1st installment My Story ( It is a Marathon not a Sprint)

The recent news of the pastor that committed suicide left me with a longing to tell my story. I want to put my thoughts…my story….my victories and my losses. I want to put it ALL out there so that it might bring hope to someone else who finds themselves where I once was.

I have not had to go on a lot of medication or even go to therapy. But I feel like God has brought me through this. I am not in the same place. I can remember a time of my life that was really, really difficult. It was somewhere in 2012. Even though I was never officially diagnosed, I know that what I was dealing with was a form of anxiety and depression.

There is no denying the fact that it all snuck up on me. Whenever you take a road trip, part of the adventure is the journey. You can map routes, make playlists, and stop for gas station snacks. Then after all of that, you arrive at the destination. The place that you had set out to reach- a place that you had purposefully traveled towards. However, I had taken this journey without even realizing it. It took rock bottom for me to realize where I had arrived. I don’t remember the trip. It was like I was just all of a sudden there.

I found so many questions rolling around in my head. How did I get here? What was wrong with me? What triggered it all? Was it the robbery that I went through? Tough family situations involving my birth parents? How did I get here? What brought me to this point?

I tried to hide the struggle from everyone else. I put on the mask that told the world that I was just fine. I spent all of my energy trying to contain this feeling.I faked it for everyone else. As a pastor, I had expectations on me. I used all of my energy on playing the part and then my family got the leftovers- which was essentially nothing. I could not let people at church or youth group see that part of me. It would make me look broken and messed up. How can you help people when you are that way? However, I am just a person as well and there are so many other people that are dealing with these same issues and I don’t want to minimize the very real struggle that it involves.

I physically felt numb to everything. I came home from the office and didn’t want to talk to my family. I just wanted to hide. I wanted to not be bothered. I didn’t want anyone depending on me. Our children were around the ages of four and nine. My wife was still working nights at this point and that left me alone with my thoughts for hours at a time. I would be so exhausted from keeping up the “pastor image” that I would come home and have absolutely nothing left to give my family. I would walk in the door and walk right past them. I would go to our room, shut the door, and get in bed. I wasn’t eating dinner with my family or spending time with my kids. Every second of every day was taking so much focus and energy to just ‘make it through’. I was living my life mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted all the time. After my wife left for work, my kids were becoming used to me parenting them from bed.

I remember driving Allie to school and after dropping her off….having to pull over to cry and asking God what was wrong with me. Why was I so miserable all the time? Everyday was absolutely awful.

I was trying to cope and maybe even blaming God for the way I felt.

I was frustrated that things were not changing and getting any better.

The robbery that I went through really had a bigger affect on me than I realized. My anxiety really started after that incident. I would have pains in my chest. I would think it was a heart attack. I can think of at least three different times when I ended up in an ER or being taken in an ambulance because of fear. At that time, I was early to mid thirties.

The doctor’s word never gave me peace, and I had so many doubts. I also thought that I was one pain away from dying. It wasn’t until I got a PCP and started going for annual check ups that I actually trusted what was being said.

I started working out and losing weight. My doctor put me on blood pressure medication and I had a prescription for an anxiety medicine since right after the robbery. All of those things helped, but they weren’t the biggest part of the equation. I lost a significant amount of weight and people would come up to me daily and talk about how much I had lossed and how much better I must feel. I always smiled and answered graciously, but the truth is I didn’t feel any different. The feelings, thoughts, and struggles were all still there and I could not figure out why. Even though I was a pastor, I felt like my soul was not in a great place at that time. Life was so hard. I loved God, but each and every day was an ordeal.

My family had been extremely patient with me up to that point. Something like this takes a toll on everyone involved. One night when I came home from work and went and got into bed like usual, my wife came in the room. I expected her to be telling me that she was leaving for work and that the kids were watching movies. She walked around our bed to my side, grabbed our comforter, and snatched the blanket off of me. She told me that something had to change. She said that she had tried to allow me space to work through this and to be there for me, but this has been too long. She said this spiritual attack needed to be faced so that we could move past it. That was a wake up call.

I had never looked at it as a spiritual attack before then. I honestly thought that something was just wrong with me physically. Spiritually it was an attack- it is SO important not to downplay the spiritual side of this battle. Coming to terms with the aspect of spiritual battles- identifying that and calling it what it is was a game changer.

I remember going to work out one morning at the gym at our church. I pulled in the parking lot to go work out, but God had other plans. He kept telling me that I needed to go into prayer. I was late and didn’t want to go. I argued with God. I finally answered with a ‘fine God…I’ll go’. I walked in and didn’t say anything to the ladies leading the meeting. They were really almost done. I came and stood in the middle of their circle and they assured me that I had come there for a reason and that I needed prayer. That day I balled my eyes out before God. Everything didn’t change overnight or anything. The struggle was still very real and ongoing, but my spirit shifted and I started going to the prayer meetings twice a week . I was still exercising and also using that time to pray and listen to God. I took my kids to prayer meeting with me and they would sit in the foyer and watch videos. My direction shifted. There was more focus on him and less on me and the why and the physical feelings. The greatest help was without a doubt the spiritual aspect of it all.

It has been a process. I have learned to seek God more. My desperation for peace and for Him made not doing so impossible. There was a change in my attitude and in my heart. I even feel like there was a shift in my very soul.

There were so many instances of growth. There have been many shifts that have corrected my path. It wasn’t one big life changing, healing moment. And the struggle didn’t stop and go away instantly. Even as recent as 2016, I had an episode where I had pains in my chest. I immediately went into panic mode and felt like I needed to go see my doctor ASAP. During this time, we were getting ready for a large event at our church and so the prayer group had been moved to a back room. My doctor could not see me right away, but they were going to try and get me in. In the meantime, I went to prayer that morning. I remember being so loud in prayer as I cried out to God, that I even startled some of the ladies. I was so broken. I went to see my doctor later that day and everything was completely fine and normal physically. I ended up talking to my Dr about prayer and the amazing role that it was playing in my journey.

Something else that had a huge impact on me was being able to talk about the struggles with other people. There is a freedom when you can give what you’re going through a voice and find that there are other people that are walking the same road that you are on. It made a big difference when a friend of ours started sharing her struggles and the similar things that she went through. It is so important to talk about what you are going through. Talk with your spouse. Talk with trusted friends. You don’t necessarily need people trying to fix you per say- you need people that will listen, pray for you, and walk with you through this painful season. Don’t be ashamed if you need to go talk to someone on a professional level- go. I felt like that was a big issue for me in the church. We are so scared of what people will think. How are we supposed to lead them if we are broken ourselves? Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Surround yourself with a faithful support system. I have learned that people care more about authenticity and honesty than anything else!

Life now is exponentially better now. It is never going to be perfect. I am realizing that it doesn’t have to be. I am far from where I was and still striving to get to where I want to be. I think that is how it is for everyone. As a family, we are closer then we ever have been and are doing better than ever before. That does not mean life is perfect. We have issues and problems. But that spiritual heaviness is not clouding every moment of every day. I have had new things birthed in me- new dreams. With each of these new births, an old part of me dies- the attacked part. I am a better father, better husband, better pastor, better communicator, better leader now. Not because of perfection, but because of transparency. Even though I haven’t been 100% delivered- I am better equipped to handle it.

When I share my story with someone, I think that people are often surprised to hear the depth of the darkness that I faced. People don’t expect it from someone in my position. I don’t talk about it enough, and that is one of the big reasons that I wanted to share it now. The number one lesson that I have learned through all of this is that you must never, ever devalue prayer and an authentic communication with God.

He hears you and He cares. It does not matter how deep the pain is or how dark everything seems. I promise you that He is there with you. Just hold on- He will guide you through and stay with you during the entire journey.

New Year, New Encounter

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells-even though you still experience all the limitations of sin-you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8:9-11 MSG)

Bye bye 2011 hello 2012. It’s a New Year, time for a fresh start filled with new encounters with Jesus everyday. Everyday we need new experiences with Him. It’s not just about a Sunday morning encounter, don’t misunderstand me those are great, but what about the rest of the week , month, or year. I hope and pray that you will make 2012 the year of everyday encounters with Jesus. You should be striving for that. The bible tells us in Romans 12 take your ordinary life your everyday routine and place it before God as an offering/sacrifice. Embracing what he does for you EVERYDAY is the best thing you can do for Him. He cares about you the same everyday. He loves you the same all the time. Do you return that love. Do you seek to encounter God everyday with fervor or is it just a Sunday morning thing, or a when the valley is to low. We should want to encounter Jesus passionately no matter if we feel like we are in the deepest, darkest crevasse of our life or at the highest peak. You need New encounters with Jesus everyday.

Happy New Encounters and Blessing’s to you all in this New Year!!!!!!!

December 26

Well the kids are up and at it today. Allie is enjoying all the wii games she received for Christmas and Gary well he can’t really stay still long enough to get heavily involved in just one particular thing. However he is having a blast nonetheless.

Looks like we will be heading out to brave the stores today got some things to return and exchange wish us luck. I leave you with some scripture today and hope everyone continues to have a blessed Christmas season as we head into the new year !

Then Job replied to the LORD:
“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:1-6 NLT)

Blessed

It has been sometime since I last blogged. Has we head into 2012 I am going to work very hard to blog and share more. What an amazing Christmas it has been ! The kids have had such an amazing day they have enjoyed this Christmas more it seems than any other I can remember. They have been very thankful and appreciative for all that God blessed them with this year. That makes a mom and dad very proud.

As this Christmas draws to an end I pray that all of you have taken an opportunity to think about the real reason for this day. Jesus the messiah, he is the reason. All the gifts are great, but they don’t come anywhere close to the gift of the spotless Lamb. Born in the stable, entered the world from such a humble beginning. We could all certainly learn so much just from examining that alone. Born into this world nothing like the King that He is. Something to think about indeed.

So I pray that every on has had a blessed day. I would like to encourage you to find someone to bless and bless them ! Show them love and don’t look for anything in return. Just do it out of love, the love of Christ !!!!

My journey from Opossum Kingdom to Arizona – Last Month and a Half of Summer 2011

So it has been a while since I last posted a blog so I am going to try to catch up a little by talking about a few events that have taken place in the last month and a Half that I failed to fill you in on.

what a great time we had at youth camp this summer. It may have been hot but it sure was fun. the services where amazing lots of lives changed for the glory of the Lord in an instant. Students worshiping with all they have, giving it there all!!!! Many filled with the baptism of the Holy spirit. It was an incredible week. To be able to spend a week with some amazing Youth Pastors and  an incredible group of students I had the privilege of getting to know this summer. The B1 cabin was amazing we had such a mix, these guys most of them had never met yet they came together and did and outstanding job working as a team during the week of camp. My hat goes off to them as it is often hard to come together that quickly and work together so well as a team great job B1.

Then upon my return from camp it was time for The Stand! An amazing weekend with Fuel Students that started on Friday and came to a conclusion on Sunday. It was incredible young people committing to take a stand for Christ some receiving Him in their life for the first time. It was an amazing time!!!!!! I saw a difference in the students, an excitement and hunger that I had been waiting to see. I just want to take a minute here and thank my leadership team. You guys are amazing thank you so much for being there and giving up your time, to give it to teenagers. You may not think it makes an impact on them, but trust me just letting them see that you cared enough to be there will speak volumes to them. So again I thank you without your help we would not have been able to put on such a great event. It was in fact so awesome that planning for next years Stand has already begun!!!!! So start making plans to be there if you are reading this and are a student in 6-12 grade.

That takes us up to this past week. General Council 2011 and National Fine Arts!!!!! I want to give a big congrats to Cole Perkins who participated for the first time in fine arts with his own original song qualified for nationals and went own to score a 36 out of a possible 40 at national level for and award of excellent. Great Job Cole!!!! very proud of you. It was also a great time to see faces that you have not seen or don’t get to see as much as you would like. I was just such an impactful week. So much great knowledge and information to take in. So many great leaders sharing information to help others make impacts on the cities they are from. Much thanks goes to Pastor George Wood and his team for putting on such a great event!!! It was also great to see and spend time with our great friends Tommy, Margie, and Jessica. We miss them so much it was great to see their new home and they were so gracious to let us invade it not once but twice. We love you guys and know that you guys have a special place in our hearts.

Ok so there you have it. A brief synopsis of the last month and a half. hope that helps catch you up little. I will work very hard blog a little more often and help keep you all up to date. Love you all and have a blessed day!!!!

Serve God – Serve Others

Fuel Youth students just completed an amazing week at the Ronald McDonald house of Charleston. This was our second year and it prove to be even more amazing than our first.

The week impacted all who participated. It was so awesome to be able to see our serving making a difference in people’s lives. I have so much respect for the students at Fuel, who this week had a servant’s heart. They never let discouragement hold them back, and believe me the enemy tried. They pushed on, completed the task that God had put before them and for that I commend them.

This year at the house we got to interact a lot more with the some families that were at the house. It was amazing and heart-wrenching to hear some of the stories, but it also helped us to gain some perspective on what exactly we were doing there. while we where there to help in the house it was what we did outside the house that really makes the difference. To see smiles and joy on the faces of some of the parents and siblings. Just a game of soccer, or a water gun fight, bubbles in the park. It gave the kids and parents just a little bit of a break from the reality that is, they are there because someone is sick and hurting. This has taken a heavy toll on the lives of the parents and also any siblings that there may be. We were able, I believe if just for minute, to take their minds off some of the difficulties they face. That my friends is what serving is all about. Forget about yourself for a moment and lift others needs above yours.

Love others as you want to be loved. Lift others needs above your own. Make yourself number two today and put someone else number 1.

Serve God – Serve Others

Goodbye

Tonight we said goodbye to the church in Quepos. It was a bitter-sweet night. We will miss them so very much. They said goodbye to us with a wonderful dinner and some lovely gifts of appreciation. The Pastor and his family are so amazing. I will remember them always. I will continue to remember them in prayer and their beautiful church. Also all the wonderful people in the congregation.

We also worked very hard during the day. We completed the truss work and although we did not get to see it set into place it is ready to go. All they have to do now is get some people from the church to help them set it into place. We completed painting on the back side of the church were the kitchen and Sunday school area are. We were also able to paint the Office and rest room building.

This trip has blessed me so and while I cannot wait to see my beautiful wife and kids. It is hard to say good-bye. So I will not say good-bye to the new members of my family here in Quepos, I say see you again one day my friends. If not here on earth for sure in heaven.

To Jay and Nancy, words cannot describe what amazing people you are. It has been such a blessing to be here with you. You have treated us like family and so that’s what you are to me now, family. I love you both and I look forward to coming and working with you again soon.

Tomorrow we end our stay in Quepos and head to San Jose then we leave Friday. And so this ends my blogs from the mission field in Costa Rica. I hope that this blog has blessed some of you because I know this trip has blessed me. Adios

Jesus Loves the Children of the World

Today was the most meaningful day to me of this trip so far. First The Holy Spirit showed up in a mighty way this morning during our devotional time. I cannot even explain what this was like in words. A supernatural outpouring was what it was. I believe that prophetic words were spoken to people at this time. also I know that some were healed during this time.

Then after lunch came the time I had been anticipating. We were off to the school. Wow, my life will never be the same.

These kids do not have a whole lot, but you would never tell it by the amount of joy these little ones have. We had fun playing football,basketball, and even got in on a little double dutch with them. lol!! It was an amazing time. Then came the GIFT. The children of the school had prepared a gift, yes a gift for the ladies from our team that had gone in, an done some painting in the class rooms. A gift from these students who probably don’t have much to speak of. Had a gift for the ladies. incredible, I broke, I was weeping. I could not contain the emotion of that moment. Another God moment. I told some of the ladies through my tears and there’s, they should cherish this gift for the rest of there lives because those little children did not have to give us anything we would have never expected anything back, but because of the love and kindness of their hearts they wanted to show appreciation for what the ladies had done for them. How Great is our God!!!!!

 

Costa Rica Day 5

As I sit here I’m doing my best to stay awake long enough to get this typed. Today had to be the toughest so far. We worked very, very hard today. It was hot, the hottest it had been. We pushed on and our reward the completion of one of the truss systems for the roof. O yes sweet victory.

Today Mr. Charlie Simmons and I did morning devotional. It was great we talked about obeying God and when we do we will see His blessings but if we disobey we do not know real saving faith. In Deuteronomy  28 it tells us that if we obey we will be blessed and if we disobey we will be cursed. The Charleston First team has been obedient. They have listened to what God has said to them. I have heard about amazing miracles that have taken place through some on this team. There are some that are on there 20th, 18th, 15th mission trip. They have listened to God. when He told them to speak they did, when he told them to go they went. Obedient, that’s something we all need to work to be

Tomorrow we go to an elementary school to spen some time with the students. These students and the community they live in are considered to be like the outcast. They are on an Island because they were removed from the tourist area because their parents were drug users and street people in the tourist area. So they were brought to the Island and now these children suffer because of this. the ladies on our team have been to the school and already done some work. The school is very poor, the school barely has any curriculum to teach the students. We have taken some educational materials to the school for the teachers and the school has been so thankful. I am so looking forward to spending time with the students of this school tomorrow.

Please continue to pray for our team!!!! Good night everyone!!!

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