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!

Happy Birthday, Babe!

13576829_10209726198062742_3651700631496807898_oYou know what day it is?  It is my wife’s Birthday!  Last year I did a list of reasons I love my wife that had an arbitrary total of 44 reasons. You can read that list here.  I have chosen not to do a list again this year, opting instead to just add an item to it.  It’s not that I can’t come up with, O, let’s pick another random number like 45 reasons I love her.  I could.  Easily!  I just want to focus on this item I am adding to that list from a year ago.

45. We are going to rock the next chapter of our lives.

Yep. I said it.  We are going to be that amazing couple people look at whose children have gone to college and are just walking through life without a care in the world and the world on a string.  We will have people asking what our secret is and how they can be more like us.  Who knows, we might get asked to write a book, do lectures, and even host a theme cruise because we just have it all figured out!

*SNORT*

I don’t think we are going to see things at that extreme, but I think we are going to be pretty awesome in this next stage.  There might some people who want to learn from us who feel like we do have it all figured out, but they will be wrong.  That’s OK.  We know it, and we aren’t afraid to show it.

So, I want to speak to my wife for a moment now.  Please silence your cell phones and try not to leave your seat or cause a disturbance.  I do allow flash photography, but politely request that you refrain from shouting out suggested poses.  This is a serious moment.

Tammi,

We have known each other a long time – seriously it is like 32 years or so. That is insane!  In all of those years we have grown to know each other very well.  We have seen each other at our best and at our worst.  Tears have been shed in fear, grief, pain, happiness, joy, and sometimes because it was a Tuesday.

So many memories, and I treasure them all because they tell a story. It’s a beautiful story about two people who fell in love with no idea they were in the shallow end of the pool.

Today is your birthday, and I want you to know that as crazy as I was about that young(er) lady who walked down the aisle almost 22 years ago, I am so much more head over heels with the young lady I am still married to today!

As the years have gone by, I have watched you try new things and succeed, and try things that did not, but in all of them I saw your excitement over something new and unexplored.  It’s just like when we say it is time to choose a vacation spot.  For you, getting ready to start getting there is more than half the fun!

We are getting ready for another adventure as we take Jess to college in a month.  I know it is going to be hard on you while at the same time you are so excited for her.  I’m just going to be a mess for all of us.

Life is changing, and so are we.  I’m thankful that we are going to do it together.  I will get to be there with you every year that you have a birthday but get no older (Really. It’s not even fair!).  I’m thankful that I get to see you get excited, experience things, and then learn from them.  I get to be a part of your life.

13690941_10209850451529001_594576326055113612_oI say every year that I got the gift the day you were born, and it is true.  What I am also seeing now is that the years that are passing by are taking us to a place where we have not been hoping for, but have been preparing for.  We knew an empty nest would happen and that it would bring a sadness with it, but we also knew it would bring new opportunities to use the things we have learned.

Where is that going to be?  Not sure.  I just know that whatever we do, it is going to be awesome, and that is why the completely arbitrary 45th reason I love you is that we are going to absolutely rock this next chapter of life!

I love you, Babe!  You are the best!

Tom

Time To Start Over

2016 Calender on the red cubes

Well, another year has reached its end.  Tonight, I, along with everyone else in the world, will tip my hat to the year of 2015 and welcome in the new year of 2016.  It’s been a big year in a lot of ways for us here at Tanner Manor.  We have laughed, cried, stood in disbelief, and sighed in relief.  We made new friends and said goodbye to some old ones too.  We watched travesties and tragedies unfold in the news, but we saw people rise to stand for what is right in the middle of those tragedies as well.

We are at that time of year when I feel an urge to start over.  The year feels like a shirt I have been wearing just a little too long and I am ready for something fresh.  So, it’s time to look at what I am doing, what I want to do, and how do I get there!  While I say I’m a simple man (please don’t read that as simpleton), I have many different aspects of life to think about when it comes time for change.  Trust me, you aren’t any different.  Our categories may not all be the same, but you have at least as many as I do.

So, here are a few things that I want to work on this year.  I’ve pretty much been an open book on this blog over the last three years, so if you want to be a voyeur, this is your chance!

Me As a Believer – This year has been a good year for growth for me.  I’ve had challenges, faced them, had some good and bad outcomes, but I’ve learned something from all of them.  I have spent more time in God’s Word this year than I ever have, but when I add that up, I honestly have not been as close to Him as I would have liked.  Reading my Bible, journaling, and praying are drawing me closer to Him, but in the last few weeks I have come face to face with the fact that I still try to do too much on my own.  I need to be fiercely dependent on Him in all aspects of my life.  God’s will and direction need to be my first thought in anything I do or say.  Big goal.  A Relentless goal.

Me As a Husband – This year Tammi and I have had some really good conversations about fears, plans, situations, and how to endure.  We are approaching some major life change this next year as our daughter will be leaving the house for college in the fall.  We are bracing for that, and while there is an aspect of my life that can simply address that as a parent, I need to be ready to address it as a husband as well.  My wife will need me in new ways.  I will need to be listening to her and listening for new things and how I can meet her needs as a  husband.  I will continue to love her, support her, and grow closer to her, especially as our lives are changing and in a  blink we will be just the two of us again.

Me As a Father – Like I said, Jessica will be leaving soon, and Zach is hot on her heels.  I only have a short time left with my kids in my home, and just like every day for the last almost 19 years, I don’t know what I need to know for the next thing until it happens.  God has blessed me with two great kids, and I pray that as they continue grow they will understand just how seriously I took the job of being a Dad.  I might not have gotten everything right, but I’m not done trying either!  This final stage of “parenting in the home” is confusing for all of us as we try to give freedom to them while protecting them from trouble and guiding them to do the right thing.  Prayer time for my kids and their future is growing and becoming a greater comfort.  What better thing can I do than to ask God to carry them?

Me As a Friend – This year I have been working harder at being a friend.  It takes work for a guy like me, but the dividends are priceless.  I’ve had chances to weep with friends, laugh with friends, see my friends pour into my family, and times to just be together.  God never intended for us to live our lives as individuals.  Our first and greatest relationship is with Him, and He has given us His Son as our example, our brother, and our friend.  We should be taking that example and identifying people in our lives that we can grow with.  My goal this year is to deepen and strengthen the friendships I have and to continue to look for other men I can call friend as well.

Me As … Well, Me! – This year I have been much more aware of my health – and the lack of it.  Knee problems have plagued me for most of my adult life, and this year they have become harder to ignore.  It is requiring some changes in my lifestyle.  I’m not going to sit here and list out my goals for losing weight or eating healthy.  Let’s face it, nobody wants to read those because everyone knows that those goals are usually shot by March.  My goal this year is to be more conscious of my opportunities to make a better choice for my health (after tonight’s party – lots of good food tonight).  I want to take the opportunity to take the stairs, walk down the block, or skip the second helping.  That is the goal.  If more happens than that, then fantastic!  I just want a healthier me when I sit down to write at the end of 2016.

Me As a Writer – Like I said, this is the completion of my third year of writing this blog.  I’ve also had opportunities to do some writing for our church.  I love writing, but I don’t take the time to do it as often as I would like.  The goal for this past year was a post per week.  I fell a little short of that, but I had some of the highest numbers of readers/views this year as well.  I have been humbled by the number of people that have read my “stuff”.  Some of them even come back!  This year, the goal will be to blog at least once each week, but additionally, to write for 15 minutes at least 5 days per week.  I want to focus on developing this skill and figuring out how to best use it for God.

Me As an Employee – It’s been an interesting year at work.  I have been encouraged in how so many long-term projects have turned out, how relationships and trust are growing, and how lessons are being learned.  This next year has some larger projects ahead that will require a lot of preparation and thought.  My prayer and goal for work is that I will be more focused while there.  The focus cannot be singular.  The organization is complex, and so are the challenges.  I need to have a focus that is broad, but can be sharpened when necessary to deal with things.  I wan too work this year on developing some other staff as well.  Their development is necessary in order for me to be able to let some things go in order to do my job better.  This is going to be fun!

It doesn’t really make a difference if you want to look at a new year as new opportunities. Those opportunities are coming whether you want them or not!  Relentless Living is living in a way that prepares for what it can, plans for what may happen, and adjusts to what comes, all while clinging to God for His insight, direction, and leadership.  He knows what every tomorrow will bring, and through His grace I can face 2016 with my head up and my shoulders back, because together, We’ve got this!

Have a Relentless New Year!

TT

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There’s A Snake In My Boot!

revo_woody05So we praise God for the wonderful kindness He has poured out on us because we belong to His dearly loved Son.  He is so rich in kindness that He purchased our freedom through the blood of His Son, and our sins are forgiven.  He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

– Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)

When Toy Story came out back in 1995, I remember watching it and thinking how incredibly talented these computer gurus were in putting together the world that existed in Andy’s Room when he was asleep or away for the day.  The cast, the script, the artwork, they all blended together to tell a funny, but touching story, and I enjoyed it immensely.

A couple years later we had our first child, and then two years after that, our second.  Life was beginning to change for us in so many ways.  We now had responsibilities that we had never thought about before.  Somehow we were responsible for two humans!  It obviously demanded that we grow up a little – if for no other purpose than to stay ahead of them!

Pixar was also growing.  They continued to crank out movies that were a lot of fun, but they were also really trying to help us identify with their characters by giving them even more depth.  The Toy Story guys went to the well two more times and gave us two more glimpses into the life of Andy, his sister, and the toys.

By the time the third film rolled out in 2010, our kids were getting to the age that a lot of their old stuff had taken the one-way trip to the garage sale or Goodwill.  Then, with a 13 & 11 year old, we started to see a whole new aspect in the films.  Time moves on.  Kids grow up.  We only have so long. I’m starting to tear up, better move on to my point before I lose it.

One thing that you see throughout those movies is that the toys struggle with their identity.  I am going to focus on Woody in particular, because he just kept falling into that same trap.  He would see himself for what he was, not for what Andy saw in Him.

I just started reading Mark Driscoll’s book, Who Do You Think You Are? The main point of the book is to help us as Christians find our identity in Christ.  If we don’t find our identity in Christ, we will try to find it in other areas that will leave us feeling hollow, abandoned, and worthless.

Dricoll uses the book of Ephesians and the teaching of Paul to help us see that as believers, our identity can only be truly found in Him.  We might have many things in life that we identify with, but if we do not focus on our position in Christ, we will struggle with a feeling of emptiness in life.

I say a picture of Woody today, and I could not help but think of this identity issue.  He felt his entire world come crashing down around him when Buzz came to town.  He compared himself to Buzz and he found himself lacking.  Why would anyone want an old toy with a pull string when they could have a toy with a lazer!

I compare myself to people too often.  Sometimes I feel like I win the comparison, but more often I feel like the loser.  The thing is, the moment I start comparing, I lose.  I don’t need to compare, because I just need to remember who I am.  I am a child of God!  I need to see myself as He sees me.

Once Woody realizes that he is loved by Andy, and always will be, his attitude changes.  He becomes confident – at least until the next time.  How could my attitude and outlook change if I really and truly saw in myself the value that God sees in me?

God has sought me out so He can pour His kindness into my life.  He is so rich in kindness that I cannot exhaust the supply that He wants to bestow on me.  His kindness is showered on me and gives me the life that I need to grow.  All of this because I belong to Him.

In the movie, Andy writes his name on Woody’s boot to show ownership.  God’s Word tells us that He has written our names in His hand.  He has told us that He has given us an identity in Him.  We are adopted into His family, and nothing can take us from Him.

All that is true.  The problem is that there is a snake in my boot.  That snake casts doubts into my mind about my worth, my past, my failures, my weaknesses…  Then I am right back in the funk again, running around looking for something that will make me happy rather than just looking to God.

I want this year to be a defining year in growing in my identity with Christ.  Every day, I want to be relentless in that growth. To attack it with all that I have. To do the hard things that keep my mind on Him, and allow me to see myself through His eyes.

Join me!  We can help each other by encouraging each other as we go along.  So, find your moving buddy, and remember that you’ve got a friend in me!

In HIS Grip,

Tom