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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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

Why It Is Important to Keep A Woman In Her Place

Ok.  With a title like that, I will give everyone a moment to find their seats and make sure they have all the tools they need for getting through this blog post.  Let’s see, pitchforks? Check.  Torches? Check.  Rope? Check. Concrete galoshes? Check.  Ok.  Is everyone in their preferred seat on opposing sides of the room? Everyone ready to comment with venom if I don’t take your position?  Good.  Then let’s get down to it.

Over the last couple of days, I have been seeing a couple of pictures hit my social media feeds over and over gain.  I will not single anyone out and if you posted either of them, let me assure you, I am not picking on you or your situation.  In truth, as I have been seeing these two pictures, I have had one recurring thought, “My heart hurts for these people,”  Most of the time I have seen the pictures, I know that they are experiencing something difficult, and no matter how hard we try, our hurt “leaks” from time to time.  I get that.  I don’t judge it.  I just wish I could stop the pain.

So, here are the two pictures, and then I will say my piece.  Good, I see the fire is lit under the vat of oil.  This post will be a long one, but it should be boiling by the time I am done…

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Ok.  Anyone need to switch sides yet?  I’ll give you a minute to do so.  Ready?  Ok.  Let’s get back into this!  Both of these are wrong.  Pure and simple.  *scanning the crowd*  If everyone will keep your seat, I will take a few moments to explain.

The Plan

When God made man, He gave him something to do, gave him some instructions, and then put him to work.  It wasn’t very long at all before God looked at Adam and decided that he was lacking something.  He was not complete.  This isn’t saying God made a mistake.  It is the Creator looking at His most beloved creation and saying, “It’s just not done yet. He needs something more that will bring him that special thing he needs.”

So, he put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and made Eve, the first woman. Adam was understandably impressed and appreciative of this new development and responded appropriately by stating that the woman was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone because she was part of himself – in this case, literally!  God did not create a new creature, he finished the creation by bringing woman out of man.

The Fall

Everything went south in chapter three of Genesis.  There are many who like to say that Eve messed up by eating the fruit.  I disagree.  I think this has been one of the principal errors in understanding the male and female relationship throughout history. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that woman messed up and man had to pay for it.  Ludicrous!  Absolutely ridiculous!  The Bible tells us that Adam was RIGHT THERE WITH HER the whole time the serpent was talking!  What in the world was happening that he did not step in and do something? he took a passive approach to the situation and did not help his helper.

A snake starts talking to his wife and tells her to break one of the two rules she and her husband were given by the God that they had the chance to walk with every day in the garden and Adam says nothing!  Men, this is where the Fall took place.  This is where man let woman down.  Period.  As a result of this sin, they are banished from the garden and this struggle between man and woman begins.  Some people think that God cursed woman at this point and put her in her place, but I believe He was just telling her what was going to happen.  Man would blame woman for his problems, and woman was going to suffer for it because he didn’t step up and do right when she needed him to do it.

The Result

We now live in a world where people are pretty polarized.  For centuries in most cultures, women have taken a back-seat role in all aspects.  Equal rights for women is still a pretty fresh concept in our history not only as a country, but as a planet!  It is a struggle for women to get the respect they deserve for being the people they are.  The atrocities that take place against women every single day are disgusting and should bring us to tears.  As a result, there are many women who hurt so deeply and have been put in a position that they may never trust a man again.  Whose fault is that?  Well, guys.  I won’t lie.  It is primarily the fault of man for getting that ball rolling.  Now we have small groups of women that are so angry that they just refuse to show respect any man.

I’m not going to take a Rush Limbaugh stand and speak rudely about women.  They don’t deserve it.  My view on feminism is simply this:  It never should have been considered as necessary.  It is the result of men not knowing how to keep a woman in her proper place. (Before anyone gets upset, please keep reading. I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds.) Now she feels the weight of man and bristles at it, wants to get away from it, and prove that she never needed it or him in the first place.  Honestly, why wouldn’t she? So, how do we put her where she should be?

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I’m going to tell you how I think this can be fixed.  I have consulted with my wife of 21 years, and I know she agrees with me on it.  Neither she or I think I get it right every time, but we do agree that this is the way to get it done.  We go back to the original plan.

Man was not complete.  He needed help, and God gave him a helper out of himself.  Adam recognized that.  The problem was, he blew it, and we repeat his mistake. I repeat his mistake! However, I want to do better, and as I think about this, I believe God had a purpose in picking a rib as the part necessary to complete man.

  • A rib gives protection to the internal organs.  Important things that keep a man healthy!  Men tend to be a bit abrasive or hard on the outside, but underneath all of that, we are vulnerable.  Just like a rib protects vulnerable organs, my wife is God’s gift to me for protecting and helping me process the feelings I have that I hold inside.  She’s good at it!  Much better than I could ever be on my own.
  • A rib is sturdy, but flexible.  Ribs absorb things that would injure internal organs.  They don’t just snap.  There are too many times that I will do something foolish that brings trouble into our lives.  Where I would be more harsh and possible lash out, my wife is able to absorb it all, protect me from myself, and carry on.  The thing to remember is that when a rib receives a hard blow and is bruised, cracked, or broken, it can bring extreme discomfort until a healing takes place.

The same is true with me and my wife.  When she absorbs something bad (whether or not I am the cause), the pain will linger until a healing takes place.  Time heals things, but open, honest, loving communication works faster.  It is vital to the healing. It is up to ME to notice that my wife is voicing her discomfort, and not take it as nagging, but as a reminder that she is experiencing a pain that I possibly caused.  I need to take care of her to promote the healing in the relationship.  How smart would a person be to not take care of a rib that is hurting?  The same applies here.

  • A rib is at the side of a man.  You don’t see ribs protruding from the front or the back of a skull.  Why?  Because they don’t belong there!  If your skull was made up of bones like ribs you would really be at a disadvantage in life!  They aren’t under foot either.  They would not serve a purpose there. To function as they should, they should be at the side.

I believe God used the rib to remind man that the best place for woman is at his side.  If she is out in front of him, he is not able to be there for her the way he should. My wife is the most important person in my life, and I like to have her beside me so I can protect her.  That doesn’t mean she is weak.  It means she is precious to me.  I want her with me so I can take care of her when she needs to be cared for, and take the physical hit if necessary.

If my wife is behind me, I can’t see her, maybe I can’t even hear her.  She might see something that could cause me harm, but the distance and location make it difficult to communicate the danger.  I can’t see her, so my ability to be there for her if she needs me is also diminished.

God also didn’t plan for me to have my wife stepped on by me.  She is of value and should not be dismissed as the equivalent of a floor surface. She should be held close, in a place of honor.

I want my wife at my side.  I want her to feel loved, appreciated, and cared for.  Men, that’s what we are supposed to do!  She is not there to make our lives easier, but to make us complete.  To complete us in our weaker areas and shore us up, as we are supposed to do for them.  We are to be one flesh and one bone.  Yes, we have two minds, but they should be tuned toward the needs of the other – SELFLESSLY.  That is where the relationship can thrive.  When my wife is at my side I hear her counsel, I can protect her from danger, she can protect me from my own mistakes, we can grow as God intended.  That’s good for both of us, and that is why it is important to keep your wife where she belongs!

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This was a loooong time ago!

I’m not perfect, and my wife can tell you that!  I mess this up more than I want to admit, but it is my Relentless desire to honor God’s plan for how my wife and I should interact.  We do that by staying close, complimenting each other in our strengths and shielding each other in our weaknesses.

I’m not saying that 21 years of marriage gives me the authority to tell people how to live their marriages out, but I am certain that what we work towards in how we relate to each other works.  We have bumpy spots because we are human, but time and again, we have seen how sticking to the plan works and draws us closer.  As we work through things together and share our ideas and our hearts, we build into each other.  My wife is a brilliant woman, and gifted in so many ways, why wouldn’t I want her building into me?

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nSo, here at the end of this post, I hope my point is made.  We can joke about the differences in our gender, and many of those jokes are funny because they are true, but let’s remember that God’s plan was a symbiotic relationship where we each care for the other in the way that they need to be cared for.  It is sad how it all got messed up.

Ladies, no disrespect was intended or directed to you in this.  I hope that message came through clearly.  If it didn’t, blame me.  Just know that I am not perfect, I am in process, and when it comes to being the perfect husband, my wife can tell you that I am not here, but I am trying.  Sometimes VERY trying!

Men, if you can accept the challenge to be the man God created you to be, you might be surprised to see how God can work to bring you and your wife closer together.  So, what’s stopping you?

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Calling Him Out & Up

11205113_10206541655531169_195957320906306357_nThis past weekend was my annual Men’s Retreat.  I have been doing these things for  along time, and I have enjoyed each and every one of them, but this year the reason was a little different.  My son, Zach, was along for the adventure.  Let’s be clear, this is not one of those strip down and put on a loin cloth while dancing around a fire in the middle of the woods kind of things.  Trust me.  NOBODY wants to see that!  These retreats are opportunities for a group of guys to get away, hear some good teaching, and just enjoy some time as men.

Men need times like this.  It’s not that I wanted to get away from my wife. She’s AWESOME, and I love being with her.  The thing is, as much as I love being with her, I need to be with guys too!  She is my best friend.  She is intelligent, cultured, refined, kind, and sweet.  Basically, she is very much NOT a man. (I thank God for that each and every day!)

So, on these retreats, one of the things that we have tried to do for the last 5 years or so is to get the guys that do go on this trip to put a good amount of time into talking about the things that we struggle with.  Sometimes we will take the material that we are being given and use that as our springboard, but often it is just the things that we are dealing with in our lives that brings the best conversation.  Then, we will talk about what God would want us to do in that situation and set up  some type of plan for making a change that will bring us more in line with what God would want us to do.  Then, we assign a little bit of accountability. If you want to read a great article on THAT “dirty little word” then just click here.

I joined a great men’s group several years ago with my buddy Ray (He wasn’t my buddy until about half way through the class.) where we did a study called Authentic Manhood.  It was a great study, and it has opened up many doors for growth in my life.  It talks about how a man should live in the home, at work, and at church.  It gives insight into why we are the way we are because of things from our past, but it gives us a promise that we are not prisoners to that past.  We CAN change!  It tells us how to be better husbands, fathers, employees, bosses, financial managers, and pretty much anything else you would want to be.  Like I said, it opens up MANY doors for growth.

11180295_10206547099467264_1789966459726332317_nOne thing taught in the study is the importance of building into the lives of our sons through intentional conversations, activities, and friendships.  As we do these things, there are moments where it is good to “call up” your son into manhood.  It’s not an “all-at-once” thing.  It happens in stages, and those stages are marked by ceremonies that the young man will be able to look back on as he grows as moments where he was called out to be a man among men.  It’s not just tied to his age.  It’s more than that.  He is called out by men who believe in him and want to see him grow.  Those men will offer their advice to him and will stand with him as he grows.  This is something that we need!

So, this retreat was very special to me because I had asked four men that God has brought into my life as my closest friends to help me in calling up my son.  There were a lot of things that we did at the retreat, but this was by far, the most important thing that happened there that weekend.

The men that spoke to Zach are men that I love and respect.  Yes, I said I love these guys.  They are men that I pray for every day, and I know they pray for me too.  We have shared things that are struggles in our lives, and we have been building a strong bond that encourages us when we are getting weighed down with the stresses and trials of life.  I need these guys, and I hope they all need me too!

Me talking to Zach about a legacy of Faith
Me talking to Zach about a spiritual legacy

I asked each them to speak to Zach about something important.  They spoke about Discipline, Integrity, Faith/Following God, and Friendship, then I ended it by talking about the importance of building a spiritual legacy that carries into eternity.  At the end, I presented him with a gift.  He now owns a shield that has a Tanner family crest on it.  My hope is that he will always keep that shield and look back on this day when his dad and his four friends told him that he is becoming a man, and that they are going to help him grow into a good one.  I want him to remember the respect that they showed him that day as men who are living out principles that they talked to him about.

As Zach grows over the next 5-10 years, there will be a couple more of these “ceremonies” that we will do.  The topics will change, and there may be some other men that enter the mix, but one thing will stay the same.  There will be an intentional focus on helping Zach to see the importance of men in his life.  We were not designed to go solo, and it is a foolish man that thinks he can do it and get away with it.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nI want there to be men that tell Zach the same story.  Men who will echo my words that he should have a Relentless pursuit of God and relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want him to love one woman with all his heart and to raise godly kids that he can teach the same things to.  I want him to see the importance of giving his best at work, but knowing when it is time to set it aside for family.  I want him to learn to identify his shortcomings and not just stew over them, but to determine and purpose in his heart that a failure is an opportunity to learn and be strengthened by God for a future victory.

I hope I pass this legacy on to Zach, and that he will take it on to his kids and almost as importantly, to other men.  Let’s face it, we will all impact out own kids on purpose or accidentally.  There is no arguing that, but think about what could happen if men were intentional about not inly impacting their own kids, but the children of their friends as well!  Now we are talking about Relentless Living!

Many thanks to the four men who spoke to Zach this weekend.  Mike, Tom, Joe, & Ray, I appreciate it more than I can ever tell you.  Justin, Noah, Phil, and Marty, I am glad you were there too as witnesses and as participants in a weekend that I know I will never forget!

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Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

303936_10150265283331917_6162992_nOn a cold and snowy March 4 in the middle of a fantastic blizzard forty-three years ago today, my parents were married in the small country church I can still see out my kitchen window.  I guess it was quite the storm with people ending up stranded in town that had come from miles away to see them say their vows.

The promise they made to God and each other still holds strong today.  43 years, two sons, and four grandkids later, they are still as committed to each other as they were on that wintry day.

I’m very thankful for the parents I have and for their example of sticking together through the good times as well as the tough times.  I can say that I never had a single concern about whether they would be together as I grew up.  I was blessed, more than I knew, to be in a home where my parents made sure they took care of each other and made sure we knew how important that was.

A little over 22.5 years later I got married in that same church on a rainy August day.  In our 20 years together, I look at the example my parents set for me, and that helps me be the husband I need to be for my wife.  I am thankful.  More thankful than I can say that they have always been there.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!  I love you both!

20 Years! I’d Call That a Good Start!

Beauty
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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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    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!

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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.

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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.

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Lake Superior Vacation
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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!

 

Happy Birthday, Tammi! I Love You!

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

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

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nTammi,

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

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

Your Smile

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

Your Heart

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

BeautyYour Love

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

Your Dreams

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

tnt2Your Promise

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

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

Love you,

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m In Hot Pursuit!”

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

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

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

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

But he kept pursuing.  Why?

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

 

 

A Very Good Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong