Friday, August 30, 2013

Around the compound . . .

. . . Maggie (the dog) has begun to exhibit signs of innate breeding--herding chickens and protecting her people.
. . . Thinning of 16th Section Land is going on right next to us.  In fact machinery noises make the work sound as if it's right on our driveway.
. . . School is in full swing. Sarah has chair tryouts in band today; Petal High plays its second football game tonight; Drew is fascinated by some rubberband device and from experience I've warned him that school officials don't look kindly at such; even the 2nd grader and kindergarner have homework.
. . . We are still stalking the raccoon and it is still outsmarting us.  Tommy has a trap on his back porch that he baits almost nightly.  Said raccoon enjoys the bait, sometimes springs the trap, but is never caught.
. . . I feel more like myself this week than I have in several months, enjoying extra energy and eagerly anticipating finishing two more rounds of chemo. 

On Facebook yesterday I posted about the "shrimp run" Tommy made to the coast.  Today I am happy to add that all the shrimp is in the freezer, a little over a gallon of shrimp stock was made from the heads, oysters are ready and waiting for grilling, as is the snapper.  I cooked pot roast and vegetables for dinner last night and was rewarded with: "Mom, you haven't forgotten how to cook."  I have missed the kitchen! 

My knitting needles have been busy working on various projects and I feel a sense of accomplishment that I have done those things I hate like weaving in loose ends, sewing on buttons, etc.  One recent project is a shrug I'm making for Sarah and as I've knit I've thought of how following the pattern illustrates following God's pattern for living.  It seems as if modern day Christians stress freedom we have in Christ, sometimes to the exclusion of that which God requires of us --otherwise know as the Law.  In reality, there needs to be a balance.  Paul wrote in Galatians about Christ setting us free from the Law, but he never said that we are to ignore it.  Law was given to teach God's people how to live as His children and how to live in community with others.  It was to be kept perfectly.  When it wasn't, God was displeased and there were consequences.  Thus came about the elaborate, exact sacrificial system of the Old Testament. I'm grateful we live because of God's grace and the righteousness of Christ.  

Back to "balance."  The Ten Commandments continue to be a pattern for living.  They are not just some document to be posted in public places and to be upset about when opposition arises.  They are to be studied and observed as our pattern for knowing what God requires of us and how we are to live with others ( a reminder from the Children's Catechism).  Sarah's shrug is made of one four row pattern that repeats itself until the desired length is reached.  At first I had the pattern right next to me as I knit to keep me on track, but soon it was firmly established in my head and I need not keep referring to it.  If I made a mistake, the entire pattern was thrown off and I'd have to rip out and correct--consequences of not following the pattern.  As I learned the pattern by knitting it over and over, I realized counting stitches was no longer necessary.  The stitches were clear and I could see what needed to be done next.  God's law, or pattern, is given for our instruction.  As we thank God for the sacrifice of His Son so that we may have freedom to live, may we also ask for God's guidiance in understanding the Law and how we are to follow it today.

Pastor Margaret 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 15 - Cycle 4 . . . 

. . . brought no real surprises.  I knew counts had dropped because of being short of breath and not being able to stand up much.  The only surprise came  in learning that both red and white counts were too low for treatment and platelets had dropped  too low as well.  Usually, it's one or the other or so it seems.  All that means no treatment today and an eight o'clock appointment in the morning to get two units of packed red cells which should give me a jump start to feeling more energized.

This past winter a friend gave me a copy of Jesus Calling, a daily devotional book by Sarah Young.  What a gift!  This past week's entries have been especially meaningful as I anticipated today's scheduled treatment.  I was torn between hoping I might skip today so as to avoid further fatigue and begin a much needed rest and wanted to complete the cycle in hopes of increasing the effectiveness of the meds.  Some words from August 17 and 18 reminded me to keep my focus on God where it needs to stay.  On August 17 I read:  Accept each day just as it comes to you.  Do not waste your time and energy wishing for a different set of circumstances.  Instead, trust Me enough to yield to My design and purposes.  Remember that nothing can separate you from My loving Presence; you are Mine.  For me that means to accept the fatigue and not waste time wishing things were different.  I already know that being in treatment until the end of October will mean having to miss a get together of college friends, going to football games to see Jacob march, to say nothing of the other usual Fall activities I love so much.  I can moan and groan, focus on the negatives or I can trust, be anxious for nothing and take each day as given, believing that God truly will supply my daily bread each day.

The second reading is taken from the August 18 entry:  Anticipate coming face-to-face with impossibilities:  situations totally beyond your ability to handle.  This awareness of your inadequacy is not something you should try to evade.  It is precisely where I want you--the best place to encounter Me in "My Glory and Power."  When you see armies of problems marching toward you,  cry out to Me!  Allow Me to fight for you.  Watch Me working on your behalf, as you "rest in the shadow of My Almighty Presence."  The list of "impossibilities" in my life is longer than I would like.  Just when I think I have been disciplined and taught enough, here comes another one.  But . . . they never come without the promise of God's presence and blessing.  Just think of the Glory I would have missed without them!  Tom's being diagnosed with Parkinson's as I was finishing the first round of chemo for this cancer, seemed to be the final blow.  What would I ever do without him?  Who would care for him if I didn't survive?  Believe me, I had big questions.  My independence, my stubbornness and absolute need to be in charge was difficult to stifle.  Tom lived another eight years and we both had to come face to face with our inadequacies.  He would never get better, only worse.  I would live with a chronic disease that demanded constant attention to keep it under control.  Here I am eleven years beyond diagnosis, still trusting, knowing that it is God who has worked on my behalf.  It has been  a journey worth taking!

Both paragraphs helped me prepare for today's verdict.  No treatment.  God had something else planned.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, Monday . . .

. . . started like so many days of late have started: cloudy.  Now it's the middle of the day and the sun is shining brightly.  There have been lots of cloudy, rainy days lately and weather often is a big topic on the nightly news.  Why are some areas dry, others flooding?  Is man responsible for the freakish weather we have had the past few years?  Better brains than mine will have to answer those questions.  I just need not to complain.  

My level of energy is not quite the same as last week this time.  Blood counts were down some when I went for treatment last Thursday and with that added treatment, they must be down some more.  Oh well, there are plenty of things I can do while seated--some expected, some not.  For instance, I got ready to pay a credit card bill and noticed ( not for the first time) a charge for some sort of insurance and called the credit card folks to inquire.  Then, I had to call another credit card company to cancel my card when Tommy called to say he lost his wallet right after filling my car with gas using that card.  Finally, it was necessary to call a company in Tennessee to ask about a charge I am just now getting for Tom's last hospital stay two and a half years ago.  Those three calls took some time!  Mostly waiting. The morning was gone in no time.  Fortunately, all three women on the other end of the line were pleasant and helpful.  I think I'm done with the unexpected.

Knitting projects have kept me busy, both new ones and ones that have needed finishing touches.  Truth be told, I'm bad about putting off the finishing.  Weaving in  yarn tails, sewing on buttons, blocking are not my favorite things.  I began knitting sweaters for the two little girls two years ago and they still need to be finished.  Yesterday afternoon I found all the parts and have tackled them again.  Going into the guest room, rooting through yarn and unfinished projects has made me think of my mother, Honey. 

Honey was an accomplished seamstress who made practically every stitch I wore until she could no longer see to sew.  When I had to start buying clothes, I realized just how fortunate I was to have original clothes that fit perfectly.  I was spoiled!  She loved fabric and spent leisure time in fabric shops looking at patterns, planning and buying the perfect material.  If I needed or wanted something, I could just go "shop" in her cedar chest.  My daughter, Marty, inherited Honey's love for fabric and when I see her built in shelves filled with fabric, I know my mother is smiling.  I don't sew anymore so my tendency is to stockpile yarn and have enough potential projects to keep me busy for months to come. 

Thoughts of  Honey have made me chuckle and they have made me a little sad.  I'm sorry she didn't live to see all these grandchildren or to take satisfaction in watching Marty sew.  In her latter years our roles reversed.  I became the care provider - the parent- and she became the child.  I'm sorry I took that role so seriously that I often forgot and was too much care provider and not enough daughter.  When I was younger and even more independent than I am now, I wanted to stand apart from her and declare that she had taught me nothing.  How foolish!  Today I cannot begin to tell you what all she taught me.  Her faith and complete trust in God was both spoken and modeled.  She worked hard, quietly making me understand the value and necessity.  Probably, no one rolled with the punches better than she did.  At age 93, after recovering from a broken hip, when I told her that we had accepted a call to a church in California, her response was:  I never thought I'd want to live in California.  She adapted.  We definitely had our differences, but I loved and admired her.

Possibly, I have thought much about Honey because I realize how similar our circumstances have become.  The past few months I have had to be almost completely dependent on family and friends.  She was trapped by her inability to see and knees that limited her mobility, neither of which would improve.  I am confined because of cancer treatment and its side effects, but there is bright hope that my condition will improve when this round of treatment is done.  Who knows what I will be able to do when all this is over?  For now, life is about living in the present.  It's about who God wants me to be, not what I feel I must do. 

Monday, Monday, the start of a new week.  It's a brand new day, another day to Glorify God and to (continue to) enjoy Him forever. 

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Woman vs. Machine . . .

. . . Machine is winning.  Twice in the last few weeks I have written a blog post, only to have it refuse to publish and then disappear.  It happened yesterday.  Women have been called unpredictable, fickle, prone to change their minds and designated with other unflattering adjectives.  Today, I hereby take the stand that women have nothing on computers.  This blasted laptop is definitely unpredictable, certainly fickle and not only changes its mind, but also seems to take great delight in changing what I want it to do into what it would rather do.  I am getting more and more frustrated!!!

Today is a treatment day so there is no time to reconstruct what I wrote yesterday.  Let me just say that it has been a good week.  I have pushed myself to be up and semi-active.  Monday I made a pot of soup to put into individual servings for the freezer, a project that took two days to complete.  On Wednesday I put together a casserole recipe I had seen on the Food Network, doubling the recipe so we'd have one for dinner and one for the freezer.  What the recipe said would take 30 or so minutes took much longer because I had to stop and rest a lot.  But, I did it and we all decided it was a "keeper."  It feels so good to be back in the kitchen even if it is on a limited basis. 

Early in the week I checked tumor marker results on my clinic website and found the numberr to be the lowest it's been at least since January.  Different oncologists that have treated me for this particular cancer have different opinions about the significance of the number.  All agree that the "normal" range is from 1 to 35.  One wanted it under 20; another under 35 and another doesn't put such great emphasis on the number, but weighs it along with other facts.  Regardless, it's going down, it's within the "normal" range and added to the improved scan report, it's a good number for sure! 

Quiet time readings and reflections direct me to study and meditate on some familiar words: trust, peace, grace, freedom, wilderness.  How I wish I could organize my thoughts so that they might make sense!  I know I could not have lived this long without complete trust in God.  Such trust results in a peace that passes all understanding.  But then I think on Paul's greeting in many of his letteers and a common greeting in worship:  The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Can there really be peace without grace?  Do they not come hand in hand?  Grace comes first; only then can there be peace. 

I am currently studying Eugene Peterson's book on Galatians, Traveling Light.  It's all about freedom, the freedom we have in Jesus.  Today he wrote that the wilderness is a place to be free.  Ever since my assignment to focus on "Through the Wilderness" for the women's retreat in 2006, I have been drawn to the idea of wilderness.  Too often we think of it in negative terms, but, if God has taught me anything in the past seven years, it is that wilderness can often be a place of beauty, a place of rest, discipline and instruction.  What I might once have thought of as something to be endured, has become respite and a place of affirmation and encouragement.  I'd so like to know your thoughts.

Treatment appointment calls. One more down, seven to go . . .

Pastor Margaret

Friday, August 09, 2013

Good news . . .

Statements, phrases, experiences tend to bring different songs to mind.  When Dr. Thigpen came in Tuesday and said he had "good news," I immediately thought:  Good news, chariots a' coming, Coming for to carry me home, but that didn't quite fit if we believe the "home" of the song is our ultimate home in heaven.  It does fit, however, if we think of "home" as the place God has created for us here of earth.  For "home" is where I am and where I plan to be for the foreseable future.

The areas of disease had shrunk from "several large" to "two small."  Though the CA125 result was not availble, we know that it has continued to go down.  I'd call that "good news" for sure!  Tommy went with questions to ask about the side effects of the chemo, but he said when he saw the smiles on both my face and the doctor's, he kept quiet.  We had hoped that if the news was good that the chemo regimen would be changed.  Unfortunately, I have to have three more cycles of three treatments each and will return to Jackson for another pet/ct scan the end of October.  Yes, I was disappointed, but then I don't do this in my strength.  Yesterday, Thursday, began day 1 of the first cycle in what we hope will be the final set. 

During my resting time I have enjoyed being up more and doing more things for myself.  My Hattiesburg oncologist reminded me yesterday that two really important things to remember are good nutrition and activity.  Good nutrition was a problem at the beginning because I was still trying to recover from the abdominal problems that plagued me in the winter and spring.  Those are fine now.  Being active is the hard part for me since the medicine zaps my blood counts.  Again, I cannot and must not rely on my own strength!

Everyboday is at school today.  Tommy just walked over and said how weird it seems. Friday has always been his day off, but he's always had at least one child at home or one he's had to take to pre-school.  Elisa, the last one, started kindergarten today.  The last two years she has spent a lot of time with me on the days she wasn't in pre-school and I will miss her!! 

Besides the activity involved with my appointments this week, we have had lots going on with the chickens.  One night Jacob went down to the barn one last time and found a dead hen.  She had gotten her head caught in the feeder somehow.  While they were trying to get her out, Jacob noticed a snake slithering along the side of the barn. He killed it and upon further investigation they discovered it to be a Copperhead.  That prompted Tommy to look more closely at the dead hen for fang marks. In telling me the story later, he remarked that it was strange trying to do an autopsy on a chicken.  Still, the question remains: did the hen strangle herself or did the snake bite her?  We do know that we have a problem with a racoon who hides in the fig tree and wanders up on the porch at night to try to find chicken feed. (I did learn that my cat scares the racoon away.  Some nights Smokey sleeps in a chair on the porch and the coon won't snoop if Smokey is there.) The night after the hen/snake incident we heard another hen squawking close to the house.  I had gotten up about midnight to let the cat out and saw Jacob walking home from my house.  He has been finishing up a project for school over here and I called to him to see if he was through for the night.  About that time we heard the squawking and Jacob went running to see what was wrong and why there was a chicken out of the coop.  He found it in the dog yard next to their house where the fig tree is, gathered her up in his arms and took her back to her nest.  Meanwhile, Tommy comes out with his gun, looking for the racoon.  It remains elusive.  Never a dull moment!!

It has been an eventful week, but a blessed one!  Good news from the oncologist, children back to school here in Mississippi and children in North Carolina getting ready, chickens keeping things hopping and our first watermelon brought in from the garden.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Issues abound . .
 . . . or so it may seem.  Pretty aggressive chemo has created plenty of issues for me this summer and the computer continues to have issues of its own.  I seem to spend more time trying to locate things or reinvent them on the laptop than I do actually using it for its intended purpose.  Add my non-technological brain to the one created by medication that makes me foggy and you have one big issue.  If you are in the class of folks who think modern technology makes life easier, I might persuade you to think again.  However, if medication and technology are the only issues in my life, I need to count my blessings!

The new chemo regimen began again on May 16.  It was to have been three sets of three treatments each with a week of rest between the sets.  Honestly, I was not prepared for my body's reaction.  After all, I had had these drugs before and was able to continue working, etc.  What I failed to acknowledge is the amount of chemo I've had since 2002, or the fact that I have aged.  Consequently, I have observed the summer from my perch in the bed where I have spent the majority of my time.  Each set of treatments got harder, actually making me have to skip the third treatment in the last two sets.  Not being able to function has been ONE BIG ISSUE!  I continue to pray for healing and pray especially for clear scans when progress is checked with scans next week in Jackson. 

The computer issue may never be resolved.

Two issues, but MANY blessings!  Marty and the three children came for a week in June.  It was wonderful to have them here--just too short a time.  I have heard from friends from both near and far on facebook, in cards and letters, on the phone, by visits, texts--guess technology is a good thing.  I know, without a doubt, that friendship is one of God's greatest blessings.  Every member of the family across the pool has stepped up to help in ways too numerous to name.  There has been time for lots of reading, Words with Friends, knitting and resting.  Now, I'm ready to resume my life.

I have missed our first venture into gardening, tending the herbs outside my door, playing in the pool with the children, cooking, driving, church.  I've even missed dusting and running the vacuum--never thought I'd say that.  Even so, I know God has a plan.  Verses or parts of verses remind me:  Be still and know that I am God; I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength; I will never leave you, nor forsake you; Trust in me with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; Greater is he who is within than the cancer that threatens (obviously my paraphrase); Great is God's faithfulness.

It is not the issues which abound.   BLESSINGS ABOUND!  Great is God's faithfulness.

Pastor Margaret