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