Beauty in Life and Death

There is an intrinsic beauty in life — you cannot mistake it — the birth of a baby, the laughter of children, the gathering of family, and love.  I believe that God ordained it so and created these moments to fill our hearts and keep us moving through life without being weighed down too much by those moments that steal our joy and threaten to smother us.

You know which moments I am speaking of — those things which cause our heart to ache to the point of almost breaking — the death of a spouse, burying a child, or a diagnosis that makes you feel that you’re teetering on the edge of a deep crevasse.  These are those that cut you to the quick — they are catastrophic to our souls.

I have known some of those heartaches — I have, as David declared in Psalm 6:6 “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.”  David begs God in the previous verses to save him with HIS steadfast love.    Further, in Psalm 55:6 David submits, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest!”  I know David’s despair…I have felt it.  Yet, God calls David a man after HIS own heart.

In spite of the pain and despair, I have also found an intrinsic beauty in death.  Death is hard — the most devastating things I have ever had to do in life were to bury my Momma and Daddy — at the time I could find nothing beautiful or worth salvaging from such an experience.  I can find nothing beautiful in seeing misplaced children in the Middle East who have been mowed over by evil.  There is nothing proper or intrinsically beautiful about saying, “Goodbye” to a life-long friend…my heart aches and withdraws and wants to stop beating.

I cannot change these things — I cannot make evil disappear — I cannot turn back the hands of time or change the world.  Honestly, I am face-to-face with my plainness and ordinariness.  I’m, like Job, standing in complete recognition that I am not the sovereign God of the Universe.  As Job said, “Who am I to speak of things I do not know?”

However, with all of this sadness, God showed me a wonderful thing!  Life is beautiful because HE created the beginning and end of it.  HE has shown me this through the simple life-cycle of flowers.  You see, my husband and son gave me some Tulips for Mother’s Day and pink Roses for my birthday.  Both bouquets were so lovely — God created them in such splendor.  However, like all things, the time had come for them to wilt and die and that is when I was overcome with what God had created at the end of life.  He had not wasted the life of something so beautiful — He had, again, created intrinsic beauty in the death of these flowers.

Death means you lived!  It means God created you for something beautiful — you are HIS design and He did not spare beauty in sadness or death.  When someone you love passes on remember that HE IS GOOD!

Rose 3




Where the Dogwoods Bloom

Blue Ridge Mountains Crossing the Virginia State Line was like stepping into a little corner of Heaven last Thursday!  The anticipation of seeing so many loved ones had me giddy with excitement.  My phone started blowing up with texts and messages…”Where are you?”  “Are you in Virginia?”  “I cannot wait to see you!”

Our first visit was supper with my sister, Rene and her husband George!  We met and time began to stand still and speed up at the same.  Oh, how we laughed…at old things, at new things…George’s expressions and my antics.  We ate until we were fuller than ticks then hugged with the joy of knowing we’d see each other again on Saturday with a promise of longer time together.

Friday morning we hopped into the Jeep and started for Powhatan and Holly Hills Baptist Church.  There waiting were Christie and Carol with baby Lilly, but much to my surprise in came Ms. Ruth and Ms. Maddie and an old youth group friend, Paul.  My heart was overcome with gratefulness and I was full with joy.  We’d all known each other what seemed like a million and one years!  We had laughed together, cried together, sang hymns of praise together and shared a kinship not found often in life.

These three ladies, Christie, Carol, and Ruth where all constant in my teenage years.  I loved them…I admired them…I treasured the influence they all had in my life.  Thank you, Lord, for such godly examples of who I should be.

We then rushed deep into Powhatan to see Curtis and his precious kids — a long visit with them.  They are a picture of perseverance —- through the heartache and loss of dear Katrina — they press on!  As I sat on the couch in their cabin — the summer warmth — and Katrina’s presence ever there — oh how we laughed!  As I gazed into their eyes and tried to freeze a memory, I thought how proud Katrina would be of Brady, Abbey, Ryan, Eric, Jacob, and Aaron.  However, the gaze into Curtis’ eyes was the hardest.  This friend that I went to high school with…trying to carry-on by himself…without the love of his life.  My heart ached — such strength!

We spent a couple of hours then back to Richmond with my Aunt Lorraine with the promise of more on Saturday evening…but more on that in a bit!

Saturday we drove over to Goochland to spend time with my Shook family.  There is where time truly stood still!  Walking into my Mammaw and Pappaw’s home built in the 1800’s.  Those precious grandparents now gone for quite a few years…buried out through the pasture at the old church over looking the home place.  Amidst the laughter — there were echos of years gone by — conversations and laughter and tears that whispered from the decades of living!

“Mammaw….what’s Pappaw’s name?” a little voice asked.  “None of your business…he is Pappaw to you!” she replied to my 10 year old ghost.

I could hear Robin, Angela, and me squealing with delight as Pappaw chewed on our ears while Mammaw pretended to fuss at him!  And, as I gazed out the kitchen window, I saw my 11 year old ghost coming through the field, crickets being disturbed by my little legs going through the tall, un-mown hay, almost as tall as me while carrying my fish I had caught in the pond.  I could almost here Pappaw say, “Well, lookie here!” with a big grin on his face.  In my mind I could almost smell fresh mown hay, mixed with yeast rolls, and the smell of that sweet old house.  The old voices over-shadowed by the new sounds….memories faded but not gone….love still abounded….laughter still present…even though grief lurking in the background because of the absence of Mammaw and Pappaw and Momma and Daddy and cousin, Wade!  Time standing  still…while congealing with the future…life moving on!

Then, as promised, we headed back over to Richmond to visit with Aunt Lorraine — hours and hours looking through old pictures.  Aunti telling me stories of my Grandma and Grandpa Keen…stories never heard before until now.  Laughing at Grandma’s antics when I was a girl — oh how I loved her.  As I soak up the fragrance of Aunti — I am reminded of the strength it took for this family of mine to survive!  Looming over our conversations the whole evening where those coal-filled, sulphur-rich Appalachian Mountains — mountains that had etched out a family — family filled with sorrow and love — babies that never took but a breath buried on the side of a mountain — abject poverty — burned homes — oh, but the love of 7 children who found their way to Richmond with a Mommy they adored and cared for and cherished.  Precious memories and an enduring love from this girl raised by such amazing people!

Sunday a journey to the mountain I love and then back to Richmond to meet with yet another dear friend — a friend that if the truth be known helped me live, along with Christie.  I spent Sunday evening with Dave and Ann Talbott — and settled in comfort on their couch.  We all talked late into the evening about so many things — my husband and Dave mostly.  Ann and I shared some, but mostly I sat and thought how good God is to have filled my life with people who love my soul!

Life mostly is dark — but for a week I got to be around people who invested in my being — who have held my heart and loved my soul!  People who understood a little girl, now woman who is fragile and gave me more…much more than I deserved.

In a land where the Queen Anne’s Lace blankets the fields, the mountains grow with black gold and blue ridges, and the Dogwoods bloom is a place I call home…a place rich in love and family and friends.  Sweet with memories of yester-year where flowers bloom in bouquets of kinship and bright with the birth of new memories named Lilly.  God is good to make me a Virginia Girl and I am grateful…eternally grateful.



Sound of Home and Echoes of Love

11403482_10206511947775451_6927342666903943814_nThere are days that I get so caught up in the minutia of life…teaching, working, cooking, cleaning, solving teenaged problems, and paying bills that I miss the blessings that God rains down through it all.

As I sit here at the desk and begin organizing all our tax documents, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Listen!”  “Listen to what, Lord?”  He answers, “Listen to the love?”  I promptly stop what I am doing and listen and I hear…

…Finches singing and squawking orders at each other

…Violins, Flutes, and Cellos effortlessly playing concertos

…Maggie and Millie barking at passersby on the front sidewalk

…David and Joshua clowning around and laughing at each other’s next antic to one-up the other…

and then there is my computer grinding away, as I tap, tap, tap on the keyboard, the ice-maker dropping freshly made ice in the bin, the washer and dryer running in the laundry room, and a fire-truck blaring by on the road.

I guess during the minutia, frustration, and hurriedness of the day it can sound like noise, right? Today the Lord reminded me that it is not noises at all, but rather HIS blessings on me.  If I count those blessings I see and hear nothing, but the blessing of home:

Blessing One:     A home…when there are those who are homeless.

Blessing Two:     Beautiful Finches, created by God, singing His praises and dogs barking, which means I have pets…when there are those who aren’t allowed a pet for whatever reason.

Blessing Three:  Music to calm my spirit, which means I can hear…when there are those who’ve never heard a sound.

Blessing Four:  David and Joshua who fill my life with laughter and love…when there are those who are lonely.

Those blessings lost in the minutia of an ordinary day …not counted…overlooked…taken for granted!  The hymn writer, Johnson Oatman, Jr., wrote the following hymn in 1897 recognizing that in America we take many things for granted:

“Count Your Blessings”

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done


Count your blessings, name them one by one:
Count your blessings, See what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
I am grateful for Johnson Oatman, Jr.’s hymn and the reminder to count our blessings.  However, I more thankful for the Holy Spirit’s prompting of me this morning to stop and listen to the sounds of my home and the beautiful echoes of love in it from HIM.

“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6

Life in Perpetuity

Perpetuity — that is not a word you hear every day, now is it?  Oh, but it is in our everyday vernacular…just see:

“Will this week ever end?”

“I can’t take one more day of this…!”

“How much more, Lord, how much more?”

“Will one more thing go wrong this week?”

You see…we live in perpetuity…as Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is so daily!”  However, we are not the only ones.  The Psalmist, David, lived that way, too.

      Please, GOD, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection. Can’t you see I’m black and blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? GOD, how long will it take for you to let up? Break in, GOD, and break up this fight; if you love me at all, get me out of here. I’m no good to you dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb! I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope. Get out of here, you Devil’s crew: at last GOD has heard my sobs. My requests have all been granted, my prayers are answered. Cowards, my enemies disappear. Disgraced, they turn tail and run. Psalm 6 (The Message).”

Wow — David was messed up, huh?  Can you get any deeper into the depths of despair?  And, the drama!  Goodness!  When I read it, I see David standing in a dark room holding a pistol to his head screaming, “God save me now before I do the unthinkable!”  God heard him, too…it says, “GOD has heard my sobs!”  There are not any sweeter words in Scripture … ”GOD has heard my sobs!”

Scripture is flooded with the promise that God hears us:

Psalm 66:19  “But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer.”

Hebrews 4:16  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Proverbs 15:29  “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things…”

All of these, given to us by God, so that we would not grow weary.  He is near to us, dear one.  When we are caught up in the mundane, the daily-ness, and the perpetuity of life, we can rest in Him knowing that He does not grow weary or tired.

I am so thankful for our untiring, daily, and gracious God.  Turn to Him and don’t grow weary….


Some days hope seems elusive…like a long lost friend.  I nearly lost site of it.  The pain is deep…it gets deeper still…but God sends HOPE in the strangest of ways, through the strangest of means, and by an unexpected messenger.

I needed HOPE today — a day of deep regret and shame.  Then GOD whispered to me through hope-driven crocuses.  My sweet Joanna shared this picture today on Facebook…as you look at it and listen to it…lean in…can you hear, smell, and see HOPE?

HOPE says that shame, buried deep, can still break through — like crocuses planted months ago, which had been buried in snow, burst forth and reached to their Creator begging to bloom.  You can hear the dirt move aside, as their arms reach Heavenward.

HOPE is like that…even in years of shame…HOPE moves the shame aside…HOPE is Jesus.

I know that Joanna didn’t know that when she shared this picture that it would keep one “crocus” from giving up in despair…I’m certain of it.  But,God…in His infinite wisdom, uses crocuses bursting forth and unsuspecting Joanna’s to deliver HOPE to unsuspecting souls who’ve lost all hope.

Winter is not over because Jesus has not returned to take us home.  However, these hopeful crocuses, which may get buried again in the harshness of snow still HOPE.  So, for another day…so will I.

Though HE slay me, yet I will trust HIM…HE is my HOPE.



Home is such a lovely word and brings to mind precious memories to many.  For me, Home is a place I have never been — a longed for place that my soul misses — a place of rest, a refuge.

Today my quiet time and Bible Journaling was in this passage in II Corinthians 5:1-5:

 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.(Emphases mine).

I am groaning — groaning for HOME — groaning to be with my Savior.

I am groaning and burdened by this world and wait, impatiently, for HIM to come and gather me away to my Heavenly Home.  I am groaning to be swallowed up by LIFE because it says, “HE has prepared me for this very thing…and given me the HOLY SPIRIT as a seal!”

I am burdened…come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly.dogwood

…but, for their salvation and HIS Glory?


Is the suffering worth it, if they come to Christ?

That was the question…”Is your suffering worth it, if just one comes to Christ?”  He answered my question with a question.

My question, “Why does God allow people to suffer and die?  Why does he allow little girls to be molested and sexually abused?  Why does he allow boys and girls to be human-trafficked?  Why did he allow the last two years of her life to be filled with pain and suffering? Why did HE allow a young man to put a gun in my face and threaten to kill me?”

I supposed I was asking a rhetorical question…one of those, “Yes, I know God is sovereign…yes, I know He can do as He pleases…yes, I know about Job!”  But, my heart screams, “WHY?”

He answered with a non-rhetorical question…a question rightly deserving the right answer…a question that really asked what God asked Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8)  Dave asked, “Tammi — is the suffering worth it, if one comes to Christ?”

Like Job, I felt shame…who am I to question a holy God?  Yes, of course, Dave…of course, LORD, it is well worth it!  Just at the time of the hurting and the darkness and the unending pain…at the time of utter exhaustion and grief and devastation…I forgot myself.  Instead, I sought HIM…I begged of HIM…why, LORD, please help this child understand?

In complete surrender, I bow and confess my ignorance:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked,’ Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions.’ You give the answers. I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. (Job 42:2-6)

I don’t think God really minds my questions…HE certainly understands my heart…HE gave us Job’s account because HE understands that we would ask from time-to-time.  The lesson to be learned is that God does know, HE is not unaware of the suffering, and HE is acquainted with our sorrow.

Suffering has a purpose…it is for our good and HIS GLORY!  In Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said it best, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.'”

The truth is that I am not Job or Joseph…I’m just Tam.  My heart hurts for so many things and I don’t have all of the answers to all of the whys…I don’t even really have some of them.  I only know that God must love me quite a lot to allow HIS Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross of Calvary for me.  He has entrusted me with the Mysteries of Himself and then, in that great love, has allowed me and others who know HIM to suffer a bit so that others can witness HIS grace and love measured through us in that suffering.

We are funnels of HIS love — we were created in His image to KNOW HIM and then to love others by allowing them to see us walk through the messes in life…somehow with grace…but all for HIS Glory.  So, the question is….