the reckless dad

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: Hope (page 1 of 4)

So Much has Changed…

Often in life, each day is just another day. Each day is a day unto itself. But sometimes, the day is more than just a day. It is a defining moment.

This day last year was one of those. It was a defining moment. It is frozen in time. It is a day never to be forgotten. It was probably one the hardest days of my life.

Without sharing too many details or the particulars – one year ago today, my brother was taken into custody after a court hearing and transported to county jail and ultimately to state prison. This is an experience my family has not talked about much outside of the ‘Westfall Family circle of trust.’ Today, I am feeling as though I need to share my thoughts on the last 12 months. I am not going to talk about the details, but I want to talk about the feelings and impact this experience has had on my family from my perspective, my point of view.

February 5, 2015 was one of the hardest days of my life. Watching your brother get taken into custody is hard enough, when you add into the mix having to watch your parents as their son is taken into custody and you have the makings for a tough day. I have found it is one thing to cope with your own emotions and to assist others in coping with their emotions… but when the others is your family, it is significantly more difficult to keep an objective presence. Watching my parents explain to my niece and nephew their father isn’t coming home for a long time… as their little minds attempted to wrap around the concept of another parent who would be missing from their lives. As they tried to make sense of something that makes no sense at all. Watching parents struggle with the exact same thing… finding sense, meaning and purpose in a experience that makes no sense.

It was on this day I learned the futility of saying, sometimes crap happens to good people and we have to accept it. This does nothing to comfort those suffering. Knowing it is unjust doesn’t make it easier to handle. I mistakenly thought those were wise words in a time of crisis because they are true. Scriptures teach the sun shines on the wicked and good all the same. But in times of distress, these words are hollow. Empty. Meaningless. We search for meaning, for understanding and we want things to make sense. And when things don’t make sense, posting out they make no sense, makes no sense.

Over the last year, I have experienced feelings of loss I hadn’t anticipated. Some time ago, I wrote the following words trying to understand my feelings:

  • This feels strange to write this…I find myself mourning my brother. No, he’s not dead. But he is in prison. While the story is complex and convoluted at best, I want to muse more on how this whole story causes me to feel.

    I find myself mourning him. He’s gone, while not being gone at the same time. It causes an odd void in my heart and life.

    On any given day, I communicate with Ronda more than I do any other human being… makes sense, cuz she’s my wife.

    Next in line on this list was my brother. I didn’t realize how often. I called, texted, emailed, facebook messaged, sent him a YouTube video or otherwise reached out to communicate with him. Countless times over the last two plus months I have found myself wanting to reach out to him about something, nothing or anything in between. I actually called his his iPhone last week! Haha. Habit.

    Given the amount I typically communicated with him, there is now a void in my daily communicative expression. This evokes a feeling similar to mourning in my heart because I am unable to communicate with him when and how I want to.

    I don’t know what I expected the feelings to be like…

    At least we can speak on the phone once a day. We could write letters, but that’s not a fun as it might sound. We can visit, but things have been some crazy at work I haven’t had the time to plan a trip to Georgia.

    I know this is only temporary and after this season has passed life will return to normal. But in the meantime, I miss him.

I feel a great sense that can only be described as loss. There is a hole in my life which can only be filled by my brother. A large, special piece of my everyday has been taken away from me. It is missing. This loss has certainly changed our relationship… I don’t know how exactly or what things will be like when we can talk whenever we want, but things have changed.

I know my family has felt the same or similar feelings on loss, too. This has affected us all. We all have felt the pressure, the loss, along with other feelings. We have felt betrayed at times. We have felt lied to. We have felt disappointment. We have felt like we have been left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. We have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. We have felt guilt. We have felt responsible. We have felt feelings that are real and powerful. We have hurt and we are hurting. I would argue this is normal. This is to be expected. And this is ok. What’s not ok is bottling the feelings up and letting them gnaw at our hearts and allowing those feelings to adjust or change the love we have for a brother/son who himself is hurting. Maybe more than us. Likely, more than us.

This may be a simplistic approach to the dilemma, but I believe guilt or innocence to be irrelevant. Maybe not irrelevant, but holding no bearing on the reality of my feelings about him or about this situation. I love my brother. I will always love my brother, no matter what. But loving my brother doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have feelings like the ones above. It doesn’t mean when I have those feelings I am in the wrong. But it also doesn’t mean I can use this as an excuse to feel differently about him. What has happened has had a dramatic impact on my family and we are forever changed because of it. And at the resolution of this whole experience, there will be more exploration to finally resolve it. To finally, make sense of it… as much as we can. No doubt, there will be more tears, more frustration, more anger, guilt, remorse, sadness, joy, laughter, more whatever.

I’m not going to pretend I see the silver lining and I know on the other side of this we will be stronger, better, blah blah blah. This sucks, from start to finish. But, this is where we are. This is our life. This is the experience we have. This is the hand we have been dealt and whether God is in it or not, we will endure it. God will use it, certainly. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make it suck less.

For about 12 months I have wanted to share my thoughts and feelings. I have wanted to express what we are going through. And I haven’t. I don’t know if it is because I was embarrassed. Or if if I didn’t want to hurt feelings. Or if I wasn’t sure we were or I was ready. But the sooner we stop hiding in the shadows, the sooner we can have some resolution about what and how we feel.

I love my family. I love my brother. I will always love them. Nothing will ever change that. This has been hard, but it hasn’t killed us yet. And I don’t think it will. If we continue to stand against this as a family, we will endure.

These are my feelings. These are my thoughts. This is my voice. If you are reading this and you feel like you have suffered and are suffering know you are not alone. Know there are others walking through life carrying heavy burdens. Burdens we daily try to give to Jesus, but hang on to because it is hard to give them up. There’s a band called HELLYEAH. They have a song entitled Hush. It talks about growing up in a family wrought with abuse. While it is not always true, emotional pain (regardless of the source) often easily translates from person to person. What I mean is, when we feel emotional pain we can associate with others feeling emotional pain regardless of whether the source of that pain is the same or not. As the scene is described in the song, a line from the chorus says, ‘if this reminds you of home, you better know you’re not alone.’ This is why I write these words today. I want share my pain to let others know they are not alone. To let others know they don’t have to suffer alone in silence. We can help each other. Today I may be strong enough to hold you up, but next week I might need you to hold me up.

I will hold you, will you hold me?

Fist Full of Guilt

  
“3PO, you tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth he’ll get no such pleasure from us. Right?” 

One of all-time favorite lines from any movie. Facing certain death, Han Solo retorts with a smart-mouthed, belligerent comment. No matter what came next, he was going to make sure he had left no stone unturned. He ensures he had no regrets, no guilt of choices he made or didn’t make. 

It often feels as though I navigate through life with a worldview almost the exact opposite. There have been many days long since passed,  I awoke with a strong sense of guilt and regret. 

I no longer wake and face each day this baggage weighing me down. I don’t know that I face each day with the brashness of Han Solo, but I don’t start each day full of guilt and regret either. 

Over the years, I have strived to live the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-12,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭

Contentment. 

Being satisfied, happy, content. I would never complain to have attained this, I have moved beyond the guilt and regret. 

How? Jesus. 

Seems like a cop-out answer and it partially is. But it is also true. I have had to allow him to be my starting point and my ending. Not myself or my own performance as a father and husband. I had to learn to find my purpose, existence and meaning in something other than me. 

So, Jesus. I have learned to define myself by the same terms he uses to define me. 

Saved. Brother. Friend. Child of God, covered by the sacrificial blood of the son of God. 

When I learned to define myself as Jesus defines me, the guilt and regret went away. It stills rears its ugly head from time to time. But they don’t consume me. They don’t become who I am, because they aren’t me. 

Now I wake each morning with a sense of freedom. A sense of relief. Knowing I don’t have to perform or act or live a certain way… because it was already lived for me. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I want to let the reality of brokenness and hurt tell me who I am. 

But I can’t. Because that truth isn’t true. It’s a lie. I am not guilt. I am not regret.

I am covered by the blood of Jesus. 

A Certain Point of View

watson mill

Luke: You told me Darth Vader betrayed and miurdered my father.

Obi Wan: What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.

Luke: A certain point of view?

Obi Wan: Luke, you will find many of the truthes we hold are from a certain point of view.

We have all heard the cliché, possession is 9/10 of the law. I think it is equally true, if not more true, to say perception is 10/10 of reality. Our reality is shaped by our perspective – our interpretation and understanding of the events and external stimuli we encounter. How we perceive the world around us becomes our reality. We approach life, situations and problems based on the way we interpret the external influences on us.

What’s the big deal about this? So what? This is critical because it sets the framework for how we react to life. I have been told I’m a ‘the glass is half empty’ kind of guy. I tend to have what some call a pessimistic, defeatist outlook. I would argue, it’s a practical, reality-bases outlook but whatever.

Many circumstances we face can swallowed much easier if we have a proper perspective. As I got up and got ready for work, ate breakfast, drove to work and arrives do late what was the cause? Did my alarm clock purposefully not go off at the appropriated time? Did my boys refuse to get dressed solely to irritate me? Was every other driver on the road setting out to get in my way? Is the world just avainst me today? Or did I have a unique set of circumstances which led to me arriving to work later than I planned? Did these circumstances allow me a few more minutes with my family this morning? As annoying as it is to catch every redlight, I can’t help but wondering what I may have avoided on the road by being stopped at those lights.

Our perspective sets the tone for our attitude and outlook on life. Here are three ways to keep perspective in perspective:

  1. Remember we aren’t alone – We barely are facing a situation which has never been faced before. We aren’t the only ones who have suffered in the way we are suffering and likely not the only ones suffering in this way currently. Remembering we aren’t alone is powerful in dealing with whatever life is throwing at us, because we know we don’t have to do it alone, all by ourselves.
  2. Remember there is a lesson in this – I have come realize even the difficult times of my life have taught me something… especially, he difficult times in my life have taught me. It is through the fire that the core of my being has been forged and made me into the man I am today. I am who I am because of what I have learned in the midst of the chaos that has been difficult times in my life.
  3. Remember someone may need our help –  It is possible there are others around us who are also suffering who need us to be there for them in the difficult times. If we can look around us and see those around us who are suffering, we could be in a position to help those who need it. Maybe we are both on the same journey and we are farther down and have words of encouragement to share. Maybe we have already conquered what they are struggling with. Maybe they can find strength and the ability to carry on because of what they see in us.

Life isn’t always easy. We don’t have the ability to control life, but we can control how we approach it and we can control our response to it. Are we going to assume we have to accept the garbage we face in life or are we going to try to look at life in such a way that we can make the most of it?

Sleep-Deprived Thoughts and Musings

Sleep is for the WEAKSleep eludes me sometimes.

I begun to realize my life goes in cycles of sleep. It’s been awhile since I’ve had trouble sleeping. Not sure if I could quantify why I haven’t had trouble sleeping until recently.

I wonder if it’s related to stress… although, stress doesn’t seem to explain past experiences with trouble sleeping even it might explain my current stretch of sleep elusion. So, stress maybe the culprit currently but historically it hasn’t been therefore it can’t be the answer.

Anxiety? This doesn’t seem to fit either. I could make a case for higher anxiety currently, but I don’t know if it works historically to explain it.

I suppose it possible I have inadvertently altered my sleep patterns. I’m not staying up particularly later than is ‘normal’ for me. The hang up is, even when I do go to bed I’m unable to sleep. I guess I am starting the going to be process slightly later than normal… but this feels like it would be a waste to head to bed if I’m not going to sleep.

Contentment? Could this be a reason? I feel a fair amount of discontent currently… I don’t know if my discontent and general lack of joy are strong enough to prohibit me from sleeping. It would be hard for me to identify if this reasoning works from a historical perspective. It’s possible. It could make sense. At the same time, it feels as though I have a generally discontented disposition. If I am generally discontented by disposition, then I’m not sure if this explains it due to discontent feeling like a larger over-arching theme in my life not following any sort of cycle.

It’s not outside the realm of possibility, I have sleep issues because I have conditioned myself to be awake late and therefore I am the cause of my trouble sleeping. While this seems like a potential answer, it doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t think I am conditioning myself to stay up later, I think I stay up later because I can’t sleep.

I’m not any closer to understanding why I have trouble sleeping some times. What I do know is stress, anxiety and contentment are withiny power to change.

Stress… there are countless strategies to reduce or relieve stress from our lives. For me, it’s as simple as running, training, Xbox or taking a few quiet minutes to breathe and collect myself.

Anxiety… this is a little more difficult to quiet. But, through quiet time and prayer even this can be calmed. By realizing there are things I can’t effect change upon. Understanding I can only do what I can do and I can’t do anything more. It isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always go away, but I also don’t have to hopelessly accept it always has to be present.

Contentment… sometimes, faking it is the best way to create it. I don’t have any secret recipe or potion to cause contentment. I have been able to draw a connection between my walk with God and my contentment. The closer I walk, the more contented I am. Sometimes it helps to remember not everyone appreciates sarcasm as much as I do and maybe I should be a little nicer. If I try to manifest kindness and gentleness and self-control, it makes it harder to think about how unhappy I am.

Contentment is about happiness. What do I have to be unhappy about? I live a life full of blessing and privilege.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭3-4‬ NASB)

coffee & donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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