Monday, October 27, 2008

The air this morning is crisp and cool. I'm glad the newspaper wasn't any further away from the front door than it was. Yesterday I noted when I went out to get lunch that lots of trees in the neighborhood have turned red. That means another trip downtown to see if the ghinkos are yellow yet. We've never traveled up East to see the fall leaves, nor to other places famous for their color, but have been content to enjoy the beauty around us. Sometimes when Mom and Dad would return from some place where "the leaves were absolutely beautiful," Tom would reply, "Mississippi has beautiful leaves." Then, he might go on to comment on the ghinko in our front yard, the pear trees in the mall parking lot or the varieties of trees on the Natchez Trace. I guess we have always been content with the beauty that surrounds us wherever we are.

I haven't given a "grandchildren update" lately, so here's the latest. Nine month old Christopher looked up at Marty one day this past week and said "Mama." All you mothers out there know how special that is! Mallory has been helping Marty with sewing projects. That was fun for both of them. I don't remember Marty being particularly interested in sewing at that age. Jacob is still loving band. I told him over the weekend I was going to put a book on his head, he's growing so tall and might I say "good looking?" Drew has been learning to ride a bike without training wheels. He came to our house a week ago Saturday to practice on our driveway. (Ours is longer and has a large parking area behind the house--perfect for bikes, scooters, etc.) Getting on and getting going is the hard part. I don't know how many times he got on, tried, fell, got up and tried again. Then I noticed the front tire was low and that kept him from steering straight. His determination reminded me of when I learned many years ago and I knew in a instant where he got at least some of that determination. Meredith has always been very verbal, but now we can actually understand much of what she says. She is so cute, bouncing through the house, curls bobbing on her head. Elisa will be a year old next Sunday. Where did the year go? She has only to smile and the day is brighter! Sarah, who in family order comes between Jacob and Drew, has been adding to her cooking accomplishments. Friday Tommy planned a special dinner with homemade ravioli stuffed with crab to go along with veal, red pepper cream sauce and asparagus. Sarah made the pasta and cut it into shapes ready for me to stuff. Saturday she and her dad made pizza and created one with chicken, alfredo sauce, peppers and onions. Friday night her daddy was bragging on her, telling us she had made the pasta and reminding us that she had already learned to make a roux. She piped up and said, "I can make hot dogs too." She has her priorities in order. In other words, forget the gourmet stuff and get on with the basics.

Tom will see the neurologist Wednesday and we pray for some understanding of what has been going on with him the last several weeks. Watching him become weaker and more confused is difficult. You know after the Apostle Paul had prayed for his thorn to be removed and it wasn't, he prayed for grace to accept and deal with his problem. People with chronic illness need to do the same. Jesus spoke to him those words that keep us going: My grace is sufficient. That, my friends, is the bottom line.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When I think back on last week, a good bit of it seems like a blur. I pretty much operated on automatic pilot--Tom needed a lot of help and attention and I felt pretty rotten and tired. We have had several nights when he has actually been able to walk by himself without falling and one or two when I haven't even heard him. Sunday we were perky enough to go to Tommy and Liz's for lunch, but then crashed when we came home. Yesterday we braved the world and headed for Target to do a little early Christmas shopping. That went pretty well until close to the end of the trip.

We finished our shopping, checked out and went to relax and enjoy coffee at the Starbuck's counter. Tom remembered he had forgotten bird seed and dog treats for our neighbor's dog and wanted to go back and get them. He got another shopping cart and I pointed him in the right direction, but it seemed like he was gone too long and I was getting antsy. Just when I decided I'd have to take my cart and all my purchases and go looking I saw him in a check out line. Whew! Telling him he can't do something, taking away even more of his independence is hard. It's even harder to choose between putting him at risk or robbing him even more of his dignity.

In my head I know this: life requires praying without ceasing and there is a step in Ben Johnson's booklet, Adventure in Prayer, that is really helpful. He says that a part of our morning prayer should include asking God to guide you in whatever will come your way during the day. Ask God to give you wisdom, words, courage for both what is planned and that which is unplanned. When this is our habit, we are prepared for anything.

The reality is I don't always do what my head knows. Life gets in the way and my prayer life is as unbalanced and wobbly as Tom's legs. My focus turns inward instead of upward. Like Paul, I do what I shouldn't and don't do what I should. I pray for help in making "big" decisions, but fail to rely of God for the ordinary, everyday occurences.

Today is not as good as yesterday. Tom is wobbly; he is a bit incoherent and has gone back to bed. Please join me in praying for answers to the problems he is having and that the legs of my prayer life will not continue to be unbalanced and wobbly.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Erroneous belief about older people concerns change. How often we hear the words: He will never change. She just wants to keep doing the same things in the same old ways. Here's my response: never is a strong word--use it sparingly and wisely. Also, we may not want to change things or the way they are done, but the truth of the matter is, we are more acquainted with change than people of other ages.

Change sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Life is happening all around us; things are going smoothly. One day follows another; family events and celebrations seem almost routine. One day we are young, healthy, prodcutive and the next day advancing age is evident, our health is declining and our services are no longer required. Who says we don't know or can't adjust to change? Change is as inevitable as life itself.

That's where Tom and I are this week--facing the possibility of more changes. Changes have taken place in him and we're not sure if they are from medication, the advancement of the disease or a combination of both. I suspect the latter. Four nights in a row, when he got up in the night, he could not stand up or keep from falling. Why he has no broken bones, I don't know. I have spoken with a pharmacist, a nurse and a doctor and am following their directions. Yesterday I had a long talk with our helper about what we may be looking at sooner, rather than later. What a Godsend she is!

God's grace has been evident in the stamina He has given me in these last few days. I did have a treatment last Friday, plus both flu and pneumonia vaccines, so normally would be really tired especially getting up with Tom at night. I didn't even have to take nausea medicine but once since the treatment. God's grace continues to sustain us!

Both the changes and the grace just keep on coming.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today would have been our dad's 97th birthday. He was the best of men, honest, wise, caring, a man of integrity. I never heard him tell even a little white lie. He believed in telling the truth and he believed in the one who is Truth. Dad could fix almost anything so whenever anything was broken we went straight to the one we knew could make it right. When there were gifts to open, he drove everyone crazy because he took his time and very meticulously opened his gift. He would take his knife--always in his pocket--cut the ribbon, slit the tape, remove the paper and fold it and then look to see what was inside. In the early fifties, during the polio outbreak, many restrictions were put on children and young people. Dad brought the neighborhood young ones together and had Sunday School for them in their back yard. He was the king of games and Mom and I tried our best to beat him, but rarely succeeded. I thought of him yesterday afternoon when Jacob was here repotting mums for the front porch. Almost all of what I know about flowers, the yard, pruning, etc. I learned from Dad. If he couldn't identify a plant I was sure no one else could either. I wished Jacob could have learned from him. There is much, much more I could say about Dad, but I'll tell you the best things he did for us--and for me especially. He was a godly man. His love and devotion to Mom continues to be an example in our lives and he looked on me as his daughter, not just his son's wife. It seems appropriate on his birthday that I share something we found in his personal papers when he died five years ago. It's called:

Seven Short Rules for Christian Living.

Psalm 119:105 - Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

1. Never neglect daily private prayer. Remember that God is present and hears you (Matt. 6:5-6; Philippians 4:6-7).

2. Never neglect daily Bible reading--and remember when you read that God is speaking to you (II Tim. 3:16-17).

3. Never ask God for anything you do not need or ought not to have (I Cor. 10:13).

4. Never, never doubt God. Tell Him all of your cares and trust Him to carry all of your burdens (I Peter 5:7; Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:25-28).

5. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus (Matt. 5:13-16).

6. Never take your Christianity from someone else. Don't say it's okay for me to do it because so and so does (I Samuel 16:7).

7. Never turn away from God's will. If you do His will you will learn to love, trust, and know Him (Psalm 25:14; Micah 6:8).

Psalm 119:11 - Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my rock and my salvation.

Dad lived by these simple rules and by his life encouraged all of us who knew and loved him.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall in the South continues to be spectacular. That's not exaggeration! The termperatures are milder, there is less humidity and the leaves are turning and falling. Our favorite college football team did well on Saturday--they didn't play. The children came Saturday to play in the yard while we cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill. Even the Farmers' Market has taken a Fall decor with lots of mums, pumpkins, gourds and greens for sale. I was happy to find a few tomatoes and an abundance of Mississippi sweet potatoes. I tried a new recipe: oven fried sweet potatoes with basil salt and a garlic mayonnaise dipping sauce. Yum, yum! Fall, family, food are ingredients for a fun weekend.

Tom and I both visited our primary care physician Thursday--just a regular check-up, but also to report the progress on finding the cause of Tom's headaches, the treatment, the results of his last trip to the neurologist. We came away with a bag full of samples of another medication he is to try for the anxiety and nervousness. Maybe we're on to something. Friday we went to Corinth to see the oncologist and thought the visit went well. It seems that the chemo drug I'm on now causes elevation of the CA125 at first, before it begins to drop and/or level out. My white count is "on the cusp," he said, and he lifted some of the precautions I've been following for the last three weeks--making the tomatoes I found even more welcome. Treatment is this Friday, with another scheduled the first Friday in November, followed by scans. We'll know more then.

It's hard not knowing. I like to know what will happen tomorrow, the next day and the next. I can recount many times when I've been reluctant to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, when I have really wanted to tell God that I'd like to make decisions on my own, 'cause "I know better." Some of those times I did my thing, didn't listen and always those were bad decisions--big mistakes. When I've listened, when I've been obedient, God has blessed more than I could even imagine He would have. Why, then, do I wonder about tomorrow? Why can't I completely trust God with tomorrow? I call it "human nature," all the time knowing I don't want to be defined by that nature, but by the new person I became in Christ years ago. It's His nature that prompts obedience and provides trust. God is in charge of tomorrow. I don't need to know what will happen.

Incurable cancer plays with your mind, your soul, not to mention what it does to your body. It gives you opportunity to step back, review your life and consider all the things you want to accomplish before you die. It helps you not take people for granted. You value every minute you spend with those you love; you don't put off until tomorrow the things you should do or say today. Those are good things. But, there are ups and downs. Beginning this current round of chemo started a down turn. It was the not knowing, the lapse in trust, the wanting to be in charge. All of us have areas in our lives that need to be committed completely to God. No, all of us need to commit our lives completely to God--not just areas. Then we need to let go and trust Him. God's grace is sufficient for all our needs.

Pastor Margaret