Well, Isn’t That Fantastic…

Not too long ago, I asked my son if he had watched the reboot of the Fantastic Four yet.  Wish I could put into this post the trembling sound that accompanied his reply,

“N-n-n-ooo…”

As funny as it was to hear that fearful tone, it was trumped moments later when I pulled the movie out of our library and headed toward the DVD player:

“But I’ve been good!”

Thank you, Fox Studios.  The varied success of the X-Men movies aside, you have planted seeds of doubt and mistrust in the heart and mind of my son.

Well, I am not one who has ever allowed my kids to avoid something they don’t want when I think there might be a lesson in it for them, so of course the disc was fed into the machine and we sat down to enjoy the show.

If you are not familiar with the attempts from Marvel to make these characters into another version of the box-office juggernaut Avengers, then you might be in a good place.  Not being subjected to two of the Fantastic Four movies has probably left you with a little more confidence in Marvel.

The movie was a re-boot of the franchise, and it altered the story line quite a bit.  I grew up reading comics, and one of the biggest things I have had to come to grips with during this onslaught of super hero movies has been the constant use of the re-boot.  I have gotten better about it, and this movie proves the point I am going to try to make.

As the movie started, I told Zach to forget about the other two movies that were made and enter this experience with fresh eyes.  I wanted him to judge this movie on its own merit rather than comparing it to other movies whether they were good or bad.

At the end of the movie I asked him what he thought about it and he agreed that while it was not the best movie he has seen, it was not a bad movie.  It was a great transition into discussing expectations versus reality when it comes to communicating thoughts, and how something that seems to be great may not always translate to an audience we are trying to reach.  Since he is looking into marketing as a career, I think that is going to be a big part of his life moving forward.

Expectations are good things, but we when we expect something from a person, we need to be sure that they are capable of delivering on that expectation.  If they are not, then we need to change the expectation. Holding someone to an expectation they cannot achieve is wrong on our part – not theirs.

Relentless Growth requires us to look not just at how we view our expectations of others, but also at ourselves.  Do we set expectations that we cannot reach?  Sometimes we do.  It’s good to stretch, but there are things we cannot achieve on our own, and we are just as wrong to hold ourselves to those unrealistic expectations as we are to hold others to the impossible.

God has standards and expectations that we cannot reach our own.  There are gaps of holiness that we can’t get past, but He was willing to provide His Son to us in order to bridge those gaps and allow us access to Him.  He doesn’t ask us for more than we can do, but He does ask us to let Him do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  We CAN have the expectation that the unfailing God will pull through and deliver on His Word.

So, get ready for Him to do Fantastic things! (Yeah. that was a groaner!)

Relentless Growth

 

 

Two Decades! Happy Birthday, Jessica!!!

January 1997:

  • Fargo wins Best Film at the Critics Choice Awards
  • Pete Sampras wins the Australian Open
  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns home
  • Dennis Rodman kicks a camera man in the groin
  • The Packers and the Steelers were getting set to play in the Super Bowl (Please, not again. As I write this I can still pull for the Steelers and Falcons…)
  • 321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJessica Rachelle Tanner came into the world

January 23rd, after a long and tiring delivery (seriously, I was absolutely exhausted and Tammi was pretty tuckered out too! – I will pay for this…), Jessica made her presence known with a few grunts and then a well throated wail.  She was here and we knew our lives would never be quite the same.  We were parents.

Wow!

14845_4832535569737_1004727741_nLooking back now, I was so proud of my wife and her ability to just know what to do.  She took to being a mom like it was the most natural thing in the world, but me?  Well I never dropped her on her head or anything, and I knew which end food went in (no doubts about which end it came out) but I remember thinking several times, “Who on earth decided that I have the maturity to raise a child into an adult that will offer some type of value to society!? Shouldn’t there be some type of screening?”

312424_4832536289755_358998531_nOver all, she was a pretty compliant little rascal.  She had her moments when she was handful, but she was a quick learner and was always willing to please.  We kept watching her and wondering, “Is she about to go nuts yet?”  I know what I was like, and I just kept thinking that eventually I was going to see behavior in her that would allow parents, teachers, Sunday School Superintendents, Little League Coaches, and almost every member of the ladies missionary committee to start with the comments.  You know the one in particular…

“Now he is getting the payback he deserves!”269250_4832546410008_2047369841_n

We waited.  She turned two and nothing.  We waited a little longer and she turned three. Nothing.  We waited a little longer and as 4, then 5, and then 6 passed by, we still saw nothing that led us to believe that we were in any trouble or that any was on the immediate horizon.

319800_4832619651839_1615562737_nSchool was going well, She loved to learn and play with friends.  She loved church and all of her friends.  She was good in just about any situation and we just kept waiting.

428156_4832566610513_1096762012_nThe double digits hit.  Then the teen years began and I thought that if it was ever going to happen, now would be the time, but nothing.  It was like she just didn’t have it in her to get into trouble like her old man did.  She even got along with her little brother!  Seriously!  Where did this kid come from!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nLet me be clear.  Jessica is not perfect.  She had plenty of times when she made bad choices and got herself into a bit of trouble.  There is no such thing as a perfect kid.  Also, Jessica was not a push-over.  She has a very stubborn streak in her that has been the foundation for a lot of things that have made her into who she is today.  Sometimes that stubborn streak made things a little challenging, but it never got to a point of considering a boarding school…

14374_10204988308685895_8072762211283183066_nI look back and wonder what did we do.  Tammi and I had talked extensively about how we wanted to raise our kids.  We discussed discipline, education, boundaries, how we would love on them, all kinds of stuff.  We did what we thought was right and we prayed that God would kinda push us into line where we might be slipping off the track.  We were consistent, but this was also our first attempt at things!

1524871_10204988312125981_6073152218507561151_nI realize that there was much more at work than us.  It was more than grandparents (although she has four fantastic ones). It was more than aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and even more than her little brother.  It was more than the books we gave her, the television shows she watched or the songs she sang.

It was God.

1531582_10202369106847486_1823399421_nJessica knew that she was our daughter, but she also knew she was a child of God, and she wanted to make Him happy.  She asked questions when she was little about how she should do things that make Jesus happy, and would talk about how Jesus made her happy.  She saw the animals that she loved as a way that God gave 69612_4832795136226_313258255_nsomething to her to enjoy. (I still think she really believes that all animals were put here for her enjoyment, but at least I have been able to make her understand that she is not responsible to house all of them!)

10931362_10204988326286335_7658708027850509645_nShe knew that she wanted to know God more, and as she got older, she began to do more about it.  She started to read her Bible almost every day. She began journaling.  She wrote out prayers. She talked with people about God.  She had an understanding that the real God, Creator of the universe, knew and loved her, and she wanted to know and love him too.

13925696_10207273181213396_854820111773209752_oI think that was the biggest reason the teen years have flown by.  We watched her grow into the young lady she is today, and we just keep being amazed at what she has become.  Again, not perfect.  Again, a touch stubborn at times. In the end, a young woman with a loving heart, a beautiful smile, and a desire to serve God.

13710545_10208928556869637_8601244820599326179_oTammi and I are so proud of our daughter.  We did what we could.  We gave it our best, and we are thankful for who she is today, but we know that her relationship with God is the lion share of what made her into who she is.  We are just very thankful hat Go allowed us to have a part in it.

12957503_10208158878748165_5934551320912919766_oToday, Jessica is 20.  Two decades have passed since I was told I had a little girl.  I will always be able to see her at that moment. I will always be able to recall that  feeling of excitement and fear all wrapped up together.  I will always ask that question, “What did I do to deserve this?”  I say it now too.

13934659_10210114881419583_3885674236626471502_nHappy Birthday, Jessica!  I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you, and I am very proud to be your Dad.  I know that like your old man, you sometimes feel inadequate – not up to the task.   You want to do things the right way the first time and you get frustrated when that doesn’t always happen.  You want to be more, to do more, and to never let anyone down.  I love those things about you.  They scare me sometimes too.

14021570_10209124877977542_8285539014382639705_nThey scare me because I know how the doubts can weigh on your mind. They drag you down and make you feel unworthy of good, unable to help, paralyzed.  I don’t want that for you.

As I said to you the other day, I want you to see yourself as I know you are.  I am able to stand on the outside and see the woman you are becoming.  You have not only potential to become something amazing, you are already potent in this moment as you are making a difference in the lives of those around you.  You are already being that amazing woman, and the day will come that you will recognize those strengths.  You are going to do great things as you lean on God and partner with him to help others even more.

14066285_10210114881059574_7554383755240265358_o

I love you, squirt!  You have done a lot with your first two decades.  I can’t wait to recap the next two in 2037!

Love you,

Dad

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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My Daughter – A Tender Heart for Others

So my last post was about how we were able to see God working in my son’s heart at the fair last week as he dealt with disappointment and worked on having a good attitude in spite of it.  This time I want to share some of the things I saw in my daughter this past week.10364133_10203636597533961_2843149509723224561_n(1)

Let me preface this by saying that Jessica loves animals.  No, you didn’t understand me right.  She LOVES animals.  I’m still not sure you are really getting what I am trying to say.  SHE LOVES ANIMALS!  This started back at roughly 6 months of age when her favorite toy in the world was a mini beanie baby lizard from McDonald’s that she eventually named Weezard.

As she grew her love for animals became more and more apparent.  She was bit by a dog that she tried to kiss, and we thought that would finally temper her fascination, but it didn’t. She happily jumped in a  pen to play with bear cubs, was willing to grab snakes, bugs, spiders, or any other thing that ran across the yard.  A trip to the zoo for her was just about as close to heaven on earth as she could imagine.

10511299_814656361886595_5277955452073193160_nSo, when we started her in 4-H with dog obedience, I knew there were bigger things coming.  It seems like it all happened so fast, but I blinked one day and we had several dogs, a gerbil, horses, and pigs.  (I have thus far held off rabbits and cats, but she has been caught actually setting food out for the mice that live in the barn.)  The amazing thing is that no matter how many animals she owned, her first thought was always to share them with other people.

As she has gotten older and more experienced in the fair, she has really gotten good at showing animals and finding opportunities to excel in the different things that she does.  When she first started, she might win a prize or two, but now it seems like she walks away with a prize no matter what she enters!

This is the kind of thing that would go to the head of a lot of kids – I know it did to me when I was her age!  It never seems to happen with her.  She will win something, and she is actually surprised that she won!  Then she actually will feel bad for the people who didn’t get to win!  Not a fake pity, but a genuine concern for their self-esteem.

I think her attitude in winning is a part of how Zach was able to manage with his disappointment.  He never saw his sister gloat over her awards, and she cheered him on the entire time.  He could see her heart for him.

On a mission trip to Florida, she had the chance to work with a little boy that was, in her words, “a very naughty boy”.  As she spent time with him over the week, she was struck by the life that this little guy was living.  She said God broke her heart for kids who are hurting, in need, or with special needs, and she knew in that moment what God wanted her to do with her life.  Her plan is to take her love for animals and her love of sharing her animals and use them to help kids with special needs, emotional problems, or relational/trust issues.  It is all she wants to do.317950_4832775375732_2019616679_n

A couple of times last week, Jess had an opportunity to step out and help others get to experience a victory.  Zach was able to be a part of one of them, and that was one of his highlights of the week as well.

10354881_10203636555492910_1675975671504441886_nThere is a boy that belongs to some friends of ours that has some special needs.  He is a smart young man with a ready smile that melts your heart, and we have really enjoyed getting to know him. This year his parents have really been working with him to get him out in the pen to show his own pig.  This is not a small task for any kid, and for him it was a very big mountain to climb.I’m sure there were people that walked by without noticing what was happening that day, but my kids were so proud to be out in the pen with this brave little guy who boldly stepped out of his comfort zone to show this pig.

This is the type of work Jess has decided that God has called her to do, and I believe the heart that He put in her is already being exercised and molded to do just that.  She loves to work with the young kids, to show them love, and to make them smile.  She is learning to help little kids move past their fears to overcome obstacles.

There was a little girl at the fair that was terrified to go out in the ring with her pig.  Her mother was there trying to talk her into going out, but the little girl was crying and refusing to do it.  Jessica squatted down and started talking to her, and before we knew it, she was out in the ring with this cute little red-haired girl and helping her show her pig. As the girl kept walking with Jess and her pig, pretty soon, Jess started to hang back and let a little distance get between her and the girl.  Before long, Jess was just leaning on the fence, and this little gal was running her pig like she had been doing it for years.  Jess said that was one of the best parts of the whole week.10520633_10203636570773292_7859788137322730734_n

You  might be reading this post and thinking that I was just trying to tell you that my daughter was good with animals and likes kids.  You would be wrong.  What I want you to understand is something much deeper than that.

Like I said before, Jess has always loved animals, and she has always been a nice girl that got along well with others, but God did something in her heart a couple years ago that has become very evident.  Now there is a pairing of her love for animals with a God-given and internally RECOGNIZED mission to serve the little ones, the hurting ones, the “least of these.”  She has been given a heart that actually cries out the words of Christ:

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14

It brings Tammi and me such great joy to see how she is looking for opportunities to develop that calling in practical, real ways as she goes through life.  She is in her Bible and taking what she learns and applying it as she goes about her day.

She is going into her senior year now.  There are a lot of things that are up in the air right now as far as where she will go to school, what kind of track her education will take, and a lot of other things too.  I’m excited to see how things are going to go.  One thing I know is that at this point in her life, she is dialed in on being the young woman God wants her to be.  I am praying that it continues to be that way.

God has blessed us with two great kids.  Are they perfect? Not in the least.  Do they mess up?  You betcha!  They are my kids! So, why am I so proud of them?  Is it because they are so good at what they do?  Is it because Zach has a good attitude, or Jess is nice to people? No.  I’m proud of them because they have a relationship with God as teenagers that I didn’t have until I was in my late 30’s.  I’m proud of them because they are learning to lean and depend on Him in a way that will allow them to be stronger in their faith and able to  do more for the Kingdom.

The power at work in them is from their relationship with Christ.  Accepting Him as Savior was only the first step.  The important thing is that they are looking for ways to follow Him, and to learn from His example. My prayer is that they will always be Relentless in their search to know Him better.

You can know Him too.  If there are any questions you have concerning a relationship with Christ, please message me, and I would love the chance to share with you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong