Mustard Giveaway!

Yep! You read that correctly.  I am giving away mustard on my blog...but not just any mustard. I am giving away Herlocher's Dipping Mustard, the only mustard Brooke and I use when we make a Snack Tray!

There are lots of ways to enter!

Enter the Snapchat way: Follow Brooke and I on Snapchat and Snap to your story (and to us) that you want to win the mustard with text that says "Follow @tjmousetis + @brookemousetis on Snapchat!"

If you don't have Snapchat you can enter the following ways.  Each way is one additional entry:

1. Like the T.J. Mousetis page on Facebook

2. Like the Brooke Courtney page on Facebook

3. Follow @tjmousetis + @brookecourtney on Instagram and comment on their giveaway photo!

4. Share and comment on this post! (Make sure to tag @tjmousetis when you share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram)

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*10 People will be selected to win 1 jar of Herlocher's Dipping Mustard.  Must be in the U.S. to win!*

9 Albums I Love Right Now! // V.4

Every few weeks I like to share some of my favorite music.  I am the type of guy that listens to albums from start to finish.  Below are the nine that I can't get enough of right now as well as a 9 song playlist in case you just want to test the waters on some of these!  Enjoy!

    And in case you missed 9 Albums that I love volume 1-3, here they are!

    Brooke's New Voice!

    On November 2, 2015 Brooke had surgery to remove a polyp that had (unknowingly) been growning on her vocal chord for the last 5 years.  Before the surgery, I wrote a post titled Brooke Will Sing Again and like anything I do with, or write about Brooke, people loved it, because well... people just love Brooke. 😍

    I have been more active on Snapchat lately and almost every time someone sends me a Snap back, it's usually something like this:

    "How did Brooke do what she did?"

    "Brooke is amazing."

    "Brooke looks so cool."

    "I want to be friends with Brooke."

    What a babe! 😍

    What a babe! 😍

    And I love it.  Normally, I would try to make a joke about not getting any love, but honestly, nothing makes me happier than people enjoying my wife.  She is the coolest. And I am so glad that through social media others can get to know her and enjoy her the way I get to every day!

    One question that has been popping up a lot lately on my feed is, "How is Brooke's voice?"

    Honestly, I have tried to write and answer that question at least 10 times and every time I start typing I end up just deleting it, but I think that this time I am just going to go for it.

    After Brooke's surgery she spent 10 days not saying a single word.  10 days of voice rest was expected of her and I think she mayyyybe slipped up six times and said a total of 12 words in 10 days.  That, by itself, is unbelievable.  That type of self-control and discipline is off the charts. Think about that the next time you are tempted by a cookie or want to talk yourself out of a 30 minute work-out.  That's literally what has inspired me to get my butt back in shape.  If Brooke can not talk for 10 days, I can work out for 30 minutes every day.  She is constantly inspiring me to be the best version of myself that I can be.

    So, by itself, 10 days of voice rest self-control is amazing, but then add little June-bug to the mix. At the time of the surgery June was nine months old and Brooke had to love her silently.  At first, June was a little freaked out.  She would look to Brooke and then to me and I would talk to her. Then she would look back to Brooke with a quizzical look that asked, "Why isn't mom talking?" For the first two or three days we could tell that it was confusing her.  That was really hard on Brooke.  You can't explain to a nine month old that Mom just had arthroscopic surgery on a vocal polyp and requires 10 days of voice rest to let it heal, but she still loves you, so don't worry about it! I mean, I am the first to tell you how smart my baby is, but even June is not that smart.

    And just like Brooke has done over and over in the six years we've been married, she starts teaching me something beautiful with humble grace. Brooke's voice did not determine her love for June.

    And how often do I feel like God's love is gone from me when He is silent.  How often do I look up quizzically (or angrily) at God and think "WHY ARE YOU SILENT? DON'T YOU LOVE ME?!?"

    Brooke's love for June was unchanged by words.  She loved her the same amount the day before surgery as she did on the last day of voice rest.  Her ability to answer June, or speak to June, did not determine her love.  You may end up in the same boat I do when I feel like God is silent - that because His words aren't loud or jumping off the pages of the Bible that His love is distant or has mysteriously vanished.

    But maybe, just maybe, God is actually closer than ever at those moments.  Maybe instead of speaking to you, He is calling you to just sit silently in His presence.  To sit in His overwhelming, loving arms and weep about loss or tragedy.  To be close to Him in a way that words sometimes just don't work to describe a love like that.  I love hearing Brooke tell me that she loves me, but our love isn't solely based on her ability to speak, but yet, I so often expect or require that of God.  I can't allow Him to be silent in my life, because his silence must mean the love is gone.

    For 10 days I had a front row seat to watching my amazing wife love our beautiful little girl by smiling at her, holding her, picking her up, laying her down, playing with her, walking with her, looking at her, changing her, feeding her and so many other actions all without a single sound. When is the last time we paid attention to all the things that God does for us without words? Did we thank Him for the breath He just gave us? Did we thank Him for the neurons firing off in our brain that allow us to read this sentence and understand it? Did we thank him for the hands we work with or the feet we are walking on? When is the last time we just said, "God, your presence is enough!" When is the last time we sat in our room quietly and let God love us the way Brooke loved June for 10 days - silently.

    It's scary when you feel God is distant, but He never is.  He is always with you and always loving you even if He seems silent.  I saw my wife love my daughter for 10 days of silence and when I see that I think "How much more will your father in heaven.." - Matthew 7:11

    How much more will He be there for you, even in silence?

    How much more will He give the good and perfect gifts to you, when you ask?

    How much more love will He pour out on you in all seasons of your life?

    How much more? How much more? How much more?

    I don't know where you are right now, and I don't even know how you landed on this post, but I do know that even when God feels most distant His love is strong, even when we feel silence is His only response, His presence is enough. He says, 

      “Be still, and know that I am God;
        I will be exalted among the nations,
        I will be exalted in the earth.”
      The Lord Almighty is with us;
        the God of Jacob is our fortress.
    Psalm 46: 10-11

    After 10 days of voice rest, Brooke spoke again in the doctors office for the first time, while I was sitting in the room with her, holding June.  Her voice sounded as strong as when we first started dating and I was instantly flashed back to early moments of our relationship when we were falling in love.  She sounded like she did on our first date to McDonald's and swinging at Reidenbaugh Elementary School, where we talked about our families, our jobs and our dreams.  She sounded like she did the first night we kissed after watching Indiana Jones.  She sounded like she did when she said, "Yes" after I asked her to marry me. She sounded like she did when she said, "I do" on our wedding day.

    I only know the burden that Brooke carried about the loss of her voice through my perspective.  I can't begin to imagine the frustration she felt daily as she struggled to speak. But after many years of struggling in frustrated silence - she is on the other side.  She still has some therapy to go to and exercises to do.  She still has to think about the way she speaks because of the bad habits she learned over time.  It is by no means totally healed.  Like most surgeries, injuries and heartache, a time of recovery and strengthening is required, but it is better!  SO MUCH BETTER!

    I can hear her when I am downstairs and she is upstairs.

    I can hear her over music in the car.

    She can make phone calls!

    Even today we sang, "Look at this stuff, isn't it neat..." to June while we got ready.

    Brooke has a new voice.  It's a voice that has been tried and tested, it has been hurt and scarred, it has been repaired and rebuilt.  It is a voice with lessons upon lessons upon lessons that have taught us about grace upon grace upon grace. It might not ever be what she hopes for while we live our lives on earth, but still, I know with 100% confidence that when she says, "Hello" to her Father in heaven someday, it will be everything she ever hoped it would be.

    Brooke has a new voice and I love it just as much as I loved her old one -- with words, and in silence.

    This is how June and I both feel when Brooke/Mom talks!

    This is how June and I both feel when Brooke/Mom talks!


    Are We Choosing Barabbas?

    I woke up at 5am this morning thinking about politics.  I know that's kind of a weird thing to think about two hours before I normally wake up, but that's where I found myself this morning.  Now I know writing about politics on my blog will lead to a few things:

    - People unfollowing me, unsubscribing and hiding me on their news feed.

    - People posting links to articles in the comments to prove that I am wrong and they are right.

    - Lots of unnecessary vile comments about my point of view.

    If you land in any of those categories please try to refrain.  Imagine if your friends started unfollowing you or commenting on every questionable hair choice you made while growing up. Even if you disagree with what I have to say, I hope that you can extend the same grace others might extend you on a daily basis.  Also, I won't read the articles you link to.  I have an 11 month old, an awesome wife and a business - ain't nobody got time for that.

    So this morning at 5am I was thinking about politics and I feel like God put a single question into my head - Are We Choosing Barabbas?

    The Iowa caucuses are a few days away and the political fire is heating up.  It seems like everybody and their mom is coming out to publicly endorse a candidate.

    And I am really shocked that so many Christian leaders in this world are coming out in support of Donald Trump.  This is a guy who says 9 different, contradictory things and then sticks with whichever one gets the most press.  Isn't that lying?  Isn't lying one of the big 10 no-no's in God's book?

    I am a conservative through and through.  I think a smaller government would be better for everyone.  If you want to argue with me, first just let me know the last time you enjoyed a trip to the DMV, or tried to get a hold of the IRS or get a recycle bin.  I am tired of paying a tax rate of 36%!  That's right, 36%.  For those of you who struggle with math that means that 3.6 of every 10 shirts I sell are sold for the United States Government.  I would like to unsubscribe from that option. Imagine what I could do with just 10% or 20% of that still on the ledger at the end of the year.  Maybe hire another employee, maybe start another business, maybe save the money for my daughter, maybe give more away... And do we really think the government is better at handling my money than I am?

    As a conservative, all the presidential elections in my lifetime have seen the conservative side of the ballot filled with luke-warm, big government loving choices.  No thanks.  It's been hard to push the button for them for any reason other than the "R" beside their name.

    This year could be different, for once!  We have some amazing men on the right of the political landscape who love Jesus and are trying to shrink governments reach and give the power back to the citizens, where it belongs.  My favorite candidate is Ted Cruz, but I also would be okay with Marco Rubio or Ben Carson.  From what I can see, these are men of God who are doing their best to follow Him and run this country according to the principles that He lays out in the bible. Are they perfect? Not at all. But I know full well that a perfect candidate doesn't exist.   But as I watch Cruz, Rubio and Carson I see men who would do all they can for the citizens of this country and not their own personal gain.  As a Christian, I believe, we actually have three good choices in front of us...

    And we are choosing Donald Trump.

    Are we choosing Barabbas?

    Now, I don't think that Donald is equivalent to a murderer by any means, or that the other three candidates are equivalent to Jesus, that's not my exact point.

    For those of you who don't know, Barabbas was the prisoner that was released instead of Jesus. Every year at Passover the Jews were allowed to ask for the release of one prisoner from Pontius Pilot.  They chose to release Barabbas. Not Jesus.

    As a country, are we choosing Barabbas?

    As a Christian, do we actually have some good, Godly men to choose from and we are going with the guy that called it Two Corinthians, not second Corinthians... two corinthians.  Kind of like, "two corinthians walk into a bar..."

    We are on the verge of going with a guy that said, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?  It’s like, incredible.”

    Why would that be incredible?  That sounds horrible.

    I am not someone who calls Donald Trump an idiot.  You don't build huge business' by being an idiot, but I don't think he is even close to the top choice for the president of the United States.

    But, here is what happens when we choose Barabbas.

    We can complain.

    We can whine.

    We can blame it on someone other than ourselves.

    So, here is what I would challenge you to do.  Pray and ask God who the best choice for our country is.  Don't just check out and say, "Jesus is coming back eventually, so it doesn't matter" or some excuse like that.  It does matter because I have a daughter and I want her to grow up with opportunity to take every skill and passion she has and use it in this world for the glory of God.

    And while you are praying ask God where else in your life you are choosing Barabbas. Because every day we get to choose to release more of Jesus into our life or more of Barabbas.  Who are we choosing when we talk with our wife or kids? Who are we releasing when running our business? Who are we picking in our relationships or on our computer late at night?  Who are we choosing by what we decide to say behind someone's back?

    Are we choosing to release Barabbas in areas of our lives that need more Jesus?

    When I have to react to something and my heart cries out, "Who would you like to release?" i pray that I answer more and more with Jesus and less and less with Barabbas.  What about you? Who are you choosing?