Monday, May 28, 2007

Today is Memorial Day, a holiday celebrated as a kick-off to summer with out of town trips, cook outs--all things American. Unless families have experienced the loss of a loved one in war, we seldom remember the real reason for the day. It is a day of remembering, a day of saying "thank you" to all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her country. What would our lives be like if those sacrifices had not been made? How free would we be? Military service has always been important to me. My mother's only brother was career army, served thirty two years and proudly displayed four purple hearts on the shelf in his den. He didn't make the ultimate sacrifice, but he did give the best years of his life for his country. Today I honor him and his family who loved and supported him during his active service.

Other young men and women postponed education, career or the start of their families so that they could serve. That, too, was sacrifice. They came home, but some came with scars that can never be erased, scars that are physical, mental or emotional--or all three. Some of the scars are visible, some are not, present just the same. These men and women need to be remembered. They, too, need to be honored.

My brother in law, David, served over twenty years as an army doctor. He never saw combat, but the service he rendered was invaluable. He represents all of those who labor in support capacities that keep our troops well and fit for service.

Tom and I were fortunate. He spent the last year of his army service in Vietnam serving as an artillery liasion officer to the infantry. There were some close calls. During those days that he was away Lamentations 3:22, 23 were verses that stayed in my mind. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!" Tom came home. To think the "what ifs" of my life without him is like entering the dark, scary places of unknown caves or getting too close to the edge of a cliff. My mind just can't go there.
Today I honor my husband, one who came home, but one who also served so that we all can enjoy the freedoms we have.

Thank a service person today. Thank God for that person. Thank God for our freedom.
Remember the families of those who have died and pray for the safety of our troops. I am reminded of the words of a hymn I learned in college: "O God of love, O King of peace, make wars throughout the world to cease." May this be our constant prayer.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We went to our first Parkinson's Support Group tonight. I had inquired about a group at the neurology clinic, had a number to call but it hasn't been a high priority. In Sunday's paper there was a blurb telling about this month's meeting and the topic to be presented--sleep disorders in Parkinson's patients. That rang a bell and got us to the meeting! I'll have to say that it was interesting being in a room full of patients and caregivers trying to determine which ones were which by just looking. From comments made and questions asked it was clear how common sleep problems are. I believe one of the values of support groups can be seeing for yourself that you are not alone in whatever the situation or problem is. The conversation followed a natural path toward medications that are prone to cause drowsiness, particularly one that can make you fall asleep quite suddenly even when you are driving. It's a medication Tom has been on for a while and one of the reasons I had questions about his driving abilities. There were several comments made about giving up one's keys being equated with giving up independence and an interesting comment about having to weigh what you are giving up against what you might be taking from another if you continue to drive and have an accident. I remember how difficult the adjustment was in our family. Tough love is not just for raising children!

Last night we went to another church softball game. Last week I stayed in the car and had a pretty good view of the field, but last night I couldn't get very close so I sat in the bleachers. It's hard for me to not see Tom playing in the game, so I sort of hide in the car. He wants so badly to play, but knows he had to give that up along with driving. Tom's ball playing now takes place in our backyard with Drew, our four year old grandchild who is playing T-ball. I don't know which of them has the most fun--both look forward to it.

Tonight I was reminded yet again that a situation can always be worse. Parkinson's robs a person of so much, but it never can take away who that person is. Life is not about what we do, but who we are, who we are as the people God has created us to be. Tom can't drive and he can't play softball, but his faith is stronger than ever, his spirits are high and his sense of humor doesn't skip a beat. He has the same heart, the same soul, the same firm beliefs in God, the same love for his friends and family. Parkinson's will never diminish who he is!

Friday, May 18, 2007

It has been a year since the rediscovery of my cancer. It boggles my mind when I think about all the things that have happened in these twelve months. I will never forget the atmosphere in the room or the looks on the faces of the doctor, Tom and Tommy when the prognosis was given. The cancer had returned; it was not curable and my time was limited--one to two years. The doctor added, "Unless there is a miracle." So many things went through my mind. That conversation in the doctor's office was the beginning of a new life for us: a life we didn't plan and one that we would not have designed for ourselves. Through the summer my health got progressively worse, as did Tom's until by the fall we were both in pretty bad shape. I was as sick as I have ever been and Tom's stress load was terrible. As at least two neurologists have told us, "Stress and Parkinson's don't mix." But things did not turn out the way we expected when we moved. God worked a miracle and the cancer has been in remission--that reduces the stress on Tom and his condition has more or less stabilized. Even though we both have to keep up with regular doctors' appointments, our health doesn't dictate how we live. It's that "focus thing" again. We try to keep our focus on God and not on the "what ifs" of Parkinson's and cancer.

Tuesday we went to Presbytery and transferred my membership from the Presbytery of Sacramento to the Presbytery of the Mid-South. It was bittersweet. Moving my membership will get me more involved, but it's also the final step in the dissolution of my call in California.
I'm excited about what God might have in store for me here.

If you remember I posed two questions for my talk at Wednesday night supper last week: "How do I/we get there from here?" and "How did I/we get here from there?" There's nothing magical or mysterious about the answer, no new revelation to share. The simple answer for us all at any time, at any age and in any circumstance is to be obedient to God. It means being obedient not just to the Word of God, His commandments or law, but to God because of the relationship God has initiated with us. In some things obedience is the same for all believers, but there are specific ways we each have to come to grips with what God wants of us. I find that to be not only a great responsibility, but a great adventure as well. Our experience is that with obedience comes great blessing. I can't wait to see what is in store for us as we strive to know God's will for us. We have come a long way in a year. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Pastor Margaret

Friday, May 11, 2007

We are beginning to realize just how busy retirement is! Monday Tom had appointments with two different doctors: a follow up with his neurologist and an introductory appointment with a GI. Both went well. The neurologist had the results of all the tests Tom has had in the past month and a report from the visit at the Vanderbilt Clinic. All things considered, we both thought it was a good visit. There is no appreciative change in mobility or in the MRI, but the blood work did turn up an abnormality in protein activity which led to the couple of scans he had. They discovered a nodule on a lung which he knew he had and has had for at least fifty years. There was nothing else so the blood will be monitored. He doesn't have to go back until August. The GI visit produced no answers about his weight or the problems he's had with his stomach. We answered all the questions we could, but the doctor really needed past records as a place to start so he was to send for them. He also ordered an ultra-sound of the gall bladder which will be done later this morning. I know Tom is tired of being poked, prodded and pictured.

Tuesday morning I spent with Sarah, home from school with strep throat. I remember that when we lived across the country I'd think that if only we were closer, I could help with the children at times like these. And while I was with her I remembered the Noewen quote I shared not so long ago about God-given tasks. Staying with Sarah was one of those. She is an affectionate, expressive child, quick to say "I love you" and give you hugs. We spent some time reading together and it was neat to notice how her reading skills have improved over the past few months.

Another morning we had a handy man here working, doing somewhat simple tasks that we can either no longer do or want to do. Even though he was doing the work, I still needed to be available. We have also had three lawn services come give estimates on yard maintenance and getting beds cleaned up from normal winter wear and the untimely freeze we had at Easter.

Wednesday night I had the program for the weekly supper at the church. I enjoyed working on the talk, but trying to get a power point done without the assistance to which I was accustomed took a lot of time. I wished more than once for Mary and Mindy! Then we had technical problems when the projector couldn't find my computer. I don't know why. They were sitting right next to one another! I'm not sure I will ever understand this computerized world!!!

This morning I saw an answer to a prayer. The Psalms are always a part of my daily quiet time and right now I am meditating on Psalm 119 one section at a time. The reading today began with the psalmist asking God to deliver him from his suffering. Throughout the psalm the reader is in touch with all the sorrow and oppression in the life of the writer and it is easy in some respects to identify with him. But today, as I read his request to be delivered from his suffering, I put down the Bible and thanked God for what He has done for me in this area. I am still concerned about cancer and pray for continued remission; I am still lonely and miss my friends and ministry more than ever; and I still am saddened and frustrated with Tom's illness, but reading the psalmist's request was one of those "aha moments." God is at work in me, refocusing my thoughts to His faithfulness and goodness, away from life's impossibilities. The problems still exist, but I believe and can say with certainty that God is greater than the things that so easliy get me down. What a blessing it is to realize an answer to prayer! (See Jeremiah 33:3 and Lamentations 2:22-23.)

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, May 06, 2007

This weekend my mind and my heart have been miles away at a beautiful campground in Northern California. I have remembered the surge of expectation as I've rounded the final curve before Woodleaf comes into view. I have seen the flowers in front, the spotless grounds and then I see women, teeming like fire ants, trying to find a parking place, registering and greeting one another as if they haven't seen each other since this time last year. For some this is true because women come from many places for the FOPC Annual Women's Retreat. How I wanted to be there!

Instead I am home and today worshiped at the church where we now attend. It was Communion Sunday as it was in many churches. While I was sitting in our usual spot toward the back, I thought of our former church, the one that nurtured us as a family and each of us as individuals. They celebrated the Lord's Supper today and I saw in my mind a process I've seen countless times. I remembered our friends gathered around the table. From our spot near the back I could see many new people in our lives and wondered if I'd ever learn all the names. It doesn't matter. The Lord's table is common ground.

My mind and my heart were miles away at the celebration of the Lord's Supper at a beautiful campsite in Northern California. Some two hundred and fifty women were gathered for the culmination of a weekend of fellowship, fun, learning and spiritual enrichment. It is an indescribable experience, one that blessed my life for seven years, each one in a special way. This time last year I officiated at table with them for the last time, but what a special time it was! It was special because of the strong bonds of friendship that exist with those who were gathered there. We are together, the Body of Christ. I sat on the pew, prayed for my friends far away and heard the words of a song Marty sang during the service: "How beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ." I am most grateful for memories and the friends who have made them. The Lord's table is a powerful reminder.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The past week has been jam packed with activity. Tom and I have needed to go to Jackson, MS to take care of several items of business and it took us a long time to get all the pieces in place to make the trip. Then, about the middle of March, a friend just casually mentioned that if we had not made a definite plan, we might want our trip to coincide with the weekend of the handbell concert at our former church. I had been closely involved with the bells since the beginning in the early eighties and Tom rang a couple of years as well. With the concert in mind, we planned our trip. It was a "complete" weekend. Visiting with friends, being in worship, hearing the bells, taking care of necessary business made the days full, but the evenings were spent relaxing in the homes of two families who epitomize the meaning of friendship.

We have maintained a small storage unit in Jackson since Tom's dad died in 2003 and we are anxious to clear it and close the books. Getting into it was no small task! Of course, it was locked with a good, strong padlock to which we had misplaced the key. The management had a bolt cutter, but even Tom and I together could not do more than scratch the lock. Finally, a young man came by on the way to his unit and we recruited him to cut through it. I watched him take a stance, grab hold of the cutter and make child's play out of a seemingly impossible task. When it was opened, I was pleasantly surprised to find nothing but furniture, a couple of throw rugs and drawers of miscellaneous hardware from Dad's shop. A second surprise came when we discovered we could get the two pieces of furniture I most wanted to use into the back of the SUV. Our friend, Boyd, just kept saying: "You won't know if they fit until we try." I was glad he out talked me. Now, the things that are left will fit in the back of a pick -up truck and can be brought here soon.

Dealing with the various projects we had was more affirmation that our lives are works in progress. We have to take things one step at a time whether we have legal matters before us, furniture to move or life to be lived. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way. We are left to choose which way to take. Next week I've been asked to have the program for Wednesday night supper--no suggestions offered for content. Since I seem to constantly ask myself questions of "how, what and why," I am posing two questions for the talk: How do I get there from here? and How did I get here from there? No matter the place, the circumstance or the age of the questioner, the answer is always the same. I'll share the answer next week.

Blessings and thanks for reading,
Pastor Margaret