Saturday, January 31, 2009

Facebook Notes

These are the notes that I posted on facebook:


Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 6:22pm

Notes? This is laughable, almost pathetic but I need to say something.... I hope it to be somewhat therapeutic, hope.

I know this note is scattered but so am I right now. I keep rethinking my whole life everytime I slow down. When I close my eyes I see her face. I question everything. Did I say enough, what if, why... But questions get me nowhere.

I cry. I cry a lot. I'm not a crier, yet I can't stop. I've always prided myself in being someone strong, but in one phone call I was brought to my knees. I couldn't breath, I walked around dry heaving, my legs weak, my heart felt like it had ripped out. I had no idea what to do. The next week was a blur. Every picture I see when, any memory, I can't turn on the radio or watch TV without something reminded me of her.

I don't know if irony is the right word but the last 3 years of my life have been spent preparing myself to be a Christian counselor; my senior seminar project was on how human suffering cannot disprove the existence of God. Yet I can't concentrate long enough to think of how any of this can be of any use.

I do know that I couldn't have asked for a better sister and comfortable in that I have always strove to be the best big brother that I could always be and know that she appreciated it. I knew my little sister well. I wish I had known her better. Amber taught me so much throughout life. She took care of me more than I have deserved.

I know how awkward it can be walking up and not knowing what to say, but I wanted to thank all of you mustered the courage to do it. There are so many faces that I haven't seen since high school that showed up to pay respect and it means so much. I've never seen or met someone who has touched as many of lives as my sister did and she did it all in 23 years...

Thank you all for everything.....

Too Short

Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 6:33pm

You can't help yourself to think of all the what ifs. The 'what might have beens' slap you in the face every waking moment. The inability to control the world around mocks just how weak we truly are. The Thanksgiving plans you were trying to make, the Christmas vacations, the thoughts of our children running around the living room together make you realize how precious time is. We pretend like we have all the time in the world. Like we do control our destiny, HA.

If I was given a second chance how would I do everything differently? The questions will have to remain unanswered for now, as much I can't stand it. But if there is anything I hope everyone can take for this; "Carpe diem! Seize the day, boys! Make your lives extraordinary!" (That's a quote from the Dead Poet's Society). Start living. We can only hope to make it to 90, there are no guarantees.

Life is too short to be walking around mad at the world, too short to hold grudges, too short not to tell someone you love them... Life is just too short. It wasn't long ago me and Amber sat there talking about how crazy it was that we were growing old. All our friends were getting married, starting families, and getting real jobs. I guess what I'm getting at in cliche note #2 is that life is too short and maybe it's time that we start acting it.

Smile. Tell those close to you that you love them. Hug someone you love when you see them it don't if it will be the last time.

I guess I just miss my friend

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 2:34am

"I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend." ~ Red

Again I can't sleep. I feel like the narrator in Fight Club,"For six months I couldn't sleep. With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy … of a copy … of a copy." I keep telling myself that this will all get easier, but it doesn't. I watch movies, read books, stare into the darkness, but every morning I wake up thinking I need to call her.

I have nightmares every night replaying old moments in my tormenting myself on whether or not I did enough. I want the nightmares to go away, I want to stop thinking about her but these memories are all I have anymore. So I'm scared to lose them. I hold on, the pain is almost self -nflicted.

I'm not sure what to do anymore. I try to put on a happy face and walk through my life like a normal person, I'm still not sure if people can tell when they look at me whether or not I'm ready to cry at any given moment. I read a grief counseling book that has helped some, it's encouraged me to talk about everything which doesn't seem to help but I reluctantly oblige. I figured I would try to get back into writing my cliché notes, this being number 3.

Before I end this note I have to mention the quote from the beginning, for all those movie buffs out there it is from the Shawshank Redemption. I heard it and couldn't help but to think of Amber (I'm still not too particularly comfortable using her name?). But I guess that’s all there is to it; "I guess I just miss my friend." I miss having that person to call when you can't tell something else. I need that little sister to go shopping with me because I'm not capable of picking out a skirt for my wife. I need her to come visit me and bring that crazy dog with her. She was that person. She was the person I could call whenever, that laughed at my stupid jokes, that would tell me that they weren't funny afterwards, that would make Thanksgiving bearable by feeding the over salted food to the dogs. I miss my friend.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lesson 2. Griefbursts

"Grief comes in unexpected surges... mysterious cues that set off a remainder of grief. It comes crashing like a wave, sweeping me in its crest, twisting me inside out... the recedes."
Tony Talbot

Griefbursts - "Sometimes heightened periods of sadness overwhelm us when we're in grief - even years after the death. These times can seem to come out of nowhere and can be frightening and painful. Something as simple as a sound, smell or phrase can bring on what I call "griefbursts"

The world around you probably will never know see the difference, they will never see through that iron facade you have put up. They might recognize that you mood seems to be dampened but he/she has been getting better as of late. They know nothing of the hurt in your eyes, the struggle it is to get out of bed each morning. That protective wall that keeps them at an arms length. But for those closest to us, they have seen the difference, the know the difference, for they have felt the difference with us. Griefbursts are the Achilles Heel for those who are in the process of mourning. When you think you have everyone fooled into you being 'alright' better yet when you have yourself fooled, that's when they hit. You are driving along in your car and that song comes on, you hear the phone and you think it's them, you drive past the restaurant where both of you ate. Greifbursts remind you that you aren't fooling anyone.

Wolfelt describes one father saying, "I was just sailing along feeling pretty good, when out of nowhere came this overwhelming feeling of grief!" Instead of long periods of depression the grieving period for most people consists with people trying maintain a life of normalcy when they encounter random "spasms" of grief. "During a griefburst, you may feel an overwhelming sense of missing the person you loved and find yourself openly crying, or perhaps even sobbing. As one women told me, "I'll be busy for a awhile, and sometimes ever forget he has died. Then I'll see his picture or smell his favorite food, and I'll just feel like I can't even move.""

Its hard to imagine there is light at the end of the tunnel when grief comes upon like this, you feel like you can't go on. You feel bad for trying to continue on with your life but it's important to try not to deny these griefbursts. We can't pretend like they aren't there, or that was the last one. We have to accept griefbursts as past of the healing process. As Wolfelt puts it, "Griefbursts may feel like "crazybursts," but they are normal." Be compassionate with yourself, love yourself, and never stop loving those who have passed from this earth. Go somewhere quiet, cry, scream, sob, talk it out, do whatever necessary. But trying to ignore something so powerful won't help anyone. It's always important that we never give up on ourselves and those around us.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lesson 1. You Aren't Crazy

"Do not try to determine where you "should" be.
Just allow yourself to be naturally where you are in the process."

There was a Matchbox20 song (I know that most of you all out there are huge fans) that came out a couple of years back that's chorus went, "I'm not crazy I'm just a little unwell." I have repeated that line in my head so many times in the past several months that one might actually call Matchbox fan... I am continually reminding myself that everything is alright and that I'm not crazy. Honestly its the only way I get through the day most of the time.

I feel so unwell. I can't sleep, then when I finally fall asleep I can't up. My mind wonders, conversations are hard to follow. The emotions that I used to have complete control over rule over me; I find it hard to laugh, cry to much, lack feelings. I have feelings of complete helpless followed but surging anger. My mood is consistent with that of a premenstrual women, look at me the wrong way and prepare for the unexpected. I withdraw, retreat, give up, send up the white flag. I want to alone and then get lonely when I get there. I often times wonder how much people can tell how crazy I feel. If they can see through the masks I put on in the morning.

"You're not crazy, you're grieving. Never forget that your journey through the wilderness of your grief may bring you through all kinds of strange and unfamiliar terrain.... Your experiences may seem so alien that you feel more like you're on the moon! When it seems like you're going crazy, remind yourself to look for the trail marker that assures you you're not going crazy. You're grieving. The two can feel remarkably similar sometimes."

These are a series of lessons derived from "Understanding Your Grief" by Alan Wolfelt. I highly recommend this book to anyone how has experienced a loss or as a gift to someone you know who is grieving.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Storms of Life

This is the sermon that I preached the Sunday after the accident:

The Storms of Life

Matthew 14.22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

            Peter was a fisherman, there is no doubt that in his years he had faced storms before but in Matthew 14 he wasn’t ready.  As Peter walked out onto the water and looked at the storm raging around him, he sunk.  He took his eyes off Jesus for seconds and before he knew he was underwater.    

A little over two weeks ago I experienced a storm, much like Peter and the others the boat.  My life was tossed to and fro.  I laid in the boat helpless.  I felt that I had walked out on water like Peter and sunk like a rock.   I wondering when I would see the light of day again.  I wondered when Jesus would come to my rescue like He did with Peter.  I wondered when he would take my pain away.

            I wish I could tell you it was easier for me because I was a minister because I was close to God.  I wish I could tell that I was stronger and that all of the counseling classes that I have taken over the years helped.  But I can’t.  Because storms come.

            At some point we all ask these questions... "Can I trust God even when my life gets stormy? Can I trust Him even when things go unexpectedly wrong? Can I trust Him even when my situation is so discouraging that I see no way out? Will I trust Him even when things seem hopeless?"

This morning let us look at the storms of life...

  1. Storms are inevitable. 

No on can escape such storms. Neither our goodness nor our faith can insulate us from the common experiences of life. Tragic events come into our lives regardless of who we are. And they sometimes strike so suddenly. Arthur John Gossip, a renowned Scottish minister of another generation, preached his famous sermon, "When Life Tumbles in, What Then?" the Sunday after the sudden death of his wife. That is always the question, "What Then?" How do we survive the crisis?

I wish I could tell you as a Christian that you’ll never have to experience heartache and pain in this life.  I wish I could tell you that if you obey the gospel or respond to the invitation today that never again will you lose someone you love, but I can’t.

Storms will come to everyone just the same.  The storm doesn’t see us and say “oh there’s a Christian let me pass over him/her”.  They don’t see a church and say “let me skip over you all and go on to someone else who isn’t here”. It is true that as we go through life there will be storms: hard times, tragedies, difficulties, trials, troubles, and loss. We will find ourselves in places and circumstances we never anticipated. We will experience pain and heartache we never believed would come our way.

We all have moments where we feel just as battered and beaten and discouraged as the people on that ship in Matthew 14. Perhaps there’s a storm brewing over your life right now. Maybe it’s a stormy marriage. Maybe you’re married to someone who argues and fights with you all the time. Or maybe YOU’RE the one who does the arguing and the fighting. Some days, you feel like nothing will ever change! That your marriage is shipwrecked! That there’s no hope at all.  Or maybe there’s another type of storm brewing in your house. Maybe it’s a stormy relationship with a child. Who rebels against your authority. Who says, "It’s my life! You can’t tell me what to do anymore! I’ll do what I want!" And after many days and nights of dealing with this, you’re not sure if there anything more you can say. You feel like throwing your hands up in frustration. You feel like giving up.

Or maybe you feel battered and storm tossed, and you have no idea why you feel that way. You can’t put a finger on it. All you know is that you feel despair and discouragement and hopelessness. And things seem so bleak that there’s no way out. 

But as most of you here this morning know storms will come.

  1. Storms catch you off guard. 

The storm in Matthew 14 came to those on the boat quickly. Mark tells us that the storm came up suddenly. On the Sea of Galilee, cold air would come down from the hills that surround this huge body of water. The hot air rising would collide and immediately a storm would develop. Our storms can develop just as quickly, and could be a financial storm, a business storm, a relationship storm, a storm of illness. News of a sudden death can come in one phone call. Suddenly, your whole life is turned upside down.

Notice that this verse tells us something else.  It tells us that just because Jesus is in the ship, doesn’t mean a STORM won’t come. Many Christians wrongly think storms are only for unbelievers. That’s not true.  You can be in the very center of the will of God, and be going through a cyclone, or a hurricane of all kind of troubles. Disobedience can bring on a storm. Just look at Jonah. But so often storms are a way for God to make us stronger.

We as Christians so often come to a point of content, that we think we are somewhat invincible to this world and this when the storm does the most damage.  Hurricane Katrina happened just a little over three years ago and that area will never be the same.  Hurricane Gustav was different this time they told people to leave the area and there was no one to be found.  That’s because Katrina had caught them off guard. 

Just because you know so body is sick or you have mentally prepared yourself for something often times doesn’t make it any easier, storms can still catch you off guard.

  1. Storms test our faith.

Peter sank when his faith was tested.  We have to be kidding ourselves if say we leave the storms of life unscathed. We can’t expect to stand there and face the storm and walk out like nothing ever happened to us... we are going to get knocked down by these storms in our lives, but we must get back up.  That’s the important part- that we get back up when our faith is tested. We must rise above these troubles of our earthly lives and realize that life goes on.

Two weeks ago someone told me that after tragedy occurs, all one can do is find a new norm.  My life will never be the same, yet I know that my family and I, with the help of God, will return to a new normal.  We all have experienced these storms, whether it be the loss of a loved one or a financial crisis, and we all have come through them.  We are not promised a perfect, pain free existence on this earth.  Even though there are times we think that nothing worse could be happening to us than the storm we are going through. 

Our faith will be tested.  You will walk onto the water to see Jesus and sink like a stone.  But it’s ok.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad Christian.  It just means your human.

  1. Storms make you stronger.

As Peter crawled back into the boat and worshipped Jesus, I think its safe to say that his faith was somewhat stronger than before he walked onto the water with weak knees.  If there is one thing that I have learned the older I have gotten is that is I’m weak.  Every time I start to believe myself to be strong I have been brought to my knees. But, going through storms in my life are what have given me the strength to continue.  Each experience that God has granted me has brought me closer to Him and made me a stronger Christian through the pain.

2 Cor. 12.9-10 - But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Human weakness provides the perfect opportunity for God to display his divine power.

  1. Storms are beyond our comprehension.

We so often try to make since of storms following tragic events.  Its almost comforting to hear David in Psalm 13... 

How Long, O Lord?

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

David says this in Psalm 13, a man after God’s own heart...

Isaiah 55:8-9 - For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

Deuteronomy 29.29 - “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

            There will be plenty of times in our life when we ask God why, that we look at Him with questioning eyes.  Many times we like David ask “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?”  But we have to realize that His ways are far higher than our ever could be, and though we may not understand why at the moment, God is all knowing and has a plan for us all.

  1. Storms pass.

So many times in this life we feel like Peter, underwater asking ourselves why we got out of the boat. We feel that life will never be the same, or that we cant go on after what has happened to us.

Lifehouse - "Storm"

"How long have I been in this storm so overwhelmed by the ocean's shapeless form water's getting harder to tread with these waves crashing over my head..."

Storms never last forever.  There are times when the skies are dark and gloomy but two days later the sun is a shining and the birds are a chirping. Whatever we are going through, it is not going to last.  We are going to get through it.  It most often takes time to get through a storm, but eventually we all come through storms.  We may be a little battered and bruised, but we come out stronger than before due to the experience.

Some of you may be wondering how we can survive the pressures of everyday life? How can we survive in a stormy marriage? How can we survive criticism? How can we survive the bad news we will get this year? If YOU ARE hoping to go through life without pressure, without criticism, without temptations, without bad news, without tragedy, then you are living on FANTASY ISLAND.

  1. God’s there for you.

o   (even if it feels sometimes like He isn’t)

o   Job (I couldn’t go through my sermon without mentioning good ol’ Job)

o   It seems to me that Job got the worst end of every deal possible, but in Job 13.15 he says, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”

o   No matter what (even if you are arguing to his face) we need to hope in God

o   Isaiah 41.10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

o   God has prepared for us a place to live for all eternity, where there will be no sadness, no struggles, no storms. When we think about how glorious life will be in Heaven it makes this world and its struggles easier to bear. 

o   2 cor. 4.17-18 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

o   As Peter sank under the water that day I bet Jesus couldn’t have felt any further away.  But if we look to vs 31 we see where Jesus was.  Outstreched hand reaching deep into the waters to pull Peter out.

o   As the storm clears and you lay there in the boat dripping wet.  You need to know that God is there for you... Your hard times and troubles aren’t things that you have to go through alone.  He is there.

o   What is the first thing that Peter did when he got back into the boat?  He worshipped God.  I know that it won’t always be easy but the storms will pass and you’ll realize that Jesus was there all along.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stained Carpet and Faded Sofas

December 5, 1985 she was born. Do I remember it? Not at all but I wish I did. My sister was born, Amber Marie Vego. The pride and joy of my parents, the best little sister a brother could ever ask for, she entered the world at full speed and choose never to slow down. It was long before my Father started calling her the "Go-Girl" because she was always on the go, she was the life of the party, she was the party... I try a little harder every day to remember those twenty two incredible years that God did bless me with.

As children we became inseparable. I will never know why she always looked up to me the way she did but I'll appreciate the love she had for me. But the years went by too fast and we grew too far apart. There is nothing that can change how i handled my life up to this point, nothing. But one thing I hope to change is how I handle the rest of my life. As I sit here writing this and can't help but to recall a quote from Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel, "I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later. Now get washed up for dinner.' There would have been more I love yous, more I'm sorrys, but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it andreally see it, live it, and never give it back." I think for the majority of the world by the time you have had a thought as incredible as this it's probably do late for you to do anything about it.

I will never forget that phone call. The one no one should ever have to experience, the one the makes you sick to your stomach, the one that makes your heart drop, the one that changes your life forever. Someone told me at the visitation that your life will never be the same again, from this point forward you have to find a "new normal." To this day that's all try to accomplish with my days, I search for a new norm life Christopher Columbus searched for The New World it occupies every waking hour. My life hasn't been the same since. My days have been have been just a little bit darker. Smiles and laughter have fewer and farther between. But life hasn't ended for me just yet, so I must go on. No matter how much it hurts, no matter how hard it is to get out of the bed in the morning, no matter how many tears I cry I must go on.

And that's why I have started writing. I would be lying if I said I have truly acknowledged the loss yet, if I didn't sit next to phone at night waiting for her to call, if I didn't wake up in the morning hoping to see her storm into my room saying, "Good morning my little rosebud, it's time to blossom (at the same time Gadge jumping onto the bed licking your head) !" And then we would be off for another adventure (Oh how much I miss those, those countless hours at thrift stores, those hours spent with her, I wouldn't trade them for the world). I don't want closure but I'm hoping for some sort of acceptance, so I want to begin journaling my thoughts and feelings to help myself and possibly someone who gets a phone call like I mentioned earlier.