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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!

 

 

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A Study in God’s Faithfulness as Witnessed by Abraham and Isaac

Dave Cotton
Genesis 17 through 22

In reading and studying Genesis 17 through 22, God began to reveal to me a few of the reasons that He not only asked of Abraham what He did, through Isaac, but also what lessons He wanted me to learn, as well. Therefore, I am sharing my raw analysis with additions in the future, as God reveals more lessons to me.
God told Abraham to make Isaac a burnt offering:
He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)

Upon asking Abraham to do (what I would think is cruel and unthinkable), God knew the following:

1. Isaac is His promised son to Abraham;

The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. (Genesis 21:1-3)

2. Out of Isaac would come God’s covenant, which is everlasting;

God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (Genesis 17:19)

3. According to God, Isaac is Abraham’s only son. Notwithstanding his promise regarding Ishmael;

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)

4. Abraham loved Isaac.

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)

Abraham’s Response to God:

1. IMMEDIATELY:

Abraham did immediately what God asked of him.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:3)

2. DELIBERATELY:

He took Isaac, servants, wood, and a knife and they went together.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:3-6)

3. CONFIDENTLY:

When Isaac asked Abraham where the Lamb was for the burnt offering, not realizing that he himself was the sacrifice, Abraham told him confidently that God would provide.

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:7-8)

Yet, with all of this, the question remained in my heart, “But why, God??” So, here are my thoughts on the “why!”

God was teaching Abraham about His own sovereignty and sufficiency!

1. God is all-sufficient:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless… (Genesis 17:1)

2. God is the Covenant-Maker:

…I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. (Genesis 17:2-22)

3. God is the Covenant-Keeper:

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis 21:5)

4. God will ask us to do difficult things:

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. (Genesis 22:2)

5. God will always provide:

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:13)

6. God will bless obedience:

I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:17-19)

Application:

I am to trust God’s sovereignty and sufficiency in all things, even when I don’t understand, I am to obey Him — Immediately, Deliberately, and Confidently — for He is the Covenant-Keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Buttons, Sears Roebuck, and Apron Pockets

buttons

 

When I was a little girl, I would spend a couple of weeks each summer with my Grandma Keen in Richmond, Virginia.  I always looked forward to these visits with great anticipation!

Momma would pack my suitcase and we would start for our journey to Grandma’s house.  The ride there always seemed so long, as I peered out the window and watched pastures meld into concrete and sidewalks.  My exhilaration was almost more than I could contain and I would pepper Momma with thousands of questions.  If she ever grew tired of my incessant talking, she never let on.

Grandma would be waiting at the front door with her hair pulled into a bun and her apron donned.  I can smell her now, as I remember, Oil of Olay –she was all of 4’11, pudgy, and had skin as soft as Rose petals.  Her apron pockets stuffed with Kleenex and her rocking chair full of love.

GLADYS KEEN AND CHARLOTTE MITCHELL

There were two very special things that I enjoyed when I would go to visit Grandma…pulling out the coffee tin of buttons and retrieving last year’s Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogue she saved for me to cut out paper dolls.  I would spend hours on the floor with those buttons of all shapes, colors, and sizes — placing them into “families,” giving them voices and personalities — pretending they were old friends that I had not seen in a very long time.  Grandma would also give me an old shoe box that would serve as a home for my cut-out paper dolls — oh the wonderful outfits they would wear!

Sears Roebuck

When these memories came flooding over me a day or two ago, I realized that we no longer live in a place of such simplicity and innocence.  Gone are the days of coffee tins full of buttons, Sears Roebuck catalogues, and apron pockets stuffed with Kleenex.  We live in a throw-away society that has neither time nor inclination to save and replace buttons — if we lose a button, we just go out and buy a new blouse!  We no longer need a Sears Roebuck catalogue to shop with or cut out paper dolls because we have Amazon!

The simpler times — the coffee tins and buttons — taught us lessons of redemption!  They taught us to mend — not just blouse buttons, but relationships.  We harbor unforgiveness in our hearts — you know the old saying, “Burn me once shame on you; burn me twice shame on me.”  That is not what Jesus taught:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22

Does that mean we are to forgive them 490 times and then after that we’re done?  No!  Jesus was not telling us to forgive them a certain number of times, but over and over.  I know what you’re thinking, “But, you don’t know what they did to me…you don’t know how many chances I’ve given them…you’ve never been hurt or betrayed or used like I have!  Certainly, Jesus didn’t mean for me to keep being a ‘doormat’ or be used in such a way!  No, way!  I’m done with being treated like this or that and I won’t be a fool!”

Well, beloved, He most certainly did mean it and not only did He mean it, He demonstrated it by dying on the cross of Calvary to redeem us.  He, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might be forgiven.  We are redeemable — and for me, sometimes, that is hard to swallow because I know the wretchedness of my heart.  I praise His name for redeeming me — for not casting me aside as invaluable or useless to His Kingdom.

I will always remember the love of our Redeeming Savior when I see a mess of buttons or an old Sears Roebuck catalogue, or even a picture of my Grandma in an apron with pockets stuffed with Kleenex and the lessons God taught me on her parlor floor!

 

 

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Resolute Obedience

Happy New Year and a Joyous One!

Each year about this time, we all start making our “New Year’s Resolutions” to only find out by February 1st that we kept maybe a handful of them and those aren’t holding up to well either!  I know that I can be the first to raise my hand and keep it raised.

As I pondred this perpetual dilemma that I face each year, I asked the Lord, “What can I do differently this year?”   Honestly, the answer didn’t come as an epiphany to me, but a gradual answer that He has been giving me for months.

…and, so, out of resolute obedience to Christ — here are my intentional goals for 2018:

  • Obey Christ…even to the point of death;
  • Be delibierate in all that I do in Kingdom Work;
  • Live authentically before God and others;
  • Be and make Disciples;
  • Give more than I take in all things;
  • Daily die to self — Christ FIRST…me last;
  • Be Jesus’ hands and feet;
  • Be more tender-hearted;
  • Put on Christ Jesus!

Resolutions are so easy to break — mostly because they are only made to ourselves.  However, to commit to Christ my all — well, I don’t want to EVER fall short in my commitment to HIM.  One day we will have to make an accounting for our works and that we were faithful in all that He asked of us, and I want to be found faithful in all things.

My prayer for you this coming year is that you will be obedient, intentional, and authentic in your relationship with Christ and with others!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12-21)

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The Aroma of Christmas the Essence of Love

Jim & Ginger Shook Family

Christmas Eve always began with the hustle and excitement I anticipated all year long growing up in Powhatan, Virginia.  Our tree had been up and decorated right after Thanksgiving and the anticipation would build each day as Momma and Daddy would make the preparations for the best time all of the year.

When Christmas Eve came around, Momma had a mountain of presents ready to be loaded into our car for our journey to Richmond and time with family at my Aunt (pronounced Ain’t) Scarlett’s house.  We would make the 45 minute ride — each of us four kids chatting on about what Santy Claus was going to bring us — while Daddy would chime in reminding us that we had to get home and in bed in time or he fly right over our house and miss us!  We would cry and promise that we wouldn’t delay the ride home!  Not us!

Arriving at Ain’t Scarlett’s house was filled with fanfare and kisses and love — we would walk into her little house filled with family and friends we had not seen in awhile!  It would take a good 30 minutes or more to get in the house, get our coats and boots off, find Grandma to hug and kiss, while being stopped by Uncles and Aunts demanding their kisses.  Oh, but when Ain’t Scarlett kissed you and hugged you — the love oozed out of her and straight into your heart — you knew you were loved!

The house was filled with amazing smells — Ain’t Scarlett’s meatballs, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, Ain’t Lorraine’s potato salad, Pinto Beans, Cornbread — and on and on!  The table was filled, every inch, and overflowing with all the Appalachian goodies I can remember!  And then, you turn the corner into the laundry room and the washer and dryer are covered in table cloths with pies and cakes of every variety…we never left hungry…and if you did…well, it was your own fault!

We never did get out of Ain’t Scarlett’s house any earlier than 1 a.m. and that was after Momma helped clean up — even then Ain’t Scarlett would take the left over mashed potatoes and make all of us remaining kids a potato cake!  Then, finally, Momma would helps us get our boots, mittens, and coats on for the long journey home.  We were tired and Daddy would always start encouraging us to look up in the sky, as we rode along the Richmond roads, to see if we saw him — that fat, red-suited elf — flying reindeer through the sky.

Sometimes by the time we arrived home, it had begun to flurry — we carried the many packages in to the house given by Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents — Momma and Daddy would shew us off to bed and then they began their part.

I shared a bed with my sister, Angela, and I remember crawling in between those cold sheets and snuggling up under neath of the quilt that Mammaw Shook had made me — falling asleep and dreaming of the morning to come — so giddy with excitement.  We would strain our ears listening for that jolly ole’ elf to land on our roof, but usually sleep won over the thrill of hearing him and the hooves scraping the roof.

The fondest memory of all and one that brings such warmth to my heart is that of Christmas morning — waking beneath that warm quilt — and I could smell the aroma of Christmas.  It was that of Momma’s Turkey which had been cooking on low all night — it was the deliciousness of smelling Daddy cooking eggs and bacon and gravy and biscuits for breakfast — it was the essence of love permeating the house and sweetly reminding me that I was ever so blessed!

As Earl Hamner once said, “the family got not tokens of love, but love itself.”

We were abundantly loved and cared for and cherished.  We were not told this, but rather it was demonstrated to us through the aromas that filled our home.  God had blessed us — richly — with each other!