Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tom and I returned late yesterday afternoon from a wonderful week in St. Louis where I attended a day and a half of Executive Committee meetings and he and I both were part of the annual conference for POAMN (Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network). It is an organization with which I have been associated for twenty years, both as active member, two separate terms on the nominating committee, three years as secretary and six as president. My term ended this week and my response is bittersweet. It's time for me to concentrate more energy toward at home responsibilities, but I will miss the hands on involvement. POAMN has benefitted and blessed me in so many ways. It taught me older adult ministry; my circle of colleagues in ministry expanded and gave me opportunities to learn from the ministries of others; it gave me a platform to speak for both the gifts and the needs of older adults; and working with people with different theological perspectives who serve the same Lord and love the same older adults was a broadening experience. Some of my closest, dearest friends are those I have met through POAMN. This past week gave me an opportunity to re-connect with some of them--indeed, the highlight of the week!

St. Louis was beautiful, Spring being a little behind ours here. When we left, the dogwood in our front yard was beginning to fade slightly, but the week away saw those remaining blossoms drop and be replaced by a full dress of green. Redbuds were blooming everywhere we looked, both in St. Louis and along I-55. They were particularly pretty interspersed with dogwood in the woods. From the restaurant where we ate dinner one night of the conference we could look down on a park by the river and see them as well. The restaurant was a revolving one atop a downtown hotel and we had a ringside seat for the sunset, traffic on the river, Busch Stadium (the Cardinals were away) and the Arch. I was born and raised by the mighty Mississippi and I never tire of watching it. It is a return to my roots or to use river terminology, my headwaters.

The conference was one of the best we've had. For me, it seemed strange hearing ideas for ministry, knowing that I am no longer in active ministry in the church. The conference theme, "Leaving a Living Legacy," was carried out in the sharing time, keynote addresses, worship and seminars, all of which gave me help for this stage in our lives. What values would I like to leave my children and grandchildren? How do I want to be remembered? How can I take what I learned about dealing with someone with memory loss and help that person leave his life story?
We have lots to think about.

Upon arriving in town we went straight to Tommy's to see the grandchildren and were greeted with hugs, reports of their week and a big smile from Elisa. Today the four oldest have come to play for a while at our house--lots of activity!!! It was good to go, but good to come home.

This next week I have scans, bloodwork and a visit with the doctor. You know the prayer request--no cancer. Everything else is back to normal. Take time tomorrow to worship with others. God will be glorified and you will be blessed.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Something new is wrong with Tom or maybe it's just the same old disease gnawing away at him. The "bad days" seem to come more frequently. The periods of weakness and nervousness visit on a regular basis. He needs more than the occasional help to do "adl's," otherwise known as activities of daily living. I continue to be the one who thinks if you know why a person does or says a particular thing, then you can work with them, help solve the problem. That frame of mind doesn't work with Parkinson's. Parkinson's devastates; it robs a person of functionality, whether it be physical, mental or both. It is difficult for the patient and for their loved ones.

Recently our daughter wrote of the difficulty in talking with her dad on the phone. He doesn't talk on the phone often, but when he does his voice is different; he doesn't sound like the strong person she's always known. She misses his strength; she misses him. Her honesty has made me admit and verbalize the things I miss about Tom. I, too, miss his strength, his control. The steadfastness, loyalty and love that is so much a part of him does not waver in his mind. Only now, he cannot take charge and care for those he loves as he would like to do. He can only think about what he would do if he could. We both know that we have one constant in our lives: the faithfulness of God. I cling to that, but I still cry.

Some of the things we had hoped to do together will never happen: the trip to Scotland, visiting the Bavarian Alps and Munich where he was stationed in the Army, returning to the Colorado Rockies and the Tetons in Wyoming, repeating our float trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. Instead of planning new trips, we enjoy remembering the places we've been and the experiences we've shared. Instead of packing our bags, we sit back and enjoy the Travel Channel. It's a lot cheaper and takes us places we would not have gone otherwise. We appreciate the wonder of creation around us.

Joy arrives with Elisa at 7:30 a.m. on school days. She comes in with a huge smile and keeps us smiling all day long. I will proclaim loud and long that absolutely no one ever loved or loves their children like I love our two, but I've discovered a difference in caring for them and for a grandchild. When my own children were babies, I had so many responsibilities in addition to caring for them that there didn't seem to ever be enough time to just enjoy them. Enjoying Elisa is a big part of every day she is here. Her parents think we're helping them by keeping her. Don't tell, but her presence in our daily lives gives us renewed purpose. It is she, who helps us. Tom can get up feeling bad, but responds when Elisa smiles and coos at him.

This is not retirement as we had planned. It is not the place we dreamed of spending our sunset years. In so many ways this is better. There is more good than bad. We have time to be still and be thankful, to reflect on the many ways we have been blessed. We have time to be involved in the lives of our grandchildren, both those around the corner and those miles away.

I covet your prayers for patience and discernment.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is one of those gorgeous Spring Saturdays when the list in my head has far too many things on it! Just looking out the window makes me want to dig in the dirt and plant things. Then I catch sight of sticks and pieces of limbs that fell in the last storm, I notice the nandina still bent over from the snow six weeks ago, I see dead bushes that need to go and my urge to dig subsides a bit. There is so much clean up and soil preparation that needs to be done first. Tommy and Drew came by yesterday to change the light bulbs on the front porch and Tommy asked if I knew I had dead plants on the porch. I admitted that I knew and that they'd been dead since before Christmas. At first I tried to hide the pots behind the columns and then I noticed how symetrical in shape and color they were so I left them, thinking that from the street it really didn't matter they were dead. After all, the ones on a porch across the street are plastic and faded from the sun. Today might be the day to put fresh plants on the porch. I have to start somewhere.

Speaking of Drew--he has a new hard cast. His first choice of color was camouflage, but the clinic didn't have it so he decided on red--bright and autographs easlily. When he showed it to us, he said, "I can run now." At chuch supper on Wednesday night someone's prayer request was that Drew not run and drive his mother crazy. I think Liz has gone to sleep at night saying, "Drew, don't run." He only has one speed! He has demonstrated the strength and protection of the cast by ramming both his opposite fist and his head into it. The cast won. I repeat. "Boys will be boys."

I'm preaching tomorrow and was delighted to discover that one of the lectionary texts is Psalm 23. That meant I could use notes and an outline from an earlier sermon, not because I didn't want to start from scratch, but because it's one of my favorite texts. I hear the voices of two preaching mentors, one saying not to go too often to your file of what you've preached previously and the other saying not to be too eager to preach on the most familiar Scripture passages--Psalm 23 and John 3:16. However, I don't think either of them would be critical of my preaching this text again and again as the occasion presents itself. After all, can we ever know the Shepherd completely? I'm looking forward to another opportunity to share what Psalm 23 continues to teach me about our amazing Lord.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Boys will be boys! I've heard that all my life and hearing it usually brings to mind certain images. I think of boys with baseball gloves and bicycles; of boys stomping through the mud puddles, splashing anyone nearby; of boys teasing little girls up to the point they realize girls aren't so bad after all. No matter what I can imagine, I would never have come up with the event that came about at Tommy's on Friday evening. Drew made up a fun game to play inside with big sister Sarah participating and little Mer watching. He put Jake's skateboard in line first and stacked throw pillows on the other side. The object was to run, jump over the skateboard and land on the pillows. Sarah did it perfectly. Drew didn't know his own speed or jumping ability and he cleared both the skateboard and the pillows, landing with his arm out to break his fall. His arm was described as a "W" by his dad and as a "noodle" by his mom. After several hours at the hospital, he got home with a splint and a prize or two for being a good patient. Later this week he'll have a cast put on it. He's been looking forward to baseball this spring so let's hope his arm heals quickly.

One thing a person knows when he/she puts his/her thoughts in writing is you leave yourself wide open for criticism, disagreements etc. A few posts back I commented on unfriendly actions of people and what I said was completely taken out of context and misunderstood. The result was a scathing, annonymous comment on the post and another from a friend who has recently gone to a new church herself. The first jumped on me with both feet saying that possibly I am the one who needs to extend myself and that it sounded like I was just looking for a reason to go to another church. Obviously, this person doesn't know me or he/she would know I am not a quitter. I was merely making a statement of the way things are everywhere and how we all need to be aware of who and whose we are. Since I am in the church as a regular attender, not a pastor or a minister, my place is a bit different. The second comment was about how extremely welcoming her new place of worship is and particularly I was struck by her saying that she wasn't told where something was, she was taken and shown. I revisit the issue for a couple of reasons. I know from experience that we can form such close ties with people in our circle of friends at the church--or other places--and we are so glad to see them that we unconsciously ignore new people. As a pastor I've been on the listening end when people have shared how hard they have tried to be included and they ended up being hurt. I wish you all could know a wonderful octogenarian couple, Helen and Pat. Sunday after Sunday I watched them go out of their way to talk to any and all newcomers they saw--no matter what their age, how they looked etc. Then, they would come tell me about the newcomers or get someone else to meet them. We need lots of Helens and Pats in the church! Again, I say, "Practice hospitality."

That same night in question the Bible study leader made a statement that continues to give me pause for thought. In his teaching on Mary washing the feet of Jesus with perfume and Judas criticizing her extravagance, he said something like: "Mary was a servant. Judas was interested in serving." What, I wonder, is the difference? To be a servant is to take on a role; it is to be identified with the master. To be a servant is to make a commitment to the master. Anyone can serve. I can serve you food because it's my job; I can help you across the street because I'll get brownie points, but the commitment involved can be slim to none. To be a servant of Christ identifies me with the Master and prompts me to serve Him, not a common cause or ideal. What do you think? Is this nitpicking with words? Maybe so, but if there truly is a difference, I'll be a servant.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The wrens are back. Last week I tried to look inside the house for any signs of life and Tom scolded me. My scent might frighten the birds away for good, so I've tried to be patient and wait for their return. Patience and waiting paid off! Yesterday there was a wren on the porch with a small object in its mouth--don't know whether it was nest material or a bug, but the bird went into the house. There is promise of a new family and when they're all settled it will be fun to introduce the grandchildren to them.

The headline in the local paper this morning proclaimed what we all hoped: "The Drought is Over." At least it's over in West Tennessee. Right after I posted on Sunday I noticed black birds in the back yard, bathing and splashing in rainwater running across the yard and driveway. I had called the day dismal; they didn't act as if they agreed.

One thing on the "to do" list for today is to write a couple of paragraphs for information to be distributed at the annual Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network (POAMN) Conference to be held later this month. I've been mulling over what I might say on the theme, Leaving a Living Legacy. Keynote addresses and seminars will have the theme as their focus. What could I possibly add? As usual, the mulling and the writing are of more benefit to me than to those who might read my words. The dictionary I keep by my chair defines "legacy" as "personal property, money etc. bequeathed by a will; or anything received or passed on by an ancestor, predecessor or earlier era." What legacy will we leave? What do we consider valuable? Some things won't be passed on until we have passed. Those are the tangible, material things. The intangible, most valuable things are passed daily, moment by moment. We own things that came from our families, things that have come from genertations before us. They are precious; they are tangible. The most valuable, the most precious legacy passed to us is made up of values, Biblical teachings and insights, memories of those gone before us and the love they shared. That's the legacy I want to leave. As I watch Elisa sleeping in front of me, picture Christopher in his mother's arms and think of the others and what they are doing in school right now, I marvel at the special privilege we have to invest our lives in the lives of others--especially our families and those we hold dear.

Blessings ,
Pastor Margaret