Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

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."
Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Morning After . . .

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.

Pastor Margaret