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