Saturday, February 22, 2014

They had no idea . . .

It has been a week of unexpected blessings; things that brought smiles and warm feelings; things that remind me that I am loved.  Because February is a month of remembering, it could easily become sad, full of tears and loneliness, but it's anything but.  One morning, as Tommy was taking me to the doctor, we had the usual talk show on the radio.  The hosts were going on and on about Valentine's Day, ways to celebrate, etc. when an older woman called into the show and complained.  She told them that they should be more sensitive to the listeners who were alone and would have no one sending them cards or candy,  It seems she had been widowed for seven years and all she could think about were the "alone" years.  At first, the hosts tried to determine if the woman had children or grandchildren and when that got them nowhere, they asked about other friends who were also widows. She ignored suggestion after suggestion, insisting on talking about how insensitive they were and how lonely she was.  Finally, they got her off the phone.  I wanted to reach into the radio, give her a good shake and share some advice a wise woman gave me when Tom died.  She said, "Life is full of choices.  When my husband died, I thought, 'I can either choose to be controlled by my sadness and loneliness or I can choose to remember good times and the joy we shared.  I chose joy and I've never been sorry.'" Those words needed to be heard by the woman on the radio, though I suspect they would have been wasted.  They took with me. 

Sunday I attended worship with my Westminster family for the first time since last April.  Though I avoided the crowd, sat in the balcony and slipped out as the service was ending, it was so good to actually be present in worship, surrounded by family.

Tuesday would have been our 47th wedding anniversary and I relived that day over and over as I sat here knitting.  Late in the afternoon, Meredith and Elisa burst into the house, telling me they had a surprise.  Each had hidden behind their backs a yellow daffodil.  I didn't even know we had any, but they had seen them and brought them to me.  They weren't as large as the King Alfred ones that were in my wedding bouquet, but they were a happy reminder.  The girls had no idea; an unexpected blessing. 

In the midst of an extraordinarily busy day, there came an unexpected e-mail from Marty, saying that she had been thinking about me all day.  She remembered.  A friend from Jackson called just to say hello.  She had no idea; I didn't tell her, but talking to her that particular day reminded me of all the good times we had shared as couples. 

February has one more big event for our family and the daily "remembering" will be tucked away until next year.  Marty celebrates a birthday Monday.  She is such a blessing to me!  I will have a good day remembering and celebrating her!! 

Tom always talked about the glass being "half full," never "half empty."  He was right.  It was his way of saying to be thankful for all that we do have, instead of complaining about what we do not have.  Especially, this February I chose joy, not sadness and I have been richly blessed. 

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sunshine was a welcome sight . . .

. . . after days of rain and cold temperatures.  Then I think of all those suffering with blizzard conditions, no power, flooding and those who need rain so desperately.  We are never satisfied with what we have.  I need to remember to be thankful for what I have instead of complaining.  The weather people say we are having a warming trend this week which could, of course, mean severe weather warnings.  See?  There's a hint of complaint in that statement. 

Thursday was a doctor day and the start of another treatment cycle.  Everything went well, though the day was extremely long.  The infusion room was so crowded that I had to wait several minutes to even get an empty chair.  When I did, I was seated between two first timers, both of whom were being treated for breast cancer.  I am usually not very chatty, staying busy with my knitting or a book, but these women wanted to talk, ask questions.  It was good to listen to their stories, share my journey and speak of our faithful God.  Please pray that I will be faithful to give God the glory for what He has done.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 08, 2014

End of Life Decisions . . .

. . . should never be put off, no matter what your age or circumstances. Our affairs had been in order, but an update has been needed.  Tom and I depended on each other to carry out the details, but when you are alone, all the details may not be known.  Thus, these end of life decisions have been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  At my age and with my health issues, I have known I needed to get my affairs in order, sooner, rather than later.  My "first thing in the morning" routine on Thursday was used in a mighty way to assure, remind and provide new insight.

Thursday was the second anniversary of Susan's passing.  She was Marty's oldest and dearest friend; wife, mother, daughter, sister, a nuclear physicist who worked for NASA. A couple of months after the birth of their second child, inflammatory breast cancer, a cancer that is aggressive and deadly, was discovered.  As a tribute to Susan on that anniversary, some friends posted a recording of "His Eye is on the Sparrow," arranged and sung by Marty at Susan's memorial service.  It was the first thing I saw and heard on Facebook that day.  "Why should I be discouraged? . . . Why should my heart be lonely, when Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He? . . . I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."  That was Susan's conviction, the way she lived the few short years after diagnosis.  Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth, who is sovereign over all His creation, cares for the most insignificant sparrow and I KNOW He cares for me.  Wonderful assurance!

The reminder came in the first chapter of II Timothy. Paul is writing to his friend and co-worker, Timothy.  It's obvious from the beginning verses that Paul cares deeply for Timothy, he is grateful for him and gently, but firmly, instructs him on ministry matters.  Paul is grateful for Timothy's rich faith that was "handed down to him by his grandmother and mother, Eunice."  They were used by God to instruct Timothy by their nurture, their teaching of God's word and by their very lives to instill in him a deep and rich faith.  I have been concerned that Tom's wishes to help with our grandchildren's education be carried out to the letter.  That has been uppermost in my mind as I update my will.  Do what Tom wanted; make some provision for the grandchildren!  A few simple words in II Timothy reminded me that even more important than a few dollars for education is that I am faithful to God's word in my words and actions.  To help guide the children in their faith is the best I can do.  As someone posted on FB this morning, I need to be the person I want my children/grandchildren to be.

I often think about life and death, not just my own, but that of others, as well.  Why do some live extraordinarily long lives and others don't?  Why is one life sustained, another cut short?  Why did such a exceptional person like Susan die so young? Why was Tom stricken with Parkinson's? Why have I been given bonus years?  Most of us have questions. Have you ever said: "I have read that passage many times, but not until now did I notice __________?" ( You fill in the blank.)  That happened Thursday.  R.C. Sproul has written outlines for the books of the Bible for the New Geneva Study Bible that are concise and a good accompaniment to daily reading.  Dr. Sproul, in writing on the characteristics of and the themes in II Timothy, says that Paul's situation is bleak. He is in prison, he has been abandoned by friends and he could no longer  "look forward to fruitful ministry." Yet, Paul remained faithful and confident.  He knew that the One who had provided for him, rescuing him FROM death, would also rescue him THROUGH death.  Susan and Tom had been rescued, just as I will be . . . and you and you and you.  Susan had suffered a lot of physical pain; Tom suffered the loss of physical and cognitive function; health crises have been a part of my life.  Our decisions to LIVE by God's grace is something the three of us held in common. We knew God was rescuing us FROM death and that in His time, He would rescue us from pain and loss THROUGH death.  New insight from II Timothy. 

Susan's family and friends miss her no less and will always remember the anniversary of her rescue; Tom' family and friends miss him no less and will always remember the anniversary (2-7-11) of  his rescue; my family and friends continue to pray for my rescue from death.  Being rescued through death is yet to come.  Til then, I will remember and praise God for His eye being on me and I will ask God to show me how to share the best gift of all, belief in Him.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, February 01, 2014

What a week . . .

Very early morning on Monday we were on the road to Jackson for a 7:30 appointment.  It was a little foggy, misting rain, we missed a turn which delayed us, made us encounter bad traffic right outside Jackson, thus making me an hour late getting started. I always dread the process, knowing that it never runs smoothly.  But, seeing the doctor, hearing his evaluation is usually worth the wait and the frustration.  Monday was no exception. He reported that the scans (PET/CAT) showed no evidence of disease.  He was also quick to say that seeing nothing does not mean there is no disease present, but that it has definitely responded to treatment.  We discussed the immediate future and I agreed to continue treatment, as is, for three more months.  Scans are scheduled for the end of April, he will re-evaluate, and determine further treatment.  Great news! I am so grateful!!!

By the time we were on the road again, the temperature was dropping and the winter storm which had been forecast to begin Tuesday midday was changed to begin about six in the morning.  We were a little concerned for our friends, Marge and Ken from Tennessee, who we were expecting to arrive Tuesday afternoon.  They were coming to see us on their way home from Florida, traveling in their motor home.  They called before we got home, inquiring about the forecast and we encouraged them to come on Monday night, which they did.  Good thing.  We awoke Tuesday morning to sleet and snow with a coat of ice forming on the roads.  I've seen worse in the South, but not this far south.  The snow was minimal and crunchy, not soft, but the children made the most of it and had great fun sliding down a hill on cardboard boxes.  Marge and I watched from inside, visited and knit, Ken entertained children in the motor home, did things on my "to do" list and helped Tommy with various projects.  It was both a terrible time and a wonderful time for them to be here.

Today begins the month that is characterized by special "beginning" events and the saddest one of all:  Tom and I married in February, Marty was born and he ended his earthly journey this month, three years ago.  The memories are sweet; they make me smile; they make me cry.  Most of all, they make me thankful that God brought us together, gave us two wonderful children and many years together.  They give me joy.

It seems appropriate that I read the book of Philippians this morning, a book that can be described as a book of joy.  Reading it makes me smile from the inside out.  Paul rejoices in the friendship of the Philippian church members.  I rejoice in friends who know me well, but love me all the same; friends who "stick closer than a brother." Paul tells of Jesus who became a man, who set aside his divinity, took on the burden of our sins so that we could become sons and daughters of God.  Knowing that makes my heart sing!  Many verses in Philippians are in my memory bank, but these two are sources of joy:  Phil. 3:10 and 4:13.  I had not thought of connecting them until this morning.  The King James says in 3:10 something  like ". . .. that I may know him and the power of his resurrection" and 4:13 is that familiar "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  I was first introduced to 3:10 at a Westminster Fellowship retreat years ago in college.  Think about getting to know Christ, a resurrected Christ and the awesome, incredible power it took to raise him.  That same power that God used to raise Christ is the power Christ uses to strengthen us.  When you personalize those verses, the joy they bring is overwhelming.  I can really know Christ.  I can know the power of his resurrection.  My strength comes from that resurrection power!  Paul's joy did not come from his circumstances, nor does ours.  It comes from a vital relationship with God, through His Son. 

Honestly, I'm not too happy with some of my circumstances.  I hate this cancer and I surely hate life on earth without Tom.  Still there is joy because of the presence of God; there is joy in getting to know Christ more and more; there is joy that results from trusting in God's amazing power and joy, knowing I am strengthened by that same power. 

Pastor Margaret