18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

Get Me Outta Here!

I’m going to share something with you today.  I’m a little embarrassed by it, but I feel the need to share it with you.  I’m going to share something that has caused some of my deepest anxiety to come to the surface.  Every time I have to face this, I feel my heart race, I get a cold sweat, my hands go clammy, breathing gets more rapid, and my vision actually “tunnels” a little bit.  *deep breath* Here goes, please don’t judge me too harshly:

I am absolutely terrified of using Fitting RoomsCabines-d'essayage-Copenhague

There. I said it.  Not feeling very many reassuring words out there just yet. Maybe they will come as I continue.

I’m not sure where it all began.  My earliest memories of fitting rooms had me inside with an armload of jeans while my Mom stood outside telling me to come out and show her how they fit.  I’d rush to get changed and then step outside for the required tug, smooth, “Show me your butt”, and “How do they feel?” before going back in to try on another pair so I could go out and do the dance again. (Disclaimer – Mom cared and wanted to be sure I didn’t grab the wrong pair.  She wasn’t out to embarrass me. – OK.  Back to my story)

I remember thinking it would be better when I started shopping on my own and I didn’t have to go in and out so many times in order to come to an informed purchasing decision.  With age would come the freedom to understand whether or not I needed a “scoche” more room for freedom of movement and comfort.  What I didn’t expect was that the anxiety would not lessen.

Going into the changing room continued to be a problem.  The moment the door closed behind me it would all start.  The sweat, breathing, rapid heart rate would all come rushing back again.  Was it the sense of confinement? The fact that I am taking off my shoes AND pants in a place where strangers are walking past my door or curtain?  How would I defend myself?  Could I run if I had to?  Was it standing in a place where I could not help but question the hygiene of the person that had been in there before me?

Eventually I decided that I would just grab what I wanted off the rack and just buy it.  When I got home I could try it on and then just return it if it didn’t fit.  Not convenient, but it was a solution.  Not a good one as I did return a pair of jeans four times one time after trying to figure out just what size felt best and had the right “scoche” factor. I knew I had to try to get back into the room again.

So, the new practice of psyching myself up of the fitting room began.  I took a little time and started thinking more about what I was there to purchase.  No longer would I purchase shirts and pants at the same time.  I got no time for that.  Too much exposure and tucking is required.  Also, when going in I will rarely have more than two or three items.  We’ve only got a few minutes before I am curled up on the floor next to a pile of pins and a suspicious Kleenex.  Get in. Get done. Get out.  That became my mantra.

Honestly, I think most of it is the fact that I am a big guy.  I’ve been the size of an average adult male (or larger) since about the 6th grade.  When I get into those small rooms, I just start feeling closed in.  It’s not a true claustrophobia because I have no problem crawling under my house where I actually need to exhale to slide under the floor joists!  I just need more space. (Another true confession – If it is available, I will always use the handicapped fitting room.  Apparently the ability to turn a wheelchair around will also help lower my anxiety.)

arms-wide-open-1457804Coming out of the fitting room is the only thing on my mind from the moment I enter it, and when I swing that door open I almost feel like breaking out into song or screaming “Freedom!” all Braveheart-style.  The world gets a little bit brighter, the air feels fresher (there might be some truth to that), and life feels like it is worth living again!

When it comes down to it, I know the problem is not the fitting room.  It is a stressor.  Stress is the enemy.  It comes in different shapes and sizes for different people, and it changes with your circumstances and life events.  I’m on vacation right now and have been since last Thursday.  Stress right now is low, and I am loving it!  That was not the case a week ago.

Last Monday I woke up to get ready for work and I was literally sick with stress.  I’d had a headache behind my right eye for about three weeks, and my stomach was a rollercoaster.  The thought of getting up and going to work had me in a near panic.  The stress was all work-related, but it was not “bad” stress.  Just the stress of a large project nearing completion that requires a number of last minute details to be taken care of immediately – if not sooner!  My boss and the people I work with are all feeling it.  The end is in sight, but we aren’t there yet.  We’ll all have a big hug then!

Lying there in the dark I decided to do something I had failed to do for the previous three weeks.  I prayed about it.  Not just a quick, “Please help me, God”, but a sincere prayer asking Him to show me what I needed to understand in the situation that might make it more manageable.  I asked Him to give me wisdom, peace, and a clarity in the midst of the mess and change me where He needed to so I could get through it.

I got up and went to work feeling lousy, and I knew that the day held a lot of hours for me that included coming back in to work that night.   Shortly after arriving, my head started pounding, and as the morning progressed it just got worse.  Something happened around 1pm though.

I remember sitting there thinking that I had not felt this kind of stress since I worked for Kellogg’s.  The last three months there were terrible.  I was working 12-16 hour days and was in a constant battle to keep up standards and increase sales.  Then it hit me.  During those three months with Kellogg’s I was fighting for my job.  All of the long hours, distractions, demands, and hard work were in order for me to keep that job.  It was a job I hated, working for people that didn’t really want me around.  I was in a completely different situation then.

Now I work for an organization that appreciates the things that I do and actually helps me become better at my job.  Pretty big swing between those circumstances.  It has been very busy.  Nobody working there will question that right now, but the busy-ness of the situation was not the problem.  Busy was not the cause of stress.  The cause of the stress was the fear of losing my job – again.  Pairing busy, stressful work with a fear from the past made it all the more stressful.

As I sat there, I believe God chose that moment to remind me that I was going to be okay.  I was not in jeopard of losing my job.  I was just busy.  Things will be alright.  Just lean on Him and it will be okay.  The moment I had that thought, my head stopped hurting.  A week later, my stomach is returning to normal.  I’m on vacation, and that is helping too, but without that thought of security, I can assure you that this vacation would not be as good as it is!

A couple days ago I read this verse in Psalm 18:

“He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19

Just like I feel that relief when I am finally able to escape the fitting room, God brings me out of those stresses and shows me that the world is wider than I have made it.  He shows me that by confining my view to my problem, I can’t see the breadth of Him!  When I shift my view to Him I see the possibilities, the freedom, and His grace for living.  He rescues me from myself and He does it for one, simple reason.  He delights in me.  He loves to see me live.  I don’t mean just regular living, but Relentlessly Living.

Living Relentlessly in the face of stress is maintaining a fierce dependency on God.  Recognizing that my issues are mine and that God is not hindered by them.  In reality, my issues and my frailties are where He is longing to come to me.  He expectantly waits for me to realize my need and reach out to Him.  That is where the peace of God is found.  Seeing only Him in the middle of the chaos.

I hope this serves as a help to you if you are facing a stressful time right now.  If you aren’t, then buckle up!  It’s coming!  File this one away for when you need it.  If it has been help, or if you would like to share a similar experience – even if it is about fitting room fears – feel free to share it with me through the comments or e-mail below.  If you know someone this might help, please share it with them as well.

Be Relentless in your life – even in the fitting room!

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