That night, some shepherds were out in the fields near Bethlehem watching their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord was shining around them. The shepherds were very afraid. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid. I have some very good news for you—news that will make everyone happy. Today your Savior was born in David’s town. He is the Messiah, the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11 ERV

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Christmas 2013

Dear Family & Friends,

So here we are awaiting the birthday of our Savior and coincidentally the end of another year. It seems like a fitting time to reflect on the year which is rapidly closing. I will try to hit the highs and the lows; but I am sure to leave something out because the years seem to have run together.

Both Mike and Mary continue to work full time, but we do get the occasional opportunity to sneak away on short trips. From October through March we do enjoy watching and cheering for the Gwinnett Gladiators, the only hockey team in Atlanta. When work permits the girls join in the fun. In fact it has become the family tradition to attend the annual Thanksgiving hockey game after, sharing turkey and a nap. We think it is a lot more fun than the nonstop shopping that has captured so many of us.

We made a short trip to Orlando in February, to visit friends and see the Gladiators on the road. We also visited the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse. In July we met my sister Delma with her family and my parents in Daytona. We visited the Daytona Speedway and enjoyed some minor league baseball. We also got a lot of time on the beach and enjoyed our time with the family. Speaking of family, my oldest nephew Chris got married on November 9th in North Carolina; providing another opportunity to see Sarah and more of my family. On the way home we stopped off at the Billy Graham Library and the BMW plant.

The girls are doing well. Sarah continues to teach middle school in Mebane, North Carolina. While the administrators can be aggravating (I am being nice) she truly enjoys working with the children. This year she is teaching Social Studies again and is the cheer leading coach; who would have thought! Rebecca continues to work with the inventory control company. The hours are strange but the work is fairly regular. She is cutting back her work at restaurants for the time being. While she enjoys it the hours and the income are just not stable. To offset that she has started cleaning a local gym; not glamorous but the hours are consistent.

Our spare time is taken up by work at the church and with Clifton Sanctuary Ministries. Mike continues to serve on the board of directors. This amazing organization continues to have an impressive 70% success ratio while operating on a shoe string. We encourage you to visit the web site http://www.cliftonsanctuary.com and get to know them better.

Mary has faced continued health challenges during 2013. Treatment for breast cancer became the norm for much of the year. Despite two extended stays in the hospital, one in April and a second in October; she remains active and positive. Resent scans indicate that we have been gaining ground. We are truly thankful to all of you in our extended family for your prayers.

Wishing you the Peace and Grace of Christ at Christmas and in the New Year!

Michael, Mary, Sarah & Rebecca

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The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel
– Matthew 1:23

Our original thought was to mail this out before December 21st, just in case the Mayan calendar fans had some basis in reality. That date has past and life as we know it has continued; besides I have since learned that the Mayan’s had several calendars; most of which did not predict the end of the world.

On the whole 2012 has been a fairly normal year. I regret to say we have had no grand adventures and fortunately no life changing events. There was a quick trip to the Dallas area in April for the wedding of our niece, Elizabeth. That gave us a chance to visit with many members of Mike’s family while we were there. Mike and Mary continue to work at their respective careers, with the dream of retiring at some point in the future. We are hoping to plan a trip to some place new in the coming year. Perhaps we will go looking for some more lighthouses.

Speaking of lighthouses, Mike did get to see a couple of them for the first time when he went to Thunder Bay in Canada with the senior high youth from the church. We spent almost as much time on the road as we did in Canada but we did meet some wonderful people along the way and in Canada. In addition to the Thunder Bay lighthouse, see my Facebook page; we also saw Kakabeka Falls and some wildlife, including a moose. More importantly we did some wonderful service work and the kids got a look at things in life we don’t often stop to look at when at home.

While Mike was in Canada Mary and Sarah went to Nashville for the wedding of the son of Ed and Kathy Ward, friends of Mike and Mary from our student days at Georgia Tech. After the wedding Sarah took a trip to Florida with Rebecca. This included stops in St, Augustine, a visit with friends in Orlando and a baseball game in Tampa Bay. This last stop was to root against the Yankees, because everyone knows that “Jesus Hates the Yankees.WinkingSmiley

Rebecca continues to work at Cioffi’s, a local pizza place. She also works part time for an inventory control company. This involves counting things at odd hours of the day and night. Just to be sure she has plenty to do Rebecca has also started as a Mary Kay consultant. While she is just getting started we have hopes that she can get her own pink car someday.

Sarah continues to teach at Hawfields Middle School in Mebane, North Carolina. After teaching Math, she has changed to Social Studies this year. In the spring she moved into her own apartment in Greensboro. It was a family adventure to get her belongings moved from Lilburn to the new place in North Carolina. It left an empty room at home for a week or so then we filled it with stuff from the rest of the house. Although she comes home every 4 to 6 weeks, she seems to have settled in. School is going well and we are always amazed by the historical facts that her students share on a daily basis!

We continue to be active in the support of Clifton Sanctuary Ministries and their work with men overcoming homelessness (http://www.cliftonsanctuary.com). Through the first 9 months of the year they have seen a 70% successful outcome rate. If you want to make a gift that will impact a life we highly recommend you give them a look.

We hope this finds all of you well and that you are able to spend at least some of the Christmas season with friends and family. We also hope that you spend a few moments to reflect on the true gift of the season.

Michael, Mary, Sarah & Rebecca

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1:14-15

Let me begin by thank all of you voted or tried to vote during the week after I posted by photos. With your support my photo of the two red-footed boobies has made it in to the final round! Here are the details from NWF on the final round of voting; which begin on July 24th.

The top 4 vote-getters of each weekly contest will compete in the final round, July 24 – August 6. The photo with the most votes in the final round will be named the People’s Choice and will appear in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of National Wildlife and online.

I am guessing there will be about 80 photographs in the final round. you can see the people choice winners to date by visiting their web site (http://www.nwf.org/PhotoContest/PhotoContestHome.aspx?search=true&sort=VOTE_BY_WEEK). The direct link to my photo is http://www.nwf.org/PhotoContest/ViewPhoto.aspx?imageid=358645. Hope you will all be able to vote again between July 24th and August 6th. The winner will be announced on August 7th.

In addition to commenting on my photographs a number of you took the opportunity to ask how Mary is doing. It has been five years since Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. I won’t rehash the whole journey (see https://mthurmond.wordpress.com/ for that.) It seems that each time she approaches a milestone, where you could say it is all behind us, the cancer is still hanging around. Scans in late December and early January showed fluid in her right lung. Investigation (they drained the fluid) revealed breast cancer cells in the fluid. So it was back to chemotherapy.

At first the doctors recommended an oral form of treatment. Sounds easy, take a few pills and the cancer goes away. Unfortunately the oral medication had some truly obnoxious side-effects. Should have known, when the pill bottle warns you to wash your hands after taking the drug and not to let others handle the pills; we are dealing with some serious stuff. After about two weeks that approach was dropped and we went back to intravenous drugs.

She has now finished three rounds of treatment and a new set of scans has been made. The doctors will share later this week what the scans revealed. The plan at present is to do three more treatments; then repeat the scan. Each treatment is three weeks; drugs once a week on the first two weeks, then a week off. That will bring us to early September.

This all sounds rather intimidating but in reality it is not too bad. I know, easy for me to say. But really, the side effects are minimal and other than getting tired Mary is doing well. So I would just ask that you keep her in your prayer. We know you have been doing that because without it this would be a tougher journey.

Our love to each of you and your families. May the peace and grace of Christ fill your life.

Mike

December 2011

Posted: December 24, 2011 in The Journal
Tags: ,

Well here I am on Christmas Eve trying to wrap up another year on a single piece of paper. Where the year has gone I am really not sure but we must have been busy because 2011 is soon to disappear and I feel like it just got here.

Let’s start with some highlights. At the end of May and into early June I went on a most amazing trip to the Galapagos Islands. The ones Darwin visited with the tortoises. Actually there are a lot more birds there than tortoises, not to mention iguanas, lizards, fish, sea lions and even penguins. The islands themselves provide a great backdrop for the wildlife and vegetation. I am trying to put my photos into a collection of short books but if you are curious they can be found online at http://preservesoflife.smugmug.com.

The second highlight has to be that Sarah found a full time teaching position this fall. She is now teaching seventh and eighth grade math in Mebane, North Carolina. The school is between Greensboro and Raleigh along I-85/40 in North Carolina. For the time being she is living in Cary with my sister Beverly. She seems to getting the hang of it and is finding her way in a new location. She plans to move into her own place before the school year ends.

Back in Georgia Mary, Mike and Rebecca continue with life as usual busy with work, church and volunteer opportunities. Rebecca’s highlight was a summer trip to Tampa Bay with a girlfriend. She seems to have developed a fascination with the sports teams from Tampa Bay.  In June, Mary, her Mom, sister and her nephews spent a week in St. Augustine renewing and making new friends and getting lots of sand in her toes.  Mary & Mike spent a week in Tennessee with his parents and several of his sisters in July. In September, Mike and Mary joined Mary’s brother and family in St. Augustine for a long weekend to work on the house.  Then in October we got together with Mike’s when his nephew Russell got married. It was only a long weekend but it was good to see everyone.

On the whole 2011 has been good to us. We are all looking forward to 2012 and new adventures. Although there are times when it is just nice to sit back relax, and enjoy being with the friends and family that are around us. We hope that each of you is well, that you have a blessed Christmas and that the New Year is good to you.

Mike, Mary, Sarah & Rebecca

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” ~~ Luke 2:16-20

Merry Christmas

Posted: December 22, 2010 in General Stuff, The Journal

May Peace be your gift at Christmas
and your blessing all year through!

Dear Friends,

I had thoughts of getting our annual letter out early this year; but alas it was not to be. I’ll try to hit a few of the highlights from 2010. With a little luck and some modern technology most of you should get this before Christmas or at least before the New Year.

The year started off when Mary and Sarah took an 8 day trip to London. While there they visited many of the sites; including the Tower of London and Stone Hinge. They also visited with my sister, who is frequently there on business and other friends. Bought souvenirs for all of us and took in a hockey game. I believe they would both like to return if the opportunity presents itself. At the same time Rebecca got a trip to Los Angeles with her cousins, who appeared on a Disney show. She did find out that her feet and Marilyn Monroe’s are the same size, when cast in concrete.

This summer Mike went on the Great Escape with the church middle school youth. This was much less traumatic than one might imagine. I would highly recommend it if you have to take a group of 6th through 8th graders on a summer trip. In July Mike went to Costa Rica with the high school youth group. This provided a new look at Central America. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with much to offer. The trip provided a good mix of culture, nature and a chance to work with the people of Costa Rica.

Mike and Mary wrapped up the summer with a trip to Colorado. No lighthouses but lots of mountains, scenic drives, parks, train rides and river gorges. Highlights of the trip include the Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Royal Gorge Train ride. The view from Pikes Peak and the ride to Independence Pass also provide some amazing scenery. If you haven’t been, we would highly recommend that you visit Colorado, even without snow.

On the personal side, both girls continue living at home. For Sarah the last year of work on her Masters in the Art of Teaching had its challenges but by early December it was complete. Once we get the official paper work I think a party will be in order! Why anyone would want to teach eighth grade math is beyond me but she seems to be good at it. Rebecca has found a home at Cioffi’s, a small Pizza and Italian restaurant. Mike and Mary continue to work and are active in the life of our church, Good Shepherd Presbyterian here in Lilburn. On a personal note Mike has served on the Pastor Nominating Committee for the last two years. On December 5th we reached a successful conclusion to the search when Dr. Russell Weekley was called (Presbyterian for hired) to serve as the next pastor. He starts on January 2nd.

There are still a few days left to the year but so far we have not purchased any cars or trucks in 2010. That’s a first for us in a number of years. Let’s hope 2011 will be as friendly to our cars. The end of the year finds us all in good health. Mary required a second round of chemo-therapy during the first half of the year but now seems to be putting the side effects behind her. Your many prayers and thoughts have strengthened us all during this journey, and we thank God for each of you. We are optimistic that 2011 will be a calm year.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! … Mike, Mary, Sarah & Rebecca

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.~~ 1 John 4:9

Peek-a-Boo

Posted: January 29, 2010 in About Mary, breast cancer, cancer

It has been some time since I wrote with news about Mary. In fact my last post of that sort was in early May of 2008. So let me begin with a little summary of the last year and three quarters.

After the radiation treatment was completed the doctors began a time of waiting and watching. Cancer is the sort of thing that you have to keep an eye on, regardless of what you have done. Scans were done every three months and them every six months. By June of 2009 our only real concern for Mary’s health, were the bones cracked in a car wreck. Things seemed under control.

Mary had said from the start that she wanted a year of clear scans before beginning reconstruction. (Sounds more like a building than a person when I say it like that.) After checking her schedule and the availability of the plastic surgeon, we decided to start the reconstruction at the end of October. I have to say that the surgery went better than expected and her recovery time wasn’t too bad. Better to expect a longer recovery and have a plesant surprise rather than the other way around.

The fly in the ointment came when the sent some scar tissue removed during surgery out for testing. Pathology reports indicated that some cancer cells existed in the removed tissue. Not at all what anyone expected to discover. So the doctors ordered a new set of scans. Three different types, to see what was going on. Well the scan all came back clear, no sign of cancer. But there was still the pathology reports.

By the end of December the local doctors had held several conferences and consulted with a number of colleagues around the county. In the end the consensus was that a new round of chemo-therapy was our best course of action. Pathology indicates we have some low-level activity, cancer cells are active, but the scans are clear. So we believe it is in a very early stage and treatment at this time will be our best bet to eliminate it before it can become anything more serious.

At the moment Mary and Sarah are about to wrap up an eight-day vacation in England. All indications are it has ben a fun and relaxing time. No work, no phone, no doctors … no worries for a little while. She’ll have a few days to decompress from the journey and then meet with the doctor on Thursday (February 4th) to start a new round of chemo-therapy. This one will be similar to the first but not identical.

Word of the upcoming treatment has spread among the family and friends. It took the doctors awhile to come up with the treatment plan and it took us a little time to wrap our minds around it. I think we are at peace with the plan, if you can say that about this sort of thing. Even before I ask both Mary and I know we are blessed by your friendship and your prayers. God brought us through the first round and will see us through the next.

May the peace and grace of Christ be with you, Mike

Christmas Eve 2009

Posted: December 24, 2009 in The Journal
Tags: ,

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means, “God with us.” — Matthew 1:22-23

December, 2009

As we try and all congregate around the table in this busy season of jobs, parties, and gatherings, we realize more and more how there are really four adults living in our house, just in case the 4 cars in the driveway and belongings of four adults didn’t give it away.  We struggle to find a night that we are all at home to sit down and reflect on this year. We did all make it together on Thanksgiving to realize the blessings we have been given in this quickly fading year. In January we took Mary and Mike to the airport, way too early in the morning, as they once again ventured down to Haiti, on a medical mission trip; to visit with some old friends and some new ones. As many of you heard we once again continued the saga of car turnover in our household. This one was a little bit more eventful, so we would like to just say we are blessed and move on. (If you really want know, check out Mike’s facebook.)  This summer Mary and Mike also got a chance to venture out west for Mike’s dad’s 80th birthday gathering in Tahoe. They also took this opportunity to make a pit-stop in San Francisco, to check out a few lighthouses and to wander through the Muir Woods. They were able to find some wine they like to bring home and discovered some hidden treasures in Lake Tahoe to photograph as well. Mary has begun her reconstruction surgery this year which is an amazing blessing that all of you have been a part of and we are very thankful for all your thoughts, prayers, and love.

Not that Becca and I haven’t had our share of adventures as well, Becca got a promotion at work and also got to travel to Chicago and see some friends from College. Becca also is now the secretary of the Missions Committee at the church. What can we say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We also managed to convince Mike to squeeze in a small cavalier and drive to Charleston for the Kelly Cup (Stanley cup of minor league hockey) and drive back all in one day. Amazing what little girls can get their fathers to do. I also got him to go to a sunrise service on the beach for Easter in Fort Myers Florida, yea we found some hockey, lighthouses and old friends too. I also found some time in October to take a little Road trip to D.C. and Vermont.  I am happy to say I am starting my last class, student-teaching about the time you receive this letter.  That being said we want to send Happiness and Blessings to your household, our extended family. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Mary, Mike, Sarah (our scribe) & Rebecca