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

Category: Stress

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?

A Certain Point of View

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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)

Relief from My Distress

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Answer me when I call to you,  my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress;  have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 4:1
Give me relief from my distress. This really stands out to me today. For some reason I feel distressed today. I have committed to stop drinking coffee (again). In the last 12 days or so I have had coffee three times and two of them have been times I have felt stressed and as though I need a release from said stress.. Today is one of those days. I am not sure if I could quantify why it is, but I feel pressure today. I feel pressure for work, I feel pressure for church, I feel pressure for home, I feel pressure for personal life, I feel pressure everywhere. It is in a moment as this, I find myself wanting to be a part of a small group of men with whom I can find confidence and community. Not really an accountability group or mentoring one… just something where I can hang out and we can do life together, as cliche as that sounds/is. It feels as thought the pressure I feel could have some release if I had a community like this to engage in. But this has little to do with the pressure specifically, or how I may find release of it in God.
Why should I feel distress? Am I holding back from giving something to God that he can handle and relieve the distress from me. At this moment, my mind wanders to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It’s almost as if he knew his children would feel pressure, feel the weight of life and feel the need for rest. It’s almost as though he has felt this same pressure, this same need for release, this same heavy burden of life. Therein lies the need for a Savior who was human just like me, a Savior who has experienced exactly what I experience, a Savior who has walked in my shoes.
Honestly, as I have come to understand God and his interaction with me individually through Jesus and the Holy Spirit I have come a greater understanding of the lengths God has gone to in order to have the greatest amount of empathy possible. God took it upon himself to become like me so he could understand the struggles of being me day in and day out. It adds a huge amount of credibility to his claims of being able to offer me the rest and relief from distress I seek knowing he has walked through the same trials as me. For me, this is why i turn to God in times of distress. Because I have experienced him in such a way that I find his claims to be relevant and true. His claims that he can offer what no other ‘god’ can offer to be truthful. In my times of distress I have trusted in every of possible avenue to relieve the distress and none of them worked. None provided the relief I was looking for.
Jesus’ words to find in him rest for a weary soul are refreshing words to me, someone who has looked for rest and found it nowhere else but in him. Today, as I feel distress and pressure and the need for release I will find the rest and relief and release in a God who can offer a lighter burden to me. What about you? Will you allow Jesus to carry your burden?

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