Friday, June 29, 2007

Some say that after fifty, it's patch, patch, patch. I don't know what the saying is about after sixty. I should. It's been a while since we've seen fifty. At any rate, we've done a lot of patching this week. A crown came off one of Tom's teeth last week which meant locating a dentist and making an appointment. It was time for our annual eye exams so we did those on Monday. Tuesday I went to the cancer clinic to have blood drawn so a report would be ready for my visit this coming Monday and Thursday I went to the long awaited appointement with the orthopedist.

Our eyes have the normal age related changes: cataracts not yet ripe, vision that's not what it used to be. Mine was enough changed that a change in lens was warranted. I had them cut and fitted this moring. It's amazing how much better I can see the crossword puzzle and hopefully, the Bible on the pulpit. Tom's crown was reseated and he didn't have to go through having a new one fit and seated, nor the expense. My cast was cut off yesterday and the report is that my ankle is healing, but has a long way to go. Now I have a tacky little shoe on the left foot and a boot on the right ankle. The shoe can change to a tennis shoe in two weeks, but the boot stays for another four. The doctor thinks I move pretty well to have bones broken in both legs. Why not? You know that I love a challenge. For now the patching is complete; I'll let you know how Monday goes with the oncologist.

My teaching assignments are back on track for this Sunday and next. The teacher of the class is a wonderful expositional teacher, working verse by verse through books of the Bible. For my two Sundays I've elected to teach on Bible heroes and plan to begin with Moses. I've been hearing about Bible heroes since I was a child learning at my mother's knee and in Sunday school. Then, I put them in a class with all the other super heroes I knew but as I've aged and studied those same "heroes" I've come to realize that they were ordinary people just like you and me. The one common thread among "heroes" like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, David etc. was their trust and reliance on God. It was God who enabled them to persevere, to stand firm, to speak for God. They could have never done it on their own. I understand Biblical heroes better now and I understand that the same God who enabled them enables me today. That understanding brings another saying to mind: God doesn't call the equipped to do his work; he equips the called. In Bible days God didn't find heroes to do his work; he used ordinary people and we call them "heroic."

Our friend, Susan, needs your prayers. She is in her mid-thirties, is married with two little boys under three years of age and has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy begins next week. If you believe that God works through the prayers of his people, as I do, please pray, believing that our gracious God will heal Susan.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, June 24, 2007

If I summoned the courage to get on a ride at the fair or at a carnival it would probably be the Pirate Ship. It swings back and forth little by little until people seated at both ends of the ship are way up in the air looking down. It looks pretty harmless compared to some of the other rides up and down the midway. I've always been the designated jacket or purse holder and I watch while everyone else is swinging back and forth, higher and higher. As I think about it, I realize my life is much like that Pirate Ship. It swings back and forth, higher and higher, never staying in one place long enough to stabilize. I'm up in the air on one side looking down, when suddenly, I'm swinging to the other side only to look down at another set of circumstances. Looking down, the view can be discouraging.

Here it is the end of June and summer has been on hold. Just when life seemed to be settling into a normal routine, I fell. I had prayed for God to use me, to give me teaching and preaching opportunities and they had begun to come. Three teaching commitments have had to be canceled. There I am up in the boat watching as summer keeps going and I'm just looking. Tom's condition seemed to be stabilizing so we could establish some sort of "normal" pattern. Then the boat swings the other way and our bearings need to be re-established. Still I'd rather be on the Pirate Ship than the Merry-Go-Round going nowhere or the Bumper Cars getting knocked silly. On the Pirate Ship I have a panoramic view; I can see more than I can possibly see on the ground; I can look into the heavens. Looking upward and outward makes the ride worthwhile.

Our help right now is coming five days a week and it is wonderful. Having just made it through two days without our caregiver friends makes me realize just how much we needed it. Tom has not had a good couple of days. Even with the alarm on his watch set for medicine times and my reminding him when it signals, he has forgotten to take some regular doses. He pays for it later. That has happened twice this weekend. Such occurences only serve as reminders that he absolutely needs the medication and he absolutely needs to take it on time. His memory continues to slip and it is more and more difficult for him to follow simple instructions. The two ladies we have, Brenda and Regina, are good with him, they don't hover and he responds well to their help.

Our family is growing. Many of you already know that Tommy and Liz are expecting a little girl in November and we are pleased to tell you that all is well. This makes five--just right for a coed basketball team.

Marty and Kevin are expecting a baby the end of January and she, too, is doing well. I have been so excited and anxious to shout the news from the rooftops, but wanted to respect her desire to not tell yet. Tom and I pray at every meal for both Marty and Liz and covet your prayers as well.

I always wanted a house full of children, but only had two. Grandchildren are making my wish come true.

Until next time - - -

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The past few days have felt like Christmas. You know that special inner glow you get when the house is full of smells of fresh cedar, cinnamony candles and cookies baking in the oven. Everybody seems happy about everything. You eagerly await the arrival of family members and when all are together you are so glad to be together that you either all talk at once or forget what it was you wanted to say. It doesn't matter. You're together and that's what counts. Revisiting those days in your mind extends the pleasure and is better than any vitamin.

Last Saturday our dear friends, Mike & Nikki, visited us from California. We had anticipated their visit like children waiting for Christmas morning. Their lives, individually and as a couple, exemplify servanthood. They poured their lives into ours last fall. As Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for a friend." He had Mike & Nikki in mind. It was so good to see them. Today I remember much of what we talked about, what we did, how we laughed together, but mainly I remember just being together. That's one of the real marks of friendship--when being together is the most important thing. The inner glow their visit brought about will last a long time.

This week we have help at our house. I learned of a lady who arranges caregiving services through a teacher friend of Elizabeth. We interviewed one another last week about both our current and possible future needs. For now we have two ladies who alternate coming for a few hours five days a week. Both Tom and I are very pleased with them. They all come from an evangelical African American church in town and see their work as Christian service. God has sent us two angels.

My legs are getting better and stronger and I have to remind myself to keep the weight off the broken ankle. Eight more days til the cast is removed! Yes, we are definitely counting the days.

As we count the days we also count the blessings of each day: hearing from old friends, making new ones, being with family, observing God's presence and provision. The Christmas smells won't be in the air for another few months, but the inner Christmas glow is constant nonetheless.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, June 15, 2007

June 14 has always been a day to celebrate in our family. For us it began June 14, 1939 when Tom's parents married. Dad used to look around the family seated at the dinner table and, with a proud smile, say: "Just think, I started all this." Mom and Dad are both gone now, but we always thank God, especially on their anniversary, for their lives, their marriage and the influence they had on all who knew them. Their love for each other and for their family has been an inspiration to us all.

In 1996 on June 14 our first grandchild was born. What a typical family day that was! Tom, Marty and I drove to south Mississippi to be with Tommy and Elizabeth for Jacob's birth. Liz's mom was there, most of Tommy's youth group and various friends. That was the last anniversary Mom and Dad celebrated together. She died right before Christmas from complications with Alztheimer's. Our birthday celebration yesterday looked a lot different from that first one eleven years ago. Then, everything stopped and focused on the birth. Yesterday, everything continued and the celebration came late, after all the normal things of a summer day were done. Tom might have described the day as resembling a Chinese fire drill--his terminology of the confusion of everybody going in different directions at the same time. Tommy and Liz had to shop. Each took a different child with them to "help." All the gifts ended up at our house for me to wrap. Drew had a T-ball game at 6:30 so Liz, Sarah, Tom and Drew went there. Tommy, Jacob and Meredith came here to cook on our grill. Jacob kept Meredith entertained by pushing her up and down the hall in my wheel chair. I thought he was being extraordinarily patitent. Finally, about 8:30 we were ready to assemble at Tommy's for Jacob's request of smoked salmon and baked potato. Jake's other grandparents could not be present, but were there in spirit; Marty couldn't be here, but called to talk just to Jake; new friends have been added to the crowd and the youth group of 1996 has been changed to the one of 2007 and some were present. Maybe the biggest change of all are the three younger siblings who have joined the family and who have almost as much fun as the birthday boy himself. This morning I get tired just thinking about yesterday, but I'm smiling all the while, thanking God for Jacob and for allowing us to be here to be a part of his life.

Just as June 14 has been a day of beginnings, we will also remember it as a day of closure. At Arlington Memorial Cemetery yesterday morning, the ashes of a dear aunt were laid to rest beside her husband (my mother's brother). Marty and her husband Kevin drove up from Raleigh both to represent our family and also because of the close relationship Marty enjoyed with them when she was a student in Winston Salem. They were her family away from home--very special to us all.

June 14 is a vivid reminder of the cycle of life. God gives; God takes away. He gives us the gift of memory to keep our loved ones forever fresh and alive in our hearts. I don't know about you, but it seems we spend more and more time "remembering who and when." Remembering makes me grateful and it makes my heart smile.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Writing about my own health reminds me of that old joke about the woman who gave an organ recital every time she saw you. My mother loved that joke though she was perhaps the greatest "organist" of all. I vowed I would never be like that. Rehashing the problems doesn't necessarily make things better, but for those of you who are kind enough to care, I'll give the latest news. We went to the doctor yesterday and had the ankle x-rayed. The good news is that the bone has not moved so surgery will not be necessary. The bad news, but certainly not unexpected, is that my feet need to remain immobilized for another three weeks--until July 5 when I have another appointment. I'll have to continue staying off of them as much as possible, but will be able to get around with a walker. Who knew that the lessons I learned about using a walker and how to pivot from one seated position to another in the nursing home last fall would be maybe more useful later?

This morning my attention was drawn to two verses in Psalm 37 by which I had put the notation: "seminary 1995." Verses 23-24 say: If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I had marked the passage shortly after entering seminary in February 1995. I believed I was where God wanted me to be, but wasn't sure why or where the path would lead. The verses said to me that if I was indeed doing what God wanted me to do then He would firmly plant my feet and guide me. There might be stumbling blocks and the way might be bumpy, I might stumble, but I would not hit bottom because the Lord was holding me. Here I am twelve years later and know how true the verses are! This morning I read them with another seminary experience in mind--Tommy's. Just in the last few days he and I have been discussing seminary opportunities for him and he's been investigating a particular one that has not been in the picture until now. If the Lord "delights in Tommy's way," the path there will be made plain.

Then I thought about the rest of what I read and was again reminded of God's sense of humor: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I certainly don't take that literally. I did stumble and did fall down the steps. God did not magically hold out His hand and catch me. Physically, I fell. Spiritually, I know I will not hit the bottom because I am confident of God's presence and His steadfast love. That powerful hand is holding us fast.

Three more weeks of lounging. It might become a habit.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

At least three lessons have been learned or reaffirmed during the past eight days: 1) The "life of Riley" isn't all it's cracked up to be; 2) Black and blue makes more than a fashion statement; and 3) Always keep your pedicure current.

If you could see me, you might think that I'm living the "life of Riley" (if you are old enough to remember that saying) or that I'm practicing being a princess. Since a week ago Tuesday night I have been in the bed with both feet elevated. I have a broken bone in my left foot and my right ankle is broken--a result of falling down three or four steps. I twisted the left foot, lost my balance and landed on my right foot. The doctor instructed me to put no weight on my broken ankle side and as little as possible on the broken foot. I haven't quite gotten the hang of levitating so here I am, propped on pillows, behaving myself in hopes that will insure a quick recovery. It's a great way to catch up with my reading.

When our family returned after being gone for several days, Jacob looked at my legs, smiled and said, "MawMaw your feet are black and blue." One is wearing a black boot and the other is immobilized with a blue cast--a color I got to choose. I've always liked wearing black and blue together and from now on will view the combination as one that heals. I go for more x-rays Friday to check on progress.

Getting a pedicure is a simple luxury or it can be a disaster. Most of the ones I've had fall in the luxury category, but since moving here I haven't found my idea of the perfect pedicurist. So, I had put off getting my toes "done." Now the thought of having to go several more weeks with "undone" toes is bothersome. Oh well, the color goes well with black and blue.

As always, things could be worse!
As always, blessings overflow!

As soon as our church family heard of our dilemna, they went into action. It was bad enough to fall, but I fell while Tommy and his family were on a much needed vacation and we were determined that they should not come home on our account. People have prayed, visited, brought flowers, books and the best Southern cooking! One day Tom went to the back door and there was a lady sweeping off the porch. We are experiencing another part of the body of Christ and are being refreshed by cups of water offered in Christ's name.

So, what is God teaching me through this? Obviously the three lessons at the beginning of the blog come to mind. But, I'd have to say that I'm also learning something new about patience. I'm learning what it means to "rest" in the Lord. I am trusting God to act in His time and am being reminded not to sweat the small stuff. God is certainly bigger than any broken bones!

I am learning something new about presence. You know that being present with someone is often far more meaningful than what you say or do. When I was hospitalized last fall, the presence of my children meant more to me than all the medicine I was being given. They put a smile on my face and joy in my heart when they came into the room. I have seen Tom respond in similar ways when they are present. Yes, they help physically, but to me that's not the most important thing. It is their presence that counts. That's how it is with God, but even more so! Yes, I am trusting and resting in God's healing, but it is the promise of God's presence with me at all times that sustains me. It keeps a smile on my face and joy in my heart!

My granddaughter, Sarah, said it best when she was telling me about the first day of Vacation Bible School. After she had told me about the western theme with all the decorations, the songs they were learning and what they were making, her mom asked her what was the Bible verse for the day. Sarah said, "God is always with us. Wahoo!"

"WAHOO, indeed!!!"
Pastor Margaret