Thursday, August 27, 2009

On the way home from Bible study a little bit ago, I suddenly thought what a "normal" day this seems. That may seem strange, but though we live enthusiastically and joyfully, illness does play a big part in our lives. Today is different.

I was awakened by a friend in Mississippi, calling to say that she and two others are coming for lunch on Monday. Of course, they are bringing it and couldn't be talked out of it. They'll spend much more time in the car driving to and from than they will here, but they are FRIENDS--friends who even bring lunch and I can't wait to see them.

Tuesday was Presbytery, last night was first Wednesday supper of the year at Humboldt, we've made headway with closing Dad's estate, illness has taken a backseat. It's good to be "normal."

I saved the best til last! Sound the trumpets---grandchild #8 is a boy!!!! Marty called after the ultrasound today to tell us the good news. He's due January 26, on Christopher's second birthday. All is well; we're excited; and we're planning to go!

Nothing in life should ever be taken for granted. To be able to go to Bible study where and when we choose is one of the freedoms we have in this country. For us it's a special blessing to sit under the teaching of our son and learn from him. Most of us have acquaintances whose company we enjoy, but true friends are like rare jewels. How I value the jewels in our treasure chest! Being a part of the work of the church, getting chores done, continuing to live independently are all "normal" things for which I am thankful.

Today, most of all, we thank God for our children, their spouses and the special blessing of grandchildren!!

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's way past my bedtime. Lately, lying down in the bed is not as comfortable as sitting in the recliner with the warm rice bag on my lower back or hip joints. I can think of three things causing the discomfort: being overweight, a smidge of arthritis and age. Only the first has a remedy and I don't seem to get serious about taking off the pounds. It's my own fault I'm sleepless. The good part is I can read or study without any interruptions unless Tom gets up to make his nightly walk to the kitchen for something sweet to eat. You'd think he'd be the overweight one in the family.

Today, or I guess it's yesterday now, I offiiciated at a graveside service for a man I didn't know. One of the Humboldt members called Monday and asked if I would come. The man who died was deaf, mentally challenged, had multiple health problems prior to his death and apparently had no family--at least none who visited him. There must have been thirty or forty people who came to the cemetary to pay their respects and to mourn his passing--some care recipients like he had been, some people who provided care for him. It was obvious that the man was loved by each person present.

I was simply the facilitator, the one who read the Scriptures, prayed the prayers and said a few words about him, but I knew my presence was appreciated. Services like that touch lives; they remind me what ministry is all about. It is taking or making time to share God's love with those in crisis or who grieve. It is taking the hand of a hospital patient to pray with them; it is listening when no one else can or will. I love the teaching and preaching aspects of ministry and I love pastoral care. I cannot imagine ministry where all three are not present.

Sunday I'm preaching on the lost things in Luke 15--the lost sheep, a lost coin and the lost son. As I sat here a little while ago going over my sermon and thinking about the day, I was reminded that I thought ministry had been "lost" for me when we moved here. There have been months of rest and recuperation from illness, chemo and even a broken ankle and foot and some days it seemed I would never do anything, but sit and receive from others. I don't do that well. My prayers to be a servant seemed to stop at the ceiling. Deep down I knew God was hearing and that He was answering, but I still grumbled. Today, in that cemetary, I knew that ministry was not lost. It's been there all along in the midst of the blessings of children, grandchildren, new friends, teaching and preaching opportunities and the time to enjoy each of them. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tom had a birthday this week and I have thoroughly enjoyed it right along with him. Our celebration is on hold until Sunday so we can have ice cream and cake with the grandchildren, but he has gotten numerous cards and phone calls. Of course, I also got to talk with friends who called. How we both love hearing from friends!

In addition to a birthday we have had doctors' visits in our week. We went to Corinth Monday for a blood draw and again today to see the doctor. Wednesday Tom had a check up with the GI doctor. All is well with him--except for the annoyances caused by his Parkinson's. Monday he sees the neurologist.

I had learned on Tuesday that my CA125 had risen a few more points, but is still under 35. We don't like rising numbers, but in a quiet time earlier in the summer, I suddenly was struck with the realization that the bloodcount is not the most powerful force in my life. After dreading hearing the number all these months, I put it in God's hands and He took away the worry and replaced it with peace. Today my doctor said he will only be upset if the number grows by leaps and bounds between blood draws. He still is satisfied with my state of health: I feel good; nothing hurts; I'm as normal as I will ever be (Tom grinned when I said I was normal); and Dr. Reed thinks the time off from treatment will help when I eventually do begin again. I am cleared for the next drug he will prescribe and his patients who have had this drug have responded well. Only God can be responsible for the renewed peace that fills me!!

Thank you for your prayers.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, August 08, 2009

In spite of living in unplanned retirement, I've found there are certain perks.

We have time to enjoy one another and to carry on whole conversations without rushing off to the office or to a meeting.

We have time to enjoy family--both the one around the corner and the one miles away. I can be on call to sit with grandchildren here or drop everything and head to North Carolina when the new grandchild arrives. When we vacation, we are not pushed to "check in," nor do we have to concern ourselves with "catch up" when we return.

I have time to cook, pretty much when and how much I choose. Our grandchildren think I exist to make dessert, so I try not to disappoint them. This summer I've found quick ways to make pie crust and dough for cobbler in the food processor--a handy find to use with all the peaches and blueberries we've consumed. We've also enjoyed cinnamon bread, mixed and kneaded in a matter of minutes in the food processor. Yesterday I cut back the basil on the front porch so I could make pesto to put in the freezer; cooked country fried steak, one of Tom's favorites, for dinner; and put together a casserole to share with family for Sunday dinner. Later today I'll make another favorite--frozen lime pie. It's fun to have time, not to have to make time to cook.

I also have time to read and read and read! I used to say: too many books; so little time. Now, I can read all day every day if I choose--well, not every day, but most days. At any rate, I do a lot of reading--everything from novels to cookbooks to non-fiction to Christian writings, including commentaries and books on the spiritual disciplines. Recently I have finished two books that I highly recommend: Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and
The Path of Celtic Prayer by Calvin Miller.

The first is based on the Psalms of Ascent (120-134) and is sub-titled, "Discipleship in an Instant Society." For me it was a reminder of not only God's presence in my life, but His active presence. They were words I needed. After all these months of cancer, treatment, remission over and over my spiritual life can resemble a stagnant pool of water. Stagnant pools of water breed mosquitoes if allowed to stand; a stagnant spiritual life breeds questions and complacency.

The Miller book presents a fresh, in depth approach to prayer following the ways of the Celts. It probably does not have as broad an appeal as Peterson's book, but is worth a look to see for yourself. I loved it.

The perks of retirement: time for family, time for the kitchen, time to read.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, August 03, 2009

This will be short--just wanted to touch base since it's been a while since I've written. Tom and I left on July 24 and returned yesterday. We spent a wonderful, refreshing week in the Black Mountains in Western North Carolina with our daughter, her husband and our grandson--plus their two dogs. We visited the Biltmore House in Ashville and went one afternoon to the Montreat Conference Center bookstore and international shop. There is a saying among Southern Presbyterians that visiting Montreat at least once is a prerequisite to going to heaven. I know that's bad theology, but I also know that I feel a little closer to heaven when I'm on the Montreat grounds. We have special memories of conferences and being with friends and Marty and Kevin were married there. It is indeed a special place!

The best part was being with family, getting to know Christopher. He is an active, curious, energetic eighteen month old. Did I mention cute? He loves trains, books and music, not necessarily in that order and he loves to dance. I am amazed at how he can match tones and rhythmic patterns. It was a real treat to be with them!

Now we are home, trying to get reorganized with household chores, yardwork, committee meetings and sermon preparations, to say nothing of doctor appointments that begin again next week. School starts for students on Wednesday; teachers reported today, though Liz has already spent several days getting her classroom ready. What happened to summer?

Until later - - -
Pastor Margaret