Saturday, February 28, 2009

Here's the update on the winter storm warning. We have just come home from an evening with family and wondered just how much we would slip and slide coming home. What was supposed to be an inch of snow is already five inches, still falling and not supposed to stop until morning. Church services have been cancelled at many area churches because of icy road conditions. Our power has flickered once or twice and went off completely a few minutes ago. Tom is searching for candles. The weather folks have "cried wolf" several times this winter, but they weren't wrong this time. Our street looks like a winter wonderland, but we are mindful of the danger of breaking limbs and powerlines and tomorrow the streets will indeed be slick. Hope you all are safe and warm!
Pastor Margaret
Yesterday we took our monthly trek to Corinth. If you have been a follower of this blog you know how much I love observing the changing seasons and how they compare to the seasons and events of our lives. As we started out yesterday I began to note the signs of Spring at the end of our driveway. Today is a different matter; pardon while I digress. We had a saying in Mississippi that I find just as true and just as often quoted here in West Tennessee: If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. The weather man said it just this morning as he gave the winter weather warning in effect until tomorrow. He says we're expecting at least an inch of snow tonight----and by Friday it will be in the seventies. Back to Spring. The jonquils at the end of the drive were beginning to open and there were buds opening on fruit trees; a hint of green could be seen in the fields and evidence that planting is soon to be started. I noticed houses through the trees, houses that are usually hidden by dense green leaves. Soon they will be hidden again. This morning as I drove in from an errand I noticed tiny yellow flowers on the forsythia across the back, forsythia that until now looked dead. With each passing day, the signs of new birth are revealed more and more. There is no more appropriate visual for the preparation for the resurrection of our Lord!
The visit with the oncologist was as good as it could be is way Tom described it. I told him my concerns/complaints and those of my family--mainly the shortness of breath and the fatigue, both of which are common to the Doxil. He, again, suggested we could delay the treatment so that I might improve some and, again, I said, "No, let's forge ahead." The condition of my feet has improved, though my walking is still affected. My hands continue to be problematic, but have been greatly helped by a suggestion from friend John in California. The plan is that I will have scans in three weeks, see the doctor the next week, then plan from what he finds. We are hopeful because we trust ultimately in our God who is both powerful anf faithful! Please continue to pray with and for us.
Our God is great and greatly to be praised!
Pastor Margaret

Monday, February 23, 2009

A modicum of energy returned Saturday, three weeks after my last treatment. I've been told that fatigue is one of the big side effects of the drug I'm taking, but three weeks down and one up is not exactly how I invisioned things. Still, I am plagued by extreme shortness of breath. Climbing a flight of stairs if a real chore. I remember my condition a little over two years ago when there wasn't enough oxygen in my blood. I don't know what is going on now, but I'll surely inquire when we see the oncologist this Friday. We'll also try to learn if there will be more treatments in this regimen and if so, how many.
Tom has been doing really well for about six weeks. Then, toward the end of last week his balance again became a problem and he talked to children who were not here. No meds have changed; his daily pattern has remained the same. I really don't know why he has taken this downhill turn. Getting out does him good which is one reason I try to have enough energy to take him out when the weather is nice. He has an appointment in a couple of weeks with the neurologist and we'll have questions ready for him.
Tomorrow is our daughter's birthday and we won't be with her to celebrate. I remember the weekend she was born as if it were yesterday. The first time I held her she looked at me as if she were asking, "Who in the world are you?" In the years since we have gotten to know one another and had some great times together. Still, I look at her and marvel at her talent, her caring heart and the woman she has become. She is a terrific mother--the kind I wish I had been. I can only be grateful for God's gifts to her! Christopher is one fortunate little boy! Tom and I are two fortunate parents.
This afternoon there was a "tap, tap, tap" on the back door and there stood Drew. He and Sarah were walking their dog Max, and had come for a visit. They love to play in our yard. What they don't know is how much we love to look up and see them standing on the back porch. The life we left to move here has been replaced with one that is full of family. Who could ask for anything more?
Thank you for reading; thank you for keeping us in your prayers. God is good all the time; all the time God is good.
Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today is our 42nd wedding anniversary, a special day indeed!! I remember our wedding day as if it were yesterday. It was dreary and overcast and a light rain fell as we went to the church that morning for a "walk through." I had been to get my hair done while Dad and Tom worked at my apartment to be sure everything had been packed and was ready to go when we left the church that afternoon headed for Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. When we exited the church following the ceremony, the sun was shining. Oh, what a day! The years between then and now have flown and with each passing year I am more grateful for our life together. Though we are very much the individuals we were before our wedding, we are both aware of how much we are one. I cannot imagine life without Tom!

Tommy cooked a wonderful, celebratory dinner Sunday night: roast tenderloin of beef with a potato sandwich and green salad. The potatoes were julienned and sauteed in a rectangular shape, then put on a baking sheet. A layer of carmelized onion and cheddar cheese was added, then another layer of potatoes. Dessert was chocolate mousse pie, leftover from our Valentine dinner the night before. We shouldn't have to eat again for a week.

Celebrations are special and help us show how we feel about people and things. We celebrate anniversaries, not only of weddings, but other events as well: graduation, retirement, taking a new job or position. Birthdays are cause for celebration. In a way we even celebrate the birthdays of those who have passed from this life to the next, as we remember them and thank God for their lives. Tom and I celebrate every day, knowing that each day is a gift from God. We celebrate when we think of the vows we took, promising to always love and honor one another in every situation--sickness and health being a big one for us. We don't look like that bride and groom in the pictures taken 2/18/67. He is thinner and balder; I am larger and gray.
We smiled then because we were happy. We smile today because we have the joy of sharing all our days together.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't you love it when someone, or better yet, something, questions who you are? I tried for at least five minutes this morning to begin posting this blog and the server kept telling me that I was "unknown." Finally, after much frustration and attempting every combination of my name that I could think of, I exited, re-entered, tried again and was allowed to sign in. Here I am--the same person I was when I started minutes before!
It's rather like this is the same song, second verse. Last week started badly, with much fatigue and lots of bed rest. Shortness of breath is a problem and simple tasks like walking to the mail box, going to the grocery or walking from the parking lot into the church wind me. That's probably a combination of the drug, the fatigue and being overweight. As the week progressed my energy got better and by dividing the errands into two days, we got them done and I finished the week by going to Presbytery on Saturday. This week is going to be much better!!!
Saturday, Valentine's Day, was the day designated for the winter Presbytery of the Mid-South Meeting and it was hosted in a small town further west from here, but before you reach the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful old church, the people were quite hospitable and had prepared a delicious barbequed chicken lunch. FACT: When in West Tennessee, eat bar-b-que. You won't be sorry. There was one problem, however. Unless you walked to the back where there was a ramp, it was difficult to enter the front of the church--too many steps. Then, the fellowship hall was on the lower level and there was no elevator.
Having worked with older adults all these years, I am aware of the codes concerning accessiblity and the fact that churches built prior to the time those codes took effect, did not have to conform at the time. Only remodeling or new construction need follow the codes. Baloney! I couldn't help but wonder when I saw those steps in front how many visitors were discouraged from attending a service there because they didn't know there was a ramp in back. Fortunately, there were hosts in the parking lot and I asked if there was an alternate way to enter. How would someone attending a wedding, for instance, get to the fellowship hall for the reception? When are we going to take realistic looks at our facilities and make them accessible for all individuals?
Older, small town churches are not the only ones who need a look and an update. The church where we worship now has made every effort to be accommodating to the handicapped and its older members--almost. Still, it has a two story educational facility with no elevator and staff offices are located in a stately old mansion and can only be reached by ascending the grand staircase. The church I served in California was careful to make the spacious, modern Family Life Center accessible when it opened in 2000. However, getting to it from the parking lots requires a lot of walking--something that proves quite difficult if one uses a walker and is coming to a pot luck luncheon. The parking lots have the required number of handicapped spaces for the total number, but even those don't suffice for the number that is needed. People often told me that they came on Sunday, couldn't find a place close enough to park, so they turned and went home. I am sure these stories can be repeated all accross our country.
This particular "soapbox" is one where I've stood theoretically for many years. Now, having experienced some of these problems myself, I am more aware than ever. I am also aware that changes often require money in the budget that is simply not there. Church budgets have really felt the financial strain of these days, but that does not always have to mean improvements cannot be made. Be creative! You and I need to step up and speak up for the needs of older adults and/or the handicapped. If you have suggestions to share, please let me hear from you by adding a comment.
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It's been a week since I've written anything. Honestly, I haven't much felt like it. The cumulative effects of the chemo seemed to come crashing down and at least three days in the past week I haven't even gotten dressed. We did go out last Saturday, the day after treatment, for a trip to the grocery, I taught a Sunday School class the next day and we joined Tommy, Liz and family for the Super Bowl. We had a couple of really cold days when the temperatures didn't get over thirty five degrees so it was easy to stay inside. My fingers have been sore, my feet are dry and peeling, some toenails are lifting and I have felt like a truck ran over me. Of course, when I go back and read about the drug I'm taking, I realize there's a reason I have low grade temp and am exhausted. Nobody says I have to like it though!
Last night we went to Tommy and Liz's for supper and a visit. Just being there, spending time with them and especially the two youngest girls was food for the soul. At one time there were so many people talking at one time that I wasn't sure of the conversation I was having. Tommy made a delicious dish of grilled tilapia served over saffron rice and covered with a black bean and tomato concoction. It was great! Today the three older children came to help clean up the leaves in our yard. They filled five big plastic bags and there are at least three times that many more on the ground. Maybe they can attack it again next weekend.
I have been reading two books along with the study I'm doing in Mark: Keep in Step with the Spirit by J.I. Packer and Life with God by Richard Foster. The first is a really in depth study of the Holy Spirit and the second is designed to teach the reader to be transformed by his/her reading of the Scripture. Some of its material might also be found in Celebration of Discipline, probably Foster's most familiar work and actually might be good to read before reading Celebration. The chapter on lectio devina is one of the best teachings on this discipline I have seen and I have been able to break it down into simple steps that I can remember without having to have a complete set of instructions in front of me. One day this week I chose Psalm 100 as the passage on which I would dwell. Present in my mind since then has been the phrase from the NIV that says: and we are his (vs. 3). The implications of what it means to belong to God are endless and have provoked unending praise and thanksgiving.
Being sidelined by fatigue reminds me of the seriousness of the illnesses we both face and being reminded often brings questions about the future. In my study tonight for Mark tomorrow I came across this statement made by the professor who taught my class called "A Spiritual Theology of the Book of Mark." He said: Don't let fear blind you to the power and faithfulness of God. I wrote his quote down in my journal right next to the Psalm 100:3 phrase, we are his. Together, that is food--no, a banquet--for thought!
Pastor Margaret