does that mean I'm not as young as I used to be?

Don't answer that.

This is also the first full week that Sarah has been doing school. I was about to get all the curriculum ordering finalized back in August but then Dad got sick and we had all the busyness of first traveling to Manteo for our interview and then traveling to Wisconsin for Dad's funeral.

As a result, I got a bit behind in the educational process and the box of books didn't arrive till last week, right before we left for Florida. This week, in my weary, travel-befogged state, I've been digging through everything and trying to get Sarah going as quickly as possible.

She took some placement tests before we ordered and they indicate that she is at a fifth and sixth grade math level. (This does not mean that she will cover single part of those grades; just the portions she's weak in. After getting through those, we can move on to the next level.)
She and I had some time to talk about all that today; I stressed to her how important it was going to be to spend extra time on math every day so that we could work our way through the backlog and start working toward getting back to grade level. It may even require summer school and a math tutor next year, but she's got a good work ethic and the determination to "git 'er done."

I'm just a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility involved in being in charge of my daughter's education. I knew, of course, when I made the decision what would be involved because I've home schooled both kids before. But it's just going to take some extra getting used to, on top of the other upheaval in our lives with housing/moving/job/ministry issues to be settled.

And as the last straw, after having a wonderfully clear, strong voice the whole time we were in Florida, the last couple of days I've been reduced to croaking again. I had laid off my steroid inhaler (for my lung disease) while we were in Florida, because that tends to affect my voice. Since we've gotten home, and I've started back on the inhaler, my voice has gotten very weak and my breathing has also become more difficult.

We're traveling to Charlotte this weekend to sing, so this not a real great time for my physical maladies to pop back up. I was just doing so very well that I had myself convinced that maybe I was making some overall improvement.

I guess not.

Well, I guess it's probably about time for me to stop my moanin' and groanin' and talk about something a bit more cheery.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a collage of the Plaid Shorts Fellas at Nathan's college. Don't you love the shorts? And the scenery?

Here's a bigger picture so you can see the background a bit more.

It is such a peaceful campus and they have music playing all the time; it's really, really lovely.

And speaking of lovely, while we were on campus we got a chance to spend a few minutes with an old (albeit, never before met) friend.

Staci was at a church we sang at in Cumberland, MD about eight years ago. When Sarah was diagnosed with cancer, Staci's church was very faithful to pray for Sarah. She has been a frequent signer of Sarah's Caringbridge page and she and I have emailed each other over the years.

She's at Southeastern on a piano scholarship; she also plays sax in the school's jazz band and will be performing for George and Laura Bush when they come to the school in March to speak at a huge leadership conference Southeastern hosts every year.

Anyway, it was great fun to finally meet her in person, after "knowing" her for so many years. She is a charming, smart, talented young lady who has also been brave enough to "take on" Nathan in several sports. (smile)

In the picture below, please pay no attention to the crooked state of my bangs. It is obvious that I have not perfected the comb over technique.

While we were on campus, we also got to see Nate's room and meet a few of his pals.

Michael is on the far left in the orange; he went to Israel with Nathan last year and the two of them are best college buds. I can't remember the fellas name on the other side of Nathan but he is studying Practical Theology and wants to eventually live in a large city and minister to the homeless. The guy beside him is Arlen, Nathan's roommate.

It was great to see Nathan looking so happy; he really does love being at school and I love the fact that he loves being there. (Even though I miss him entirely too much.)

It also comforts me greatly that he has the Hawley family so close by; if he ever has a crisis of any sort, he has people who are the next best thing to family just fifteen minutes away.That's a very good thing for this mama to know!

Well, I think that about covers it for today. I aplogize for not being Miss Pollyana but it seems as thought being recently bereaved, on top of fatigue, physical maladies, and an up-in-the-air future have conspired together to make me feel a bit glum.

I'll try to unglumnify myself by tomorrow.

I promise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Check-Bearing Duck.
Visited By Sadness.

Ahhh. A great night's sleep in my very own bed. I am one happy (and rested) woman! Also, we have zero miles to travel today which makes me even happier.

It seems really strange that this is the last week Steve and I will ever have two teenagers. We got to be the parents of teenagers (plural) for only two years, starting when Sarah turned thirteen. And now Nathan is vamoosing from Teen World and is taking himself off to to the Land of the Twenties. How did that happen!

Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you hold on, your children wriggle right out of the grasp of your parental fingers and take them themselves away to adulthood? It's an amazing, sad, pride-producing, heartbreaking phenomenon.

But anyway, on to the birthday dinner of my "wriggling out of my fingers" man child.

Before we got started cooking, I snapped this shot of Meagan holding her computer which displays a desktop picture of Nathan looking especially handsome. What a cute couple!

As the birthday food was being prepared, Steve and Meagan's dad, Frank, sat outside and compared notes on life. They're both pastors, former traveling ministers, parents of college students, and all around great buds. They're also both very funny, so they have quite a time together.

Meagan's uber talented sister, Kristen, came up with the table decorations. Very Nathan-ish, don't you think?

Meagan and Kristin also spent quite a bit of time decorating the chair that Nathan would sit in at dinner. I think they did very well to make it as masculine and macho as possible.

Meagan's brother-in-law, John, was the guy in charge of grilling the chicken. Cooking is one of his many gifts, in addition to being an excellent mechanic and accomplished pianist.

Nathan told John that he wanted his piece to be really spicy. Here is his special serving with hot sauce slathered everywhere. He loved it.

Unfortunately, I neglected to bring the Famous Smith Birthday Hat from home so the Hawley family improvised. Can you see how "thrilledness" is oozing out of Nathan's every pore while Kristin puts the newly designed birthday hat on his head? Poor guy.

This is Joy, the Hawley sister who is married to John. They are graduates of Southeastern (where Nathan attends) and the youth pastors at Frank and Sheri's church.

This is Frank.

He is the brave man who has spent his entire living with four women who, in the space of five minutes, can produce more fun and energy and sparkle than I could in a whole lifetime.

One of the best things about the evening (besides the great food, pink chair, and lovely birthday hat) was being able to tell all sorts of road stories and know that everyone else completely understood. I mean, how crazy wonderful is it that Nathan's girlfriend "just happens" to be from a family who spent five years traveling full time, singing, preaching, doing home school and living in an RV?

We talked about getting RVs stuck in muddy church lawns, and RV hoses freezing in the middle of the winter, and blowing up TVs and microwaves in the RV when we hooked up the electricity wrong, and all sorts of stories replete with road life lore. It was such a great feeling to be with people who truly understand that unique lifestyle.

After the meal, it was time for the gifts. Our family presented Nathan with a classy quacking "lighting up" duck. Nathan thought it was quite wonderful.

He thought it was even more wonderful when he saw that there was a check rolled up inside the little key chain on the duck and the check was made out to him. College Dudes love checks. He now also loves ducks, especially when ducks come bearing checks.

Sarah spent her own money and carefully selected some snack foods for him that she knew he loved. He was especially delighted with those gifts since it seems that his dorm room had grown woefully short of those important items.

Here is the line up of Hawley family gifts which included a new tie, a gas card , a DVD and a couple other things my 47-year old brain can't remember.

Can you tell that the Hawley family is very good at spoiling people rotten?

And just to prove that point even further, Meagan even had a late birthday gift for Sarah.

Sour candy, one of her favorites.

A t-shirt that says, "True Original." That describes Sarah perfectly.

Before bed, we posed for one more picture so that the Glorious Birthday Hat (now slightly deflated) could be modeled and admired once more.

Nathan stayed overnight too, so that we would have a chance to see him a little longer. Here he is, being admired by all the women in his life.

After all the joyful partying of the evening was over, we were quite unexpectedly visited by sadness.

We had already gone to bed when Frank got a call from a church member saying that his wife was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. Frank immediately left for the hospital and called back home a little while later saying that the woman's heart had stopped and she couldn't be revived.

She was about my age.

She had three daughters: an eleven year old and twin 15-year olds.

That hits pretty close to home.

Frank brought the three girls back home with him at about 1 am, in order to give their dad a chance to deal with the things that needed to be taken care of in the aftermath of his wife's death. (The husband had friends who stayed there with him.)

I must say that I haven't met very many pastoral families who are any better at rising to the occasion and ministering to hurting people than the Hawleys; they each did their part to lovingly minister to those suddenly bereaved daughters. They found clothes for them to sleep in, made up beds in the living room, hugged them, listened to them talk, and became "God with skin on" to those girls. Since Nathan was staying overnight, he also got a chance to spend time with the girls and show his special brand of "Nathan compassion." (Which included offering some food from his newly acquired "dorm room stash" when the girls wouldn't eat anything else.)

You may remember I posted yesterday that we tried to get up early yesterday and sneak out the door before breakfast? Well, the reason for that sort of "odd behavior" was this particular situation. We knew that Frank and Sheri had their hands more than full already and we wanted to try and simplify life for them just a little by taking ourselves away early in the morning.

But true to form, they were on top of the situation and their "giving hearts" were still working overtime. They moved the three girls from the living room to a bedroom so that they could get some extra rest. Then Sheri (with a little help) proceeded to whip up a delicious breakfast for nine people which featured pancake, grits, juice, eggs, and bacon.

After a little while, the three girls woke up and filed out into the living room together, looking brave and bewildered and exhausted. My heart just went out to them as I tried to picture my own daughter in their shoes.

I was so comforted to know that they and their dad would be taken very good care of by the Hawleys and their extended church family. It won't take the pain away, but it will make their journey through the valley of the shadow of death a bit more bearable.

And you know what? It's situations like that which give churches a good name. People always hear so much about failing pastors, fighting churches and religious schisms of all varieties. What doesn't get the press is when a church surrounds a grieving family and makes a whole world of difference to them in the midst of their sorrow.

We are so proud to call the Hawleys our friends and are incredibly inspired by their commitment to make a difference in the lives of those around him--whether it's providing a joyful, memorable birthday evening for the Smith family, or extending love and healing to three motherless girls and their dad. Everything they do is done with joy and love and excellence and we are the better for getting to be their friends.

If you think about it this week, would you please be praying for that family whose lives were ripped apart so suddenly and so irrevocably? I know I will.

And I know I also remember to be especially grateful every day that Sarah still has a mom. And that I still have a daughter. It's hard to even imagine that bond being broken.

Most of all this week, I will simply be thankful for life. What a gift it is and how quickly it can be taken away.

Treasure your day, treasure the people you love, treasure every breath you're given.

None of us is promised tomorrow.


I've been asked by a few people what Nathan's address is at college this year.

Nathan Smith
Southeastern University
1000 Longfellow Blvd.
Box 1701 (Make sure you just put "Box" and not "PO Box")
Lakeland, FL 33801