Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take Me Back Tuesday

Welcome back to Take Me Back Tuesday! Thanks to Kari at A Giveaway Addicted Mommy for hosting this weekly meme. Each week participants showcase our pre-digital photos. Stop by and see what Kari is offering this week and check out others who are also participating.

The McDonald Girls & Families
ca. Fall, 1994

The above photo was taken at a local church during a fund raising drive. It was the Fall of 1994. Momma was insistent that there be a picture of us girls and our families without her and Daddy. Of course, we also did one including them, but she was always the most proud of this one. I don't know why?

I am in the purple dress and that is Terry sitting beside me. Standing behind Terry, in the pink shirt, is my BIL, Dwade and behind him and to his right is my BIL, Ricky. Debra is married to Dwade and is standing next to him. To Debra's right is their son, Adam and next to Adam is Katie. Jared is the one with the silly look on his face. My sister, Charlotte, is sitting on Katie's right with Jacob on her lap. Caleb, our baby, is standing in front leaning on my knee.

As I have said, Adam is Debra and Dwade's son. The other four - Katie, Jared, Jacob and Caleb - are Charlotte and Ricky's children. Terry and I had children that never made it to this world so we spoiled our niece and nephews as often as we possibly could! Terry was an only child and took my sisters to be his own. He loved having them be a part of his life and they loved having him in theirs. I am beyond blessed to have all of them in my own life!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates.........

"Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get."---Forest Gump, 1994

And so it is. Sometimes you meditate, peruse and ponder the variety offered and finally make what you feel will be the best choice. You place the chocolate in your mouth with anticipation only to find a most bitter taste when you bite down. Then, as you chew on it and it begins to dissolve in your mouth, the taste gets sweeter. Finally, just as you swallow the last vestiges of the chocolate, it leaves a sweet and lingering pleasant taste in your mouth.

Last week, I bit down on what was and, to some degree, continues to be a most bitter taste in my mouth. I was told by my surgeon at my follow up visit that I have grade 2, stage 3-4 liver disease as confirmed by a liver biopsy performed while I was in surgery. This basically means that at least 50% of my liver is already involved and I am transitioning from stage 3 to stage 4 liver disease. Stage 4 is what is more commonly known as End Stage Liver Disease or Cirrhosis. A visit with my gastroenterologist confirmed that I am indeed in the early stages of cirrhosis.

As I said, with this first bite, the taste is bitter. It has been barely 6 months since Terry went to meet the Lord and now I am faced with this diagnosis; the exact diagnosis we heard from Terry's doctor in July, 2004. The taste is bitter.

I am back to a place of near numbness in my heart. However, my spirit and my mind are moving forward with practical decisions. This is the exact mode I moved into when we got Terry's diagnosis. The difference this time is that I am exhausted from grieving and other health problems. The taste is bitter.

This is not what I had planned for this time of my life. The grief is becoming easier to bear. Life feels good again; not necessarily happy, but at least on the way to happy. Then, to have this pill to swallow. The taste is bitter. However, I do feel myself beginning to taste the sweetness of it all.

As I was driving a few days ago, I was praying and asking the Lord for direction in all of this. In an almost audible voice, He answered me "You asked me for life, health and strength to care for Terry and I granted your request. Terry is now with me". I almost had to pull off the road as the tears began to roll down my face! Yes, Lord, you gave me what I had asked for! Yet again, my prayers were answered! The taste is beginning to be sweeter.

My family and friends have circled the wagons around me with love, support and prayers. In all my life, other than when I was with Terry, I have never felt more loved than I do at this very moment. The taste is, indeed, beginning to be sweeter! I have felt the loving kindness of God soothing my spirit as I cry out to Him. I have felt the warmth and compassion of my family and friends as they reach out to me. The taste is getting sweeter.

I know the road ahead will be filled with potholes and pitfalls. There will be setbacks and complications, but God is still in control of my tomorrows and only He knows their number. That is not my concern. Thank you Lord for reminding me of that! The taste is sweeter.

I still have moments of the bittersweet; but by and large, the sweetness prevails. Just as chewing that chocolate candy often brings little bits of the bitterness back as you chew, so will this experience. However, the sweetness will over ride the bitterness and it will seem but a nuisance in order to enjoy the sweetness.

At some point in time, just as it does for all of us, my time to leave this world will come. Jesus will call my name and I will answer that call. I'll continue to enjoy the bitter with the sweet until that time comes. Then, and only then, will I know the joy of that last vestige of the temporary sweetness before stepping into the glory that awaits me. The taste is getting sweeter!

From an old hymn Momma used to sing around the house when I was a child:

"Sweeter gets the journey every day
Serving Jesus really pays
I'm so happy that I can say
Sweeter gets the journey every day."

The taste is most definitely getting sweeter as I journey to those last bits before it's all behind me.

"I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD."---Psalms 104: 33, 34

Friday, August 7, 2009

Favorite Family Foto Friday

Welcome to Favorite Family Foto Friday! This weekly meme is hosted by Deborah at Pictures, Pots, Pens. Be sure to stop by and check out her FFFF exhibit and find others who are participating as well.

After my extended absence from this weekly meme, I am excited to be back and return to my family story!

Nellie Jane Atkinson
ca. 1900

This is my great-grandmother, mother of my paternal grandmother, Nellie Jane Atkinson. Nellie is the daughter of David James Atkinson and Elizabeth Rachel (Jane) Smith. Nellie was born on 29 March, 1881 in rural McNairy County, TN. She was the sixth of eight children. Nellie was always a sickly child, although no one was ever quite sure why. I have found no explanations for her weakness or frequent illness.

Ernest Newland with Nellie Atkinson-Newland
ca. 1905
On 15 January, 1915, Nellie Jane Atkinson married Ernest Newland in the home of her father, Reverend David James Atkinson, in Hardeman County, TN. By this time, the once weak and sickly Nellie had blossomed into a quite lovely young woman. Ernest was a man of small stature and great temper. According to my grandmother, he had a classic Germanic temperament! I don't mean to be offensive to anyone, but that is how she described her father! Actually, her words were "He was a mad German"!!!!

(L-R) Nellie Atkinson-Newland, Ollie Atkinson, Susie Atkinson-Morphis
Spring, 1915

Ernest and Nellie had six children, including a set of twin daughters, of which my grandmother was one. The above picture was taken in the Spring of 1915 prior to the birth of their youngest child, a son born in June, 1915. The picture is Nellie with her younger sisters Ollie and Susie.

Nellie died on 27 March, 1918 at her home near Pocahontas in rural Hardeman County, TN. She died of complications of the flu and was one of the earlier deaths attributed to that epidemic. The problems which had caused her so many health issue during her early life had come back after she began bearing children. Once the doctor diagnosed flu, he predicted she would die within the day, which she did. She is buried in a small cemetery in rural McNairy County, TN, which is no longer well kept or easily accessible other than by off road vehicles.

At the time of her death, Nellie left behind eleven year old J. C., nine year old Melvin, six year old twins Ilene and Vilene, Mildred who turned five on the day of her mother's death and baby Ralph (Buster) who was almost 3. Her sister Susie, stepped in to help out with the children. She and her husband hand been unable to have children and were more than happy to help.

My grandmother had many wonderful memories of the years with Aunt Susie and Uncle Joe. Her memories of her own father were much less pleasant and involved physical and emotional abuse on a regular basis. She had few memories of her mother, but did remember her to be a very soft spoken woman who loved her children with great devotion.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Talk In The Moonlight

Late last night, as I do on many nights, I took a drive around our county. I often do this since Terry went home. It helps relax me and makes me want to go home and go to sleep...well, most of the time it does anyway!

There was a full moon out...no, that's not a picture of it, but it is a stunning picture of a full moon! Last night's moon was beautifully mesmerising . I was held in rapt attention to it as I drove around. It was otherwise cloudy, but the scintillating moon had rolled the clouds from her path in order to shine in all her heavenly splendor!

Mists of fog lay hauntingly over the little valleys and on the hillsides. Deer roamed the night in search of food. The barking of dogs could be heard in the distance. I was captive to this awe inspiring dance of nature as I drove, stopping often just to sit with the windows lowered to fully enjoy the beauty around me.

I was reminded of the Scripture from Psalms 19:1 which says "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. " As I looked around the heavens and surveyed the hills, valleys, and trees around me, my heart rejoiced in the presence of a Holy God, our Creator.

As I was meditating on that, I remembered once again the days of marriage after we built our home and hand settled into the 'good' years. We worked hard all day running a business and making money to provide for our family. We were busy with our church activities and so intensely happy it seemed our life could not be better.

On well lit nights, we often walked the country lane that ran in front of our house, admiring the heavens and basking the moonlit glow of our own happiness. We walked for miles, talking and laughing, dreaming and often making plans for our future. We walked until we tired, then turned around started the journey back home.

Those were wonderful times. When I think of those walks now, I remember the pure joy of being in Terry's presence and knowing the security of his love for me. I remember the contentment of discussing our church activities and plans. I remember the anticipation of planning upcoming trips together or family vacations or even just family dinners together. Those were precious times and have left me with even more precious memories.

Those moonlight walks ended when Terry was critically injured in an automobile accident in April, 2000. We often sat in our yard at night after that and watched the stars above and the traffic passing by. We laughed at how 'old' we had gotten! Gone were the days of running here and there like hamsters on their little wheels. Our life was much slower, but still so completely perfect.

Right up until the last month of his life, we would walk out onto our front porch on many nights and sit to stare up at the heavens and talk about what lay ahead. He talked about the pain of leaving me behind. He talked to me about the practical things I would need to know once he was gone....how often to change the filter in the A/C unit, where to take the car for oil changes and tire rotations, who to call if I needed a handyman, how to turn the gas on and off for the fireplace...just very practical things like that.

I must say that not one thing has come up since his home going that he did not cover at least once in those night talks. Even though he is now with our Lord, he is still taking care of me! What a wonderful blessing! I pray that I can leave this life with as much grace and dignity as he did!

Wow! It's quite amazing where a drive under a full moon will take you! I hope you have enjoyed reading this minutely as much as I have enjoyed writing it! I continue to be in awe of God's love for me and for the the man He gave to me. I am so thankful that moving forward also means taking the memories with you. So, I move forward with my memories cradled in my heart and look with joyful anticipation of what lies ahead.

I leave you with this verse from Psalms 84:12 "O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you." The joy of the Lord IS my strength and my hope!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Katie Gwen!!!!

Katie at about age 2 with cousin Adam. "Wagging her like a cat wagging a kitten" was how Momma always described this pic!

Glamour Shot made in Oct., 1995. She had just turned 15! Va-Va-Voom!!!!!

Katie with Brian, Alix and Jaden at Momma and Daddy's on Christmas night, 2004. Brian had just returned from a year's deployment in Iraq.

Oct., 2007 in Hickman Co., TN
Just before they moved to Mason City, IA

Katie with Brian, Jaden and Alix
Summer Vacation in TN, 2009

Katie with Alix and Jaden
Blank Park Zoo
Des Moines, IA
August 2, 2009
love you Katie! You are one of the lights of my life and have been since the day I knew you existed. I hope you have a wonderful day with your babies and many happy birthdays to come! I know Brian is missing you today and you are missing him, but it's worth the sacrifice in the long run! Can't wait to visit again soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm Baaaccccckkkkkkk!!!!

Well, actually this picture was made just before surgery, but it's the best I can do for now!

I am so excited to be back! I have missed all of you so much! Thank you all for your love, prayers and support during my surgery and recovery. I still have a bit of 'recovery' to go, but I'm so much better than before! I still have issues, but that'll all wait for another time!!!! Let the fun begin!!!!!

I am so happy to be participating in TAKE ME BACK TUESDAY again!

Take Me Back Tuesday is hosted by Kari over at The Giveaway Addicted Mommy. Drop in and visit with Kari and follow the links to other TMBT offerings. I can't wait to visit each one myself!

My first offering after my extended absence is this lovely little B&W of my 1st grade class at Middleton High & Elementary School. We were so small, we didn't even have seperate schools; we all went to the same place! It was great fun for the little guys, but I'm quite sure it was a boring nuisance to the high schoolers!!!

Anywho, I am the antsy little girl sitting on the end of the second row with her shoe kicked off! That was the very first thing Momma said when she saw this picture, "Girl, you've kicked your shoe off!"!!!!! I have always HATED to wear shoes; still do! However, I have now learned they are a necessary evil for diabetics who want to retain their tootsies! So, like a good little girl, I now wear my shoes; but I STILL don't like them!

I hope you enjoyed my little photo show today. Can't wait to get around and visit everyone and see what's been going on! Gosh, I'm so happy to be back, I could smoochie every last one of you!!!!

Have a Happy Day!