ARE YOU LIVING OR SIMPLY EXISTING?

Sometimes life seems to come to a stand still, everyday is just like the day before and tomorrow does not offer any thing different.

not livingIt is easy to find oneself caught up in nothing, to find oneself just doing the same thing day after day and not really accomplishing anything. Just existing, breathing air, taking up space and trapped in a world that is going nowhere. It is a challenge when we find ourselves in these situations, especially if we are working through sickness, emotional challenges, trauma, anxiety, abuse or the many myriads of challenges we find ourselves facing throughout our lifetime. With my struggle with PTSD it is easy for me to check out of the present and simply exist in my house while life passes me by. It is easy to put off everything until tomorrow because I have no pressure of meeting a deadline. Each day seems to drift into one other. It does not take very long before days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Then before I know it, I am looking back wondering what has happened to all those weeks and months. I was amazed a few weeks ago when I noticed I have not posted very often this year. I’m not sure what happened to my goal of posting once a week, but the stat page clearly reminds me I have allowed many weeks to go by without posting. However, this is not about posting weekly blogs, it is about living life. Over the last few months I seemed to have stopped living and simply choose to exist.

Living allows us to focus on how to make the best of the challenges we face.

Existing is easy; there is not much stress in existing and not too many challenges. There are not a lot of demands in existing; in essence existing is just being, nothing more and nothing less.  However, living is more difficult and challenging. Living ensures we face stress while we face the challenges of juggling daily demands, dealing with problems and moving forward. Living starts the day with expectations that something is going to happen, maybe not big and life changing but something will happen. At the end of the day we will look back and say “I accomplished something today.” However, simply existing leaves us at the end of the day realizing we have accomplished nothing and faced with the possibility of another day of accomplishing nothing. wheel chair lifeWhile living offers us a chance to make the best of ourselves, it allows us to wake up each day and see the possibilities that are before us. Living allows us to focus on how to make the best of the challenges we face; living allows us to enjoy what we have, where we are, and whom we are with. Living give us purpose, gives us reason and gives us hope. Existing does just the opposite, it leaves us trapped in our challenges, stuck in not experiencing what is around us and stuck in having a life that is void of motivation, hope and purpose.

Living is about engaging fully in the life we have around us.

It is important to understand that living is not gaged by the amount of things we have, the lack of problems we face or the number of Facebook friends we have. Living is not about the amount of money we have in the bank, the house we live in or the type of cars we drive. Living is not about “having it all.” Living is about engaging fully in the life we have around us. Many who have little, experience a richness of life, that many who “have it all” never experience. Money and material possessions do not bring fulfillment to ones life, nor does it bring a person to experience what it means to live. Material possessions and money can certainty enrich a persons experiences and makes living life more comfortable, nevertheless they are not the means to experiencing life to its fullest. Experiencing life to its fullest means we are aware of what is around us, we engage with what is around us, we are active in what is around us, we are involved with those who are around us. It is very easy for us who deal with anxiety, PTSD, trauma, abuse and other challenges to simply exist and not live. It is easy for us to avoid what is around us and not engage with anything or anyone. Simply existing is lonely and frustrating, it leaves us unfulfilled with no future, just day after day of nothingness.  Sometime it is hard for me to live life, it is much easier to simply exist. But I hate just existing.  When I find myself simply existing I find a way to start living again no matter how hard it may be.

starting the day

Fear Not, For I Am With You

it is well Click Picture to Play Video

Sung by Michael Eldrige:  www.acapeldridge.com

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family – a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them. Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”

Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down. It was then Horatio pinned the words to the hymn “It is Well With My Soul”  http://staugustine.com

“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.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

My dear friends, in the very depth of our heart ache and in the midst of life’s most difficult moments we are assured that we are not alone. We can count on the truth that God is ours and he will strengthen us and help us in all of our troubles. Therefore, we do not need to live in fear or be overtaken with dismay, for we have one who will lift us up with His righteous hand. We accept this as truth while all is going well. However, it becomes a significant hurdle when we are crushed in spirit, lost in our pain and facing the deepest darkness of our lives. But the truth of this verse does not change with our circumstances. What is true in the good times is true in difficult times. We all want to go through life without hardship or brokenness, but we all know that it is an impossible task. Part of life is learning to live, trust, have faith and walk in courage while facing the deepest darkest moments of our lives. My friends in your darkness, I encourage you to find rest in God and to seek His peace. Why live a life full of despair, hopelessness and defeat when we have a God who will watch after us. Trusting in God does not mean we escape the hard aches of this world, it does mean however, that we do not have to experience these heart aches alone.  We can find Peace for our souls so we too can say “It is well with my soul”

If you are seeking Peace with God and you want to enter into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ please check out this site. Finding Peace With God

 

Christmas in Iraq 2006 & 2007

During my last deployment we spent the Christmas of 2006 and 2007 in Iraq. We were initially going to be in Iraq for Christmas of 2006 but due to the extension of our 12- month deployment to 15-months during the surge of 2007. We spent two Christmases in Iraq, below are some pictures of the two Christmases. 

Pictures of my Office and my Room 

 

Warrior Chapel Christmas 2007

 

 

Christmas Eve Service 2007

 

 

Dining Facility Christmas Celebration 2006

 

 

Have a Very Merry Christmas 2017 

image1

Lost in Loneliness

One of  the most difficult parts of dealing with trauma and the effects of PTSD is the overwhelming sense of loneliness that one continually faces. Loneliness that is brought on by the thought “I am the only one who feels this way.” Loneliness that is brought on by the thought “No one understand what I’m going through.” Loneliness that is brought on by the belief “I have to be strong, so I can’t ask for help.”

loneliness femaleLoneliness that is brought on by the feelings “I can’t trust anyone.” The loneliness that is brought on by the belief people will see me as a “monster or evil.” These feeling invade our very soul and the view of ourselves so much so, that we find ourselves living a lonely, isolated and friendless life. Desperate for how things used to be, but never having the courage to break free from our loneliness. Thus, we never find a new acceptance for who we are now.

I found this poem on poemhunter.com written by Mohammad Skati and I think it sums up what many of us feel as we deal with our loneliness.

                                                                 I Feel Alone

“There is nothing pretty like my loneliness Simply because I feel alone and lonely anytime, anywhere, and everywhere… There is no doubt that I am alone in every direction I turn to and I am lonely in the opposite direction… The more I look forward to encourage myself, the more I find myself greatly alone and lonely… I can explain some parts of my loneliness and I can’t explain some other parts fully… It’s not bad to be alone for a while, but It’s bad to stay alone for ever and ever… I feel as if I am lonely in this world Simply because everyone looks for one’s benefits… To be alone and to be lonely Mean to suffer greatly Simply because one needs others to listen to anytime… I feel alone… I feel alone… I feel alone” https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-feel-alone-10/

As I read this poem I was reminded of Job’s cry over his frustration in not finding God.

“But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:8-12
 

This cry is also echoed by David in Psalms 21:1-2.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

There is no crueler feeling than to feel we are abandon, that we suffer alone, and  feel secluded from all others.

lonliness maleThese thoughts are often the cry of our hearts. We face so much pain and suffering, we proclaim we suffered “more than our fair share.” We cry out because our hearts are lonely and we feel as though God has abandoned us. There is no crueler feeling than to feel we are abandon, that we suffer alone, and feel secluded from all others. One of the things I learned from my inpatient treatments is no matter how I feel, I’m not alone. While my experience may be different from others and the circumstances of my trauma is unique to myself, the effects of trauma are the same for all of us. I struggled with wanting to know where God is, why God allows evil and suffering and why people die in war. My struggles are no different from the struggles Job and David faced as they asked the same questions of God. What I find interesting is Job never receives an answer to his questions on why he was suffering and in the midst of David’s trials he had to wait patiently upon the Lord. I know what it is like to stand in the darkness of trauma, to be confronted with the questions of why, where and how and yet never seem to find the answers to these questions. I know the experience of the blackness that loneliness brings into our lives, the hopelessness that ensnare and robs us of even our desire to live. I also know the peace one can find in knowing God has not abounded us. Job says that while he is unable to find God, God still knew where Job was and the paths he takes. David finds peace knowing that in his anguish God still exists and He is enthroned as the Holy One.

Finding Peace with God

I wonder where you find yourself today? Are you lost in your struggles? Do you feel desperate? Are you living without hope? Is your loneliness so great that your only hope now resides in taking your own life? Is suicide your only remaining answer? My friends, I want you to know there is hope! You can find meaning and acceptance of who you are now. You can turn away from your suicidal thoughts and behaviors just as I turned away from my suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Where does this ability come from? It comes from many different places, individual and group therapy, it comes from family and friends, it may even come from medication. It certainty come from within, when you make a commitment to seek healing for yourself. But ultimately, true and lasting healing only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here at Healing The Storm Ministry our belief is when all is said and done. It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that will deliver us from the life controlling power of our trauma. The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” If you want to know how to cast your cares upon Christ and experience the life changing power of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to check out Billy Graham’s website “Peace with God” https://peacewithgod.net

 

 

Accentuating The Positives

Many Thanks

I have notice I have a tendency to focus on the negative while ignoring the positives in my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who ignores the positive to focus on the negative. It seems many of us who live with trauma maintain our focus on negative beliefs and feelings. We tend to look at the “what’s not going right” instead of “what is going right” in our lives. We are quick to declare our treatment and recovery process too slow or not working at all. When in reality, there are many things that are going right for us. So during Thanksgiving day week, I set out to post on Facebook, three times a day, to share what I am thankful for. It was a wonderful experience to spend the last few days thinking of the positive things in my life. So here is a list of some of the things I am thankful for.

 Things I am thankful for:

  • I am thankful for Mr. Robinson a teacher who always told me “Kevin, I expect great things from you.” I’ve strived to not let him down
  • I am thankful for U.S. Army Chaplain Jim King, who was a great mentor and an outstanding pastor. He helped shape me as a Chaplain.
  • I am thankful for Therapist Dr. Carrin Harper who literally kept me alive and would not let me give into my suicidal ideations.
  • I am thankful for the LA Baptist Rescue Mission. I was able to preach every Saturday during my first year of Bible college in 1986.
  • I am thankful for all the Godly men and women who invested their lives into our lives, so we could spend our life in Christian ministry.
  • I am thankful for those who developed Cognitive Processing Therapy and for those who took me through the difficult process.
  • I am thankful for Candice, Samantha and Jacob our young adult children who still wants to spend time with us.
  • I am thankful for the Pastor and the congregation of Oswego Baptist Church for sponsoring my ordination in 1986.
  • I am thankful for “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior” for providing training and certification of my service dog Delrin.
  • I am thankful for my beautiful bride Elizabeth who has stood by my side in the darkest moments of my life. Love you Honey!
  • I am thankful that I had the honor of serving in the United States Army for 21-years.
  • I am thankful for LTG Funk for giving me the freedom to minister to his Troopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
  • I am thankful for my Cardiologist in Danville, NJ for discovering my heart anomaly and for the surgeon in Morristown, NJ who corrected the problem with open heart surgery in 2010.
  • I am thankful for the Wounded Warrior Program and the leaders of the Male Odyssey retreat who helped me realize I am not “unfit” to live my life.
  • I am thankful for Paster Jared at  First Baptist Church New Braunfels for letting me lead a small group Bible study.
  • I am thankful for the great memories we have as a family while we enjoyed family vacations together.

This is by no means even close to a complete list, but it is a good start. Why not start your own list? You can start by sharing in the comments below what you are thankful for. 

 

 

 

Tired of Just Exsisting

I wanted to find some way to start living my life again.

My goal for 2017 was to start living my life again. For the past five years I was living with the burden of having PTSD and being controlled by the symptoms of my PTSD. Each year I faced a significant trial and had to make difficult choices on how I would handle the struggles. Some choices I made were good, others not so good. 2016 marked a high water mark for me; I saw no future for myself, had no passion or purpose and was spending the vast majority of my day doing nothing. I stayed inside my house as much as I could, only venturing out if there was a real need. Towards the fall of 2016, I was beginning to really get discouraged with the direction or lack of direction of my life. In September of 2016 I went to a Wounded Warrior event, I spoke with one of the combat stress recovery specialist who told me of a new program they offered. The program partnered with different treatment programs around the country, which offered Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) for combat veterans free of charge. road-home He recommended I look into the Road Home Program at Rush in Chicago, Illinois. I looked into the program and made a phone call about attending the program. After a multi-part review process, I was accepted into the program and headed for my three-week IOP in January 2017.

I did not go with a great sense of optimism, my goal was simple; I wanted to find some way to start living my life again. I wanted to stop hiding in my house and avoiding people, events and places. I did not want to be controlled by my loss of purpose any longer. I went to hopefully find some sort of spark that would set me on the track to living again. I noticed about 10-days into the program nothing was happening for me. I began to think this whole experience was going to be a bust. Then I had a break through, I recalled a very traumatic experience I had in Bosnia in 1999. The experience served as

MVC-006S
My Office in the Camp Eagle Chapel Tuzla, Bosnia 1999

the basis of an overwhelming feeling of danger and a view that I was a liability to my fellow Soldiers. I never understand why I was so upset during my deployments to Iraq for not having a weapon and for having to rely on others for my protection. I knew as a chaplain, I would never carry a weapon and I would have to rely on others for my protection. I accepted that limitation and was ok with it, but my view changed when I deployed to Iraq. I saw myself as a liability to others; I thought I was putting people in danger. I resented the fact that Soldiers were assigned to provide protection for me. I wanted a weapon so I did not have to rely on others and put others in danger because they were protecting me. Once I was confronted with those feeling in therapy, I was asked why I felt this way, knowing as a chaplain I could not carry a weapon. That question led me to explore where those feeling came from. It was then; I was reminded of the very dangerous and traumatic event that took place in Bosnia. As we worked through the traumatic experience in Bosnia, I began to see some amazing changes in my thinking and my view of myself. When I graduated from the program and I returned home, I brought with me a new hope. A hope that I just might be able to regain my life again.

I came home with just a small spark of hope that 2017 would be different.

February 2017 was a challenge, as I had to make the decision if I was actually going to move forward or fall back into the pattern of 2016. I chose to move forward and in March I formed the foundation of Healing the Storm Ministry. My focus with the ministry is to help people find spiritual healing. With this goal in mind, I established healingthestorm.com. My purpose of the website and blog is to share my experiences with living with PTSD. I want to also share from a Biblical perspective how we can overcome the spiritual injury we experience as a result of trauma and traumatic experiences. There are many who think the only ones who suffer from PTSD are combat veterans. But we know this is not the case. PTSD can and does affect anyone who has experienced trauma in his or her life. I want Healing the Storm Ministry to reach all those who suffer from the effects of living with traumatic experiences. I want to share how a loving God and a loving Savior can bring healing to our wounded souls.

So far 2017 has proven to be a significant year for me.

Not only have I made the decision to start healingthestorm.com but I have also made efforts to overcome my desire to hide in my house. I have even gone so far as to consider getting a job for the first time since I was medically retired from the Army. 2017 also marked my 50th Birthday and the 10-years since my last deployment to Iraq. It was in 2007 that I began to experience my PTSD symptoms from my first deployment to Iraq in 2004 and from my deployment to Bosnia in 1999. More importantly, I do not want my 50s to be like the last five years of my 40s.

goal

My goal for 2018 is to make even more progress in living my life. I realize if I am going to make my 50s different from my 40s I must start now and not wait until later. At this stage of  my life, I don’t have the luxury to wait until later. If something is going to happen it must start now. I cannot afford to allow 2018 to be another year of simply existing. When I first thought of the concept for Healing the Storm Ministry I wanted it to more than just a website and blog. My desire was to one day develop it into an active fulltime ministry. My hope is to start a ranch for those who are seeking spiritual healing for their trauma. I had no idea how this would be accomplished or what was needed to actually make it happen.

I am currently working with a mentor who is helping me get back into the work force. I met with him last week and gave him some of my business cards. On the cards I have my website listed and he took a look at the website last week. He approached me yesterday and asked me what my thought was about expanding Healing the Storm Ministry into a non-profit ministry. He shared with me how as a non-profit I could pursue faith-based grants focused on reaching out to those who suffer with PTSD. He told me some grants would allow me to teach or conduct seminars and retreats. My mentor has experience with non-profits and is successful in securing faith-based grants to conduct seminars and retreats. He told me yesterday he would be very interested in helping me through the process and help take Healing the Storm Ministry to a new level. This is just what I needed to make 2018 and my first year of my 50s different from the previous 5-years. There is lots of work, challenges and discouragement waiting down the road, but there are also many rewards, successes and life changing opportunities down that same road.

This morning I was reminded of the Psalmist who wrote

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him Ps 37:1-7a