Like Time Stands Still…

In my garage I have a poster sized picture  that is approximately 24 years old.  It is a photo of a beautiful college girl sitting in the surf on the  Pensacola beach.  She is smiling at the camera and there is a sparkle in her eye.

The other day my wife asked me if I miss seeing that girl.  I told her that I still see her every morning when I leave for work, and every evening when I go to bed.  She still smiles at me that same way, and I still love the sparkle in her eye.

24 years may have passed (maybe 23, I know it is somewhere in there), but that young girl who became my wife is still the woman of my dreams.  Today is her birthday, and though years have passed, when I look at her, time has stood still.

I read once that a man should look at his wife and remember her as the love of his youth.  They say that keeps the passion and the fun of life alive and builds a marriage that stays vibrant and interesting.  I can’t say that is a bad idea, and on the surface, I think it makes sense, but I am afraid that way of thinking lacks a little something.

My wife and I will have been married for 23 years next month on August 20, 2017.  I have met many people who have been married longer than that, but I am also very aware that unfortunately once you hit the double decade mark, you are in a drastically dwindling crowd.  Being in that minority kind of allows me a position of authority in speaking on marital matters!

My wife is an amazing woman.  She is sweet, kind, and wonderful in so many ways.  She still smiles at me with that sparkle in her eye, and I can’t help but love that girl there.  She’s more though. So much more.

At times there is a tiredness in that eye as well.  There are pressures she feels that try to dim that sparkle and tug down the corners of that smile.  The surf that gave her so much joy is sometimes now a few baskets of laundry needing to be folded.  The sun on her face is replaced by a lamp at her desk as she works dutifully on helping her kids with their college schedules.  Time marches on, and if we focus on the march, we miss something.

I know years have passed, but that girl is still there.  I saw her at breakfast yesterday when we joked about a whisker I had growing out of a freckle on my cheek. She laughed and I saw all of the “stuff” of life roll off her for a moment.  There she was again.  My girl was right there.

I see her every day, even the days she doesn’t see herself.   I should probably tell her more that I am seeing her in the moment.  Maybe if I did, she would see that girl more too.

Well, today’s her birthday, and we have plans to go out as a family and have a good time.  I’m excited about it, and if all goes well, we will go to the beach.  Maybe I can get another pic of my girl sitting in the surf on a sunny day.  I don’t really need it though. She is right there in my mind each and every day.

Happy Birthday to the love of my life.  The woman I am still Relentlessly pursuing and working at loving her as Christ said I should.  Tammi, time may move on, and we are not immune to the effects of it, but for you, time has stood still.  You are so precious to me, and even more so when I can take that young girl, sitting in the surf and mix her with the woman still with me after 23 years of marriage.  I think it makes everything more powerful and real.

You are the love of my youth, my now not-so-very-much-of-my-youth-as-I-would-like, and the rest of my life as well.  You have made time stand still for me, and I love you for it.  I hope you have a very happy birthday

I love you! You are God’s best gift to me on earth!

Tom

 

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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

Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

jco_richard-petty-motorsports43_1043.  I am 43.  Today I am 43 years old.  The geek in me wants to say that I am over 43 due to the leap year factor, but for sake of argument, we will just simplify this and say that today is the day.  Ready to start a new year with some new perspective.

The past year has brought a lot of change with it.  A year ago I was not the father of a college student.  I was seeing more transition in my job duties.  My son wasn’t sporting a beard.  Areas of life had less stress.  Areas of life had more stress!  People have come into and gone out of my life.  Relationships have grown stronger.  My thoughts have become heavier.  Then, to top it off, as I posted last week, I now have diabetes to consider.

Much has changed, and that is a good thing.  Change is a necessary part of life, and it is an integral part of a Relentless Life.  Without change, things grow stagnant, sour, weak, and irrelevant.  I don’t want that.  There are still things to do, things to see, things to experience and share.

I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about my life.  Specifically, about how my actions affect the future for myself and others.  Obviously I am experiencing some of what my passion for food has done to my body, and how I must make change in order to correct as much of that as I can, but there have been other actions that are having affects on me and those around me as well. Some of them need to be changed in some way or another if there is to be growth.  The FOCUS needs to shift if there is going to be growth.

Whether you are interested in them or not, here are some of my thoughts on things I would like to have a better grip on before I hit the “double 4”.

My Family – Things are changing in our home as our daughter leaves for college in the fall and our son is going to finish high school and has entered the work force before he leaves for college next year.  Tammi and I are going to be spending more time as we started – just the two of us.  There are going to be new ways I will need to adapt to the needs of my family in these new circumstances.  I want them to see that I love and care for them not in the way that is convenient for me, but in the way that they need it.

My Health – As of today I am down 32.5 pounds with a goal of another 34.5.  My blood pressure is dropping with the weight, and I am hoping to get off that medication by next year.  Praying to see the blood sugar straighten out with the changes in diet as well.  So odd that in the middle of feeling so good and healthy from losing weight I find I have a whole different problem, but like I said here, I think it is more of a spiritual issue than a a health issue.

My Friendships – The last year or so has bought me into closer relationships with a group of good and godly men.  I want to work harder at making those friendships grow deeper and stronger.  There are things I had done that I need to get back to doing, and there are thing I need to start doing that I never have done!  A good friend is not something to be ignored.

My Work – God has put a task before me, and I want to honor Him in that.  There is an aspect of worship to God in my work that I cannot ignore.  I need to remember that I am always serving Him in the things that I do, and hopefully that will make the rough times better.  I also will be more intentional about how I can provide for my family outside of my main job.

My Faith – Over the last year I have been more intentional about my time with God, and I don’t want that to change.  I need that time with Him to keep my heart right and my head clear.  The time I spend in God’s Word gives me purpose and courage to take hard steps in all aspects of life.  God gets the glory for what He is doing, and I get the joy of being able to have a front row seat in His plan.

grumpy-old-man-list-card-19I get a lot of ribbing from a buddy of mine about being old.  That’s OK.  I’m finally at an age where I am starting to see how my decisions can play out. I have enough life experience that before I do a stupid thing I get that feeling that I have been here before! Sometimes it even stops me from doing it!!!  I guess that is the benefit of age though, and I hope my mistakes, experiences, and thoughts are a help to someone else.

What are you going to do with your next trip around the sun?  Be Relentless in it.  Feel free to share this post and I would be happy to hear your comments either below or e-mail at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com!

 

 

To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.

Zach,

I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

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42 – What Happens Next?

Answer_to_Life“42 was found to be the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Unfortunately, it was not known exactly what the question was, so nobody is any the wiser.”

– ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

Well, another year has come and gone, and I hope that I am a bit wiser for the last 365 days of spinning around the sun.  I know there are several people who would probably like to weigh in on that one, but they will have to do so in the comments below, and since that seems to be a fairly untrodden patch of dirt,  I feel pretty safe.

I have been trying to think of something witty to say for my 42nd birthday blog.  What type of topic would best fit such a year of significance?  Douglas Adams gave us the number 42 as the answer to everything, but as he said, if we don’t know exactly what the question is, 42 just falls kind flat.  So, that makes me ask, what has been the big question of my last 12 months?

“What happens next?”

Yep.  That has probably been the biggest question of the last year.  It has led us down roads that felt ominous, filled with worry and concern.  What is Tammi’s job going to be like?  What is my job going to be like?  What does school look like for the kids next year?  What is my Men’s Group going to look like?  What should I do about teaching? What should I be thinking about my future ministry opportunities?

Well, Tammi’s job smoothed out and things are going well.  I’ve seen a lot of change in my role at work and things have been getting steadily better there.  We are seeing the college situation for BOTH kids coming into focus.  I think the Men’s Group is in a state of change, but may very well be on the cusp of something amazing.  Teaching is still in the air, but future ministry opportunities are looking more and more interesting, even if they are on a slight pause at this time.

Monday I was reading in Joshua 1.  Joshua has just taken up the mantle of leadership for the nation of Israel, and is standing at the border of the Promised Land.  Moses is dead, and he is looking around at all these people who are looking at him expectantly.  I imagine the thought, “What happens next?” went through his mind.

I like to wonder if God saw these doubts in Joshua’s mind.  It makes sense that He did since He immediately came to Him to have a chat:

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. – Joshua 1:5-6

Imagine that. God Himself speaking to you and saying, “No man can beat you for the rest of your life. I am with you. Always. Get ready to be strong and show courage because I am going to use you to fulfill MY promise to these people!” Got any goosebumps yet? I do! God goes on to tell Joshua two more times to be strong and courageous; reinforcing His promise to Joshua and the people of Israel.

I would think that after that, Joshua had to be feeling a bit better. He had been reassured by God and had been given a promise of protection and victory! The next step was to address the people. He told them to prepare for battle. He reminded them of promises made by God to them, and of promises made by the people to God. Things are looking pretty good, and then the people answer him:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” – Joshua 1:16-18

What a coincidence!  These people, who I do not believe heard God talking to Joshua, tell him the exact same thing that God did!  Why it almost makes you think that God might have used them to reinforce what He had just told Joshua!  That would probably be because that is exactly what He did!  God used this interaction with the men that he led to speak truth into Joshua at a time and in a place that he would know God was at work.

I have had a lot of these moments over the past year. “Coincidences” that just seem to come out of nowhere as someone tells me something “out of the blue” that I had just read that morning in the Bible.  I have had people walk up and make offers to do things that were direct answers to prayers that I had just prayed about that morning!  Some people would call it coincidence, luck, karma…  I call it God, and when it happens I find myself asking an old question in a new way – with expectancy!

“What happens next?”

I don’t know. I am on the cusp of a new year. I have never been closer to God than I am right now. My relationship with my wife and kids is better than ever. God has brought four men into my life that are the closest friends I have ever had. They speak truth into me and are often telling me in their own ways to be strong and courageous. I am looking at the future of what God is going to do with my life in regards to ministry, and I see His hand has been moving me toward a change for some time. Now I see it just over the horizon as I look at the opportunity to join in the work at Starwood Ranch and Overboard Ministries.

What happens next? I don’t really know, but I know that the Relentless Life I have been pursuing in my relationship with God has brought me here. It is taking me into new territories where I will need to trust Him not only for wisdom and strength, but for the courage to go the distance with Him.

This is going to be a big year for me. I’m going after it with my God, my family, and my friends. I’ll let you know what happened in 365 days!

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Happy Birthday, Jessica! 18 Years! How Did This Happen?

321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJanuary 23, 1997.  Bill Clinton was in office, Toni Braxton was blazing her way up the charts, Ben Affleck’s career was going upward like a rocket, and Dennis Rodman kicked a camera man in the crotch on national TV.  So, it looks like nothing good happened that day, but that would be wrong.

On January 23rd, 1997, at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan, a little girl was born. It was a miraculous thing.  I know.  I was there!  After a long wait, we would finally meet this new little person.  We had no idea whether it would be a boy or girl, and we were split right down the middle as to what we wanted to see!  Her mother wanted to see the little Jessica Rachelle she had been dreaming of and hoping for, but I was looking for the firstborn son!

734446_4832544049949_77824243_nAfter a very long night for both of us (still some debate exists over who was more uncomfortable as I had no epidural), we finally saw our baby, and Ohhhhhh baby was I surprised!  A girl?  Really?  What?  I wanted a boy! What am I going to do with a daughter?   18 years later I think back to the moment that question went through my head, and I remember the answer I had then that has served us well.  “I will love her.”

I know it sounds bad to read the thoughts that I remember having as I laid eyes on my first child for the first time, but I want you to know, dear reader, that the entire amount of time that it took me to experience this surprise, question, and answer was less than a second.  I was in love almost immediately.  And it has grown exponentially.

10454299_10204312675915498_5636787815453551781_nNow I am looking at a young woman getting ready to finish high school and step out into college.  I am seeing the first glimpses of her independence, and I am hit with how fast this has all taken place.  I look back at that little baby I held in my arms that night and it is almost unbelievable.  I am now the father of a legal adult.  The best thing is, I look at her, and I have confidence in her future, and that is a great feeling.  The thing to remember is that even though it feels like it has happened so fast, it did take work.

Let me be clear on something.  I don’t think it was all me.  It wasn’t all her mother either.  While we worked together to turn that baby girl into an intelligent young woman, we had a lot of help.  There were people that came alongside us as Jess grew.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, and mentors were all there to watch and speak into her life.  They all had a hand in it, but I still feel that the lion share of the credit goes to one thing.

Jessica’s relationship with God.

10734169_10204312670635366_653249402103316792_nTammi and I were recently talking about Jessica and how she has grown.  It is not a false humility when we say that she has grown to be a godly young woman not because of us, but in spite of us.  There are many things that we look back and say we could have done better in how we raised her.  Times we think that she, by today’s culture, should have rebelled or lashes out, but it never happened.  She always seemed to have a level of understanding that while we may have been messing up, we were doing the best we could, and she didn’t hold it against us.  She loved us through our mistakes, and didn’t develop any bitterness, just more love.

Over the last few years, Jessica has been spending real, focused, intentional time in her Bible and journaling.  Even before she started to journal, she would read her Bible and pray almost every day.  It started as a habit, but as habits are known to do, it has become a part of her life, and after spending about half of her life in God’s Word, there is no doubt that it has had an effect on her.  I believe that this is a huge factor in how she treats us as parents.  Her love for God spills over into her love for us, for her brother, for her family and friends.  She also has an amazing capacity to love those she sees around her who are hurting.

10636206_10204312672995425_1318616255457723525_nSo, How did it happen?  By the grace of God.  Every step of every day, God has had a vital role in this young lady’s life.  He put a love for her into Tammi before she was born, and changed my view of what a daughter could be in less than a second.  He prompted us through many decisions that we made for the good, and protected us through some that we made that were bad.  He made Himself real in her heart.  He gave her a desire to know Him better and to care for His people. And she embraced it.

That’s how it happened.  I’m so thankful that Tammi and I have been able to have a part in it.  We have been blessed.

Now, as I did last year, please sit back and allow me a moment with my daughter.

Jessica,

18 years old.  Amazing!  Not only that you are actually 18, but that is a word that comes to mind when I think about you.  You have grown into a young woman that has amazed me over and over, and I am confident that you will continue to do so.  Mom and I are so proud of you.

10552464_10203636611614313_975032218841949298_nI see so much of your Mom in you as you reach out to the hurting and offer them comfort and a smile.  I see her generosity in you as you share the things that matter most to you with anyone that shows an interest.  I see a learning heart that wants to know more and understand more about being the person God wants you to be.

I want to encourage you over this next year as you start spreading your wings a little wider.  There will be more demands as you start college in the fall and are (hopefully) holding down a job. Schedules will be tighter and the workload will be heavier. (You’re wondering where the encouragement is coming in, right?) Don’t let your schedule get to a point where you are making a choice whether or not to spend some time with God.  The encouragement comes in this – You don’t have time to not have time for God.  The time with Him will make everything possible.

Life has been slowly speeding up for you over the last couple years, and I can promise you that it is going to shift into another gear soon.  This is not to scare you.  It is exciting, and it is going to require that you are taking the time to keep God in front at all times.

1488044_10204972281685230_3080564931748114009_nYou are already ahead of me on this.  Keep going!  As you give time to God and spend that time reading His Word and journaling, opening your heart to the changing power of God, you will experience Relentless Growth.  You can’t avoid it!  God promises it!

I love you, and I am so proud of what you are doing in your life and where you feel God is going to take you.  Mom and I are excited to watch as you travel that road.

Happy Birthday, “Squirt”!  I love you!

Dad

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Press On!

keep-pressing-onWow. It’s been a whole year since I put up this post about turning 40. I turned 41 today. Again, wow! I am constantly surprised at the way time seems to speed up as the years go by. I look in the mirror and see so much gray hair on my head (at least I still have hair) and in my beard. I look at my little kids and see a young lady that will graduate a year from now and a young man that just keeps getting bigger and stronger. Where did those little toothless cuties go?
I said last year that I wanted to finish well. I still do. There are a lot of things that I have been thinking about, dreaming about, and working on. This last year seems to have been fairly pivotal in that regard. I’m not saying that I have made all the necessary changes or that the work here is complete, but there seems to be much more going on, and the directions are becoming a little clearer.
This year has been a year of growth in a lot of aspects, and I am seeing some of the stuff that I have been working toward (and have been frustrated by) start to make forward progress. The work has felt substantial, the time involved has been immense, the prayer regarding has been huge, and the progress had seemed to be right on the cusp of nothing.
Then something started to happen. Things that I have been trying to accomplish in my relationships started to fall into place. Things I have been working on with my family and relating to them have started to improve. The relationships I have with people at work are starting to grow.
The things I have been getting out of God’s Word have been deeper, richer, and have satisfied my heart in ways that they never have before. I’ve been able to partner with people on spiritual matters that are difficult to navigate. I’ve had a stronger desire to pray for people and see God work in their lives.
So, what has changed that would make that possible? Not much. Honestly, I can’t say that I have really changed much of anything I have done over the last year. I had plans to do more, to reach farther, to do bigger things, but I never did them. So, what has happened?
In April Tammi and I had the opportunity to go to a couple’s retreat taught by my friend Joe and his wife Traci. (You can read more about them here and here) They presented a great seminar on how the little things we do that seem insignificant will eventually add up to something huge. They talked about how it happens in our marriages, how investing the time it takes to give her a look, or to ask her about her day, or unrolling your shirtsleeves and putting your socks in the hamper right side out really matter toward growth in your marriage.
The principles apply in the other aspects of our lives too. The little things we do that seem to be insignificant really do add up. The problem is we keep getting caught up in the big things. We feel like if we are putting in major time on something we should see a major return for it, but often the important things just take time. They don’t come together fast.
There is one thing I have been focusing on for the past four years, and those closest to me know what that is. I’m not going to go into those details here, but over the last four years I have been frustrated more often than not in regards to this “project”. It has been heavy on my heart and mind, and there has been no progress. Until about a month ago.
About a month ago things started to percolate a bit, and I was noticing it, but not really seeing it. (Not sure if that makes sense, but it works in my head, so roll with me here.) The other day I was talking about this with my wife and I was a little excited and she looked at me and said, “Don’t you see it is finally happening? You are finally seeing the result of all of the work you put into it. You are just getting something different than you were originally thinking it would be.” She’s a smart lady.
As I thought about it, I realized just how right she was. God has been blessing the work that I was doing even when I thought that nothing was happening. Something is becoming visible as a result of the work that was not visible. And I didn’t even see it. Maybe that is a good thing.
I say a good thing because I tend to worry, doubt, and need to be in control. Now that I see something is happening I am very concerned that Satan will attack it. It’s a real fear, but I need to step back and not let it take control. You see, God did something while I wasn’t looking, and I believe that if I just keep doing the things He has asked me to do in this, He will continue to bless it and make it grow. I need to keep going and not get distracted by things – even success.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 3:13-14

This thing that has happened is not mine. It belongs to God. If God wants to make it a success, then it will be. I am not a factor in that success, but I believe God has allowed me to be a part of His work, and I am thankful for the opportunity to give Him the glory for it.
Relentless Growth is just “keeping on keeping on”. Paul called it pressing on toward the goal. Sometimes it seems like the horizon on our journey never gets any closer, but one small step at a time we get there. We just gotta keep pressing on.
What are you pressing toward? What do you want to see happen for God? Stay in His Word. Stay close to His people. Be Relentless!

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