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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!

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Hope, Loss, and Abortion

We had only been married eight months when we learned that we were expecting our first child.  It was joyous news for us and the excitement, along with trepidation, was a bit overwhelming.  Our trepidation came from my being a Type 1 Diabetic — we knew from the get-go that it would be a high risk pregnancy…yet still exuberant joy out weighed the fear!

After four short weeks of excogitating hope, came despairing grief!  Our dreams were violently shattered and our future looked so dark.  How?  How could One hoped and dreamed for be taken without notice??  I didn’t know what color eyes or hair the baby would have???  Who would he or she look like????  Would he be a doctor or lawyer or a preacher??  Would she find the cure for cancer, dance in the ballet, or live her life on a foreign mission field?  We would never know…”the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be His name!”

Our baby’s generation was now down one — God had other plans…it was His decision and not ours…and He didn’t even consult with us.  His will was perfect for our child and for us!  What of those who have been snuffed out of a mother’s womb violently, viciously, and saddest of all intentionally!?!  What of those who were taken without regard for God’s will?

Ravi Zacharias once said:

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. Not only does sin have consequences, but also each time we sin, we reinforce a pattern that becomes harder and harder to break.

Abortion is not a “new” thing in this ole’ sinful world.  It has been taking place for centuries.  However, the legalization of abortion is new!  The sins of the father and mother can now be extinguished in a matter of minutes under a “doctor’s” murderous greed.  An innocent child can be visited with horrendous sin before the first breath is drawn, and all because a woman should have the right do what she will with her own body…irrespective of God’s will!

Yet, all of this is at what expense to a generation or God’s sovereign plan?  According to the World Health Organization (“WHO”), every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. In the USA, where nearly half of pregnancies are unintended and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion [1] , there are over 3,000 abortions per day.  http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/

Re-read those statistics!  FORTY to FIFTY MILLION abortions WORLD-WIDE!  In the US, four in 10 pregnancies are terminated by abortion!  This is staggering!!  Out of 40 to 50 million babies, how many preachers, scientists, or doctors did we allow to be murdered?  Consider the ramifications if Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Alexander Fleming (discovered Penicillin), Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best (discovered insulin), or Marie Curie had all been aborted?!

We have sanctioned the death of the unborn child!  Now Ireland is going to jump on board, “come forward in society,” and legalize the wanton murder of their unborn children too!

http://www.lifenews.com/2018/05/25/exit-poll-claims-ireland-votes-to-legalize-abortions-up-to-6-months-overturn-legal-protections-for-unborn-babies/

What are we doing???  How can we sacrifice our children so that a woman (of which I am) can have the “right” to do with her body as she wills?  Who have we killed??  What of God’s will??  What of God’s image — after all, Scripture says that we are created in His image?

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Sin has taken us very far — it has ushered us even closer to the gates of hell.  May God have mercy!

* If you are expecting and have found yourself with an unwanted-unplanned pregnancy, there is hope and help!  You can find a Crisis Pregnancy Center by doing a search on the internet and they will provide for you a free pregnancy test and in some cases a free ultrasound, along with resources to help you make the wisest decision for you and your baby.  If you would like more information and cannot find it for yourself, please send me an email or private message on Facebook and I will help you find a Crisis Pregnancy Center in your area.  God loves you and has a plan for you and your unborn child.  Hebrews 13 5Blessings!

 

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Race Cars, Dirty Socks and a Multitude of Blessings

race car

As I rushed about picking up HotWheelsLegos, and Rescue Heroes, I lamented that supper was boiling over in the kitchen, the floor still needed to be vacuumed, and my dear husband would be home in twenty minutes!  I felt rushed and exasperated, after bolting through the door, with my son in tote after work.

It was already six-o’clock and there were still baths to take, a puppy to feed, and stories to read.  Also, was a plethora of work that I brought home from the office and I fretted how I would get all of that done and still be able to spend time with the love of my life.  I do not think the Good Lord was remiss in giving us wee ones in our younger years — we might not have all the wisdom we need at that time…but thankfully the energy was plenty.

I have watched my sweet, toe-headed boy grow into a fine young man.  We’ve been through health scares, AWANA Derbies, Upward Basketball, first love letters, heart break, and now we approach high school graduation.

Joshua and Mommy32545778_10156444146419452_6194215981913473024_n

Often, in the hurriedness of life, we get so caught up in the messes our children leave…we step on Legos and mutter under our breath at the audacity of him leaving it on the floor and the death-defying pain we think will never go away.  I cannot name the times my husband has found a stray HotWheel (stumbling in the dark barefoot) without yelling the promise that they would all go in the trash the next morning!  Of course by morning’s light the pain was gone, as too the memory!

Eighteen years later, as I fumble through boxes that have been stuffed with yesterday, I think on this man-child and wonder how life would have been so different without him.  A miracle after lost babies…an unexpected and abundant blessing from the Father…I am grateful for the roly-poly Rescue Heroes gripped in chubby, dimpled hands…for the sweet call, “Mommy, tell me a story!”  I remember the sleepy, fresh-bathed, sweetness that would climb in my lap before bedtime and beg…”Mommy, rocka me.”

Oh, that we could suspend time in a bottle or spin the world back around — that weed-flowers could be gilded, and the words, “I love my Mom and Dad” written in an un-mastered penmanship in a secret book could be captured for all eternity, or the surprise of a “love letter” from a blue-eyed angel expressing his innocent love for me and the sweet sentiments written in a Daddy’s Bible to encourage and edify the man whose shoes he wants to grow into.

I am grateful for the years and wish for a million more!  He’s a man — raised according to the Lord’s will…the best I knew how!  Gone are the nights of crying myself to sleep and feeling that I had failed.  There will be no more spelling tests, or math quizzes, or book reports to grade.  The little boy who would lay his head on my shoulder while listening to the pastor preach is now headed for his own pulpit…his own little boys…his own harried, wonderful life.

Now, I get the added blessing of wisdom with my years — the hope for a daughter-in-love and my own sweet grandbabies one day.  However, I will never forget the young girl who brought home a baby and prayed “Hannah’s Prayer” with all the trepidation and fear that she would somehow “mess it all up!”  God was faithful to that young girl and raised up a man that will serve him and make disciples and this now older mother smiles and thanks HIM for His faithfulness!

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.” The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.” (1 Samuel 1:19-22)

Being a mother is both exhausting and rewarding, but it truly is the most important work we can do as women…that God would trust me with that precious soul will never cease to amaze me!  Thank you, Father!

 

 

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Tenderly Seasoned — A Prescription for Marriage

When he proposed to me, we’d only “known” each other a short month-and-a-half. We met on America Online, in the Focus on the Family chatroom — he was handsome enough, he was kind and gentle, he said all the right things, including that he was a follower of Christ Jesus — he seemed quite perfect — except…HE.WAS.DIVORCED.

The divorce was not his choice…he knew it was not God’s will for he, nor his ex-wife…there were children…four boys. She “met someone else,” she no longer loved David, she wanted to “move on!” He fought, he tried, he sought counseling…it failed. No…not God’s will or God’s best for either of them.

“Tameasa, will you marry me?” God’s best…was it God’s will and best for me to marry this divorced man with four boys?” What about what I thought was God’s will for me…after all, I was certain I had it all figured out…I was certain God put me on a certain path…law school…mission field…hostage negotiations for a mission board…none included a divorced man, that I had not even met in person yet, with four young boys? God answered quickly — “Yes, David, I will marry you!”

Date

Twenty-one years later, as I am going through boxes that have been packed away since 2007, when we bought our new house, I find “artifacts” from 2000…just four months after our son was born…ok…maybe not “artifacts,” but rather treasures. An envelope containing beautiful, sun-kissed, blonde hair from our son’s first haircut, the menu from our first, face-to-face date that Dave’s mother got for us when the restaurant shuttered its doors, and a calendar…and that’s the “tenderizer” I found in our marriage.

In the calendar, I was reminded of the love “notes” we would leave to one another each month. Tender words to remind us that regardless of how hurried life gets…no matter the struggle with blending a family…the health issues that were arising in me after the birth of our son…in the “daily-ness” of life we were reminding each other of our love!

Some of the notes are sappy-sweet, some are flirty, and some beckon attention…all are promises…promises of continued love…continued understanding…continued commitment.

Calendar July

Promises — not the world’s standard of promises…the world’s promises say, “If we aren’t happy, we can find someone else!” Oh, but a COVENANT! A Covenant assures that both of us will honor, obey, and serve God first. A Covenant assures that outside of Christ Jesus our marriage can only fail, as it depends on us…not Christ. A Covenant loves sacrificially…always putting the other before ourselves.

We recognized immediately that we had not entered into a marriage contract, but a Blood Covenant with Christ as the head. Our marriage was a mirror image of all that we were in Christ. We knew that if we always put Christ at the head…He would also be our safety net. If we were upset with another, we could go to Christ…if we had a problem we didn’t know how to solve, we could go to Christ…if we needed wisdom in raising our son, we could go to Christ…if we needed more love and understanding, we could go to Christ…if finances proved to be challenging, we could go to Christ…and we did!

Being in a Covenant with my dear husband has honestly taken off the pressure we see in other marriages. As we rest in Christ, we rest in the assurance of each other.

So, what Scriptures do we apply to our marriage that keeps our focus on Christ and not on the troubles of being completely human? First, and most important, Ephesians 5:22-27:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

 

Second, Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Third, Ephesians 4:26-27:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

And, fourth, Proverbs 151:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

After twenty-one years together, we’ve learned many ways to apply the above-referenced Scriptures. Marriage is work — however, it is the most intimate relationship that God gives us. We laugh, we cry, we work, we hurt, and we LIVE…together in Covenant…and that is what makes a Tenderly Seasoned marriage and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

Dave and Tam at ballet

 

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When Life Goes On and You Are Left

The journey had already been long, my legs were swollen and hurting, and we still had another five hours to go.  We all needed a break, including the dogs and so we stopped just west of Tallahassee to stretch our legs, all 14 of them, and use the restroom.

As I waited patiently for my husband and son, I gazed at the traffic whizzing by on I-10 — everyone in a hurry to their final destinations — preoccupied minds and hearts — all important.  Tears began to stream down my cheeks and I screamed in my heart and mind — loudly, I screamed — “STOP!” “Do you not see that she is gone?  Can you not see the hole left in my soul?”

Wanda 1

I begged a silent prayer, “Lord, please let the world spin back around — just this once, please?”  As my heart cries out all of the pain and missing and aloneness that it feels at that very moment, God softly speaks:

Tam — how far shall I spin the world back around?  Shall I go back a few months, a few years, a few decades?  For how long shall I suspend it there?  What will you do, say, or experience that I did not give you opportunity in the first rotation??  You, see, Tam — to spin the world back around will not buy you more opportunity — it will just prolong your grief.  Time cannot stand still — not even for love.  Then I remember James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Lord, I understand — it’s just…that…” and my lip quivers and my heart heaves and I cannot speak and He says, “I know…”

I believe Him — I trust Him — I will find a way to rest in Him…in this world where grief grips and life goes on and we are left…BUT GOD does not leave, nor forsake, nor abandon.

I then realize that He gave me earthly relationships to teach me (and you)  — that when (not if) loved ones die and we grieve, we can learn to trust Him deeper and better and more deliberately. Then we can love each other deeper and better and more deliberately.  We can do this because Jesus is acquainted with our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3, “ He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”) and when his friend, Lazarus, died, it simply states, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).

Oh, what a Savior!  Oh, what a Friend!