Sunday, December 30, 2007

We have all overdosed on football and the SEC has just begun to play! Yesterday afternoon we gathered at Tommy's with Mississippi State cheese, crackers, chips and dip to watch our beloved bulldogs win the Liberty Bowl! Go Dawgs! Hail, Dear Ole State! Whatever. As one sports writer kindly put it, "State has had a dormant football program for the last several years" and it's been fun to watch a new coach come in and build a team. Needless to say, our plans for the next few days involve lots more football--and, of course, lots more food.

My sweet husband has had a hard week. He began the week being tired and has gone downhill from there. On Wednesday he lost his balance and fell over backwards. I tried once to help him off the floor, but was afraid I'd get him half way up and he'd fall again because he couldn't help himself. Being around the corner from family helped once again since Tommy was here within minutes when I called him. Tom was just lying on the floor grinning and telling us that he would have been able to get up eventually. The next day we went in the garage to get laundry detergent, he bent over slightly and his back went out. When that happens he does back exercises, rests and just waits for it to get better. This time, however, it seems the getting better is taking longer than it should. It's a good thing we're retired and have nothing to do this week but watch football.

We did have good news right before Christmas and I forgot to report. I guess I thought everyone everywhere heard me shout "Hallelujah" when I talked to the nurse at the cancer clinic. The blood test that is a marker for cancer activity, the CA125, went down from 52 before my first treatment to 27.8 the day of my second one. We are praying that it will continue to go down and praising God that the chemo is doing its job.

I preached this morning in the neighboring town where I was the first Sunday of the month. This time, however, I was on time. In fact, I was there early enough to show a choir member how to copy something from her hymnal. I love being able to lead God's people in worship! The pastor at this little church is a dear friend and I have now preached for him three times so I'm beginning to learn people's names and something about some of them. Being with them reminds me of how much I miss the parish ministry.

It's late and my helper comes early in the morning. Mainly I wanted to bring you up to date on Tom and share the good news about the blood work. Please continue to pray for Tom and praise God, along with us, for all His mighty works.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's two days after Christmas and our house is quiet and still. Only the low volume on the TV and the ticking of the grandfather clock can be heard. Tom got up at seven, took his medicine and went back to bed. He needs the rest.

I don't know whether we are adjusting to the new medications or if his symptoms are becoming more troublesome. He seems to be fatigued more and generally doesn't feel good. Days surrounding Christmas Day were full of both normal and holiday activities. We had our family and Liz's parents for dinner Christmas Eve and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. That afternoon we had celebrated Meredith's second birthday--a few days late because she wasn't up to her ususal perky self. By Christmas morning Tom was too tired and after spending about thirty minutes watching the grandchildren open gifts I had to bring him home so he could go back to bed. Sleep helped. Yesterday he fell and felt the effects of the fall for the rest of the day. I hope he can rest well today.

In spite of the interruptions caused by health concerns our Christmas has been memorable. It is our second in our "new" home, but it feels more like the first because last year we were still trying to get unpacked and organized. It's been challenging to try to find all the decorations, fun to use old treasures in new places and exciting to blend new activities with old traditions.

Friday night the grandchildren came to decorate our tree--just like our children did with their grandparents. The ornaments brought back warm memories of family, friends and Christmases past, providing lots of conversation for the adults in the room. The tree was/is the prettiest one we've ever had--I say that every year. It certainly is the most uniquely decorated. Never have we had a section dedicated solely to blue balls. Drew honed in on the blue balls and hung them where he could reach the best--toward the bottom on one side. Yes, it truly is the best tree ever--until next year.

Missing from our sepcial celebration were Marty and her family. "Little Bird," as they call him, is due in four weeks and traveling now is not an option. We look forward to having them all with us next year. The pitter patter of all the grandchildren will drown out the sound of Santa's reindeer on the roof. I can hardly wait!

Enjoy the rest of your holidays.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, December 21, 2007

When sleep doesn't come, I think and when thoughts start coming, I can't sleep. Earlier in the week someone told me a story that prompted tonight's thoughts. It seems that some well meaning folks included the name of a cancer patient on a Christmas tree that is usually associated with children at risk, children of those incarcerated--in other words people who might be considered "down and out." A gift was delivered to the patient and he was properly grateful--just a bit puzzled how/why his name was on the tree. No explanation was given. The thought was sincere, but the gesture came across as pity.

Pity is the last thing a cancer patient needs! I remember cancer #1. For every loving, thoughtful person there was at least one more who stumbled over their conversations with me. Some stayed away and said nothing. Others spoke in whispers or changed the subject when I approached the group. It was almost as if I had leprosy. I was forging ahead trying to keep our lives as normal as possible and I didn't need pity. I did and continue to need the prayers and the presence of our family and friends.

In fact, if you ask me, prayer and presence are two of the greatest gifts you can share with a cancer patient.

We are sustained and uplifted by the prayers offered in our behalf. I believe so emphatically that God works through the prayers of His people and have gained strength both physically and emotionally as God has answered prayer requests. I also believe in praying specifically. If you don't know what those specifics are, ask the person how you can pray for them. Or, if you are so inclined, ask if you can pray with them. (You don't have to be a minister to pray aloud.) Just remember that prayer is not a magic potion. People do not always get better; side effects of chemo are unpleasant to say the least. For myself, I pray that if the cancer is not to be taken away that He will give me His all sufficient grace to keep going. As a pastor, that is always my prayer when visiting with a person who is terminally ill.

I have spoken many times about the ministry of presence. Words are not always necessary, but your physical presence means more than anyone can say. I have two really special friends who have prayed and been present with me during all four of my cancer occurences, They know when to talk and when to listen. They have laughed and cried with me. They would do anything to make me cancer free and I know it. Their presence in my life has assured me of it. They never expressed pity. They helped me keep my life "normal" by feeding us, helping with our children, running errands and by treating me as a person, not a victim. In the other episodes of illness we have lived miles apart--for a while over 2000 and most recently almost 300. I continue to experience their presence by phone calls, notes and visits. There are many ways we can be present in someone's life.

If you're the patient, be humble enough to accept help and the love and concern that prompts it. If you're the friend, pray specifically and find creative new ways to be present. God will bless your efforts and your friend will have a better day.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Today is a special day in our family. It is Tommy and Liz's fourteenth anniversary. I remember their courtship and wedding as if it were yesterday. They married on a sunny December afternoon at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Natchez, MS, one of several buildings in town on the National Register of Historic Places. The church was beautiful with its simple, but traditional Christmas decorations. Tourists were abundant both inside the church before the ceremony and in horse drawn carriages riding past waving at the wedding party. The bride was beautiful in white and the bridesmaids outstanding in their Christmas red velvet dresses. Liz was and is the wife for whom we prayed--a perfect complement to our son. We were so happy that day to welcome her into our family, but even more so today as we have gotten to know her better and to love her more. It seems like yesterday, but when I see them with their five children I know it's been much longer. The joy of December 18 fourteen years ago has been multiplied many times over.

Yesterday morning we got the bad news that the heating element in our heating unit was cracked and the gas needed to be turned off immediately. Fortunately, the temperature reached fifty and it got a little higher today. Warmer temperatures along with gas logs in the den have kept us warm the past two days. Tomorrow we get a new unit--not exactly what we wanted for Christmas, but necessary.

This week has brought cards and letters from friends and family and I have learned of more folks out there in cyber space who read this blog. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I'll write as long as someone reads. I hope you can spend this week before Christmas reflecting on God's graciousness. God always knows exactly what we need and has freely given. Thanks be to God all our gifts and most especially for His Christmas Gift to us!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our week has been full of "highlights," blessings that have come in various forms. I am reminded of the statements a minister friend often opened with: "God is good all the time. All the time God is good." So true. Here are our highlights, not neccessarily in order or significance.

The annual Christmas pageant was held at the church Wednesday night. We have a relatively new music director and though he's been in his profession more than twenty years, I'm not sure he"get's it." Our pageant was a worship service that included Scripture readings, choir anthems, congregational hymns and children cast in the roles of Mary, Joseph, angels, etc. You may be thinking that I have described the pattern for most pageants, but there were definitely some variations in the theme. Our grandson, Jacob, thought he was to be a shepherd, but his dad who had put together the order of service, told us ahead of time that the music guy wasn't having shepherds. So when it came time for the shepherds to "abide in the field," there was neither field nor shepherds. We did have lovely angels, Sarah Beth among them, but we never saw her again after she processed down the aisle. The choir surrounded the manger set and was hard to see from the pews. Finally, the kings came. (The script followed tradition, not the accuracey of Scripture.) Down the aisle they came--one taller king, carrying two gifts, and a shorter king whose crown seemed to be held up by his glasses. What a sight! Jacob, the taller, and Drew, the short king knelt before the manger, which, by the way, contained Sarah's life life baby doll as the Christ child. She was happier with the part her doll played than she was about being an angel.

Friends were the source of more than one highlight--long time friends, more recent ones and a new friend too. Tuesday long time friends from Mississippi came and spent several hours with us. The roundtrip drive is more than twice as long as the time they can spend with us, but they come anyway and we take advantage of every minute of their visits. Tommy, Liz and the two younger children joined us for lunch. I love it when friendships span the generations and we are blessed to have some that do just that. Their visit was a real gift. The mail, Fed Ex and UPS have brought greetings and happies from friends accross the country. How wonderful it is to hear from them and to receive expressions of their friendship and thoughtfulness! Yesterday a friend from our church here gave us her day and drove us to Corinth for my treatment. Her doing that for us means even more when I remember that she and her husband are hosting a brunch for our Sunday school class at their house this morning. When I acknowledge that God has given us far more than we have asked or even thought, I am acknowledging that our friends are truly gifts from God and the best friends possible.

Our trip to the neurologist on Monday was productive. Tom gave his take on what's been happening and then it was my turn. The doctor listened. He assured me that the symptoms are not unusal for Tom's illness and that we have not run out of options. We had a thorough discussion of medication--what is appropriate for Tom, what is not. There are different categories of medication for Parkinson's and Tom has been on two categories for some time. A third was added this week and some of those worrysome symptoms have subsided. Dr. M also gave Tom a sleeping tablet that is non-habit forming. That pill, along with the other med has helped us both get hours of uninterrupted sleep this week. I confess I had gotten pretty discouraged with Tom's condition and impatient living with it 24/7. As the week has progressed my focus has been on thankfulness for what can be done rather than complaining about what I see as impossibilities. (I need to go back and read a blog I posted months ago on God being bigger than any impossibility.)

Finally, yesterday I had my second chemo treatment and an appointment with my oncologist. How, you might ask, could that be a highlight? I went in with a few questions, a speech about wanting to know everything and with a throat/chest condition that was similiar to the beginning of the pneumonia of 2006. I learned that my CA125 had doubled between October and November, not unexpected, but not welcome news. And to my questions: "What exactly are we hoping to accomplish with these treatments and what is going on with this cancer? Is the treatment just holding it at bay?" He replied that "holding it at bay" is a good way to put it. Because the cancer has returned they know it is incurable--or as the nurse puts it, "chronic."
Again, he stressed my response to one particular drug and is hopeful/optimistic about my being put back into remission. For how long or how many times, no one knows. The anti-nausea drugs are working better and I was given meds for my throat problem. It's already better this morning. As for me and my reaction to "incurable" and "chronic," I think I'll choose "chronic" over "incurable." Neither what Tom has or what I have is curable--both hang around and both are terminal. I can either choose to live with a chronic illness or die with a terminal one. I choose to live and to live every day to the fullest, enjoying family and friends and witnessing to the faithfulness, the grace and the love of God.

Thanks for sharing our highlights. But I saved the best til last. Knowing that the Light of the World is Jesus puts Light and Life in all our weeks.

Christmas blessings,
Pastor Margaret

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tom's symptoms are getting worse. He knows it. I know it. Our children know it. Fortunately he has a doctor who responds immediately when we call. We have an appointment this morning. For months that are stretching into years I have held onto the possibility that a change in medication and/or dosing would make him almost good as new. And for the months, now year, that we have been here and have been seeing this neurologist Tom's condition has been helped by changes in medication. Now I wonder if he has reached the point all Parkinson's families dread when medicine begins to lose its effectiveness and increases are necessary. It's hard to watch him struggle and it's hard to live with so much uncertainty.

We went to bed Saturday night planning to go to Sunday school and church yesterday. It didn't happen. Most of the time when "he can't make it" I dress and go to one or the other and leave him here. Yesterday was different. He needed so much help getting up and down, in and out of the bed etc. that I couldn't leave him. By late morning he was better and by late afternoon felt like going to the church to help Tommy serve the Session and new elders supper. He did one simple task and froze in his tracks so I helped him sit down, gave him a pill and he sat for about forty five minutes til he got better again. Watching him help me run the dishwasher and clean the kitchen you would never have known how frozen he was just an hour earlier.

The good part of the evening was dinner: Cajun chicken served over cheese grits with sauteed asparagus and cherry tomatoes, salad and biscuits and working with our son and grandson. Jacob is finishing up hours for community service needed for a school project. It's fun to see the reactions of people who eat Tommy's cooking. Some know of his kitchen skills; others don't. I only made the dessert, but received praise right alongside Tommy though I didn't work nearly as hard as he did.

Tomorrow we have good friends coming for the day from Mississippi and we are excited about seeing them. Wednesday evening we hope to go for the children's Christmas pageant at the church and Thursday we plan to go for brown bag Bible study. We never know until the last minute if we'll make it for the Wednesday or Thursday things. Friday is treatment day in Corinth. I'm praying for a turn around in Tom's condition before then. He won't even talk about not going with me. We have a busy week and we need your prayers.

May you experience the blessings of God as you make your preparations for the celebration of Christ's birth. He truly is the Reason for the Season.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We are spending a cozy night at home. The gas logs are burning and there's an SEC basketball game on TV. This morning we went out to run a few errands and it was beautiful and sunny--almost too warm for the jacket I was wearing. Right after lunch I looked out and it was overcast, the wind was blowing and the temperature was dropping. What we used to say about Mississippi weather can be said about Tennessee weather as well. "If you're not pleased with the weather, wait five minutes and it will change." It did!

Drew got his glasses yesterday and his mom brought him by on their way home so we could see him. He looks very studious. We were at his house when he came from school today and I watched as he took them off and very carefully took the cleaning cloth out of the case and cleaned the lens. I could learn from Drew.

Sunday I lived out every preacher's nightmare--or at least one of them. I was late to the service. I allowed myself plenty of time to drive the fifteen or twenty miles to the church and thought I was arriving early so I could familiarize myself with the bulletin before the service. As I turned off the highway I spotted the sign out front which stated that the Sunday worship time is 10:30 a.m. It was already 10:35. A man was waiting by the door to help me in, give me the lapel mike, the organist was doodling and the choir was marking time waiting to process. Everyone was very gracious in spite of my mistake.

Once again our house looks like we're either moving in or out. Tom went in the attic this afternoon to get down all our Christmas stuff. It's amazing how much we have accumulated. It looks like we have saved every decoration we have ever had. We never use everything we have, but I can't bear to recycle or thow any thing away. Tom can be unusually patient with my silliness.

Right before dinner I read my daughter's latest blog and I was touched by the depth of her emotion and her understanding of a cancer patient's mind. She had been linked to a blogger who wrote of "living with a terminal illness" and commented on that blog in relation to her dear friend who has inflammatory breast cancer and her mom who can't seem to outrun cancer cells. It makes my life so much easier to know that my children "get it," but don't dwell on the negatives. They let me live, encourage me by their attitudes and plan for tomorrow like there will be lots and lots of them.

In this season that reminds us of the hope and peace that Jesus brings, it is my special prayer that you will know that Hope and share in the Peace that guarantees joy and blessing.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, November 30, 2007

My mother's instinct failed me this week. Tommy called to ask if I had noticed the Christmas tree in the fellowship hall Wednesday night. I said I had and he proceeded to tell me that it came from Lowe's and that they had a great selection for a reasonable price. "Umm--that's nice." That unenthuastic comment brought renewed enthusiasm from him. He said he could go with us, have them wrap the tree in netting, put it on top of our car or put down the back seats and put it inside. I told him that the last time we put a tree two years ago it was really hard for his dad to manage. I'm still clueless when he said that he'd bring it in, put it in the stand and Liz could put on the lights. Then the grandchildren could come over and help decorate like he and his sister used to do at their grandparents' house. I finally got it! So, Tom and I talked and decided we'd put up a tree after all. I'm so glad my grown children have such fond memories of their traditions.

I'm almost finished with our shopping and my front bedroom is bulging at the seams. Not only are my purchases in there, but Liz's as well. Maw Maw and Paw Paw's house is great for hiding things. One might mistake us for the North Pole. Next week I'm devoting to wrapping and getting things in the mail. I have to get it all done before the next treatment.

Today we learned that Drew, the middle grandchild, five years old, needs glasses. I'm just sure it came from the paternal side of the family. His Paw Paw, great uncle and Aunt Marty all had glasses at an early age. The doctor says he should do well with glasses once he notices how much better he sees things.

We are looking forward to a busy weekend. I am preaching in a neighboring town on Sunday and Tom and I volunteered to cook supper for the junior highs at our church Sunday night. We'll go to Tommy's Saturday afternoon to watch the SEC championship game with them.

I'm excited about the sermon. The pastor planned an Advent series called the "Songs of Advent" and I will have as my text Luke 1:46-55, known as Mary's Magnificat. A couple of years ago I taught and later preached on the passage in the first part of the chapter when the angel visits Mary and tells her that she is favored by God and will bear His Son. There is such a contrast in that passage and Mary's response and then Mary's song beginning in verse 46. At first she was puzzled, knowing the criticism she would encounter as a young virgin who finds herself expecting a child. But she was submissive to the will of God and relinquished her will, her body, her whole self to do God's bidding. Her song in verses 46-55 is a direct result of that submission, I believe that being in God's will brings a joy that is almost inexpressible. Note how bright and hopeful she is as compared to the hopelessness she must have first felt. Can you relate? I certainly can. Letting God have control is the only way we experience true joy in this life. Letting God be in charge is our hope, physically and spiritually. Praise be to Him who is our Hope!

Have a wonderful weekend!
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Earlier in the week I had nostalgic thoughts about Thanksgiving and the sad, lonely feelings past Thanksgivings brought. I remembered being in a story telling workshop at an older adult conference and the leader used Thanksgiving as her tool to get people to remember and talk. Getting people to tell stories is a good way to get to know them and listening to those stories is a good way to let people know you value them. There were probably 30 to 40 people in the workshop and I was just about the last person in the circle to speak. By the time I had heard all the other Thanksgiving memories I was so emotional I could hardly speak. The others talked of traditions, good food, being with family and togetherness. My memories included those things, but also how lonely I was, even in the midst of others.

I grew up in a single parent home mostly. My parents divorced when I was almost nine, I lived two years with an aunt and uncle and the rest of the time wished I was still with them. They were my family; they gave me a home when I needed it most; their tradition became my tradition; my aunt's table represented the proverbial "groaning board"; and I learned from them the importance of family togetherness. So when Thanksgiving came and it was just my mother and me I was sad and lonelier than usual.

In the workshop that day I dredged up memories that had long been buried. They were too sad to be remembered--or so I thought. What I remembered most was the loneliness I felt whether I was literally by myself while my mother worked on Thanksgiving, whether I was with some of my father's family or whether I was one of many having dinner at the home of a friend's grandmother. But there was also this one memory that seemed to push its way to the front of my mind, saying, "I'm most important. Remember me."

My mother was a nurse. She worked long hours, sometimes double shifts just so we could make ends meet. Among other things, she was a wonderful cook and made the best spaghetti sauce and apple pie ever. If she asked me what I wanted, those were my choices--even for Thanksgiving. Having spaghetti with apple pie for dessert and inviting four or five of my friends for supper Thanksgiving night became our tradition. I can still taste the good food, but that's not the best part of the memory. The best part is remembering the mother who could pull off dinner for me and my friends after being on her feet all day.

That workshop has prompted me every year to remember Thanksgivings past. The loneliness I used to feel was replaced when I started my own family 40+ years ago and the sadness that long had been such a huge memory has been replaced with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what I have--family and friends who care and a wonderful life. God has outdone himself blessing me.

There were ten of us at our house on Thursday: Tommy and Liz and their five children, a friend from our church and us. It was a great day!

Here are some of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving 2007:
  • It was our first one here and marked the first anniversary of our arriving on Thanksgiving evening last year.
  • It was the first meal with all the family (intown) around the dining room table.
  • Jacob made a brine for the turkey and helped his dad make the dressing--yummy!
  • Jacob and Sarah rode their scooters down early and Sarah helped me finish the table.
  • Drew loved PawPaw's sweet potatoes and ate two helpings before most of us had one.
  • Meredith had a wonderful time pulling the felts off the kitchen cabinets. Every time one bangs shut I see her working hard to get the pad unstuck.
  • Little E slept through it all.
  • Our church friend brightened our day with her presence.
  • I followed the progress of Marty's preparations for their dinner in Raleigh through her blog. She cooks enough to feed an army.
  • We heard from friends both near and far.
  • The silver gravy boat I used was a wedding gift from my high school friend. Using it brought to mind the Thanksgivings I had spent with her and the sadness is gone.

It was a Thanksgiving to remember!! I hope yours was.


Pastor Margaret

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today was the day. It was my fourth encounter with chemotherapy: once for breast cancer and the third time for ovarian. I'm practically an old pro--not something to which I aspired. A couple from the Thursday Bible study took us and in spite of our reason for going we had a good time with them.

The leaves just seem to get more beautiful, aided by a couple of nights below freezing this week. Tom and I just sat back, enjoyed the scenery and visiting with new friends. Bill is in his mid to late eighties and continues to go on mission trips to Mexico annually. He is a retired college professor and coach, having been on the basketball coaching staff at Florida, teacher and crosscountry coach at the Citadel for twenty years, and continued teaching and working on a research project at Wake Forest. After retirement he was the executive director of Habitat for a while. His wife is a beautiful white haired lady whose teaching career was with third graders. They moved here almost twenty years ago to be near an adult daughter who needed their presence. Bill has Steven's Ministry and hospice training. If a family member couldn't be with us, who more understanding that Bill could sit with Tom? We are blessed to have these new friends.

The treatment went well--no surprises and so far, no side effects other than sluggishness from the nausea medication. We will both sleep well tonight. I go again December 14.

Thank you for your prayers, your love and support and the gift of your friendship. You are special to us both.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Ovarian cancer is a chronic disease." Those were the words of the nurse when she showed me the elevevated CA125. I had never thought of it that way, so I pulled out my trusty dictionary and found a word in the definition for "chronic" that I didn't exactly like: "lingering." My cancer is lingering; it hangs around; it hides; now you see it; now you don't. Except, scans done on Wednesday are in the "now you see it" category.

We met with the oncologist yesterday and I honestly don't remember all he said. I was too anxious to get on with what we were going to do to fight it. I will receive a single chemotherapy drug once every four weeks. It is a drug I had the first go around and my doctor believes that my body responds well to this particular drug. I start Friday, the 16th.

Each member of my family has responded in the most supportive ways possible. How can they just keep on giving, giving and giving? One of my first responses when hearing the "c" word is regret that they have to endure one more time and I apologize. My children were 12 and 8 when they heard the word the first time 26 years ago. Through the years they have inspired and encouraged me. They are the best. I have mentioned before how Tom and I have laughed and said that we have gotten a lot of mileage out of the wedding vow that promises faithfulness "in sickness and in health." His own health problem limits what he can do these days, but it does not limit his love and care for me. Now our children have families of their own and they have become part of the circle of support.

In the center of that circle is one unchanging, all-knowing, powerful, compassionate God. When I think of the cancer "lingering," hiding out in unknown places I take great comfort in knowing that God is present. He doesn't linger. He IS! He sees into the hiding places. He knows how and where I need to be healed. We are trusting Him in this fight.

Today we move ahead with life. Sarah is coming today to help make Sunday dinner. We're making chicken tetrazzini, congealed salad and a chocolate trifle. I'm teaching Sunday school in the morning and have Presbytery next Tuesday. Our days are busy and our life is blessed. We continue to covet your prayers.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If you get tired of reading about the beautiful country side, you'll just have to get tired. I grew up in this part of the country, but have lived most of my life a couple of hundred miles further south where the four seasons are only a suggestion. Here, they actually exist. Tom and I went out this afternoon to run errands and enjoyed temperatures in the low fifties and trees still sporting their brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. Tomorrow I'm going to drive downtown to where I remember there are ghinko trees lining the sidewalks. They should be bright yellow about now. God's color pallette never ceases to amaze me.

If you don't want to hear another thing about our grandchildren, stop reading here. Liz came home with baby Elisa yesterday. We went over this afternoon for a while and Paw Paw held the baby for the first time. Every time he holds a new grandchild the smile gets broader. Pretty soon he literally will be grinning from ear to ear. All the children had homework and I got to help five year old Drew with drawing pictures of things beginning with the letter "i" and then writting the name under the picture. He chose to draw and write igloo, ice cream and infant. And, of course, he greeted us with "I'm still on purple." Sometimes God's greatest gifts come in small packages.

If you were here you could join me tomorrow afternoon as I resume "Peas for Dinner." Tomorrow it's all about Paul--one of the most misunderstood men in Scripture. At least I think he is. He certainly was instrumental in recording much Christian doctrine and in a way that is understandable. He was a passionate, zealous, untiring servant of Christ. His life was all about Jesus. I wish I could say the same about mine.

If you pray along with us, please pray for our friend John who is having a kidney removed Thursday morning. And please pray for us. Tomorrow I have scans in preparation for a visit with the oncologist on Friday. My CA125 is slightly elevated and I have been reminded by the medical personnel that ovarian cancer is a chronic disease--it lingers. I am also reminded in the Scriptures that our God is a God of miracles, a God who has me in the palm of His hand. I'm praying for another miracle so that I can continue praising Him for His glorious creation, so that I can continue being a part of this wonderful family He has given us and so I can continue sharing His word.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Yesterday we welcomed a new granddaughter into the family. Elisa Leigh was born at 2:25 p.m., weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. and is 20 1/2 inches long. Just like her brothers and sisters, her daddy, aunt and grandparents she has very little hair. When Liz when in yesterday morning the baby was back in breech position so a C-section was performed. Both mother and baby girl are doing well.

Tom and I spent a good bit of the day in the waiting room, but came home to catch our breaths about four after they finally let us in recovery to see Liz and Elisa. The other four children had been anxiously waiting all day to see their momma and to meet the newest baby sister. A college age friend made the cutest tee shirts--they were green with "hand turkeys" drawn on them with puff paint. Each finger had one of the children's names written and there was a designation of big sister or brother also. If my technology was up to snuff I'd include a picture. We went back to the hospital in the early evening so we could be there when Tommy brought the children.

Packed in the room were Liz, her mom, big Elisa (the friend for whom baby Elisa is named), Tom, Tommy, Jake, Sarah, Drew, Meredith, Lauren (our college friend) me and finally they brought the baby from the nursery. Jake was a little quiet, concerned and anxious to know that his mom was alright and proud to show the others he knew how to hold the baby. Sarah was full of smiles showing off a space in her mouth where she had lost a tooth the night before, but assuring me that she could still chew gum. (As a dutiful grandmomma I always carry gum for them.) Drew with his usual response when Liz asked him about his day at school: "Fine and I'm still on purple." (That's the color representing the best conduct level.) Mer was happy to see everyone in one place and kept reminding us that her momma had a boo boo on her tummy. Each child had a turn holding the baby. We cannot put into words how grateful we are for family and our having the privilege to be in the midst of all that joy.

Only Marty was missing, but Tommy, Liz and I talked with her throughout the day. I even called her just to say we were still waiting. It was a family affair and accross the miles it was the only way I could share. I wanted her there and will feel the same way in January when we're with them for the birth of their baby and Tommy is not.

Tom's dad used to sit at our dining room table, look around at our family and say, "Just think. I started all of this." He was so proud and happy. As we left the hubbub at the hospital for the peace and quiet of home we knew the feeling. Our children have blessed us beyond measure with their love and respect, their caring and consideration. Then there are the grandchildren--the icing on the cake. Family--God's gift and now the time to enjoy them and be a part of their lives.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We're home after traveling to St. Louis and back, to Nashville, on to Raleigh and back in just two weeks. In our younger, healthier days that would have been "no hill for a stepper" as Tom has been known to say. But years, illness and "cures" have taken their toll and we are tired. Today we have rested, Tom has done laundry and we both had the unexpected pleasure of keeping Meredith for a while this morning. I don't know how one little girl can bring so much joy and so many smiles. It was especially fun to watch her pound on the workbench that her Paw Paw and his brother and her dad and Aunt Marty played with when they were her age. We can't wait to see all four of them in their halloween costumes when they come from Trunk or Treat at the church tonight.

Our week in North Carolina was jam packed and laid back all at the same time. We had not visited Marty and Kevin in the home they have been rennovating and we marvelled at their handy-work. Looking at the "before pictures" and seeing the now made it even more amazing. She certainly did not learn to lay tile from her parents. They have a lot left to do before the baby arrives in January, but I'm certain his room will be ready. One afternoon Lorica, the Celtic band of which Marty is a part, rehearsed in her studio and we enjoyed listening. We also enjoyed hearing her students perform at their fall recital Saturday night. Friday afternoon we visited the North Carolina Museum of Art to see an exhibit of Landscapes by French and American Impressionists. The paintings could only be surpassed by witnessing God's creative touches in the natural landscapes seen on our way to and from Raleigh. The mountains were beautiful--well dressed in their fall colors with just enough mist to know why they're called the Smokey Mountains. The prettiest strectch of color, however, was between Knoxville and Nashville.

Tom and I were extraordinarily blessed last Friday morning to go with Marty and Kevin for a three dimensional ultra sound. What amazing technology that is. I hadn't seen an ultrasound until Liz took me with her this past summer, but the 3-D is even more exact. We could actually see eyelashes, the slope of his nose and multiple Karate type poses. I cried as I observed his movements and Marty holding onto her daddy's hand during the process. I'll never forget the smile on his face, though mine was just as big.

It was good to see Marty healthy and happy; to see her using the talents God has given her; to hear her play and sing; it was good to be in her home. She is a special young woman and I'm so glad she is my daughter and friend.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's a cool, rainy day, but nobody is complaining. The drought in North Carolina is reported to be the worst in a hundred years and they need all that's coming down and then some. I'm told that West Tennessee is getting soaked as well. Maybe I can dig in the ground and plant some bulbs when we get home.

The first leg of this part of our trip took us to Nashville to a Parkinson's symposium at Vanderbilt University. Four physicians from the neurology department gave 30 - 45 minute presentations followed by a question and answer period. The information was excellent and I was impressed by what they knew, how well they could articulate their knowledge and the vast amounts of reasearch that is being done right there at Vanderbilt. There were about 250 in attendance: many with Parkinson's and the rest family members or friends. Those with the disease represented various stages and looking around, we couldn't help but be thankful for where we are in the process.

We drove as far as the foothills of the Smokey Mountains on Saturday, rested well and continued our trip Sunday. It was a beautiful day. Sun reflecting on the leaves made the fall colors even more spectacular. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves when we noticed both lanes of traffic as far as we could see in front of us were barely moving or completely stopped. That continued for the next two hours. By then we were tired of leaves, leisure travel and were ready to grab a bite, fill up with gas and finish the trip.

We have rested, shopped some, eaten well and are having a great visit. This afternoon we made a trip to a neighboring community so we could shop at Trader Joe's. We had introduced Marty to TJ's when she came to see us in California and it was always a stop she had to make before coming home. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. It was good to stock up on cereal, trail mix, nuts, two buck Chuck and a few other favorites. The other thing we did this afternoon was go buy Marty a sewing machine so I could "teach her how to sew" while I'm here. I'm sure my mother is chuckling and smiling down on this sight. She was the expert seamtress in our family. I'm flattered to be asked, but my skills are sadly lacking.

Tom has done remarkably well with all the travel and unfamiliar surroundings. Spending time with Marty is good medicine. How I wish we could shrink the space between home and here and between home and friends across the country.

We'll head for home in a few days and a few days after we get there we'll welcome a new granddaughter into the family. Please join us as we pray for Liz and baby Elisa's safe delivery.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, October 19, 2007

There's a pound cake in the oven, a stack of maps by the computer and clothes waiting to be packed. The second leg of our October travels begins this afternoon. Between packing the car and hitting the road we're having lunch with Tommy, Liz and children--that will be the highlight of the day. This time last year when we were planning this move and I was in a fog, wondering how and saying that there was no way we could be ready, I'd get discouraged. Tommy would reply with, "Remember Mom, a cup of sugar." It was his way of reminding me that soon we'd be close enough to borrow sugar or whatever. Now, when the phone rings, it's more likely, "Do y'all want to come eat?" We don't take those invitations for granted. We are making memories--to say nothing of the great food he makes.

In St. Louis we attended the semi-annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network (POAMN). It is group I've been involved in for twenty years and I'm finishing my second term as president. I can't say enough about the network. Its leadership training events have more than equipped me for the work I do with older adults. But the best part by far are the friends I've made. They don't just come and go like so many people you meet across the country; they remain steadfast, loyal, caring friends that are close no matter how many miles separate us. Being in St. Louis with some of them was a great way to start our travels.

Chores are calling me and for once I'm anxious to get them done. They mean a good visit with family here before we go, a road trip together and a special destination when we arrive at Marty and Kevin's. We can't wait to get there.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yesterday was a long day and we're all glad it is over. It didn't help any that we gave ourselves three hours to drive sixty miles for my appointment and had to wait a little over two hours to see the doctor. Tom's stress level was almost off the charts and by the end of the day I was getting a little frustrated.

My oncologist (Dr. R) is quieter, harder to read than my California doctor (Dr. S) was, but he is thorough and considerate of me (us). He just seems a bit more reserved than Dr. S. For me a visit with the doctor is all about what he says, what he doesn't say and what is buried between the lines. Pretty much all I know today is what he said and not much of the other two. 1) He wants me to repeat the scans I had three months ago soon, rather than waiting another three months as is the usual pattern. 2) I'm scheduled for those on November 7 and will see him again on the 9th. 3) He really didn't offer an opinion about the elevated count, but does not treat based solely on the blood count and will wait to see what, if anything, the scans reveal. What I think he was saying is that I may be headed for more treatment sometime in the future. What he did say was that he didn't want to treat until absolutely necessary because of what my body has already had to endure. And one really encouraging thing he did say is that my cancer has shown itself to be sensitive to chemo.

Here's one thing I know with absolute certainty. God has promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me. That is not a promise of cure from illness; it is not a promise of freedom from pain either physical or emotional; it is a promise of God's presence. I can, I do and I will rely on that promise.

After we left Corinth we had to hurry back to Jackson for an appointment with my orthopedist. That, of course, meant more waiting. If anyone has ever been to see an orthopedist and did not have to wait and wait and wait, I'd like to know it. When I did get in to see him it only took about three minutes. My ankle is healed, though he did say that I'd probaly always know it had been broken--a tactful way of saying, "At your age . . . "

Over all, I'd have to say it was a good day. I love to drive through the country, but especially in the South. It is my country. The sounds, the sights, the smells remind me of so much. It was cool Thursday night so the dew was glistening like jewels on the grass and in the fields. Baled hay was a welcome sight. It has been so dry that people with livestock have had a hard time feeding their animals and the hay will help some. Last week my nose told me that the cotton had been defoliated and yesterday we saw brown stalks that had been stripped of their cotton. Since it was the weekend we passed probably a dozen yard sales. Traffic picked up late in the afternoon--a sure sign that it is a busy football weekend. It was the beginning of a pretty typical fall weekend in the South.

Best of all, I spent time with both of our children--one on the phone, one in person. Tommy made a new recipe and I'm still thinking about it this morning. The name escapes me, but it was a shrimp, crawfish and andouie (sp?) sausage cream sauce concoction over cheese grits cakes. It makes my mouth water just thinking about how good it was. Maybe he'll share the leftovers.

Hope your team wins today--unless they are playing ours.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My daughter gives me too much credit. She says that I don't cry and I don't complain because the CA125 is elevated again. Maybe not, but the news does make me project, makes me consider again the "what ifs." Most of those projections and "what ifs" center around my family and especially Tom. We have witnessed what stress does to him; we have seen what happens to him when his attachment to me is interrupted. Thinking about that does indeed make me cry.

Yesterday I was a little anxious and searched many ovarian cancer sites to read what is said about recurrence and symptoms of recurrence. Information given is more for those with original diagnoses. Information about recurrence is just that: the disease is chronic, it is lingering. I knew that and I know that complaining does no good.

So, today I'm counting my blessings. My helper came this morning and I finally got out to get a pedicure--the first since before I broke my foot and ankle the end of May. I stopped by a nursery to buy pots to transplant the geraniums on the front porch. Yesterday I went out to dig them up and replace them with mums but couldn't stand to throw them away just because they are a little straggly and out of season. They still have buds and want to keep on blooming. In some ways I'm like those geraniums--spread out, a little wilted in places, but determined to bloom as long as I'm planted.

As I was thinking of where I am in my Wednesday Bible Study, "Peas for Dinner," I remembered that we are in the midst of the discussion on the Apostle Peter. Last week we looked at Peter in the Gospels and what a wishy washy, impetuous, brash person he was. Why would God use such a person? After Jesus restores Peter at the end of John and after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter is a changed person. He is bold and courageous, full of faith and mightily used by God in the establishment of the early church. Peter in Acts is led by the Holy Spirit--he is a different man. Well, I'm not Peter, but that same Spirit that made him bold and courageous, full of faith and used by God is the Spirit that indwells me and that same Spirit will equip me just as He equipped Peter and all who rely on Him. God blesses with messages in sometimes unexpected ways.

Next week I'll meet in St. Louis with a committee that, among other things, plans leadership training events for people who work with older adults. I haven't been able to be with them in over a year and I'm excited about seeing them and the work we will do together. Tom and I are going to attend a Parkinson's symposium at Vanderbilt then it's on to visit our daughter and her family. Along the way we're looking forward to lots of fall color and just being together.

Good things far outweigh bad things in my life and I'll remember them and be thankful when I'm tempted to cry or complain. Thanks for your prayers.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, October 08, 2007

Today was a beautiful day for a drive, though a little warm for this time of year. We made our second trip in two weeks to Corinth, about sixty miles from our house, to the cancer clinic. Last week I went for blood work; today was the scheduled appointment with the oncologist. There was one problem. He has changed his day in Corinth to Friday and I hadn't gotten the message. Mistakes happen. I asked for blood work results and one of the nurses came out to see me and give me a copy. The CA125 that measures ovarian cancer activity has gone up ten points--still within a safe range, but up nonetheless. She told me stuff I already know--how the count bounces around, comparing it to blood pressure. I will return this Friday to see the doctor and we'll get his "best guess" as to what if happening. In the meantime we continue to pray for low numbers and that the cancer will STAY AWAY FROM ME. Please pray with us.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My day started with a phone call from my son. He had the stomach bug and wanted to know if I'd take his place as the liturgist for the eleven o'clock worship service. It is World Wide Communion Sunday and every part of the service focused on that. Why, of course I would. I love to lead worship whatever part I'm given. As I read my Bible even earlier than the phone call, I thought about the diversity of the Church and that especially today brothers and sisters in Christ would worship, mindful of one another, and celebrate the Lord's Supper in my languages in many different types of settings. World Wide Communion Sunday is a day that exhibits Church as it is meant to be.

Our pastor's sermon moved me to tears as I listened to him, kept up with the Scripture in John 17 (1, 6-23) and thought about the unrest in our denomination. Reading the Scripture had been one of my contributions to the service and I noticed that Jesus prayed over and over that believers would "be one" as He and His Father are one. The pastor referenced a sermon preached by Max Lucado at an early Promise Keepers gathering at the Georgia Dome and said that when the service concluded with the Lord's Supper, several left and did not participate because of the diversity of beliefs that separate us. That made me sad and I remembered the times I have been excluded from the table because my belief didn't coincide with theirs or the times I have excluded myself for the same reason. Yet, Jesus prayed that believers might be one just as He and His Father are one.

I'll never approach a World Wide Communion Sunday in the same way again. I believe that God's Word is Truth. I believe that there is but one way for salvation--belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and is the presence of God within us. If I believe as I say I do and am not willing to compromise the teachings of God's Word, then I am compelled to pray along with Jesus that I will be one with other believers--as far apart as we may be.

Pastor Margaregt

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It was just one short year ago that the papers were signed for us to purchase the house where we now live. We were miles away--literally and figuratively. We were in California, living moment to moment; our son and his wife were in Tennessee taking care of business for us. I was in ICU on the ventilator; Tom was so stressed he couldn't function. We were both in another world, so to speak. Those days and the ones that immediately followed were probably the worst days of my life. But this is today--one year later and I feel as if this past year has been a special gift--a bonus.

As I was declared cancer free last December and regained my strength, Tom's stress level lowered and he improved some. We have no medical guarantees that the cancer will stay in remission or away completely, but we are hopeful. With Tom and the Parkinson's, there is no remission and no hope that the disease will disappear. There are times when I get really frustrated when he's particularly helpless or I have to explain things again. He gets exasperrated with me when I have to ask him to repeat himself more than once because I can't hear him. Then we remind each other how short life really is--too short to get irritated about things that can't be helped.

We spent parts of several days this week and a good bit of this morning cleaning things out of our garage and participating in the city/county wide disposal day at the fairgrounds. When we moved in last December we found lots of stuff left by the painters and others who had worked on the house. There were old light fixtures, a garbage disposal that had been removed at our request, at least two dozen paint cans and other miscellaneous building materials. We had gotten rid of some of it but were waiting for a designated disposal day so we could clear out everything else. Now the junk that's in the garage is all ours. Oh, joy.

Cleaning out the garage is such an every day thing--maybe not one of our favorite things to do, but necessary and just plain ordinary. It's one of those chores homeowners take for granted. I always have. Not any more. Even a chore like cleaning the garage is part of the bonus time we've been given. I'm glad I'm here to do it. I'm glad we both can budget our energy and take care of things. Who knew what a difference a year would make? Will there be another bonus year for us?

The words to a Christian song that was popular several years ago say it well. They go something like, "I do not know what the future holds; I only know Who holds the future." That's why we both have hope.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Once there were two friends--different as daylight and dark. We'll call them Sunny and Honey. Their friendship began a little over twenty years ago and though they have only lived in the same town about six of those years, the friendship has remained true and grows stronger every day.

Sunny went to private school; Honey went to public. One went to one church; one went to another--though church is how they met each other. (Presbyterian connectionalism at work) Sunny is a musician; Honey is a scientist. They are different. But they have a solid, beautiful friendship.

They have always been honest with one another. Never has there been, "I can't tell you what I really think or you won't like me." Neither has judged the other in times of crisis. When one needs support, the other is there. Some "friends" come and go; some are tongue tied in the face of illness; some just plain don't take the time and energy to stay connected. Not so with Sunny and Honey.

Right now Honey is fighting for life and Sunny is with her all the way--not physically because they live four hours apart--but in every other way. Honey is 34 years old, is married with two little boys under age four, one of them not quite a year and she has inflammatory breast cancer. You may not know what that is. I didn't and don't fully understand it now. What I do know is that it doesn't present like other types of breast cancer and it is fast acting and seems to be more fatal than some other types. It can be more difficult to detect and not much research money is allocated to it because of its "low cure rate."

Honey is amazing. She remains positive, active as possible and totally involved in the lives of her family. Her hair is gone--her smile is not. After the cheomotherapy she faces a mastectomy, but she knows what many of us know. She is not defined by her body parts. They do not make her who she is.

Sunny is on a soap box to get the word out about IBC and I don't mean the root beer or the ballent competion held in my home town. She's telling all who would listen about this breast cancer hoping to raise awareness, hoping to encourage others to do the same. You know what they say about a squeaky wheel. Sunny, too, is amazing.

You can help. Pray for Honey. Pray for her family and friends that they will know how to support her. Pray for Sunny. Pray for her as she tries to spread the word and still grieves for her friend who is in crisis. Inform yourself and others about IBC. Ask questions of your doctor. When you raise money or make a donation to the Breast Cancer Foundation, designate it for research for this particular form of cancer.

I wish you all a friendship like that of Sunny and Honey. Theirs touches my heart.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last night at Wednesday night supper our program was given by a church member who spoke on spiritual disciplines. It was an unusually good talk and not at all the direction I go when asked to talk on the same topic. I'm more of a "how to" and "here are some suggestions to get you started" speaker. Her approach was along the lines of "here are some spiritual disciplines" and here are the benefits of following any or several of them.

Just last week I was reminded of how I began and wrote of that beginning in my last post. As the lady spoke last night I was reminded over and over of the benefits and how we have been over mountains, in the valleys and the wilderness especially in the last several years. The journey has had lots of road blocks and detours, but always God has been faithful to us. I would not know that if I just read my Bible now and then, here and there. God knew what was ahead for us and He prepared me.

She spoke of "living in the present," and how, even in the Bible, people were always waiting for something. She certainly described how I've lived most of my life--waiting to grow up and leave home, have my own family, have enough money to not worry about our next meal, to see my children grow up, marry and be happy. You know what I mean. Then, suddenly, I'm facing the winter of my life and I wonder what there is left for me to await. Is God finished with me just because I have no installed position, no official call? What I have is the present. Today. It is a day that God has given. I will, as the psalmist exhorts, rejoice and be glad in it.

My biggest problem is not waiting for the future, but in dwelling in the past. I will probably always miss the ministry God gave me in California. I know I will always miss the people. Their faces and lives are written on my heart. But God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, has put us here. We are close to family and I am beginning to be busier than I ever thought possible. God is good. And God continues to teach me as I continue to read and meditate on His word.

On a lighter note--Our grandchildren usually let us know on Wednesday nights that they are glad to see us. Drew, the kindergartener, grabbed me around the knees and proudly announced that he is still on purple. That's the best conduct color he can achieve and one he works hard to have. Jacob, the oldest and sweetest, came to kiss us goodbye with blue green lips he acquired by eating some candy concoction. Sarah ran by the table to say hello and give us a hug, but Meredith, the youngest, got my goat. She has been saying "Paw Paw" for months, but usually runs to me. I open my arms and scoop her up. Last night she spotted us, came running, I opened my arms and she intentionally sidestepped me and went straight for Paw Paw. He is still grinning.

We are definitely living in the present and loving it.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This is the kind of day that makes me remember how much and why I loved Fall when I was growing up. The air is cool--or cooler than it has been--in the low to middle seventies. Pine straw litters the ground and I don't even care that it's there because of the drought we've been having. It's still a sign of Fall. Early this morning I read our hometown paper on-line, especially to find the high school football scores. Our team won. It's a perfect day for football today, perfect for tailgating. My favorite college team has a game on TV beginning about fifteen minutes from now and you can be sure we'll be tuned in. We rarely win, but we are all "die hard" fans. I had planned to cook a big pot of red beans and rice today. It's a perfect day for them, but forgot to soak the beans overnight. Silly me. How could I forget something so basic? That means soak them tonight and put them on to cook when we come from church tomorrow. Eat them on Monday 'cause they're always best the second day the Cajun cook expert in my family says. I wish you could experience this beautiful day with us. It's perfect.

In my Bible reading this morning I began reading Proverbs again. As I read the verses and all the notes in the margin of my Bible I was taken back to a sermon about twenty years ago. The pastor of the church had said in a sermon that if a person wanted to grow spiritually, he/she should read a chapter of Proverbs every day. I had heard that before, but I had not heard his second instruction which was to also read five psalms every day to grow in knowledge of God. Joe was and is the most humble man I know; godly in every way; a servant leader who exemplies Christ of Philippians 2. If this pattern of Bible reading contributed to his attitude and life, I couldn't wait to start it. Thus began my journey.

I don't have words to express how the practice of that reading pattern influenced and informed my life. Proverbs have taught me that God is wisdom personified and that through the conditions, promises, commands and results I have learned--and continue to learn--to have confidence--complete trust in God. Reading Psalms teaches the most beautiful, descriptive words about God and His creation. I am urged to remember God's mighty acts in my life as I read of the psalmist urging the Israelites to remember God's might acts in their lives. I followed that pattern monthly for several years. Now I only do it a few times a year.

Those readings changed the course of my journey. They showed me a protected path--a path reminescent of a drive way or walk way under a canopy of oak trees--like Oak Alley in Louisiana. Though the path has taken many turns, through the wilderness, into the fertile valleys, over mountains, down into the depths, the certainty of the constant presence and protection of God is always with me.

Some words of a song from "The King and I" say: "You've got to be carefully taught." Isn't that the truth? Immersing oneself in the truths of Psalms and Proverbs carefully teaches.

Try the reading pattern and have a wonderful journey.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We're still dealing with "things." Life would be a lot simpler if we did without them. Probably fifty years ago the aunt for whom I am named gave me her doll collection to add to the few I had. As long as we lived in the house we built in Mississippi I had some of them displayed, but since then there hasn't been that luxury of space and they have been in boxes deteriorating with age, dust and heat extremes. During the last week I have been going through them, getting some out to put in a lighted cabinet and other miscellaneous places around the house. Some I threw away, some I rewrapped for storage and others I put in a special drawer for the granddaughters to play with. I'll enjoy watching them most of all.

Yesterday was the second meeting of the Bible study I'm teaching this fall. My Fair Oaks ladies really spoiled me to teach for anyone else. They were always so responsive and ready to discuss things. This is a much smaller group and pretty quiet. I wasn't sure they would come back after the first week. We're looking at the book of Acts using all the words that begin with the letter "P"--i.e. people, places, purpose, persecution, preaching, prayer. Since the book is actually about the acts of the Holy Spirit we began with the Person, the place and the power of the Holy Spirit. Since the study immediately preceeds Wednesday night supper, I call it "Peas for Dinner." It's fun for me to be studying and teaching again.

Sunday I've been asked to preach in a small church about thirty miles south of here. They don't have an installed pastor and their stated supply is not available this week. We're looking forward to going and have two sets of directions to find the church. If not, we can always look for the Baptist church and ask them like the last time.

News came last night of the passing of a dear lady in our California church. She was always so affirming and encouraging, kept a smile on her face and when she wasn't at a gathering I missed her. Her passing really saddened me and made me realize once again how difficult it is to be away from those we hold dear and how much we have been blessed by the relationships that were made at Fair Oaks.

Thanks to all of you who read and have let me know.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

You know someone is reading when several days go by without a new post and people e-mail or call to see if you're okay. That is both reassuring and reaffirming. We are as fine as we can be--maybe even a little better than that--and have worked a little each day on organizing our office and going through things in the garage. My family all accuse me of being a pack rat and I now admit it with no apologies. I come from that generation born of those who lived through the Depression so I keep things, just in case I might need them again.

Things. Who needs them? Have I not wisely and smugly proclaimed that "People are more important than things?" Have I not glowlingly spoken of the memories we keep that no one can take from us? So, why do I need pieces of paper to remind me of by-gone recitals or programs? Just last week Tom brought me an envelope with six or so 8 1/2 x 10 glossies of him and different girls at this or that college dance. I had no trouble disposing of them. Will I be so willing when we uncover pictures I have kept?

I should be more like Marty. A few weeks ago her ex-mother-in-law had a lawyer contact her to find out what she would like done with several boxes stored with them. Marty had forgotten all about the boxes. She called and we tried to remember what was in them--maybe this, maybe that; is it worth it to have them shipped? The final decision was to send one small box that could be mailed and dispose of the others--without even remembering what was in them.
If you don't remember, then how could you possibly miss what's inside?

More times than I can count, I have wished for my former assistant and forever friend Mary. I need her to organize me in my office. She tried for all the years we worked together and I was not always a willing "organizee." Now I'm finding hard copies of many saved files and wonder why in the world I have saved them. If I reuse an outline I have to change the dates and usually change some of the material. My paper files are going to shrink--that's a promise.

In the garage we have opened some barrels that have been packed and stored for the past three years. There are dishes I put away because I knew I wouldn't need them; I found a piece of glassware that belonged to my mother that I thought the movers had stolen; and there is linen from both my mother and Tom's mother. The problem is that I don't know which is which. Who cares? Some may not last to be handed down to children and grandchildren. I'll just use it and be happy to have it--because it was theirs.

Don't get me wrong. I cherish the things that belonged to our parents--the furniture I remember from my childhood, the pieces that Tom's dad so lovingly refinished, the dishes that have little stickers on them so we won't forget who ate what and when. One of my favorite things is a corn pottery pitcher my aunt took from her china cabinet and gave me because she knew I had started a collection. It always reminds me of the special times I spent living with her. Things often evoke memories and memories are nurturing and satisfying.

Some of my favorite passages in the Bible center around remembering. Throughout the book of Psalms the Israelites are encouraged to "remember" God, His mighty acts, all that He has done. The focus of Deuteronomy is "remembering." There, when the Israelites are told to "remember," it is to do so in such a way that action is required. "God did this for you, so remember and obey God. Remember and honor God. Remember and be thankful. "

In the midst of the clutter in our house, we remember our family as we discover things that transport us to times past. In the midst of the clutter of our lives, we remember our God and His provision for us in every way.

Though I've been "up to my neck" in things lately, I've been enjoying the memories they have prompted.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, August 24, 2007

In case you are wondering, we are still having a HEAT WAVE. Everything is dry and dying. When I opened the blinds overlooking the back porch this morning I noticed the first humming birds I've seen at our feeder. They must be desperate. There is nothing blooming and the solution in the feeder is old. Cleaning the feeder and stirring up fresh solution will be one of my first tasks of the morning. Our predicted high for today is 105. We're praying for cooler temperatures and rain, not just for our relief, but for the many who have no shelter, no cool air in their homes and for those who depend on the ground for a living.
We have been busy lately trying to work out a new schedule for ourselves and for our helpers. It is no longer necessary for us to have people come in five mornings a week and there are differing opinions about just how much help we need. I tend to be like a toddler proclaiming to all who are in earshot: "I can do it myself." Tom wonders why someone needs to stay with him at all and why can't he just go with me when I have shopping to do. Others tell me I need a little time to myself. In the end we/I will have to make the decision and trust that it's the right one.
Tom still has good days and bad days and sometimes days are a mixture of both bad and good. Last Sunday I preached in a neighboring town for a friend of ours. Monday, when I reflected on the day, I was surprised to realize just how "normal" the day seemed. At first Tom was a little shaky, but was quietly insistent that he was going with me. Everything about getting to the church, talking to the lay reader about the service, conversations after the service could have happened ten years ago when I was doing supply preaching. A funny thing happened while we were looking for the church. We had been there with our friend a few months ago, but had driven to the church from his house, not from the highway into town. Instinctively I knew where the church was, but not actually, if that makes sense. We drove around a few minutes and on our second pass by 1st Baptist, I followed a man in truck into the parking lot and parked beside him. Tom got out, spoke to the man and asked if he could ask a "friendly Baptist where to find the Presbyterian church." That was typically the Tom before Parkinson's; the post-Parkinson's Tom is usually upset by things like not finding the church when your wife is due there to preach. The afternoon was relaxing and we went to Tommy's to keep the youngest while everyone else went to the youth kick-off event. It was a great day--one I'll remember. Great days with Parkinson's are rare.
We have also had some good times this week being productive in our house. After living here nine months I have finally realized that just as Rome wasn't built in a day, so a house cannot be put in order in a day if the order depends on two like we are. We both get tired; Tom gets distracted and forgets where he puts things; I get frustrated when I can't get it all done at one time. Almost every day in the past week we have worked part of the day on the details and the sense of accomplishment is good. In another nine months the house might be ready--if we quit having to have things fixed. This morning we discovered water in front of the dishwasher--there's a leak somewhere.
It was hoped that my visit to the orthopedist this week would be the last, but I'm scheduled for one more appointment in October. The ankle has knit together, but the healing is still not complete. I was cautioned to be very careful lest I do something to make it snap. The "granny shoe brace" will stay with me when I'm away from home or doing much walking or work that might cause me to lose my balance. Needless to say, I hold on with both hands when I encounter stairs.
I've said it before and I'll continue saying: we are very blessed. We have faith, family, friends. God gives us good times to enjoy and patience and endurance on the bad days. "Great is God's faithfulness."
Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Regular Wednesday night suppers at the church resumed tonight. The grandchildren love to go and we love to go to be with them. We don't go for the food, but for the fellowship and to be around people of all ages. We got there early tonight and as soon as I turned off the motor Tom said he wasn't sure he could stay. It went downhill from there so I got take out boxes and we brought our supper home. It seems to get harder to make plans to do things that we have always taken for granted. The nervousness used to happen occasionally, but the episodes have gotten more numerous and we're trying to adjust and cope.

One of my readers commented on my last blog and just that one comment affirmed my belief that there needs to be informed and considerate conversation about worship for all ages. How we worship depends on our denominational affiliation, the part of the country where we live, how or if we worshiped growing up, the size of the church, culture, the preferences of those planning worship. There are probably other factors, but these come to mind now. Living in California broadened and enriched worship for me. I sincerely hope that the prejudices I took with me when we moved there are among the stuff we left behind.

The most meaningful definition for worship I've heard is : Worship is the adoration of God by the people of God. Pretty simple, isn't it? It doesn't say how we are to adore God. The definition is not limited or limiting. If I prefer organ music and you prefer praise bands, that's okay as long as what we offer is excellent. It is our motive, our heart that matters. I pray that I will never be so traditional that tradition is more important than God who alone is worthy of all worship.

I think we need to be careful lest we put all the blame on worship style when the church is called irrelevant. Though worship is central, church also includes making disciples, growing in faith, reaching out in the name of Jesus to all people. As older Christians I believe we need to ask ourselves if making disciples is a priority; are we growing in our faith and helping younger ones grow in theirs; and do we reach out in the name of Jesus to all people or only to those who look like us, dress like us or were born in the same decade that we were? After all, we are supposedly wiser and have more time to invest in the lives of others.

For those of you younger readers out there I urge you to give the church a chance or more to the point, give the Lord of the Church a chance. And to those of you who are older I encourage you to reach out in the name of Jesus to all those who are searching.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, August 13, 2007

We are having a HEAT WAVE--with no relief in sight. Actually it's supposed to cool off to 95 by next Sunday. On my way home from Birmingham late Saturday afternoon the outside heat indicator in my car read 103. You get the message--we're having a HEAT WAVE.

Last week was special. I spoke twice about older adult ministry to two different groups and about two different aspects of the ministry. The second was a workshop I led for a two presbytery leadership training event in Birmingham. What was interesting is that the keynote speaker was there to talk about youth and young adult ministry. She talked Friday night about the postmodern era, how youth view the church as irrelevant and what needs to be done. The really interesting thing to me is how often when the irrelevance of the church is addressed the blame is mainly put on worship. A young man who was part of the dialogue said the only time he ever heard organ music is at church and then asked the question, "What is a doxology anyhow?" I understand there is a problem. Worship wars are not new and there are no easy answers.

My workshop addressed the "graying church" and the implications for ministry now and in the future. Here are my questions: is it appropriate/considerate/wise to strip worship services of all the familiar elements to please one group who are turned off by them or is it appropriate/considerate/wise to refuse to change anything and thus limit opportunities to share the message of Christ? I had planned to mention worship styles in my workshop, but after Friday night decided it was a topic that needed more than a mention. A wise woman pastor in the group brought up the words of Jesus that say: "Greater love has no one than he/she lay down his/her life for a friend." Her point? We all need to ask ourselves if there are things (traditions) that we are unwilling to lay down so that others may hear the good news of the gospel. The question works for all ages and is food for thought.

In my opinion church leaders need to informed about the development stages of all ages; they need to understand the worlds where both our younger and older friends live. Both groups have gifts; both have needs. People in both are made in the image of God.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, August 05, 2007

If I preached every Sunday or spoke every week I'd be a walking zombie. When I'm preparing I go to bed with the Scripture or the subject on my mind. I wake up in the night thinking--pushing words around. Last night was such a night. It didn't help that Tom awoke at three and spent the rest of the night getting in and out of bed, turning on the closet light to check the time and asking me how I was. I should have gotten up and come to the computer.

I have two preparations for this week. One is a brief talk on older adult ministry for a group at our local church. The question is: do I tell them what I think they want to hear or do I tell them what I think every church should hear? The other preparation is for a leadership training event in another state. It's about the graying church and implications for ministry. That, for sure, is not always a popular subject. Too many ignore the opportunities this age group presents. There are opportunities for them to give and opportunities for them to receive and yet they are either lumped together with all the other adults, starting with the just out of college crowd, or singled out as disagreeable, wrinkled and useless. What happed to "made in the image of God?"
Now, if I can put in outline form my early morning thoughts, I'll be ready to go.

One thing is certain. Where I was when I started with older adult minsitry a little over twenty years ago is drastically different than where I am today. Then, I was in my forties with teen aged children, looking forward to a grand and adventurous retirement. Today I am an older adult with grown children, grandchildren, living in forced retirement. Many of the things I knew intellectually and shared with others are now known experientially. (Some of those things I'd just as soon not know. ) I said there was one thing I knew for certain. That's wrong. There are two. This is the other: God does not call the equipped; He equips the called.

This week I get to share my passion for ministry with God's older saints with not one, but two groups. I hope I can stay awake.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The last six days have been pretty incredible. Thursday of last week Liz asked if I would like to go with her for a sonogram and for an electrocardiogram of the baby. What an experience that was. My babies were born before any such modern technology and I'd only seen pictures of sonograms of my other grandchildren--never actually seen the real thing. The technician's job was to measure the baby and when she learned that this was my first time, she carefully explained what all she was doing and what we were seeing. Liz knew--mamas know things, but I had to be told lots of times. It was amazing. I thought of Psalm 139. God has been knitting that precious life together and He knows her well. Then the doctor came for the electrocardiogram and pronounced that everything is "beautifully normal."

Friday we left mid-afternoon for family camp, driving through some beautiful rolling green hills and lots of farmland to arrive at NaCoMe somewhere in middle Tennessee. This church has been going there for a weekend of family camp for about forty years and there were people there who go that far back. Others grew up in the church and continue to go and take their families. There is something extremely heartwarming about watching people of all ages come together to learn, to worship, to play and to laugh together. It was a great way to get to know folks. There were a couple of down sides--both originating with us. The real change in routine for Tom and the extremes of temperature (really hot outside and pretty cool inside the cabin) caused stress for him. Walking on rocks and uneven ground made my feet tender and sore and they are still trying to recover, but they will eventually.

When we arrived home Sunday afternoon we had a message from California friends , Walt and Pam, who had planned to "come by" on Tuesday. They were continuing a trip that had already taken them to Wisconsin and were on their way to Arkansas--we're glad they thought West Tennessee was on the way. They were ahead of schedule and wanted to come on Monday. Fine with us. It was sooooo good to just sit and visit and to have them here with us. I didn't want to let them go. Their visit took me back to many visits that Pam and I made to shut-ins to serve communion. I've never known anyone who invests herself more in the lives of those she visits. She could teach us pastors a thing or two--in fact she did teach this pastor.

Today another dear friend, Cheryl, came over from Nashville and brought her daughter in law. They are there with their husbands for a business meeting. Cheryl and I got to be friends when she served as an elder on the Congregational Care Commission with me. She and I share Southern roots and a love for the Lord that exhibits itself in the way we feel about our families. For us, she is the "go to person" when godly wisdom is needed in a situation. We didn't want to let her go either.

These six days have been all about family and friends--seeing a new grandchild and hearing her heartbeat; spending time with part of our new church family; savoring every minute of our visits with dear, dear friends from miles away. Though our friends had to go, to continue on their journeys, they never leave our hearts. My cup overflows.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Today I took another step toward "foot freedom." After my appointment with the orthopedist I walked out of the office wearing two tennis shoes, but with a lace up support on my right ankle. It reminds me of those old fashion lace up leather shoes our grandmothers wore. I'm sure I have a button hook hidden somewhere in Mom's things. We've come a long way since those boots and since I fell two months ago. I still have to wear the boot at times when more support is necessary, but I can drive again and that is wonderful news. We all like our independence.

This weekend is the annual Family Camp for our church and our grandchildren have been talking about it for months. They are so excited especially because friends of theirs who moved to Atlanta during the Christmas holidays will be at camp with us. The camp site is about two hours from here and it actually is a camp that Tom and I both have attended before we were married. He went as a teenager and I went when I worked with Presbytery youth in the early sixties. We are told that lots has changed in forty years--like air conditioned cabins with real beds. I'm excited about that change. I've been asked to speak and I'm excited about that too. As much as I like to preach I really like to do teaching in informal type settings like camps and retreats. I hope our son won't be embarassed by his crazy mom.

I'll be sharing about the Christian disciplines of Bible study, meditation and prayer--the disciplines that God used to nudge me toward ordination and to enrich my Christian walk. Please pray that my words will touch hearts and change lives. There is such a difference in knowing about God and establishing a close relationship with Him. I want everyone to have that relationship. I remember a friend's words years ago when he was teaching one of the gospels for our Sunday school class. He said something like: "You cannot scientifically prove the existence of God or how He has worked in your life, but you can tell your experience with God. No one can deny your experience." I am not a scholar or a theologian, but I know what God has done for me, how He has touched me and used me, unworthy as I am. He has healed me from breast cancer, two bouts with ovarian cancer and pneumonia which came close to ending my life. He has given me an incredible family and special friends. I know the blessings of my life; I know how He changed me from a bitter, proud, insecure woman to be a vessel of His grace. God alone is worthy of praise and that is behind my talks this weekend. I haven't been so excited about teaching since I was asked to do "Through the Wilderness" for the FOPC Women's Retreat in 2006. God used that retreat in my life that I can't begin to tell.

Tom is asleep. He is tired. We let the medicine get a little off this afternoon then went to supper at the church. It was too much for him. He tries; I try; we try together. Still, we make mistakes and he suffers, but doesn't complain to me. I don't know what I'd do without him.

Thanks to all of you who keep up with us. Please keep up your prayers for our friend Susan, for our camp this weekend and for the Church around the world. God hears and God answers.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, July 20, 2007

There is a familiar face staring back at me in the mirror. The fuzzy, tight white curls are gone and I have a new short "do." Such a sight prompted me to share what I'll call "my hair chronicles."

I came into the world with nary a hair on my head. Not that I remember, but I've seen pictures of a chubby bald baby with big dark eyes staring at the camera. When it finally did come, it was wavy and my mother tortured me by rolling it in finger curls and around kid curlers. Until I was eight years old I had long curls and wore a bow in the top of my head. It wasn't my idea of cute. Once, when my mother was away for a few days, my daddy took me and had all that hair cut into the stylish "bob of the day." Boy was my mother mad. I loved it.

Growing up I had good, strong dark hair, sometimes long and sometimes short. A very definite gray patch took root during my college days and the gray continued to grow until I had salt and pepper hair in my early thirties. I kept it short, my only request to the stylist being, cut it so it will be easy care. Then in my early forties I underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer. My greatest concern during treatment was if the doctor thought I'd lose all my hair. I look back and shutter at my vanity.

At this point I must tell you an amazing "hair story." The chemo did not make my hair immediately come out, but a gradual thinning began. My hair dresser was aware of my treatments and knew my hair very well so he would cut it to disguise where it was thinning. It had begun to come out by hands full when I was in the shower so I asked a friend to go with me to buy a wig just in case. She was really busy that week and we made a date to go the next week. That was in May. I had begun treatments on February 1 and was scheduled through September. One morning during the week I waited for my friend I was in the shower seeing hair go down the drain and the Lord reminded me of the Philippians verses that tell us to pray, giving thanks in all things and of the gospel verses that tell us that God cares so much about us that He even know how many hairs we have on our heads. Right then and there I asked God to do something about my hair loss. I told Him that I knew He knew how many more I could stand to lose and I'd like not to lose any more. After I prayed I remember thinking how presumptious I was to be so bold. God had better things to do than to answer such a prayer prompted by my vanity. What happened is what makes this an amazing hair story. No more hair came out and when I went for my next hair cut the hair dresser told me that not only was it not coming out, but that I had new growth all in my scalp. Since that day I have never doubted God's care about the small insignificant things in my life.

In 2002 with my second experience with chemotherapy, my hair story was much different. I lost all hair, even my eyelashes. I had two wigs ready and waiting for baldness. One was the color of my hair; the other was sort of red and I had a wonderful time wearing it and watching people's reactions. A friend knit me caps to wear at night to keep my head warm and during the day when I went out without a wig, I wore a baseball cap--something I can't do when I have hair because it's too thick. When my hair grew back it was like a Brillo pad: tight, coarse curls. The texture was like a permanent gone wrong when the solution is left on too long. It took a year for it to get back to normal.

When chemo began a third time in 2006, hair began coming out almost as soon as I left the infusion center so we got the scissors, cut it and the next day I had someone shave my head. I spent a lot of time in the hospital last fall and many people saw me with no wig, no baseball cap, no nothing. I was so glad to live another day and see people that I didn't care about the lack of hair. This time it came in curly again, but not as thick on top and a completely different texture. I have had no idea what to do with it. A lady from our church came yesterday and cut it for me. My instructions were to get rid of the curls and it had to be pretty short for that to happen.

You may be wondering my point in these "hair chronicles." Do you remember the advice to always put your best foot forward so you can make a good impression? For me, my best foot was my hair. I was taught to "look good" meant everything. I bought it, but I hated it. My "hair chronicles" have taught me first of all of God's amazing care. They have also taught me that it's what's inside that counts, that the impression I make comes from who I am and in my case who I am as a child of God. I don't need hair. The truth is you can get dressed a whole quicker if you only have to slap a wig on your head.

Hair today, gone tomorrow seems to fit me. I'm glad to look like me again, but I suspect my image is not as much about hair as I once thought.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, July 16, 2007

Simple things make me smile.

Like yesterday when the children came down front for the children's sermon at church and my two grandchildren, ages 5 & 7, saw me standing in the pulpit. Both grinned, waved and mouthed, "Hi, MawMaw." Naturally, I grinned and waved back.

I smiled inwardly and outwardly as I led worship and preached for the first time in over a year.

Watching Tom clean his plate when it's full of fresh summer vegetables makes me smile. I'll smile even more when the scale indicates weight gain instead of loss.

Just being with Tom makes me happier than I can ever say. Our life at this stage is certainly not the way we imagined it would be, but we are together and that's what matters to us. We celebrate the good moments, share memories, talk about the realities of his decline and I try to explain business matters that arise. That, in itself, makes me smile. It's such role reversal. We adjust a little more each day to the way things have to be. I smile because I'm here and well and can take care of him.

Though I still have a boot on my broken ankle--which is healing nicely--and until a few days ago had a tacky, uncomfortable sandal on my broken foot, I was told I could get in the shower if I was very careful. So I did it. I stood in the shower and it was wonderful. If I had drowned it would have been because I was smiling and swallowing water. Getting to sleep with both feet free--wiggling my toes--being able to turn over without fear of crushing Tom with my boot are such simple things, but they make me smile.

Life, family, friends make me smile--not that fake "say cheese" smile put on for the photographer, but a smile that comes from way down deep inside me. Life is good. Our family is growing, especially the expectant moms and friends keep in touch.

I have lots to keep me smiling.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It seems like I haven't written in days and it looks like that too. The fact is I spent a couple of hours last Saturday sharing some verses from Psalm 56 that were especially meaningful to me. For some reason the "blog editor" didn't like my punctuation and when I tried to change it, I lost everything I had written. What a bummer.

I taught Sunday school and stayed for church on Sunday. When I got home my feet and legs were exhausted. It was my first outing without the walker and I sat all that time with my feet on the floor. Though I was tired, I was glad I had stayed for Church. Tommy preached the best sermon I've heard him preach and God was glorified. This Sunday I preach and am so glad to have the opportunity. It will be my maiden sermon at the church where Tom and I now worship.

We've been enjoying West Tennessee vegetables--pink eyed purple hull peas, baby limas, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant. And I have enjoyed getting back into the kitchen to cook. Our new church family has been better than good in bringing us meals, stopping by the store, going to the farmers' market and taking us to the doctor when Tommy cannot. Being the independent soul that I am, however, it makes me feel as if I'm on the road to recovery when I can begin to do a few things for myself. I'm learning to do more and more things sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter or in a chair at the table. Tomorrow I get to try a tennis shoe on my left foot and we're hoping that will work and make my legs level.

We've also become reaccquainted with scattered thunderstorms on an almost daily basis. The rain is welcome, both because the farmers need it and because our yard is thirsty, but the humidity is oppressive. Last night Tom asked if I'd like to go sit on the porch for a while after supper, but when he opened the door he said, "You'd better check out this air." It was like a sauna--we opted for inside air conditioning. We have been spoiled by the cool California nights and the Delta breeze.

The verses from Psalm 56 on which I commented and then lost last Saturday are 12-13: I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. As I read those words I was reminded of two different sets of vows I have made to God: my marriage vows and my ordination vows. I know that it is God who has delivered me from death, not once, but four times. Literally, my feet have stumbled, but God has protected me. Why? So that I might "walk before God in the light of life." I do not understand "whys" of life, but God does and is not finished with me yet as a wife or a minister. I do not understand the healing of God that I have experienced, but I am grateful and rest completely in God. I do know that I have received His gracious blessings so that "I may walk before God in the light of life." Those were holy words to read in a week that I had once again received the "cancer free" phrase from the oncologist. The morning I read Psalm 56 I came away with renewed assurance and a fresh determination to indeed walk before my God in the light of life He continues to give me.

Tom and I are blessed and grateful that we have one another and that we have family and friends who walk with us.

God bless you,
Pastor Margaret