Thursday, April 03, 2014

It must be Spring . . .

The crawfish are plentiful!  Sunday afternoon we hosted a crawfish boil for Tommy's Sunday School class (including their children), younger singles and the youth of the church.  A fine time was had by all! The official cook used a new recipe and it was proclaimed a winner.  Tables in the carport are piled high with crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes and sausage and people stand around special tables to peel and eat.  The tables are actually big pieces of plywood that have been treated and varnished (so as to be easy to clean) and have holes cut in them.  The wood is set on large, lined trash receptacles that have been placed under the holes.  That makes it easy for people to peel, drop the shells in the holes and eat. The downside is there isn't much meat in one crawfish so you spend more time peeling than you do eating.  I like the social aspect, but prefer what Tommy concocts with the leftover meat. 

It has also warmed up just enough for us to pot new herbs and arrange all the plants outside my door.  Though our winter was colder than usual, we did have several things left from last summer.  I am impatient for tomatoes!  After a week of feeling wrung out, I rebounded and went with Liz to the nursery on Saturday.  It was great to be out and to wander around looking at bedding plants in the greenhouses. 

Tommy took Maggie, our Great Pyrenees, to be spayed this week.  She is ONE UNHAPPY DOG.  If only someone would invent something to replace those cones the vets use to prevent the dogs from gnawing at their stitches.  Hers looks like a big lampshade, bumps into everything and makes it really difficult to walk down the steps when she needs to go outside.  I am praying for a speedy recovery.

For a while now, I have been thinking of blogging about prayer--specifically the importance of praying for our children and grandchildren.  In the opening verses of II Timothy, Paul tells Timothy how he prays for him and gives thanks for him and his faith.  Next, Paul mentions Timothy's mother and grandmother and the  "rich faith they handed down to him."  We know that faith is personal, that one cannot rely on the faith of another.  We also know that our faith is shared by the way we live and by what we say.  Sharing our faith is an inheritance we leave family and friends.  As I read and meditated on these opening verses, I thought about my own two children and eight grandchildren and began to pray more specifically and diligently for them, thanking God that another grandmother also prays daily for them.  I found it relatively easy to be specific in my prayers for those who live just across the pool, but was not satisfied with how I was praying for those miles away.  I asked Marty to send me a schedule of activities and other basics about Mallory and the boys.  Now, I can be more specific about them and even though I can't see them as often as I'd like, I feel more involved in their lives.

My prayers include asking for guidance, wisdom in how I relate to them.  This week something special happened.  Meredith, the second grader, is very creative, sensitive, loves her friends, but is somewhat shy and unsure of herself.  She has mentioned from time to time a problem with one of her "BFFs" at school, but the problem has escalated and has made Meredith most unhappy.  Saturday afternoon when she was here by herself, I asked her what was going on with the friend and she told me.  Instead of giving her the usual, "that's the way things happen at your age, etc.," I told her that I prayed for her every morning and that I would begin on Monday to pray specifically for the other girl, how they got along and that she, Meredith, would know how to be a friend and do the right thing, regardless of how she was treated.  Furthermore, I would follow up to see how things went that day.  That was my promise to her.  Every day this week she has come straight over when she got home from school, asked me if I prayed and told me about her day.  Yesterday, she said, "Did you pray this morning?"  I said that I did and she said, "Well, praying works. Things are much better," and went on to tell me about her day.

I am thankful for lessons both of us learned, for prayers answered for Meredith and her problem and for answered prayer to how I can better relate to each of the grands.  We cannot give our faith to our children and grandchildren, but we can surely share it! 

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Finally, I got to the computer . . .

. . . to write a word or two.  It has been an interesting and busy few days for someone who has limited exposure to the outside world.  Last Thursday was a treatment day and what a good day it was!  My counts were a bit down, but not so much that I couldn't be treated.  Since the treatment my body has let me know that they have continued their downward turn.  I have been foggy, listless, fatigued and good for nothing.  Okay, that's natural for me, but lately, more than usual.  In the infusion room, I met and visited with three new folks, something I always enjoy. One was a gentleman, about my age and a fellow Presbyterian.  Another was the husband of a lady being treated for a "second time around" cancer and he was noticeably nervous and anxious for her.  The third was a beautiful young woman, thirty-three years old, married with two children, being treated for breast cancer.  It was encouraging to witness her attitude, her trust and her determination.  I also took a prayer shawl to leave for a man I met about a month ago and a fuzzy chemo hat for another friend I have made there.  Making friends, sharing stories, being able to tell of God's goodness make trips to the cancer center good days.

The last few days the  devotionals in Jesus Calling have emphasized trust more than usual--or maybe it just seems that way since trust needs underscoring in my life.  Getting close to the end of this year long regiment of chemo, I tend to get anxious, look ahead and plan what I can do next.  I know I drive my son crazy, complaining about being confined,  not being able to drive, go where I want to go.  This morning the devotional reminded the reader to be thankful, not complain.  Let God be in control of our circumstances. 

I really do complain a lot!  Instead of thanking God for gifts of sunshine and rain, plants and flowers, I complain about the weather that's not to my liking.  Instead of thanking God for the care my son provides, willingly, for me, I complain when I think he's overprotective.  Instead of thanking God for the wonderful life He has given me, I complain, complain, complain.  What I'm really doing is denying the Presence and the Peace of God.  I am putting my trust in myself, when I know full well that Peace only comes with His Presence!  Excuses are not acceptable, but I will say that the fatigue, the foggy brain, the listlessness all contribute to the complaints.  We must be alert, aware of God's faithfulness, God's unchanging love, care, healing; God's Presence. 

Give God the glory in all things!
Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A big  clap of thunder . . .

awoke me this morning about 4 a.m. We had had a steady rain most of the night, then came the thunder storms rolling through the area.  What started out to be nasty weather changed to a fairly nice day.  To say we are all ready for Spring is definitely an understatement!  Though it's not officially Spring until later in the week, the schools around here had Spring Break this past week.  Liz and the children got to spend a couple of days with her parents, Sarah went to Destin with a friend for a few days and we got some pruning and clean up done around the property.  I watched lots of SEC basketball and now look forward to the NCAA Tournament. 

Thursday also brought a checkup with the doctor and the start of the next to the last cycle of treatment in this regimen.  I seem to be tolerating things better and the tumor count is holding steady.  Our hope and prayer is that soon I will be able to take less medicine. 

I still have issues with technology.  One day this past week I spent a long time carefully putting my thoughts into words, only to hit publish and lose the blog.  I have no idea what happened.  I have been rereading Paul and the Self, a text required for a course in the Pauline Epistles in seminary.  The second time around is better than the first.  At times I feel as if I am staring at myself in the mirror, especially as I read about the sin of pride and I do not like what I see.  How many people have been hurt by my selfishness, my determination to be right, my opinions?  I wish I could go back, beg forgiveness, undo the things I've done, the words I've said that hurt--all those words and deeds that have not brought glory to God.  Thankfully, God is a God of forgiveness and second chances.  God never gives up on us.  Some give things up during Lent.  What better to give up than pride! What better focus can we have than to acknowledge the life, the freedom we have as believers in Christ! 

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The day dawned . . .

. . . sunny and warm after beginning the previous two days to temps in the upper twenties.  With days like today and the presence of budding tulip trees and pretty yellow daffodils, it's hard not to try to hurry Spring.  Understand, I'm not complaining.  Too many people across the country are suffering with the bizarre weather we've had this winter.  Liz and I have tried to get herbs, but the nurseries are just now getting them planted themselves.  Our parsley, rosemary, oregano, mint and chives all survived being moved about, covered, etc. and are "happy" to be back outside enjoying the sun.  We have new baby chicks here, as does Marty in North Carolina.  I still chuckle to myself when I think of both my city grown children enjoying an aspect of country life.  Of course, having fresh eggs is nothing to chuckle about! 

I'm on a hiatus from chemo until March 13 when I see the doctor and begin the next to the last cycle of this regimen.  It's good to have energy!  Today, with the hint of Spring, I had to remind myself to not do too much.  I, who hate cleaning, even enjoyed the small amount of Spring cleaning I did. 

About two weeks ago I started reading the last two books of the Bible to complete this "read through:" I and II Chronicles.  They are the last two because of the system I've been using this time, but I also have to say that I have been only too happy to read them last, even though one of my favorite passages is in I Chronicles 29 where David addresses God.  Otherwise,  I find lists of names and numbers tedious to read, but know they have a place.  I remember the words of a favorite Old Testament professor reminding us often that there is theology in every passage and I reminded myself as I began Chronicles of his words.  That, coupled with Solomon's prayer asking for a "God listening heart," has made Chronicles come alive this time through and I am aware of how God is speaking to me at this time in my life.  If I live to be a hundred, I will continue to be amazed at the way God uses His Word in our lives. 

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 22, 2014

They had no idea . . .

It has been a week of unexpected blessings; things that brought smiles and warm feelings; things that remind me that I am loved.  Because February is a month of remembering, it could easily become sad, full of tears and loneliness, but it's anything but.  One morning, as Tommy was taking me to the doctor, we had the usual talk show on the radio.  The hosts were going on and on about Valentine's Day, ways to celebrate, etc. when an older woman called into the show and complained.  She told them that they should be more sensitive to the listeners who were alone and would have no one sending them cards or candy,  It seems she had been widowed for seven years and all she could think about were the "alone" years.  At first, the hosts tried to determine if the woman had children or grandchildren and when that got them nowhere, they asked about other friends who were also widows. She ignored suggestion after suggestion, insisting on talking about how insensitive they were and how lonely she was.  Finally, they got her off the phone.  I wanted to reach into the radio, give her a good shake and share some advice a wise woman gave me when Tom died.  She said, "Life is full of choices.  When my husband died, I thought, 'I can either choose to be controlled by my sadness and loneliness or I can choose to remember good times and the joy we shared.  I chose joy and I've never been sorry.'" Those words needed to be heard by the woman on the radio, though I suspect they would have been wasted.  They took with me. 

Sunday I attended worship with my Westminster family for the first time since last April.  Though I avoided the crowd, sat in the balcony and slipped out as the service was ending, it was so good to actually be present in worship, surrounded by family.

Tuesday would have been our 47th wedding anniversary and I relived that day over and over as I sat here knitting.  Late in the afternoon, Meredith and Elisa burst into the house, telling me they had a surprise.  Each had hidden behind their backs a yellow daffodil.  I didn't even know we had any, but they had seen them and brought them to me.  They weren't as large as the King Alfred ones that were in my wedding bouquet, but they were a happy reminder.  The girls had no idea; an unexpected blessing. 

In the midst of an extraordinarily busy day, there came an unexpected e-mail from Marty, saying that she had been thinking about me all day.  She remembered.  A friend from Jackson called just to say hello.  She had no idea; I didn't tell her, but talking to her that particular day reminded me of all the good times we had shared as couples. 

February has one more big event for our family and the daily "remembering" will be tucked away until next year.  Marty celebrates a birthday Monday.  She is such a blessing to me!  I will have a good day remembering and celebrating her!! 

Tom always talked about the glass being "half full," never "half empty."  He was right.  It was his way of saying to be thankful for all that we do have, instead of complaining about what we do not have.  Especially, this February I chose joy, not sadness and I have been richly blessed. 

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sunshine was a welcome sight . . .

. . . after days of rain and cold temperatures.  Then I think of all those suffering with blizzard conditions, no power, flooding and those who need rain so desperately.  We are never satisfied with what we have.  I need to remember to be thankful for what I have instead of complaining.  The weather people say we are having a warming trend this week which could, of course, mean severe weather warnings.  See?  There's a hint of complaint in that statement. 

Thursday was a doctor day and the start of another treatment cycle.  Everything went well, though the day was extremely long.  The infusion room was so crowded that I had to wait several minutes to even get an empty chair.  When I did, I was seated between two first timers, both of whom were being treated for breast cancer.  I am usually not very chatty, staying busy with my knitting or a book, but these women wanted to talk, ask questions.  It was good to listen to their stories, share my journey and speak of our faithful God.  Please pray that I will be faithful to give God the glory for what He has done.

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 08, 2014

End of Life Decisions . . .

. . . should never be put off, no matter what your age or circumstances. Our affairs had been in order, but an update has been needed.  Tom and I depended on each other to carry out the details, but when you are alone, all the details may not be known.  Thus, these end of life decisions have been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  At my age and with my health issues, I have known I needed to get my affairs in order, sooner, rather than later.  My "first thing in the morning" routine on Thursday was used in a mighty way to assure, remind and provide new insight.

Thursday was the second anniversary of Susan's passing.  She was Marty's oldest and dearest friend; wife, mother, daughter, sister, a nuclear physicist who worked for NASA. A couple of months after the birth of their second child, inflammatory breast cancer, a cancer that is aggressive and deadly, was discovered.  As a tribute to Susan on that anniversary, some friends posted a recording of "His Eye is on the Sparrow," arranged and sung by Marty at Susan's memorial service.  It was the first thing I saw and heard on Facebook that day.  "Why should I be discouraged? . . . Why should my heart be lonely, when Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He? . . . I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."  That was Susan's conviction, the way she lived the few short years after diagnosis.  Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth, who is sovereign over all His creation, cares for the most insignificant sparrow and I KNOW He cares for me.  Wonderful assurance!

The reminder came in the first chapter of II Timothy. Paul is writing to his friend and co-worker, Timothy.  It's obvious from the beginning verses that Paul cares deeply for Timothy, he is grateful for him and gently, but firmly, instructs him on ministry matters.  Paul is grateful for Timothy's rich faith that was "handed down to him by his grandmother and mother, Eunice."  They were used by God to instruct Timothy by their nurture, their teaching of God's word and by their very lives to instill in him a deep and rich faith.  I have been concerned that Tom's wishes to help with our grandchildren's education be carried out to the letter.  That has been uppermost in my mind as I update my will.  Do what Tom wanted; make some provision for the grandchildren!  A few simple words in II Timothy reminded me that even more important than a few dollars for education is that I am faithful to God's word in my words and actions.  To help guide the children in their faith is the best I can do.  As someone posted on FB this morning, I need to be the person I want my children/grandchildren to be.

I often think about life and death, not just my own, but that of others, as well.  Why do some live extraordinarily long lives and others don't?  Why is one life sustained, another cut short?  Why did such a exceptional person like Susan die so young? Why was Tom stricken with Parkinson's? Why have I been given bonus years?  Most of us have questions. Have you ever said: "I have read that passage many times, but not until now did I notice __________?" ( You fill in the blank.)  That happened Thursday.  R.C. Sproul has written outlines for the books of the Bible for the New Geneva Study Bible that are concise and a good accompaniment to daily reading.  Dr. Sproul, in writing on the characteristics of and the themes in II Timothy, says that Paul's situation is bleak. He is in prison, he has been abandoned by friends and he could no longer  "look forward to fruitful ministry." Yet, Paul remained faithful and confident.  He knew that the One who had provided for him, rescuing him FROM death, would also rescue him THROUGH death.  Susan and Tom had been rescued, just as I will be . . . and you and you and you.  Susan had suffered a lot of physical pain; Tom suffered the loss of physical and cognitive function; health crises have been a part of my life.  Our decisions to LIVE by God's grace is something the three of us held in common. We knew God was rescuing us FROM death and that in His time, He would rescue us from pain and loss THROUGH death.  New insight from II Timothy. 

Susan's family and friends miss her no less and will always remember the anniversary of her rescue; Tom' family and friends miss him no less and will always remember the anniversary (2-7-11) of  his rescue; my family and friends continue to pray for my rescue from death.  Being rescued through death is yet to come.  Til then, I will remember and praise God for His eye being on me and I will ask God to show me how to share the best gift of all, belief in Him.

Blessings,
Pastor Margaret