HeartSupport http://www.heartsupport.com Hold Fast. We Believe In You. Tue, 16 Sep 2014 03:49:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Everyone’s Getting Divorced (And Maybe Someone You Know is Too) http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/everyones-getting-divorced-and-maybe-someone-you-know-is-too/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/everyones-getting-divorced-and-maybe-someone-you-know-is-too/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:33:07 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16151 “I find myself obsessing over whether she really believes it? Whether she actually buys into the fact she’s going to be happier? Like, when she’s out meeting new guys at the club, is she thinking about how big their dick is? Or if he’s better in bed? Is that what’s supposed to make her happy? Her new moron friends told her ‘you deserve to be happy’ but all I can think about is how I want to punch every guy in the face on Facebook I see her with. I know I’m rambling…not even making complete thoughts….but it’s how I feel. Inadequate. Alone.”

I stare across the table while he fights back tears.

“It’s all fucking bullshit. Divorce parties. Late nights at the bar with her friends. It’s an illusion.”

He puts his hand over his face and mutters, “Just…fuck….man.”

 

It’s hard every time I meet up with a guy going through a divorce. Hearing these stories produces hurt, inadequacy, and abandonment issues that aren’t supposed to exist in my current marriage. But they’re still there, and it’s because I’m the guy that lives in both worlds. Like the character Lord Marshal in the movie Chronicles of Riddick I have one foot in the underworld and the other in the present. A product of divorce and healing.

Most times I don’t say much. I just hurt with them. Other times to let them know I’ve been there too and sympathize: I fantasized about killing my ex. I felt inadequate and wanted to know I was still desirable so I hooked up with random girls I met at bars. I figured since she might be grinding on other guys at the club, I better be grinding back. I got into re-bound relationships. I drank a lot to mask the hurt.

Divorce is like death without the funeral. There’s no closure because the other person is still here. Alive. Maybe even happier it would seem. The home you bought and the pictures you hung you have to figure out what to do with. Do I burn the wedding album or what? The kids have to figure out what it means when Mom starts dating “Bob” and Dad starts dating “Jane” and that’s just confusing, all the while not knowing what level of hell and betrayal one of their parents may be experiencing.

But this is the culture we live in, so what do we do?

 

Forgiveness

My first year being single and newly divorced I used to grip the steering wheel on my way to work each morning and scream “I ‘EFFING FORGIVE YOU!” Most times I would come to a stoplight, go into an uncontrollable rage, and end up punching the steering column until my fist hurt while the cars next to me laughed or quickly accelerated. I was angry and hurt still. But one day I meant it. One day my heart broke free and I forgave her. The thing about unforgiveness is that it poisons your soul to the point that you become bitter and untrusting of everyone (not just your ex). But forgiveness is the healing balm that covers the wound and grows a scar. And scars tell the story that you survived.

 

Let go of the past and don’t try to recreate it.

I used to creep hard on my ex’s facebook wall.

Because I hadn’t moved on I wanted to know every movement, who every guy in each of her photos was, I mean, everything. I was Casper the Ghost haunting her life without her even knowing. But as time went on I realized how unhealthy it was towards my healing because it left me drowning in the past and angry at the future. 3 years later when I started dating again I had the thought, “well this worked well in my marriage” which was quickly replaced by “Oh ha ha moron, your marriage was full of epic fail.” Even if you had a great relationship and he or she left without notice, the worst possible thing you can do is try to recreate that relationship. You’ll confine people to fit into what you thought worked and inevitability fail. No one wants to be a repeat failed marriage.

 

Community

I love the movie Into the Wild which tells the story of Chistopher McCandless, a young man who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness only to later die of starvation. In the film he has many shared experiences with people he encounters and becomes close with. Reflecting upon his life in one of his final journal entries he concludes, “Happiness is only real when shared.” Living in isolation he quickly saw he was without help from others, which, ultimately lead to his demise. His reflection was that the points in life that really mattered – the bright spots we each experience – were only real when other people are there to share them with us. This is true of our pain also.

When first going through my divorce I only had ONE friend and I slept on his couch. However, he did what other people hadn’t. Without saying it he showed me he was there through thick and thin and that I didn’t have to go through this alone. But it didn’t stop there. I made more friends that shared my hurt and helped me heal. They listened and empathized. They didn’t take my side in the divorce, but were simply there. I wasn’t a project. I just happened to be the guy in the group that was wounded and walking with a limp and they nursed me back to health. In the end too, I begin to watch some of their marriages, healthy and thriving, and learned many of the things I had done wrong in mine.

 

The Walking Wounded

I wish I could say “Follow these steps and you’ll make it!” But divorce is hard, and so is life. There’s no magic incantation or super prayer that’s going to make the pain go away overnight. The road is long and treacherous and many are left bleeding on the side of it, or dead from bitterness. It’s going to take a lot of us who’ve been wounded and recovered to carry those currently hemorrhaging. We’re going to get blood on us and it’s going to be messy. It’s going to take those of us who are blessed to have great marriages to run to the front lines and perform life saving surgeries. It’s going to take those of us from broken homes to hold the hands of others whose homes are crumbling and say, “Hang on. I’ve been there too.” It will take functioning, healthy families to care for and share in the mess of friends and children whose lives have been wrecked by divorce.

It will take all of us.

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August Burns Red Wasn’t My First Band http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/august-burns-red-wasnt-my-first-band/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/august-burns-red-wasnt-my-first-band/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 18:17:10 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16133 August Burns Red wasn’t my first experience with a band; I had actually started bands when I was around fifteen years old. My first concert was a Strike Anywhere show in a hole-in-the-wall called New Brookland Tavern.

I fell instantly in love with music when I first experienced it live in concert I knew right then and there that music was going to play a huge part in my life. Watching the band on stage, sweating as they poured all of their emotion into what they were preaching, it ignited feelings in my heart that I knew were part of my identity. Despite my struggles with family, my problems with feeling abandoned, just being in that room had a strong unifying feeling; a sense that we were all feeling some sort of pain and that the music from this band on stage was bringing us all together.

It was a life changing moment to say the least.

After the show I went up to the vocalist who was talking to fans on the side of the stage and I asked him if he would sign my arm. He said of course and signed it with the black sharpie I had given him but then as he pulled up his sleeve he asked me if I would sign his arm. I was shocked and honored that an actual REAL musician was asking for MY autograph; what had I done to deserve this? I knew right then and there I wanted to be a front man; I wanted to share my struggles and stories and to bleed my heart on the stage every night, and I wanted to be able to have an impact like he had on me.

So I went home and found some guys who wanted to start a band with me and so I ended up starting this pop punk band called Smash Atoms. We started rehearsing in the room above my mom’s garage and God bless her soul I don’t know how she put up with the noise that was Smash Atoms but she did as we played well into the evening hours. We were small and inexperienced so we didn’t have opportunities to play shows with high caliber bands but we had to start somewhere and that was at a place called the Dutch Fork Community Center. This was a VFW Hall that I rented out on several occasions and it would cost a few hundred bucks to do so. I would then go to the practice sheds to look for bands that would want to play the show which were actual storage sheds that local bands, at least the ones who were serious about their music, would rent out to practice in.

So after lining up the bands for the show I had created I would then hit the Kinkos down the street. I made my own fliers by cutting images out of magazines and printing band names out with different fonts; then I would tape all the images together on a piece of paper and get that “Final Draft” flier printed out at Kinkos. Next I would hand them out at school, at Hot Topic, downtown, to other guys in the bands to help promote the show; basically anywhere I could hand them out. The cost of the show was usually $5, granted that was a decent amount of money for a show full of local bands, but I did this quite a few times before being able to go to a real venue and play on tours that would come through the area. During that time I went from band to band, around five or six, before landing home at August Burns Red.

When Smash Atoms broke up I then started a metal band called She Walks In Beauty; we were actually serious enough that we got a spot at the practice sheds. I ended up quitting college soon after and when my mother asked why I told her that it was taking time away from my music career. She wasn’t’ very happy to hear this as college is more promising than being a guy in a local band. However I did take a couple classes over Music Business and Introduction into Audio Engineering in.

she-walks-beauty

She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in Beauty became my baby. I would have done anything for it to grow and when asked by friends and family what I was going to do with my life I told them that I was going to be a touring musician. They would laugh at me and tell me I wouldn’t make it and I even had people who were supposedly my friends telling me I should give up. I wouldn’t; I couldn’t give up. It was all I wanted. So what did that look like?

It looked like this.

I practiced with my band three days a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays from 5-9pm and I worked multiple jobs to make money to save for recordings, mercy, equipment and other odds and ends. I worked at Sonic, Hot Topic where I would hand out fliers to my own shows to customers who came in the door and I would also play my demo in the store multiple times a week to get customers’ thoughts and opinions. I worked at Journey’s shoe store and at CiCi’s pizza at the same time and even ended up at a printing shop where my paychecks wouldn’t even be written out to me because it would go towards making an order of shirts for my band to sell at our shows. I also sold my ‘91 Nissan Maxima for a Chevy Cargo van; you know the big white vans that only have windows on the back and mine had an outline of the Bell South Logo. I traded that car because my band needed a vehicle to pack our gear in and head to outer cities to play. Eventually I ended up playing with a lot of bands that I respected and looked up to such as when we opened up for Between the Buried and Me, Norma Jean, Beloved; I made sure to do what I could to try and build relationships with them.

Sure enough when I was trying out for August Burns Red, Tommy Rogers, from Between the Buried and Me, remembered me from She Walks In Beauty. He actually told ABR that I was a great frontman and that they would be stupid not to keep me; I believe those words were a huge reason why I’m in the band today.

As most of you know, She Walks in Beauty didn’t work out and for months after we broke up I was a wreck. I felt alone and in pain but I got up and asked God to take me in a new direction and lead me out. Sure enough He did and I continued working hard and in January 28th of 2006 I played my first show with August Burns Red.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Okay Jake get to the point! Why am I reading all of this?” The point of all this is that I want you to reflect on your life and imagine if someone asked you “What do you want to do most in your life” what would you say? What would it take to get there? What is your “All I ever wanted“?  Asking these question may be the beginning to a spark of something long dormant…

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Living is a Lot Better http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/living-is-a-lot-better/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/living-is-a-lot-better/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:59:26 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16098 Chris Mora of Darkness Divided wrote a short blog sharing about his life with depression and anxiety

I turned 19 years old a week ago.

And yet this month marks 4 years since I tried to commit suicide.

For the better half of my life I’ve lived with depression and anxiety and I can’t even count the times I’ve said to myself, “I’d rather die than…

Continually clouded by depressive and anxious thoughts makes it easier for most of us to think that it would be better to just give up when we face difficult situations. That what would “make more sense” is to quit than face another agonizing day of struggle. And the banging gong of repetition continues to play out in our head: “I’d rather die than keep living this way.

It’s a powerful mentality that a lot of us fall victim to.

But living is a lot better than surrendering our lives to a mentality that we know, deep down, we can overcome. Living is a lot better than lying in bed all day dwelling on what happened yesterday, what we don’t want to go through today, or what we’re scared tomorrow will bring.

Living is the only way we can keep our hearts from dying.

Finding joy within ourselves, spreading that joy with others, living and breathing peace and happiness can only happen when we choose to open our hearts and accept those precious gifts God is longing for us to enjoy.

Feeling depressed may be inevitable for some of us. Falling deeper into those thoughts may be easy. The idea of wanting to end your life may cross your mind, but when we take the time to overcome what’s clouding our thoughts, we learn and know that living is a lot better.

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The time I ate the lamest turkey sandwich ever http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/the-time-i-ate-the-lamest-turkey-sandwich-ever/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/the-time-i-ate-the-lamest-turkey-sandwich-ever/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:13:47 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16068 A few weeks ago, my family and I dropped my little brother off at college. I shouldn’t say he’s little He’s not so little anymore. He’s 18 and he drives a truck with a six-inch lift. I still see him as 5 even though he’s a lot taller and stronger than I am now.

We were dropping him off at the same college I went to years ago. It was my first time back at the university in years, back at the same block of dorms where I lived, and I remembered the mixed feeling of excitement and fear on the day my parents dropped me off. After sweating in the Texas sun to get me moved in, they hugged me in the parking lot and pulled away to home, and I walked back to my dorm and made the loneliest turkey sandwich I have ever eaten in my life.

I remember taking mouse bites of the sandwich by myself at my desk. The room was freezing and quiet and I wondered if I’d made a mistake.

Would I make any friends?
Would anyone like me?
Would I fail?

In the first few weeks at school, I said yes to nearly everything when someone invited me to do something. I went to volleyball games even though I didn’t know a thing about it. I went to a free watermelon event even though I hate watermelon. I went to a dance party on campus even though I have no rhythm whatsoever. I played TriviaPursuit even though I never liked that game. I signed up for karate even though it had been years since my last karate lesson.

I didn’t always make best friends in all that, but I kept trying, and the wonderful friends I have today, were the ones who kept trying on me too, who kept inviting me to lunch and church and movies even when I came up with excuses.

Maybe for you making friends is easy. Maybe everyone likes you because you say clever things and make everyone laugh. Maybe you’re easygoing and pleasant to be around.

I’m not, so for me making friends was work. And to this day, it still is. A few months ago, my husband and I moved to a new city and I grew so frustrated with my loneliness that one day, he came home from work and found me in the backyard crying hysterically. Nearly six months ago, I wrote this blog about all that, and since then, it’s been a slow climb, but I’m making friends, friends who know what’s going on in my life and who come over and play with our dog, friends who eat Mexican food with me, friends who I’m praying for.

I’ve kept saying yes, and you know what? I’m asking a lot more these days. I’m asking people to lunch and coffee and hanging out and ice cream, and guys, I’m lactose intolerant!

My freshman year of college was tough, but it got easier, and I saw the turn one night in the fall. A group from my bible study had gathered for dinner, and I hadn’t wanted to go because I didn’t feel like it, but there, with a bunch of 18-year-olds, drinking Coke and eating warm chocolate chip cookies, we laughed and laughed and I praised God for friendship. I thought back about that first lame turkey sandwich I ate in my cold dorm room, and I smiled, knowing that God had pulled me through and brought me to a table of friends.

 

Cover Photo Credit (With Modifications): Death to Stock Photo

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Mattie Montgomery on Growing Up Fatherless http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/mattie-montgomery-on-growing-up-fatherless/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/mattie-montgomery-on-growing-up-fatherless/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 21:50:25 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16070 Mattie Montgomery of For Today lost his dad at a young age and shares about what it was like growing up fatherless

]]> http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/mattie-montgomery-on-growing-up-fatherless/feed/ 0 On Depression http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/on-depression/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/on-depression/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:48:51 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=16010

I have known Jake Luhrs for 8 years. The first time I met him and the other members of August Burns Red was during the summer of 2006 when I was able to tour with my friends band Spoken. Spoken was on tour with Demon Hunter, Zao, August Burns Red, and Becoming the Archetype. This was the summer before I started graduate school. Five years later, I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology. Over the years, I kept in touch with Jake and had the opportunity of hanging out with him every so often. During graduate school, I went to an Anberlin concert and heard Jamie Tworkowski of TWLOHA speak. He was touring around with bands and talking about mental health and substance abuse problems. I thought, wow, what a great way of delivering information and messages about mental health. Throughout graduate school and thereafter, I wanted to help a similar organization in some way shape or form. Then in November of 2013, August Burns Red came to town and I again had the ability to hang out with these great guys. During the night, Jake was telling me about Heart Support. We discussed what I had been up to and that I was a licensed clinical psychologist. We talked and prayed about what my role could be with Heart Support. We decided, that I would every so often write about different mental health topics from a professional’s viewpoint. The first topic we decided that I would discuss is on depression. The following includes general information and theories about what causes and helps to treat depression. The sole purpose of the information below is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat depression, but rather to provide general understanding and information related to depression.

 

Depression is classified as a mental health disorder. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. Depression may also include thoughts of suicide and difficulties with anger. Depression affects around 5-8% of adults according to NAMI and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. If left untreated, depression can lead to significant impairment. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (NAMI). One-half of people that complete suicide are estimated to have dealt with depression.

There are a number of different theories that suggest why someone develops depression symptoms. Likewise, there are different types of depression and possible causes. An individual may experience symptoms of depression due to a general medical condition or another physical cause. Therefore, it tends to be helpful for any individual who is experiencing depression symptoms to visit their primary care physician to rule out a physical or organic condition that may be contributing to the depression symptoms. There are a few different general theories as to what causes or leads to depression. The first theory is that from a biological and physiological basis, a chemical imbalance. There are few different neurotransmitters or chemicals in our brain that are theorized to contribute to symptoms of depression. The most researched chemicals or neurotransmitters that contribute to depression are serotonin, norepinephrine, and to a lesser extent dopamine. One postulate is that a person who exhibits depression symptoms has a deficit in one or more of the aforementioned neurotransmitters. Therefore, most medical providers including general physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and psychiatrists tend to prescribe medications that may help restore the balance of the deficient neurotransmitter(s) or chemical(s).

Other theories suggest that our thoughts, behaviors, relationships, and environment may contribute to symptoms of depression. One empirically researched treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. There are variations of this model and research has shown that other types of psychotherapy can also help with depression symptoms (e.g. interpersonal psychotherapy). Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck developed cognitive therapy to help treat depression. He proposed that important life events might increase negative beliefs, which could cause negative automatic thoughts. These negative thoughts might lead to symptoms of depression, which then could reinforce negative automatic thoughts. The basic principles of cognitive therapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapies are to correct the negative beliefs and thoughts in an effort to help change the behaviors that may be contributing to depression.

Life tends to include good times and the occasional hurdle. Generally, depression symptoms can occur following a significant life event and/or other stressors that happen (e.g., death of loved one, relationship problems).  These situations may cause us to feel sad or depressed. For example, a person may have difficulty adjusting following a breakup or after the loss of a loved one. These adjusting periods are for the most part common and are not abnormal. The WHO notes that depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. However, if general sadness continues and other symptoms commonly associated with clinical depression exist, interventions may need to be considered. In addition to psychological reasons for symptoms, there is evidence to suggest that chemicals in our brain contribute to these continuing difficulties. Some individuals may have trouble identifying their stressors and thinking errors that might be contributing to their symptoms. Hence, some individuals may find it helpful to meet with their physician or a mental health professional to help assess and determine the severity of symptoms and possible course of treatment.

Unfortunately, here in the U.S. and worldwide there tends to be a bit of social stigma about mental health problems. Other factors including a lack of providers and insurance complications seem to contribute to the lack of overall treatment of depression. According to the WHO, it is estimated that fewer than half of those who are affected by depression in the world receive treatment. Providing knowledge to the public about depression (and other MH disorders) through supportive websites (e.g. Heart Support) appears to help lessen social stigma about mental health disorders. Moreover, positive treatment experiences can also help reduce stigma.

So where and how can someone receive help? Depending on age, insurance, and physical location, a suggested start is for an individual to see their primary care physician. A medical provider may be able to help supply the individual with treatment options and can be a bridge in an individuals overall treatment for depression. With some insurance plans, the physician acts as a “gate keeper, ” referring patients to different providers including those specializing in mental health treatment. Depending on where a person lives and their age, there are different websites that would allow the individual to look for a mental health provider. If someone were under the age of 18 (in most US states), the person’s parents would need to help coordinate care and consent for treatment. Although there are various opinions about the Affordable Care Act, one perceived benefit is that if more individuals have insurance (including coverage for mental health provider), potentially more people may receive treatment. Our mental health system in America is not perfect, not by a long shot. In fact, depending on the state that one lives in, it can be down right shocking. However, the more that we stand up as a community and advocate for better mental health care, the more help people may receive. With that said, let Jake and the rest of the staff know about what topics would be good to know more about. They will relay that information to me and I can write on some other topics.

Matt Cooper, Psy.D.

 

**The following links were used to provide readers general information and reference. The writer does not exclusively endorse the information on these sites.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150380/

http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Depression/Depression_Treatment,_Services_and_Supports.htm

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/

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How Ferguson, MO Reminded Me I’m Still Prejudiced http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/how-ferguson-mo-reminded-me-im-still-prejudiced/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/how-ferguson-mo-reminded-me-im-still-prejudiced/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:12:10 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=15993 “…and so he hands me this card. And it’s one of those Rebel-Southern-Brotherhood cards and the first line on it reads ‘No niggers allowed’. And I knew immediately he did it on purpose. He sought me out.”

I’m on the phone with a friend. Years ago she had volunteered with her sorority to work a fundraising event in Ft. Worth, Texas and had a white man approach her needing to leave the event and run out to his car. She let him know she was more than happy to oblige but just needed some form of identification to hold on to so he could re-enter the venue.

Instead she got handed a card that said, “No niggers allowed”.
And she’s black.

In the wake of the recent events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri I began to ask a lot of questions of my African-American friends. Have you ever been racially profiled? Followed in a store? Told to get off the streets for simply walking?

 Every single last one of them told stories that crushed me. Fathers who refused to let them date their daughters simply because they were a black male. Followed in stores and accused of stealing. Getting pulled over, harassed, frisked, and called “boy”.

I asked these questions because I realized something. I’m an ignorant white male that enjoys white privilege. And what I mean by that is that I’ll never get followed in a store because of my skin color. I’ve never been pulled over and harassed for being white. I don’t worry that if I pick up a toy gun in Wal-Mart cops may show up and shoot me.

And what Ferguson quickly showed us is that the systems of racism, classism, prejudice, and injustice are very much alive, well, and breathing in our societies. And before you jump on that “Sorry for being white!” ridiculousness, let me say it’s not exempt for just one side of the coin. Each of my friends was quick to clarify this. One shared how his grandmother thought he had betrayed the advancement of his culture and race by marrying a white girl. Another shared she’d been belittled for being black and a Republican, instead of a Democrat.

We love to think we’re so progressive and that we’ve come so far, but truth be told, we’re all just politically correct now. The past couple decades since the Civil Rights Movement have done nothing to change our hearts or the way we feel. It’s simply changed the way we talk to people and sent our bigotry underground. We’re not really different than our 1960’s civil rights movement counterparts; it just so happens that racism isn’t popular is all.

A few years ago I had a young, homeless African American come live with me for a few months before I got married. Before you think me a Good Samaritan, let me tell you that I was completely resistant at first, and here’s why: Because the systems of classism and racial prejudice that had been culturally ingrained within me told me to be resistant. When I found out he needed a place to stay, my first thought was not, “ Oh, and opportunity to help someone in need! ” but instead, “ Well, he’s homeless….and black….what if he steals all my shit while I’m at work? ” What society had taught me was that A) because he’s homeless he probably steals and B) Because he’s black it makes that percentage higher because of his current socioeconomic standing.

Classism and racial prejudice at it’s finest.

What ultimately changed my mind was the fact I got to KNOW him and his story. He was homeless because he had moved away from his home in the Northwest to escape a bad situation and cycle of violence and ran out of money when he ended up in Texas. He was trying, but just needed someone to help. And here I was immediately assuming things about him that were in no way, shape or form even remotely true.

And my great fear is that instead of that mentality getting squashed, we’ll continue to embrace it all the more. That we even justify it.

I have always wanted to adopt (even as a teenager). The church I attend happens to work a lot in Haiti and my wife and I have been drawn to adopting a little boy from an orphanage there. But let’s say my son grows up like his daddy. He ends up loving the gym and loves tattoos, but has his daddy’s smart mouth and temper too. And one day he gets pulled over, gets mouthy and angry for doing nothing wrong, and gets shot.

Does the media or public opinion immediately favor the officer? Would people legitimize his death because he was an “aggressor” or looked like a “thug” as some people have with Michael Brown? And truth be told, we don’t know all the facts or issues regarding that situation (nor is the point of this blog), but it does bring up a very important fact:

How we think about and view people spills over into how we treat them.

When you see Hispanic man in the bed of a truck do you think he’s an illegal immigrant? When you see a young man in skinny jeans and talks with a lisp do you immediately assume he’s gay? Do you think the girl with the short hair and flannel is a lesbian? When you get cut off in traffic and see it’s an Asian, do you think “Of course”? When you see a white guy in overalls, dipping Skoal, and a shotgun rack in his truck do you assume he’s racist? The woman wearing a burka and her husband…are they terrorists? Do you not associate with people in different income classes than yourself?

i-am-a-man

I wish I could say these aren’t some of my very own thoughts, but they are. I think all of us have had them at one point or another about someone different than us. But instead of addressing them, we stay silent because it’s not politically correct. We don’t learn how to engage those who’s culture and situation is opposite of ours and continue to create systems of injustice and bigotry, just more subtle and covert nowadays.

And what has hurt me the most is that our churches in America have bought into this. We don’t engage cultures, but instead create our own and expect people to conform to them.  It’s why Dr. King once stated:

“…the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

And that segregated hour doesn’t simply include race anymore, but socio-economic status too. Instead of talking about it, the majority of white Christians have stayed silent that this is systemic. If we ignore it and include and love all people, maybe it’ll go away and things will get better. We’ll wait on them to show up at OUR churches.

But Dr. King is not coming for a second Civil Rights Movement. Instead it’s our time. And change begins when we start the conversation. And the conversation is that we all need heart surgery. When we recognize this is still a problem for all of us. When our churches, town leaders, celebrities, and more importantly, the common man rise to the occasion and begin to slowly do things that don’t necessarily change our actions, but change our hearts.

If you take the time to talk to someone different than you and become a friend, you’ll know their true story, and if you know their true story, you’ll understand them, and when you understand them, you’ll grow to love them. And when you love them, the systems you’ve been taught will begin to disappear.

 

Photo Cover Credit (With Modifications): Flickr Creative Commons

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Don’t Grieve For Me, For Now I’m Free http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/dont-grieve-for-me-for-now-im-free/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/dont-grieve-for-me-for-now-im-free/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 20:21:00 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=15939 Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free…

That is the start to a poem that truly helped me through the toughest time in my life. Rewind to October of 2012…

Better yet, lets start in June of 2012. I had my next four years of my life all planned out. I was going to attend a college 2 hours away from home majoring in photography. I couldn’t have been anymore excited but as August slowly creeped up I found myself feeling less and less sure about my decision. I could feel something or someone telling me not to go. So I called my adviser, dropped all my classes and canceled my room and board. Little did I know then but that was the best decision I could have made.

As we fast forward to where I originally planned to begin this journey, in October of 2012 is when I got the call at work. It was my mom on the other line as she told me not to freak out but my dad was in the hospital, she was hesitant to tell me why but at this time I was already sobbing so she explained that my dad had had a heart attack. So I began my hour drive to Anderson Hospital. The doctors said that they were surprised that he wasn’t dead two weeks before. He had two stents put in and that was that. Now my dad wasn’t the type of man to sit around and do nothing so he took a week off and went straight back to work. My dad didn’t have an easy desk job, he worked in a factory, lifting heavy doors, and working machinery. I lived with my dad at the time and with my sister having a full time job, my brother being a marine stationed in North Carolina, and my mom and dad being divorced I was the one taking him to and from his many doctors appointments.

June 2013, It was 2am, I had stayed at my moms and my phone started ringing. I was slow to answer, as I was climbing out of my bed but when I did i knew right away. The lady on the other end said she was from Clermont Mercy, our local hospital. She explained that my dad had driven himself to the E.R complaining about chest pains. She said he was having a heart attack and that they were transferring him to Anderson. So again I began my drive, a drive that would become so familiar. It was then they cleaned out both stents they had preciously put in and placed him in the ICU to recover. We were there for about a week when he was finally released with 4 more medications, and 2 other doctors add to his list. While he was in the hospital we decided to move him in with his brother and his wife that way there would always be someone to watch him, since this time there would be no going back to work. As for me, I packed my things up and moved in with my mom. My life for the past 6 months and for the foreseeable future was and would be going to work, and staying with my dad. Making sure he was taking his medications (which he tended to forget all the time), taking him to doctors appointments and trying everything and anything to make him eat. After his second heart attack he just wasn’t the same. He slept all the time, barely ate as I mentioned before, he was very emotional, and forgetful. It seemed like he was in left field all the time, he just wasn’t all there.

Finally it was late June and my dad wasn’t doing good at all so my aunt decided that it was time to take him to the emergency room. They checked him out and soon diagnosed him with congestive heart failure. They placed him in the ICU at Clermont and we stayed there for about 2 weeks before we found out what would forever change all of our lives. My dad had been complaining about stomach pains for a while and as his doctor checked him out the look of concern just overtook his face. They ran countless test and body scans. Two days later the nurse ask my mom, my sister, my dads brother, and I to sit down in a room down the hall. You know those rooms where no good news is given, where they take you to talk privately, yup that’s where we were. She proceeded to explain to us that my dad had stage 4 kidney cancer. (Insert here the really long, hard to pronounce cancer name) Which had spread to his liver, lungs, heart and brain. So basically his entire body. We all had the same terrified look on our faces as our eyes filled with tears. The nurse exited the room and the sobbing began. Never would I have thought my dad would be going through this. From there the whole family had to be called, things had to be done, and the worst part we was we all had to walk back into my dads hospital room and listen to the doctor tell him the exact same thing the nurse had just told us. It was heart breaking, like I could feel myself trying to be strong in front of him, I didn’t want him to see me cry.

The doctors said with treatment he could maybe live a year or two. The big word there was maybe. And so we moved my dad into my moms house, it was where he wanted to be when he passed. The next few months went like this…..

  • Medications 9 of them, twice daily
  • Radiation 5 times a week
  • Chemo 3 times a week
  • At least 2 doctors appointments a week if not more.

This became our lives, it became our daily routine.
Nothing seemed to help though. My dad started out at a weight of 220 pounds before his heart attack, now at this point he weighed maybe 140. He wasn’t eating, he barely moved outside of the walk it took to get out of his bed to the living room.

September rolled around and the right next door to my uncle went up for sale, and just like that we were packing up and moving. We all figured it would be easier since my aunt and uncle would be there just in case we needed help, or someone to stay with my dad. Soon after we had moved in I was helping my dad off the couch since he could no longer get up by himself, it was at this moment that we learned the cancer had moved to his bones because as i lifted him up the bone in this upper arm just snapped. It was the most terrifying moment in my life, and i blamed myself for his arm breaking

So again my dad was in the ICU at Anderson. We stayed about another 3 weeks there. It became like a second home. This was when all the hospice talk started. Hospice is never a good thing to hear. His heart doctor said he was weak, which everybody could tell. He gave him 2 weeks at the most. My dad wanted out of the hospital so hospice set up a bed in our living room and once we got him home it felt like the waiting began.

My mom took a leave at work so she could be home at all times to be with my dad. Which meant the bills and everything money wise was left up to my sister and I. It was all over whelming. I felt exhausted in every sense of the word. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Just drained.

It was work, home, work, home, work, home. There was no time for anything else. When they say cancer can turn your life upside down its not a joke. Cancer flipped my life upside down and shook it all up.

We did our Christmas early this year. My aunt went out and bought gifts for us to be from our dad. My sister and I got matching stuffed animals and charm bracelets that said “Love, Dad”. My brother got a knife engraved with the same thing. Gifts that now mean the world to me. It was probably December 8th when everything went down hill. My dad was bedridden. He was wasn’t responsive anymore. He just laid there eyes wide open and taking fewer and fewer breaths out of his mouth. We all knew it was only a matter of time. Every time the hospice nurse came out she would say how surprised she was to still be coming out, no one had thought he would hang on as long as he did.

I can remember everything about December 23rd. Every detail, even the smallest. I’ll skip to that night. I had just woken up since my I had been working 3rd shift at work. I was sitting on my couch “watching” TV with my dad as my mom read a book in her chair. My sister had left to go see a friend, and my brother had ran to his house to shower and get a change of clothes. My cousin who had just gotten off of work had stopped by with food for us. She said hello to my dad and touched his hand. At this very moment my dads eyes got so wide, he sat up a little and he looked at my cousin, then at my mom who was at the side of his bed, then at me standing at the foot of his bed, and lastly it was like he was looking past me, like at someone who was standing behind me. (I like to think that in this very moment he saw his Lord and Saviour, and his previously passed mom and dad standing there, but that’s just my thoughts.) After that moment he just went back into the same state he was in before. Eyes still open just laying there taking tiny little breaths. So we all sat down to eat in the living room, and continued to watch TV. Not even 10 minutes later I looked over at my dad and said “He’s not breathing” We all immediately stood up, I ran over to him to check his pulse and nothing. My cousin ran over to my uncles house and he ran over to our house I called my bother and sister to come home…… and just like that he was gone.
I no longer had my dad. We waited for over an hour for the funeral home to come pick him up.

We had his funeral on the 27th of December. Two days after Christmas.

The moment I think it hit me the hardest was seeing him in the coffin. He was laying there cancer free, and you could definitely tell since where the cancer had been was sunken in and he was so skinny. It just didn’t look like like man I knew to be my dad. He was just so thin and cold. Although seeing him was tough I held it all together through the funeral up until we actually had to place him in the ground.

This may all seem like a sad story, but I feel like I have to look at it now and think he’s in a better place, cancer free, and in no pain. I have to think that this way is better because his quality of life before was no real way to live.

I would like to say i’m in a much better place now that its been 7 months since my dad passed away, but to be completely honest I don’t think I am. I have become so much closer to my God since the beginning of all of this, and that’s a great thing that’s come out of this. But I still feel so drained emotionally, physically, and mentally. I’ve never been good with emotions. I think it hit me just as hard as it hit others, my dad was my best friend, but I don’t allow people to see me cry, and I don’t like to talk about it.

I think I’ve kept all this bottled up for so long now, and maybe my way of getting it out is writing this but even I’m not sure about that.

Now the only thing I can leave you with is this poem I found on the internet shortly after my dad passed.

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free.
I’m following the path God laid, you see.
I took His hand when I heard him call.
I turned around and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way,
I’ve found the peace on a sunny day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joys.
A family shared, a laugh, a kiss,
Oh yes, these things, I too, will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savored much,
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts and peace to thee.
God wanted me now; He set me free.

~ Unknown ~

guest-post-cancer

*This was a guest post written by a member of the HeartSupport community

Cover Photo Credit (With modifications): Flickr Creative Commons

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iMatter Festival: The Superhero This World Needs http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/imatter-festival-the-superhero-this-world-needs/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/imatter-festival-the-superhero-this-world-needs/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:02:02 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=15863 “Play us the song! Play us the song!”

The crowd roared in a unified chant requesting for the drum instructor to play a run-through of their hit track. Well, they were actually chanting for him to play anything at all because he continuously refused to.

“No one wants to hear me play the same boring beat over and over again for three minutes. We’d be better off just having some more questions…”

He swept the pressure under the rug and called on the next person who raised their hand.

“Would you play us one of the tracks off your upcoming album?” The crowd cheered, supporting his request. But the drummer absolutely refused. Over, and over, and over. And he left the crowd of seventy-five onlookers disappointed and sad to see their hero drained of such self-confidence.

I went up to the drummer later in the day and asked him why he wouldn’t play for them, and he said, “You know, there are just so many better drummers out here. I’ve never done one of those drum clinics, and I’m just not qualified to do one. I play the simplest punk beats, and I figured they’d be disappointed in what I had to offer. I’d much rather have just answered questions about tour life or something.”

His comment shocked me because when I looked out into that crowd, I saw seventy five faces of people who believed in this guy, who saw something great in him, who looked up to him for hope. If he could have just seen the way they looked at him…

But I think that’s just it…I don’t think he was looking at them. He was nervous because he was looking at himself. He felt insecure about what he thought he looked like compared to the drummers he thought they knew. He felt inadequate because of what he felt was the appropriate level of expertise to be qualified to teach.  He didn’t believe in himself because he thought what he had to offer was going to bore them and waste their time. He didn’t see them at all because he was looking at himself…

And he missed out on the opportunity he had to impact them in that moment—to teach them, to love them, to focus on them and give what he could, to give them a glimmer of hope, to distract them from their circumstance. If he had just picked his eyes up from the man behind the kit and looked out into the crowd of eager faces looking up to him in admiration, he might not have missed out on the opportunity to imprint their lives with a memory they would always remember…a glimmer of hope in their day…a second of escape from their circumstance…He might have been able to cut through the crap in his own life and find that one thing he could have left them with that gave them something to think about and uplift them…but because he was focused on himself, he missed it all.

I talk to people all the time who see the opportunity to help someone at their school, or comfort someone at work, or lift someone up at a coffee shop, but they don’t take it because they think:

I’m not ____ enough. Cool enough to help them. Funny enough to speak up. Social enough to step out. Smart enough to pipe in.
I’m too ____ to do that. Fat to be their friend. Ugly to smile back. Shy to encourage them. Scared to walk up.
They’ll think I’m ____. Stupid for trying. Weird for coming up to them. Awkward. Just plain….awkward.

And at the root of every one of those thoughts is selfishness. Not the malicious kind, but all of those thoughts happen because we’re looking at ourselves. But what if we were to stop looking in and start really looking out. Abandoning how we’ll look or what we think will happen and embracing what we could potentially do for someone else. What if that kid who sits by himself every day is that way because his dad beats him every time he walks in the door? And what if by sitting next to him you tell him for the first time he’s worth something? What if that person at work that pisses everyone off is going through a divorce and feels completely alone? And what if inviting them out with you gives them the comfort and strength they need to get through that? What if that girl hiding her tears is about to kill herself the next day? And what if one conversation, one email would tell her she matters enough to keep fighting?

Later that day at iMatter, I saw two girls do that for someone else. They listened as this girl they didn’t know cried and shared how worthless she felt. She told them all of the negative thoughts that haunted her and kept her believing she isn’t enough. And they told her she was beautiful. That she matters. That she has a purpose. That there’s a God who loves her beyond her wildest imagination. They shared their own personal stories and spoke to the tender part of her soul that needed to be loved. They prayed for her. They gave her space to be vulnerable in the moment she needed it the most. And then they gave her their contact information. That might have been a pivotal moment for that girl to begin to believe that maybe she’s more than what she used to believe. It might be the anchor place of an identity change where she starts to believe she’s beautiful, to believe she matters, to believe she’s worthy of love. They changed her life in that moment because they looked up, and they did something about it.

You don’t need to be the best. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be healed. You don’t need to be qualified, degreed, or merited. You just need to look, and when you see,act.

Consider this your official knighting. I hereby decree that you’re 100% everything you need to love someone who needs it. So get your eyes off yourself, go, and freaking do it. Because someone around you needs it this very moment.

The superhero this world needs isn’t actually a superhero. It’s someone who’s willing to say yes to an opportunity when they see it. It’s you.

 

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Trying to be Batman http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/trying-to-be-batman/ http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/trying-to-be-batman/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:40:49 +0000 http://www.heartsupport.com/?p=15844 Train wrecks always look cool in movies; the way the cars just keep coming and crashing.

They aren’t as much fun in real life though.

A couple years ago I was engaged to be married while wrapping up my senior year of college and also leading an awesome youth group in the same town as my school. Everything was going my way before the train wreck; there were no fiery explosions but suddenly everything changed.

After months of slow realizations I called off the engagement that summer and decided to take on another year of college. That fall I received a call from my academic advisor congratulating me on graduating; it turns out I had already met my major’s requirements and so that December I found myself with a degree and no clue what to do next. I had loved getting to lead the youth group so I figured I should probably pursue being a Youth Pastor. I had a friend who worked at a church who had mentioned needing for a youth pastor so I jumped in feet first. The actual job turned out to be quite different from what I had initially expected and so after seven frustrating months I resigned and with my faith in deep decay I moved out of state. I ended up teaching 6th grade math for a year which is a humbling experience for an English Major.

This was the past two years of my life and looking back now it feels like another person lived through all of that. You can’t go through those sorts of events without something changing inside of you and it was my faith that ended up taking the hardest hit. Growing up in Midwestern Christianity often leads to the belief that God has promised you a significant other and a fulfilling job and if those fall through it’s either something you did or it’s God’s fault; I had been working in churches for years so I definitely believed it wasn’t my fault. During the worst days I felt as though I rested alone at the bottom of a deep abyss and there are still days where I feel abandoned by God as I process what’s happened the past couple years. Some of my hurt is self-inflicted and some of it is from others and in confused anger I have placed my blame at God’s feet. I still pray and go to church but it so often feels weighed down with disbelief and a sense of “Am I doing this God thing right?” I feel a lingering distance from God and my faith which used to both be huge passions but have now died down to lingering embers that can’t spark into a full flame yet.

I use “yet” because despite all my cynicism and accumulated baggage I still feel an undefinable sense of hope. Out of the train wreck I have grown to be a cynical and jaded believer but there is still one way that never fails to make my heart come back alive with faith.

God still calls to me from stories and it’s Batman that has reminded me most of this.

If you’ve spent any time around me you’ll know that I’m hopelessly nerdy and I’ve made peace with that. I will obsess over any books, movies, and video games that catch my attention; especially if they tell a good story. The Dark Knight Rises came out when I needed it most; I felt like I was right there at the bottom of the world with Bruce Wayne after his back had been broken. There he is, the guy who used to be Batman, now broken and lost but it’s what he decides to do that is so important to me. He claws his way out of hell from the bottom up, not before failing several times, and it’s his perseverance that hit home for me in a big way. That image of Bruce Wayne fighting to escape and to hold onto his soul is a large part of why I was able to keep my head above water the past couple years. Stories of perseverance are what I need these days, whether it’s movies like Gravity or The Grey or even games such as Dark Souls, because as I go through these stories I’m encouraged by the thought that God is using my own challenges to make my life a better story overall. However, feeling hopeful and encouraged is great but you need to act on it.

For me that’s attempting to be vulnerable.

Cynicism is an illusion of safety; it tells you that you can only be disappointed so it’s best not to risk anything. If you keep it up long enough you’ll wake up one day inside a lonely and suffocating cocoon. Vulnerability is painful and terrifying and something that I often resist. Meeting people and opening up about my life scares me like nothing else and I’d love to do nothing more than stay in my room listening to The National while feeling sorry for myself but I know that if I did that I would slowly lose myself from isolation. So I make myself go to things like the gym, events with friends, and even church; it takes effort to maintain any relationship and the same goes for what we have with God.

I’m still a huge rebuilding in progress; some days I feel nothing but scared and cynical about everything but then there are days where little things like a message from a friend or stepping out of my comfort zone makes for a much needed glimpse of hope; it’s probably the same for a lot of people going through their own train wrecks. There are parts of life where we simply can’t stand on our own and God knows this. It’s one reason why we need to embrace stories and other people because sometimes all we need is to be shown how to rise again.

 

Cover Photo Credit (With modifications): Flickr Creative Commons

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