Walking In Soul Dust

dirt road dry fence footprints
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We live life and we love…we love deeply.

I loved my Grandma Keen and everything about her.  I loved the way she laughed, with her hands to her mouth, giggling about what tickled her soul.  I loved the way she would sip her saccharin-sweetened coffee and enjoy a piece of toast with it.  I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with my own coffee and piece of toast —- she would pour the last gulps of coffee into a saucer and dip the toast — I would do the same…thinking I was such a big girl to sip coffee and dip toast.  Even today, when I sip my morning coffee —no saccharin, but Stevia — I remember back to those summer mornings and I feel so blessed to have known that precious woman.

I loved my Daddy…a man who chose to adopt me and make me his own.  I remember how proud I was when he wore his police uniform…wondering if anyone else’s Daddy was a giant like mine.  I can still smell the aroma of Christmas breakfast that he would cook us each year — oh, how he loved Christmas.  I cannot but think of that giant of a man, whose heart was even bigger, when we decorate the Christmas Tree and enjoy Christmas morning breakfast.  I remember his sheltering arms when I wept over my Grandma dying or my childhood friend dying.  He loved me and those memories are profound to me.

I loved my Momma!  Certainly the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to whisper through cascades of grief and questions and regret.  Regret that I did not try harder to understand her.  She was so fragile and yet so strong — much like the Live Oaks that line the streets of my now home, Sanford.  When I am overwhelmed and yet survive the hurt, I think of her and I’m grateful that some of her got left in me.

I’ve stood at two graves of young friends questioning the short length of their paths.  I’ve stood also at the foot of friends who lived long and had much to leave to the world in years and family and experience.

God created us for relationship!  He gave us fathers and mothers and siblings and grandparents and friends and love so that our journey wouldn’t be so long or laborious.  He gave us moments of laughter and the gift of grief and tears.

The Bible says that “the steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.  (Psalms 37:23 NASB)  So then, grief is a gift because it means we loved someone and we walked with them in those established steps.  We had the grand privilege of sharing in their delight along the way.  And, as we loosen the earth and lay them gently to await the coming of Christ, we get the privilege to bring others along our journey while we walk in the soul dust of those gone on before…I’m so grateful for that soul dust and the footprints!






Stones of Remembrance

Each morning when I open up my Facebook©, I am reminded of my social media “memories” from that particular day dating back several years.  While it is not completely unlike looking through an old, family photo album, it is!

When you open an old, family photo album, you are often reminded of sweet memories…sometimes bitter/sweet…but usually sweet.    Therein you may find pictures of your grandparents at a family reunion or old school pictures that make you cringe (in a good way) because your Momma cut all your hair off.  Maybe you will find one of those awkward photos of you and your siblings, posing unknowingly for the laughs the photo would generate 45 years later.

rene paul tammi angelaGod created within our brain extra folds of brain-matter that would not only store precious memories for us, but that would also filter out the painful memories that remind us of hurt, struggle, hardship, grief, and loss.  We are not equipped to carry such burdens every day for the rest of our lives…they are only meant to be sifted out after healing (and many times repentance).

The Jewish people have a custom that when a loved one passes away, instead of flowers, they place a stone on the headstone as reminder that God is mighty and that they would, for generations, fear (in the Hebrew this word “fear” means reverence) Him.  In the account of the Hebrew children crossing the Jordon in Joshua 4, we find how this came into being:

Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the LORD spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the LORD had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. And the people hurried and crossed; and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed before the people. The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the LORD to the desert plains of Jericho. On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life. Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:1-24 NASB)

What is impressed upon me from this account is that God wanted them to remember something good…His provision.  He didn’t ask them to gather these stones so that they could remember their doubt and disobedience while wondering 40 years in the desert…No!  He wants them to remember that He is still with them — He loves them and that He is mighty!

The problem with some of the Facebook© memories that I have found are the ones where I said something that I should have kept to myself…poorly chosen posts to either complain, seek pity, or show unkindness toward someone.  Often, words written in anger or hurt.  When these “show up” for me to revisit, I am once again face-to-face with the same sin I have confessed and God has forgiven.  I am face-to-face with my shame and the depths of sin my heart has at times plunged.  Satan is using Facebook© as a tool to keep me defeated.  He doesn’t want me to remember that God has forgiven me!  As long as he can keep me feeling shame, hurt, bitterness, and angst toward myself or someone else, he can keep me from being an active and useful part of the Body of Christ.

Satan does not want us to walk in the fullness of who we are in Christ Jesus!  Ephesians outlines who we are for us:

  • We have redemption through His blood; ( Ephesians 1:7)
  • We have obtained an inheritance;  (Ephesians 1:11)
  • Were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise;  (Ephesians 1:13)
  • He raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and,  (Ephesians 2:6)
  • You who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

What a beautiful picture God has given us, through His Word and the richness of His mercy and grace, of who we are in Christ Jesus!  I am so thankful this picture is now in my photo album to replace years of sin, shame, hurt, heartache, and even grief…a stone of remembrance to His might, redemption, and faithfulness in my life!


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



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!



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!


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!


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!



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!