Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Camp NaCoMe is not the St. Francis Westin!

Our Church here has been having a weekend family camp at NaCoMe for over forty years. It is a treasured tradition. I suspect that little has changed in all these years except that in more recent years the cabins have had air conditioning added. NaCoMe is located in middle Tennessee eighty miles from Jackson. Tom and I went there when there was no air conditioning and when we were much younger. Childcare is available for babies and young pre-schoolers, the elementary children have fun with crafts and middle-schoolers through adults gather in the pavillion for the program--this year: "Christmas in July." During free time children of all ages hunt for crawdads in the creek, swim in the frigid lake, canoe, washer pitch, fish and play impromtu games of volleyball, etc. Tom and I spent our free time rocking, watching grandchildren play and visiting with others as lazy as we were.

The heat and humidity were brutal. The campers who preceeded us didn't clean the cabin and my sheets didn't fit the bed. I woke up a lot during the night, to retuck the bottom sheegt and trying to find a comfortable position. I came home with back problems I haven't had in years. The St. Francis had all the ammenities one could want--and then some. The weather in San Francisco was cool enough to warrant a jacket even in the afternoon. The pillows on my bed were so comfortable that I came home and bought some for my own bed. It was luxury one weekend and the rustic life the next--quite a difference. One weekend was spent with Marty and Christopher, the next was spent with Tommy, Liz and children. The delight of being with family is the same. Being with family any time, any place is always my favorite place to be!

Tom and I made our first of the week trek to the Farmers' Market yesterday. We bought a box of tomatoes and a couple of bell peppers in anticipation of making chili sauce/tomato relish later in the week. My tomato man threw in a couple of jalopenos just 'cuz I'm a good customer. We also bought peaches to make dessert for last night and enough corn to have to eat this week and to put some in the freezer. I have two kinds of basil growing by the back steps and one sprig of rosemary in a pot--not at all like rosemary in our yard in California which had to be pruned constantly. The basil is doing well and I'm experimenting with fun ways to use it. Do you have any good ideas?

The young woman who led the retreat, a recent graduate of Columbia Seminary, did a good job of involving everyone as we looked at Scriptures most often identified with Advent and Christmas. She balanced fun activities with serious questions. One of the passages we talked about was the angel's visit to Mary, a passage that I have both preached and taught. It's also a passage that I use for personal meditation, pondering the statements: "The Lord is with you;" "nothing will be impossible with God;" and "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." We could have spent the entire weekend on this one passage or even these three statements. Think of how our lives, our witness would be if we had always on our hearts that the Lord is with us, that nothing is impossible with God and we declared that "I am a servant of the Lord. Whatever you choose, whatever you desire, wherever you send me, let it be so." The statements are inter-related--nothing is impossible because God is with me and I can live and be according to God's word because God is with me and nothing is impossible.

"Think on these things."

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It finally happened! Tom and I visited theFarmers' Market mid-morning yesterday and "what to my wondering eyes did appear"----pink eye, purple hull peas. We bought half a bushel and since yesterday morning I have shelled and put up seven pints in the freezer and cooked another pint for supper tonight. They went well with country fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, tomato-cucumber marinade and the blackberry cobbler yet to be eaten. My thumbs are stained and tender, but what satisfaction to have those peas in my freezer! Now, if only I'd had some tomato relish to serve along with them.

I "gifted" the grandchildren last night with things from the conference, souvenirs from San Francisco and handmade aprons from a friend in Sacramento. Meredith had us put on her apron, opened a giant sucker Aunt Marty sent and carried around her cable car replica for the rest of the night (and I'm told today as well), saying all the time, "I just love it." Jake was spending the night with a friend so he didn't get his goodies until this afternoon when he and Drew walked down to our house to say hello. Sarah had six teeth pulled yesterday (has two more to come out Monday) but nothing can dim her beautiful smile! We should all take a lesson from children. For the most part, they just like the notion that you thought about them enough while you were away that you brought them something. What may seem like nothing to me is a big deal to them.

Too often we don't acknowledge this day as a gift. We take days, life, breath, necessities of life for granted. We act as if those gifts are nothing, but what big deals they are! Last night Tom and I went to the monthly Parkinson's Support Group and as I listened to people share the particular symptoms they suffer I couldn't help but silently thank God for Tom and the things he doesn't have. It's true he cannot do the things he once did, but he loves, he enjoys his family, his faith sustains him and his sense of humor keeps me laughing. He will always be the love of my life and I know everyday we have is a gift.

"This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." We will also eat peas all winter and be glad.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, July 21, 2008

To tell you what last week meant to me will take more than just a few words! I'm home, so glad to be back with Tom. Half of Monday is gone and I've done little more than get up, eat breakfast, lunch, check the mail and e-mail and wash a load of sheets. It's good to be lazy!

Being back at Fair Oaks was really special. In many ways it brought closure to our quick "get away" when we moved to Tennessee a year and a half ago. I honestly didn't think I would ever be there again or see my church family and that has been a source of real grief. I loved seeing so many at lunch on Tuesday and wished I could have had a personal conversation with each and every one. Still the welcome, the hugs and especially the prayer at the close of lunch filled me with a joy that will stay with me always. I may live far away, but we remain close in spirit.

The blogger convention was interesting, to say the least. There must have been a thousand people there--mostly young mother types, with a few men sprinkled here and there. They had come from across the country and talked about how blogging could be helpful to healing, how to post positively, how to blog to work for social change. Probably the most amazing thing to me was the marketing aspect of blogging. There was a ballroom full of sponsors and exhibitors, hawking their wares and offering free samples of children's games, CD's, computer software--you name it.

Of course, the best part of the convention was spending time with Marty and Christopher. He was a great little traveler and the hit of every crowd. He has this little infectious grin that won't quit.

Now I'm back in my own place, adjusting to the time change, the heat and humidity, trying to find stuff in the kitchen and resorting and folding the socks. When I found my hollow handle dinner knives in the dishwasher and the socks mismatched in fat balls instead of the way I do them, I heard the words of my mother-in-law saying, "Remember, no one ever does things exactly the way you do," her point being: be grateful for the help and don't sweat the small stuff. I could not have been away from home last week without Tommy and Liz and the lady who began helping us last summer. They each deserve a halo!

Thanks for reading.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Here's an update on the peas--none, nada, zero! We were at the Farmers' Market mid-morning and I noticed the welcome sight of beautiful, tasty, pink eye, purple hull peas being put through the automatic sheller. A man had brought them to be shelled. Bummer. Again, came the promise: "I'll have some Tuesday." Fat chance. I won't be here and I doubt if anyone else in my family would get up to be at the market at 5 a.m. when sales begin. Liz is bringing home lots of tomatoes from her trip to see her parents. I suggested to Tommy he might like to have my chili sauce recipe that is at its best when served as relish on those elusive peas. I wonder how it would be by itself--without the peas.

Still, I'm thankful for the bounty we do enjoy.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, July 11, 2008

Monday we made our monthly trip to Corinth to have blood work done. Tuesday brought the news we didn't want to hear: my CA125 is up ten points to 22.9. I've long known that oncology nurses are a rare breed and Wendy is no exception. She called to give me the results, to remind me that under 35 is normal and to say she would talk with the doctor and call me again yesterday. He reminded her that the April scans, while not perfect, were okay, nothing was found on examination so he's not concerned at this point. She conveyed all that with the admonition for me not to be concerned yet. Tom's comment was: "The doctor is not married to you either."

I know the drill--what my current doctor thinks--he's thorough and I trust him. Then I hear my California doctor telling me he wanted the count under 20 and that the amount of the jump in the count is telling. Here's the real deal. Good as they are, neither doctor is actually the healer. They know what they know from study and experience and what they tell me is an expert opinion at best. Should I be concerned? I'm not. Why waste a perfectly good month stewing over something that is out of my control? I know the real Healer. I'll let Him be in charge.

Tommy and I made an eight o'clock visit to the Farmers' Market Tuesday to buy peas to freeze, only to be disappointed. The man who we buy from said we should be there Wednesday between seven and seven thirty and he'd have some. So, after a mostly sleepless night for me, Tom and I got up and rushed off to buy the promised peas. There were none. Again, the message was, "I'll have some tomorrow." I couldn't go yesterday--had to have my car at the dealership early for a big check-up. Today there is too much else to get done. By now, however, I'm obsessed with peas, determined not to be denied. This winter when we're enjoying pink eye, purple hull treats, I'll think of summer and know they were worth all the trouble it's taking to buy them.

Sunday is Elisa's baptism. In addition to doing the baptism, I will also preach. It will be a memorable day for us. Tom will have tears of joy in his eyes and our hearts will be full. The sermon, Letter to Elisa, will be my attempt at sharing what baptism means, that it a sign of God's promise made to each of us. He is our God; we are His people. Therefore, the promises He has made are true, never to be broken. He is faithful to them, to us. Lest I omit any of the lectionary for the day, I'll tell her what Psalm 119:105 says about God's word being a light for our way and then the P.S. for her parents and her church family from Deut. 6:4-9. She won't know a word I say, but she'll know who is holding her at the time of the baptism and I pray that my life will be a sermon for her in the days to come. The sermon really is a bringing together of what I most want all my grandchildren to know: Life is all about God and God's faithful promises; God has given us His word to guide us. The P.S. is a charge to adult family and church family be Godly examples.

Monday I'm off to Sacramento. I can't wait!!!!

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's a lazy July morning--hot and humid. People encountering the humidity for the first time often ask if one ever gets used to it. That's a difficult question to answer. If it's all you have ever known, it's accepted. If you have ever lived away from it for a while, as we did, you have to reacclimate. It takes longer to dry your hair, the air feels like it's squeezing you, pantyhose are pure misery and an unairconditioned car is torture. But, humidity is a small price to pay for the wonders of living in the South!

The Fourth of July menu depends on what's available at the Farmers' Market and whether or not the best meat counter in town has good looking ribs. It's probably going to rain buckets but since our grill is on the back porch, a little rain won't slow us down. My Georgia family always has a BIG family reunion on the Fourth where everyone brings a churn of ice cream. My mouth starts watering every year about mid-afternoon when I think of them opening those churns. We're having blueberry pie with store bought ice cream--what a sacrilege! Our churn wore out some years back and hasn't been replaced. This week I gave in to convenience and ordered one of the newer models that uses a bowl you put in the freezer before processing. I can't wait to get started, but it won't get her in time for the Fourth. Hope your holiday is full of fun, family, friends and food.

Tom is taking his after breakfast nap. We have seen both the opthamalogist and the new primary care doctor this week. Reports on the eyes were good, no appreciable changes in vision and the usual age related things. Cataracts are present, but not a problem for either of us, and the presence of pre-macular disease was noted again in my case. Tom's headaches are not eye related. We liked the new primary care person, appreciated his thoroughness and friendliness. His response to Tom's headaches was to give a different pain medication and to tell him to have the neurologist pursue the problem. So, again, no answers. It's frustrating, but he won't let it get him down completely.

Yesterday we had a message on the answer machine from a man identifying himself as having worked for Tom in Vietnam and wondering if he had the right Tom. He did and they spoke for a few minutes late in the afternoon. His name was familiar to me, but it took me a while to remember why. After we went to bed last night I filled in the blanks and could tell Tom what I remembered. Honestly, I hadn't thought of that name in forty years, but slowly the pieces fell into place. The mind is amazing, a lot more so than modern technology. He found Tom the up- to -date way: Googled his name, found it associated with a case that listed his former law firm, called the office and got our number from a friend who works there. I understand that better than how my mind remembered. There might be a sermon illustration forth coming.

Today "our pastor" is coming for a visit--actually for lunch and a visit. He's not the pastor of our church here, but the friend in the neighboring town for whom I preach occasionally. Paul was the associate in our Mississippi church, called by a committee Tom moderated, and he and his wife became good friends. He and I shared seminary stories, have had good theological discussions, he was my mother's faithful visitor and during the months of chemo when we were in California he called me every week. Some ministers find it difficult to provide pastoral care to people in their local community, but Paul proved that pastoral care has no boundaries. He ministered to me across the miles and I will always remember. It was not his duty; it came from the pastor's heart God has given him. He is a special man of God.

Writing of Paul reminds me that I'd best go make the tea and set the table. The hydrangeas are already in place, the Sister Schubert rolls are thawing and the tomatoes are ripe for slicing. It's a Southern lunch in the making. Wish you could share!

Pastor Margaret