Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The year was a blur . . .

We spent Christmas 2009 with Tom in the hospital and began 2010 with him in the nursing home. He had taken a definite turn for the worst and wondered if he would ever come home again. God, in His mercy, answered our prayers for improvement and he came home the first week in February. His condition is definitely deteriorating, with bad days outnumbering good days. Still, we have had some great times together and with our family.

Marty, Kevin and their three came for a visit around Easter and we were able to spend a long weekend with them in November when we went to Raleigh so I could baptize Colin. Marty has introduced me to Skype so we can visit "face to face" to see how the boys are growing. Mallory is in her first year of high school--hard to believe. Being around the corner from Tommy and Liz means sharing ordinary days, holidays and birthdays. I have loved watching Jacob develop his musical abilities and the two younger girls learn how to play together. Drew is very consciencious with his school work, but not so much in keeping up with things. I wonder if we have an "absent minded professor" in the making. Sarah helps both her mom and her dad around the house and is really good with her little sisters. I haven't cooked with her so much this year, but hope to resume that soon. They are all growing up too fast to suit me.

Our holidays have been relaxing--for the most part. I've enjoyed baking and having food to share. We had friends for dinner a couple of weeks ago and they brought beautiful pictures of a three month trip they took to Alaska in the summer and another about ten day one to South Africa in the fall. The travelogue was especially meanigful to Tom and me since we don't travel so well any more. Christmas Eve we had Tommy's family, plus Liz's mom and dad for dinner; I took stollen and ham biscuits to add to Christmas breakfast at Tommy's and went back that night with a plate full of goodies. I have made enough biscuits in the last two weeks to feed a small army! It was the right decision to start ordering 25 pound bags of flour from King Arthur.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is mail time. I love seeing pictures of children and grandchildren; I love hearing what everyone has been doing; I love knowing of others' lives. I am reminded of how grateful I am for friends and how I need to pray for each one. We were saddened one day to see the names of two who had special places in our life in a list of memorials. One was the name of the lady who was my mentor/friend when I did my Christian Education fieldwork and the same lady who arranged the first date Tom and I had with each other. The second was a friend with whom we shared lots of memories.

We learned in early December, 1981 that I probably had breast cancer. We kept the news to ourselves except for family and very close friends until the Sunday after Christmas--I was scheduled for a biopsy on Monday. I remember sitting in the living room while usual, traditional things happened all around us. Tommy was twelve; Marty was eight. I was aware that I might be spending my last Christmas with them and I was both sad and afraid. Here we are almost 30 years later and I am more aware than ever that each Christmas could be the last one that our family is together--in spirit, if not in body. The difference today is that I don't observe; I don't just let it happen. I am determined to participate and love every minute. This year I am especially grateful of the rest from treatment; I am grateful for energy to go to the grocery; I am grateful that I have learned to sit while doing many kitchen tasks. I am grateful for friends and family who don't listen to me when I tell them "I can do it myself." I am grateful for a husband who keeps on trying and keeps on loving and keeps on remembering the vows we took.

There have been some rough days when Tom's illness has taken over, when he has been too confused to know the difference between day and night. He gets a new scrape or bruise almost every day. We get impatient with one another, but have learned to talk about things as best we can, say "I'm sorry" and move ahead. All the time I know that he probably won't remember what we said.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. This may be the last Christmas many of us spend with our families. We just don't know! It's as the gospel song says, "We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future." That is our hope; it is our assurance!

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All Things Bright and Beautiful

The Lord did indeed make them all! Ours has been a wonderful Advent season, highlighted by Tuesday noon services at the church we attend. Guest musicians have provided special music and guest ministers have led in Advent devotionals. After each service we have gathered to share simple lunches in the fellowship hall and the visiting around the tables has added to the day. Sunday, a week ago, the choir presented their annual cantata during the worship hour. Frankly, I have never liked for the music to take the place of the spoken word, but I'll have to say that the music that morning was absolutely glorious. Scripture readings began with the Creation in Genesis and continued through God's plan for our salvation and the birth of Jesus. This past Sunday found us headed to Humboldt to worship with our friends there. One delightful lady was celebrating her 96th birthday and the church had planned a little surprise party for her after the service. The minister's text was the Matthew 1 story of Joseph's learning of Mary's pregnancy and his response. The delightful part was that she assumed the character of Joseph and dramatically shared in first person. It has been a season of anticipation and thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus.

Together Tom and I have baked, shopped, decorated and enjoyed friends and family. The one thing that hasn't been done is no Christmas cards have been sent. My address list got stuck somewhere between the old and new laptops so I have been carefully recording addresses as card come to us. Yesterday we went to Memphis to shop in two specific stores: a men's store for Tom and Penzey's spice store. My cousin met us at Penzey's and the three of us went to lunch. It was nice to enjoy excellent service, cloth tablecloths and napkins and great food. We had a wonderful visit as well. Tom, of course, listens more than he talks--we don't give him much opportunity, if you want to know the truth.

Last night as we approached our house I noticed the porch light was on and remarked that someone had been here. Then when as I prepared to make the wide swing to get into our garage we saw both Tommy and Elizabeth's vans. Tommy had bought us a tree and the two of them were busily setting it up when we arrived. (There was a tell tale trail of evergreen needles from the back door into the living room.) Liz, who I have desiganted as the "light queen," put the lights on and we began putting on the ornaments after they went home. I don't know who gets the most joy out of this experience that they duplicate each year.

Tonight we celebrated Meredith's fifth birthday. She was not quite a year old when we moved here and today she is a delightful little girl, full of imagination and affection for her family. Big sister Sarah had the stomach bug and had to miss the party, but Mimi, Liz's mom, was able to join us by Skype. Modern technology is something else!

More cooking follows--and of course, more eating. We are so blessed to have family and friends and we have loved hearing from many and seeing pictures. We wish you the most wonderful of Christmases full of hope, peace, joy and love made possible by the gift of Jesus.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Cancer and its effects have been on my mind this week. It started as I thought about Marty visiting her friend Susan in DC. (I actually have two Susan friends who have cancer and from time to time I have asked you to pray for them.) Well, the DC Susan is Marty's oldest and dearest friend who was diagnossed with inflammatory breast cancer three years ago when her younger son was about three months old. More often than not, this particular breast cancer is a killer. Susan underwent agressive chemo and radiation, went into remission and then had a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy. She resumed work from home doing special projects for NASA (she's an astro-physicist), started a blog for moms with cancer and became quite vocal as an advocate for breast cancer awareness, particularly the kind she had. Then this past spring she heard the dreaded words from her doctor that cancer cells were discovered in lymph nodes under her arm. Back she went for more radiation and was put on an oral chemo drug which has wreaked havoc on her body. Still, she mustered the energy for Marty to visit along with her two boys for three or four days last week. Monday the oncologist recommended they stop the chemo because of the toll it was taking repeat scans in January to see if the drug has wiped out the cancer. Susan, naturally, has had some questions about the doctor's recommendation.

Then came the announcement on that very Monday that treatment had been stopped for Elizabeth Edwards. Most of us who heard that understood that her death would be emminent, but were somewhat surprised to learn that she died Tuesday morning. She was a brave woman who chose to live with her disease rather than to await her death. She was also a high profile person who endured the public humility of her husband's infidelity. Her grace and dignity in the midst of her suffering most certainly will be the legacy she leaves. I can only wonder if she had questions about her decision to stop treatment when she did.

Mrs. Edwards's influence will be felt across the country. Susan influences many daily as she blogs, as she shares in the scientific community and as she continues her life as wife and mother. She, too, has a large audience. Many more of us have much smaller circles of influence, but no matter how known or unknown we are, we have family and friends who love and support us and who pray for our healing. Cancer is no respector of persons!

My other friend, Susan who has ovarian cancer, faced new decisions regarding her treatment recently. There were questions as to the best course to take. Was she making the right decision? How would it affect her life? Would the new treatment be more effective than the previous one?

The events of the week raised questions for me as well. My last treatment was November 19 and have not actually been told when they will be resumed. They were stopped so that my body could have a much needed rest, but I can't help but wonder if there is something I don't know. Are we about to face the decision between quantity and quality? How much will be have to play "catch up" when I begin again? How much ground will have been lost, if any? Will we enjoy aa period of remission? There are always questions. We all have them.

I hate cancer. I hate what it does to its victims. I hate, especially, what it does to family and friends of those who have it. My heart aches when I remember Tom hearing, not once, but several times about the cancer in my body; it aches when I remember having to tell our children and it aches when I remember the look on Tommy's face when the doctor told us that the disease is incurable and predicted how long I'd live--even though he was wrong with his calculations. These are the things that make me sad.

I am sustained by the knowledge that God is bigger than any cancer and as one Susan reminds me, He is on duty 24/7. The heartache shrinks when I remember how blessed I am to have such a loving, caring husband, children and other family who express their love and concern in too many ways to count and friends far and wide who stay close. There will always be questions, but we need not fear when we trust such a faithful God as we have. During this Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus, I am especially reminded of the hope, peace, joy and love He brought.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


It's really cold outside--hasn't gotten out of the thirties yesterday or today and Johnny Mathis is entertaining us with "It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas." Anticipation is mounting.

I am missing posting Advent devotionals this year, but I simply didn't start writing early enough to meet the deadline to have them printed. I have been using a booklet my one of my favorite writers, the late Henri Nouwen and today we went to the noon Advent service at our church. Each Tuesday during the season there is a service featuring special music and a guest minister. Today our organist presented the music playing an original composition and two hymns he and the guest minister had written. After we had sung the hymns, he improvised on the tunes. He closed with an arrangement of "Joy to the World." It was a special worship service followed by a soup luncheon in the fellowship hall.

Little by little I've been getting out our Christmas things and am surprised almost every time I open a box. Last year I didn't feel like getting out much, then Tom went to the hospital and I was glad I hadn't. I had forgotten where I had stored some things and in some cases, even forgotten I had something I found. We love our old decorations and the memories they hold, but it's fun to add new touches too. The hard part is remembering where things are! If I put something out everyday, I should be through decorating by the time it's time to put it away again.

Yesterday I made a family favorite, cherry refrigerator cookies. They aren't necessarily just for Christmas but are full of red and green candied cherries so they fit the color scheme. Traditionally, I make stollen and lemon muffins for Christmas breakfast so will probably do those next and put them in the freezer. If I cook something everyday, we should have lots to eat and lots to share. That works for me.

Our front bedroom looks like the North Pole with piles of both wrapped and unwrapped gifts. Liz does the Black Friday thing, making periodic stops throughout the morning to drop off her "finds." This year Marty had some of her gifts sent here for me to wrap and they add to the piles. Somewhere in all of that are the things I have to get in the mail. If I wrap a few everyday, we should be organized and ready.

Had the oncologist not given me a month free of treatment, not much of the above would be taking place. What a gift! It adds to our anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Saviour. We are full of hope, peace, joy and love: hope because of God's grace; peace as we trust Him for our every need; joy that comes from knowing that we are God's children; and love for all our family and friends. We wish for you those things as well.

Pastor Margaret