Sunday, August 09, 2015

PTSD Letter for Dad

In January of 2014 my dad had an opportunity to enter into some treatment through the VA because of his time in Vietnam. My brothers and sisters were asked to write a letter for him.  Below is mine. 

I have hesitated to write this letter of "recommendation" for several weeks knowing that it will be more a letter of recollection than recommendation.  My own personal experiences with psychotherapy over the past couple years also tells me that you really don't need this letter to diagnose my dad with PTSD or a similar diagnosis, there are tests like the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory that will tell you as much. 

So, I am not going to try to convince you of any of that. 

What I will gladly share with you though is the truth that I miss my dad. 

And it's a bit weird to say that I miss him, because I really didn't know him or have a deep connection with him as a child, but that is where the missing feeling comes from, I know my life was supposed to be different.  I know my dad was suppose to play catch with me, and teach me things like how to fish, shave, drive and the most important thing, how to love a woman. 

But he didn't, not really. 

There are only a few things I recall from way back that I treasure in my heart. 

One is a story of catching a legal size bass the night before bass season opened. I remember my dads surprise at the size of the bass and his excitement.  We didn't keep the fish, but I remember that night at the gravel pits. 

The other story I treasure is even more simple.  When my dad did the bills and reconciled the checkbook, he always wanted to be alone so he could concentrate. Except for one time.  One time, he let me in the office area and explained everything he was doing. 

I treasure these stories because I felt blessed by my father.  In these times, I was good enough. 

I am sure there are other stories like these that are in the black hole of my memory, but it is because of the other stories that many of them don't shine and are blocked to me. 

I have far too many memories of my dad responding to "noise" (us) and being very harsh. Flying off the handle would be an appropriate description. 

As I've pursued my own personal healing, I've looked at the differences of my father.  The stories that I treasure tell me this man was capable of deep love but within the dark memories, well, that man disappeared. 

With a bit of understanding about my own emotions, I see that my dad brought darkness instead of giving blessings because he carries a great wound inside him.  I believe it is a wound so great that he needed to isolate himself from all emotions in order to survive. 

What could cause a wound so great, I believe that answer lies within a topic he avoids more than anything is his life, his time in the Army. 

Here we are 18 months after I wrote this letter.  My dad has begun a journey of healing which in turn has been a journey of healing for our family as well. My stepmom has been awesome through this as well.  God has more healing in store, but that is true for all of us. 

When I wrote this, Deb asked me if I even loved my dad.  I answered yes, but am so thankful that my love for my dad has grown and that it is easier for us to have a relationship than ever before. 

In the works

On the way home tonight I was reminded about a Kutless song I heard a few years back called "Even If".

The night I had first heard this song was Sept 8, 2012 actually. I was down near Paw Paw for the weekend trying to get out of town and the events of that weekend. I went to grab a pizza and through the static I could barely make out this song. 

"Even if the healing never comes, and life falls apart and dreams are still undone.  You are God, you are good, forever faithful one."

I instantly balled at that point because back in Muskegon, the dreams I had for my family were being put to death. The boys mother was being married again and there was no chance of reconciliation or restoration. 

This song came to mind tonight because 4 summers from when the boys mother left, God has brought me somebody who has changed my life forevermore, Tanya. 

This song came to mind tonight because I am in love with Tanya and God wanted me to remember that he has had a plan for me all along, even despite the brokenness I had to experience. 

That brokenness by the way, it was needed. I needed to know God more deeply and in losing what I once held dear I had an opportunity.

In His faithfulness, he has also brought a piece of me alive. I want to help men be men, and to meet them where they are at in their lives. 

There is so very much more that God has brought together in my life, and he is far from over.  There is Tanya, but there is also a men's retreat that we putting together at Calvary. It is going to be epic. 

Yup, there is so much in the works, and it is proof that God is faithful. 

There is so very much...I am beyond blessed today and excited about what God is dreaming for me

Monday, June 22, 2015


I want a love that lasts. 
A love that transcends troublesome times.
A love where the struggles of life bring us closer rather than break us apart. 


This love exists but is rarely found. 
It burns inside of me. 
Beckoning from within my soul since the day I was born. 

This love calls to me.  
It whispers its secret to me. 
In order to find this love, you must be this love. 

A paradox I cannot escape. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

3 questions

I threw down 3 questions to him.  I wanted to say so much more, and to encourage him to press on. I wanted to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the fight is worth it. 

Less than a week later he told me he was moving out. 

I was bummed to hear this. I mean, really bummed. This guy is awesome. This gal is a sweetheart. There were times they were really good together. They have a kid together.  But life got in the way and it looks like the final chapter is being penned right now. 

But what if they had these 3 questions before?  What if they were put into practice a year ago?  How will these 3 questions change their future relationships?  How will they change yours?

Question 1:  what are you doing to care for yourself?

Question 2:  what are you doing to care for the other person?

Question 3:  what are you doing to care for the relationship?

I thought I was pretty clever with these 3 questions.  They shoot right to the heart of the matter but an honest evaluation opens the door to so much more.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The question.

The question hit me hard...

"Are your actions because you are trying to get something from them or because you want to help them be all they can be."

Whatever the relationship, this question can be asked. 

I hope that as I evaluate, I find where I have been selfish so I can then take steps to remedy that selfishness.   

Monday, April 20, 2015

Run that race

Sunday I had a friend run a half marathon.  She started training right about the time that we met and it was a topic of conversation many times over the last 6 months. Watching her progress was nothing short of awesome and I am not only really excited for her but I am also greatly inspired.  

See, part of the story that makes this awesome is that her body basically wants to kill her but she pressed on anyways. Her body hates the extreme cold, but she ran outside this past winter because that is what the training called for.  She decided she was not going to give in to the justifications she could make, and she ran. She decided many times over, I am going to finish this race. 

As a matter of fact, she gave me a real living example of Hebrews 12:1. 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

As I was getting ready for the day on Sunday and as my friend was running, a lying voice came to me saying, "She is better than you, you don't finish anything.  You can't run a race.  You won't finish your book.  This men's retreat you are planning is going to flop.  You don't even have the lesson finished you are supposed to teach in an hour.  You are not good enough."  I almost gave into it, but I remembered my friend running and Hebrews 12.  

This message was not true to me, nor are the lies in your life true. 

The truth in my life is that there are many "races" I am running well right now, personal growth, personal discipline, emotional healing, financial healing, spiritual disciplines, celibacy, and those are just a few!  

I have a feeling the same is true in your life, that you have many races that you are running well.  I would love to hear about them. 

And let's all be like my friend, giving ourselves grace while cutting out the justifications while being living examples of Hebrews 12 in the races we are running. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The most importants

I have spent the better part of the last two days in my house, essentially detached from normal life. No texting or Facebooking, no customer calls, no need to be showered by any certain time. 

And it was great!

While this staycation wasn't planned, it was rather impromptu because Liam got sick, it was one of the most relaxing things I have done in a while. And dare I say, one of the most valuable.  

There are two reasons I felt this isolation from normal life was so valuable, and they probably won't surprise you when I say them. 

The first was that slowing down and just being with my boys was good medicine for all of us. There was snuggles and naps, eating when we were hungry instead of by the clock, Assain's Creed IV where you get to be a pirate, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  This slowing allowed us to bond by doing what each other liked.  I learned that Noah is a really great problem solver because when we were stuck on a level he was able to suggest a solution that worked pretty much every time. Slowing down is good. 

The second valuable piece from this two days is one I hope I can carry with me going forward and applies to my dating life as well.  I need to remember who the most important people are in my life and invest time into them.  I have a pretty structured schedule, and there are only a few daylight hours where I have free time to give to somebody unstructured, but if they are important, I should want to give them this time. (I also need to ask if there is some structured time I can give the boot, but that is a separate thought).  Really though, if I keep my schedule busy, how will I be able to really know people 

Yeah, the last two days were so great, it has me wishing I could skip my responsibilities for tomorrow and make it day 3 of an unconnected life. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Dad, I'm 11

"Dad, I'm 11"

These words gripped my heart. He is closer to being a man than the day of his birth. 

And I worry. 

Ryan is a great kid, but I worry if he is going to be a great man. Will he fall into something that will cause his life to stumble off the course his potential could take him. Will he get busted for drinking, use drugs, impregant somebody while in high school. 

My fear comes out of a desire to protect him but also from the question inside me that asks if I am doing enough. 

More important than that question is the one that asks, am I being the man I want him to be?  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Marvel cinematic universe

The boys and I love the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we are pretty big fans of Batman, and seeing the Rebel Alliance bring ruin to the Death Star brings shouts of jubilee. (X-Men and Hobbits too)

These fictional stories stir something inside us that draws us in.  Good conquering evil. We crave it...

I believe in our souls we really know that there is a war raging around us in a spiritual realm that directly affects our lives. And we want Good to win. Life is better when Good wins. Evil brings pain and death. Good brings peace and love. 

The Bible tells a story of Good winning over Evil as well and the result being the peace and love that existed before Evil tried to mess it up.  

I am looking forward to Good winning. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I get quiet when life gets tough these days.  I lose my desire to write, even to post on facebook. 

But how true is it that on most days we are battling some thing or another. How often do we really have a perfect life?

The latest audio book I have been listening to, "Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge, would suggest that there is a reason outside of ourselves for this reason of turmoil. A reason outside of the people in our lives, outside of the president or congress, a reason that finds itself in the spiritual realm. 

We have turmoil in our lives because we have an enemy. The enemy of our creator is the enemy of the creation. If the enemy mars the beautiful work of our creator, then our creator gets less credit for the wonders made (us). 

Our enemy uses chaos while trying to critically wound us. Our enemy has employed a seek and destroy philosophy. 

This perspective changes things for me. My circumstances may not change, but my actions can. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015


It is shortly before 11a on Saturday. I am resting because I am tired, but there is shame in the resting. There is shame because the dishes are stacked high, the laundry is even higher, and there are piles of boxes that came out from my work van scattered throughout my house. 

Boys to entertain/train in the other room, a class to finish for a Monday time slot, and 2 soccer games to coach this afternoon add to the demand. 

I am resting because I am on the verge of freaking out. I need to be centered. There should not be shame, but shame existing only reinforces my need to be centered and travel back to my heart. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Come and get your love

I think I listened to redbones "come and get your love" about 37 times today.  I shared it with a friend. Talked about it over sushi. I posted about it on Facebook. 

From the first note, this song moves me. It is like there is a spell that is being cast over me.  

And I want to dance (horribly, the dancing, not the desire, well sort of the desire).

Here is the truth. Deep inside me, I am calling out "come and get your love" to her. I mean, there isn't a her that I am actually calling this out to, but rather that my heart is ready for her to take up residence. 

And do you know what else is there deep inside?  Dancing. I have forever been afraid of looking crappy on the dance floor and having people laugh at me.  I want to be footloose, to be free.  I've started to dabble in the floor, and it's a blast. 

Just an hour ago I started to realize this connection as on the way home from a movie I swung by the State Park.  The moon shimmered off Lake Michigan as I pulled up. The black backdrop of the night sky setup the brilliance of each star. The air was heavy and brisk as I stepped out of the car. 

Like so many times before, I praised God for this scene that only West Michigan provides.

As that spiritual moment began, the song began to play for the 38th time. I danced as best I could.  

The depth of my heart joined the beauty of nature. In that moment I think God was smiling at all he created. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

An outsiders perspective.

For the last couple years I have been expanding my relational circles in order to meet more single ladies. Coed soccer, church, community events, local bands playing at a pub, bookstores...I've been busy. And I've always had an open eye. 

I don't have a game or a level of mystique to draw people in with.  I am straightforward, open, and prefer to talk about matters of the heart.  A friend of a friend even asked her if I was gay because I will openly talk about being a better man and loving better. Supposedly, men aren't allowed to do that.  (I hope you are shaking your head too, it is just nonsense.)

While I am still learning to honor myself, my desires and feelings, and will still shift into a people pleasing mode for fear of rejection, I am not blind to what I see. 

And here is what I see:

Single moms, you are strong women. You sacrifice much of what you want for the betterment of your kids.  You don't have to, but you choose to.  You know what love is. 

You have been deeply wounded by at least one guy in your life but you still hope to find that one person that can touch you in the depth of your soul. You dream of this and even if it is hidden away in the highest tower of your heart, this dream still lives. You want some one who can see you for you and just love you.  The dream is that he will walk with you every step of your life. 

You carry great beauty everywhere you go.  You are beautiful. You have not heard it enough in your life. You have not heard it enough today. Saying it with every synonym of the word still wouldn't be enough. Pretty, ravishing, stunning, beauteous, good looking, hot, attractive, alluring, dreamy, sexy, bonny...all of these words are not enough.  I can hear you now...but my thighs, my stomach, my stretch wouldn't think so if you saw me naked.  


You are beautiful. Maybe it was your eyes, or smile, or the way you walk, or how you were rocking that dress that first caught our eye, but that isn't what keeps us interested. It is who you are. It is your heart and your dreams that hook us. It is the beauty that lies inside of you.  Believe me on this.  Who you are is captivating. 

You are worth fighting for.  My friends with little girls are all caught up with the Disney princesses. Truth be told, we all are in a way. Cinderella was locked in a tower and had to be sought after. Snow White's heart lay asleep in the forest because of the posion apple. Briar Rose was asleep in her castle. Rapunzel was trapped in her tower.  These fictional stories are similar to yours. Whether it be towers to scale or dragons to battle, hearts are guarded. It will take time and effort by somebody who is willing to fight for you to really break past the defenses. Know that you are worth fighting for. 

There is so much more that could be said on a personal level, but these are pieces of the truth that I can see as an outsider. You are worthy to be loved, so keep dreaming and waiting for the day when you can rest in the arms of the one who will walk with you in your soul. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Speak truth

If a man always speaks truth his words have power. 

When he tells a child he can do, the child goes on to conquer anything. 

When he tells his boss he will, the boss will reward him with trust. 

When he tells a woman she is pretty, she will know in her heart she is beautiful. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chapter 15

Chapter 15 of "Healing the Masculine Soul" by Gordon Dalbey kicked my butt.  Dalbey recapped the story of Jacob, his life in general and his night of wrestling with God. 

This chapter kicked my butt because I have wrestled with God. Not to long ago my thoughts were, "I was to do this and then God, then you would do that.  I was supposed to pray this and you would do what I asked. God you were supposed to heal our hurts and save our marriage.  Do you really even care?  And what about the boys, what about the brokenness they will grow up in now?  God, where are you?"

The struggle inside of me was more than just about my marriage, about my boys safety, about finances, where we would live, or any other surface issue. The struggle inside of me was about who I was going to trust.  My struggle with God was really this question, "in whom do I trust?"

Chapter 15 kicked my butt because I saw myself in the story of Jacob for the first time. 

In the ancient Hebrew culture, a man's name carried his very essence and identity. No Hebrew parents chose a name for their baby just because it sounded nice, but rather becuase the name fit that child...The name Jacob, however, means "the one who grabs from behind" - that is, "the cheater" "the one who'll do anything to keep someone else from getting ahead of him."


Stranger still, we read that Jacob manages to get a hold on God - an armlock, maybe? - and he hangs on for dear life. Then God - in a move that would make any wrestler call "foul" - punches Jacob in the thigh, throwing his leg out of joint. Straining, aching, Jacob cries out at lady, " I won't let You go unless You bless me!"

And, of course, the blessing comes. But such a blessing!  "What is your name?" God asks. And remembering here the Hebrew custom regarding names, the question becomes, "Who are you?"

When he hangs on for dear life and answers, "I am Jacob, the one who grabs from behind, the trickster, the con man, the liar, the scared mama's boy" - then his spiritual assailant proclaims, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your new name will be Israel" (v. 28) 

Dalbey finishes the chapter talking more about our struggle, the struggle to be loved by somebody else and the struggle to love others instead of manipulating them to get what we want, and then in turn wounding them. And the struggle that we have with God where he will confront our inner darkness. 

Part of the story that I left out was that before God and Jacob wrestled, Jacob was being pressured on all sides of his live. His uncle he had cheated on his backside and his brother he had cheated ahead of him. He entered this gorge to find an escape from the pressure of his life. And God was there to give Jacob truth and purpose.

God was there to give Jacob a new life. 

And that is where I know that Jacob and I are the same. It was a boiling point that brought us to our wrestling a match, and our wrestling match left us changed. 

Friday, January 09, 2015

here i sit

Its late on a Friday night.  The clock says 7:11.  I am at work.  In the office.  The place where I hid.  I hid often.  I didn’t always work, but I was salary, so once the day was over, working at my own pace was acceptable.

But today, here I sit. And the spirit just came over me and said, remember those days.  Remember those days when you hid.  Remember those days when you were broken so badly you needed to hide.  Remember the tears that you cried sitting in that corner spot.  You were looking for answers.  You didn’t want this, you didn’t ask for this, but here it was.  The death of your dreams.  your wife left you.  She found another guy who would love her.  You were no longer needed.  You weren’t good enough.  You failed.

You failed.

Even as I write that this moment, the sting comes back.  If I am not careful, I may even succumb to those thoughts again.  they really are strong within me still.  It is hard to say, my marriage is over because I did not love well enough, because I was a boy in an adult body, because I didn’t understand the deep responsibility of loving a woman, the heavy task that it is to love.

But the truth of my past failures is not the only truth that rings in my life today.  I am more than what I have done wrong in my life, just as they are a part of me, so is the truth that I have done well.  I have had successes.  I have loved others.  I have grown.  I have a message to give.  I am worthy to be loved.  I am good enough.  I have greatness living in me. 

The dreams that I once held may have died, but there are dreams that live within me today.  You may laugh at some of them, but I haven’t given up on dreaming.  I am putting feet to some of these dreams, and my dreams are becoming goals. 

It has taken me forever to claim the truth that just because I failed at something, that it does not mean I am a failure.  Kim and I together failed at marriage.  I may fail at it again, but my dad has shown me that just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you will fail the second time.  At work, I fail all the time, but I still come to work and (usually) bring my best.  

No, I am not a failure; I am more.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The blessing

My nephew Jonathon inspired me to read through the bible in 90 days by taking on this action in his own life. It's like 12 to 14 chapters a day, so not overwhelming but certainly requires attention to make it happen.  I have been spending my nights after the boys are in bed reading through their daily assignment instead of playing games on my phone. 

The first 4 days have taken me through the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. There are a lot more characters than just these 7, but the main storyline  was carried through these players. 

You know what I found to be the most interesting as I read through Genesis?  The blessings. Blessings from fathers to sons. Blessings from uncles to nephews. Blessings from men to kings. Blessings from men to enemies. Blessings from God to man. The entire story was littered with blessings. It was like Oprah was passing them out. You get a blessing, and you and you and you; everybody gets a blessing. 

I am stretching it a little there because it wasn't all roses and cotton candy in this book. There was murder and lies, rape and revenge, and all sorts of things God didn't intend for us. But the blessing, the blessing was coveted.  The moment that sticks out the most to me is when Esau says to his soon to be dead father "don't you have any blessing left for me?"

So I'm left wondering so many questions from this read through Genesis. Am I blessing others?  Who should I be blessing?  What should (or could) a blessing look like?  When should I be blessing?  Bless my enemies, really? How do I create a nature of blessing in my life?  Are there any people in my life like Esau that would appreciate even a little blessing?  Am I like Esau?

I think these are questions that are worthy to think on and pursue answers to. 

What are your thoughts?

Off the block

So I have sort of taken myself off the dating block.  Not because of somebody, mind you, that news would have been all over the place. It is more so because of my desire to do in 2015.

What I really mean is focusing on work, the boys, keeping the house clean and doing what I feel purposed for will take a lot of time. Online dating wastes a lot of useable time. Even then, starting a relationship takes a lot of time and effort.

The work of taking the lessons I have learned since my divorce from my heart and soul and putting them to paper will undoubtedly uncover some hidden heartache as well. It would take an exceptional woman to want to court during this process. 

This does not mean that I won't date, nor does it mean I don't want to have a partner but rather what I am saying is that if I am doing the work God has for me, my partner will come along and join me. Maybe I have already met her and we do not realize it. Maybe you know her and need to introduce us.  Maybe she is years away. 

I believe all will be revealed in time. So I will press on.  I will busy myself with the work God has for me and trust in his goodness. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

For the new year

Since my second life began, the post marriage life, I have chosen to skip resolutions in favor of a yearly theme.  I take inventory of my life and target an area of growth I will work on for the entire year.  There isn't a specific end goal declaring I have made it but there will be maturation; progress is good. 

2012 was the year of forgiveness. The divorce was happening, friends were leaving, life was chaos. I needed to learn to let go of the perceived wrongs people had done against me.  I needed to remember that two wrongs do not make a right.

2013 was the year of healing.  It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how raw I was emotionally but the truth is that when I slowed my life down I could see much more ick on the inside than what I could have ever imagined. Characteristics like pride, codependent attachments, gluttony, laziness only scratch the surface on what was inside of me. 

2014 was the year of family. Blood is thicker than water according to the saying. A deeper desire to be with my siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles began to grow and so we made plans to be together. For those that bought into the idea of what could be instead of living with what always was, we enjoyed much fellowship. I am hoping this continues to build in my life. 

With 2015 starting today, I have a new focus. 2015 will be the year of doing.  I am going to begin to say goodbye to justifications and rather embrace the goals I have set for myself.  These goals go beyond sales goals, weightloss goals, or running a 5k under 30:00 as they live within the realm of life purpose goals.  I feel there are things I am supposed to be doing in my life and it is simply time to put those things in motion. 

Ready or not, 2015 is here and it is time to do.