Saturday, December 31, 2011
For a minute there, I couldn't sign in. That's frustrating--not that I have that much to say, but still, it is Dec. 31 and I needed one "last hurrah."
2011 has been quite a year! It has been a year of profound loss, but also a year of profound blessing. We lost my beloved Tom and we all feel it: children, grandchildren, friends and most especially me. In spite of the loss I have had the time to reflect on the memories and to count my blessings. I was loved by an incredible man and for that I am incredibly grateful. I have returned to my adopted homeland of Mississippi. It has been bittersweet to be back in the state where Tom and I met, married and lived most of our life together. So many places remind me of him and they usually make me smile. I moved away from some good friends in Tennessee, but closer to my dear friends in Jackson, MS and I am making new friends where we are now. My health remains stable and my oncologist is optimistic that this nasty cancer can be held at bay. In comparison, other issues are inconsequential. The lingering question remains: why has God allowed me all these unexpected days? I know we are not to ask such things.
I know that tomorrow much be the Sunday after Christmas because I'm preaching. The "extra pastors" as some designated us at FOPC always get the Sundays after Christmas and Easter. But, hey, I'm not complaining. I'm more than happy to have the opportunity. I remember saying one year at Fair Oaks that I had preached every Sunday after Christmas since I began preaching my second year in seminary. One dear, prejudiced friend, sitting right down front started clapping. I'll never forget that Sunday--or the friend, for that matter.
We've had a quiet New Year's Eve--just like I like. Our friend John and his son came out to watch football and eat supper. We grilled steaks and ate dessert left over from earlier in the holidays. Afterwards, we went outside and legally shot fireworks, though I admit that I have never liked fireworks. In California they were everywhere!! I was always afraid that a spark would ignite the cedar shakes on our roof and we'd burn to the ground. They have been illegal within the city limits everywhere else we've lived, but now we're in the country. Tommy did the the actual lighting and the rest of us watched--except of the little ones, who ran in circles between displays. I still think I prefer watching the display on the 4th of July celebration on the Washington Mall. The colors are pretty and the noise isn't as great.
I leave you with a thought from Ezra for the New Year. In chapter seven it says that Ezra commited himself to studying the Revelation of God, to practicing its teaching and to teaching it to others. That, coupled with Ezra's belief that worship was central to being identified as people of God, combines to make a worthy resolution/commitment for the new year. It's a challenge for me and one I offer as a suggestion for you as well. I've never been a resolution maker, but Ezra inspired me. Will you join me? "I commit in 2012 to make worship central in my life; to study God's word; to practice what it teaches; and to teach it to others."
God bless you and Happy New Year!
Friday, December 16, 2011
What a wonderful visit I had with Marty and her family over the Thanksgiving holidays!!! I arrived the evening of my birthday greeted by two precious little boys yelling "Nana," and running to give me hugs. Now that's a greeting not soon to be forgotten! We went straight home to find Mallory and Kevin's dad and to eat birthday dinner, complete with the best chocolate cake, selected by Christopher. We had thirteen for Thanksgiving dinner including neighbors and a Chinese family. I was proud of Marty's cooking and organizing skills. Other days were filled with playing, shopping, decorating, knitting, talking. All too soon it was time to come home.
I have loved going into my children's houses and seeing "our things" being used and loved as we loved them. Tommy has his dad's treasured stereo speakers, the grandfather clock the three Toms assembled and finished, an oak wardrobe Tom and I bought at an Illinois farm auction the summer he returned from Vietnam and a few other things. Marty has my mom's dining room table, my wedding china and a marble top table I also had gotten from my mother. Both have things from Tom's parents. Those "things" are like golden threads that weave the generations together and provide sparkling memories of times spent in their midst.
We have all had the respiratory crud, some worse than others. Elisa had a particularly hard time with it, but is all well now. The coughing made me more tired than usual, especially because it kept me awake at night. I saw the oncologist Tuesday of this week and had THE LONGEST DAY. The best part, however, was being declared "stable" once again. My red counts continue to be on the low side, so I've decided to give in to the tiredness and rest when I need to rest. Now, how long did it take me to learn that?
Last night Tommy, Sarah and I attended our choirs's offering of Rutter's Magnificat and it was magnificent. The soloist's voice was perfect for his work! Afterwards, the three of us went out to eat at a Hattiesburg favorite restaurant--a delicious way to end the evening.
Today I'm busy trying to shorten my list of things to do and in a bit will go to Drew's school for an author's tea. I have no idea what that is, but he invited me and I try not to turn down invitations from grandchildren. Sometime over the weekend I'm to take Drew and Jacob shopping for their parents. Ssh! It's a big secret.
It's difficult this time of year, with all the busyness, to focus on the reason we're celebrating. We are blessed to live where we are free to worship, sing and shout Merry Christmas. As I reflect on Christmases past, I have warmth in my heart and a smile on my face. God's grace has been abundant as is revealed in His greatest gift of all.
God bless you,
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
No, I don't have my weeks mixed up; I know very well that Thanksgiving is next week, not tomorrow. I'm just issuing my greeting a week early because after tonight my computer will be silent until the end of the month. I am spending the holidays with Marty and family. I haven't seen her since her dad died and I'm anxious for some mother/daughter time. So, eat well, love much and especially give thanks!
The November visit with my oncologist was Monday. Blood pressure down and stable, kidney problem apparently in check so he restarted the Avastin. Time will tell whether or not I'll tolerate it this time. Dr. Thigpen doesn't want to change the medication regimen since it has held the cancer at arm's length for a while now. I'll be saying special thanks for the outstanding doctors I've had since Tillie the Tumor came to call in August, 2002.
You may get tired of reading about the beautiful Mississippi fall we're having, but I never tire of seeing it. Again, on the way to and from Jackson, there were numerous trucks, loaded with sweet potatoes, some with sugar cane, boiled peanuts and satsumas. The trees get more colorful with each trip, but I know the leaves won't last much longer. A tornado touched down close to here last night.
I think back to the first Thanksgiving Tom and I were married--I was with his family; he was in the jungles of Vietnam. There have been many since then and it seems they have all be different. One year we took the children from Jackson to New Orleans on the train and spent the holidays there. What a wonderful time we had--after we recovered from losing Marty on Canal St. A couple of times we traveled with Mom and Dad to Southern Illinois to visit relatives there. More often than not we celebrated at home with as many as we could fit around the table. I remember Thanksgivings in California--serving grits to willing guests, sharing stories. I am so blessed with family and friends and memories shared. This year there will again be an empty place at the table; we all miss Tom.
We won't be the only ones with an empty place--many have lost loved ones this year. Holidays are hard. Today a widow told me she is the most lonely between 6 and 7 p.m. Families are preparing or eating dinner and she stands at the kitchen counter eating peanut butter and crackers. Let someone alone know that you care; invite them for dinner; go pick them up. Often we think the chaos of the day is bothersome, but that might be what is missed the most.
"Give thanks with a grateful heart."
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
It's the morning after statewide elections and there is a slow, Mississippi fall rain teasing the ground. After all the rain we had over the summer, I didn't think I'd be thinking how much we need rain now. It's a good day for staying inside--so many things need to be done vs. so many that I'd rather do. I'm glad the rain held off for the elections yesterday, though with the numbers out to vote, I'm not sure rain would have kept them home. I, of course, am not registered--guess I'm not official since I have no car tag, driver's license etc. It remains to be seen how the newly elected officials will govern!
Elisa was four years old last Wednesday. So soon? The song from "Fiddler on the Roof" runs through my mind: Sunrise, sunset, where did my little girl go? Those words also remind me of Marty and I wonder the same. What happened to all the years? Elisa had a wonderful day at preschool--she took "pupcakes" to share and got in the car with a paper crown that wouldn't stay up. She was very proud, but wanted to know if I could see her blue eyes. No, I couldn't literally see them, but I see them in my head. I have but to think of her to see those eyes and feel her hand in mine. I am reminded of brown eyes and another small hand, a little girl so trusting and loving who is all grown with children who look at her the same way. We cannot hold on to the children, but that's what hearts and memories are for--to remember and cherish the moments.
Saturday Liz, Sarah and I drove to Ocean Springs for the Peter Anderson Festival. Our first stop was in Biloxi to buy shrimp right off the boats. How could I have forgotten the smell, the peaceful mood that comes when first you come over a hill and see the Gulf spread in front of you? A large part of the shrimping industry has been taken over by Vietnamese who moved here following the war. They are hard working and eager to show you their catch. We found jumbo shrimp for $4 a pound and medium ones for $2.50 per pound. One jumbo shrimp was larger than my hand! We bought 20 pounds of jumbos, 15 pounds of medium, packed them in our cooler (along with the help of a lady from whom we hadn't even bought), crossed another bridge and went to Ocean Springs, one of my favorithe spots on the coast. It's a small, picturesque, artsy community known for the Anderson family, artists in several mediums. The festival was a big bizarre type affair, with lots of people set up all over down town. It took us a while to find a parking place and we walked a lot!
One of the most interesting finds was a store that sells only products made in the USA. It had opened just the week before the festival. Sarah was excited and wanted to go inside. A couple of weeks ago she and I were in the car and for some reason began talking about American made products etc. and I was giving her my patriotic stance on keeping jobs at home. As soon as we got home she went to her room and started checking her things to see how many--actually, how few--of them were made in America. Since then, she's all about "made in the USA." Back to Ocean Springs--the store owners where South African immigrants, proud Americans who have only been here eleven years. They were glad to show us the pictures on display of their two sons, both of whom are serving in the Marine Corps. It did my heart good to meet them and to see the amount of love and loyalty they have for their adopted land. We should all be so loyal!!
We could learn a lot from them and from the shrimp ladies who have come, found a home and a way to both contribute to the community's economy and earn a living.
Since summer my morning Bible readings have been from The Message as I forge ahead to read it in its entirety. This week I came to Chronicles, not the most interesting or inspiring verses to read, though I did finally get through the chapters of names to the summation of David's reign. In his introduction, Peterson, the translator, reminds us that names are important to God. He knows us by name! Neither we, nor the people named in Chronicles are merely "one among many." My name is written on God's heart; it's in the Book of Life. He does not look at me and say, "That's ole' what's her name." I have also been reminded of a statement made by my favorite OT professor in seminary: There's theology in every verse. It may not be as obvious as in the Gospels or Psalms, but even lists of names are important.
The best thing that happened last week is this. I was driving into town one morning, listening to a CD, when a song that reminds me particularly of Tom began to play. It made me cry. Right then, I began to pray about the loneliness and the pain of his not being here. It hit me like a brick. God knows pain better than anyone else; He knows what it is to "lose" a loved one. I thought of a conversation Tommy and I had after his return from a spiritual retreat when he told me how he describes God's removal of our sin. If God removes my sin, will He not also remove the pain in my heart? In Petal, right between the Green Street Baptist and Petal Pentecostal churches, I asked God to take away the pain, to heal the tender places in my heart. What a break through! I will always miss Tom, always have this empty place he has filled for so many years, but the pain is gone--"far as the east is from the west."
Now, on to the things I should do today: pay bills, laundry, etc.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
*that buying a car tag could be so difficult? Mississippi has extremely high car tag prices, so you would think the state would be anxious to take my money. I have been to the tax collector's office twice and both times have come away empty handed. At first, I didn't have the registration and finally had to have a duplicate faxed to me. Now, I have no title because it's in Tom's name; it's not legally a part of our trust so I have to have my children agree to "let me have it." The law says you must register your car in your new place of residence within the first thirty days. Oops! I'm a little late!!!!
*that fall could be so beautiful in south Mississippi? I know I've said before how beautiful the colors are, but they keep getting more beautiful with every passing day. Today, as I was driving home from the grocery store, I was struck by how beautiful the picked over cotton field was. There stood brown stalks, with empty bolls and remnants of cotton missed by the picker framed by red, yellow and green trees in the distance. The psalmist said, "Enjoy God." How can I help but enjoy Him when His creation is so lovely?
*that I would have been in my new place five months and still not be settled? The clutter is getting to me! Last week I spent hours in the office filing papers, (looking for the car registraton), sorting, and throwing away stuff I'm sure no one wants. The memories uncovered keep me company.
*that I would have the opportunity and privilege to be involved in some of my grandchildren's lives on a daily basis? The Petal High School Marching Band is competing in its fourth competion of the month in Clinton this weekend. Liz took the children, met her parents and her two brothers and their families, but I elected not to make the trip. I have seen the complete show and am amazed at how good they are. I have volunteered to pick Jake up when he gets back to the school at 1:30 A.M. Elisa will be four on Wednesday--hard to believe she's the same little baby that Tom and I cuddled and kept as an infant. She made him smile then; I can only imagine how much he would smile at her now! Soon I'll be packing for my visit with the three North Carolina grandchildren. Can't wait to see how they have grown and changed.
Only God knows what our futures hold. Only God knows the plans He has for us. If I've learned anything in these 70+ years it's that life is best left to God. We cling to Him in times of trial and crisis, but how much more important it is to cling and trust for every day things. As long as we draw breath, we belong to God. In fact, "In life and in death, we belong to God." Every day is an adventure, a day to be lived in obedience, a day to give thanks for the faithfulness of God. "Who knew?" God knew; God knows.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Life is happening! It seems like every day has it's own special task to perform and all the while I'm reminding myself that I'm retired - and tired at times. Then there are those annoying, continuing computer problems. Is the internet at fault, is the computer being cantankerous or is the user too dumb to answer either question? Some days I don't even want to sign on!!
Last week I attended the annual POAMN (Presbyterian Older Adult Ministries Network) conference, held this year in conjunction with the Association of Retired Ministers, Spouses and Survivors. I had not been able to attend for the last three years and so enjoyed seeing special friends and colleagues in ministry. POAMN and I invested in one another over twenty years ago. Much of what I know about older adult ministry has been learned through print resources offered, conferences and the network experience--sharing with one another. It is a ministry of the PC(USA) that I have supported and loved--as did Tom. The keynote speaker last week was Cynthia Rigby, professor of theology from Austin Seminary. She, without a doubt in my mind, is the best keynoter we have ever had: inspiring, encouraging, delightful, knowledgeable, brilliant! I also took in a few workshops. I've come full circle. I was in my forties when I began in older adult ministry and often felt it necessary to apologize for my age and for "presuming" to talk about growing older. The between years have brought me face to face with practically everything about which I spoke, but I'm still not, nor will I ever be, an authority on any subject. We experienced many changes, some associated with loss; I became a full time caregiver; personal illness tried to turn my world upside down; and one of the most difficult things was having to insist on taking car keys from my husband. Through all the changes, the illnesses, the trials, my POAMN friends and colleagues have been present and praying. I will be forever greatful!!
Fall has come to Mississippi! Monday I drove to Jackson for the monthly oncology visit and was happy to see slight changes of color in the woods. We don't have the sugar maples or the aspens that provide the spectacular color that draws tourists, rather our color comes from sweet gums, Chinese tallows, some ghinkos, dogwoods, crepe myrtles and fields of ragweed, black eyed susans and cotton ready to be harvested. Those deep reds and yellows contrasted against the very present pines are a beautiful sight. Cotton is planted not far from us on the road to Meredith's school. I have loved watching it grow from small plants, to the blooming stage, to open bolls, then to defoliated plants, waiting to be picked. As it stands there waiting, it is white as far as you can see--the inspiration for the popular tee shirt that sports a picture and caption, reading "Ski Mississippi." Such simple pleasures!
Also visible on my trip to Jackson were several pick-up trucks parked on the side of the road, loaded with Mississippi sweet potatoes to sell. They are the best. Now, don't confuse a sweet potato with a yam. They are not the same thing. To quote an internet site: The yam tuber has a brown or black skion which resembles the bark of a tree and off-white, purple or red flesh, depending on the variety. They are at home growing in tropical climates, primarily in South Amnerica, Africa, and the Caribbean. I don't know that I have ever eaten a yam and I bet many of you haven't either. Serve sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving and Mississippi ones at that!!!
Tomorrow is Presbytery in Vicksburg and I am going before them to move my membership from Mid-South Presbytery. Guess then, I will officially be home.
Now, I absolutely must find my car registration. I am long overdue in buying a Mississippi tag. Life continues to happen. I need to be ready.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The honeycomb pattern continues, though I did take out about eight rows. There are obvious (to me) mistakes on the back, but they are interesting, add to the pattern and with the advice of the expert at the shop, I decided to leave them. She asked if I could recreate them on the front. Again, knitting parallels life. I'm not really sure how I made the mistakes. I only know I didn't follow the pattern in those particular places. Don't we at times ask ourselves the questions: "what did I do wrong?" "Why didn't I listen?" In knitting, we can take out the mistakes, begin again. In life we ask for forgiveness, regroup and pray for wisdom to follow God's direction.
News from the compound:
- Sarah fell off the rip-stick Saturday and broke her arm.
- Last Tuesday I met Pastor Steve for an afternoon of visiting shut-ins and serving communion. It was a great time!
- Friday night I took Sarah to Petal's Homecoming. She loved the court, the game and especially watching Jacob in the outstanding band show. I loved some of those things too, but most of all loved that time with her.
- Saturday I went to knitting class, the grocery store and spent the afternoon cooking. By bedtime, I was exhausted. Lesson learned: my energy is not limitless!
- Sunday I drove to Jackson for some R&R w/ friends. We ate well, visited well and on Monday went to the (new to me) Mississippi Craft Center. It has always been one of my favorite places to go to buy gifts and had been housed in a log cabin structure right on the Natchez Trace. Now it has moved to a much larger, new building closer to the Ross Barnett Resevoir. We also went by the "old" Farmers' Market--only two vendors remain. Others have moved to a newer spot a few miles away. Sad, but I guess that's progress. I'll just have to gaze at the Wyatt Waters' watercolor print of my favorite produce place that is hanging in a prominent place in the house. It brings memories of three generations of our buying there, hours spent pickling, canning and freezing what we bought.
- When I arrived home, my door was unlocked, the airconditioner was going full blast, the lights and the TV were on and the Suttle cat was asleep in a chair. I had been invaded!! Shortly, Tommy walked in and asked if I noticed what all had been done. I had given him a list of things he needed to do for me and he had done almost all of them. Wow! I should go away more often. Light bulbs had been changed, filters in vents replaced, a leaky commode fixed and all the stereo equipment hooked up--though the CD player looks a little quaint resting on four giant legos. Next time he says, "Just give me a list," I'll be more prompt in responding!
Coming up is a trip to San Antonio for the annual Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network conference, being held this year in conjucntion with the Association of Retired Ministers and Spouses. I have not attended in three years and I'm looking forward to seeing friends. In November I'm headed to Raleigh to see Marty and her family. That will be great!!!
The lectionary epistle readings right now are in Philippians. This morning I read the book through in The Message and the words Peterson had translated gave additional insights. I have always heard that if one word were used to describe Philippians, it would be "rejoice." Paul's joy in knowing Christ, his joy in his relationship w/ the people of Philippi and the joy he wants to share with them literally jumps off the pages. Have you ever been so grateful for things in your Christian life that you want more than anything for others to know/experience the joy you have? I often have those thoughts. I want so much for my friends and loved ones to share the trust I have, yet words are inadequate. Paul tells the Philippians to live the joy, let their lives show the love they have for God. He says "Enjoy God." Amen and Amen.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Several weeks ago I found a men's sweater pattern that I liked. It was labeled "easy," and looked like something I could do. After many starts, stops, ripping and frustration I think I finally have the pattern and instructions nailed to my brain and in my fingers. Much to my dismay, I discovered that some of what I thought were mistakes were not. The complete pattern is eight rows and has to be completed at least a couple of times before it remotely resembles the picture. The owner of the yarn shop encouraged me yesterday to keep on following the pattern, step by step, stitch by stich and I would discover that I had indeed knit a finished product. As I sat and knit last night, I realized how similar to life her instructions are. We don't always see the finished product, we don't always know where we are headed, we don't always know just where it is that God is calling us or what God wants us to do--it doesn't matter. Our task is to keep on following the pattern God has laid out, step by step, faithfully and obediently doing as God instructs. When the time is right, we'll see.
I've had a fine Saturday. I put the finishing touches on the sermon I'm preaching in Laurel tomorrow, made a pound cake for Tommy and Liz to take to a family with a new baby, had a phone visit with a lady from the church, knit, watched football and played with three of the grandchildren. Whew! Now I'm tired, ready to eat a hamburger fresh off the grill and go to bed. Morning will come and I have to allow myself enough time to find my way through the country backroads to Laurel--about thirty miles from here. It's the church where Tommy worked before going to Tennessee and I baptized Drew there. It will be great to be in the pulpit and to see old friends.
Monday, I'm up early again, but this time headed to Jackson for a doctor's appointment. He has scans scheduled again--nor sure why. I continue to wait for some idea of what consistent treatment will look like. Meanwhile, I pray to know what it is God has in mind for me now. There is a cross stitched poem haning over my computer desk. It was a favorite of a friend's mother and when she died, the friend had the poem printed on notecards that she used to acknowledge remembrances for her mom. I charted it for cross stitch and made one for the friend and one for myself. It reads:
Help me, O God,
not to put off a task or
delay a decision until tomorrow
that I should do or make today.
May I live this day in such a way
that if your call for me should
sound at morning, noontime, or evening,
it may find me ready. Amen.
It's part of the honeycomb pattern. Funny how losing a spouse affects our outlook on the future. For so long, we lived a life of "when" and "later." When we realized just how illness would alter the course of our lives, we knew that the whens and laters didn't matter. Life is now. Life is very much today. It is taking things step by step, focusing on obedience, being ready.
God bless you as you worship tomorrow!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
- Problems with the computer responding--drives me crazy, so I just turn it off.
- I have become addicted to knitting.
- Discovered books by favorite authors that I hadn't yet read.
- Granny day care two days a week and some afternoons.
- Continued efforts to stash all my stuff.
- Boredom and loneliness don't need to find their way to printed page.
Even now, as I type, letters and whole words appear seconds after I type and the cursor jumps around all over the place. Is my problem the computer or the internet connection?
I discovered a knitting group at the local shop and I try to go every Friday for a couple of hours. In between times I work on projects. Actually my skills have improved, especially those necessary for ripping out, fixing mistakes or starting over.
When I'm not knitting, I'm reading. Lately I've read some real "page turners" and can't put them down until I'm finished. Friday I went to the Petal Library to get a card and to get the schedule for storytime. Elisa and I will check it out this Thursday. Coincidentally, the library is just across the street from the yarn shop. How's that for convenience?
Elisa spends Tuesdays and Thursdays with me. It's great fun and company for me, but when she's here I do little else but talk to her, read, color or play outside. The fact is: everything else can wait!
It seems as if I've spent hours and hours going through boxes in the office. That is tedious, but also it can be quite emotional. There are so many signs of memories. Tom is everywhere!
Every once in a while Elisa will say to me: "I'm boring." Obviously she has heard older brothers and sister complain about being bored. For sure, she is never boring and her saying that makes me wonder if part of my boredom at times is because I'm a bore myself. I'm working on being alone and not lonely. It's hard and that's all I'll say.
Our God has promised never to leave us alone.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Psalm 68:4 in The Message says Enjoy God, cheer when you see him! That instruction was on my mind as I drove to church this morning. I cheered as I drove past the Mom and Pop vegetable stand just down the road, being thankful for all the fresh produce we enjoy. I cheered as I took a look at God's creation, ordinary sights I often take for granted. I cheered when I approached two Petal churches, their parking lots filled to capacity. And I cheered as I reflected on the celebration of Tom's birthday we had last night and the night before.
Friday, August 12, Tom would have been seventy. It was a day I had been dreading. For lots of years I had tried to make it the most special day for him. Now, what would I do? The day would be lonely; there would be no surprises, no plans just for him. I need not to have worried. Friends who have long been part of some of those surprises and celebrations called or wrote notes. Family here said I could remain by myself or be with them. The day was full. I went into Petal to the yarn shop to meet some new folks and knit for a while, then met our pastor for a two and a half hour lunch. That night, after teenagers had been taken to their activities and the little ones had gone to bed, we enjoyed one of Tom's favorite meals--grilled steak, twice baked potato and green salad with homemade dressing full of horseradish--just the way he liked it. Last night when all the children were present we poured champagne for the adults, sparkling grape juice for the children and toasted Paw Paw. Liz asked each child to share a memory. This morning I cheered when I thought of what they had shared and I felt Tom smiling, tears glistening in his eyes. I cheered as I thanked God for Tom's birthday. It was a special day and a special celebration.
I pray that I will always remember to enjoy God and that I will cheer when I see Him in things both great and small.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
(*Dedicated to my FOP popcorn buddy.)
Until Monday I thought I was the only member of our family who feasts on popcorn for lunch. When I checked in with Sarah, chief baby sitter for those who had not yet started to school, to see if she had any ideas for lunch, she replied: I thought I'd pop popcorn. I knew she loved it almost as much as I, but didn't know it was a lunch time favorite. Being the conscientious grandmother that I am, I said that was fine by me, but they needed something that at least sounded more nutritious. I offered grapes. After everyone except Elisa and I ate, she and I walked back over to my house. The thought of popcorn and the lingering aroma was a reminder that it had been a while since I'd had such a lunch so I popped a bag for Elisa and me. She consumed almost the entire bag, leaving me to wonder how such a little girl could eat so much popcorn. Best of all is the memory of seeing her snuggled up in the chair beside me, holding the bowl, munching away.
Jacob started to school Monday and the other three went today. Elisa spent the day with me.
Meredith had her first day in kindergarten and looked so grown up in her uniform of khaki shirt and red polo, topped off with a white bow in her hair. She has matching backpack and lunchbox. She reported that her favorite part of the day was the playground and getting a snack from the teacher. No one could get all their supplies in their backpacks. Hopefully, those things will be less filled from now on or they will all be bent over from carrying such loads. Sarah made some new friends and said she had a good day. I have just finished making colored letters on the computer for a folder she is making about herself. When we came to the office to print the pages, I saw the same kind of folder that Tommy made when he was her age. Maybe tomorrow I'll hear about Drew's first day in a new school.
As for me, I drew lots of pictures and watched a lot of Sponge Bob Squarepants. I'm still trying to figure out if it has any educational value. I did get some more things unpacked and put away. Maybe I'll print colored letters for Elisa tomorrow and for sure, we'll tune into a different program!
Happiness is being a grandmomma to eight special children! Now, if only I could see my North Carolina ones more often!!
Saturday, August 06, 2011
What happened to June and July? It seems like just yesterday that we were frantically packing, saying our goodbyes and heading south. The children just finished school for the year and suddenly they are a few inches taller, brown from the sun and "eagerly" anticipating the start of a new school year Wednesday--all except Jake who starts Monday. (Of course, that's not counting the two weeks he has already spent at band camp.) I look around, still seeing boxes and clutter and wonder what I did during the preceding months. And, I wonder if things will ever be decent and in order.
One great stumbling block is taking time to go through boxes of memorabilia. I have both "who cares?" and "I surely can't throw this away" attitudes. Do my children want to have to go through a box containing cards they made for me when they were little? Will they care about their first grade writing exercises? If I save all of Tom's awards and commendations will his descendants know any more about him? I've been going through such a box this week and have found that I can't look at all those things in one sitting. I have to remember - - - and that takes time.
Today has been a lazy day, simply because I designated it as such. Only necessary chores have been done. For the most part I have sat with my knitting trying to figure out instructions to finish one project and begin another. I learned yesterday that the shop here in Petal has a "sit and knit" session every Friday and I look forward to going this next week. Hopefully, I'll meet some new friends and learn something too.
Mornings don't start that early, but they begin with getting the coffee ready and settling down in the recliner to read a page from a John Calvin devotional book and my daily Bible chapters. It has been a while since I have followed my suggested pattern of reading a Proverb and 5 Psalms a day, so I started that the first of August again. Only this time, I'm reading from The Message and find the translation interesting and refreshing. Many of you have heard me repeat this recommendation made to me by friend and mentor, Joe Rightmyer, and I find that each time I follow this practice I learn more and draw closer to God. A more serene setting helps really focus my attention where it needs to be. Ah! Retirement in the country!!
Tomorrow is the day of worship and our minister will be back in the pulpit, back from vacation. I look forward to being present, to hearing the message, and to sharing communion with a new church family!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The visit with the doctor in Jackson yesterday went well, but all the news didn't reach me until this morning. There is both good and bad news and some inbetween.
- Good news first: NO progression of disease
- Then, the bad: Protein count is still to high for treatment with Avastin, so we wait, praying that will correct itself and that there will be no permanent kidney damage
- And next the in between: My appendix is enlarged and needs to be watched.
The nurse commented that "someone" is definitely looking out for me. I could tell her, with joy and conviction, that He always does!
I drove through some torrential rain going to Jackson Sunday afternoon and before I left to come home yesterday, Tommy called to alert me to the bad storms in our area. Thankfully, they had passed before I got here. For several days in a row, the heavens have opened and the heavy rains have come. Saturday afternoon Tommy had to run into town to get a couple of things from the grocery and on the way in, he called me. He had driven past the other house we had considered before settling on this one and he just wanted to tell me how glad he was that we made the decision we had made. He said front yard of the other house looked like a lake!
You know, God showers blessings on us like the clouds dump the rain. Blessings overflow in our lives, pooling around us like an abundance of rain floods our yards. Around here everything is so green. The crops are flourishing, cotton is blossoming; signs of abundance of the blessings of Nature. As I drove past those abundant fields this morning I asked myself: Should this sight not serve as a reminder that just as God showers us, we should likewise grow and flourish? God's goodness is all around us; it is within us, waiting to be acknowledged and shared.
Rejoice and be glad!
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Things around the "compound" were quiet today. Liz and the girls went to a neighboring town for the day to visit some friends down from Jackson, TN, Drew went to a movie with a friend, Tommy worked inside. The only sounds were occasional barks from the dogs and Jacob practicing his saxophone parts for band. I'm not used to such quiet!
In the morning I'll preach at the church where I attend. I will never cease being grateful for every opportunity to share God's word. After lunch I'll pack up and head to Jackson so I'll be there for an early morning appointment for scans, tests and a visit with the doctor on Monday. I'm ready for some answers and to learn what kind of schedule is in my future.
One of the lectionary passages for tomorrow is Romans 8:26-39, familiar verses that are mind-boggling. Studying for the sermon caused me to reflect on the many times God has worked to bring good from seemingly dire circumstances in my life or in the lives of people I know and love. God is in the midst of every circumstance. Once again, I was overcome with the knowledge that God chose me to be His child, not because of anything I have done, but because of His love and grace. God loves me and nothing will ever change that--absolutely nothing! I pray that what I know to be true and the gratitude I feel will be obvious tomorrow and that God will be glorified.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Familiar places, familiar foods, familiar sounds and scents, they are part of the feelings of contentment. It's not utopia, the cost of living has risen here just as in other places, it's the year for state elections in Mississippi and the commercials are tiresome as I remember them in the last two states where we have lived. But, it's home! I'm not even a native Mississippian, but it's where most of my roots are sunk and it's home.
My little house is beginning more and more every day to look like home thanks to friends, both old and new who have come to help unpack, put away things and help decorate. The unpacking and putting away is more time consuming and tiring than anything else, but I don't have a decorating bone in my body. The bonus in having them come, of course, is the visiting. What would I do without friends to help make this house my home?
I'm settling into my kitchen and that makes everyone happy. In the past week I've put up a bushel of lady peas, made a cobbler kind of dessert for church night supper and I have a sour cream pound cake in the oven right now. I have fresh peaches to put on top if anyone wants that. Of course, Tom thought it was sacrilege to put anything on his cake. He never thought there was anything in the house to eat if there wasn't a sour cream pound cake in the pantry. I haven't had a kitchen with this much counter space since we left Jackson, MS. I love it!!!! Tom would love it. When I can cook, I know it's home.
As contented as I am, I cannot forget that this world is not my home. There are many mansions in my Father's house and there is a room waiting for me. At times I try to imagine what that room will be like. I can only believe that the home I love now, the contentment I feel will not begin to compare to what awaits in heaven. I have thought a lot this year of those who have gone ahead. Obviously, I think of Tom, but also of several friends who have passed since he did in February: Bob Harris, Pat Pattillo, Larry Huggett, Larry Rhodes, Elma Allender, Shannon Kruser and our dear, dear Bob Bohn. I know there are others. These are freshest on my mind. I see Bob Harris's twinkling blue eyes, hear him sharing his Navy experiences; there is Pat with his infectious smile looking for a pinochle game; Larry Huggett knows from experience, now, that "God is good; all the time God is good" and is ready to get everyone singing; Larry Rhodes is telling of his travels, being an encourager; Elma and Shannon speak softly as they share their tender hearts; and there is Bob with his gift of hospitality, ready to entertain with stories of his life. Tom is in good company. Whether my sanctified imagination is stretching things or not, I don't know, but I remember such good times with these folks on earth that I know it has to be even better in heaven. One day I'll be able to say: "Without a doubt, there is truly no place like home."
Saturday, July 09, 2011
It's after nine and supper is cooking--Suttle's version of "Low Country Boil." Tommy has shrimp, sausage, red potatoes and corn cooking in his fish cooker. I've got French bread ready to go in the oven and blueberry cobbler cooking. It's late, but it will be worth the wait.
The little girls spent several hours with me this afternoon. Mainly, they do their thing--dressing up, playing house, using those wonderful imaginations of theirs. I am royally entertained. Today I was busy working in the office, unpacking books for the bookcases that Tommy put together for me yesterday. I unpacked lots of family pictures, including several of Tom by himself and him with the children and our beloved Mastiff, Sugar. Meredith and Elisa wanted pictures of their Paw Paw to put in their room and seeing the telephone in there, they began imaginary phone calls from heaven to talk to him. Their talk was full of "I love you, Paw Paw" and "I miss you." He is SO present with them. Their love for him is a real comfort, but, at the same time, it reminds me of how much I miss him, how he loved them and how he would have loved watching them develop and grow.
Things are coming together, albeit slowly. Getting books on the shelves in the office is a major accomplishment. I've set aside things for both children and have tried to determine which pictures I will hang and which ones I'll eliminate. What a chore! Several things are still missing; lots of things just sit, waiting to either be thrown or put away. As Jacob said, this will be a real cozy place when everything is settled.
I'm looking forward to filling our pulpit on July 24 while Pastor Steve is away on vacation. It's good to be studying again. By my chair sits a book on cancer Steve wants me to read in preparation for possibly being part of some sort of support group in the fall. One of the elders has asked Tommy if it would be alright to call and ask me some questions about intentional Older Adult Ministry. God continues to open doors for ministry, both in my front yard and in the church. It's an exciting time! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!
Blessings to you and yours,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
We have been in our new places three weeks and you still can't tell if we're moving in or out. Boxes are everywhere, counters are covered, clothes remain unpacked and books are waiting for additional bookcases. In the meantime we have enjoyed lots of fresh produce and I've frozen a bushel of butterbeans. Peaches are sitting by the sink waiting to find a home in peach pie. Around the corner and just down the road is a produce stand in someone's front yard. Every morning the owner puts signs on the road telling what he has to offer that day. It's a "help yourself stand:" prices are posted on the table with instructions on what to do. Customers are to weigh what they wish to purchase, bag it and place your money in the box on the table. Liz bought tomatoes there the other day and they couldn't have been any fresher.
Our other culinary delight is Gulf seafood!!! You haven't had shrimp until you've had Gulf shrimp. Fresh ones come with heads on and the last we had were as big as my hand. Yum, yum! One night last week we had both redfish and flounder, caught the same day. From the inland waters come plump, juicy crawfish that are in season now. Tommy and Liz have especially enjoyed them.
We all have loved reconnecting with friends. My Jackson, MS friends (from now on when I mention Jackson, I'll be referring to Mississippi and will designate when I speak of Jackson, TN) have been wonderful to come down to help get me settled and have brought cookies, cake and muffins. I've also been up to stay overnight to see the doctor. Earlier this week I had lunch with a college friend I hadn't seen in eight years and we lingered over two hours at our table.
Last Tuesday, the 21st, I visited my new oncologist, accompanied by my friend, Marilyn, a retired pediatrician. It was so good to have her with me because of our long friendship and for her medical knowledge. My Memphis doctor had told me that the new doctor was absolutely the best and it only took a few minutes to understand why he thought so. He wanted me back on Friday for more tests and again on Monday to do more testing. I learned that Dr. Thigpen, new doctor, chaired the committee responsible for the clinical trial I was in at UC Davis. For now, he intends to continue current treatment, unless test results reveal that I need to rest from the Avastin. All of his comments were extremely positive and encouraging. I've spent much time being thankful for God leading me to him.
Tommy is so happy in his new position! The children are adjusting well and Liz has interviewed twice for a position in the school system. I'm attending a presbytery generated meeting Friday at the request of the pastor and will start the ball rolling to get my presbytery membership moved here. I'll preach on July 24.
A different kind of sadness has seeped into my soul since being "home." Being with old friends, going out to eat and asking for a table for three reminds me of all the times we ate together as couples. Things that have changed, things that have remained the same both remind me of things I can't wait to tell Tom. He would love being here. We're just outside Petal on ten acres. It's quiet and peaceful. The children are in and out and the two little ones still tell me that they miss Paw Paw. They share my sadness. However, a Henri Nouwen book has helped me see things in a new light. Today my sorrow is great because the joy we shared was so great. Remembering that is beginning to crowd out some of the sadness. I'm sure there will always be an empty spot in my heart and life, but our many blessings help with the healing. Being home is one of those blessings.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
My emotions are still on a roller coaster. There has been so much to do in the last three months with endless arrangements to be made, business to comprehend and settle, sorting and packing. I don't think I'll be ready by Thursday, but what choice do I have?
I wonder if I'm ready to walk out, close this chapter and get on with my life as a widow. It's still a harsh word--a hard situation, but I continue to remember Meredith's words: Paw Paw's in your heart. He literally fills my heart to the brim with all the memories and all his love and the tears don't flow as freely.
A couple of weeks ago I began reading through the Bible in Eugene Peterson's The Message. It seems that when I have important decisions to make God focuses my attention on Abraham and the covenant God made with him. The best promise in all of Scripture is the one where God says: I will be your God. There is none more meaningful! It is rich and incredibly full. There is nothing to dread, nothing to fear. I can be sure that God will always care for me and it's because of who He is, not what I do or don't do.
In Peterson's introduction to Genesis, his opening paragraph says: First, God. God is the subject of life. Gd is foundational for living. If we don't have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get "our" lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God. This is our covenant making, covenant keeping God.
God will go before me as I move.......
Friday, May 20, 2011
and I am barely keeping pace. I think I've done a lot, then I step into a room that still has lots in it to pack. Two weeks from today I'll be somewhere in between this Jackson and Jackson, MS. The truck comes to load both houses on June 2, but won't arrive in Petal until the 7th. After I leave here, I'll go to Memphis to visit my cousin overnight, then head to Jackson to visit friends there. Monday, the 6th, we meet in Hattiesburg to close on the new house. I'll stay with the pastor and his wife until I can get somewhat organized in the new place. Unfortunately, Tommy and Liz will have a more hectic schedule since VBS begins Monday and they will need to be present for that. Oh well, they're young and energetic. None of us can believe the time has come.
Meanwhile, we continue to pray for Liz's parents and the approaching flood water. The Mississippi is scheduled to crest at Natchez Wednesday, the 25th and I believe they moved to higher ground today. They live on the Louisiana side of the river, which is lower than the Natchez side. Their furniture was moved out two weeks ago and plans were made to move to an apartment at the Natchez Children's Home when they could stay in their home no longer. The stress and strain on thousands of people is devastating, to say nothing of the loss of property.
Thank you for praying with us.
Today I went to Memphis with my two knitting friends. Not only was I ready to take a break from packing, but I also had a couple of problems that needed an expert's help. We had a great day!
Blogs may be sparse for the next few weeks as we wind down here, get moved and settled with a new address, a new e-mail, etc. I'll send new contact information to Mary when we're there.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sitting in front of the computer and the TV; learning about flood conditions, when and where the River will crest; seeing the fleeing deer and the water moccasins up close and personal tends to make one anxious. Liz's parents have prepared to evacuate their home in Louisiana, just across the River from Natchez. Still they wait and pray and we wait and pray with them. Last night there was news that the crest had come to Memphis and that some of the towns in Northwestern Tennessee have begun to dry out. Water, so necessary to life, can also be very deadly.
The repair man worked diligently with his crew four days last week. As it happens, he found a few more things to fix than what I put on the original list and there were a few other "flies in the ointment" as well. Installing a new kitchen sink turned from a simple task to a two day undertaking. I lost count of how many trips Ricky made to Lowe's to get additional pipes and joints because the original plumbing seemed to have been pieced together. After two days of having no water in the kitchen, the sink was pronounced ready and the water turned back on. Unfortunately, it was not ready. The dishwasher woundn't fill , nor would the icemaker, then we discovered leaks. Finally, yesterday afternoon Ricky came back, turned the right knobs, found the leak and I was back in business. The three window ledges are pending and I think I still have a leak somewhere in the front porch roof. Surely, you remember telling your children, like our parents told you: Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Whoever "repaired" things before we got here, didn't know that instruction!
The weekend was busy. I was up by five Saturday morning to make final preparations for the yard sale. At the end of the day I told Liz that I wasn't sure it was worth the effort and she began naming the things accomplished. We forced ourselves to get rid of things, which in turn helped to organize packing efforts and what wasn't sold was picked up at the end of the day and we didn't have to deal with those things again. Those who pick up for the Paralyzed Veterans Assn. were already scheduled to stop here this morning to get clothing I had to donate.
It was Youth Sunday at church--the best service of that type I have ever attended and I've experienced MANY in my lifetime. Everyone in the group had at least one part in leading worship. Grandson Jacob accompanied on his guitar for the youth songs and for the offertory he played an arrangement of "This is My Father's World" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" on alto saxophone. People were blessed by his offering of music and Mom, Dad and Maw Maw were beaming through our tears. Tom would have been "busting his buttons." Later in the day I visited on Skype with Marty and the two boys and went to Tommy's for Mother's Day supper. Praise God for two wonderful children and eight special grandchildren.
I taught my last lesson for my circle yesterday. For me, it was a bit sad. Anyone who has ever shared God's Word in such a setting feels a special bond with those who come. I have been the Bible leader for the past two years and in the process we have come to know each other better, shared faith stories and learned together. What a blessing those ladies have been to me!
Now, I focus on packing, packing, packing. I was awake at three this morning. When the clock approached four and I was still lying in bed making mental lists for today, I got up, dressed, made coffee and started the day. Later, I'll be sorry. A nap has been added to that mental list.
Please continue to pray for all who have been affected by the storms and for those who remain in danger. Pray also for our family as each of us adjust to the challenges ahead. We pray, knowing that God is in charge and that He will go before us in "triumphant procession."
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Those words from a Johnny Cash song are being repeated over and over all along the Mississippi River and its tributaries these days. Many areas have been evacuated, others are just feet from having their entire towns under water. Six feet high and rising goes the song and all we can do is move to higher ground, if possible. Where we live in Jackson, there is no danger, but we have friends and family, including Liz's parents who live just across The River from Natchez, who are watching and praying.
We have finally had a few sunny, dry days and work could begin and move forward on my house. A nice young teacher from the school where Liz teaches came two days over the weekend to trim shrubs and cut out volunteer trees in the beds. Today the man to do minor repairs on the house began his work and none too soon. When the storm windows were removed he discovered I had three rotten window ledges. Hopefully, tomorrow all the trim can be painted, the ledges replaced and painted and the window put back on. Other than having to paint the living room ceiling, nothing else will be that time consuming.
This weekend we are having a moving sale, then all my attention can be focused on packing. The first weekend in June will be here before we know it! We are still praying that Liz will get a job in the school district where we'll be living.
Several years ago a friend showed us pictures of a clear stream and told us it was the origin of the Mississippi River. I was amazed to see transparent water, calm and soothing as it bubbled out of the ground and began its journey southward. I thought of how it changed along the way. It grew wider, more forceful and muddier and muddier. Spring rains brought flooding in low lying areas, but the effects of the flooding made rich soil even richer. Some years farmers would be late planting, cutting the growing season short. Other years those same farmers might have bumper crops. People in the delta regions had an almost Epicurious attitude: "Eat, drink and be merry, because there might not be a crop next year."
In California, our friends John and Peggy, invited us to visit them at their cabin at McCloud. One afternoon we were driving around, visiting the sights and while in Mt. Shasta we stopped at a park to let the dog play and stretch her legs. (I don't know who had a better time playing in the park, Tom or the dog.) Peg and I walked over to a bubling spring, much like the picture I had seen of the origin of the Mississippi. This spring was the origin of the Sacramento River. Again, I was amazed to see something so clear and pure, all the while remembering what the Sacramento looked like as it made its way toward the sea. I told Peg that one day I would use what I had seen and the process of the river growing and changing as a sermon illustration. I have yet to do that.
The Bible is full of water stories: God holding back the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross on dry land; Jonah being thrown overboard and being protected in the belly of the whale; and how could we leave out Noah, his adventure on the Ark and the promise God made to never destroy the earth by water again? Water is essential for life--but not just any water. It has to be pure, safe for us to drink. Contaminated water brings sickness and death to many. Water is life giving, but can be one of the most dangerous forces in nature. One day I will preach that sermon using the origins and journeys the rivers take. In the meantime, I will ponder how life and the events of life mimic the characteristics of the waters of the world. Mostly, I'll be ever so mindful of the One who brings us streams of Living Waters.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
*The sun is shining - - beautifully! All week the weather folks have reminded viewers that seeing sunshine between the waves of storms was not good because it warmed the atmosphere, contributing to the threat of more storms. Today the sunshine is a good thing!
*The monster storm that roared through Tuscaloosa is not what loyal 'Bama fans have in mind when they yell, "Roll Tide." A couple of FB friends have posted videos of the tornado moving through town--scary picture!
*Not to be undone, Oxford, MS, where Ole Miss is located, has reported a lot of damage there. Earlier in the rash of storms, Starkville, home of Mississippi State had damage. I'm seeing a little SEC theme here. Point being: don't plan a college tour of SEC schools during tornado season.
*Speaking of "seasons," a reporter on a Memphis TV station said this morning that May is "tornado month." Didn't know that. Do know that hurricane season comes next and we're moving eighty miles from the Gulf Coast.
*"Moving" and related activites are uppermost in thought and mind. The storms have put a halt to things that need to be done to ready the house and yard. That, of course, means the house has yet to be put on the market. Meanwhile, packing continues. You might think a wayward storm has been through every room.
*I also have one of my favorite events in heart and mind this weekend--the annual FOPC Women's Retreat. How I wish I could be present!!! My last was in 2006, a most special retreat for me and my daughter. It was an event designed by God to help prepare me for a difficult trek "through the wilderness." That's just one of the reasons the weekend is special. Add that to the fellowship of Christian sisters, sharing and praising God; the fun and laughter; the beauty of the surroundings and you have an indescribable spiritual blessing. Remembering helps today to keep my focus on our mighty God who leads us through the wilderness. He is the God who calmed my fears during the recent storms. Life is a series of wilderness wanderings, a series of storms, but God gives peace when "our minds are stayed on Him." I'm praying for you, ladies, as you travel and attend the retreat.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Soon it will be the Day of Resurrection, the day we declare that Jesus Christ is risen! But there are many who do not celebrate for this reason. It will be one of few days that people attend worship services. It will be a day that celebrated Spring and new life. Bunnies and eggs take center stage. Families gather around tables laden with food, children are decked out in their finest, Aunt Susie and Uncle Ralph bring deviled eggs and other goodies. It's easy for the reason for Easter be hidden, just like the golden egg. As you celebrate, remember to pray for those who not know the One whose resurrection is brings new life.
I was touched this morning by a post on Marty's FB page and tried all day to get the link to work so I could share. I learned from my cousin this evening that she had seen it on Marty's blog and, finally, I am able to share. The song is Patty Griffin's "Mary," and brings to mind the grief she experienced at watching her son, our Savior, suffer and die. It reminds us of the gracious sacrifice of His life. How grateful I am! Follow this link to www.canapesun.blogspot.com. "Mary" is at the end of her post.
Have a most blessed Easter!
Monday, April 18, 2011
Saturday, April 09, 2011
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
That's a truth to grasp and hold tightly. I am trying to learn to balance new adjustments with memories. On the way to pick up Jacob at school this afternoon, I noticed a park where Tom and I had intended to have a picnic. It was only an intention--never reality. For a moment it made me sad to be reminded of one more thing that we had intended, but never did. That sadness was replaced by memories of picnics we did take--spontaneous ones and ones we planned. I've tried not to dwell on how we envisioned our retirement and the way it really was. I try to center on the all the good memories and know they are too numerous to count. I try to remember that all of life is meant to glorify God and trust Him to lead my steps.
That doesn't mean it is easy to get redirected after all these years, especially when several of those years have been taken up with caregiving. I have heard it said that one difficult adjustment is knowing what to do with the time freed up when the caregiving stops. Now I know that's true. Today much of my time is consumed with business matters. I should have kept a record of how many hours I've spent on the phone. Monday I went to circle in the morning, ate lunch with friends, got home at two and spent the next three hours trying to unravel a couple of problems. Another day I spent at least two hours trying to locate the marriage liscense, finally deciding it would be easier to send for a certified copy. Insurance was filed with an incorrect number for several claims and that necessitated getting that changed and trying to find out who was responsible. That mystery has yet to be solved. More problems. One important thing to learn from this is not to get so caught up with busy work that I don't deal with the issues at hand. Another thing is to keep good records and know where things are!
Today was a Corinth day for labs and the Avastin infusion. That doesn't take long and we were through with lunch and on the road home by about 1:15 p.m. Sunday Liz, Sarah and I are headed to Hattiesburg, MS on a new adventure. I'll say more about that later.
Tom is always in my heart and on my mind. Everything reminds me of him. Sometimes I laugh when I think of what his response might be to a situation; other times I wish I could ask him where he put something. This is my first March Madness without him and that seems odd. After all, he is the one who taught me to love college basketball. There sits Charles Barkley making comments on the game just played and I remember watching him lumber down the court when he played for Auburn against Mississippi State. Memories are good, but only if we remain alert to what new thing God might be doing.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Last weekend was GLOOMY. Outside the weather was gray and cold, just plain gloomy. Inside, I was every bit as gloomy. I didn't raise the shades all day on Saturday and other than a quick trip to pick up a prescription I didn't leave the house. A friend from the church came by late in the afternoon to bring homemade soup and pimento cheese. That was the day's only bright spot. I didn't feel sorry for myself, but did allow myself to be sad and lonely and tell God just how I felt. He listened, just as He always does. Sunday I woke up too late to get to church on time--it was still rainy and cold. Late that afternoon I went to Tommy and Liz's for supper and the gloom lifted. When I walked in Tommy said, "Mom, you don't look like you feel well," so I told him about my gloomy two days, plus the fact that I felt silly about them. His reply was: "So, you think you're Wonder Woman and get through the stages of grief in three weeks?" Enter Meredith, who gave me a big hug and continued to give me hugs when she thought I needed one throughout the evening. The two of them broke through the gloom.
I have learned that it's perfectly all right, and perfectly natural, to be sad. There would be something wrong with me if I didn't feel lonely. Sometimes I can see Tom sitting across from me and hear him when his wisdom is needed and feel his hand in mine offering comfort in a single touch. After all, he is and will always be in my heart. I remember the message of the story I related in my last blog. God understands the pain of losing a loved one. God loved Tom even more than I; He loves me and He will heal the pain. Those are the facts. I pray that God will make them a part of me.
This weekend is bright and beautiful--no gloom in sight. Yesterday I went to Memphis with two friends. We shopped at a wonderful grocery store, went to Penzey's Spices, had a two hour knitting lesson, ate lunch and were home by four. All three of us declared that we didn't know when we had laughed as much!. I bought veal loin chops with the condition that Tommy create something delicious. He didn't let us down. Last night we had veal chops on a bed of Charleston grits, smothered with a mushroom gravy. What a feast! The only low point in the day was watching Mississippi State lose in the SEC tourney.
The knitting lesson was so much fun. I haven't knit in at least twenty years and decided to pick it up again. One particular chemo drug has created permanent numbness in my feet and fingers and off and on pain in my toes. The numbness in my fingers makes most needlework difficult and I thought knitting might be just what I needed to try. I miss not having a project in progress. A customer in the shop told me she had some kind of arthiritis in her hands and fingers and that the knitting actually was therapeutic for her. When I first picked up the needles, they felt like telephone poles in my hands, but once the teacher got me started things began coming back to me. I'm going to love my renewed activity--especially with great friends who will knit alongside me.
Speaking of the lady in the shop who told me of her hand and finger problems, God has brought many women who have either spoken a word or two about their experience with widow-hood or people like a dear California friend who wrote and told me a story that I had never known about her life, her experience with grief and how God has provided for her in every aspect of her life. Sometimes when we share something of ourselves with others we may think we are merely saying words, but the Holy Spirit uses those words in ways we cannot even imagine. I am blessed to have friends who care and who take the time to share with me.
The rest of today will be busy with a little cooking, attending a memorial service at the church and studying for two circles I'm teaching on Monday. There is plenty to keep me busy. I must not forget to be still in God's presence. He will keep me in perfect peace---in the midst of any and everything.
Friday, March 04, 2011
Finally, the days turned into March. February seemed four years long, rather than four weeks. It has always been recognized in our family as a month full of joyful events: an Army leave that began on the eighth, leading to an official engagement on the thirteenth, a wedding five days later on the eighteenth and six years after that the birth of a beautiful baby girl. Tom and I had much to celebrate. This year I celebrated without him. He died on the seventh. I wondered if the month would ever end. Would the end of the month and the beginning of another lessen my grief? It didn't. If anything, it seems to grow with every passing day.
A friend sent me book one in Kenneth Haugk's series, A Time to Grieve. Two of the quotes he uses describe a bit of how I feel. When we lose someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyze us emotionally. . . . When they die a part of us dies too (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey) and this one from Aldolfo Quezada: My tears are the words with which I tell God of my pain.
Sometimes I feel numb and my mind is blank. Still, little things bring tears, things like sitting in church and suddenly realizing that Tom won't sit with me again. Yesterday I emptied his daily pill container of the dose he would have taken the afternoon that he fell. For the first time since his fall I felt completely exhausted and had to make myself put one foot in front of the other. Back at our usual Thursday Bible Study, I couldn't keep my eyes away from the place where he last sat. He is physically gone and a large part of me has gone with him.
Last night I let the tears flow freely. Maybe it was a part of the exhaustion. I don't know, but that was the first time for that as well. Until now there have been plenty of teary times, but nothing like last night's release. This morning I read the above quote: My tears are the words with which I tell God of my pain.
The peace comes in knowing that God understands the pain; God cares. Several weeks ago I received an e-mail story about a little boy who called into a Christian radio talk show to tell something he had learned. He had been eagerly awaiting the birth of a calf which he would raise as his own and was overjoyed when the big day came. Somehow, in the process of birth and the immediate aftermath, the cow fell on the newborn calf and broke it's back. It was necessary for the calf to be put down and the little boy, sad as he was, said he would do what had to be done. When everything was over he thought about what had just happened and be began to pray. His thoughts turned to God's sacrifice of Jesus for us; he thought of the love God had for His only Son, a love so much greater than any we could possibly feel for another. He thought of the heart of God and how it must have been broken when Jesus was put to death. And then he realized: GOD UNDERSTANDS my grief for this calf. God understands our pain.
That is a truth that brings peace in the midst of grief.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Today I returned to Brown Bag Bible Study, the first time I've been there since Tom fell on January 6. It would have been easier to stay home. Afterward I went across the street to the hospital to see a special friend who also has ovarian cancer. As I drove into the parking garage, I suddenly realized I'd be visiting her on the same floor where Tom was in hospice care. I dreaded passing his room and was relieved when I exited the elevator and saw her room was the opposite direction. What is it about "little" things?
While Tom was in the hospital I not only spent a lot of time reading and studying the Scripture, but I also read Psalms to him. Psalm 8 particularly spoke to me. In fact, I chose it to be used as a call to worship at Tom's memorial service. One of the things that he and I shared was a Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, beginning with the Sovereignty of God. For us, life was about glorifying God and trying to be obedient to Him. So, it was meaningful to pray through Psalm 8, acknowledging the majesty of God and realizing once again that our almighty, amazing God cares about His creation--and not just creation, but the individuals who have been created by His hand. What is man that God is mindful of him? In the midst of a crisis, it is of great comfort to think of that God and that He cared for Tom. Related to those thoughts were some I wrote in a journal on part of a verse in Daniel.
Tom loved the book of Daniel. It was his favorite book of the Bible, but I don't think he ever told me why. Perhaps it is the Sovereignty of God so evident throughout the book. Maybe he learned from God's faithful servant, Daniel. I reread Daniel one day, partly as reference material for a Revelation study and partly because of Tom.
There, in chapter 9, is the most reassuring of verses: We make requests (pray, plead) not because we are deserving but because God is merciful (Daniel 9:18b). What is man that God is mindful of him? We are welcome at the throne of grace, not because of anything we might bring, but because of who God is.
Tom was special in many ways, but anything he might have accomplished did not matter in God's sight. God didn't care about Tom's "Citizen of the Year" award in 8th grade, nor his security clearance in the military. God was not impressed by Tom's good manners nor his thoughtfulness. His accomplishments in this life were not the basis on which God was hearing our prayers. God heard, God answered because of His great mercy for His children.
That was true for Daniel; it was true for Tom. As the hymnwriter wrote: Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling. Every day, all during the day I would go, empty handed and clinging, pleading for God's mercies.
Thank you, Lord, for your mercies. Thank your for your care for your children.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Forty four years ago today, I married the love of my life. He was my closest friend, my lover, my soul mate and my partner in every sense of the word. We had a six year "semi courtship," more off that on, partly because nearly three years of that time he was in Munich, Germany and I was stateside. We often laughed, remembering that I wrote him while he was there because I considered it my duty as an American citizen. When we did make a decision to marry we had no doubt but that it was God's plan, executed in God's time. Both of us were headstrong and it took some doing for us to learn to live together. Years passed, our love grew and neither of us could even imagine life with anyone else.
Two particular things helped to strengthen an already strong marriage. About twenty years ago I was introduced to a booklet by Ben Johnson entitled, An Adventure in Prayer. It was written to help people learn to pray more specifically and offered suggestions to guide your prayer life for thirty days. One of the suggestions was to remember the vows you have taken and recommit them to God. To the vows he suggested, I added baptismal and marriage vows. I began to meditate/pray about what I promised before God and to Tom on the day we married. I was particularly struck by the promises to love and honor him. Of course, I loved him, but how could I love him more? I asked God to put more love in my heart for Tom. What did it truly mean to honor my husband and how did that manifest itself? My eyes were opened to things I did and said that were not loving, nor honoring and I prayed for God to change me.
The second thing that made a difference, even after twenty plus years was a conversation I had with my son. He reminded me of words said to him and Elizabeth by Joe Rightmyer, the pastor who married them. (Joe is our friend who officiated at Tom's graveside and memorial services.) He encouraged them to cherish one another. That prompted me to ponder the word "cherish" and to think about how that works in a relationship. Often I would tell Tom, "I love you more today than yesterday and less than I will tomorrow." As I reflect on our life together, I know that remains true.
Today could have been a really sad day, but every time I felt myself getting sad, I would think of Meredith and her telling me that Paw Paw is in my heart. How right she is! I can no longer reach out and touch him. I realize, with great reluctance, a word I use often to describe other women, now describes me too. I am a widow. I had to get past today and with the help of my children I did. Tommy went with me to Corinth. Tonight he, Liz and I went out to eat and Marty called when I got home. They warmed my heart, made me laugh and cry. We talked about memories and we looked ahead. Tomorrow is a new day.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
We said our final goodbye to Tom on Saturday---or did we? Friends and family gathered at the graveside Saturday morning for the interment. It was a beautiful day, between 50 and 60 degrees, with the sun brightly shining. The minister, our friend Joe Rightmyer, spoke of hope, new life and the resurrection. Tom was buried with military honors and seeing that flag draped casket brought tears of pride to my eyes, as did the words of appreciation spoken to me by the young man from the Army as he presented the flag to me. Our grandchildren each took a yellow rose from me and laid it on the casket. Precious Meredith, held by her father, placed hers and said, "Goodbye Paw Paw." It was a dear moment.
The memorial service that afternoon was truly a witness to the resurrection and an uplifting worship service. It was everything Tom and I wanted it to be! Again, Joe's message was one that presented the gospel and gave glory to God. Special music was a jazzy arrangement of Amazing Grace, written and performed on clarinet by Marty's friend and major professor in college. The recessional was another arrangement of his for organ and clarinet for When the Saints Go Marching In." Both Joe's message of truth, hope and promise and the music put a smile on my face. In every way God was glorified.
Many friends came, offered condolences and shared memories. Each one was special and each has helped with the grieving process. We felt truly blessed by their presence.
There were a few things that could have marred the perfect day and weekend. Instead they reminded us that life goes on. Friday, Tommy, Jacob, Sarah and I left in one car and Marty, Kevin and the boys in another. Liz planned to drive down later in the day with a friend and the three other children. When they were all loaded, in the car and ready to leave, her car would not start. She called Tommy while we were eating lunch in Jackson, MS and he talked the friend through the directions to jump a battery. Saturday there was silence during the time "Taps" was to be played. We waited expectantly and watched as the soldier put his horn in the case and came to help fold the flag. The horn malfunctioned. And before we could leave the cemetery, Tommy and David, Tom's brother, had to change a tire on his rental car. We laughed, thinking of comments Tom, Jr. would have made.
The bottom line: the services honored a special man and gave glory to his God. I am blessed to have shared my life with that special man and he will always be in my heart.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
For those of you who have known Tom--always "Tommy" to me--it should come as no surprise that many plans for what would happen at the end of both of our lives were already documented. I am so thankful for that! An otherwise hard process of going through details of burial yesterday was made much easier by knowing what he wanted, what I wanted for him and the support and input of Tommy and Marty. Today I have a few errands, a few more phone calls to make and then plan to enjoy being with family.
There will be a graveside service at Lakewood Memorial Park at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 12, with the memorial service at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 4000 Ridgewood Rd. , Jackson, MS following at 2 p.m. Visitation will be after the service in the church parlor.
Thank you for the many expressions of sympathy, prayer support and the shared memories of Tom and how he touched your lives. I have always said that he, more than any other man I knew, was the man of Psalm 15.
Monday, February 07, 2011
The dreaded day, the day for which I have hoped and prayed finally was today. Tom passed very peacefully about four this afternoon. The last several days I have sat by his bed, holding his hand, talking, telling him what's in the news, reading psalms, praying, singing. He has shown no real response since Thursday except for grimacing when he hurt, or having Parkinson type tics because he's not had any meds. One exception: the nurses have been swabbing his mouth with a special mouthwash several times a day and yesterday he wouldn't open his mouth. The nurse said for me to try if I saw an opening anytime during the day. He was like a little boy refusing to take his medicine, clinching his teeth together so I couldn't possibly get anything past his lips.
This morning I drove to the hospital in the most beautiful snow. The flakes were big and fluffy and fell for six or seven hours. In the South, that means people stay home, off the streets. That is, we stay home after we have raided the store shelves of bread, milk, eggs and other essentials. Shopping during one of these grocery store runs can be dangerous to one's health. Anyway, no one came by the room today except the usual hospital staff and two hospice workers about noon. Tom and I were all alone in our little room and I could focus my whole attention on him. It was such a gift to have a day to ourselves. The middle of the afternoon I stretched out on the little sofa, telling him I was right there by him and needed to close my eyes for a few minutes. When I woke up after about 20 minutes, he had quit breathing. I wasn't holding his hand as I had wanted to be, but we were together.
The most beautiful statement was made to me by my precious five year old granddaughter. I went to Tommy's so I could tell the grandchildren about their Paw Paw. After I told them, Meredith crawled up in my lap and said, "Please don't be sad and cry, Maw Maw. Paw Paw's in your heart."
Memorial services will be held later this week or early next (depending on winter weather advisories) at Covenant Presbyterian in Jackson, MS. More about that later.
My love and God's blessings,