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Twenty-One Junes and No Refunds

It is difficult to wrap my head around twenty-one Junes!  Twenty-one Februarys ago he said, “I’m starting to think of you as more than a friend!”    Twenty-one Marches ago, over a long distance telephone call, and still having not met face-to-face, he POPS the big question, “Will you marry me?”

We stood before the Clerk of the Court in Orange County, Florida twenty-one Junes ago and committed our lives to one another!  I said, “I will!”  I was frightened and far away from home, standing in front of a Clerk I had never met, telling this man that I would be his for life.

Dave and Tam before Clerk

“No refunds!”  We didn’t even realize that sign was there until we got our photographs back from our friend who was there to memorialize this day in our life.  Looking back, I don’t think it would have changed our minds or hearts.  I have learned one thing for certain, you cannot refund twenty-one Junes!

In those twenty-one years there has been the birth of a son and the death of parents and grandparents.  We’ve moved three times, bought a house, and our son is now a high school graduate.  We’ve buried cats, dogs, and fish!  There have been hospital floors paced and grieved hearts.  I can still hear the echoes from basketball games, Cub Scout meetings, and birthday parties.

You cannot refund Christmas Trees and Christmas morning happiness, as colorful paper lays scattered on the floor or Turkeys cooking in the oven and permeating the house with simple love.  How can you possibly refund eyelash kisses, skinned knees, and new bicycles!  You cannot!

However, how do you limp through hurt feelings and thoughtless words — how does twenty-one years survive pain?  It is through covenant!  David and I stood before that Clerk — two Christ-Followers committing to a life time of  laughter, tears, love, hurt, and sometimes pain.

We had indeed, as Scripture declares, become one flesh!  He became mine and I became his…in covenant with God the Father!  We not only believed there could be no refunds, but we committed to no refunds…even when a refund seemed warranted.

Marriage is a commitment of work!  Some days love comes easily and others it is chosen and worked for — amidst heartache, financial struggles, death, and pain!  I chose, in covenant, to love my husband on days that I didn’t like him very much and he probably felt the same way — we still loved.

We are not the young man and young woman that fell in love twenty-one Junes ago…no, not at all.  We are grafted onto each others hearts — one thought and heart much of the time…and while our relationship has grown deeper and sweeter with each other, it has also matured in our fellowship with Christ.

Twenty-one Junes ago, I married the man who would make me laugh, make me angrier than I’ve ever been, make me cry and then dry my tears.  He has held my hand and steadied my thoughts…he balances me.  He is my best friend and my only lover!  We are one because twenty-one Junes ago we trusted the Lord and stepped out into a journey that would last a lifetime.

I never want a refund!  Happy twenty-first anniversary to the love of my life!

Dave and Tam at ballet

 

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Hope Amidst Fear — Politics Aside

If you are following the news channels even a little bit, you cannot miss the politically charged atmosphere that is permeating our amazing country!  The hate and venom that is being spewed between political parties is unlike anything that I have ever seen before and I fear that it will only grow worse.

The venom spewing does not stop with political candidates alone…no, families and friends are, too, being divided and horrifyingly, lives are being threatened.  A country that was attacked on 9/11 and came together in love, oneness, and patriotism is now threatening each other lives.  How did we get to this place??

Well, that is probably an age-old question which has been asked by countless generations before us!  Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego being captured in Jerusalem and taken to Babylon, Herod’s slaughter of thousands of children in Bethlehem, Nero’s rule of terror over Rome, or the annihilation of more than 600,000 Jews at the hands of evil Nazis.

I can imagine that as allied forces invaded Germany, then made the German citizens (who had turned a blind eye to the death camps) help bury the countless bodies of the dead, left to rot, they must have asked themselves, “How did we get to this place?”

I have to admit that this girl, born to sin and death, but Saved because of HIS Righteousness, while trusting in her sovereign, heavenly Father, is in fear!  I used to fear Russia or China or North Korea launching a nuclear bomb at us!  The fear that I have now is far more real.

My fear is that my family and I could be harassed (the least of my worries), barred from patronizing restaurants or libraries, or any other establishments, attacked physically, or killed because we are conservative Christians who believe the truth of God’s Word and practice it!  Yet, as I write this blog, I’m reminded of countless others who died for and because of their Christian faith:

  • Stephen — a disciple of Jesus, stoned to death for his faith in Christ and preaching of the Gospel;
  • Peter — a disciple of Jesus, crucified upside down for his faith in Christ and preaching of the Gospel;
  • Polycarp — burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor sometime between 155 — 167 AD;
  • John Wycliff — not specifically martyred, but persecuted then after his death his body was exhumed and burned with many of his writings;
  • John Huss — Huss was martyred on July 6, 1415. He refused to recant his position of the charges that were brought against him. On the day he died he is said to have stated, “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.”
    Read more: https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-famous-christian-martyrs/#ixzz5JTXoEJ1N 
  • William Tyndale — choked to death and then burned at the stake for translating the Word of God; and,
  • 90,000 Christians in 2016 killed for their faith in Christ; Read more: http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/01/01/report-90000-christians-killed-faith-2016/ ).

The list goes on and I have only included a few.

However, and in my fear, I have not waned in the Hope that I have in Christ Jesus and would gladly give my life in His service.  Additionally, and because of my love for Christ and the command that He gave to us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

Jesus said that all people will know that we are His disciples, if we love one another!  This is exactly why we cannot respond to those who would hate us in the same way.  We must love them!  Jesus commanded it!

It is so easy to spew the same venom when we are hidden behind a computer screen!  I challenge you to stop with the political memes, political correctness, calling out those who believe and act differently than we do.  Jesus was clear in His command and we can trust that when we are obedient, they will know us!

The world and our culture is changing more rapidly than probably any time in history, but we are not a people without Hope!

 

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Blessed Beyond Abandonment — Gazing into the Lord’s Looking-Glass of Father’s Day

My mother was a young 17-years old when she gave birth to me.  She was married to a young man by the name of Edward Lewis Allen.  He wasn’t much older than she, 19-years old.  By the time I was 15 months old, she had another baby girl and he was gone.

Momma and Eddie 1965 2 corrected

All I know about Eddie (that is how my mother and family referred to him) is that he was a smooth talker, handsome, and a thief.  His mother stayed active in my life until her death when I was 13-years old.  She was kind and seemed to care for my sister and me.  While Eddie was around me as a baby some, he has never seen my sister.

My momma moved on with her life…she lived with her mother (Grandma Keen), worked at Phillip Morris, and learned how to become a strong woman.  I can only remember being abundantly loved by my Grandma Keen and a plethora of aunts and uncles, who took as much a part in raising us, as my momma.

It didn’t take too long before she would meet another man ten years older than she and by the age of 21 they were married and we, my sister and I, came face-to-face with God’s mercy and were given a Daddy, James Edward Shook!

Momma and Daddy

At the tender age of 4-years old Jim (as the family called him) legally adopted by my sister and I, and my momma adopted Jim’s two children.  We were now a family of six learning to navigate the “blended family life” and through it all learning that we belonged together.

Shook Family

My oldest adopted sister and brother along with my youngest sister all know the sting of abandonment, as our biological mother and father, respectively, signed us each away to another mother and father.  There are a multitude of words they each could have signed on the signature line, “I don’t want you,” “I don’t love you,” “You are worthless,” or “I have other plans that don’t have room for you.”  However, they signed their names…but the story doesn’t end there.

There are three more signatures on those adoption papers — James Edward Shook, Ginger Joy Shook, and the judge who approved it.  Jim and Ginger’s signatures probably could have been interpreted, “You matter to me,”  “I love you,” “I will care for you,” or “I have plans that cannot go on without you.”  As for the judge, his might read, “I find this right and good,” “These kids are going to be blessed,” or “This is the best that can happen.”

However, the most important signature of all is God’s!  He saw a little girl (along with three others) that He loved abundantly and He provided her/them with the best father they could have.  While an earthly man would choose to abandon God doesn’t abandon.

God’s love for us all goes beyond our momentary choices and thoughts.  Through the corridor of time, pain, sin, and abandonment God provided first an earthly Daddy and then, and most importantly, an eternal provision through His Son, Christ Jesus.

I will never know why Eddie decided to allow me to be adopted by Jim Shook.  I will never know why he didn’t care for or love me.  I also will never know why he made so many wrong choices for his own life.  What I do know is that I am grateful to him for giving me life and then giving me hope through a Daddy who could care for me the way a Daddy should.

Today, on the Father’s Day (2018), I am thankful for Eddie Allen and Jim Shook — two men who were equipped differently in navigating their own lives.  God, in his sovereign love, gave them both to me and that is a gift.  It is a gift wrapped up in mystery — yet an amazing gift.

I’ve written this because Father’s Day is not always easy or simple for a lot of folks.  Maybe you’ve had a Father who chose to abandon you or who was abusive and mean to you.  I am sorry.  I am sorry for the hurt you may be experiencing on this day where most everyone is celebrating their Dads.

Also, to those whose Dads have passed away…I grieve with you, as my Daddy (Jim) has passed on, as well.  Father’s Day is always a painful reminder that I cannot tell him how much I love him.  I pray your Dad’s memory will be a blessing to you this day.

Regardless of the role your Dad played in your life, God has promised that he will never leave you or forsake you.  I pray that if you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior you will rest in that promise.

However, if you’ve never repented of your sins and followed Jesus, I invite you to reach out to me so that I can show you how you can know Him.  He is our Heavenly Father who will never abandon you.  That is a promise with certainty!

Happy Father’s Day!