Travel

From Richmond, Virginia to Phoenix, Arizona

I’m on a long 5 hour flight back home to Phoenix. I spent the last three days speaking at the Diocese of Richmond’s annual youth conference. It was a real treat to spend time with the 500 teenagers over the weekend. I do enjoy speaking from stage, but my favorite part is hanging out with the teenagers in between the sessions. It’s just fun to share a bit of our lives with one another like that. It adds warmth to a world that can be very cold.

The Injury

There is an early episode of “The Office” where Michael Scott accidentally burns his foot on a George Foreman Grill. It’s a random and completely funny first five minutes of the show. Michael likes to eat bacon while in bed in the morning, so he lays bacon in his George Foreman Grill each night before he wakes up. Except on this day, he got clumsy and stepped into the hot grill on his bedroom floor and burns his foot.

He didn’t want to miss the chance for attention, so he becomes over-dramatic about his injury. He calls into the office and demands that someone come pick him up and drive his broken body to work. When he gets to the office, he’s using crutches and has a pitiful, desperate look on his face. He begs for help throughout the day on easy tasks because he is “disabled.” You get the idea. People can make such a big deal out of nothing.

I don’t want to be the guy that makes a big deal out of nothing. However, this is my life, and this is my story. And this is my injury.

I had a small cancerous area of skin cells removed from my back. It was a quick surgery and the surgical team promised me that I would l have a quick recover. I had to limit my motion for two weeks, but after that I should be feeling back to normal. I asked if I should cancel an out of town trip a few days later, and they said I would be fine. I canceled the trip anyway.

It seems like I take one step forward in healing, only to take two steps back. In the last six weeks, I’ve battled two staff infections, which made my back feel like it was on fire with pain. Sleeping was difficult because I couldn’t toss and turn. To make matter worse, a few weeks into recovery, I got a heavy cough and a fever too. My stitches broke free and my back opened up as if I never had stitches at all. It was a gory site! Plus I was in worse pain than week 1. So for some time now, my bandages must be changed several times a day.

When you are healing and feeling stronger with each day, you know that you are making progress towards being 100% better. But when you get worse with each day, it’s quite frightening because you don’t know how bad it’s going to get. It’s hard.

Last Week’s Detour through Denver

Sitting in this airplane seat is uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as last week when I attempted to fly to Michigan while passing through Denver. That was random. Heavy rains in Phoenix delayed my flight to Denver. The ticket agent suggested that I fly to Denver, even though I will miss my connecting flight. I would need to stay the night in Denver and then take an early flight to Michigan. My friend Leah’s husband Rick picked me up from the airport and drove through heavy snow to get diner. It was fun getting to know Rick because we’d never met before, although I’ve met his wife a few times at different conferences. Soon we drove through more snow to get back to their place.

The next morning we drove back to the airport through heavy snow. I looked up to check departing flights, and every screen was covered with the word “CANCELED.” Anxiety surged through my body. What is going on? Will I be able to make it to Michigan? Will I have to spend a long weekend in Denver to wait out this snowstorm? After waiting in line for 30 minutes, the ticket agent explained to me that there was almost no chance that I could make it to Michigan today, but they might be able to get me in tomorrow. I looked at my weather app on my phone and saw that it would be heavy snow pounding the city of Denver for the next 48 hours. I knew that chances of me getting out tomorrow were even slim. I was getting more anxious. I wanted to be in Michigan to speak at this conference, but now it looked like I would be stuck in Denver away from the conference and my family. So everyone would lose.

So I asked for a flight back to Phoenix. Incredibly, she got me a seat on flight taking off in 35 minutes. Once I had my ticket, I ran down the escalator to get to the security checkpoint. I saw a line of 25 people to get through security, which surely would take 15 minutes. I walked to the front and gently explained to two friends that my plane was taking off in 19 minutes and would they let me through. They smiled and gestured me forward. Quick through security. Then onto a train, then up the escalators at the gates. Then sprinting down the moving sidewalks to finally arrive at my gate. I handed them my boarding pass and they closed the door behind me. I made it with less than a minute to spare. All that running while having a heavy cough and breathing the thin oxygen of the mile high city. Let’s not forget that my back was a mess too.

Back to the Situation

So yes, as I type this on my flight today, I am so so thankful to be feeling better. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I am very happy to be where I am right now. Thank you Jesus.

I understand that many people have suffered worse than I have. Once this is all done, it will probably be remembered as a rocky three months of my life. It will be remembered as a difficult time mostly because I couldn’t hold my children. A time where doing normal things like reaching for a glass on the shelf threatened my healing. But in the end—it’s no big deal. For whatever reason, God has wedged this small chapter into my life. A chapter that I didn’t see coming; a chapter that has lasted so much longer than I expected.

Here’s how I see all of this. When you are in good health, it’s hard to have compassion for those who suffer. It’s hard to even imagine that suffering is an option because day-to-day life is so consuming. You’re just living life. But once you’ve suffered, your heart becomes bigger with compassion for others. When friends ask for prayers on Facebook because they’re in poor health, I pray hard for them because I know what it’s like to feel desperate. To pray for these friends and friends-of-friends adds richness to this life.

Flight from Atlanta to Phoenix

Flight from Atlanta to Phoenix

This is going to be a long, long flight. I’ve been in seats that don’t recline, but this one is particularly upright. It feels like I am trying to lean against a wall. Maybe worse. Could it be that this seat actually leans forward?

I spent the past few days near Mobile, Alabama, at a retreat/planning/visioning meeting with the leaders of Life Teen. It was cool because everyone’s spouses were invited, and many of them came. Unfortunately, Candyce wasn’t able to come b/c our baby sitters changed plans and, thus, Candyce stayed home with the girls.

:::

I just took a 2-hour break from writing this blog to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie on the Delta screen in front of me. I know that book snobs live to make fun of Nicholas Sparks b/c his stories are sentimental and predictable, but I am not a book snob. I am a father of three girls under four, and every minute of entertainment on our screens at home is soft, cuddly, and sweet. So any movie that I can watch with action and/or adventure is treat.

In this movie, I got enjoy all kinds of reckless manliness: wartime heroism, sleeping by a fire under a big ass tree, training dogs, restoring old homes, vintage Ford F100 pickups, a new Dodge Challenger, standing up to cops, fixing old boats, saving a cute child from a flooding river, spontaneously charming a woman by playing a piano, being misunderstood, grabbing a gun from the hand of a drunk cop, etc.

I think I’m going to get a tattoo.

:::

Last week we bought four new mattresses for the Smith household. I know that Eden is only a few months old and won’t need a mattress for a few years, but it feels dorky to go shopping for mattresses frequently. So I just bought them all at once. It was an expensive trip to the store, but I am hopeful that the quality of life for everyone in our family will get better.

Based on what Brian at the mattress store told me, our new Tempurepedic mattress will need to be replaced in ten years. So that’s the year 2022. Far off dates like that didn’t mean much to me when I was single because so much was uncertain. In less than two years, I could’ve moved, changed jobs, and fallen in love and then broken up. Now that I am married and have children, these dates actually mean something. When it’s time for me to get a new mattress, Norah will be about 14, Stella will be 12, and Eden will be 10. And those girls will probably have little brothers and sisters too. Me? I’ll be 43. That’s CRAZY.

This is another way that fatherhood has added richness to my life. Time becomes precious because every moment of life is a moment shared with my daughters. Candyce and I talk about this all the time. It doesn’t matter what else happens in our adult worlds that day—none of that should distract us from the simple joy of spending time with Norah, Stella, and Eden.

:::

I really dig my iPad b/c it’s made it easy for me to draw again. I love the app called Paper from the company fiftythree. I’ll have to post some of my drawings in this blog. Actually, I’m going to close down this laptop and start doodling on the iPad.

From San Antonio, Thoughts on Olympians

From San Antonio, Thoughts on Olympians

Inspiration San Antonio 2012

I am in a quiet San Antonio airport on a Sunday morning. The sun is slowly illuminating the clouds outside. So with every minute, this room gets brighter for me and the handful of the people at this gate that will be flying today. I am aching because I wanted so much to sleep another two hours. But I’d rather be get home early and see my girls.

Yesterday we hosted Inspiration San Antonio at Six Flags Fiesta. About 1500-1600 teenagers came to the event, which is our highest attendance in the 9 years since we first started hosting the event.

Friday was night was a rare treat. When my plane touched down in San Antonio, I called my Uncle Paul and my cousin Jonathan to see if we could meet for dinner while I was in town. Within an hour, the three of us were sitting down at a Z-Tejas near my hotel.  It was cool to see Jonathan now as a junior in college. Oh how time flies.

Olympics

Speaking of flying, I’ve really enjoyed the 2012 Olympics in London. My family never got into the Olympics when I was young, but Candyce’s family makes a big deal out of it. When the 2008 Olympics in Beijing came around, I was studying for the GMAT to enter graduate school. What a difficult, awkward time that was. We were staying at a resort and water park in Phoenix. While everyone else was out enjoying the luxuries of life, I was holed away in an air conditioned room with the curtains closed tightly so that I wouldn’t be distracted by their wonderland.  …and now four years later, here I am: Matt Smith, MBA. And now I have time to enjoy the watching the Olympics with my little family.

What has really fascinated me about the Olympics this year is that I am watching athletes at their finest. As an adult, “working out” is what you do when you want to lose weight and look hot. Very rarely is it about health. Or, if you are one in a million, you get to be an adult and a professional athlete. There you have the glory, fortune, and lifestyle. As much as I enjoy watching those professional sports, it’s an unsatisfying thought to know that he’s rewarded $200,000 for every game that he dribbles a ball up and down the court for four quarters. I sit on my couch for those four quarters and I don’t get paid anything.  But in the Olympics, the context of professional sports is stripped away. Team USA men’s basketball feels more pure than an NBA playoff game. Same guys, different context.

But the Olympics are special because the spotlight shines on those who don’t get massive multi-year salaries and even bigger endorsement deals. Gymnastics, swimming, track and field. I love that people train so hard for so long just to run 100 meters. Then they’re done. No second chance until the next Olympics.

These athletes fascinate me.

And now it’s time to board the plane.

From Coffee Coffee, Leucadia, CA

I’ve absolutely loved the past two mornings here in San Diego. I’ve slept in with the cool ocean air breezing through our window.

Jeff and I had fun driving the Airstream out here. From Yuma to Carlsbad, I was the driver and he was the DJ. I was thrilled to hear Milli Vanilli and Coldplay. I can’t explain it…but “Girl You Know It’s True” gets me pumped. Maybe b/c it was one of the first songs to make me want to dance in elementary school. I got nostalgic and started to think forward to my upcoming 15 year class reunion. I don’t know if anyone in my grade, school, or state who loved Milli Vanilli as much as I did.

We just finished CYMC 2012 in Scottsdale. Our biggest convention in 27 years. There’s so much that I could write about, but I’m on vacation and all this brings me back into the office where it feels worky worky. But I am still proud of what we’ve accomplished, so I’ll make a quick list of what making me happy:

  1. EdgeYouthMinistry.com – It’s a cool little website we launched at CYMC. I wrote the copy and designed the wireframes. Gabe illustrated, Ryan colored and coded. A quick, fun project with great guys.
  2. College Life – A creative solution to the problem of Life Teen kids graduating high school and then wandering away from their faith. It’s good to have Paul George back on our team. He’s a brilliant soul.
  3. Twitter – We had some good #cymc buzz on Twitter before, during, and after the Convention.
  4. Community – There are many high-caliber people who’ve gotten involved in Life Teen over the past 5 years. These people are the hubs of community in their towns and online.
  5. Phoenix – We had a huge turnout of local youth ministers. XLT PHX this fall is going to be well attended.  I’m stoked about a new schedule this fall.

It’s good to be here in San Diego. Everytime I get here, I wonder why I don’t live here.