My Daughter – A Tender Heart for Others

So my last post was about how we were able to see God working in my son’s heart at the fair last week as he dealt with disappointment and worked on having a good attitude in spite of it.  This time I want to share some of the things I saw in my daughter this past week.10364133_10203636597533961_2843149509723224561_n(1)

Let me preface this by saying that Jessica loves animals.  No, you didn’t understand me right.  She LOVES animals.  I’m still not sure you are really getting what I am trying to say.  SHE LOVES ANIMALS!  This started back at roughly 6 months of age when her favorite toy in the world was a mini beanie baby lizard from McDonald’s that she eventually named Weezard.

As she grew her love for animals became more and more apparent.  She was bit by a dog that she tried to kiss, and we thought that would finally temper her fascination, but it didn’t. She happily jumped in a  pen to play with bear cubs, was willing to grab snakes, bugs, spiders, or any other thing that ran across the yard.  A trip to the zoo for her was just about as close to heaven on earth as she could imagine.

10511299_814656361886595_5277955452073193160_nSo, when we started her in 4-H with dog obedience, I knew there were bigger things coming.  It seems like it all happened so fast, but I blinked one day and we had several dogs, a gerbil, horses, and pigs.  (I have thus far held off rabbits and cats, but she has been caught actually setting food out for the mice that live in the barn.)  The amazing thing is that no matter how many animals she owned, her first thought was always to share them with other people.

As she has gotten older and more experienced in the fair, she has really gotten good at showing animals and finding opportunities to excel in the different things that she does.  When she first started, she might win a prize or two, but now it seems like she walks away with a prize no matter what she enters!

This is the kind of thing that would go to the head of a lot of kids – I know it did to me when I was her age!  It never seems to happen with her.  She will win something, and she is actually surprised that she won!  Then she actually will feel bad for the people who didn’t get to win!  Not a fake pity, but a genuine concern for their self-esteem.

I think her attitude in winning is a part of how Zach was able to manage with his disappointment.  He never saw his sister gloat over her awards, and she cheered him on the entire time.  He could see her heart for him.

On a mission trip to Florida, she had the chance to work with a little boy that was, in her words, “a very naughty boy”.  As she spent time with him over the week, she was struck by the life that this little guy was living.  She said God broke her heart for kids who are hurting, in need, or with special needs, and she knew in that moment what God wanted her to do with her life.  Her plan is to take her love for animals and her love of sharing her animals and use them to help kids with special needs, emotional problems, or relational/trust issues.  It is all she wants to do.317950_4832775375732_2019616679_n

A couple of times last week, Jess had an opportunity to step out and help others get to experience a victory.  Zach was able to be a part of one of them, and that was one of his highlights of the week as well.

10354881_10203636555492910_1675975671504441886_nThere is a boy that belongs to some friends of ours that has some special needs.  He is a smart young man with a ready smile that melts your heart, and we have really enjoyed getting to know him. This year his parents have really been working with him to get him out in the pen to show his own pig.  This is not a small task for any kid, and for him it was a very big mountain to climb.I’m sure there were people that walked by without noticing what was happening that day, but my kids were so proud to be out in the pen with this brave little guy who boldly stepped out of his comfort zone to show this pig.

This is the type of work Jess has decided that God has called her to do, and I believe the heart that He put in her is already being exercised and molded to do just that.  She loves to work with the young kids, to show them love, and to make them smile.  She is learning to help little kids move past their fears to overcome obstacles.

There was a little girl at the fair that was terrified to go out in the ring with her pig.  Her mother was there trying to talk her into going out, but the little girl was crying and refusing to do it.  Jessica squatted down and started talking to her, and before we knew it, she was out in the ring with this cute little red-haired girl and helping her show her pig. As the girl kept walking with Jess and her pig, pretty soon, Jess started to hang back and let a little distance get between her and the girl.  Before long, Jess was just leaning on the fence, and this little gal was running her pig like she had been doing it for years.  Jess said that was one of the best parts of the whole week.10520633_10203636570773292_7859788137322730734_n

You  might be reading this post and thinking that I was just trying to tell you that my daughter was good with animals and likes kids.  You would be wrong.  What I want you to understand is something much deeper than that.

Like I said before, Jess has always loved animals, and she has always been a nice girl that got along well with others, but God did something in her heart a couple years ago that has become very evident.  Now there is a pairing of her love for animals with a God-given and internally RECOGNIZED mission to serve the little ones, the hurting ones, the “least of these.”  She has been given a heart that actually cries out the words of Christ:

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14

It brings Tammi and me such great joy to see how she is looking for opportunities to develop that calling in practical, real ways as she goes through life.  She is in her Bible and taking what she learns and applying it as she goes about her day.

She is going into her senior year now.  There are a lot of things that are up in the air right now as far as where she will go to school, what kind of track her education will take, and a lot of other things too.  I’m excited to see how things are going to go.  One thing I know is that at this point in her life, she is dialed in on being the young woman God wants her to be.  I am praying that it continues to be that way.

God has blessed us with two great kids.  Are they perfect? Not in the least.  Do they mess up?  You betcha!  They are my kids! So, why am I so proud of them?  Is it because they are so good at what they do?  Is it because Zach has a good attitude, or Jess is nice to people? No.  I’m proud of them because they have a relationship with God as teenagers that I didn’t have until I was in my late 30’s.  I’m proud of them because they are learning to lean and depend on Him in a way that will allow them to be stronger in their faith and able to  do more for the Kingdom.

The power at work in them is from their relationship with Christ.  Accepting Him as Savior was only the first step.  The important thing is that they are looking for ways to follow Him, and to learn from His example. My prayer is that they will always be Relentless in their search to know Him better.

You can know Him too.  If there are any questions you have concerning a relationship with Christ, please message me, and I would love the chance to share with you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

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My Son – A Man in the Making

This past week we have been heavily involved in the Kalkaska County Fair.  We raise pigs for the kids to auction, and my daughter also has a dog she shows and does horseback riding as well.  There are things my son does with joy and passion, but anything involved with animals is not on his top ten list.  He makes it quite clear that he is, “in this for the money.”  I see no sign that this will change anytime soon, as his interests are definitely non-agricultural.  So, when fair week comes around, we have always looked to him and done our best to get him excited about it, and remind him that it is character development – hard work, responsibility, dedication, and so on.

DSC09975Looking at our pigs this year, we really thought that Zach had a nice looking pig of a decent weight and shape.  Every time we went out and looked at the pigs, I would think that he would have a contender for big market money, and his sister would just need to settle for the usual goal she has of being a showman.  His pig was exactly the shape the judge has been looking for the last two years.  He heard me say it over and over, and I think he was really starting to get excited for the fair this year.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised.

Well, we got our pigs up there and started looking around and found that Zach’s pig, while looking good, was much smaller than many of the other pigs.  Our worst fears were realized when she was weighed and we found that she was significantly under the weight for a market swine.  I was so surprised at the weight that I asked for her to be weighed again, and we got the same result.  This was a little pig. (we later found out she was the second smallest out of 40+ pigs this year.

Zach was crushed.  The main reason he does the pig is for the money, and he has a small pig.  Roaster pigs are sold at the end of all the other pigs, and usually your buyers have spent most of their money and the bids are low.  Low bids + low weight = less money.  That was a hard hit for him.  We talked to him and tried to get him fired up again.  I don’t think he was buying it much.  We pointed out to him that since he was one of the oldest kids in his class and had been showing for a few years, he had a great shot at winning the Showmanship award.  I think he perked up a bit at that, and he went the next morning with a good attitude, ready to give it a shot.

He did great.  I really thought it was his best performance yet as a showman.  He actually looked like he was enjoying himself!  When the results came in, he did not win the Grand or the Reserve spot.  I have to admit, that was hard for me to see.  I had just watched my son bounce back from a hard hit the night before in something he does not like doing, knuckle up and go at it again, only to be denied the prize he was after.  I looked him in the eye and told him that I was very proud of him and his efforts.  Inside I was devastated for him.  I didn’t understand it anymore than he did.  I pretty much concluded at that point that his week was pretty much over.DSC00018

I didn’t know what was going on in him though.  At camp last week, Zach was impacted by the messages and his time in the Word.  He came home and told us all about how God became much more real to him while at camp.  What I didn’t know, was that in the middle of all of this disappointment, Zach was reaching out to God for help with his attitude.  He was praying that God would still give him a good week at the fair.

Over the next couple of days, we watched Jessica rack up one award after another.  Her side of the pig pen was covered in ribbons, a plaque, and a trophy that fairly shouted to anyone walking by that this girl knew what she was doing.  We felt bad that Zach’s side of the pen was vacant of any award, and the number of hers almost made it look the barn was tipping with the weight of them!  Even though that was what we saw, there was something else we could see as well.  Zach was having fun.

He was there at every event supporting his sister.  He was feeding and caring for the animals with little to no push.  He was helping other kids out with their animals.  He was laughing, smiling, and not feeling sorry for himself.  He was out lifting up other people.  It became so apparent to us that his attitude was so impressive that we decided as a family it would be fun to take a picture of him and put it on his side of the pen with a sign that said, “Best Attitude with No Awards!”  It just seemed like a fun thing to do, and it would put something on his side of the pen.  We thought the buyers might get a kick out of it when they walked through the pens.  Honestly, we did it for the laughs.

DSC00093Well, the auction took place, and Jessica did well with her pig.  It was the 6th place market swine, and took a respectable price.  Bidding was going very well last night, but as we often see, as the pigs got smaller, the average bids did too.  You would see the occasional pig tip a large number, but we saw what we expected.  We told Zach to just get out there and have fun.  He had a pig to sell, she was small, so he needed to sell himself too!

When he got out there, I could not have been more proud of him.  He was smiling, had a bounce in his step and a grin on his face.  He even did the moon-walk as he walked with his pig!  I wasn’t even paying attention to the bidding until I heard the auctioneer yell out that he had received a $4.00 bid!  That was the same price per pound that the Grand Champion pig received.  By the time all was finished, Zach had received a final bid of $4.50!  That was a full $2.00 per pound m0re than I was HOPING for!  His pig brought in more money than his sister’s pig that weighed 50 pounds more than his!

The buyer was a complete stranger.  When we went to give her the buyer gift that we had purchased for her, she said that she and her daughter had been walking through the pens and saw the picture of Zach smiling and giving the thumbs up, and had decided right then that they would buy his pig.  Not because ot was a great pig, but because he had a great attitude, and it was showing on his face before and during the show.

Talking with Zach later, he said that he had prayed for a good result, but he had prayed more about a good attitude.  He said he is working on having an attitude of praying without ceasing and giving his thoughts to God when they start to go dark.  What better thing could a Dad hear his son say?  I told him that I thought God blessed him last night for something better than hard work.  He was blessed for his determination to have a good attitude.  I believe that with all my heart.  This was a battle for him this past week.  It was a man-sized battle, and he knuckled up and hit it head on with God at his side.  I could not be more proud.

Phillippians 4:8-9 say:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Matthew 6:33 says:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Zach did the hard thing this week.  He chose a Relentless attitude of trust and put his thoughts on God rather than focusing on his current lot.  I can learn a lesson there, how about you?  What hard thing has you discouraged right now?  Are you dwelling on the circumstance, or are you asking God to show you what you need to learn, to let you lean on Him, to direct your steps and spirit as you continue to walk?  That is a life of Relentless Growth.  That is kingdom living, and God wants to reward us for it.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Happy Birthday, Tammi! I Love You!

We have moments in our lives that shape us, define us, change our paths. I think it is important to recognize those moments and reflect on their significance because when we do, we see how good God is to us.

For me, one of those moments took place before I was born.  Today is the anniversary of the day my wife was born, and I am so blessed by the changes in my life that have come as a result of her birth. So, I want to take a few minutes and tell her how much she means to me.

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nTammi,

It is so weird to think back on life and realize that even though I had 18 years of it before we began to date, I can’t remember much of my life that didn’t have you in it!  We met as kids, and now 23 years have passed with us as a couple.  I often think about how God brought us together, an d it makes me smile to think that He had a plan that would make so many people scratch their heads early on.

In you I see so many good and wonderful gifts that God has put in you, and I want to take a moment and tell you about a few of them. couple

Your Smile

Tammi, your smile brightens my days more than you will ever know, and it does the same for so many other people as well.  You have been given this gift of being able to lighten the mood in a room with that smile.  God has used it to bring reassurance to people who are nervous or upset.  You show the joy that is in you whenever you smile and your eyes get that little twinkle in them.

Your Heart

Your capacity to love and to show concern for others is the gift in you that I most admire.  God has put an ability in you to hear the heart of anyone you are talking to and you don’t stop with hearing it.  You genuinely care.  You care in a way that I am not wired to do, and it absolutely blows me away.  I am learning from you to be more caring and interested in others, and I am so glad that God gave me a teacher like you, because you are a natural in it.

BeautyYour Love

You are my wife, and I am so thankful that I get to share that with you and all that it entails as a husband, and as parents of our kids.  You make our house into a home with your love.  You are so busy, but you are always able to show us the love we need in even the most hectic of times.  I know you don’t feel that way too many times, but I assure you that we feel it.  Think about how our kids never go a day without several hugs and words of love from you.  You show your love in the things you do, the words you say, and again, the smile on your face.Tammi and kids

Your Dreams

Yes, I said your dreams.  In spite of all of the work they have created over the years, your dreams have brought our family so much joy.  As a result of those dreams we have a beautiful home, we have amazing flowerbeds, we have animals – lots and lots of animals… Your dreams have brought more than that though.  Your ability to dream has brought out mine as well, and God is using those dreams in shaping our future.  There are so many things that God has done in our lives as a result of dreams, but I love how we are both looking around in anticipation of what He might do next.  I absolutely love dreaming with you.

tnt2Your Promise

That you are my wife is the thing I love about you the most.  We will be married for twenty years next month, and through all the crazy times of getting to know each other as a couple, learning to understand each other as a couple, how to resolve things as a couple, and learning how to almost everything as a couple, I have had your promise to stick with me.  Even when I might not have been very “stick with worthy”.  Your dedication to improving our marriage as a team has made me love you even more.  I thank God for you every single day, and I can’t thank Him enough for you an your love.  You are the most “Very Good Thing” in my life.

Happy Birthday, Honey.  You are phenomenal, and you are a blessing to us as well as anyone else who really knows you!IMG_0371

Love you,

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m In Hot Pursuit!”

rosco_2x11_33Every time I hear the word “pursuit”, as a child of the 80’s I am reminded of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. There were not a lot of things about Roscoe I would like to add to my life, but you have to admit, Roscoe never gave up a pursuit…

Continuing my study of Gideon, I am in chapter 8 of Judges and verse 4 is a challenge to my daily walk:

And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. (emphasis mine)

Gideon’s battle itself was not an overly difficult one, but when you look back in the story, it would appear that he has had a prolonged period of time without much sleep.  Gideon did a lot of work at night – taking down an idol, infiltrating a camp, and then his trumpet and light show that turned the enemy on themselves.  Follow all of that up with a pursuit of two fellas and their straggling soldiers, a confrontation with some of his cousins, and I am sure he was exhausted.

But he kept pursuing.  Why?

I think it is simply because the job wasn’t done.  God told him He would use Gideon to defeat the armies of Midian, and these two generals were still converting oxygen to CO2.  It was not time to rest.  And in the verses to follow, we will see that there was more to overcome.  I encourage you to read it for yourself and see how Gideon pressed on and took care of the job. Even when people denied him help, he did not let up.

Lately, I have been very tired.  I know God is blessing and there are a lot of really neat things going on – continuing to grow closer to my wife, the amazing number of kids from BBC at Lake Ann Camp this year, the relationship that has been getting stronger with my son, the time I have been spending in the Word, trying my hand at writing, working to be a godly husband, father, and friend.  I am so excited about it, as I am sure that Gideon was excited about the victory he had been promised.  I know that God is working.  I know that He is working on me.

I’m tired.

I’m tired, and I see other big things and opportunities ahead.  It scares me to think I am already tired!  To think that I could one day look back on this and think, “You only THOUGHT you were tired!”

I’m not going to let it stop me though.  There are things happening that I have been longing to see, just as Gideon wanted to see his people free.  The dreams I have had are fuel that allow me to keep going.  God is working, and I see it.  He is telling me that He is sufficient for me.  I know that there will be people along the way that will help me – you all are doing it already in your prayers.  I also know there will be people who can, but will not.  Not sure if I get to beat them with blackberry thorns… That might take a little more Bible Study to see if that is an option…

I talked with a friend last night who is in a pursuit of his own. He is stepping out of what many would call a great job, at a place he loves, where he is surrounded by friends and a great culture, to follow God in a different way. He has about 40 days and he will even need to be out of his home, and he doesn’t know where he is going yet! He has some ideas, some thoughts on what he is praying and hoping for, but he has nothing tangible at this point. As he was telling me all about it, HE COULD NOT STOP SMILING! He is relentlessly pursuing what God has put in his heart and he is thrilled, even in the face of the unknown. What an encouragement to me!

Keep pursuing!  We all get tired, but Gideon was not alone.  He had his trusted men with him as I do.  He had the words of God to stand on, as I do.  He was the man God wanted in the battle.  I believe that at least at this period of my life, I am where He wants me to be – Relentless in pursuit of the mission set before me.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

 

 

A Very Good Thing

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nHe who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. – Proverbs 18:22

Last night my wife and I did something we have not done in a few years.  We got supper and drove out to Old Mission Peninsula Park and enjoyed our supper on the beach.  This is something we did when we first started dating, and it became a tradition that at some point each summer we would make the trek.  Usually the dinner consisted of pizza from a shop on the way.

Tammi suggested we get Grand Traverse Pie Company for supper this time, and with the promise of pie, she knew she had me in the bag.  Unfortunately, without my knowledge, there was also a pickle in my bag, and my sandwich was soaked with that nasty flavor. (Sorry, not a pickle lover. Never have been and never will be…).  I guess it showed that we were a little rusty from not doing this for a few years.

The best part of the trip was just hanging out with my wife and talking.  Life has been too busy lately, and while we each hate that it happens, we get a little drawn apart.  It was good to have some time to talk about what has been going on in our heads, catch up with each other’s hearts, and do a little dreaming together.  That is something we have always done well together, but lately conversation has primarily been about the daily functions and necessary downloads of schedules and pertinent information to the next 24 hour period.

I am hoping for some more good time like this in the next week as our kids are at camp.  We miss having them around (I have to do the horses in the mornings), but it is good practice for remembering what it was like when it was just us (no horses) before kids (no horses).  I am glad to say that I am not worried about it.  When God gave me my wife, He definitely gave me to good thing that I needed.

Through our years together I have grown because of her in many ways.  I have my own reasons for wanting to grow in God, but one of them is my desire to be the man that she deserves.  Just in being my wife she makes me want to be a better husband.  I fail sometimes (please do not approach her for statistics), but I know that I am better in most ways than I was almost 20 years ago.

So, I just wanted to share how blessed I am feeling today to have this wonderful lady in my life.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

PS – The horses are not that bad.  At least when they let me catch them…

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong