20 Years! I’d Call That a Good Start!

THE Princess Bride!

“Today is the day!”  I remember those being my thoughts when I woke up on that Saturday morning, August 20, 1994.  This was the day that I would make the amazing transformation into a HUSBAND!  I was now going to have something I had never had before – a WIFE!  WOW!!!!!

Just to give a little background, Tammi and I first met when we were in middle school.  I honestly don’t remember meeting her, or what I thought of her.  I was too busy running around with the other guys, trying to be cool but not really succeeding.  I kind of feel bad that I don’t have a better memory of her, but at least my memory is pretty neutral.  Tammi’s first memory of me was that I was, “an obnoxious jerk.”  We’ve talked about that over the years, and I have noticed that this is a very distinct opinion of me, and it has never wavered… at all… one bit.  There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but honestly the best one is that it was probably a pretty astute observation!

As time went on, I do remember her! (I have found that in the most successful marriages, this does tend to be a foundational prerequisite.)  As we went through our teenage years, we became friends.  It was a small school, and she didn’t have a lot of options… Seriously, we were friends.  We picked on each other and teased each other through the remaining years together in our little school.  I probably did more than she did, but I do know that she got her shots in too!  At the end of her time at Evergreen, she even selected me to be her graduation escort.

Off she went to college to be a nurse, and I went on to a new school.  We would occasionally see each other when she came home for breaks, but our lives were definitely on two different courses.  We had no idea what God had in mind for us!

Who is the creepy guy behind that young lady?

The following year I graduated, and went to work full-time while going to school at NMC in Traverse City.  I had been dating a girl for a couple years, but that had come to an end.  I was just working, going to school, and enjoying life.  I had no plans other than finish my degree and make a career in the grocery world!

The fall of 1991, I was working at the store and I saw Tammi walk in.  I had not talked to her in quite awhile, but I felt the need to stop her and ask if she wanted to go out and catch a movie and talk.  I wanted to catch up on where she was in life and just reconnect as her friend.  That was honestly the only thought I had on my mind.

Oddly enough, I remember that night quite vividly.  We talked – A LOT!  By the time I dropped her off that night I knew one thing for sure.  I wanted some more of that.  Talking with and listening to Tammi was so natural, fun, and interesting.  We agreed to go out and talk some more the next night, and by the time I took her home, I was hooked.  I knew I wanted her as my wife.  I had no doubt whatsoever.  She was the One. (Yes. A capital “O” One!)

Tammi stayed here in Kalkaska that fall and did a year at NMC.  During that time she also came to work at the store.  We spent a lot of time together getting to know each other better, and starting our dreams.  It wasn’t very long before we were talking about the Future. (Yes, the Future – capital “F”!)

The next year Tammi went back to school in Florida, and life got a little tougher.  It was hard not to see her.  We wrote lots of letters to each other, and agreed to a 30 minute phone call per week so we could hear each other’s voice.  As time went on, the phone calls got longer and another night was added.  I think by the time she graduated it was 3 nights a week and about an hour a shot!  Talking to her was always the highpoint of my day, and I read and re-read letters all the time.20140817_164249

Engaged! Honest I was happy! Just not for pictures…

I went down to see her in the spring of ’93, and while I was there, I asked her to be my wife.  She said yes, and the clock really started to tick!  From that point on it got even harder to be so far apart, but we agreed that she would finish her degree before we got married.  For her that meant another year in Florida while I kept working here in Kalkaska.  I had a plan that would have me managing my own store one day. Well, that didn’t work out!

Rehearsal – Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Finally she graduated from college, and the planning began in earnest.  All the wedding plans we had been making were now being acted out.  Trips to stores to register, to look at options, to buy things.  We also had a lot of fun that summer knowing that we were finally going to be together for the rest of our lives.

It’s a done deal now!

The day finally came, and it was a grand day with all of our family and friends there.  We had some hiccups along the way, and there are some things that happened at the wedding that made us laugh then, and laugh even harder now:

  • The fact that all of the guys were hanging out at my house before the wedding and we actually got a phone call to get down there to seat people.  We forgot about that part.
  • The unity candle that would not light no matter how hard we tried, but I had a lighter in my pocket and took care of that – it went out a minute later.  I still have the lighter!
  • One of the groomsmen broke his pelvis the day before the wedding riding a motorcycle and had to sit through the wedding after I got him dressed.
  • The uncomfortably long hugs given out to each of us by some of the guests… *shudder*
  • When we left the reception everyone waved as we left then we had to go back because Tammi forgot her purse.
  • I did not think ahead to get a reservation for our wedding night and had to stop at 7 different hotels before finding one.
  • Sometime you will have to ask me to tell you about the one we found!

    Leaving the reception – Take One!

It was one of the best days of my life.  The day I finally felt complete.  I can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like without Tammi in it now.  All I know for sure is I wouldn’t want it.  She has brought such joy in her friendship, her spirit, and her encouragement.  She has been there for me through a lot of hard times, and has given me a reason to keep pushing forward.

In twenty years, we have not had a fight.  We have disagreed, but we have never fought.  There has been tension, and at times words that hurt, but never words thrown violently about to tear down and destroy the other.  The respect I have for her as a person, as my wife, and as my best friend will not allow that.  It makes me happy to know that she feels the same way.  We committed to that when we were married.  At the moment we said, “I do” we each committed ourselves to working things out. Divorce was never an option.  We took it off the table at that moment, and when it is not an option for either of you, you will find a way to make things work!

Our house – Fall 1994

We have learned so much about each other over the years that when we look back at the two kids that stood in that church 20 years ago we laugh.  Dated for three years.  Talked for hours on the phone.  Wrote hundreds of pages of letters.  We thought we knew each other then.  Nope.

Our HOME – 2014

Twenty years in, we are still learning things about each other, and I am thankful for that.  I am glad that I still see her as someone I want to get to know.  Twenty years in and I am still learning things from and about her, and I don’t feel that I have even scratched the surface of the depths of this woman God gave me.  She still lights up my world!  She can walk into the room and I just find myself smiling and thinking how beautiful she is, and I am the guy!  How blessed I am!

Twenty years.  It’s a good start.  I’m thankful for parents and grandparents who modeled this for each of us.  I’m thankful for the others that have been in our lives that have encouraged us.  I’m thankful for a nudge from God to ask a friend if we could talk.  I’m thankful for so many things that God has done to make our marriage what it is today.

With God’s help, we will be Relentless in our marriage.  never giving up, and never settling.  As we grow closer to Him, we are growing closer together.  That is the neat thing about God and how He designed us.

Lake Superior Vacation
20 more years! Ready. Set. GO!

Happy Anniversary, Tammi.  You are the love of my life, my gift from heaven.  You are the best!  I love you!



Running Scared

This past weekend, we were at the Michigan 4-H Dog Show at the MSU Pavilion in East Lansing.  If you are not familiar with the Pavilion, it is the agriculture and livestock arena at MSU.  While I am a Wolverine fan, I do enjoy my trips to the Pavilion, and that is probably because I don’t see a whole lot of football stuff there!  Sorry, but I love the Big House!  Anyway, back to the story.

1526980_10202671943578215_1812938245_nJessica’s Aussie, Sydney, is a wonderful dog.  I have never seen a dog before that showed as much intelligence as she does.  When you look into her eyes, you are almost positive that she understands you.  We have taken to spelling things in our house because she knows what words mean and gets all excited when we don’t want her to be excited!  Unfortunately, she has now been showing signs that she understand the spelling as well!  There are times that we all find ourselves talking to her.  I don’t mean talking to her like you would a regular dog, but a real, conversational talking!  When I catch myself in that, there are times that I am almost surprised that she does not answer me.  Who knows?  She is still young…

If there was one thing I would change about this dog, it would be her fear.  Sydney is terrified of thunder.  A rumble in the sky and she is immediately shaking and panting.  She will go and hide in the basement, under a bed, anywhere where she can feel like she has put something between her and the sky.  We try to get her to come to us so we can console her, but nothing works.  She is consumed by her fear.

When we arrived at the Pavilion Saturday, Sydney was fine.  She trotted up to the building as if she was the queen of the world, ready for the show.  That all changed when we got inside.  The Pavilion has huge exhaust fans in the ceiling that rumble.  There are very loud speakers that are constantly going off as people give information overhead.  Often those people would tap the microphone, and those taps were loud booms through the building.  Within 5 minutes, Sydney was reduced to a quivering, panting mess with nowhere to hide.  To make matters worse, she had to go out and perform.

Jessica was discouraged and torn.  Here she was, ready for the show, and full of confidence in her dog’s ability to do well, but she was conflicted seeing her baby so riddled with fear.  I could tell that she wanted to stay and go home with almost equal measure.  We spoke to her and tried to encourage her, but I know that she still felt miserable because her dog was miserable.scooby-running-scared

The competition began, and in the first event, while Sydney did well, all things considered. She did not place in the event, and it is an event that she almost always does flawlessly.  She was just too scared to listen to Jessica.  Too scared to do what she knew how to do.  Too scared to just listen to her master’s encouragement and love.  Too scared to anything.

Watching her, I could only think of myself in some of the situations I have faced.  The fears of life begin to weigh on me.  I feel the rumbling thunder of the coming storm and I begin to worry.  I see the flash of lightning, and I just want to hide.  The darkening skies make me knees go weak. I can’t do this!  I run in circles. I’m inconsolable.  I pant and whine.  I hear nothing but the perceived threats around me.  God, where are YOU?

As our day wore on, Sydney began to calm a bit.  She never really relaxed, but as Jessica worked with her and spoke to her and calmed her, you could see that she eventually began to come around.  By the end of the day, she was still a little shaky, but she was doing a very good job in her events, and overall had her best show ever at MSU.  We were proud of both of them.  What made the difference? Jessica.  She never left Sydney.  Sydney’s surroundings never changed, just her focus.  As the day went on she shifted her focus back to Jessica, and she did well.

When the skies are dark, the thunder is rolling, and I can’t see or hear God – HE IS STILL THERE!  He never leaves me.  He is there to give me instruction, to calm me, to encourage me, to show me His love for me.  He is there to direct me and help me accomplish the task He has for me.  My circumstances may never change, but when I shift my focus to Him, the rest fades.  It is still there, but I am so caught up in Him that the rest of it pales and seems manageable again.  It might not be comfortable, but His love compels me to keep going.

Lately I have been faced with some very hard times, and last week they came in a crushing wave that caught up with me hard.  I was not aware how loud the storm had gotten until it had overwhelmed me.  I felt empty, worn, and torn.  I was getting good counsel, reading my Bible, and spending time in prayer.  I was looking so many places for help that I couldn’t hear His voice.  It finally came to me, and it was quiet when it did.  It came out of left field where I did not expect it.  It grabbed my heart and completely wrapped it up in His love and tenderness for me.  Sometime I will write about how He did that, but this is not the time.

I am thankful for a God that never leaves.  He is committed to His work in my life, and He will not give up on me until it is accomplished no matter if I am paying attention to Him or not!  If God is that Relentless in His pursuit of my heart, why am I not on the edge of my seat and eyes on Him at all times?  Too much of me gets in the way.

I want to be Relentless in all aspects of my life and in my relationship with God.  I learned some things this past week.  Being Relentless means I can’t just sit and chew on that.  Relentless Growth requires me to act, to take steps, to move into that next step of maturity in Him.  I’ll mess up again, but I hope that the next time I do I will recognize it earlier.  I  hope that I will not allow my eyes to drift from Him for too long.  I hope that my ears will stay tuned to His still, small voice that leads, comforts, and encourages my soul.

Sydney was running scared in all directions.  When I am scared, I want to run to my God.  My Protector. My Savior, Father, & King!

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

What’s On The Inside?

Last week I got a message from a friend with a great offer. (Let’s use a very common name so as to protect his identity. We will call him… Joe.) “Joe” had a portable room air conditioner that he was given, and he decided to pass that gift on to someone else – me! I told him that would be great and I knew I would be in the area soon to pick it up.

When I laid eyes on it, I was very impressed. This was a very nice unit with three modes and a lot of other nice little features. Needless to say, I was very excited at the thought of having a cool, comfortable living room, and I was very thankful and appreciative! As I loaded it into the trunk, I caught a slight whiff of mustiness, but was sure that once I got it home and washed the coils out, it would be great! By the time we got home, it was late, so I left it on the porch and went to bed.

Rodent pictured is not actual rodent discovered. Actual rodents were not in a physical state that anyone would have wanted to see…

When I got home from work the next day I was very eager to get started on the cleaning. When I stepped onto the porch to move it outside, I was hit with a different aroma. I remembered this smell. I had this smell in my old pick-up one time. This was the smell of rodent.

I took it out to the garage to check the damage, and after a fair amount of dis-assembly, I found the culprits. Yes, culprits – plural. More than mouse. We were talking mice. As in 3 Blind. They had crawled in through the cold air exhaust, and thanks to the fine engineering form the people of Amana and their smooth flowing air channel, the mice were unable to climb back out. They did all they could to extricate themselves as they chewed through the fan blades and anything else they could, but they met their end. Their lives may have been cut short, but their stench had lingered on– with great power and intensity!

It took a good deal of scrubbing, and more than a little bleach, but it finally reached a point of neutrality that is tolerable. I get a good whiff of it at start-up, but after about a minute, it dissipates, and all I get is cold air. Success! I did find a couple other things that need to be addressed before it can go into service, but all in all, this machine is a gem! I’m still very thankful for the gift and the comfort it is going to bring.

As I cleaned, I had some time to think. I was reminded of the story of the Pharisees and Christ’s words to them in Luke:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”     (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭27-28‬ ESV)

The Pharisees were so full of pride and wickedness, but as the religious leaders, the people thought if they just followed their directions, everything would be fine. The problem was that the people were often being led down a path that did not bring glory to God, just praise and notoriety to the Pharisee. Following these men and their message was like stumbling into a tomb. Not a place you want to go!

Just like this air conditioner looked clean and wonderful on the outside, something was hidden on the inside. Something that needed a good scrubbing to remove the foul contents. Sometimes my heart needs that too.  It can be old bitterness, anger, or apathy toward another person.  It can be old habitual sins that slowly grow until they are causing major problems with spiritual growth.  The list of things that can go wrong in my heart is long, and I hate that!  How do I keep those things from getting in there and causing such a  stink?

1. God’s Word – Spending daily time in the Word is better for my heart than mouse repellent is for an air conditioner!  That time spent reading and chewing on God’s Word is both the tool I need to get into the hidden areas to dig out the nastiness, and it is also the cleansing agent that makes me fit to be around!

2. Friends – Sometimes, I don’t know my attitude is getting a little foul, but when I have good friends who speak into my life the Truth that I need to hear, they help me by pointing out a smell that I might not have picked up on my own.  After all, it is my attitude.  If there is a problem, it couldn’t be me – right?

I have a group of guys that I am in contact with every week, and I trust them with this area of my life.  I have had a couple of them point things out, and we have gone digging.  I need that.  We all do.  That is a part of a Relentless life.  Not being willing to settle for allowing stuff to rest in me that will bring an offensive aroma to God or those around me.

So, how about you?  Do you have something down inside you that emits a  less than desirable aroma to your attitude?  Do you have someone you can ask?  Are you spending time in the Word to help you find and deal with it?  If the answer is yes, then I am very happy for you!  Keep it up!  If the answer is no, then my challenge to you is to make a plan and then take a step.  You don’t need to become a theologian overnight.  That probably won’t help you anyway.  The biggest thing is to take action.  Even a single step is progress.  Go for it!  If I can encourage or help in any way, please let me know.

Thanks again to my friend for the machine!  It is more than a tool to bring comfort to my home.  God has also used it to bring a lesson to my life.  I appreciate it!

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong