2004…44 Years Old – Part A

2004…44 Years Old – Part A

Gregg and I went to PA for Christmas. In January, Mom moved in with us. We later emptied her house, storing most items in our garage, and she sold her Deltona home. Grandma and Grandpa built that house when they retired; it was full of family history, love, and memories.

In mid-January, my Dad had a brain hemorrhage. To be honest, I don’t have specific memories about it, which saddens and reminds me that our relationship was not as close as my daughter-heart wished we could have been. It also reminds me of how very, very thankful I am (we are) for Gladys and her constant love and care for Dad. Dad dodged that bullet and recovered well.

On January 26, Katie Wilkerson, an angel disguised as a Nurse Practitioner, gently shared bad news with us. Mom’s post op scans showed her cancer had become aggressive; the cancer was now in her lungs and adrenal gland, as well as having increased in her bones. Katie cried with us and reassured us that we would all be reunited with Jesus. She told us that if this was her mother, she would not “put her through” chemo. That was a hard pill to swallow, yet it opened the door for Mom to consider all her options.

In early February, a representative came to share information about Hospice. She explained that once you enter Hospice, you discontinue any life-extending treatments. After the representative left, I was taken aback when, uncharacteristically, Mom was livid saying, “she just wants me to die!” Her will to live was aroused, providing the motivation to take chemotherapy again. Mom had eight grandchildren to live for; she yearned to see them grow up.

On March 2, Mom started chemo treatments of Taxol, Carboplatin, and Herceptin. Two days later, she was admitted into the hospital for two weeks with blood clots in her legs and lungs. Thus, began a blur of doctor appointments, bloodwork, treatments, and scans, usually two or more times a week. Our traditional reward after an appointment was Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup and an I.C. Mocha.

We enjoyed visitors who returned as often as possible, including Mardi, Drajeskes, Davis’, Aunt Evelyn, and our Jacksonville friends. What a blessing!

Cocoa, Florida friends: Tom and Jean Allen, Mom, Dave and Judy Daniels
Anne Davis from Titusville with Mom
Aunt Lillian with Mardi’s girls – Jessica, Reagan and Sydney
Clark’s Fish Camp with Sydney, Mardi, Jessica, Kristin, Mom
Gladys and Dad Abell
January 2004 – Mom with Wilkersons, Howalds and Friends
Jean Abell and Martha Howald
Phil and Diane Drajeske. Mom and Diane were childhood neighbors and friends.
Mom watching from the car as Paige Murray gives Sydney a ride on her horse.
I moved to Jr. High with “my girls” in the fall. This is at the Extreme Excursion retreat.

2003…43 Years Old

2003…43 Years Old.

I’m almost a week behind schedule in writing my posts. It is no wonder. I just realized that the pit in my stomach is growing stronger each day that I try to write. Do I really have to write about these years? Can’t it have been a bad nightmare and I’ll wake up to Mom’s beautiful smile and laughter? My heart is breaking all over again. I hate this story!

As I begin this phase of the story, I feel like I’m jumping off a high-dive, hoping there is water in the pool…

Mom had retired, leaving her free to rotate time between Huntsville (Mardi), Jacksonville, and her home in Deltona. She kept up with her treatments and the doctor was amazed that she didn’t have more bone pain from the cancer.

Cortisone shots helped with her knee and hip pain. In typical Mom-style, her prayer request was, “Pray that my legs can keep up with my body.” She didn’t want to miss out on life. In July, she drove to Alabama. In August, she vacationed in San Diego with my Aunt Evelyn.

Mom casually remarked that she was “loosing her words.” She wrote an email saying, “Please keep talking to me, I can understand what you are saying.” Heart wrenching.

When Mom’s oncologist heard that she was having trouble retrieving words, he sent her for a brain MRI the next day. On September 19, Mom and Bryn heard the devastating news that there was a tumor on her brain.

Mom underwent 3 weeks of radiation. Immediately after the last treatment, Gregg and I drove her to Destin, Florida, joining the Howalds and Wilkersons for a family vacation.  Mom rented a large condo on the beach so the fifteen of us could stay together. We made special memories that weekend.

Radiation shrunk the tumor, but it still existed. On December 5, Mom had surgery to have the tumor removed. I was not prepared for the immediate toll the surgery took on her body. She was our strong Mom, a fighter, our rock. Now she was not even able to live on her own. I was grasping to stay strong for her, while reeling; struggling to hold onto hope while saying, “Thy will be done.”

Mom’s 67th birthday celebration with Orlando friends.
Sisters-in-law on vacation in San Diego, California! Evelyn Abell Goodell and Jean Abell
Chattanooga – Gregg, Erika Gyokeres, Cathy Thompson, Kristin – our friends from Hungary
In Chattanooga – Erika Gyokeres, Cathy, Ray and Jean Thompson
Timothy took our photo
Nashville – Mikel and Kathy Patterson, Chuck and Joyce Elkins, Kristin and Gregg Friend – Our wonderful St. Pete friends! We met at Elkins home for a fun weekend of eating, talking, and playing Shanghai Rummy!
Mom asked me to take her to JCPenney for photos before she lost her hair. The insightful photographer encouraged us to take some together. Even though our clothes clash, I cherish this photo!
Destin – Mom was beautiful with and without hair
Destin Vacation
Clark’s Fish Camp with Katherine Errion and Karina Drake who came to visit us.
Mom watching her boys ride dirt bikes. This may have been January 3, 2004 – on Matthew’s birthday.
Mardi came to Florida for Thanksgiving (Kelly kept the children in Alabama so that she could have focused time with Mom) Love this picture!

2002…42 Years Old

2002…42 Years Old.

As I peruse photos of 2002, my heart overflows with the sweet memories – birthday celebrations, hosting visitors, traveling, taking piano lessons, and enjoying time with family.

Mom’s health held steady, but we were in the eye of the storm.

Dana and Debbie Cherry were fellow seminary grads and wanderlusters. After they moved to Greece, we were delighted to visit them with Mom. It was special to reconnect with friends and prayer warriors. We also loved seeing portions of Greece and Turkey, a part of the world which was new to us but very old and rich in history.  

Our five-some enjoyed sitting outside at tavernas, eating, drinking frapes, relaxing, and talking. We took a short cruise to island-hop, and we drove to see Biblical areas. As we sat among town ruins, reading New Testament letters written to people who had lived there, the Bible came alive.

A day trip took us to ancient Corinth, an influential town in its time, with a busy court system. Paul lived here for a year and a half, beginning a church and later writing to them (1st and 2nd Corinthians.) Our cruise ship had a short stop in Turkey where we toured the ruins of Ephesus, a beautifully laid out city which included a hospital with a pharmacy across the street, a multi-story library, and a huge amphitheater. Paul lived there for over three years, later writing the letter to the Ephesians. We toured the island of Patmos, where John was exiled and wrote the book of Revelation. Athens, with its many philosophers and gods, was visited by Paul and is referred to in Acts 17.

We had the marvelously unique experience of celebrating Orthodox Easter in Greece. On Good Friday, church bells slowly and sadly tolled all day long. It was sobering. Saturday night at 11pm, we attended a small church service. The building was full, so we stood outside, holding traditional tall white candles. At midnight the bells began to joyfully peal, and the celebrations began. Jesus is Risen! On Sunday, we enjoyed Greek Easter traditions, including a game involving red hard-boiled eggs and rotating a spit-roasted lamb. We later found out that our “lamb” was a goat; it has more meat to feed a crowd.

Greece in the poppies
Mom Abell, Kristin, and Gregg on a beach in Greece
Formal Night on our cruise – Mom Abell, Kristin, Gregg, Debbie, Dana
Slumber party on the small cruise ship – Gregg on top bunk, Mom on bunk under the porthole.
On the ship deck – I just love this picture of Mom smiling!
Dana and Gregg next to an icon store on the island of Rhodes.
Patmos – our ship is behind us. The cave where John stayed and where he received Revelation is on the hill somewhere above the ship.
Mykonos – a beautiful island!
One of many frape stops! Sip and stir and talk and relax…
Greece – octopus drying. The date on Mom’s camera was off. This was 2002.
Picnic on Dana and Debbie’s back porch. Beautiful view! So relaxing!
Kristin on the Acropolis. If I remember correctly, I’m looking at the amphitheater below on my left and I can see the Parthenon on my right.
Athens amphitheater
Athens – Parthenon on top of the Acropolis
Corinth ruins
Taverna in Corinth
Ephesus Road – hospital on right, pharmacy on left, library straight ahead.
Trying out the state-of-the-art (for their time) public toilets.
Easter morning just after midnight – the bells began chiming to invite a joyous celebration to begin.
Kristin taking her turn rotating the “lamb” on the spit on Easter Sunday.
Mom traditionally spent the week of July 4th in Huntsville with Mardi’s family. Bryn, her children, and I joined her this year. Mardi is expecting Reagan. Jessica, Mardi, Alyssa, Sydney, Me-Mom.
My fabulous Great Aunt Lillian turned 80. We had the joy of visiting her in Wisconsin this past summer!
Bryn’s surprise 40th birthday party. Bryn, Mom, Brad.
Friends, Howalds, Wilkersons with Aunt Lillian and Phil and Diane Drajeske.
Me-Mom cuddling Reagan. Can’t you see the love oozing out of Mom?!
Kristin at piano recital after taking lessons all year with Bryn’s children. I was so nervous, my hands were tingling and I thought I’d pass out before I could get to the last note! Thankfully, I didn’t.
Christmas photo with Friends, Howalds, Wilkersons, Dad and Gladys
Friends, Howalds, Wilkersons and Me-Mom at Christmas
Mom Abell snapping beans in Markleysburg.
Gregg with his nieces, Rachel, Emilee, and Julie (and Bryn’s dog, Addy)
Mini-reunion – high school friends from Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville
Kristin Abell Friend, Carol Walters, Laurie Griffin, Linda Strianese Wood
Mom and her girls – Bryn, Kristin and Mardi
This is one of my all-time favorite pictures – Me-Mom, Timothy, and Sydney

2001…41 Years Old

2001…41 Years Old.

In 2000, internet start-up businesses were booming. Curious, Gregg found a job with one and we moved to Jacksonville. This business soon merged with another company. Through a series of unfortunate events, Gregg worked for several companies within a year.

Gregg is a loyal and committed employee; these abrupt changes were stressful. In early 2001, Gregg’s former manager from St. Pete called unexpectedly, offering him his old position. She was willing for him to telecommute. He couldn’t pass up this dream-come-true opportunity. It has been almost 20 years; Gregg continues to enjoy telecommuting for that company. I stopped being employed outside the home when Gregg began telecommuting, allowing us flexibility and more time together.

Gregg traveled to St. Pete twice a month for work. I often accompanied him but not always. On the morning of September 11th, Gregg called from St. Pete, urging me to turn on the TV. I watched in horror with the rest of the world as the Twin Towers came down. It was incomprehensible, confusing, scary, and an anxious time to be alone. I couldn’t wait for Gregg to come home.  

Mom was fastidious about regular oncology visits to monitor her cancer remission. At her 2001 appointment, her doctor told her, “Congratulations! You’ve been cancer free for 10 years! You are considered cured! By the way, please stop by the lab on your way out to have your tumor markers checked.” Oh, happy day! Sweet Momma had beaten cancer! We were overjoyed!

The lab results came back showing slightly elevated tumor markers. No worries…it could easily be an anomaly. They checked again in three months. We tried to ignore the foreboding feeling when her next tumor markers were higher. Again, they said to recheck it in three months. Her numbers continued to inch higher, so more tests were run. Cancer was found in Mom’s bones. The breast cancer had metastasized. We were devastated.

Mom was immediately put on a bone-strengthener and an anti-estrogen medication. She responded well to treatment. For two years it was easy for me to forget, I WANTED to forget, that her cancer had returned; Mom continued to trust God and live life to the fullest.

Remember when overalls were popular?!
Gregg turned 40! Celebration at our house with the Howalds
We enjoyed watching Matthew play baseball. Could he be any cuter?!
Mom Abell and Aunt Lillian Leary with her “kids” JoAnn and Jim Leary in front of Aunt Lillian’s home in Deltona.
Mom is wearing a James Avery celebration pin with 4 women on it, representing her and her girls.
Getting the cemetery ready for Memorial Day.
Night shots are amazing!
2001 – Gregg finally gets to see a shuttle launch, live! From Dad and Gladys’ Cape Canaveral condo balcony. We had gotten passes years before to see a launch from Kennedy Space Center. It got scrubbed at the very last second possible. So it was fun to finally share that experience with him!
“My Girls” in 3rd grade Pioneer Club.
This turtle knocked on our door annually for many years. He may have seen his reflection in the brass kick-plate. Phil Drajeske told me that turtles are migratory, going back over the same path each year. This guy must have been going through our lot long before our house was built in his way. He would eventually figure out how to get around the house.
Bryn, Mardi, Mom Abell, and Kristin
Me-Mom with her grandchildren – Stephanie, Alyssa, Jonathan, Sydney, Jessica, Timothy and Matthew.
Gregg and I took Mom to the NASJax Sea and Sky show at the beach where they stormed the beaches. “Patriotism swells in the heart of the American!”
Blue Angels at NASJax Sea and Sky Show on Jacksonville Beach
Naval Air Station Jacksonville Sea and Sky Show at Jacksonville Beach
Storming the Beaches! NASJax Sea and Sky Show on Jacksonville Beach
Mom wearing a James Avery nativity pin.
Christmas at Howalds
Stephanie, Alyssa, Bryn, Brad, Gregg, Kristin
Matthew, Timothy, Mom with Addy, Jonathan
Pennsylvania fun! The Howalds went to PA to ski after Christmas.
Julie, Timothy, Matthew, Gregg, Brad, Jonathan, Stephanie, Alyssa

2000…20 Years Old

2000…40 Years Old.

The world survived the Y2K computer scare. Soon after, Gregg was offered a job in Jacksonville, so by February we were living with Bryn and Brad again. They have been so gracious to open their home to us.

Gregg worked and I looked at many homes, frustrating our real estate agent. He urged me to just pick one, “you don’t have to marry it.” Easy for him to say. Mom was nearing retirement and we wanted a home that would give her the option to live with us. A home 5 houses down the street from the Howalds came on the market. It was perfect and we are still loving it, 20 years later.

I was in the middle of a Bible Study Fellowship study, so I transferred to the Jacksonville class, taking Matthew and Timothy along. They loved it! We would often meet Gregg for lunch afterwards. Matthew began homeschooling after the first semester, so it was just Timothy and me for a few years. I have cherished memories of Timothy in the back seat of my car, skillfully making up lyrics to a familiar tune that rhymed and told a story well.

We attended church with Bryn and Brad. In the fall, Gregg and I began to volunteer in Wednesday night Pioneer Clubs. Gregg requested our nephew’s clubs and rotating each year from Jonathan, then Matthew, and finally Timothy’s club. The fourth year, he moved to Middle School with Jonathan. A helper was needed with 2nd grade girls so I was “randomly” assigned. Stephanie, our niece, had leaders who promoted with the girls, building bonds and continuity. Observing the benefits, I did the same with these 2nd graders, following them through 8th grade. My life is forever enriched by “my girls.”

Budapest was calling our hearts to visit, so we planned a Thanksgiving trip. Gregg encouraged my Mom to join us and she jumped at the chance. Mom loves people and people love her; she was an easy travel companion. We visited missionaries in Hungary and Slovakia, with a stop in Vienna, Austria. Mom was sick during part of the trip, but she didn’t complain; she pressed on, not wanting to miss out on a minute of the experience. Those precious memories with Mom, Gregg, and our friends are tucked away in my heart like jewels in a treasure box.

Our new home!
Our new family room. The photo misses the teal carpet which we just replaced a year ago. The evil wallpaper is gone and many of the walls are a happy yellow.
A Hungarian friend, Anita, came to visit! We had attended her 18th birthday party at her parents’ home when we were on our mission trip in 1996.
Volunteered at the Tampa Bay Billy Graham Crusade
Budapest, Hungary – Mom Abell, Kristin, Anita, Gregg, Cathy Thompson
Budapest, Hungary – Old church turned into a restaurant. Tamara, Val, Mom Abell, Kristin, Gregg, Anita, Erika, Cathy
Budapest, Hungary – Gregg, Kristin, and Mom Abell.
Hungary – Lidia and Gabor hosted us for a delicious dinner – Cathy, Gabor, Lidia, Kristin, Gregg, Erika
Bratislava, Slovakia visiting the couple who first welcomed us at DTS – Brenda, Jacob, Cathy, Tracy with Jennifer, Kristin, Gregg and Anna.
Florida Christmas 2000 – Brad, Gregg, Kristin, Mardi with Jessica
Alyssa, Bryn, Timothy, Mom Abell, Kelly, Sydney
Stephanie, Jonathan, Matthew with Blueberry

1999 Part B…39.5 Years Old

1999 Part B…39.5 Years Old.

It is a curious coincidence that Gregg’s father and brothers died in 1990, the same year as my paternal grandmother. Gregg’s mother died in 1999, the same year as my paternal grandfather.

Grandpa Harry lived his last year or two with my Dad and stepmother in Arkansas. Gladys was a nurse and she took good care of Grandpa as his health failed.

Dad had the foresight to host a family reunion the summer of 1999, gathering family around Grandpa. We came from Arizona, California, Florida, and Alabama. It was a unique experience for Dad’s family to be together just for fun rather than a wedding or funeral.

Dad and Gladys lived on Bull Shoals Lake and had a large sailboat. The family enjoyed boating, swimming, jumping off cliffs into the water, fishing, and just hanging out talking and soaking in the beautiful view. My cousins went fishing, bringing back their catch which they promptly fried. I remember how much they enjoyed the experience of river-to-table fish.

Grandpa met Jesus on December 16, 1999. He is buried in Prescott, Arizona, next to Grandma Esther.

Gregg and I loved the St. Petersburg area. I enjoyed being close to water again like in my childhood – the intercoastal waterway, lakes, and the Gulf beaches, the wildlife, hearing wild parrots, feeling the sunshine most of the year, our cozy home, and especially our church and our friends. Gregg was thriving in his job. The main drawback to living there continued to be the proximity to family.

In the fall, we got word that Matthew, the six-year-old son of Gregg’s cousin, had a brain tumor. One weekend he was playing T-Ball and seemed healthy, the next weekend he was having brain surgery. It was a reality check for Gregg and me. I had a six-year-old nephew named Matthew who liked to play ball. What if that had been him? As much as we absolutely loved life in St. Pete, those attributes would not make up for time we were missing with family.

After much prayer and discussion, we decided to move to Jacksonville, Florida, in 2000.

Gregg, Kristin, Brad, David, Jon
Bryn, Mardi, Kelly, Gladys
Grandpa Harry, Steve, Mason, Stephanie
Grandpa Norm, Jonathan, Matthew, Stephanie with Sydney, Aunt Evelyn, Megan and Mallory, Stephanie, Timothy
Bull Shoals Lake fun!
Aunt Evelyn jumping off the cliffs! She is SO COURAGEOUS!
Cliff jumping into Bull Shoals Lake
Cliff diving – somersault!
Riding into the sunset – Bull Shoals Lake
Kristin, Gregg, Jonathan, Brad
Kelly, Mardi, Bryn, Alyssa, Stephanie
Matthew, Sydney, Timothy
Our Christmas 1999 photo on Treasure Island, Florida.
Office Christmas party

1999…39 Years Old

1999…39 Years Old.

We love Markleysburg, yet sometimes it feels like “you can’t get there from here.” Driving to Gregg’s hometown took 17 hours from St. Pete. Train travel takes longer. Flying to Pittsburgh then required a 2-hour drive or a flight to Morgantown, WV plus a 45-minute drive. Flying to D.C. or Baltimore adds a 3-hour drive. When you want to be with your loved ones, it is frustrating to invest so much time in travel.

We went home for Mom’s 60th birthday in March. We celebrated in the hospital. The doctors could not find a treatment to control Mom’s lymphoma. Rituxan was a promising new drug but it was not approved in time to help her. The chances of a successful stem cell transplant were low, and the procedure would require Mom to be in a Baltimore hospital for several months, 3 hours away from family and friends. She declined that option.

I was amazed at how Mom embraced life, despite her illness. She reached out to people in difficult situations from a place of one who understood. Mom was unpretentiously the hands and feet of Jesus. Gregg’s parents were so close, it was hard to imagine his Mom living long without his Dad. Yet, through unbearable pain, she had leaned hard into God. After the death of her husband and two sons, she had gotten remarried, became a pastor’s wife, was fighting a life-threatening illness, and was ministering to others in a loving and beautiful way.

On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Gregg received the call no one wants to get…come as quickly as possible. We hurriedly took a Southwest flight to Baltimore, rented a car, and drove 3.5 hours to Morgantown, praying that we would make it for one last goodbye. We arrived at Mon General Hospital Wednesday morning after midnight, thankful to get a glimpse of Mom sleeping. She rallied on Thursday, giving us the joyful opportunity to interact. Then she slowly slipped away. I can still hear her friend, Dottie, quietly singing “Peace, peace, wonderful peace…in fathomless billows of love.” 

On Saturday, April 24, a month after turning 60, Mom’s pain was eradicated, and our grief intensified. Surrounded by love, she peacefully stepped through the mysterious portal from this life to the next.

Nancy Friend Milliren with granddaughters, Julie and Rachel

Best Birthday Gift Ever!

3 jam-packed days, 16 lectures, 6 labs, watched demos and tasted samples from 14 different machines, (ice cream, gelato, custard, vegan, batch, soft serve…), 10 samples to evaluate in sensory class, networking with participants, eating more ice cream at The Berkey Creamery on Penn State campus = A dream-come-true best-60th-birthday-gift EVER and one very happy lady walking on Cloud-9.

Thank you, Gregg Friend, you are THE BEST! I love you! ♡

To those who have been following my reminiscing, I apologize for leaving you in the lerch. I hope to resume posting tomorrow (Monday.)

Lab time
My favorite machine!
Waiting for the chocolate to harden before starting it back up.
Just drop a package of Oreos in there, too.
This is soft serve custard with a peanut butter flavoring on the swirls and in the center. I am not a fan, but it was interesting.
Tasting ProGel flavoring samples. I went in thinking it would taste artificial or gross. I was shocked to find I really like their flavorings. Using the peach along with real fruit would make the flavor pop.
Looking down on the lab floor.
The Creamery!
Pennsylvania has three different ice cream trails you can follow and earn prizes by visiting certain ice cream shops.

1998…38 Years Old

1998…38 Years Old.

Mom Friend had a chronic cough that would not go away. Then she found a lump in her neck, motivating her to see a doctor. The family was dismayed to learn she had lymphoma. Within a few days of her diagnosis, Doug and Gina brought Mom and their daughters, Julie and Rachel, to visit us in Florida, arriving on my 38th birthday. It was a balm for Mom, Gregg, and Doug to be together.

Cancer is a roller coaster ride of hope, disappointments, good news, unknowns, bad news, and the impossible balance of being hopeful while being realistic. My heart was ripped open as I watched my husband grieve and hurt for his mother. Their core family of six was now three. Was it going to become two soon? The pain was unbearable. I felt helpless to do anything but hold him and cry, too.

We traveled to Pennsylvania as often as possible in the next year. Seventeen hours by car is a long trip and the mountains are not easily accessible by plane. Doug was wonderful at helping their mother and at keeping Gregg updated by phone. Yet, there would come times when Gregg could no longer stand being away, and we’d know it was imperative to go see them in person. It is hard being far from family; it is excruciatingly difficult at times like this.

A bright spot for us this year was celebrating our tenth anniversary in Hawaii. We had friends who raved about Kauai, so we planned to spend most of our time there and some time in Maui. In hindsight, we wish we had reversed that plan.

Our experience on Maui fed our souls – sleeping to the sound of crashing waves, gazing at the clear ocean, and our favorite day – on a sailboat. Arriving early for our Trilogy Sailing excursion, we were greeted with homemade cinnamon rolls and coffee. As we sailed, we saw beautiful dolphin, amazing flying fish, and felt the relaxing breeze. Stopping mid-trip, we snorkeled, seeing fascinating fish and huge turtles. On Lanai, we explored, relaxed in a hammock, and feasted on a delicious lunch. Our God-language is nature, so this day was perfect! We considered repeating the excursion but decided to savor our sweet memories and spend our last day reading and relaxing on our condo balcony.

November 1998 Gregg, Kristin, Gina, Julie, Doug, Mom Friend, Rachel, Bob
Mom Friend with Rachel and Julie at Blooming Rose UMC, Friendsville, MD
The corn does NOT get any better than this!!! Gregg, Doug, Rachel, Gina and Mom Friend
Nancy and Rachel in Markleysburg.
Brad and Caprice Payne in Dallas, Texas, friends from Swiss Apartments and DTS
Kauai zodiac boat tour
Captain Zodiac tour in Kauai
Spouting Horn
CZ Beach
Maui luau
Bull Shed in Kauai
The BEST day!!!
Snorkeling off Trilogy
Snorkeling off Trilogy sailboat
Relaxing on Lanai
Relaxing on Lanai private beach
Maui sunset at luau

1997…37 Years Old

1997…37 Years Old.

Our decision to leave full-time ministry after 17 months was not made lightly. It was based on how God made and gifted Gregg, which did not include enjoying managing people and events, an important skill for an associate pastor. We loved the warm and gracious congregation at Northside, and we knew that they loved and supported us, too. We appreciate our time ministering alongside them.

I am forever grateful for the support we received from the few people who were aware of our journey. John Lloyd helped restore my trust in pastoral leadership. Phil and Sue Engelman were a blessing as we processed our situation. Chuck and Joyce Elkins and Mikel and Kathy Patterson were our lifelines and remain dear friends.

We thanked God that Gregg was offered a computer programming position at Raymond James Financial in St. Pete. We didn’t have to sell our home or move, and his new job began soon after the church position ended so we didn’t have a break in income.

We found the small congregation of North Shore Community Church to be a safe place where we began to heal. Karina and Howard Drake led a small group, folks who supported each other through joys, sorrows, struggles, and victories. Gregg and I were soon to have more heartache and this group held us close. Karina encouraged us to join the worship team. It was refreshing to be involved in a ministry which neither of us had ever participated nor dreamed we would participate.

Mom Abell lived in Deltona, halfway between two of her three daughters.  Mom would alternate weekends spending time with friends or family, visiting us once a month. She loved well, embraced life, and was always up for an adventure.

At 61 years of age, Mom eagerly took a rollerblading class with Gregg and me at Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure, “Where Outdoor Fun Begins.” Wearing full protective gear, we learned a new skill, surviving the day, unscathed. The memory makes me smile. Gregg and I subsequently bought rollerblades and enjoyed God’s beautiful creation along the miles of Pinellas County trails.

Rollerblading class. I can’t put my hands on a picture of Mom, if I do, I’ll post it at another date.
Dad and Gladys visit us in Pinellas Park at Christmastime.