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Category: Pain & Suffering (page 1 of 3)

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?

2015 in the Rearview


Ronda (my wife) shared a moving and very sweet post on facebook Tuesday night (you can read it here) that almost brought me to tears. It verbalized and quantified 2015 in an articulate and appropriate way. I love her so much.

She drew out and briefly mentioned many of the struggles which have made this one of the most difficult years we have experienced as a couple. And it has been.

She also pointed out what God has taught her through this year and some of the conclusions she has been brought to. I would like to do the same. There have been lessons I have learned this year. Struggles which have taught me more about myself, my family and my marriage than I knew possible. Things I learned about myself, things I learned about others and things I realized I was doing all wrong.

Not every year is going to be epic. Not every year is going to be a trial by fire. Maybe the year will fall somewhere in between those extremes. No matter what your year is like, there inevitably are moments maybe even seasons of joy and goodness. Focus on those and the lessons learned through the struggles.

So, with 2015 in my Rearview, here are my takeaways.

  1. There will always be difficulty. This seems like a no-brainer, but the reality is this: life will always throw us curve balls. We practically need to expect the worst instead of fearing it. Life is not going to go the way we expect, hope or plan. That is the nature of life. We live in a fallen world which is marred and broken by sin. Since, sin is the dominant predication of this world… there will be hurt. Hurt is a natural byproduct of sin. Not even a byproduct as it is in the nature of sin. Brokenness breeds hurt and hurt breeds difficulty in strife. Its like my ole pappy used to say, if you expect people to let you down, then you won’t be disappointed when hey do.
  2. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or freeze the lemons an throw them back! This year, I was constantly making the best with what I had. Hey, even the prophet Ezekiel made a tasty meal once using his own poop to cook it on (Ez. 4:!2). Can you imagine the flavor that bread had? I bet it was fantastic. This year was in no way what I expected it to be, but in the end while I would say it was a very tough year, it wasn’t my worst year I have ever had. It was close, but it wasn’t. Many good things happened this year. My family certainly saw difficulty. Some of that difficulty we have emerged on the other side of, stronger and better equipped for life. Some of that difficulty isn’t quite over yet. Nonetheless, I am making do with what I have. I am making the best out of what I have been given.
  3. Live in the moments. Each day is filled with countless moments of life (I realize there are a finite amount of minutes and seconds in a day), moments for us to live in and make the most of. Countless times throughout the day I am given the opportunity to interact with my boys and help them to grow. Numerous times each day I have the chance to cherish my wife and show here how much she means to me. I have great opportunity each day to build into the lives of the young men I work with. We must find a way to live in these moments. Live in each moment and don’t let the moments we have let slip by us consume us.
  4. Be the change you hope to see. Yes, its a cliche. But it holds some truth. If you want change, then be the change. I have found when I change my perspective and begin working to become who/what I want to be, there is a much greater chance the change will occur. A subtle shift and change in the perspective we have will work wonders for our outlook and the situation we find ourselves in. It doesn’t always make everything, or anything, better… but it is a good place to start. Making the changes and forcing ourselves to be better, be different is a step on the right path.

2015 is over. Thank God for that. But just because 2105 is over is no guarantee 2016 will be any better. For what ti is worth, I am doing my best to make 2016 the best year it can be. I am doing everything I can to learn from what 2015 has taught me so I don’t make the same choices in 2016.

The Beginning of the End

I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

I’m a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

I'm a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

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