Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yesterday dawned dull and dreary, but ended with glorious sunshine. We left our house at 8 a.m., headed to Corinth for a 10 o'clock appointment, allowing ourselves plenty of time for any unexpected road conditions and to locate the new office. Wouldn't you know it? We have never made such good time--checked in at 9:15--didn't see the doctor until 11:30.
We left home with a few remaining icicles on the eaves of the house, patches of snow in the yard and snow still clinging to the trees and bushes. I especially love to see it clinging to the bright green nandina, replete with red berries. Winter fields with their bleakness that always vividly remind of the cycle of life (birth, new life, productivity, harvest, death) appeared even bleaker. The skies were gray, somewhat threatening. While we were eating lunch after the appointment, we noticed the sun was shining. How different things looked on the trip home! And, our yard--not one remaining icicle, no patches of snow anywhere. Honestly, I miss the snow on the nandinas outside my window.
Nearby areas are not so fortunate. Many still have no power and the ice damage is severe. We received communication yesterday about many churches in our presbytery and their needs. (Our presbytery covers West Tennessee, a strip of Arkansas along the Mississippi River and the bootheel of Missouri.) Plans are being made to send supplies and people with chainsaws to help clear debris. Keep all these folks in your prayers. As you can imagine, the needs are many.
The cancer clinic where I am a patient is actually a satellite of a large clinic in Memphis and we know it is where I need to be. They have had a small complex in the Out-Patient Surgery Center connected to the hospital, but have now constructed a spacious building in that same area. Yesterday was our first visit to the new facility and we were much impressed! Several memories came to mind: 1) My first oncology experience beginning in the early eighties and the progression of offices that clinic had in my almost twenty years with them. The first office was in an old house with uneven floors, pipes that froze in cold weather and a climate "control" system that allowed the plants to die on winter weekends. Times have changed for them. 2) The infusion "suite" more than doubled in floor space and went from nine chairs to fifteen, plus a hospital bed. Tom said that it was more like UC Davis without the floor space. Mention of UC Davis always makes me remember and be thankful for those angels masquerading as oncology nurses. 3) You'll think I'm crazy for this other memory--it's about our beloved English Mastiff, Sugar. I thought of her when I entered the lab for vitals and bloodwork and saw the scale. It is about a 3 foot square in the floor where you stand--don't even have a step up. Here's the Sugar connection. We changed vets after the first couple of years we had her and found that the new vet didn't have a scale built into his table and she was too heavy for the animal scale he had. She weighed between 140-145 pounds, small for her breed, but heavy just the same. The only way we could get an accurate weight was for me to get on a scale, weigh myself, pick her up and weigh us both together or go to a feed and seed store where the scales are much larger and put her on that. Neither were good options: why would I want to share my weight with the vet? and Sugar would have balked at getting on the store scale, wiggled and we'd still have no accuracy. The scale in the oncology lab would be perfect!
The doctor says things look fine. He expressed some concern about the side effects on my feet and hands and said we could put off treatment a couple of weeks in order to let them recover a bit more or we could push forward. I chose pushing forward. He still hasn't given us a final treatment number--just know there's one scheduled for the end of February.
The contrast between the bleakness of the trip to Corinth and the brightness of the trip home can well be an example of our response to problems in our lives. We can focus on the bleakness, the barreness and the gray skies or we can bask in the sunshine that brings life. Annie would sing about "Tomorrow" and the sun coming out; I will sing, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Both are appropriate.
Pastor Margaret

Monday, January 26, 2009

Today is Christopher's first birthday. Where did the year go? He has changed from a wiggly, sweet little baby to a "into everything," even sweeter little boy. How could my baby have a baby of her own? How could my son have five children? Where did the all the years go?

I look at our children and see responsible, fine adults, but I also see chubby cheeks, feel their hands in mine as we cross the parking lot and see anxious teenagers preparing for their first dances. I hear the conviction in his voice as our son tells us about Elizabeth and I remember the day he became a husband. I feel the pain we felt the rainy day that Marty moved away to North Carolina. I feel all their joys and all their pains--I did when they were little and I do today. Now they have children of their own--seven in all.

"Sunrise, Sunset," where did my little girl go? How did my little boy get big? As a favorite aunt said, "Love them today. Tomorrow they go to college."

Pastor Margaregt

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Late this afternoon I was in the kitchen making some advance preparations for our dinner and when I looked out I saw a little apricot dog standing in the yard. He was tied and barking. Then I saw Sarah at the back door. She was out to take Max for a walk and came to see us. Seeing her was one of those surprises that makes our day! I let her in, found her a snack and we sat at the table for a while--until her mom called and said it was time for her to come home. I love it when she visits!

Tomorrow friends are coming for lunch. Our pastor friend and his wife from Humbolt are coming for a farewell luncheon. Next month they are moving to Florida and we will really miss having them in our area. Things have not been easy for them in this pastorate and in talking with her last night she expressed how special it has been for us to have been here at this time in their lives. I never thought of that; I was just glad they were close by to us. She is the one who told me to remember when we went to California that God was going before us in triumphant procession. Doesn't God work in mysterious ways? God brings people into our lives who bless us as God's ambassadors and often we don't even realize it at the time.

Take time today to thank God for those in your life who bring you joy and comfort. We're thanking God for Sarah whose smile melts our hearts and for Pam and Paul who continue to bless us with their friendship.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, January 16, 2009

We are in the midst of a cold snap!! It's so cold, in fact, that the area schools were closed today. Predicted low last night was three degrees and school officials didn't want children waiting at bus stops. We were at Tommy's last night when the announcement was made on the evening news and a chorus of "yeas" filled the air. By Wednesday of next week they are promising we'll be back into the fifties. I sort of like cold weather, but the last couple of days have been a bit too cold.

A dear friend and former colleague writes an on line newsletter about worship and the latest came this week. He usually always writes something about the current ligurgical season and includes a quote from his worship mentor, Robert Webber. The latest quote was a translation of a Latin phrase that tells of what worship does. I have pondered that translation ever since I read it early in the week: Show me how you worship and I'll show you what you believe, a clear way to say that worship shapes what we believe.

Those who know me well or who have followed my statements on worship in this blog know that I believe worship to be central in the life of the Church. You also know that my taste leans more to the traditional style with stately hymns, responsive readings, statement of creeds, dignity and order. But, that doesn't mean that I don't see the value of other styles of worship--IF those styles are expressions of adoration of God by the people of God. Next question: How do I, as an observer, know what is being expressed? How do I know when one is standing to sing the Doxology that such singing is an expression of real adoration? How do I know what is truly being expressed when someone is raising his/her arms as a form of praise? Does the practice of repeating lines of liturgy every week make my worship more acceptable than any other kind?

The point is this: It is not our style that is in question. It is the motive behind the style, whether it be traditional, contemporary, highly liturgical. I was struck last weekend when preparing for teaching the introduction to the gospel of Mark by the fact that not only was Mark concerned and compelled to record the message of salvation, but also, and more importantly, he wanted to record it so that his readers, themselves would be excited and compelled to share the message. And, that those who read would believe and become followers of Jesus! Now, tie that to our worship and consider what it says about us.

Is there an attitude of excitement about me? Do I sing I've Got the Joy Down in My Heart with joy on my face or do folks who see me wonder why someone doesn't tell my faces about the Joy? Those Sundays that I'm distracted or simply mouth the words of the Lord's Prayer or the Apostles' Creed, what kind of witness am I expressing? Do I want someone else to get a clue about my belief from my attitude? If so, please Lord, let it be that I am excited about the gospel and want everyone to know so that they might believe and follow Jesus. May my belief be present in my worship!

Pastor Margaret

Monday, January 12, 2009

There is no wayto soften bad news, no way to curb the disappointment or stop the tears. We learned this morning that the pregnancy we were all so excited about ended in miscarriage last night. This time two years ago we were hurting and wondering how to help when the first miscarriage occured. This time last year we were anxiously awaiting the birth of Christopher. Things can change so quickly. Sometime in the future we will be anxious and excited again. Today we are sad and wanted you to know.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just when you think . . .

--that the new Christmas tablecloth will fit the table something happens that makes you wonder. Should I have bought a larger cloth? We learned from Marty this week that next Christmas we'll need to fit one more at our table. She and Kevin are expecting a new baby in September. I can't help but remember how pleased Dad was to be seated at the family table with children and grandchildren gathered round. He'd grin and say, "Just think. I started all of this." I know now how he felt!

--that the winter storms have passed us by, another front moves through and we scurry about wrapping faucets and getting supplies. We are promised very cold temperatures this week, along with frozen precipitation. School children are excited; parents are not.

--that football is mostly over except for the pro playoffs and the Super Bowl, you watch favored and favorite teams lose and you wonder: "How did that happen?" Our favorites were favored, they lost and we've pretty much lost interest. Maybe that's not all bad.

--that life has taken a turn and you begin to settle into retirement, new opportunities arise. Our friend and Sunday School teacher is undergoing radiation and chemo for a malignancy in his throat and is taking time off at least until Easter. I was asked to fill in when possible and when I learned that the class would be studying the book of Mark, I jumped at the chance to teach as many of the classes as possible. I started this morning and was so excited to be back in a teaching situation. The fatigue that has become a constant companion seems to be swept away when I'm teaching. I forget the illness, the chemo, the side effects and focus entirely on sharing the Word of God. What a reminder of what is truly important!

Just when you think God is finished with you, you are reminded that He is not. A wise professor once pronounced that the only retirees are in heaven. God has called us to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. I learn anew, each day, what that means.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Tablecloth

Marty, Christopher and I went out the afternoon before they left to check out Christmas leftovers at Tuesday Morning--one of my favorite places to shop for bargains. We used to go every year, but Marty and I moved to different states and my after Christmas shopping habits have changed in the last ten years. What I thought we needed for the next year became not so important. We have less storage space than we had in our Mississippi house and decorating tastes have changed. Then there is the matter of the energy level it takes to get boxes out of the attic, unpack them and arrange the contents, then put it all away again. The emotions of this year have also had an impact on me.

I planned for the holidays, believing that Christmas 2008 would be my last. Having both of our children and all our grandchildren was more special than it has ever been and I wanted just the right amount of family tradition added to the family traditions they have established in their families. I made lists of what to do and when to do it. All but one gift was bought on line, most wrapped as they arrived or sent directly from the merchant to the recipient. Menus were made, cooking planned and grocery lists evolved. I had lists everywhere, almost to the point I need a list of where I had put the lists. The truth of the matter is that I didn't cook everything I planned; no one missed it and we didn't need it. It was difficult to get everyone together at one time, but we did have all present for dinner on Sunday night, after which we gathered--more appropriately, crammed--in our living room to share gifts. What a GIFT to be together!!

It was May, 2006 when my California oncologist reluctantly told Tom, Tommy and me that my cancer is incurable, gave us the two year prognosis and told us we needed to move close to family. I began an agressive chemo treatment that floored me like nothing else ever has, brought on pneumonia that was life threatening, leaving me in a drug induced coma while on a respirator for eight days and when I awoke my muscles had forgotten how to work. All the while we were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who prayed unceasingly and worked out their faith by caring for us in unending ways. We arrived in Tennessee expecting to begin chemo again after Thanksgiving, but the good news was no cancer could be detected. That remission lasted almost a year, then back on chemo November '07 through March '08. The next remission was shortlived and again chemo began in August '08 and will continue at least through March of this year. My two years of surviving has stretched now to almost three, but when you live with the realities of ovarian cancer there is always a dark cloud present. This past fall I have thought more about the things I need/want to do to prepare for my passing. Having my family together at Christmas was the most important!!

Being with them recharged my psyche. Yes, the cancer is incurable; it is recurrent, but it does not define me. There is medicine, new research. There is hope. There is Hope! Thus, the tablecloth. On our Tuesday Morning trip, I bought a new Christmas tablecloth that fits our dining room table when fully extended--just the right size for all the family Christmases to come!

It is my prayer that all of who read will know the one who is our Hope!

Pastor Margaret