EVOLVING HOUR BY HOUR

I am no longer who I once was,
nor am I this day who I will
ultimately become.

I am evolving hour by hour as I face
new challenges each day.

I have faltered many times, which
has taught me humility.

I have soared to lofty places and kissed
the sweet lips of success while keeping
both feet firmly on the ground.

However, with each new low or high
that comes my way, I am blessed to
have had the opportunity to try.

I know God is with me as I take each
step along the path of my journey.

I am comforted knowing God hears
my prayers even when I am unsure
how to express them.

I am blessed each hour of each day.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

GOD GIVEN TALENTS, PURPOSE, AND GOD-WINKS

I wrote the following presentation for a group at my church. Please forgive the format as it was to be presented as an interactive message. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the presentation with me.

INTRODUCTION 

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I appreciate having the opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

As I look around the room, I see many smiling faces that obviously have happy hearts because your happiness is infectious—I can feel your joy.

I pray those smiling faces are still beaming when I finish speaking to you today.

BACKGROUND

I’ll take a brief moment to share a bit of my background for those of you who don’t know me.

First of all, I must tell you that I’m not famous. You probably have never heard of me. My name is Tom Tatum. I’m just an average guy who worked hard to support his family as best he could. I have no major accomplishments—no long list of impressive credentials. I have something much more precious —I have God walking beside me as I walk down my path in life. In short, I feel blessed to have Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

My wife, Kathy, and I were born in Orangeburg, SC about two-hundred years ago. We moved to Summerville in 2005 to be closer to our two daughters and five grandchildren. We became members of Bethany UMC that same year. I’m retired with an awesome wife who is still an active Realtor.

Let me to ask you a question—do you believe in miracles?

If you don’t, you had better start because having me standing in front of you speaking at this very moment is nothing short of a minor miracle. You see, I’m an introvert. I generally prefer operating behind the scenes and contributing without being in the spotlight. I typically say very few words when in a large group.

However, when it comes to writing, I’m a completely different person—I enjoy allowing my imagination take me to places I never dreamed possible! I’m very comfortable expressing my thoughts in written form and allowing readers scrutinize my efforts. It is through my writing that I become that different person—almost an extrovert—almost!

Naturally, I’m delighted when readers share positive comments about my writing efforts, but I also appreciate constructive criticism—for it is through constructive criticism that I learn and grow to become better at what I am doing. I guess you could say that writing is just a means for me to be in the spotlight and remain behind the curtains.

THE MESSAGE

Now, let’s get to the real reason why I’m here today…

I am going to touch on several topics that are closely related—each one has an impact on the others:

  • Your God-given talents
  • God’s purpose for your life
  • God-winks—these are the surreal moments in life when you feel God’s presence.

As I share some of my personal life experiences, I want each of you to reflect on the following three topics concerning your personal life.

  1. Do you know what your God-given talents are?
  1. Have you developed those talents to the best of your abilities?
  1. God’s primary purpose for us is to serve Him. He wants each of us to shine His light on others in all that we do. To carry it a step farther, I also believe God has secondary purposes for us—purposes that are ours to discover—to perform as He has planned for us to do.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

Some talents are easy to see in others—like people who have musical talent—a beautiful singing voice, ability to play musical instruments, etc. Folks who have such talents and share them with others have found one of their God-given talents and are serving God in ways that bless those who hear their music.

Unfortunately, God didn’t bless me with any musical talents. I think I was standing in the wrong line when He passed them out. As the old cliché goes, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I have no musical talents to develop, but I sure enjoy hearing those who do.

To be honest, I’m not sure what my God-given talents are or if I have unknowingly developed them to a point that pleases God. However, I promise you one thing—I won’t stop searching for my talent or talents as long as I am still breathing.

LET’S TRAVEL BACK IN TIME TOGETHER

Now, let’s travel back in time together—to a time when we were kids. Think about the first thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up. Was it things such as a clown, firefighter, police officer, pilot, movie star, etc.?

Would anyone like to share the first thing they wanted to be when they grew up? Anyone?

TRASH COLLECTOR

Well, the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a trash collector. I’m not trying to disparage this or any other profession. In fact, as a five-year-old kid, the men who rode on the back of those big trucks intrigued me. The truck would stop in front of my house, a man then jumped off the back of the truck, walked 200 feet down a hill in our backyard to the 55-gallon trash drums. He’d then roll the heavy drums back up the hill and lift them into the truck. Boy, did those men have huge arms!

I remember wanting my arms to be like theirs—big, strong, and powerful—manly! As you look at my arms, you can see that never happened for me.

FIREFIGHTER

Well, my trash collector dream job vaporized when my father became a firefighter. At that point in my life, I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up! My visits to the fire station were always fun. The big trucks fascinated me and I enjoyed climbing all over them. If I was a firefighter, I could sleep in the firehouse and slide down the pole when the fire alarm sounded. The thought of doing this seemed so cool!

I happened to be in the station one day when the alarm sounded and the firefighters jumped into their gear and headed to the emergency location. That was a great experience for me, but unfortunately, I was too young to understand that someone was in danger and the firefighters weren’t leaving the fire station to go on a fun ride around town with sirens blaring loudly.

BASEBALL

When I turned nine-years old, I discovered my first long-term desire of what I truly wanted to be when I grew up—a professional baseball player. I was very good at baseball too. When I think of my possible God-given talents, my ability to excel in baseball was likely one of them—maybe—possibly.

My life dream of playing professional baseball continued for nine years. I practiced long and hard during those years to become the best I could be. Unfortunately, my best wasn’t good enough and my dream of playing professional baseball came to an abrupt end. I was devastated!

Maybe playing baseball wasn’t God’s secondary purpose for my life after all. I continued searching for my talents and God’s purpose for my life.

PILOT

My next dream job was to become a pilot in the USAF. I passed all preliminary classwork with flying colors. (pardon the pun). Then it came time for my physical. Health wise, I was in great shape. That is until an Army doctor (bless his heart) said I had an eye disease and couldn’t fly airplanes. Even though my personal ophthalmologist said the Army doctor was wrong, the USAF wouldn’t listen to my pleas to correct the erroneous diagnosis. Hence, another of my dreams to fly fighter jets quickly crashed and burned. The USAF grounded me before I ever had a chance to soar into the wild blue yonder!

ENGINEER

That’s when I decided to focus my efforts on becoming a good engineer. I studied hard, made good grades, and ultimately received my BS degree in Engineering. I became a certified professional engineer. My job required me to work 60+ hours a week, which I did for 25 years. Although I accomplished many good things in engineering and management, the long hours took a toll on me. I simply couldn’t continue working so much with no end in sight. I suffered burnout and had to move on with my life and start doing something different.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if my engineering abilities were a God-given talent or if I was fulfilling His purpose for my life. As I said previously, some of us may never know the answers to the questions about our purpose or talents. I hope I served God well in some way, but I’m not sure.

RESIDENTIAL CONTRACTOR

After leaving my engineering career in 1998, I decided to enhance the capabilities of my wife’s Real Estate company, and joined her as a residential contractor building new homes. I did this until 2005 when we moved to Summerville. I planned to continue building homes in Summerville, but the 2008 dive in the market squelched those plans and I started looking for other types of jobs.

Sadly, all my efforts led to dead ends for one reason or other. I became frustrated—I felt lost— I was a man without purpose in life—believe me, that isn’t a place you ever want to visit.

UNKNOWN FORCE…

It was at this point in life that I sensed an unknown force communicating with me—well, sort of communicating—more like telepathic gestures. Whatever this force was, it went something like this:

“Tom, you are going to write a faith-based novel.”

“What did you say? Who are you? Lord, is that you?”

“Tom, you are going to write a novel and I will be with you to the end.”

“Wait just a minute now—this is creepy! Whoever you are, I think you have the wrong Tom. I’m Tom the engineer! You know, 1 + 1 = 2. I find solutions to problems. I’m a Realtor’s worst nightmare—just ask my Realtor wife and she’ll tell you! I ask too many questions and seek solutions to every problem I encounter. I’m a technical writer—I write engineering content—I don’t write fictional books. Heck, I typically don’t have enough free time to read fictional books!”

Several days passed and the “force” was silent. I went about each day doing nothing constructive except chores around the house—trust me, that wasn’t one of my dream jobs. I also hope doing chores wasn’t one of God’s purposes for creating me.

Then, without warning, the force came to me again and said, “Tom, it’s time for you to start writing—now!”

Well, guess what—I went to my computer and started typing away. I had no idea what the story was going to be, but I kept pounding the keyboard.

I typed into the wee hours of the morning on many occasions. I’d wake up at 4 am sometimes and go to my computer. The strange force I didn’t understand and couldn’t make go away was driving me to continue—quitting was not an option for me—believe me, I tried several times.

THE NOVEL’S STORY LINE…

The result of this mysterious joint effort started creating a storyline that involved a man, Ben, who had been a workaholic in his efforts to climb the corporate ladder. His drive to succeed consumed him leaving little time for his wife and three children.

Now in his fifties, Ben realizes his mistakes and reduces his work hours. Unfortunately, it is too little too late. His children are grown and live far away with his grandchildren. Filled with many regrets, Ben starts searching for his real purpose in life—God’s purpose.

Fortunately, his twelve-year-old neighbor, Andy, may be just what Ben needs to change his life. He treats Andy like a grandson and feels that the Lord has provided him with a second chance to atone for his past.

Ben notices how Andy appears to be mesmerized while watching the Tiger Swallowtail butterflies that come into his backyard. Andy starts telling Ben about messages he receives from the Tigers—messages meant for Ben. Andy’s unusual experiences with the Tigers affect Ben’s relationship with God and the plot thickens.

WRITER’S BLOCK HITS ME

Writing the story was going well at this point. I was actually enjoying following Ben and Andy as their relationship developed. When I reached what was about the halfway point of the story, the condition called writer’s block jumped on me like an 800-pound gorilla. My thoughts on the story became fuzzy and I had no idea why the unknown force stopped helping me write the story. I didn’t know how to continue the plot on my own. I needed the force to lead the way forward—to help me complete the story. This condition continued for several days and I couldn’t shake it.

After several more days, I became so frustrated that I walked away from my computer and went downstairs for a long break—to calm myself down. I was hoping to regain my composure and continue writing the story.

I stood in front of a window in the kitchen looking out at the flowers in my backyard—trying to sort things out. I prayed for God to help me find my path through this frustrating writing challenge.

After a few minutes passed, a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly gracefully glided up to the window right in front of my face. It hovered as if trying to communicate with me—to send me a message. Oddly enough, I had recently finished a scene in the story that was almost identical to the real-life experience I was having with this Tiger. Almost instantly, a warm feeling came over me and I could sense the mystery force was present again. It was a very surreal experience.

Hmm, was this possibly one of those God-wink moments?

My wife came into the kitchen and asked me what was wrong. The expression on my face scared her—she thought I was ill or something. When I told her what happened, she was just as shocked as I was.

I went back to my computer and the writer’s block was gone. Words started flowing out of me as before and I finally managed to complete the story without experiencing writer’s block again. It was definitely a time to sing the Hallelujah Chorus!

Then I remembered—I can’t sing, but I did say Hallelujah and amen!

The remaining events in the story following my writer’s block moment sends Ben on an adventure in faith with astonishing twists and turns taking him on a spiritual journey he never dreamed possible.

TO PUBLISH OR NOT TO PUBLISH

A couple of my Bethany friends, Dr. Sam, and his wife, Linda, read my manuscript and liked the storyline. Both encouraged me to publish the story as a novel. I resisted but they continued encouraging me. I just couldn’t imagine my manuscript turning into a book, nor could I imagine myself as an author. I’m an engineer—1+1 = 2—remember!?!

Well, I finally published the book and the day I received my first copy in the mail was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences in my life. After hundreds of hours of typing, with assistance from some unknown force leading me, I was holding a copy of the book I had written and published. I was celebrating a special moment that I never dreamed of having in my life.

The title of my novel is, “IF TIGERS WERE ANGELS: With God All Things Are Possible.” This book is a perfect example of how powerful the words, “With God, All Things Are Possible” actually are.

I often refer to the title simply as, TIGERS when I’m talking to others about the book. I placed a copy of TIGERS on each table.

The cover photo is the actual Tiger that visited me when I was experiencing writer’s block. Yes, that Tiger stayed in my backyard long enough for me to take the photo with my cell phone. The Tiger actually posed for a dozen or so photos.

Was this another “God-wink” moment for me? 

TWO HUGE QUESTIONS KEPT BUGGING ME…

I admit that publishing my book was an enjoyable experience, but two huge questions kept bugging me…

#1 – Who or what was the unknown force that guided me through the entire process of writing the story? Was it God or something else? 

#2 – Why did this force select me, an engineer, to write this fictional faith-based story?

Well, I’m going to shed some light on those questions by sharing four true stories about events that happened to me since publishing TIGERS in 2013. The first three stories prep you for the fourth—which is a surreal experience I had in 2018—five years after publishing TIGERS.

However, before I share those stories, I have a simple question for you. Do you believe in God-winks—those surreal situations in life where someone experiences something akin to divine intervention?

Some folks tend to brush-off such experiences as mere coincidences, but I believe that people of faith—people who truly believe and have faith in God, are likely to understand the power of a God-wink moment. They understand how special those moments are. I certainly believe in God-winks because I’ve experienced them—many times in recent years. The experiences are too surreal to ignore or pass off as coincidences.

TIGERS APPEAR BEFORE BOOK SIGNING EVENTS

I’ll now share those stories I mentioned.

Like most authors, I had book signings for Tigers, which is something I’m not always comfortable doing. Appearing at the signings and talking to those who stopped by was fine, but an engineer playing the role of salesman was more difficult for me.

Prior to my first book signing, I was nervous and asked God to give me the courage needed to present myself well. On the day of my first signing, a Tiger Swallowtail came into my backyard and circled around me. The moment was surreal and I felt a peace within me.

While getting ready for my second signing, I again, asked God to give me the courage needed to present myself well. As I was driving through the neighborhood to my signing, a Tiger Swallowtail appeared at the passenger-side front window. It flew along beside the car window for three blocks and then went on its way. Just like the first signing, this moment was surreal and I knew everything was going to be fine—and it was!

Both signings went very well and the people who stopped by were very engaging and excited about the book. Were those pre-signing experiences coincidences or God-winks? You decide…

My last book signing took place at The Timrod Library right across the street from Bethany Church. It was my first signing in a library. As I did for my first two signings, I prayed for God to be with me. However, no Tigers came to visit me the day of the signing. I was nervous and hoped things would go well, but I sure did want to see a Tiger. It became time for me to go to the library and setup for the signing—still no visit from a Tiger—I was beyond nervous.

After setting up, I looked at the books on the shelves around my signing spot. Suddenly, as if God sensed my nervousness, my eyes focused on a book displayed on the shelf directly behind me—the book had a beautiful photo of a Tiger Swallowtail on its cover, but it wasn’t my book.

That moment called for another Hallelujah and amen! No, I didn’t try to sing the Hallelujah Chorus—I know my limitations. God calmed my nerves and the signing went well. Was that a coincidence or a God-wink? You decide…

If there’s anyone here today who does not believe in God-winks, please listen carefully to my final story before your close your mind completely to the possibility that God-winks actually exist.

 

DAD’S MESSAGE… 38 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH

My final story today is larger than life itself… The events started in 1980—33 years before I wrote Tigers.

I was 27 when my father had his first heart attack. He was 49 and could no longer work. Unable to exert himself physically, he started tinkering with lightweight metal sheeting—copper, tin, etc. in his workshop.

After Dad’s fourth heart attack in 1980, God called him home to the big workshop in the sky. Dad was 54 years young—I was 30.

I struggled to understand why God called Dad home at such a young age. Dad was a large man—a man of faith who was always willing to help others. He was a man of character and taught me how to be a man. To put it simply, Dad was my hero!

I prayed many times asking God to help me understand Dad’s death, but all I received was silence. I soon became frustrated—one might even say angry, which severely challenged my faith. The big unanswered question “WHY?” clouded my sense of being for many years.

A few months after Dad’s funeral, my mother asked me to get rid of everything in Dad’s workshop. The task proved to be more emotionally difficult than I could have ever imagined. Still in a state of numbness from Dad’s passing, I packed some items in a few boxes and gave some items to family members and friends.

I kept Dad’s tools only to have most of them stolen in 2005 when some “kindhearted soul” stole my truck with Dad’s tools onboard. Those tools held many memories for me and every time I used one, I thought of Dad and smiled. I sometimes shed a few tears as I pictured him using those tools long ago.

In late May 2018, I was cleaning out my garage. A task long overdue, but in the process, I found a box marked Dad’s Stuff. The box had remained closed and sealed since 1980. I didn’t even remember what the box contained. I hesitated to open the box for fear of revisiting some emotionally sad times from the past. However, I felt compelled to open it—pushed, as if some force was urging me to break the seal.

When I finally opened the box, the first item I saw was a copper figurine of a Tiger Swallowtail perched on a leaf (see photo).

My eyes quickly filled with moisture as I thought of Dad having made the Tiger. I wondered if he had received messages from a Tiger after his heart attacks. Could it be that the “call” the “unknown force” I sensed while writing my novel came from Dad? Could Dad have made this Tiger to convey a special message to me thirty-eight years later? Could finding Dad’s copper Tiger be a “God-wink” moment for me?

The naysayers of the world will likely say it was a silly coincidence and I’m a fool to think otherwise, but I believe they are wrong. I have no doubts it was a special moment of divine intervention and ranks as one of the most surreal moments in my life. I feel blessed to have discovered Dad’s special gift and I understand his message of inspiration. I feel very blessed!

Most of you would probably consider this handcrafted Tiger to be a piece of junk—an item that should be thrown in the trash. However, for me, it is the most beautiful piece of artwork I had ever seen and its value is priceless. I am extremely proud to have it in my office.

My only regret is that it took me so long to find Dad’s TIGER that had literally been sitting right under my nose for 38 years. After struggling for thirty-eight years to understand the answer to my “Why?” question about Dad’s early departure, I was finally at peace. I sincerely believe God used Dad’s copper Tiger as a messenger to tell me who guided me through the writing of my novel—it was Dad—my father. Thank you, Dad!

Dad, it’s nice to know you’re still watching over me. Thank you for your guidance, wisdom, caring, and love! I am truly grateful!

Thank you for all you have done for me, Dad!

THE THREE TOPICS

Let’s revisit the three topics I identified earlier. Think about each one as I read them and answer to yourself. If you want to make a comment to the group about a topic, please raise your hand. I feel sure others would love for you to share your thoughts—now or after the session.

#1: Do you know what your God-given talents are?

#2: Have you developed those talents to the best of your abilities?

#3: God’s primary purpose for us is to serve Him. He wants each of us to shine His light upon others in all that we do. To carry it a step farther, I believe God also has secondary purposes for us—purposes that are ours to discover—to fulfill.

MY SECOND NOVEL

In case any of you are interested, the title of my second faith-based novel is, ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream.

It’s a story about a six-year-old boy, Tyler, whose father suddenly passes away. Tyler withdraws into a shell. Two years later, things hadn’t improved, and his mother was concerned about his emotional development. She decided to move to Jackson, SC and hoped the change would help end Tyler’s grieving.

Tyler meets a retired baseball player, Gabe, who had also recently moved to Jackson. Gabe becomes aware of Tyler’s withdrawal from the world and feels he possesses something that might help his young friend—a passion for baseball.

Tyler and Gabe become friends and Gabe starts mentoring Tyler and introduces him to the 22 Rules to Live By that Gabe received from his father, Gabe, Sr.

What follows is a heartwarming story about life and a growing relationship, as Gabe’s passion becomes Tyler’s, and a dream of playing ON GREEN DIAMONDS is born.

This enlightening sports story is about life and is appropriate for all ages and genders.

You can preview the story on Amazon.com or check it out at The Timrod Library, the Dorchester County Library located on Trolley Road, or the Orangeburg County library located in Orangeburg. SC.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS? 

That concludes my session with you today.

Now, it’s your turn. Does anyone have any questions or comments?

+++++++++++++++++++++++

THANK YOU

Again, thank you for allowing me to visit with you today. I hope the session sparked some fond memories and that I’m leaving you with a smile on your face and a Happy Heart.

Blessings to each of you…Thank you for your time…

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

COPY AND PASTE NIGHTMARE

With the pandemic and social distancing forcing lots of free time on us these days, we are probably doing things we wouldn’t normally do. I certainly am. I’m spending lots of time on social media to see what others are doing to take the boredom out of the day-to-day grind. I bet many of you are doing the same thing.

If you are, I’m sure you’ve seen many posts on social media platforms asking you to “copy and paste” this or that to your timeline. I know someone I’ll refer to as Billy Bob who was reluctant to try, but some of his friends kept telling him it was easy. They encouraged him to take the plunge into the copy and paste pool—everybody is doing it, they said. It’s easy, Billy Bob.

Well, Billy Bob finally succumbed to peer-pressure—he decided to copy and paste something to his time line. Unfortunately, his decision turned into his worst nightmare. The following is Billy Bob’s NIGHTMARE that he wanted me to share in hopes of preventing others from becoming victims of a similar experience.

COPY AND PASTE NIGHTMARE

Billy Bob acknowledged that making the copy was the easy part—he used the copy machine at work to make a crisp, clean copy. It was after pasting the copy to his computer monitor that his nightmare began. When he pasted the message to his timeline, it completely covered his news feed on the screen—he could no longer scroll his news feed up or down on the monitor. He tried rebooting his computer many times, but that didn’t help resolve the problem.

Not knowing how to correct his problem, Billy Bob decided to call the Greek Dudes at the local Better Buy store for assistance. A dude named Darth Trader politely asked how he could help. Billy Bob told him he had copied and pasted some text to his social media timeline using a generous amount of Godzilla Glue. Billy Bob said Darth started laughing—uncontrollably—hysterically would probably be a better description of Darth’s euphoric outburst.

Finally, between belly laughs and snorts, Darth told Billy Bob that the Godzilla glue caused the problem. Darth said most people use Elmo’s glue when they copy and paste information to their social media timelines—Godzilla Glue is just much too strong.

Darth asked Billy Bob to bring his computer and monitor to the store and he’d help him the best he could. Billy Bob said Darth was still belly laughing at this point.

Feeling a bit frustrated, Billy Bob made the trip to the local Better Buy store with his computer system in hand and asked to speak to Darth. Darth came to the counter and started laughing when Billy Bob introduced himself. After a quick look at the monitor, Darth advised Billy Bob that the only way to correct the problem would be for him to buy a new monitor along with a new computer.

I have often suspected that Billy Bob wasn’t the sharpest thorn in the blackberry patch, but Darth’s suggestions sounded a bit strange—even to him. That’s when Billy Bob decided to check that truth or fiction internet website, SnoopyKnowsBest.

He asked Snoopy if copying and pasting to his social media timeline using Godzilla Glue was a bad idea.

The following is the response Billy Bob received from SnoopyKnowsBest:

Dude, are you serious?!? If you are, please stop

using a computer before you hurt someone!!!

With his ego deflated by Snoopy’s mind-numbing response, Billy Bob went back to see Darth at Better Buy and purchased a new $6,000 computer/monitor system. Darth even offered to discard Billy Bob’s old computer system at no charge. Billy Bob asked Darth what he was going to do with the damaged computer and monitor and Darth said, “Trust me, they’re worthless. Don’t worry about it. You’ll like your new system. Go home and copy and paste something again. If you have any more problems, I’ll be happy to help you again. I love customers like you.”

Billy Bob thanked Darth for his help and went home to setup his new computer system. I don’t know if he has ventured back into the copy and paste world though. In fact, I haven’t heard anything from Billy Bob in a week. I should probably give him a call to make sure he’s safe as the pandemic continues.

Be a blessing unto others, and please remember—don’t use Godzilla Glue when you copy and paste things to your social media timeline! Don’t do as Billy Bob did or you will be visiting Darth Trader in the near future!

++++++++++

+++ MY FINAL THOUGHTS +++

If you’re smiling right now, bless you! Maybe you’ve crossed paths with someone like “Billy Bob” in your life also. Heck, you may even be wondering if this story is true?

They say confession is good for the soul, so with that in mind, I must confess that I’ve had a few “Billy-Bob” moments in my life. Hmmm, think about that, but be nice because I’m going to discuss a computer situation with Darth Trader tomorrow morning—hoping he can help me avoid a nightmare.

I pray you and yours stay safe and well during this pandemic and things return to “normal” very soon.

God bless each of you,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

SEVEN LEVELS OF FAITH

The Coronavirus pandemic that’s spreading around the world is likely to challenge one’s faith in God. People of faith may even ask, “Why is God allowing this invisible enemy to infect us—to kill people?

Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. It is in times like this that our faith in God should grow even stronger because I believe God sends messages or “prompts” to us via people (family, friends, and strangers), gestures, things, nature, miracles, events, and tragedies. We accept and understand Him based on the level of faith we have, which can range from unquestioning faith (believing without seeing) to nonexistent faith (there is no God) per the following seven levels:

  1. Those who are not aware of God or His messages
  2. Those who say God doesn’t exist, making it impossible for “nothing” to send messages
  3. Those who can neither prove nor disprove God’s existence or His messages
  4. Those who follow a different god than that of Christians for reasons known only to them
  5. Those who think they are too busy and lack the time to listen to God’s messages
  6. Those who hear God’s messages and simply choose to ignore them for whatever reason
  7. Those who understand God’s messages and serve as modern-day disciples through their actions, deeds, and words (written and verbal)

God doesn’t force anyone to believe in, listen to, or follow Him. When a person hears about the God Christians follow, they have the right to choose whether they want to believe in Him and His messages. Christians who follow God’s teachings don’t seek to harm those who deny or choose not to believe, nor do they force their beliefs on others. They accept God’s grace as a gift given to all who choose to believe in Him; they don’t need proof of His existence in order to believe—they have true faith and want to spread God’s word to those in level 1.

Okay, so what’s the point here? It’s simple—each person is in one of the levels listed above. You may even have additional levels to add, which is fine. No matter how many levels of faith we list, no one is “stuck” in any level. We all have the ability to change.

Which level best describes your current situation?

Regardless of which level currently describes your situation, I encourage (do not demand) you to try learning something about those who live in level 7. It may change your life.

What do you have to lose?

John 20:29 (NIV) Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blessings to all and may your faith grow stronger each new day.

Tom Tatum – Author 2020

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

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AN ANGEL’S MESSAGE FOR GRANDPA

The day was cold, but not as cold as the heart of an old man sitting alone on a park bench with tears rolling down his cheeks. He didn’t seem bothered by the cold temperature, but something more serious had numbed his senses—his emotions were in distress.

After a few minutes passed, a young boy and man came walking along the path near the park bench. They stopped directly in front of the old man and, without any hesitation, the young boy asked, “Sir, are you okay? I see the tears on your cheek. Are you hurt?”

The old man raised his head slightly until his eyes met the eyes of the young boy. “Young man, today is a very sad day for me. I traveled many miles to come see my grandson in the hospital right down the street there. I had car trouble on the way and waited for twelve hours by the roadside before a kind soul stopped to help me.”

“I’m sorry your car broke down,” said the boy. “Have you seen your grandson yet?”

“No, I didn’t make it to the hospital in time to see him. I wasn’t able to tell him…” said the old man as he lowered his head and looked toward the ground.

“You weren’t able to tell him what?” asked the young boy.

While still looking toward the ground, the old man replied, “To tell him how much I love him and to wish him a Merry Christmas. He passed away three hours before I arrived. I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m so…”

“Sir, are you Joey’s Grandpa—his Grandpa Ben?”

A bit confused, the old man raised his head slightly and replied, “Yes, I am, but why did you ask me that? Do you know Joey?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the young boy. “I’m Zack. Joey is my new friend and he told me all about you.”

“He did what? When?” retorted Grandpa Ben.

“Yes, sir! Just a few minutes ago, Joey asked me to tell you how much he loves you. He wanted me to wish you a Merry Christmas. He said to tell you he is fine and in good hands.”

“I don’t understand. What? That’s impossible! How did you talk to Joey?” snapped Grandpa Ben.

“Joey is sitting on a park bench like you are now. He’s talking to Jesus,” replied Zack.

With that, Grandpa Ben lowered his head toward the ground thinking about what Zack just said. He wondered why Zack was talking such nonsense. Without raising his head, he asked, “Zack, how do you know he’s talking to Jesus?”

Several seconds passed without hearing an answer to his question. Grandpa Ben looked around and Zack was nowhere in sight. Instead, the only person standing in front of him was the man who he saw walking with Zack.

The man leaned down toward the old man and said, “Sir, are you alright? I couldn’t understand what you were saying. Can I get some help for you?”

“What? Where did Zack go? He was just standing right there talking to me. The two of you were standing together in front of me. Who are you?” the old man asked.

“Sir, my name is Sam Jones, but no one was with me today. I’m alone just as you are,” said the man with an air of concern for the old man.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Sam. My name is Ben. Zack was just standing there beside you talking to me,” replied Ben.

His eyes swelling with tears, Sam managed to say, “Ben, I’m not sure what you’re trying to do to me, but my son, Zack, was killed by a drunk driver on this date three years ago. It happened at the intersection right over there. I walk here each year and remember the good times we shared. It’s my way of feeling as if Zack is walking with me. I miss him so much.”

Totally confused, Ben stammered, “I’m so sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to… I was just… I mean… I… Zack was with…”

++++++ FOOD FOR THOUGHT ++++++

  • Do you have faith and believe in Jesus?
  • Do you think angels are capable of sending messages to us?
  • Do you think angels walk among us?
  • Have you ever experienced the presence of an angel?
  • Have you ever felt the presence of God in your life?

If your answers to the above are no, you should ask Grandpa Ben what he thinks.

Blessings to all who have lost loved ones. I hope this short story helps you feel the warmth of their presence during this Christmas season and that your heart is full of joy and happiness knowing they are nearby.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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WHEN PRAYERS COLLIDE

WHEN PRAYERS COLLIDE is possibly a topic you have never thought about before, but it may actually have an impact on how a prayer is answered—or not answered. It’s definitely something worth considering.

Those of us who have faith and believe in God are prone to pray. It’s how we communicate with Him. Whether our prayers are spoken or unspoken, God knows what’s in our heart. We pray to ask God for help in times of need and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received. Many of us probably have occasions when we pray for God to comfort others who are experiencing difficult times.

Philippians 4:6-7 clearly teaches that we are to pray to God in every situation:

However, I think it is important that we should always be mindful of what we are praying for God to do for us. Let me take a moment to expand on what I mean by prayers colliding.

Hurricane Florence provided a good example when the prayers of many people in North Carolina and South Carolina collided. I’ll be the first to admit that I have more questions than answers regarding our prayers colliding with the prayers of others.

As Hurricane Florence made her way toward the coasts of the Carolinas, many Christians who believe and have faith in God, and maybe even some non-believers, did a lot of praying. I certainly did. My prayers were asking God to send Florence away from land and not harm anyone. With each new weather forecast update, I prayed even harder asking God to turn Florence harmlessly back out into the Atlantic Ocean.

After a few days of increasing anxiety, it became obvious that atmospheric conditions necessary to send the bad girl harmlessly out into the Atlantic were nonexistent. In fact, conditions were perfect for her to make a beeline path toward the Carolinas. The question became, “Where was she going to make landfall—North Carolina and/or South Carolina?”

At this point, the prayers of many likely shifted to, “God please protect my family and friends from harm.” Unfortunately, many folks in North Carolina and South Carolina were also lifting prayers for God to do the same for them. Simply stated, our prayers were creating a situation where we were asking God to do completely opposite things—our prayers were colliding. It became obvious Hurricane Florence was going to make landfall, but not everyone was going to weather her mighty forces safely.

Unfortunately, our prayers were unintentionally asking God to spare “me and mine” by sending the wrath of Hurricane Florence to ravage others. We were asking God to take sides—them or us. This is certainly not the “love thy neighbor” lessons the Bible teaches us to follow.

The subject of prayers colliding made me think of a life-lesson I learned from a baseball coach when I was nine-years old. Please allow me to share my experience with you at this time.

+++ PRAYING BEFORE A BASEBALL GAME +++

We were about to play our second game of the season. As we did before the first game, Coach asked the players to form a circle around him. We removed our caps and took a knee. He then told us we were going to say a team prayer.

As we bowed our heads, Coach said, “Lord, please protect all of the players, coaches, and fans from injuries and help us play our best tonight. Amen.”

Bobby, our shortstop, then asked, “Coach, you said that prayer last game and we lost. Why don’t you ask God to help us win this game?”

I have to admit—I was thinking much the same way as Bobby, but I didn’t have the courage to open my mouth as he did, or maybe I was wise beyond my years—not likely the case!

Coach looked at each of us and replied, “Bobby, see that other team over there—they are our neighbors, and Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors. If we pray for God to help us win, in a way, we are also asking God to make the players on the other team lose. That’s not what Jesus wants us to do—that’s not expressing love for our neighbor.”

“But Coach, if they ask God to help them win and we don’t, we’re gonna lose this game too. God’s gonna help them win,” replied Bobby.

Coach paused, smiled, and replied, “Okay, boys, listen up. If both teams pray for God to help them win, which team do you think God is going to choose to help? Why would He choose our team? Does God love us more than He loves the players on the other team? I want each of you to think about that.”

All the players, including me, just sat there looking at Coach and not one of us said a word.

Coach continued, “You see, God loves the players on both teams. I don’t think He is interested in choosing which team wins a Little League baseball game. God is busy taking care of sick folks and many others who are facing difficult situations. God blessed each of you with the ability and opportunity to play baseball. It’s okay to ask Him to help you play your best because that’s what He wants you to do—give your best in everything you do. God smiles when you give your best. He’s always there to help you if you ask Him, but it’s up to each of you to give your best—on and off the field. Don’t ever pray for God to help you win because, if you do, you’re asking Him to make someone else lose—someone who may have as much faith and belief in God as you do—someone God loves just as much as He loves you.”

Coach then told Bobby to go ask some players on other team if they prayed for God to help them win the game. Bobby wasn’t very thrilled about Coach’s idea, but he did as Coach asked him to do.

Bobby returned and said, “Coach, they asked God to help them win.”

Coach replied, “Okay, guys, I hope you understand what I’ve told you tonight. Now, I want you to go out there and give your best, and we’ll see what happens. Let’s play some baseball guys, give your best, and remember, have fun tonight!”

Guess what—we won that game by playing our best. We didn’t ask God to choose our team to be the winning team. Then again—maybe we won by not praying for the other team to lose—our prayers didn’t collide.

Coach taught me a valuable life-lesson that day and I still do as he said—sixty-one years later. We need to be careful when we pray for God to help us. We should not ask God to choose to support us at the expense of others. Remember, we are to love our neighbors. We may not like some of the things our neighbors do, but we should not wish them harm either.

By the way, Coach—I called him Dad when weren’t on the baseball field. I’m thankful he helped me see the light when it comes to praying.

+++++++++++++

I count my blessings that Hurricane Florence didn’t harm my family or my property. However, the same is not true for many others living in North Carolina and the upper parts of South Carolina. Folks in those areas suffered in many ways—property damage, injuries, and some even died because of the storm. Flooding reached record heights in many areas, yet my family and those who live in the Charleston, SC region were spared—Hurricane Florence “decided” to make landfall near Wilmington, NC.

Now, let’s visit the second part of this topic regarding prayers colliding. What happens to our faith when our prayers collide? As stated earlier, I have more questions than answers about this, so I’m looking to you to help others by sharing your thoughts.

++++++ FOOD FOR THOUGHT ++++++

Consider a few questions that may or may not have answers, but they should help us think about what happens when we pray.

  1. Do you think God creates events such as Hurricane Florence to punish some people while sparing others?
  2. Do you think God spares some people because they prayed and punishes others because they didn’t pray?
  3. Do you think the faith of those spared from harm will grow stronger?
  4. Do you think the faith of those who suffered harm will become weaker?
  5. Do you think anyone blames or praises God for their particular circumstances?
  6. Do you think God sent Florence to punish those who were in her final path for reasons we don’t have the ability to understand?
  7. To your knowledge, have any of your prayers ever collided with the prayers of others?
  8. Do you think God hears the prayers of nonbelievers? If you think He does, do you think He answers their prayers favorably, unfavorably, or does He ignore them?
  9. Are we even supposed to understand the answers to such questions or is that what faith is all about—trusting God to be with us at all times?

If you have thoughts or comments about such questions, please don’t hesitate to share them—some folks, including me, would like to know what you think.

May God’s blessings be upon you each day and may your prayers never collide with those of others! I encourage you to pray often and have the patience to wait for God to answer your prayers—in His perfect timing.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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DRINKING FROM MY SAUCER

My mother died in November 2000 and I have missed her every day since. Her kindness and unconditional love for me were much more than I deserved. I was truly blessed to have had her as my mother. I wish I could spend one more day with her for there are so many things I need to tell her. It is because of her love that my cup has overflowed.

I was going through some boxes today and found one labelled “Mom’s Keepsakes.” When I opened the box I found a sheet of paper she had saved. It was a poem I don’t remember ever having read before, but it reminded me of how she lived her life helping others—especially me.

I was truly blessed today and hope the poem speaks to you also.

DRINKING FROM MY SAUCER

I’ve never made a fortune
and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much,
I’m happy anyhow.

And as I go along life’s way,
I’m reaping better than I sowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

I don’t have a lot of riches,
and sometimes the going’s tough.
But I’ve got loved ones around me,
and that makes me rich enough.

I thank God for his blessings,
and the mercies He’s bestowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
’cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin.
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
and the sun peeped through again.

So God, help me not to gripe about
the tough rows that I’ve hoed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage,
when the way grows steep and rough.
I’ll not ask for other blessings,
I’m already blessed enough.

And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.
Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

                            – John Paul Moore

I hope the poem touched your heart as it did mine. For it is in helping others that we drink from our saucer ’cause our cup has overflowed.

Blessings to all who understand the message and may you be blessed with someone who gives you unconditional love.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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PERFECT GIFT FOR WRITERS

My daughter gave me a rather unique Father’s Day gift this year. The kind of gift you give someone who needs nothing and doesn’t give you any suggestions.

She went online and purchased the gift from StoryWorth. It’s a perfect gift for someone who enjoys writing. StoryWorth sends me a weekly email asking a question about my past. I’m supposed to answer the question with a short story. The length of the answer can be as long or short as I desire.

The package consists of 52 questions. Upon completion, StoryWorth will compile the questions and answers into a book of some kind—not sure of the final product.

However, the questions have done much more for me—they have made me reflect very deeply on my past, which has provided me with tons of additional thoughts I can use as plots for additional short stories—ideas that were beyond my wildest dreams. It’s has been like opening the floodgates to a vast reservoir of experiences and possibilities.

I’m not trying to give a plug for StoryWorth, but if you or someone you know loves to write, I suggest you check their website and see for yourself. It may be the perfect gift for yourself or someone on your list.

The following is the StoryWorth question and my response for week #18.

+++ Week #18 Question +++

 “What advice would you give your great grandchildren?”

The advice I would give my great grandchildren is the same advice I gave to my children, grandchildren, and anyone who is willing to listen. Those who actually follow the advice are more likely to achieve higher levels of success in life than those who choose to ignore them. My advice is included in my second novel titled, ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream.

To set the scene for you, the following excerpt from my novel is a conversation between Tyler and Gabe after Tyler’s first visit to church. They are discussing the need to follow the Ten Commandments. Gabe uses this moment to tell Tyler about the twenty-two “Rules to Live By” in order to achieve success in life, which were given to him as a young boy by his father.

Excerpt from  ON GREEN DIAMONDS

…Tyler came down to our house later that Sunday afternoon and we chatted about all sorts of things. We talked about his first visit to the church and then started discussing the Ten Commandments. I told him what they meant and how important they were to us.

Tyler said, “We sure don’t want to break those rules.”

“No, we don’t because they are very important. I also have some rules you should learn to live by.”

“What are your rules, Uncle Gabe?”

“My rules are about how to live your life. They were written on an old sheet of paper many years ago and were given to me. Now, I want to give them to you, but you must promise to keep them in a safe place. Tyler, this sheet of paper means more to me than you can imagine. I want you to read these rules every week and make sure you don’t ever forget them. If you try to follow these rules each day, you’ll be successful in life.”

I sat and read the rules to him.

RULES TO LIVE BY

  1. Spend some time alone each day in prayer asking God to help you be the person He wants you to be. You are in His hands and He is always there for you. All you have to do is ask for His help.
  1. Obey the Ten Commandments. When you falter, ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  1. Always give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  1. Never laugh at another person’s dreams. People who don’t have dreams aren’t going anywhere.
  1. Remember that all great achievements involve great risk. Don’t be afraid to try something.
  1. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. A loss isn’t the end of the world, but something to learn from and grow to be better the next time you try.
  1. Always give a hundred percent of yourself in everything you do. You’ll feel better about yourself, whether you win or lose. The joy comes from having given it your best shot.
  1. Set goals for yourself and give the effort it takes to succeed. You can be anything you want to be, but hard work is the key to success.
  1. Never judge people by their relatives. They may not like them either.
  1. Love your family and friends with all your heart. You might get hurt sometimes, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
  1. When disagreements arise, present your points fairly. Name calling and hitting won’t win the argument for you.
  1. Talk slowly, but think quickly. It isn’t always what you say, but how you say it.
  1. Life is full of ups and downs, so stay in control of your emotions. Never get too high or go too low.
  1. Always be willing to help others because there will come a day when you will need help also.
  1. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.
  1. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it and don’t be afraid to admit it. If you never make a mistake, then you aren’t trying to do anything.
  1. Don’t let a little dispute spoil a great friendship. A true friend is something special and worth holding on to.
  1. When you are talking to someone, always maintain eye contact. It is a sign of confidence and signals that you’re paying attention to what they are saying.
  1. Eat healthy foods. Your body needs all food groups to develop properly.
  1. Whenever you say, “I love you,” think before you say it and mean it. It isn’t to be used lightly.
  1. Always, always remember, a true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. You can be a true friend to someone else by touching their heart today.
  1. Read these rules every week. Only you can change you, so don’t wait. Start doing it today!

End of Excerpt

On a personal note, I believe in the Ten Commandments and try to obey them each day of my life. Unfortunately, like many others, I sometimes go astray and ask God to forgive me when I do—to help me walk on the right path.

Just as Gabe believed the twenty-two “Rules to Live By” helped him in life, I feel the same way. I try to follow these guidelines and know they played a major role in my successes in life.

If you want to be successful, and I hope you do, follow the advice given above—it will make a positive difference in your future.

Now, look at the first letter of each word in the title of my novel, ON GREEN DIAMONDS and you’ll see OGD. Do you notice anything significant about those three letters? If you rearrange them, they will spell the word GOD. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, maybe there’s a hidden message here—sometimes we need to rearrange our lives to make things work better for us on our path to achieve success.

I pray God blesses you each day as you travel on your path to success and understanding.

TIME FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Do you know what the Ten Commandments are? Do you obey them?
  • Do you think the “Rules to Live By” could help you in life?
  • Are you going to use them to help you be the best you can be? I sure hope you will.
  • Have you read ON GREEN DIAMONDS? The novel references the twenty-two rules in real life situations throughout the story. Read it and you may enjoy it—you may even learn something about yourself. See the photo of the rules below.

END OF STORY

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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TWO BRAVE SENTINELS GUARDING MY FRONT DOOR

Two old rocking chairs sit motionless on my front porch. They are like two brave sentinels guarding my front door, but when folks come to visit me, they don’t even notice them sitting there. Those two old rockers don’t even exist as far as they are concerned, but they would likely think them out of place if they ever paused to notice them sitting there.

However, those two sentinels aren’t just old rocking chairs to me. You see, there was a time when those rockers were full of life, but that was many years ago when they guarded a different door. Cheerful voices and laughter filled the air around them as they rocked for hours back in those days.

Beneath the countless layers of paint applied to those two old rocking chairs through the years, you will find the golden beauty of a life once lived. The loving hands of a kind-gentle man made those rockers long before I was born, and if they could speak, they’d tell you stories that would make you smile, laugh, sigh, and maybe even shed a tear or two.

I have many fond memories of those rocking chairs, which is why I have them sitting there. It saddens me that no one notices or rocks in them anymore. I guess folks are just too busy these days and don’t have time to enjoy the simple things in life—like rocking and sharing special moments together. It seems folks are too busy running hither and yon or playing with electronic gadgets to consider enjoying such simple pleasures in life anymore.

The only time I ever see those two rocking chairs move these days is when the force of a gentle breeze kisses them softly as one would a newborn child. It is then those two old rockers seem to come alive again. I can even hear the sounds of soft voices and laughter floating on the invisible currents of air carrying the sweet aroma of gardenias I breathed long, long ago. It is during such precious moments that the floodgates of my mind open wide, releasing a river of memories as I envision the two of them sitting there.

You see, those two old rocking chairs mean the world to me. They belonged to my grandparents, Nene and Pop. When I close my eyes, I imagine Nene knitting as she slowly rocks back and forth while Pop puffs away on a corncob pipe he created with his rough, swollen hands. I don’t think Pop ever lit that old pipe though because I never saw any telltale smoke rising into the air, and the only scent I ever breathed came from Nene’s gardenias growing near their front porch. Maybe chewing on that old pipe was just Pop’s way of relaxing and remembering the glory days of his past—just as I am doing now.

I recall the many occasions when I snuggled quietly on Pop’s lap as we rocked for hours when I was a young boy. Sometimes we rocked well into the dark of night and counted the lightning bugs that came our way. Pop told me those flashing lights were angels saying hello to us. I believed him back then—I believe him even more so now.

However, most of our time together in that old rocking chair had Pop telling me stories about his childhood. I never knew if his stories were true, but it really didn’t matter to me. I just enjoyed hearing them and seeing the warm glow of a kind heart beaming from his eyes as he told each story. Every now and then, he would look down at me and flash a whimsical wink. That’s when I knew Pop had just shared a small piece of his soul with me, and only me. It made me feel warm inside and I always begged him to tell me more.

I will never forget the special moments that we shared—those precious moments in life when you feel so loved by someone that you want to shout out to the world to let everyone know how wonderful you feel.

We planned to celebrate my sixth birthday at Nene and Pop’s house that year. Nene was baking me a giant cake with her tender-loving hands, and I couldn’t wait to have my first sweet bite of heaven.

We were about to leave our house for my special celebration when the phone rang loudly that day. Mama answered and shouted, “Oh, no!” and started crying. She dropped the phone onto the floor and collapsed to her knees. I sensed something was wrong, but didn’t know what it could possibly be.

Daddy rushed to Mama’s side and helped her to her feet, but all she could say was, “Nene… Nene… Nene just…” Daddy held Mama in his arms, but she wouldn’t stop crying. Then Mama wrapped her arms around me and hugged me very tight. She didn’t say a word, but continued to cry—it made me sad to see her that way.

“Mama, you don’t have to cry because I love you this much,” as I spread my hands as far apart as I could. “See! Look Mama! See how much I love you!”

Mama finally paused for just a brief moment and squeezed me even tighter. Then she whispered softly in my ear, “We’re going to Pop’s house now, but we’ll have to wait to celebrate your sixth birthday another day. I’m so sorry, Taylor. Is that okay with you?”

I was disappointed, but I could sense I didn’t have a choice. I sadly replied, “Yes, ma’am—it’s okay. You don’t have to cry anymore. I’m your big boy now. I’ll take good care of you,” as I gently placed my hands on her tear-soaked cheeks.

“Yes, you are my big boy, and I knew you would understand,” as she continued wiping her tears. “Now, when we get to the farm, I want you to go to the barn and check on Pop’s chickens. You can feed them too, if you like. Will you do that for Pop and me?”

“Yes, ma’am— I will.” Again, I was confused, but I knew there were no other options for me. It was something I had to do.

When we arrived at the farm, I saw two police cars and an ambulance parked in front of Pop’s house with their lights flashing brightly. I remember thinking that it wasn’t a good sign to see them there and felt something must be terribly wrong. Mama told me to go to the barn and stay there until she came to get me. It was to be for just a little while.

I fed the chickens as Mama asked me to do, and then waited for what seemed to be a very long time. Then I saw Mama walking toward the barn, still wiping tears with each step she took. She knelt beside me, placed her hands on my shoulders, and said, “Taylor, I have something I must tell you and I want you to be my big boy when I do.”

Having no idea of the gravity of the moment, I replied, “Is it time for my birthday party? I’m ready to blow out the candles and eat the yummy cake Nene baked for me!”

After I said that, Mama started crying again, but her tears began flowing much more than before. It was the first time I had ever seen my mama cry so much. Her tears were falling like raindrops from the sky above. I thought I had done something wrong, but she wasn’t scolding me. Instead, she put her arms around me and pulled me firmly against her chest. She held me so tight I could feel her heart beating very fast.

She looked at me through red-swollen eyes and whispered softly, “Taylor, Nene—Nene went away today. She went to live with Jesus up in heaven.”

With the innocence of a child I replied, “When will she be coming back home, Mama? I don’t want Nene to miss my birthday party. She made a special cake for me!”

“Taylor, you know Nene loves you very much, but she won’t be coming back. She’s an angel and lives in heaven now, but I know she will still be watching you when we celebrate your special birthday.”

“But Nene didn’t tell me goodbye or sing happy birthday to me! She always tells me goodbye before she leaves. Mama, I want to go in the house to see Nene now! It’s my very special day! I’m six years old today! I’m your big boy now!”

Mama started crying even harder after I said that. She must have known I didn’t understand what she had told me. I pushed myself away from her grasp and started running toward Nene’s house. I heard Mama shouting my name, but I kept running as fast as my little legs could go. I was going to hear Nene sing happy birthday to me, but before I could get to the house, Daddy came down the steps and blocked my path.

I had never seen Daddy cry before, but I could see he was very upset that day. He had always told me big boys don’t cry. I was very confused by the tracks of tears I saw streaming down his cheeks because my daddy was, indeed, a very big boy. Big boys aren’t supposed to cry—Daddy told me so.

“Easy, Taylor! Now is not a good time for you to go inside Pop’s house. It will be better if you stay outside with your mama and me. Let’s go sit in the rocking chairs on the front porch for a few minutes.”

We walked in silence to the front porch and as I crawled up in Dad’s lap, I started crying as I said, “I want to see Nene! Daddy, please let me go see Nene!”

I fought hard to free myself, but Daddy was much too strong—I couldn’t break free.

“Did Mama tell you about Nene?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, but I want to go inside to see her. I want her to sing happy birthday to me because it’s my sixth birthday today. Mama said that it was my special day and if I made a wish, it would come true. My wish is to see Nene now. That’s all I wish for on my special day.”

Daddy picked me up and started walking toward the barn. When we got to Mama, she and Daddy hugged with me in the middle. We all stood there crying, but I didn’t really understand why until Daddy explained it to me again. That was the day I learned how it feels to lose someone you love very much. Yes, Nene went to heaven, but Mama told me that if I kept her in my heart, she would always be with me.

Well, I never did have that six-year-old birthday party. I guess Mama and Daddy were too busy with Nene’s funeral and taking care of Pop to celebrate it with me. They probably forgot about it, but I was okay with it because, party or no party, I was still a big boy—I was now six years old!

I remember going to Pop’s house every day over the next two weeks to make sure he was okay. I would sit on his lap in that old rocking chair, but he no longer told me stories after Nene went away. We just sat still with Pop staring off into the distance. It was as though he wasn’t there with me anymore. When I tried to talk to him, he just glanced down at me for a brief moment, but the warm glow he used to have in his eyes was no longer present. His eyes seemed so empty, as if his reasons for living were no longer there. However, each time a lightening bug flashed its light at us, I saw Pop smile. Then he would say, “Hello, Nene! I miss you so much! I’m looking forward to being by your side again—the way it used to be.”

Early into the third week after Nene went to heaven, Mama came to me crying once again. Based on my recent experience with Nene going to be with Jesus, I knew something was surely wrong. However, nothing could have prepared me for what she said to me that day.

“Taylor, I have some sad news to share with you, and I hope you will understand. Pop went to heaven to be with Nene today. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I understood very well what she meant this time. We hugged and wiped away many more tears that day. I knew the weeks to follow were going to be very tough. I always thought I was the big boy Dad told me to be, but I cried a lot during those long weeks. Two people who I loved dearly were now up in heaven with Jesus, but I knew they were still watching over me because I was carrying them in my heart, as Mama told me I could do.

Mama and Daddy took care of selling the farm and most of Nene and Pop’s possessions because we didn’t have room to store them in our little house. The only things I asked to keep were the two old rocking chairs sitting on Nene and Pop’s front porch. Mama and Daddy finally agreed to let me have both of them, and I am very grateful they did.

When I got married many years later, the first things I moved to our new house were those two old rocking chairs. My wife thought they were hideous and wanted me to get rid of them. She said they were nothing but old pieces of wood—junk not worthy of having at our new house.

It was our first big argument, but I stood my ground. I refused to give in and placed those two old rockers on our front porch that day. She eventually accepted the fact I was keeping them, but she wanted to place them on the back porch because she didn’t want her friends to see them sitting there.

Eventually, I told her the story behind those two old rocking chairs, and they have been sitting on the front porch of every house we have lived in. Those two sentinels will always be guarding my front door, even though my wife will never fully understand how much they mean to me.

Sixty years have now slipped past since Nene and Pop went to be with Jesus, but each time I look at those two old rocking chairs, I imagine them still sitting there. Nene is knitting away and Pop is chewing on his handmade-corncob pipe.

On my birthday each year, I sit in Pop’s old rocking chair and pretend I’m celebrating my sixth birthday with him and Nene. I feel his presence and look into his eyes. What I see is that warm glow of his kind heart looking down at me once more.

Yes, Pop and Nene are still rocking together; the way it was meant to be. Now, when I see lightening bugs flashing their lights at me, I know it is Nene and Pop stopping by to say hello—Pop told me that long ago, and I know it to be true.

When I listen very carefully, I can even hear both of them singing happy sixth birthday to me. That thought warms my heart and always makes me smile. Yes, I just sit there for a few moments rocking with Nene and Pop—the way it used to be.

Just two old rocking chairs sitting motionless there, and yet, they are very full of life to me. Those two old rocking chairs hold fond memories of two people who will always have a special place in my heart. My Nene and Pop will always be rocking side-by-side on my front porch.

So, the next time you happen upon two old rocking chairs just sitting there, pause for just a moment and look beyond what your eyes can see. You may find your personal version of “Nene and Pop” sitting there, just the way it was meant to be. If not, think of all the stories those two old rocking chairs could tell you, if only they could speak.

May God bless you with many fond memories of those who now shine their lights upon you when they come to say hello—Pop told me that long ago, so I know it to be true.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

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THEY GREW EVEN STRONGER

THEY GREW EVEN STRONGER

 

Pause a bit and let me share the tale

Of a journey started long ago.

It was the summer of sixty-six.

She was fifteen—he was seventeen.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

Two young souls came together that day.

Nothing serious—just a few dates.

A few months passed and things seemed to change.

Thoughts for each other began to grow.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

She turned sixteen and he found eighteen.

She agreed to wear his high school ring.

His Block “O” sweater looked great on her,

And he was happy she was his girl.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

He left for college—she was alone.

Folks told her their love would never last.

She should date others they did proclaim.

They said he would find another girl.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

Each week he studied hard, but weekends

Belonged to them—with her by his side.

Spending time together was their choice.

What others proclaimed did not matter.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

His sophomore year led to big decisions.

College was expensive—he needed help.

He signed up—the Air Force paid his way.

A four-year commitment was their price.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

Summer came before his junior year,

And two young souls sat holding hands.

He softly asked, “Will you marry me?”

Without hesitation, she said, “Yes!”

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

September sixty-nine they did wed.

Many years have passed since that big day.

They’ve seen some great times and some sad times,

But their love for each other never wavered.

 

Through it all, they grew even stronger!

 

It was over fifty-years ago,

Folks told her their love would never last,

Well, Babe, I guess we proved all of them wrong.

“With all my love, Happy 50th!”

Yes, through it all, WE have grown much stronger!

To all who have been a part of our wonderful journey, bless you!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels