Gulf Coast Adventure #3

DSC_0025When we returned from Houston, John had several not-too-good weeks. He was very discouraged because he had little stamina and quite a bit of pain but he was determined to exercise in spite of it.  In fact, before we left Houston and he was barely out of recovery, he’d make twelve laps around the hospital halls…that was a mile. Then when we got home, he wasn’t strong enough to walk our neighborhood…it’s hilly…but he faithfully walked on the treadmill.  Eventually we were able to walk in Angie’s neighborhood because it is flat.  And then the past month, we were able to make the trek in our hilly neighborhood.

As soon as John started to have enough stamina to walk our neighborhood and the glory of the fall-ish days arrived, his hope of going to the Gulf returned. We’d given up on taking that trip. We’d done it the past two years but he felt so bad after Houston, he didn’t think he had the strength.  But John’s theory is if he sits around until he feels up to doing ‘something‘, he’ll not get to do very much.  So almost over night it seemed, we made the decision to head to the gulf.  We packed our bags, loaded the RV,  and off we went.  I was going to learn to tow the trailer in case I had to drive, but the whole trip came and went, and I never did hop into that driver’s seat. John made it very well.  We took the trip in three days, taking our time, and had a wonderful time.

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John’s sister, Genevieve and her husband, Jim blessed us by a visit while we were there. They’ve recently moved from California to Oklahoma so what a blessing to have some extra time with them.

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I think walking in the sand is so therapeutic for John. He grew up on the beach in Barbados and the crash of the waves and the sand between his toes seem such a comfort.

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A fun day at Fort Morgan in the Mobile Bay area.

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I always have to take as many butterfly pictures as possible.

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Fort Morgan Jim, Genevieve, and John

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This is a little place at the Gulf State Park. It’s behind the visitor center and we love to just sit and soak in the sun.

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This dude was after fish.

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Isn’t this a beautiful flower? It was a climber and covered a portion of the railings at the park’s nature center.

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Fort Morgan Jim, Genevieve, and John

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Genevieve snapped this when we were fixing their burgers. We had vegan one. : )

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I love this picture of Gen and John

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One of our mornings at Cracker Barrel. We can eat the oatmeal there. : )

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If John can get to the camp ground, he is as happy as a lark. He loves his camping.

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Tropical Storm Patricia is on her way so we are out of here!

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His light always shines through the storm, always. Isaiah 25:4a For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat

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Back From Houston

It’s a beautiful fall-ish day and I am sitting out on our patio watching the hummingbirds dart over my head.  A blue-jay and a beautiful cardinal sit spying on me from their perch above the bird seed, wondering if it is safe for them to feed.

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My view from the back porch! Wish you could see the hummingbirds and cardinals.

Our trip to Houston was a tough one, but there were many precious times too. It gave John, Angie, and I time to visit.  Angie drove about 400 of the 500 return miles, and John googled iTunes on his phone for the songs he and Angie listened to when he drove her to school many years ago. She went to a private Christian school in Tulsa and their drive time took them about twenty-five minutes each morning.  He found and played their long ago favorite songs on his IPHONE, and they sang along and laughed and reminisced.  It was such a blessing for me because I could picture a thirty-something John driving his beautiful little Angie to school and them rocking out with their tunes.

I sang a long with them as they listened to “AppleJack” by Dollie Parton and “Jolene”.   I may have recorded their voices as they sang Applejack but I think I am only allowed to share it with Brett!   Such a blessing for me to feel apart of those by-gone days.

Now as I sit outside, I’m also reminded of something else God allowed me to experience in Houston.  Before we were dismissed, I realized I’d forgotten to bring a shirt inside for John to wear home. (The car was a long distance away)  For some reason, John didn’t think it appropriate to leave shirtless in his jeans.  : ) Angie had been my naviagator around the huge hospital all week but I didn’t want her to make the trek to the gift shop.  She yet had that hike to the parking garage to get the car and her knee was still healing from surgery six weeks earlier.

John had been moved the day before to the 6th floor of the Cooley Building, and I wasn’t as familiar with it as I was with where we’d spent the previous five days.  SO, since I’ve always been directionally challenged, and couldn’t use my GPS for this jaunt, I got lost.

I found myself going in circles on the first floor of St. Lukes Hospital.  I started to panic, but then felt the calming nudge of the Holy Spirt.  I felt Him impress on me to calm down, slow down, and look at the sign posts around me more carefully.  I stopped and read everything around me, and, of course, directions were clearly posted everywhere.  As I stayed focused on Him and calm, I found the gift shop. I bought John a tee shirt and headed back to his room.  It was very easy to find my way there as I let go of fear and watched carefully for the sign posts.

I’m reminded of that right now.  No matter what lies ahead for any of us, as His children, He will calm us, direct us, and take us safely thru our trials. We just need to look expectantly toward Him for His directions.  Thank you, Lord.

Houston Days

For several weeks now, John has cycled into a few days here & there of extreme tiredness and/or heart pain.  Sometimes this discomfort occurred only at night after he lay down, other times he’d feel the old familiar pain as he walked up an incline or hurried to do something. The pain/tiredness was random but seemed to come a bit more often and stay a bit longer.  He gradually needed nitros more often and we became more and more concerned.

  

  

  

  

  

  

When John reblocked in March of 2014, the doctors didn’t give him much hope of longevity.  Intimal Hyperplasia was the diagnosis, and it is called the bane of heart disease.  At that time, John wondered if he’d see his birthday that was only two months away.  We are now one and a half years from that time and John has done very well. He’s celebrated two more birthdays and I believe his commitment to our ‘no oil, no dairy, & no meat diet’ has been a part of his success as well as his faith and the faithfulness of others to pray.  

Since John isn’t a candidate for another bypass, and Tulsa can’t place stints, they sent us to these specialists at St. Luke’s a year ago.  This is our third visit here but the first time to have a procedure. So ….here we are in Houston facing John’s third heart cathe tomorrow.  It’s a scary thing but also an opportunity to grab hold of God.  We see His fingerprint in so many provisions and place tomorrow in our Great Physicians hand.  Please pray that we can leave there!  

PS. We are so thankful that Angie has been able to be here every step of the way.  Such a blessing to us.  

It’s Working!

We’ve traveled over one and a half years on this plant based diet road. We’ve not cheated much but I will admit that John had a Java Chiller from Sonic a week or so ago.  He had a wisdom tooth pulled and while under the influence of Doc-given-drugs, he begged for his old farmiliar treat.  We’d left the surgeon’s office, and dropped a pain script at CVS when John asked for it.  His asking turned into begging so I turned the car around and drove thru the Sonic drive thru.  He ate the whole thing before we got home. How was I to know that he’d have no memory of eating that sugary treat?  I had to show him the video that I filmed so he’d believe he ate it all.

Other than that, we’ve been very diligent to adhere to our no oil, no dairy, & no meat eating style.  We meet our Sunday School Class on most Monday nights at a local pizza place.  While they eat pizza, we load up on the salad bar.  It really doesn’t bother either of us.  We enjoy the fellowship but John does enjoy telling them that while they’re not looking, he licks their pizza.

So we keep pushing forward on our plant based journey and recently were greatly encouraged at one of John’s checkups. Though they won’t do an angiogram anytime soon, they do check his carotid arteries yearly via ultrasound.  Even the doctor was surprised when John’s plaque had decreased in his neck.  It went from twenty-five percent blocked to seventeen on one side and nineteen on the other. The technician wrote below it that his carotids were like those of a fifty-two year old.

img_0918.jpgIn the meantime, we’ve traveled some other roads as well.   We celebrated John’s 60th birthday(which he never thought he’d see)  And we’ve celebrated our 4th anniversary  with a trip to Eagles Nest, Red River, Tin Cup, and Lake City, Colorado.  We are blessed.  Thank you, Lord.

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Church with our dear friends Gay and Andy was a special treat.

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The pass to Tin Cup

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Lake City Baptist Church –  Gay and Andy’s Church

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The Visitor Center in Buena Vista, CO

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An unexpected sighting treat!

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A Tribute to My Sister

Lynda and I

Fourteen years ago today, my brother Jerry and I stood with my nieces at my sister Lynda’s bedside as she took her last breath.  She was only 58 years old and died from Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. (Yes, the same cancer that took Mike’s life two years later)  She left behind two daughters, two grandchildren, and a host of friends and family.  She loved the Lord and I remember her saying, “I win either way this cancer goes.  If I die, I go Home to Heaven. If I stay, that’ll be wonderful too. Either way, I win.”

I have so many fond memories of her.  She and I shared a bedroom and even though she was 8 1/2 years older, we were close.  She was a like a second mom, a sister, and a good friend, all rolled into one.

One of my favorite memories is of her banging out songs on our old piano.  That wood frame farm-house would shake on it’s foundation as she played.  AND she could really, really play.  As a little girl I’d stand on the piano stool beside her and belt out tunes she’d taught me.  I didn’t know I couldn’t carry a tune.  One of the songs I sang over and over was “Let The Sonshine In.” She made it such fun. She also gave me my love for Elvis because she played all of his songs on the piano from Jail House Rock to Love Me Tender.

And there are many other memories. There’s the evening when I was in the eighth or ninth grade that she spent the night with us and questioned me about the facts of life.  She suspected I didn’t know much and she was totally right.  It was her that educated me, because I still thought women got pregnant from too much kissing.  You’d better believe I’d never kissed a boy!

She also was always telling me jokes too.  I still remember one of them. “Pete and Repeat were walking along a bridge and Pete fell in and who was left?”  Of course the answer is “Repeat”.  She sure regretted telling me that one.  Her boyfriend came to visit and I couldn’t wait to tell it to him.  I mixed up the words though and my version was “Pete and Peter-reat were walking along a bridge. Pete fell in and who was left?”  The young man didn’t answer so I told it again and again, continuing to get the word wrong, thinking he’d get the joke!  : ).  That wasn’t the last time I embarrassed her with a boyfriend either.  When we got our first telephone, a boy called her. I answered the phone and told him she couldn’t come to the phone because she was busy peeling her bologna.

We grew up on the farm and worked hard but she seemed to always take time for fun. I remember a picnic in the woods with iced tea in a mason jar and peanut butter  & jelly sandwiches. I remember tagging along with her as she raided the crab apple tree down in the hollow in front of our farm-house.  She sprinkled salt on the sour fruit and ate it right from the tree.  I also remember her telling me if I’d take that same salt and sprinkle it on the tail of a bird, I could catch it! I believed her and that kept me occupied for quite awhile.

I remember her climbing the fig tree in the back yard and picking the figs. She loved figs. The limb broke and she crashed to the ground.  She barely missed landing on me.(She wasn’t hurt thankfully.)  I also remember once when she trimmed my bangs.  She used a razor and as she swiped downward, she cut the tip of my nose.  I cried out, “Is it bad?”  She answered, “Let me put it like this. You’ll forever be known as scar nose!”

She was the one who I always decorated the Christmas tree with.  She taught me to whip Ivory Flakes and use it for  snow. We’d throw it over our fresh cut tree that we’d decorated.  And I remember a Christmas as a little girl that I longed for a bride doll.  My parents couldn’t afford it, but Lynda found a beautiful doll.  It had movable joints but one joint was broken so they were able to purchase it for a bargain.  She made that doll a bridal dress complete with a veil.  I still have that doll today.   Another Christmas, after she was married, she gave me a store-bought wool skirt with a matching grey sweater.  My clothes were all homemade and I remember being so excited to have that store-bought outfit.  I’m sure she did without something herself to afford to buy that for me.

When we’d get together in later years, there was always a lot of laughter.  There’s the Christmas her family was visiting us in Oklahoma.  She and I stayed up late baking goodies as we often did and at about 2 AM, as she and I stood laughing and tasting a candy delight we’d created,  I flossed a crown right out of my mouth trying to get that sticky caramel out of my tooth..  It zoomed past her head and just about hit her.  We laughed about that for years.

I remember her marrying young and struggling for the next several years to finish her education. She eventually graduated with a Business Degree and then later obtained her Master’s and taught school up until six months before she died.  And let me brag a little here…she was really smart.  One summer when she was in school at Ole Miss, her husband over heard some students complaining (in a math or chemistry class) about that blond that set the high curve.  It was her. I’m so glad she hung in there and got her education because she touched many students through the years.  I admire her and miss her greatly.  She was a talented and beautiful lady who loved her family and friends.

I’ve attempted to write a story about her that is true.  It really happened this way and I wanted to get it down on paper for memories sake. It’s bit hard to follow, I know. Basically this is it…Lynda lived in Alabama and came to Oklahoma for a visit  one summer.  While she was there, I asked my dear friend, Brenda, to come by and meet her.  As they visited, they found out that Brenda had once taught at the same school where Lynda now taught.  In fact, they had both served with the same superintendent, Mr. Blocker.  This story below occurs the next spring as Mrs. Blocker came to speak at Lynda’s school. This is the ‘rest of the story‘ as told to me by Lynda.  I love to remember it. Hope you can follow it. It was hard to figure out how to write it but too good not to record.  It’s such a God blessing!

                                              A Memorial Moment

by Pam Whitley Taylor

As Mrs. Blocker shakily stood to speak, she dropped her notes and they scattered haphazardly to the floor. Since her husband’s death years earlier, she’d presented a scholarship in his memory each year at this time. He’d served as superintendent in the district for a few decades, but these students had no memory of him. To most of them, she was just some gray-headed old lady they didn’t know and nor did they want to listen to her speak. They snickered and laughed as she struggled to pick up her notes and regain her composure.

My sister, Lynda, a teacher at their school, was also on stage that morning. While someone helped Mrs. Blocker get her notes in order, Lynda quickly walked to the microphone.

“Students, I want to share something about Mrs. Blocker,” she said. ” I want you to know her fame has spread far and wide. In fact, I was in Oklahoma last summer visiting my sister(Pam). While there, I met one of my her friends, Brenda MeCuin, who is also a teacher. As we shared about our careers, I found out that Brenda started her career teaching thirty years ago right here at our Moody. Brenda was astounded when I told her that I teach there now!

“The next question Brenda asked me was did I by any chance know Mr. Blocker because  he was the superintendent that hired her.’”

“I told her that Mr. Blocker retired a few years after I came but I’d talked with him several times and heard wonderful things about him. I also told her that Mrs. Blocker started a scholarship in his memory after his death and still presents it each year at our awards ceremony.”

Then turning to Mrs. Blocker, Lynda said, “Brenda asked me, Mrs. Blocker, that I give you her love and say thank you for all you did those many years ago for her. She told me a few of those things and I want to share them with the students.”

Turning back to face the students, Lynda shared the story.  “Brenda said that not only was it her first teaching job, but she’d also gotten married that summer and was a new bride. In the middle of her school preparations, her in-laws decided to come for their first visit the week before classes started. Brenda said her mother-in-law was a fabulous cook, but as a young bride, she could barely boil water. She had no idea what she’d cook for them and was stressed about it.  Students, I want you to know that this lady (she pointed affectionately to Mrs. Blocker) surprised her and brought enough home cooked food to last their entire visit. Then later, that same weekend Mr. Blocker heard that some boys had messed up Brenda’s classroom floors after she’d spent all week waxing it and getting it ready for her class. He personally went up and re-waxed the floors, getting rid of  all the skid marks the boys had made sliding on her freshly cleaned floors. ”

“So students welcome this special lady who has given much to Moody through the years.”

I’m told that when Lynda finished, the kids were listening intently and as Mrs. Blocker came forward to speak, they clapped in her honor. They again clapped when she finished as she went directly to my sister. She threw her arms around her and hugged her tightly as she said with tears in her eyes, “You don’t know what your words have meant to me today. Thank you, thank you so much.”

I think that was one of Mrs. Blockers last years to present the scholarship and Lynda died a few years later as well.

Today I still ponder this story. I wonder what were the odds that Lynda and my friend would meet and share about the Blockers? What were the odds that Lynda would then have an opportunity to minister on that Spring day to an elderly widow in need of encouragement?  It is so like our God to orchestrate something that beautiful and so like Lynda to be a part of ministering to another’s heart.

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Marching On!

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Springtime in the Desert!

Last year, John read about a big RV rally coming to Phoenix in February of 2015.  He commented that he’d like to attend it if he felt well enough.  My son and family live in Phoenix so I thought the RV rally was something we might be able to do and couple it with grandson time too.

So in February, by faith, we struck out on another road trip, headed for the warmth of Phoenix, looking forward to grandson hugs and a tour of a few RV’s.   We left Oklahoma in a snow storm that lasted across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.  Since John lived in Alaska for two years as a young man, snowy or icy roads don’t bother him a bit.  I, on the other hand, am not quite as brave. I always hold on tightly when we are traveling such roads.  Needless to say, I was very glad when we hit the dry roads of Albuquerque.  There we met up with a grade school friend of John’s that he’d not seen in 45 years. They’d reconnected on Facebook a few years back but hadn’t seen each other since their growing up years in California.   After lunch with his friend, Glen, John and I drove on to Flagstaff and spent our second night of traveling adventure there.

We arrived in Phoenix on February 25 and attended our RV rally the next day.  That was a bit ambitious because after all the walking we did at the show, coupled with our three days of travel, we napped everyday for the rest of the week and went to bed early each night. Still, it was a lot of fun.

I’ll document some of the highlights for memories sake. My son and his family moved to Phoenix five years ago. They’d not had ‘couple time away” since that move.   Since our visit corresponded with their eighteenth wedding anniversary, we asked them if we could keep the boys so they could have a little anniversary trip.  We were excited when they said ‘yes’. They went to Sedona for the weekend, and we had a blast back in Phoenix. We took the boys to eat, flew kites, picnicked at a park or two, and enjoyed watching them play football.  And they taught us some new tricks too!  My oldest grandson has an app called Jackbox.tv that is used via a Playstation. With it, each person can use an iPhone or iPad that interacts with the TV and play games with one another.  We played one called Fibbage and another one that involved drawing.   It was fun, challenged our brains, made for a lot of laughter, and the oldest (us) to the youngest (our 7 year old) could play.

Another of my cherished memories is attending my daughter-in-law’s Bible Study on the day that she shared her testimony.  I felt blessed to sit in the audience and hear her share her impactful journey of Faith. I held back the tears as I remembered the young woman I’d met twenty years earlier.  I felt honored that I’d gotten to watch her “grow-up-in-Christ” and so thankful that I can call her my daughter-in-love.

I write this post back home in Oklahoma as I think of the fun Phoenix trip.  And I realize  next week will be the anniversary of John’s heart re-blockage/bypass failure.  At that time, we didn’t think he’d live to see 2015.  But here we are.  We are so thankful to still be on adventure with Him and each other. Thank you, Lord.  We are blessed.

PS  Maddie, I didn’t forget you.  Blessed part of our trip….the sound of your sweet little feet padding down the hall, following us to bed. You are a sweet doggie.

John's friend, Glen.

John’s friend, Glen.

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Steph had finished her testimony. Glad she thought to have this picture of us taken.

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Steph’s audience was captivated by her testimony.

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One of the beautiful Phoenix trees covered in blooms.

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Such a fun time at IHOP–a scorpion and a spiderman balloon character.(only in Phoenix would you get a scorpion) The boys loved these.

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A beautiful Phoenix sunset. We always enjoy them.

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And as we left Phoenix, we added three more National Parks to our Park lists. I've now seen 21 National Parks. I'd seen none when John and I married.

And as we left Phoenix, we added three more National Parks to our Park lists. I’ve now seen 21 National Parks. I’d seen none when John and I married.

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Another Year, More Blessings, & More Deposits

As many of you know, John’s heart re-blocked only eleven weeks after his 2013 Christmas open heart surgery. His diagnosis was Intimal Hyperplasia, which is called the ban of heart surgery.  March of 2014 was spent attempting to grasp the severity of his health situation.  We’d researched vastly already and had watched the amazing documentary,  “Forks Over Knives” before John underwent surgery.  We’d radically changed our diets after viewing that movie.  When his surgery failed, we were in shock. The Doctor’s weren’t giving us much hope either, but we continued to pray and God continued faithfully enveloping us with His Peace.

As John soaked his aching body in the tub one night,  I over heard him singing along with this Chris Tomlin song.  I was so blessed…and I think you will be too.  (It was also his Mom’s favorite song in the last days of her life.)

“There’s a peace I’ve come to know,
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

The truth of that song says it all!   As His children, we win, no matter how our future unfolds.  WE WIN! We cling daily to that truth.

In the midst of this unexpected test, another situation was also unfolding.  My mom was  loosing ground.  We were thrilled when she made it to her 100th birthday Feb 17, 2014  but we were seeing a steady decline in her memory and strength.  She was still remarkable for 100 years of age, but each time I went home to Mississippi to see her, I feared it was our last visit.  She feared she’d be bed ridden as her mom was.

In the meantime, we e-mailed Dr.  Esselstyn (one of the scientist behind that documentary) and he called us personally two or three times. We’d already cut out dairy, meat, and eggs but under Dr. Esselstyn’s guidance, we added more raw food to our diet, including six servings of kale a day.  He had us cut out nuts, as well as avocados, and fish oil tablets.   At the time we did this, John had no energy.  In fact, after he ate breakfast, the energy it took to digest the food exhausted him. But after talking with Dr. Esselstyn, we embarked on the no oil, no nuts, no processed food, mostly raw diet.   Dr. Esselstyn said he’d feel better in a few days. He was correct.  Within a few days of ‘six greens a day’ and ‘no oil,’ John felt better, much better.  It’s a tough diet to follow but we still follow it as best we can.

When traveling (Something we didn’t think we’d be able to do), we take foods in an ice chest and eat veggie delight subs at Subway or search for a salad bar or a Chipotle.  I’d say we stay on our target food 80% of the time.  Everyone who sees John tells him how wonderful he looks. : ) He is very skinny now but that makes it easier for his heart to work, so it’s a good thing.  And his Houston Dr. says “whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”  John’s chest hurts most of the time and he feels additional discomfort if he exerts more than he should or forgets to change his nitro patch but he is still enjoying life.  Often when people ask John how he is, he says, “I’m still here.”  That is what his mom said after her first stroke when asked that same question.

So here we are, John and I have made it to 2015 and it is still ‘well with our souls’.  We have added yet another new deposit to Heaven for 2014.  My mom’s Home-going occurred quickly and she entered Heaven on September 21, never having been bed ridden.  As for us, we are cautiously still enjoying life.

For each of us, as the words of the song say, “There’s a day that’s drawing near, When this darkness breaks to light, And the shadows disappear, And my faith shall be my eyes.”   In the end, for His children each passing year sees Heaven grow sweeter and sweeter.  So press on, Dear Ones.  THE BEST TRULY IS YET TO BE!

Our plant based Stuffing

Our plant based Stuffing

Our Berry Dessert

Our Berry Dessert

Our Thanksgiving Turkey!

Our Thanksgiving Turkey!

Our blessed sighting over Christmas. I had to share his Picture.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sighting seemed a gift from God.  I snapped this picture in December in Phoenix.  I love this little hummingbird.

This sighting seemed a gift from God since it was a December picture taken in Phoenix with my favorite boys.

The Memory Tree

photoThe season of celebration is here again and we’ve just decorated our tree.  It is weighted down with forty-five years of collected ornaments.

My ‘tree delight’ started when I was a little girl.  I grew up on a farm in Southern Mississippi and my sister, Lynda, who was 81/2 years older, always made decorating the tree so much fun.  My dad cut the tree from our land and once he had it well ‘planted” in an old bucket and dragged into the living room, my sister took over. She beat ivory flakes and water together until it turned to snow and she and I ‘flocked’ the tree. (did any of you do that??) We then strung our big bulbed multi-colored lights amidst the ‘snow’ covered branches and hung our few ornaments.   We finished it by draping ice-cycles all over it. Then we’d call Mother and Daddy to come see our masterpiece.  (Oh, and occasionally after the holidays we had to clean that ‘flock’ off the paneled walls because our “throwed” snow missed it’s mark.) What precious memories.

Today, my prize ornament is one from that farm house tree.  It’s the only ornament left and most of it’s paint is eaten away by both time and that ivory snow. When I look at it, it transports me back to a long ago Christmas – 1975 to be exact.  It  hung on the last Christmas tree ever put up in the farm-house.

I wrote “His Perfect Timing” years ago because I never wanted to forget His faithfulness  and I’d like to share it with you today…particularly since my mom is spending her first Christmas in Heaven this year.  I hope you enjoy the story.

His Perfect Timing

Christmas 1975  – Pam Taylor

Christmas was approaching and I’d just marked off “make a batch of peanut brittle” from my long to-do-list when the phone rang.

“Pam, I hate to have to tell you this, but I have bad news. Daddy’s visit to the doctor didn’t go well,” my brother Jerry’s voice broke as he shared his news. “Daddy has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctor thinks it’s malignant and scheduled surgery for December 17th.”

Stunned by the news, I hung up the phone as tears streamed down my face. I leaned against the kitchen counter as I attempted to assimilate the news. Daddy had always been very healthy but he’d recently experienced numbness in his right arm. My husband had a pinched nerve and my daddy’s symptoms were similar so I assumed that was what he was dealing with.

The year before, he’d retired from his lifelong career of teaching school. He wanted to add a new bedroom onto the house and that was his first retirement project. He’d cut down several trees and had them milled into lumber as he prepared to add the addition. I was so sure the hard work was the culprit of the numbness that I’d not given much thought to any other possibility so the news stunned me with both grief and anger.

“Lord,” I cried, “I don’t understand. If this had to happen, why couldn’t it have been after the holidays? Why couldn’t we have had a special Christmas? The timing couldn’t be worse.”

It was my first Christmas since I’d moved to Oklahoma and become a mom that my family and I were going to be able to spend Christmas with my mother and daddy.  I’d carefully planned every detail. We’d sent airplane tickets to them so they could fly up and see our new home. Then we’d all travel together to Mississippi in time to spend Christmas on the farm.

How quickly things had fallen apart. Chunking my once important to-do-list into the trash, I called the airlines and canceled my parent’s plane tickets. Then I tearfully called my husband. He, too, was as shocked as I with the news. He urged me to get a plane ticket for Mississippi. He’d drive down as soon as his vacation time started.

A few days later, I boarded a plane with a diaper bag slung over one shoulder and my chubby little boy, Ben, on my hip. The flight seemed to take forever. As the plane descended, I caught a glimpse of the lush green pines of Mississippi. I held Ben tight as grief washed over me and tears streamed down my face.  My shoulders ached from the stress and so did my heart as the plane landed.

“Lord,” I cried again,” why did this have to happen at Christmas? Please let Daddy be okay! Let Ben grow up knowing my dad. Let him get to do fun things with Daddy—like hunt Christmas trees.” A carousel of distressing thoughts continued to circle through my head as I debarked the plane.

To make matters worse, the Jackson hospital was almost two hours from my parent’s home. It was too far to drive back and forth, so my sister and brothers rented motel rooms the first night so we’d be near my dad. The extra cost strained all of our budgets.

“Some Christmas, Lord.”

On the second day of my dad’s hospital stay, a legislator from our hometown visited us. He was a family friend who had grown up on the farm next to ours. Preparing to leave, he pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to us.

“The legislature is officially on break now, and my two roommates and I are headed home today. If you need it, our apartment is yours through the rest of December. It’s not far from the hospital.”

We checked out of our motel rooms and located the apartment. Each of the three bedrooms had private baths and the apartment was furnished with a washer and dryer. When my sister and I weren’t at the hospital, we shopped for Christmas presents. We all took turns staying with our dad, and we shared many sweet times together, not only at the hospital, but also in our borrowed home.

On Christmas Eve, the doctor dismissed my dad. When we arrived home, someone had brought us a fresh-cut pine tree. My sister and I decorated it late that night. Neighbors and friends had filled the house with wonderful Southern food. We had a very special Christmas after all.

Today as I recall how I railed at God about his timing, I am humbled. My sister and her husband lived out-of-state and were schoolteachers. They were on Christmas break. My husband and I had scheduled our vacation time, too, because of our planned trip. At no other time of the year would the apartment have been available, nor would we all have had vacation time. It’s been thirty-eight years since that long ago Christmas, but the memories and lessons are etched in my heart. Although it was my dad’s last Christmas, he had all of his kids gathered around him as we drew close to God and to each other. And I learned that while unexpected things may blind side me, they never blind side God. His timing is perfect. (The End!)

Reading this story reaffirms to me how faithful God has been throughout my life.  His Mercies are new every morning no matter what comes our way.

 Here are a few of the memories on our tree.  The first pic is of the old ornament.  The second and third are of my daughter, Jan,  who celebrated her first Christmas in Heaven in 2006.  The last pic is an ornament I made as a young bride. It hung on my first tree in 1970 and is a pic of my mom and dad and me.   Love to you, Pam

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Another Gulf Coast Adventure

I remember the first time I crossed the Mississippi River Bridge forty-four years ago.  I was traveling to meet my future In-laws.  I tossed a penny into those ‘well written about’ Huck Finn waters as we drove toward Oklahoma.  I’ve now passed over that bridge hundreds of times and experienced a lot of living in between.

Last year John and I camped at the Gulf State Park for the first time and loved it.  We decided we’d like to make it a yearly event.  That was before John’s health took a dive. With the death of my mom and John’s cardiac situation, we didn’t think we’d be able to make the trip again.  But alas, in God’s Grace, we were blessed to do it one more time.

Hope you enjoy the pictures that follow.  The first is taken from the Mississippi River Bridge, others from the beach, and then some from our camp site.  On days that John was tired, we enjoyed sitting outside our trailer resting and reading and watching the Monarchs and other wild life.  Thank you, Lord.  Oh, and I did my shell-a-thon again.  Pictures will follow later on those treasures.

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Eulogy – Pearl Powell

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Written by Jerry Powell and Barry Powell
Presented by Barry Powell

My grandmother, Pearl, was a lady from a different generation, being born on Feb. 17th, 1914. She was the daughter of Gene and Ada Rayburn. She had four siblings; Wesley, S.E., Lily Mae, and Edna, who are all deceased. Her family worked as tenant farmers for most of her early years and on into her teens. Her dad, except for his last couple of years, did his farming with mule power. Her parents were eventually able to buy their own farm. They lived there until her father passed away. Her younger brother, S.E., was injured but survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Grandmother said it was many weeks before they knew if he was living or not.

Not long ago Grandmother was talking about the hard but good life on the farm. She said several of her parent’s siblings had better jobs and seemed to be more affluent than their family. However during the depression years some of the families lost their jobs and became destitute. At least one of these families came and stayed for a time with them. She said they didn’t have much, but even during the depression, they had plenty of good quality food.

She married my Grandfather, Sherley Powell in May of 1935, right after she graduated from High School. He had just finished college. Grand- daddy spent his entire career working in the teaching profession and farming on the side. Grandmother supported him as a hardworking housewife and mother. They established their home on a parcel of land, deeded to them by my great-grandfather, Charlie Powell. With a few short exceptions, they spent their entire married life in this home in the Improve community. They raised four children: Wayne Powell(deceased) , Jerry Powell, Linda Landreth (deceased), and Pam Whitley Taylor. My grandmother leaves behind two children, seven grandchildren, nineteen great grandchildren and sixteen great-great grandchildren. Over the years, she suffered the loss of her parents, all of her siblings, her husband, two of her children, one grand-daughter(Janice Marie Whitley), and one great- grandson, Seth Russell.

Yes, she was one hundred years old. She came from a different generation. She didn’t relate well at all to cell phones, lap tops, emailing, texting, Facebook, etc. However she knew what working in the fields was. She related well to thinning corn, picking cotton, smokehouses, outdoor toilets, family gardens, sewing, darning socks, patching jeans, and burning oil lamps. She would talk of when they first got electricity, telephone, television, indoor plumbing, etc. She talked of riding a horse to school occasionally, walking miles to school, and missing a lot of school because of weather, illness or work. Talking, not long ago, concerning some of this, she said, ” I was always behind in school”. She mentioned one particular day when it was especially cold, they stopped on the way to school; her brother Wesley built a fire and they warmed by it. When asked “weren’t you late?”, she said in that day, it wasn’t unusual for students to drift in late because of the weather. Classes didn’t start until most everyone was there.

After Grandmother graduated (from Columbia High School) at twenty-one years old, she married my granddaddy. They were married for forty-one years. She was sixty-two when he died and she spent thirty-eight years as a widow.

After my grandfather died in 1976, Grandmother had a tough time re- establishing a quality life. She was afraid to stay by herself. She stayed on the farm in the daytime and stayed nights with her older brother Wesley, who lived just a few miles away. She made extended trips to Oklahoma and assisted my Aunt Pam with her invalid daughter, Jan. Eventually she moved into a duplex apartment owned by her mother. She helped and cared for her ten years until ” Momma Rae” passed away at age 103. By herself again, Grandmother decided to move into an assisted care facility where she stayed several years until she had a light stroke. After her stroke in 2006, she transferred from Wesley hospital to the Myrtles nursing home where she lived the rest of her life.

Two things I will always remember about Grandmother is Tang and wheat
germ. Once the astronauts took Tang to the moon and the advertisements told how ‘good for you’ Tang was, Grandmother served it regularly to her family. And the wheat germ? She said you could sprinkle it on anything you ate, and it would be good for you!
She drove her last car, a 1984 Chevy Celebrity until she was ninety-two years old. She had it painted twice and a new headliner installed. When she quit driving it had less than 50,000 miles on it. (about a 1/3 of that was on it when she bought it). It was used to transport her to doctor visits long after she quit driving because it was the easiest vehicle for her to get in and out of.

Her comment every time she saw it was “it still looks good doesn’t it?”. My Uncle Jerry would frequently take the car when he visited her so he could keep it checked out and the battery charged. He knew to park it at the end of the parking lot because she would always ask ” did you come in my car?” and if he did, she would ask ” is it parked where I can see it”. Her car is still in the family. It is owned by a great-grandson. She asked a few days before she died if her car was still doing alright.

My grandmother raised four good Christian children, she was devoted to them and to her entire extended family her entire life. I am proud to be a part of this family.

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