Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ups and Downs

We all have them. Some have more ups than downs; some more downs than ups. And, with some you can't tell the difference. It could be a matter of perspective. It could be one's circumstances; it could be one's age; it could be how long the circumstances have been endured. I don't know much, but I do know that we have good days and we have bad days. Shoot, we have good hours, followed by bad ones. One minute Tom can be up and going, alert, anxious to get on with things. The next minute he may be disoriented, weak and shaking inside. I guess that's the nature of Parkinson's. This week we've been more up than down, though I am still plagued by aenemia that manifests itself in fatigue and shortness of breath--more than anything, that makes me mad.

Let me tell you what Tom did this week. He had called a fitness center last week for information and Monday he announced he wanted me to take him so he could see firsthand what they had to offer. We went, signed him up for four months and made an appointment for Wednesday to talk about personal trainers. He wants to regain some strength and weight and is determined to do everything he can to improve his condition. Neither of us is in denial. We know what Parkinson's does to the body, but we also know the research that supports the positive effects of exercise on PD patients. He starts with his trainer Monday.

Tuesday we went with a group of older adults from the church to spend some time at the river house of one of the members. We are very near the Tennessee River and there are many lakes, creeks and the like associated with the river. the house where we went is located on Lick Creek, at Parsons, TN, the sight of a Civil War battle. Most of our group enjoyed a ride on the pontoon boat, while the rest of us chose to remain at the house to visit and get lunch ready. Tommy had prepared his own version of pulled pork and others of us fixed slaw, potato salad, baked beans and dessert. After lunch I taught several how to play Chicken Foot, a domino game, in case it's not familiar to you. What a good time we had!

On the way to the house I noticed a field of cotton so full of open bolls needing to be picked that it looked like snow. The sight made me think of two things, completely unrelated. First, I thought of the Bible verse that tells of the "fields that are white unto harvest." No matter how many churches dot our landscape, no matter how many profess to believe, there are many remaining who need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That personal relationship is so much more than putting our name on a church register. What can I do to help with the harvest?

The second thought was of a tee shirt friends gave Tom one Christmas we lived in California. The shirt is white with a dark gray design of a cotton field. The caption reads: "Ski Mississippi." Any time Tom wears that shirt I imagine cotton in the fields at all its stages--each one is beautiful. The only stage that is not so beautiful is when the picker has done its job and all you see are brown stalks with white leftovers. Did those cotton scraps not quite measure up? Did they miss the bus? What will become of them? It seems like a waste. Nevertheless, it's only cotton. What if we went through the "fields that are white unto harvest" and ignored the ones who cling to the stalks, the ones that are left and ignored?

Tomorrow is Corinth--no visit with the oncologist, just infusion. We keep praying for healing, but these days I especially pray for a good attitude and for patience to stay the course. Will you join us?

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall in the South

This has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love the cooler temperatures, the changing colors, the falling leaves, the way the shadows fall at the end of the day and I love high school and SEC football.

I love the Farmers' Market in the fall. This morning I hurriedly dressed for a quick trip to check on fall offerings. The nearby Mennonite community sells large pots of mum in a variety of colors for $5 each. I wanted one of every color, but decided on yellow: two for the front porch and one for Kia, our helper. Next, I spotted someone selling pears and apples and bought a few pounds of each. Our stash of apple butter and pear honey has been depleted and it's time to make some more. You know what I'll be doing next week.

Tom has been working in the yard this week, trying to trim bushes and get rid of privet hedge. I've decided privet is like sin and cancer and possibly kudzu. Once they start growing, get a foothold, they are hard to stop. Cutting back privet doesn't help; that only encourages growth. You have to REALLY cut it back, saturate the stumps with deadly chemical and pray for the best. Sounds like cancer and its treatment to me! Sin, too, needs to be completely eliminated and the remaining parts treated with daily doses of spiritual medicine. Kudzu may be unstoppable. In any case, privet, sin and cancer all call for drastic measures. We're out to get them all!!

The good news of last week paled a little this week. That one infusion of Avastin last Friday sent my blood pressure right back up again. I've been on a med to bring it down and keep it at a desirable level, but the insurance people, in their infinite wisdom, disallowed it and sent a substitute. I've not yet started the sub, but according to the literature, the side effects are many. Why would they change something that works perfectly well? Oh, well. It's part of the journey. Our prayer is that a safe blood pressure level can be maintained and that the Avastin will reverse the progress of the cancer. That's a lot to ask, but not too much for our God.

Now I must tear myself away from football and my comfortable chair to satisfy Tom's lunch craving--good ole' West Tennessee barbeque. Only Tommy's can beat it!

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Banner Week

This past week was full of doctor stuff with four out of five days finding one or the other of us being seen for something. That seems to be more and more the norm--not a complaint--just a statement of fact. Most of our appointments were in connection with Tom's cataract surgeries: Monday we did follow up on the first surgery; Wednesday was the second eye and Thursday was the first follow up to the second surgery. The doctor seems to be pleased with his work and with Tom's progress, though it will be a little longer before the final correction for his sight. Right now he's experimenting to see whether he sees better with his glasses or without. I suspect it's a little frustrating, but he doesn't complain.

Friday we learned that the Avastin could be resumed. My blood pressure was the lowest it's been since Avastin was introduced over a year ago. Hopefully, medication will help maintain it so I can continue the Avastin. Also, my red cell count had improved by 2 tenths of a point--not much, but it did go up and not down. You can bet we've said many hallelujahs and praise the Lords!

There are hints of fall in the air--falling leaves, a few trees beginning to turn, football. I love the way the shadows fall in the late afternoon this time of year. Still the daily temperatures promise to remain in the mid-nineties. I'm ready for cooler weather!

After a week such as we've had I ponder all the ways God has blessed us. His blessings never cease; they just keep coming. It is humbling when I consider how truly unworthy and undeserving I am. God's blessings are such a demonstration of His unconditional love for His children. I am unworthy, undeserving, but oh so grateful!

Pastor Margaret

Monday, September 13, 2010

Too Good to be True

We have just returned from the most wonderful weekend with our church family in Jackson, MS. Covenant Presbyterian Church celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend with much visiting, remembering, food and a glorious worship service yesterday morning. I cannot begin to write how special everything was.

At the Friday night banquet we were seated with some who had served on staff together in the late eighties. Joe Rightmyer, former senior pastor, had driven over from Dallas with his wife and daughter; Bill Ballou, former youth director, came from Memphis with his wife and daughter; Kathy Kenne, former children's director, flew in from a mission trip in Kenya that afternoon and was perky and pretty as ever; Will Jones, former custodian and faithful follower of Jesus came with his son. Later we saw other former staff members--Stewart Edwards, now president of French Camp Academy and former youth director and Robyn Farber, former children's director and mother to three beautiful daughters, one of whom was there also. Sitting around that dinner table brought back lots of memories of sitting in staff meetings together long ago. Especially I remembered how energizing it was to be with Joe, Bill and Kathy at our afternoon chocolate seeking or yogurt craving outings to discuss upcoming ministry events. We planned and laughed and fed off each other. What a staff! What wonderful friends!

The Saturday luncheon provided opportunity to see more friends and to be brought up to date on some who could not be there and to be reminded of the history and ministry of the church through the years. I was given an opportunity to tell something of what has been going on with us in the years since we left "home." Being in front of people to speak is not difficult for me, but I'll have to say Saturday's remarks were the most difficult I've ever had to deliver. I was not prepared for the emotion that overwhelmed me when I stood at the podium and looked out into the faces of those who have nurtured both me and my family, who have encouraged and affirmed the ministry God has given me and who have literally shared most of my life. I was so scattered that the carefully thought out remarks disappeared.

We had been told that the sanctuary had a "new" look and that we wouldn't believe it. That was an understatement. I was amazed at the transformation and the beauty of the worship space.
Covenant has long been noted for the quality of its music ministry and yesterday's offering was wonderful. The angels in heaven were no doubt singing along! Again we saw friends who had not been present at other events. We were packed into a pew with special friends, son Tommy and grandson Jacob.

Tom and I stayed with special friends, Glen and Marilyn Graves and had such a good time relaxing and catching up. Saturday afternoon they took us on a tour of downtown Jackson so we could see recent developments and how the city has changed. Now, if the city would only resurface the streets!!! Saturday night we stayed in, enjoyed a tasty dinner that the Graves had waiting just in case we didn't want to go out and watched a little football. There is nothing like good friends, good food and the comfortable, sustaining feelings that come when being together.

Having Tommy and Jacob with us was a bonus. Tommy did all the driving and watched over Tom and me like the protector he is. They stayed with Liz's brother and his wife (who, incidentally, was Jacob's first and favorite babysitter) and three little boys. That gave them opportunity to visit with family and be part of the celebration as well. It was quite a weekend for us all!!

This morning the emotions are mixed. Memories of the weekend have my spirits lifted above the clouds. I am grateful for the blessings God has given us through the years, yet I miss being surrounded by the "cloud of witnesses" known as Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Yesterday . . .

Yesterday was a serendipity kind of day. I had not been to the grocery store in three weeks--no bread, a few eggs, no milk, no lettuce. Thank goodness for a freezer and for leftovers. Still it was time to make a trip and it was the first Wednesday of the month meaning a five percent savings for senior citizens. I had a plan--had, being the operative word. Kia had to leave for a little while, but was coming back to go with us to the store. Tom had another plan. His involved no extra help. I knew it was a mistake to engage his plan and not mine, but I also knew that was not a battle I wanted to fight at that time.

I had a good talk with myself before we went. I would be patient; I would not raise my voice when he couldn't find things on the shelf; I would be glad he wanted to go and could help even a little bit. He pushed a shopping cart behind me as I motored up and down the aisles--it's a good thing those motorized things stop on a dime! His ideas didn't always jive with the list I had, but it didn't matter. Only when he picked up the wrong sugar did I send him back to exchange it for what I intended. We were doing fine until check out when I realized that it was almost one, we were in the line with a brand new checker and we had a doctor's appointment at 1:10 p.m. In order to save time, I handed Tom the car keys when the groceries were all in the cart and suggested he go begin putting things in the car while I helped correct some mistakes made in the ticket. I could see our car in the first handicapped spot right outside the door, but I couldn't see Tom. When I finally did get outside I spotted him two rows over and in the middle of the lot. It was so noisy it was hard to make him hear me, but I guided him to our car, we loaded the groceries and headed home to put frozen things away. It was 1 p.m. Fortunately, we live close to important things like church, grocery store, drug store and doctors' offices! We made it to the office at 1:12, waited a few minutes and were taken back for his check up.

While we were waiting for the doctor Tommy called to see if we could possibly get Jacob from school. I said we could if we weren't long with the doctor. We finished up, came back home to unload more groceries, put drops in Tom's eyes and off we went to get Jacob. Of course, we'd had no lunch. Jake and I usually get ice cream when I pick him up and Tom and I decided that would do for lunch. We went to a place in town that has been designated as one of the ten best ice cream parlors in the US. None of us had been and had a good time walking around see all the "treasures" for sale--enjoyed the ice cream treat too. Afterwards, we stopped by a music store to see if baritone sax reeds Tommy had ordered had arrived. Jake knew the store well because Pop, his other granddad, and he had been there together. He showed us the 12 string guitar and the mandolin they had looked at and was a happy young man to walk out with the long awaited reeds. I was a happy wife and grandmother to be with two such fine fellows.

A harried, hurried day had turned into one where we just let things happen. Spending a leisurely hour or so visiting and eating ice cream with our grandson was one of the week's highlights, for sure!!

Last night at church Tommy taught an overview of Galatians in preparation for a ten week small group study. I have heard him teach a lot since we've moved here, but I'll have to say that last night was probably the best. Not only did we learn things about Paul and his writing to the churches in Galatia, but those who will be small group leaders were helped in their preparation as well. God has blessed Tommy with a real gift and He has blessed us to have the opportunity to hear him teach!

Tom's cataract surgery went very well and we are looking forward to the second one in two more weeks. We are hopeful that when all is said and done, his vision will be improved. It has been a busy week. We look forward to the beginning of SEC football. Go Dawgs!!!!

Pastor Margaret