Thoughts about Mike

This was my first Sunday back to church since Mike left. I see the elders are making an effort to try to keep facts clear among the members and that is appreciated. It’s certainly not an easy subject to discuss, but they are doing their thing and accepting that responsibility, which shows we still have strong leadership.

I took the news about Mike pretty hard. I have always felt that I have a special bond with Mike. He plays a very key role in my particular story, how I came to know Christ and be saved. It’s one of my favorite topics to write about, and Mike is plastered all over most of my blog entries. It never occurred to me that he may not be our preacher someday. Again, here I am being a “new guy” at church. I thought for sure that he’d be the one to baptize my kids and maybe even marry them.

I got the short version of why it happened and that’s all I really need to hear. The details don’t help. I’m not interested in details. I never asked the question “why?” No answer to that question will change the situation. Instead of hearing what the elders had to say at the Wednesday meeting, and instead of responding to people reaching out offering to talk about it, I spent about 3 days hating everything, and wanting to punch people in the face. Hey, I’m just being honest and real.

Finally I had to meet with a friend to discus what happened, not an elder. I love our elders, but again, I didn’t want to talk about why this happened, I needed to meet with someone I could trust to scream and yell at, and tell them how unfair this was to me, and I’m not going to be the same, and how I’m not ready to not have Mike be our preacher. I had to get all that off my chest before I could have a conversation with anyone about it at all. I had to be a five-year old child and throw a tantrum first, and I did a fantastic job of avoiding people and conversation.

This is where I’m at now…

I won’t punch anyone in the face, but I’m still not interested in a conversation about “why.” My only question is, and has been, “what now?” If I leave Cedar Creek because of this, then I was going to church for the wrong reason to begin with. I know some people are leaving, and maybe they have their own reasons, but I’m here in my own place, in my own walk with Jesus, and I can’t leave Cedar Creek for this. I’m heartbroken, I’m mad, I’m reverting somewhat back to being a shell dweller, but I’m still here, and still with Cedar Creek. And yes, this is THAT profound of an occurrence in my life to me and my family. Some people act like this is a sort of thing that just happens once in a while, some think it’s none of our business what happens between the elders and the ministers, but nothing anyone can say will cheapen this for me.

I see this as Growth that God is asking of me. Mike talked a lot about going from milk to solid food spiritually speaking, and how we grow in our faith. God is asking me to grow up a bit, and frankly I don’t feel ready. If I knew that one day I’d not have Mike as a preacher, I’d have tried harder. I would have paid more attention, I would have read my bible more, I could have prepared.

Cedar Creek is my home, and my church family is there, and I love you all. The childish part of me that just wants to be mad is still here a little, and I don’t feel the need to apologize for that, but I also think that we as a church collectively really have to stick together right now. We all have to grow through this. Pushing forward is all we can do. I think that means new responsibilities for some of us, myself included, although I don’t know what they are yet, but I need you people, and we need each other.

In John 6 many of the people who were following Jesus left when they realized it was going to be hard to keep going. when Jesus asked the 12, “do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Even though Mike won’t be our preacher anymore, God is still God, and once you know that, you can’t just walk away.

So here we are. We need to grow from this, and in this. I’m still kind of mad, I still miss Mike, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, I don’t feel ready, but I’m willling. I’m listening, waiting to see what God wants from me, where He’ll take me from here. One reason I’m here is because we have an awesome church family, and I love you guys. Even though I’m mostly shy and quiet, my heart is huge and alive, and often times I struggle to contain my emotions. But mostly I’m still here because like Simon Peter, I know that God is still God. “Lord, where else would I go?” Mike taught me that.

thanks Mike. we love and miss you.

I’m Still Standing

An act of betrayal, by design, can only be delivered by those we allow close to our hearts. Betrayal by definition requires exposing a disloyalty from a source that was otherwise trusted. Sheer hate and judgment from those in obvious opposition is a blow I brace for, bare my chest to, and I accept those attacks willingly and peaceably. It’s the unexpected, soft, subtle knife in the back driven with a smile, that drops a man to the ground. It’s a discrete, devious, deceitful blade that cannot be defended against or countered. Delivered from within your inner circle, the very people you stand to guard, it comes while your eyes are turned.  One tiny sweet piercing word is more effective than all the abhorrent stones hurled in repugnance by the hateful hoards a man could face. It is said that a crocodile may eat a man, but will not pretend to be his friend first.

When a person speaks from their heart, they have to be, on some level, prepared to face ridicule and judgment. The majority that says, “Tolerance is key” are intolerant to those that are not all inclusively tolerant, and simply possessing an unpopular opinion about something will absolutely not be tolerated. I see that coming when I write, and I welcome it. In fact, I need ridicule and hate from some portion of the world in order to know that the theme of my heart is still in Christ. When all the world loves me, I’ve gone astray. I, and others like me, prepare for this reaction. We anticipate it, we depend on it. How do you plan on betrayal?

In my heart, I’m a writer. It’s where my passion lies. I’m not a talented writer, I’m not a good writer, I’m an honest and all confessing writer, and maybe a bit neurotic and introverted. In our minds, there is a place where thoughts are developed. For most people, that place connects to our mouths. We think something, we say it. We converse, we respond, we chat, we tell each other what we think. Over time, we develop social skills, filters, and other devices. For some others, that place doesn’t connect to our mouths very well. Maybe it is a narrow passage, a broken passage. I love people, so I’m social in my own awkward way, it just doesn’t come easy to me. For me, and others like me, our thoughts connect better to our hands. Some of us have a hard time controlling our emotions, our thoughts shoot around in our minds with fierce ardency, but it simply doesn’t come out our mouths. Instead, we write, we paint, we play music, we communicate our thoughts and feelings through other means.

God knows my heart better than I know my own heart. I know one thing for sure people, I am flawed. But I know who I am, and where I am, and how I got here, and where I came from. I know the scars that my mistakes have marked me with. I can accept my mistakes as lessons learned, because even if I lacked faith, the alternative to acceptance would result in self destruction. I simply must accept. If I couldn’t forgive myself, I’d become bitter and cold, and hate myself. That hate would then be projected at the rest of the world as well. I’d be swapping a hand grenade for a malatov cocktail.

While I’m not the same person I was ten years ago, I don’t view my changes as progress, because I don’t grade myself on a curve. I don’t have my own standards that I use in order to tell myself, “wow, you’re a really good person!”  Or, “wow, you have really been a turd lately.” I’m just growing. I see myself as just a person, just as anyone else, walking a path. I come to forks, and I make choices, Jesus as my compass, and a bible in my hand.  The further I walk down this path, the fewer people I see walking around me, and it saddens me, but I must walk on. I make wrong turns, I get lost in the woods, but for the love of God, I try with all of my being, and with His help, to put myself back on the path that I know I should be on. Only God knows better than I, how many times I have gone astray, and the choices that led me there, and the shame I feel.

Some of you know me personally, some of you do not. If you’ve read many of my entries here, you know me well enough. I don’t hide much. I give it away, because it is what I possess to give. However, being honest earns people like me some nasty criticism. I’m fine with that, and I can accept that it comes from all directions, from in front and behind. So to anyone who would wish to judge me for what I say here, I offer some words. Judge me for who I am, who I once was, hold things against me that I can never take back or undo. I praise God that not all people agree with me.

 Just one thing, before you judge me for what I have shared in love, know this. These are my struggles. They are no lesser or greater than yours, but they are mine. I struggle to tears trying to make my actions match my words, and I fail! Regardless of how I’m viewed, I will continue to write from my heart, because if I change who I am because of who you are, then I have lost my individuality, and am no longer who I claim to be. So judge me, call me a hypocrite, turn you nose up to me. But understand that however long it took you to read this, I just spent two hours writing it, with tears in my eyes, just to convey the simple idea to you that not only are you right, but I agree with you. You are not my toughest critic, I am.

I have dozens of friends who love me and my family, friends who have become my family, and I am in a rock solid place.  I will have ups and downs, but I know the people who will always be there for me. I hope to God they know who they are.  So, anyone with a blade, cut me. Jesus still wins, and I rejoice in His name. Now I’m going to bed, you’ve worn me out. Good night, God bless.

Someone told me to write shorter entries… so here

Hi everybody! I just wanted to pop back up on your radar for a minute and say a few words. I want to thank everyone who read my last entry ‘my testimonial, the written version.’ I know it was incredibly long, but I had a lot to say, and I didn’t want to leave anything out. That entry got passed around quite a bit, so hopefully it did some good in at least a few people’s lives. It did one thing that to me was incredible. It made it all the way to my dad, who I wasn’t sure knew how to use the internet, and it sparked an incredible conversation with him that I will remember for the rest of my life. If it reached no one else but him, then it did all I could have hoped it to. That was huge to me.
As most people know, my wife is about to have a baby. She’s eleven months pregnant and due any day. We are kind of in survival mode right now just waiting for the baby to come. I will admit, my patience lately have been lacking, I’m doing better today, but it was an ugly weekend. So just pray for us, this is number 4, and the last one if we have any say at all. Nikki is getting a bit nervous as we are winding down to her big day of labor and she looks ahead to all of what that day has in store for her. So pray for her too. She says, “thanks a lot eve.” I shrug at her.
I’ve been following my feet lately and looking for new chapters to open in my life. I’ve been working on some things, trying to better myself, do more for my people, and contribute to my church and all of God’s people, and just basically try to be a better influence in other people’s lives. I’ve gone out in a direction, and when I get the chance I’ll share all of that with you fine folks, and hopefully I can do even more. For now, we are focusing on having a baby, and little else is on the priority list… other than fixing the garage door that my wife broke. Sorry for calling you out dear! Love ya.
So here’s a nice sweet short one for all you whiners with no time to read. I’m teasing, you know I love ya. If you do however get time, click on the home button up there somewhere and poke around at some other entries. Give them a share, subscribe, send me hate mail, whatever you feel like doing. Thanks for reading, God bless, goodnight.

Speaking at the men’s group

               I changed the name of this entry several times… i couldn’t pick between Hey Mom I’m On TV!, No Autographs Please!, or My Big Debut!. i settled on the more reserved and simple Speaking at the men’s group

               Saturday morning I was a “guest speaker” although I think that term is a little too formal and makes it sound like I do this sort of thing regularly. I stood in front of a bunch of guys and told them a story about how I went from lost to found. That’s what I’d call it. Me and a guy set this event up about 2 and a half months ahead of time. That’s how far out I had to schedule it in order to agree to doing it. I’ll tell ya, I was certainly nervous. I knew I shouldn’t have been but I couldn’t help it. I practiced my speech over and over again in my basement the day before I spoke. I kept changing my notes, kept finding new things I wanted to add, things I took out. I thought some of my subject matter was a little out there for some of the guys, and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. But to in order to be honest and sincere and genuine, I had to share some things that I didn’t necessarily want to. It was the only way I could share my story.

                I learn new things about the way church works all the time. By “church” I mean the people that make up the body of Christ, the family, the brotherhood. The REAL people. Not the building, not the snazzy looking folks on Sunday morning all shaking hands and smiling even though there’s something in their lives right now that makes them want to cry. I mean the folks that are out in the world right now doing their best to show Jesus to the world. They aren’t perfect people, they don’t have it “all together,” they aren’t cookie cutouts of each other. I didn’t always know this to be true, but even now, I see more and more all the time of how the body of Christ, the people, work together and treat each other. I got to witness it some more Saturday morning.

                Sitting at the table with some guys in the few minutes before I spoke, I did loosen up a bit. Listening to the guys sit and chat I got a little more comfortable. But I still felt that my subject matter might be a little harsh for these guys. I just hoped they came with open minds. After I was introduced, I began to approach the front of the room.  I felt my heart speed up and my face get a little red. I fumbled my notes around as I opened up with the joke I practiced a hundred times. I don’t really remember, but I’m almost certain I still messed it up. I still got a laugh which was a great relief. Getting up there was half the work. I was there, I had my scribbled notes, now all I had to do was open my mouth and let the words fall out.

                I warmed up rather quickly. I got a few laughs out of the guys that made it go a little easier. I spoke, I don’t think I said “umm” too many times, and I stayed on track with my notes for the most part. The trouble with my notes was that I practiced this several times and had not been able to keep it below 45 minutes. I cut it down from an hour, but I didn’t really want to remove any more detail. Eventually I reached a point where I was speaking confidently and paying less attention to my notes. Looking back now, I realize I should have looked down once in a while. I skipped a few things, I left some stories open ended, I added things I didn’t mean to add. Still it went rather well I think.

                It was obvious that it was my first time speaking. I think it could have gone a little better. It almost felt like turning in a rough draft as a final copy for an assignment. But, I think most of that is in my head. I did fine. I got my point across, and the reaction from the guys was kind, and a little unforeseen. I got lots of handshakes, smiles, some of the guys were more touched than others which was awesome for me. There were some tears as well. To be honest I was praying that I could get through all of this without breaking down myself.

                There’s this image I can’t get out of my head. It’s been there since before I was a church goer. It’s the image of church people running around church, all dressed up, smiling and shaking hands, saying “good morning, bless you, praise God, see ya later.” Almost putting on this façade that life is perfect, no one is struggling with anything, and we are all happy with each other. It’s not just an image in my head either, it really does tend to happen… but its only the surface. If you don’t pay attention that can be all you see. It’s easy for us church people to get into that groove, that routine. But I promise you, if you scratch at the surface a bit, you will find that these people are all people with problems, struggles, worries, and everything else you’ll find in the rest of the world… but we love Jesus.

                I love having some of that realness of the people exposed. It keeps things genuine. It gives us a chance to actually be what we claim to be, people who support one another, and love one another, care for one another and pray for one another, and get each other through hardships for the love of God.  One thing I discovered while speaking to these guys is that although I thought I might offend them a bit, I was absolutely not alone in my struggles with this group. The best part of speaking to them was that it got some of them to open up to me afterward about their struggles, and we shared stories and thoughts and encouraged one another. It was amazing. In truth, I’d have to say that the whole experience was more for me than it was for them. I left feeling an incredible sense of relief. It  was an awesome exercise in being a real group of people, with real problems, real pasts, and still we as Christians brought to life the idea of “as steel sharpens steel, one man sharpens another.”  

                I loved speaking to them, and I’d certainly do it again. I left feeling like I grew from this experience and I think many of them did too, so mission accomplished, it was a win for team Jesus. That’s what matters. I went up there to glorify God, and I believe that was achieved.

                Just as a heads up, the event was recorded. There is a copy of it floating around somewhere. I don’t know what the church has planned to do with it, but I’m sure I’ll get a copy and it will probably surface on my blog or facebook, or in email or something. The only issue about posting the video to my blog is that I don’t have the paid version of my blog, so I’m a bit restricted on the amount of data I can upload. But I’ll look into it and figure something out. I WILL be posting the written version of my speech here soon. They will differ quite a bit too, just because of my inexperience speaking in public, and editing the story down to an appropriate length. So check them both out! Thanks. God bless.  

Monsters and Men/Wounded Hearts

When I was a young boy, I played on a baseball team. I must have been around 11 or 12. Our coach was a preacher. He had a son my age that was also on the team. His son and I were friends who ran around the neighborhood together. I knew his family a little. His father was very energetic, very charismatic, and had a sense of humor that made him fun to be around. My friend’s mother was a kind hearted lovely lady. I liked them.

                A night came when my friend and I made plans for me to spend the night at his house. We were 12, of course we made plans. I consulted my assistant, he looked over my appointments, we compared them to my friends’ appointments. We each had nothing going on Saturday, so we decided that was the best day for the occasion.

                There was one dynamic to spending the night at a preacher’s house on Saturday that I did not take into consideration. Preachers get up early on Sunday morning to go to work. If I’m there on Sunday morning, I’m probably going with them. I always found it ironic that the one day most people had off of work, was the one day that preachers DID work… I’m kidding people. That’s a non-Christian kid joke. Laugh. 

                At this point in the story, I’ll point out that while my mother had taken me to church several times, kicking and screaming of course, I did not consider myself a Christian. I didn’t really know anything about Jesus, I had never cracked open a Bible by my own free will, church was nothing more than an obstacle between me and watching cartoons.

                I don’t remember anything about that night. I imagine we had fun and played too long, and stayed up too late like kids do. There was an awkward, brief instruction that my friend’s father gave me. He said something along the lines of “during church service, when I say ‘is there anyone that needs to meet the lord today,’ you come up front.” There was more to it, but that was the gist. As a young boy who wanted nothing to do with church, all I heard was “there is going to be a point in this service that will become very, very awkward for you, you will be dreading it the whole time.” As an adult, I look back and can clearly hear him say “this is a perfect opportunity for me to try and improve my reputation. My entire service will see God working in me to save a young boy, but really, we’ll just rig the show before it begins. It will have devastating effects on you for the rest of your life and would constitute child abuse today, but the greater need for me to impress my church service out-weighs all consequences.”

                I probably don’t have to tell you that this church service didn’t go well. It was a small church. I don’t remember there being more than twenty to thirty people there, probably. It was in a small building. While there, this preacher and I did pray for my grandma because her health was fading. Shortly after this her health improved for a while. My friend and I sat with his mother. We mostly whispered back and forth, and played around, and did whatever we could to kill time. I don’t remember anything else about the service. I remember the preacher’s voice getting louder. He could plainly see that his son and I weren’t paying any attention. I was missing my cue. I had no idea what was going on. I remember not a single word of what the preacher said, but I remember his voice getting louder and louder. Eventually he began yelling, and his face turned red. At one point his wife tried to help me out. She signaled that I was supposed to be going up to the front. At this point, I was afraid to go. The preacher was yelling. He was very intimidating. People were looking all around as if something was supposed to happen. Something WAS supposed to happen. I, a young boy, was supposed to be playing my role in this show, and going up before the entire service, and repent of my sins, admit that Jesus is my savior—even though I had no idea what any of that meant at the time. I was frozen. I sat firmly in my seat and looked at the floor. I was scared. Eventually the preacher moved on. It was over. I missed my cue, but I felt relief.

                We use this practice at Cedar Creek, where my family and I currently attend. At the end of the service, the preacher offers the opportunity for anyone who feels compelled to offer themselves to the lord, or just talk to the preacher or whatever else they intend to do. Typically, this is when people who want to be saved, walk up and confess that they believe in Jesus, and go to be baptized. You do not use this as an avenue to win the favor of your church members, to improve your reputation, to impress people, through basically abusing a child. That’s what I believe he was doing. Perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps he was really interested in saving a young boy’s soul and trying to give him a better future, and help direct him down the right path. I doubt it. That doesn’t happen through extreme pressure, behind the backs of a child’s parents, and it typically doesn’t happen in a day. As a preacher, he knew all that. No, I believe he saw me as a freebie, a sure thing, instant ego boost, a desperate attempt at expanding his church. It failed. He was angry.

                Want to know how to give a kid social anxiety, mess his head up a little bit, and contribute to making him socially dysfunctional and broken? Make a lot of friends in your community, become well liked, put yourself in a position where kids are meant to look up to you and see you as a role model, and then tell a young boy that he is going to hell. That’ll do it.

                Baseball wasn’t the same anymore. My friend and I didn’t play much anymore. I don’t think he was allowed to associate with me after that. We didn’t compare schedules ever again. I was the pitcher on our team. The last time I remember ever hearing my coach talk to me was during a game. I was pitching. I wasn’t doing that great. I threw a few wild balls, and I missed a catch which led to a kid running home and scoring a point. My coach came out to the mound. Parents, you know that funny voice you speak in when you are trying to quietly scream at someone? You know… where you clinch your jaw shut and whisper-scream through your teeth? In that voice, with that scrunched up face, he kept repeating “I’m doing this for YOU! I’m doing you a favor!” and moved me to third base. I bawled my eyes out in front of everyone. In my mind, he was a monster after that. That was my last year in baseball. Shortly after that he and his family moved away.

 

                Now if you are someone who is not a Christian, don’t take this story and use it to say “see? Christians are all hypocrites. They’re bad people!” No, Christian people are still people. The bible says several times in different places, the nature of man is to be wicked and evil, the heart is deceitful. Yes, it applies to us Christians as well. We know it, but thanks for the reminder. We don’t instantly become perfect after rising up out of the water of baptism. Maybe this man felt bad after all this. Maybe he was sorry. Maybe he prayed for forgiveness. I don’t know. I hope he eventually realized that it was wrong.

I know I wasn’t the only kid to be mistreated by an adult. Maybe some of you had a similar experience or even worse, but handled it better. I don’t know why this had such a profound effect on me. Maybe it’s partially because he was someone I trusted and looked up to. If he were just some guy I didn’t know I may have just thrown toilet paper all over his yard and called it a day. Whatever the case, it has never been very far from my mind.  If you’ve ever read any of my blogs before, I have referenced this experience several times. I never really thought I’d write about it, but recent events made it inevitable. I wish I could wrap this up with a warm encouraging message right here, but it only gets worse.

The day my wife and I were baptized, I excitedly rattled this story off to my preacher. I was so happy. You see, it is absolutely amazing that even given this experience to struggle with I was able to come to know Jesus. For well over a decade, the typical preacher to me was represented by this guy from my childhood. Preachers were wicked people as far as I was concerned. I simply did not believe that they actually cared about other people. I felt that there had to be something under the surface that normal people didn’t see, something to gain from what they were doing. They didn’t do it out of love. I just didn’t buy that.

 It is with every fiber of my being, that I believe Jesus wants me to know him. It is with every fiber of my being that I believe Jesus can reach a heart, even behind a rough, hateful, distrusting exterior. I sincerely believe that He placed me before the preacher that God had every intention of using to reach me. God knew I would trust this guy. God made him trustworthy. I learned that this guy was honest, and sincere. He never tried to “sell” God to me. He’s my friend. God new it would take a miracle to get me to trust a preacher, and what does God deal in? Oh right, miracles. If I would have gone to any other church, and listened to any other preacher talk about God, I don’t think I’d be a Christian today. It was such a fragile, sensitive, and delicate time for me. It had to be God’s way.

My preacher doesn’t need me to butter his biscuit, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. Although, in the process I learned that there are people on God’s team that are really doing God’s work out of love, as it is meant to be done. My point though, is that God can take what people do out of evil, and use it for good. God does. Not people. My preacher had no idea what he was dealing with when I came to his service, he just did his thing. God knew. God performs miracles people.

There’s more story.  Remember I said it gets worse? So here I am. I’m a Christian now. I’m supposed to love people right? I felt compelled to reach out to my old childhood friend, maybe even see what his dad was doing these days. I didn’t know what I expected to accomplish, but I’d dip my feet in the water. This is the most haunting, troubling experience of my life so far, and I’m taking a huge step here. So what do you do when you want to find someone you haven’t spoken to in fifteen years? That’s right, Facebook. I looked for my old friend on Facebook. I couldn’t find him. I poked around a bit more and stumbled across my old coach’s Facebook account. After digging around a little bit, I learned something disturbing. Well first, I didn’t see much that indicated that he was a preacher anymore. Secondly, I couldn’t find my old friend because he died. Several years ago, while I was absolutely hating this guy for treating me like he did when I was a kid, his oldest son was dying. I felt as if someone with a giant foot kicked me in the chest.

A little bit about myself, this is my blog and I can talk about myself all I want. I have a mind that never stops running away. It’s like having my foot on the gas, all of the time.  It’s never calm. Maybe it’s an attention issue.  I don’t know. Is it A.D.D.? Do I have a condition? I know, I need medication! (kidding again) My mind is like a helium balloon. If I’m not holding on to the string, that is focusing on something, it floats away. I’m typically quiet, not always, but usually not very assertive.  I’m great at being open and social with a very small group of people, like two. Any more than that, and I go totally internal. However, my mind is always going a million miles an hour. I internalize everything. Behind my eyes there is a machine, pistons constantly moving, gears constantly turning, blasting, hydraulics pumping, noise booming, friction, steam, hot oil squirting, parts slamming, heat rising, no off switch, no buttons, just perpetual, loud, motion. Okay, maybe it’s a bit more like a little wheel, spinning and squeaking without a hamster. It’s the same idea. I think this is one of the reasons I can’t sit and watch a television show. Maybe it’s part of the reason I like to write so much. Focusing for me is like turning your ceiling fan on hi and staring at one blade while the whole thing turns.

                Learning about my friend’s death was upsetting. I didn’t handle it well. I had regrets. I was absolutely torn about how to feel. I thought about it constantly. For days, I thought about my friend, and how his father felt. His father… That’s what I got hung up on. You see, I made this guy a monster in my own mind. I spent years, seriously, years, angry. I hated how he used me, how angry he became when things didn’t go as planned. For years, I have hated how much this one experience has affected me, how I’ve carried it with me all this time. I have put so much effort, and time, and energy, into being so angry, and in an instant, a decade and a half of hate turned into remorse. Now I’m mad about being mad. My childhood monster became a man again. He became a sad suffering man who I instantly felt sorry for. The vision in my mind of a cruel beast screaming and snarling at a frightened little boy in a baseball uniform was replaced by a man. A man surrounded by loved ones in black dress attire, crying in front of a casket.

                If you spend so much time thinking about something, and with a mind like mine, it is quite easy to find a way to blame yourself for something. Lord knows I have. Where once there was a mountain of anger, there is now a crater being filled with remorse, regret, wonder, and doubt. As well as shame for having been so angry all these years in the first place. Looking back on the experience as a kid I now wonder, why didn’t I just stand up? I’ve been so self-righteous all these years, what if I was wrong? If I would have stood up, would my friend still be alive? Would his dad still be a preacher? Was he punished for something? Did I have something to do with it? Why is this affecting me all over again? Sometimes I can’t help but to just wish I never went there that morning. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I could have done something fifteen years ago to prevent all this. All I had to do was stand up. I know that makes no sense to you. It haunted me for years and it’s haunting me again.

                Learning all this a few months ago made me go internal. I just went inside for a couple months. All through the Thanksgiving season, through Christmas, it took a little while to be able to come back out again. But I did a lot of thinking. My friend died almost eleven years ago now. I didn’t lose a close family member in this situation, but I have friends who are dealing with loss now. Some friends are dealing with other hardships. The absolute truth is that we all struggle with something. Anyone who thinks they have it all together is lying to themselves. You’ve got something you are fighting with inside. All of us, at church, at work, where ever you go, we all shake hands, and smile, and say “I’m great!” I wonder how often that’s done out of habit. I hope you have a close friend you can go to, or someone willing to listen. I wish I wasn’t too stubborn to talk to a friend. I wish I knew how to start. I guess this is me talking to a friend now. Believe me it’s a sense of relief. Therapeutic even. But even if you have no one, or think you have no one, you can always go to God. I know some believers feel like they’ve heard that a thousand times. It can feel like the default response to a problem. I know not everyone believes it’s the truth, but try it. Really try it. You can pray, you can read the bible, you can go to people who are long time bible believing, Jesus loving followers. He’s there. Sometimes, all you can do is focus on the blessings you have. Just know that you are loved. It’s okay to suffer, we are meant to suffer, but do it in the loving arms of God and his people.  

The honest truth is that it still saddens me to think about my old friend. In the big picture, I know it’s not my fault that he lost his life. God works in mysterious ways that we are not capable of always understanding. I’m sad for my friend, and I’m sad that this man that I made a monster in my mind lost his oldest son. I’m shameful that I never took the time in the past decade to look my friend up. I just sat here hating some poor guy that I should have been loving. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to just love people. Hopefully we all will. Thanks for reading. Forever onward. 

                A friend offered me these words. They helped and encouraged me to write again.   You write like you are everyone’s best friend – so easy to relate to and laugh with. My own daughter, at the ripe age of barely 20,said I, too, overfocus on my past history. It is helping to, every time I get troubled (sometimes five times in ten minutes, it seems), to not say I love you, God, but to focus on God loving me, the way I am, the circumstances be damned! You, too, are a valuable child of God, Dustin, and you are precious with whatever baggage you may have on your mind.

Turning 30/The story I can’t tell/Number 4

One morning I woke up a little slower than usual. My vision was more blurred than I remembered it being the morning previous. I lay in bed for a few moments longer than most mornings before attempting to sit up. As I finally sat up, my knees creaked and popped. My spine creaked like a 20 year old deck board as I stood up. I grabbed the spray can of whipped cream sitting at my bed side, and made my way waddling down the hallway in my shorts. My elbow popped as I held the can up for a refreshing shot of whipped cream. I heard the friendly, familiar squirt sound as I held the nozzle above my head and leaned my head back. Chkrrrrrrt. (thats the sound the can makes. Just go with it). Of course my neck cramped up as I lower my head. No shocker there given how noisy my joints have been this morning. I peaked into the girls’ play room. No ones in there, but the lights on. I smack the switch, and yell out “electricity ain’t free ya know!” Chkrrrrrrt. I stumble past the bathroom. The lights are a blazing. I smack the switch. Chkrrrrrt. “don’t anyone know how to turn off the lights!?” Oh no! I’m extra grumpy, achy, and slow this morning. Did it finally happen?! I turn around, realizing I forgot to grab my phone out from under my pillow. (isn’t that where you keep yours?) I stumble back to my room and fall on the bed, because that’s easier than sitting down or leaning over. I look at my phone, and it’s too bright for my eyes as they still haven’t adjusted from the dark. The date reads November 21st 2013. It’s my 30th birthday. AHHHHHH!!!!!!

 

I’m only teasing. Most of that didn’t really happen. In all reality, I don’t know whether I feel like I’m still young, or if I have felt like I’ve been 30 for the past 5 years. One thing I’ll say for certain, once you have 3 kids, I don’t think it matters how old you really are. You’re a parent of 3. I know there are some folks you have a couple, maybe a few decades on me that are reading this and would love to kick me right now and tell me how I’m still a kid. Don’t be offended. I still feel pretty young. Honestly, 30 is just another number to me. Although I can look at my life now, and compare it to 8 years ago, before I had any kids, and I don’t even feel like the same person at all. I feel like 10 years back was 4 lifetimes ago. The things that I’m into now, my hobbies, the people I look up to, my entire outlook on life, my habits, my friends, my priorities, my lifestyle– all completely different. And I don’t mean that all these things have only changed from before I had kids to now. Obviously having kids will change all that, but even in the passed 5 years, much has changed. I might even be just a tiny bit wiser than before too.

 

I hope everyone had a great and happy holiday season. I think of the holiday season as stretching from Thanksgiving all the way to new years. To me, it is all one great big holiday. I really had some things that I wanted to blog about before the holiday seasons, but I will be absolutely honest with you. I have had a hard time writing lately. Not just here, but in my private journals as well. I recently learned of some news that has brought bits of my past back to haunt me, and I’m just not dealing with it well to be honest. I’m not sure that I am dealing with it at all. If I sit down to write, or if I just have time to crawl into my head and ponder, my thoughts always, always, always, go to the same place, and I’m just tired of being there. I probably could really use a friend with an ear, but it involves a lot of back story that is difficult for me to tell, and it just haunts me quite frankly. I hate to elude to something and then not disucss what it is I’m eluding to, but I’m allowed to do that on my blog. I know I shouldn’t mention it at all if I didn’t intend to talk about it, but I just wanted to say that my mind has been troubled. That’s just kind of where I’ve been lately. Believe me, I cannot wait for the day when I can babble on and on about it but I need to sort it out in my own head, and I’m just not getting there with it. 

 

I do have plenty of reason to be joyful. I’m being blessed far beyond what I ever thought I would be. As most people know by now, my wife and I are expecting our 4th child this coming summer. People ask me how I feel about that and in many cases I’m surprised at the expression on their faces when they ask me. Many people know that we are very excited to be having another baby, but some look at me as if they expect me to be upset. Their face says “you do know that this is number 4 don’t you? Isn’t that too many? Are you okay with 4?” I’m very pleased with 4, and in fact, my wife and I have discussed having…. oh nevermind. You don’t want to hear that.

Other than the baby coming, not much else has changed in the lives of the Proxmire house. Much of our time and focus is still being put towards getting our house the way we want it. Life is still just as busy as ever. I’m trying to get enough college credits to transfer to a different school. Classes take a lot of my time. I think Nikki and I each have our own big plans on what we want to do in the near future. She is going through and redesigning everything from the floor up in our house. She has bigger plans for homeschooling. As she gains experience, she is coming up with new techniques and things to implement to make schooling the girls more effective and fun. She’s a busy lady and I love her. I’m looking forward to putting together some kind of out-building where I can set up my forge and anvil. I haven’t forged anything in quite a while and I’m really itching to get the hammers hot again. I’ve been tossing around the idea of trying to make small knives and seeing if I could sell them for a few dollars at a market or something. I’ve never made knives before. I’ve forged plenty of tools, and other steel hardware pieces, but I think knives would be a great fun challenging project. In the near future, I’m looking forward to getting my fireplace checked out and working properly so my wife and I can curl up on the love seat next to a warm fire and watch the deer (there ya go Nik, I spelled it right) walk across the field.

 

I don’t have much else to tell. I’ve been informed that posting shorter blogs once in a while is fine and acceptable, so per a friends advice, I’ll stop right here. Also, I’m not editing this at all either. Usually I read back through it and change things, move stuff around, rewrite entire paragraphs, ya know, try to make it perfect. But this time, I just wrote straight through without stopping, and without looking back…. I’m searching for something else to write about… okay I really got nothing… stopping right here… right here… here.