*Current song to listen to while you read this… Toby Mac – 21 Years*
Today marks 3 months since you left us. While I know you are in a much better place and are no longer in so much pain it doesn’t make it any easier. Especially around this time of year.
I was supposed to protect you. I’m your big brother. That was my job. To make sure you were safe.
But I failed you. And I failed your son. And I stole the little moments of joy from your life that you held onto so dearly.
I kept my children from you when they were such a bright spot in your life. Why? Because you did things away from them that I didn’t agree with? Yeah you were addicted, but you didn’t bring it around my kids. So why did I always make sure you were at an arms length away from us?
My new job is right by the funeral home where your body last was. And every time I drive by it I get angry at the bs and lies that came out of people’s mouths as they told stories of you. “She was the annoying little sister.” No, she really wasn’t. What was annoying about you? That you just wanted to love so deeply that you wanted to be around your friends and family all the time? Out of all the memories I have of you not one of them were ever of you being annoying. It was never you. You were the sweetest child I had ever met. You just wanted to spend time with us.
People gave up on you. They stopped making you a priority. Everyone went on with their lives but you were still a child who needed to be raised and taught right from wrong. And who was there to do that? I stole your sister away from you. She wasn’t there to teach you all the things she had learned.
You were always placed in peoples shadows. So of course you did things to try and make your voice be heard.
But I didn’t hear you. No one did. While you were screaming for help we were all distracted by the other noises around us. Granted, ours happened to be raising 3 kids but that shouldn’t have stopped us from letting you be a part of it.
I take solace in knowing that not once did we ever tell you that you were a screw up. Yes, we pulled away, but when we saw you we showed you love. I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but the people who are struggling with themselves now because of the way they treated you while you were still here, they should be feeling guilty.
You were such a beautiful soul that had so much to offer this world. You had a beautiful voice that deserved to be heard. You loved my children so much and I never realized it until I had to go through all the pictures for your funeral. So many pictures with you and them. One of my biggest regrets is that while we have so many pictures of you from photo shoots I’ve done, I was always behind the camera and I don’t have a single picture of us together. Not one. My baby sister and I have no pictures of us.
It shouldn’t have been you. You made bad choices, but they were never to hurt other people. Yes, others were hurt because of them but your heart has always been so good. Why were you taken from us and not someone who intentionally causes pain and lies to others?
I struggle with you passing, even more than when my grandfather passed away. Because I now live every day wondering if I could have saved your life. I wonder if I would have pulled that car over and come over to you and asked you to come see the new house if you would still be here today. I wonder if we would have written you letters and explained to you how our lives have changed and how much we were looking forward to you being a part of it if you would still be here. I wonder if we would have let you see the kids more often if you would still be here.
I carry a lot of weight from you being gone. I find some peace in knowing that you committed your life to Jesus before you met Him, and that you now get to spend your time with your precious baby boy. But I so wish you were here. These holidays are going to be rough without you.
We plan on making sure that our kids never forget who you were. You were more than your demons. But you owned those demons and you never blamed others for them.
You should still be here.
I should have protected you.
I failed you.
And now I have to live with that failure for the rest of my life until I get the blessing of seeing you again.
I love you. You were so precious to us and I’m so sorry that we didn’t make it known more often.
I hope you left this world knowing you were wanted and you were loved.
I’ve got to be honest with you… after I shared my first post in this series last week I immediately had doubts. Fear of judgement overcame me pretty quickly. Why share these parts of my past that no longer reflect who I am?
This is part of my healing process. This is me learning to love myself. I have had so little self worth in the past that I didn’t feel I deserved to be a part of this world.
I thought writing this post would be easier than it actually is, wrongly assuming that many of these things I had already forgiven others and myself for. But the more I write and think about it, the more I realize that this is still a major part of my life that needs to get resolved. Because if it’s not, it’s going to eat away at all the progress I have made.
This week’s topic is about anger. Now, as you’re reading this you will find that a lot of my anger starts with moments of pain. Instead of communicating in the past when things bothered me I would keep everything bottled up and not address them. Do you know what happens when you don’t let things out? They multiply and get ugly very quickly. And eventually everything explodes, sometimes when you least expect it.
And it causes a whole lot of destruction in the process.
And that’s where a lot of my current anger still rests. In the fact that I was a tornado that ripped through a lot of people’s lives with no regard to the damage I was causing along the way.
For most of my life I have tried to be a good person and do the right things. I would avoid situations, places and people that could lead to bad decisions. I tried to be very cognizant about the friends I chose, especially in high school and college. But I have always had a serious sense of paranoia that despite all the good I was doing I could be accused of doing something that I didn’t do.
Do you know how difficult it is to live a life trying to ensure that everything is so perfect that you could never be blamed for something? It’s exhausting. Constantly trying to think 5 steps ahead of everyone else, playing what-if scenarios in your mind over and over again.
And do you know what is absolutely gut-wrenching? Doing everything right and still having your worst fears come true.
Now, I’m not a perfect person. In fact, I’ve done a lot of wrong in my life. I’ve cursed. I’ve stolen. I’ve lied. I’ve lusted. I’ve hurt a lot of people emotionally.
But there’s also a lot I’ve never done. I’ve never physically harmed someone. I’ve never cheated on anyone. I don’t even spank my children (we will get to that below). I try to make sure that the good I do outweighs the bad that sometimes comes from me.
But sometimes, it’s really hard to do good things when you live in a constant state of fear because of, often, the insecurities of others. And the feelings start as sadness and grow into anger.
So let’s get into this, shall we? Let’s talk about how words, and more specifically false accusations, can destroy a person.
I absolutely love being around children. And, for whatever reason, kids seem to love me. I can come down to their level and speak to them in a way that they can relate to. I can be silly and playful and act their age, not my own. Tea parties, dress up, sword fights, hide and seek, writing make believe stories, drawing pictures, painting your nails. These are some of the best things to do in life, period. It’s one of the reasons I was really good at my job when I did photography. Moms would call me the “Baby Whisperer” because of the way I could calm kids and make them happy. A child’s laugh and smile are truly just two of the greatest gifts to the world.
And I never had to think about the way I interacted with kids for the longest time until someone one day mentioned that I made them uncomfortable by the way I apparently looked at their children. And it absolutely destroyed my heart and ruined a part of my life. So now, anytime I am around people, because of one person, I am always fully aware of my behavior around everyone, not just children. I am always trying to make sure that I can never be in a position where someone can say something that is not true to who I am as a person.
Do you know how exhausting that is? I would love to be in a career where I could help children all day. In fact, if I could do things all over again I would 100% be a pediatric doctor. I often, still, think about going back to school for that, even at 32 and with 3 degrees already.
I’ve had people tell me how great I am with kids and how much they see that kids love being around me. And it’s always a great thing to hear. But it’s also very sad that I have to live in fear that someone, someday could manipulate a situation just to destroy my life. And it makes me extremely angry. Why? Because in this world we live in, the accusations don’t even have to be true to ruin someone’s life.
I just want to do good, but I can’t because of other people. My wife asked me how long it would be before I volunteered to help with the children’s ministry at church. Would I love to do that? Absolutely. But I live in fear of others words. I’m starting to let my guard down a lot more around family. It just makes my heart so full whenever the girls get so excited to see me, even if I just facetime them.
I also try to be very cautious about the way I discipline my children. I do not spank my children, but I also do not judge anyone who chooses to discipline in that way. To be fair, my kids probably deserve a good spanking every once in awhile for their behavior, just not from me. Again, because people wanted to throw words around without thinking of the consequences that would come from them, I will never discipline my children in that way. So instead, my next best option for discipline comes from empty threats of grounding and yelling. And, at times in the past, a lot of yelling.
My threats are empty because I don’t want to be perceived as a mean parent. Granted, yelling at my kids isn’t a whole lot better, but it’s just been the one thing that I haven’t been able to control when I get angry. When I say I yell at my kids, I don’t mean that I scream at them. More times than not, it’s just enough to get their attention, or be heard over their own yelling. You know, the “dad voice”.
But I have been angry that, again, I was falsely accused of doing something I have never done and would never do.
So let’s continue this trend of false accusations and the anger that comes along with them…
My trust for others, and my lack of friendship, stems from a fairly devastating accusation that ended an extremely close friendship.
I’ve been very honest with the fact that when I love, I love deeply. And I will give so much of myself, even with a friendship, for people I truly care about. I am that person that will show up at 3:00 in the morning. Or the one that will leave work in the middle of the day to come and give you a shoulder to cry on. I will be the person that will drive around town for hours in search of a hard to find item. I am the person that will give the shirt off my back, even though I am so uncomfortable with my own body.
I will ask for forgiveness for my lack of humbleness later, but when given the opportunity I can be a pretty incredible friend.
And I have a way of making people feel good. Like, really good. As in, if you’re having a really crappy day, I can more than likely tell you the things you need to hear to be in a much better place. I am an extremely kind person, especially out in public. Sometimes to the point where it annoys my wife (I will wait, for long periods of time, instead of interrupting someone out in public). I always tip on everything, because I always assume that if service wasn’t great then this person clearly must be fighting a battle I know nothing about.
But sometimes my kindness can be taken the wrong way. Sometimes people believe I have ulterior motives.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Fact, I do know how to flirt. But I can assure you, more times than not if you think I am flirting, I’m probably just being nice. Or just being playful. Even my wife sometimes thinks I flirt out in public.
But honestly, I genuinely just try to be a good person and make other people feel good. Do you know how sad it makes me that because of the world we are in I can’t tell people when they look nice? Or that I like their clothes? Or can’t mention it when they get a new perfume or cologne that smells good? Do you know how angry it makes me that I can’t compliment others? Do you know how frustrating it is that I can’t use the word “beautiful” to others other than my wife and kids? It’s stupid, because it is a word that should instantly bring a smile to someone’s face, but because people think there has to be some other connotation to the word I can’t tell them.
Anyways, apparently my kindness and willingness to be there for close friends was taken by others as more than just being a really good friend. People so wrongly assume that the opposite sex just can’t be friends with one another without there being something more.
And that particular situation just absolutely destroyed me. Sadness, depression and ultimately anger. Because all I ever wanted was to just have a really good friend. Someone that I could be there for and they could be there for me. But people had to ruin it by not seeing things for what they truly were.
And then more accusations of me being in situations that I’ve never even been in. Those ones ares the hardest to swallow because you hear one story and then it just keeps changing to outlandish claims that you eventually just get overwhelmed by. But the anger comes when people you thought you could trust start to believe them. And then completely pull out of your life as if something actually happened. And, again, the accusations are worse when they come from people that you thought you could trust.
That’s enough of the false accusations I’ve had to deal with. Let’s discuss other things that are still consuming me with anger…
How about thinking someone who was supposed to be a mentor to you for 6 years ends up not being who you thought they were and were actually using you all that time? Yeah, that would be from a previous work superior. Thankfully I had an amazing person come into my life and in less than 6 months fixed a lot of the damage that I didn’t even realize at first was caused. She eventually moved on, but I am blessed to still keep in touch with her to this day (and who may be reading this now).
Or how about your accomplishments being belittled to the point where your own siblings and uncle tell you that what you’ve done doesn’t even matter? This lead me to a point where I actually had a breaking point where I almost physically hurt one of my brothers. And if it weren’t for my dad being where he was in that instant and intervening, things could have gotten really bad. Not that other people’s opinions should matter, but when you have sacrificed so much to be where you are and other people treat it like it’s nothing, it really hurts.
Or losing all relationship with your siblings. That one hurts a lot and eventually lead to anger because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be a part of their group. I remember early in my twenties the relationship I had with all of my siblings was great. We would hang out together all the time. They would spend the night and we would stay up until early into the morning playing games together. Or we would go to the movies. Or just play catch at my parent’s house. But now do you know when I hear from any of them? Aside from one who lives on the other side of the country, only when they need something. And I’ve been told it’s because they think I believe I am better than them, but all I truly want is to help them be better people. I have offered so many times to help them, and do you know how many times they’ve taken me up on it? Once. One time, ever, and they didn’t even actually do anything with it. I can be hard on them, but it’s only because I see the potential that they don’t see within themselves.
Another thing that really angers me? Is being punished for doing well in life. That we are held to a different standard than everyone else in the family because we are responsible. The fact that things will be taken from us to give to someone else who truly is not deserving. And I’m angry about the fact that my wife has to have such terrible memories about our wedding because she is the “other daughter”. I’m angry that she had to be continually slapped in the face last year at her own sister’s wedding and constantly reminded for months that her wedding wasn’t as important. I’m angry at all the work that I had to pay for last year from family that did the same thing for free to everyone else. It bothers me that something that was given to everyone else isn’t being offered to us just because I have a good job. It hurts to be treated worse for doing better. I’m angry at the fact that almost all of our family lives less than 10 minutes from our house but very rarely ever makes an effort to see us, but will drive over 2.5 hours multiple times a month to see other people. I’m angry at the fact that my wife was basically broken from being in a toxic work environment for so many years that she chose to walk away from flexibility with her children to be in a place where she was respected.
I get angry at the way that my oldest daughter constantly lies to us, even about the dumbest things. I have anger about the way my youngest children treat each other, knowing that if they just chose to love one another unconditionally that they would be so much happier.
I am angry for the fact that I almost lost my wife last year because I was stupid and thought I wanted things I definitely did not want. And that I hurt her by saying some pretty damaging things. And the fact that she lost a lot of trust in me because of it, sometimes still having unseen consequences.
I get angry at the fact that I let myself get so unhealthy that I was unable to even do anything active with my own children. And I still struggle with my body to this day. Do you know how frustrating it is to be so uncomfortable with yourself that you will avoid swimming, even around family, because I still see myself as 60 pounds heavier than I am.
And I get angry at the fact that I willingly chose to turn my back to God and think that I was in control of my own life.
As you can tell, I’ve got a lot of anger I still need to free myself from. I’m hoping that giving myself to Jesus entirely will remove this from my heart.
I realize I still struggle greatly with feelings of sadness and anger. I pray that You will guide me in seeking the forgiveness that I truly need to free myself from this pain.
Please help me in forgiving those who have stolen parts of me that I struggle with finding again.
All I want to do is bring joy to this world. I want to bring happiness to others. I want those around me to be filled with smiles and laughter.
I want to be the best husband, the best father, the best son, the best brother, the best friend, the best caretaker, etc. that I can be.
I know You have already forgiven me for all the wrong I have done. I hope You can help me with the pain and anger that I am trying work through.
I ask that You please continue to be patient with me.
Please forgive me for turning my back on You so many times, allowing myself to be consumed with all of this pain.
On this path I am on to be a surrendered follower of Jesus I am learning to love unconditionally. Not only others, but also myself. How am I to seek forgiveness without addressing my sins and failures? I can’t just drop to my knees and yell out “Please forgive me for everything I have done!”. That just feels like I’m cheating. Like I haven’t worked to earn what I am asking for. But Jesus already knows everything I have done and everything I have thought. He has already forgiven me before I have even asked for forgiveness, right?! You’re absolutely correct.
So why am I doing this? I could just keep all these thoughts to myself and no one would ever know this part of my past. I could have a clean start. But I don’t want that. I want people to know that I am a broken person. That I am going through a lot of hard work to have this relationship with Jesus. It’s not necessary. He will accept me for the simple request of forgiveness, but I need to free myself of these thoughts and feelings and release the bonds. I need to address the demons so that I can have a clean start for me. I will be seeking to be re-baptized soon, so over the next few weeks (and possibly months) I am going to be working on a series to start addressing some (the list is long) of my faults and weaknesses. I want to free my heart of these burdens before I cleanse myself and start my life fully surrendered.
I will be pouring out my thoughts and feelings and trying to explain the context of the situations.
You probably are not going to like the things I have to share. I don’t like them. They hurt. A lot. But I can not pretend as if my past did not happen. I have to use them as learning opportunities to build a stronger relationship with Jesus.
So let’s dive right into this…
My wife and I are currently working on finalizing all of our “post-death” wishes. Setting up a living trust, making adjustments to life insurance policies, etc. Of course, in any normal conversation, this is going to bring up a lot of emotions and what-if scenarios.
We’ve all played the “What If?” game, right?! It’s absolutely terrible. This game is never played with positive outcomes! It’s always the worst case scenarios and just makes what you’re talking about so uncomfortable.
Here’s a scenario that brings up a lot of sad memories and where today’s topic comes from – “What if you get sick?”
Now, this has been a big component of a lot of relationships in my life. I watched my grandmother deteriorate from cancer in front of my eyes to the point that I felt peace when she finally passed away, knowing she was no longer suffering. I’ve watched my dad collapse walking across the house because of health issues. I watched my grandfather take cocktails of medications on a daily basis just to get through the day from COPD. I see people needing to carry around oxygen tanks just to be able to breathe and perform a necessary requirement to live.
I’ve seen children with scars that take up their entire chests from heart conditions and surgeries. I’ve seen children who literally are at risk of drowning in their sleep from cystic fibrosis. I’ve seen children who couldn’t even eat food on their own.
I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen suffering. I’ve seen death…
Here’s a story most of you probably don’t know about me, for reasons that will become evident soon. A few years ago I suffered unimaginably painful migraines. We’ve all had some before where we just want to lock ourselves in a dark room and sleep the day away. But mine were so bad that I wanted to gouge out my eyes because the sunlight hurt so bad (some days pressing on my eyes would make the pain subside, if only for a few moments). I would cause pain to other parts of my body to temporarily distract from my head.
It was intense. I went through so many different medications trying to find something that would work. Every single week the doctor was prescribing something new, and nothing ever seemed to do the trick. Eventually it lead to another round of severe depression.
Finally the doctors started to suspect something else was going on. So guess what comes next? Yup. The conversations of MRIs and CT scans to check for brain tumors. And here’s the part of the story that you guys aren’t going to like, because it makes me so sad to think about…
I hoped that there was something wrong with me. I hoped that they would get in there and say “Oh, well there it is!” and then turn around and tell me that I only had a year or so left to live.
I wanted that conversation to happen.
Obviously, as I sit here today, that conversion didn’t actually happen. God has bigger plans for me. Tests continually came back positive and the new medications kept coming. A medication finally did the trick after months of testing and I was placed on an anticonvulsant for a very long time until the pain finally subsided.
And guess what happened when that conversation didn’t happen? I was disappointed! I was sad that I wasn’t dying. I envied the people that I saw that were sick. Not for the pain that they were going through, but for the love that they received because of it. Because in those moments where people were at their lowest physically, they were at their strongest spiritually. And they were surrounded by loved ones.
And I didn’t believe that I had that.
What was wrong with me?!
I sat at my cousins funeral 6 years ago and saw the place filled with people that loved him so incredibly much. And it was in that moment that I realized I felt so alone in this world. But Kyle, your family should be enough, right?! Right. But that’s a forgiveness post for another day.
But thinking of my mortality just brought about sadness. And anger. And very conflicting feelings that just made me feel even more lost. I have a soft spot for sappy books and movies where the main protagonist dies in the end, more specifically from sickness. I would watch these movies and read these books and see how much good came as they approached the end of their lives. And I would long for that. But then I would turn around and think of my funeral if I were to pass and could only see maybe 10 people showing up, including my own family. So, I would want to be sick to be able to have an excuse to bring people closer to me, but I didn’t want to be sick because it would be a reminder of how alone I truly was? That’s not okay.
I’ve just recently come to the realization of how alone I really was for such a long time. I only have myself to blame, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
It’s, rightfully, hard for me to admit these things, especially knowing how incredibly selfish it is because people have to actually endure these horrible moments in their lives. And I’m so sorry if you think I am lessening the extremities of these situations.
But this is something that is no longer a part of who I am. My life is not my own to live.
One, I have a growing family that loves and wants me around.
Two, that is not the way Jesus lived His life! He gave His life for others, including me. Not for His own selfish desires! He gave the ultimate sacrifice so I could be stupid and free to think those terrible things in the first place.
Three, I am not here, living this life, to build a kingdom of my own. I am here to serve others and to make a difference.
My thoughts were incredibly selfish, upsetting, sad and not pure.
So today, I seek forgiveness. For my envy. For devaluing my life when it is not mine to do so. For believing that God’s plan for me was less than my own.
Today I am one step closer to loving myself unconditionally, for I have come to realize that Jesus is a part of who I am, and for Him to love me unconditionally I must do the same and live as if He were living my life for me.
I have lived my life for so long as a sinner. My sin has brought me no joy or happiness in life. It was not until I began to give my life to You that the skies began to clear and the light was shown on my life.
I ask for forgiveness from You today for treating my life as if it weren’t such an incredible gift from You, personally! Please forgive me for undervaluing my life and hoping for it to be shortened. I know You have been by my side through every transgression, protecting me from myself and not answering my prayers. Sometimes the greatest gift in life is unanswered prayers.
You have plans for my life that I can not even imagine and I will do everything that I can to share my gifts and blessings with others. I will serve others!
I am a sinner. Thank You for bearing my sins for me and for allowing me to be, for lack of better words, an idiot for such a long time.
I am a better person because of You, and I will continue to follow in Your footsteps and live my life as if You were living it for me. What a blessing it is to know that You are a part of who I am!
In Jesus’ name.
I’m sorry for such a heavy post. I wish I could say that they get easier from here, but I know that that is not true. But on the bright side of all of this, we all already know how the story ends – with me living a fully surrendered life to Jesus and finding my way back to His Kingdom!