Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My biggest fear is...

When I was 10 years old I played little league baseball.  I was able to hit the ball in practice, but when I played in an actual game it was different  I would watch the ball pass me.  One.  Two.  Three. Four. WALK.  I got walked to base more than anyone else on my team.  I would watch the ball pass.  Unable to muster up a swing for how stupid would I look if I missed the ball...  I never played baseball on a team after that year.

When I was 12 I started taking karate classes.  I always wanted to.  I spent so much time perfecting everything that I learned.  I became relatively good.  I distinctly remember going to a tournament in the Chalmette auditorium.  The floor was slippery.  When I was sparring I couldn't help myself bu to fall.  Repeatedly.  I lost the final match I was in because I couldn't keep my balance.  I remember feeling like I looked ridiculous.  I stopped going to the classes not long after that.

When I got to high school I became part of the marching band.  I made some great friends. I learned so much about myself in those 4 years.  I learned so much about music and leadership.  during my 4 years I helped to teach people marching fundamentals and I helped teach people some basics of music as well.  Near the end of my sophomore year I had a chance to audition for Drum Major.  I wanted it.  I chose not to try because I did not believe that I had a chance.  When my friend who I regularly played video games with was selected I was happy for him, but I was very unhappy that I did not even try.  It was a bitter moment for me for quite some time.

In college I became a charter member for our local chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.  I gave everything that I had to the fraternity.  I spent most of my time doing fraternity related activities.  I made some of my best friendships in the fraternity.  When I left school due to a lack of funds and my losing a scholarship I realized that I would not be an active part of the fraternity and it devastated me.

Throughout my life many opportunities have presented themselves.  I have let many pass me up.
Some things I was forced out of.  Some things I stepped away from and gave up.

My biggest fear is giving in to that voice that tells me that I am not good enough.

Almost everyone has one.

That voice that tells you that you are not good enough.

The voice that knows exactly what to say to make you want to give up.

That inner weakness that wants to drive you to fail because it is EASIER to fail.
Staying at home is easy.
Staying in bed is easy.
Not caring is easy.

That voice is the reason I never swung at a ball.
It is the reason that I worried about how I looked.
It is the reason that I never auditioned for drum major.
It is the reason that I had a hard time not being active in my fraternity after I left school.

Nothing worthwhile will come without obstacles or hard work.

I for one REFUSE to listen to that voice anymore.
It never got me anywhere.
I daily tell it to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.
My weaknesses have NO Power over me.

I coach myself daily on how to improve.  I spend energy making sure that I have enough confidence to get through the day without giving in to my inner weakness.

I will NOT give up.  I will work outwork my competition until I am at the top and I will never stop working to be the best.

I will not give into my greatest fear... which when it is broken down to the most primal level is the fear of missing my potential because I did not work hard enough or because I quit.

You have the ability to ignore your fears as well.

Just do it.

I have been wanting to write this blog for a while.  I knew that telling my facebook friends to expect something from me was a great way to make sure I did so.

Thank you for reading this whoever you are.
Even if you are future Joel looking back at this post for a reminder.
Remember that while hard work does not always equal success, failure is a choice.
Choose not to fail.

Choose not to give up.

Be Amazing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

You know nothing Joel Vogt- Part 4

Several weeks ago I started a blog series detailing my journey to God as it stands so far.  A friend asked me when the next part would be posted, and honestly I had procrastinated doing this because there are so many things I want to talk about...

 Part 3 is Here.   Please read one, two, and three if you have not already done so.  There will be no test, but I do feel that it is important to grasp where I was coming from in this section.

*Trigger Warning* If you cannot emotionally handle a story about loss I recommend that you close this now and wait for the next installment.

I need to as you now that if you are a Christian and you are doubting your faith please stop reading and continue with the next installment when I post it.  Some content in this could confuse someone who is not 100% grounded in their beliefs.

I convinced myself that my tiny bits of proof were all I needed to be strong in God.  I convinced myself that my faith would never waiver because I could PROVE God's existence to myself.  I convinced myself that I would always have a relationship with him because I could always come back after I have made mistakes.... after all I always could feel his presence guiding my life.  Even when I chose to ignore him I could always feel a guiding hand. 

I always believed that if people close to me died I would know that they were okay.  I believed that God would allow them to talk to me and tell me that they were happy or whatever.  Remember that I relied on MY power to strengthen my beliefs.

I am pretty that it was March 17th, 2010 around 2 am that I received a call from Pop (My Mom's stepdad).  I was playing Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360 and I had just started to get into the game and understand it.  I had my headset on, so usually I wouldn't hear anything but somehow I heard the phone ringing.  I will never forget the words he said "I need you to come to the house.  The paramedics are working on Juanita."  

I asked him "Is she ok?  Did she fall?  What Happened?"
He simply replied "You need to get here now.  She isn't breathing!"

I hung up the phone.  I sat still on my sofa.  I couldn't move, or maybe I didn't want to move.  

Finally I went to tell Brook.  I put my shoes on and drove to their house.  a 5 minute drive took me 15 because I was terrified of what I might find.  When I finally got there I drove past the house.  I didn't want to stop.  I didn't want to see her dying.  I didn't want to be involved in that moment.  I turned around... I thought about what Pop must have been thinking and I parked the car.  I sat there unable to move again.  I had to go in.  I had to go.  I had to Walk.

When I finally got out of the car all of my fear left me.  I ran into the house to find Pop sitting at the kitchen table.  I saw him sitting there with his head in his hands.  I looked in the bedroom and saw the EMTs working on my Grandmother.  She was unresponsive.  

I looked back at Pop to see the most helpless look I have ever seen on a man's face.  He was as scared as I was.  I know he had to see the same fear in my eyes.  I hugged him, and together we reassured each other that she would be okay.  I didn't feel like she was going to die so I KNEW that she wasn't.  
"I HAVE A PULSE!" I heard coming from the next room.  "It's faint, but it IS there!"

There was Hope.

The next thing I really remember was sitting in the family waiting room at the hospital.  My mom and most of my siblings had arrived.   We sat there for what seemed like an eternity.  All I could think about was the last time that I visited her.  I had left very quickly because she had Shingles and I was afraid to catch them.... that and I had to go do something I thought was more important.  
That wasn't the last time I would talk to her though.  two days before this she had called me to tell me that the engagement ring that she helped me finance would not cost me another penny.  She had paid it off as a gift to me and Brook for our wedding.  I cried that day.  It was the first time that I had cried in a long time.

The doctor finally came in, and all I heard was "I'm Sorry."  Everything else faded out.

The rest of that night is not important.
What came after is.

I waited for her.  I waited for her to come to me.  I did have a dream that she talked to me, but I never felt  her presence.  I never felt her love in the room.  My mother said that it was because she was too busy to talk to us because she was catching up with her mom and brother.  I didn't buy it.  I knew what was really going on.  God wasn't real.  

The only thing keeping me Christian at this point in my life was my "gift".  It seemed that my gift was just something from my imagination.  

I began to give up on my faith.  

It is funny how when you believe in something SO strongly that it sometimes only takes a small moment of doubt to convince you that you were wrong all of the time.  All it takes is for your proof to be slightly questionable for it to make the whole story seem off...Especially when you think yourself into logical circles.

Over the years following my Grandmother's passing I had many moments of revelation.  I thought that I had discovered new proof of God.  Sometimes it was a testimony of a  near death experience, or a psychic that could prove the existence of God.  Other times it was a feeling that there had to be a god because evolution could only go so far.

Near Death experiences are easy to explain away.  Psychics can be debunked because none of them have won the lottery....  Feelings are fleeting and perhaps the worst thing to base any theory on.

Psychologically I could see how I had created all of my ideas about God.  I understood that I LONGED for some sense of purpose.

I came to a conclusion through a lot of research.  Jesus Existed.  He was simply a good man.  the Bible exaggerates his abilities.  
There is a God, but no eternal life.  Obviously if there was eternal life my grandmother would have contacted me by now.  
My gifts come from my lineage, not from this "god"
My Childhood was a lie and I have wasted my time.

I slipped into a depression unlike any that I have ever known.  I began to try to fill the whole that was left in my life.  I drank a lot.  I played a lot of violent video games.  I went out with friends.  I worked non stop.  I did anything and everything I could to get my mind off of God.

When my second daughter was born I found myself in a pickle.  
I had been living as a closet atheist.  NOONE knew but me.   I had counselled people who struggled in their faith.  I had spent time showing them how God would be there for them.  I had lied to so many because I didn't want anyone to hurt knowing what I knew.  

 I had to have my daughter baptized to satisfy my family and "just in case" I might be wrong I didn't want to damn her for eternity.  

In faking it I found myself feeling God's presence again.  It was faint like a whisper that you hear from across a crowded room.  

I felt him.
I knew it was real.
It could have been a conversion moment...
but I was Scared.
I was so scared that I retreated.  
I rejected the very idea of God.  
"He isn't real.  He isn't real.  He isn't real"
If he was real what would he think of me?
He isn't real I convinced myself.  The feelings that I have are just my subconscious mind rationalizing what I am imagining.
I turned away from him.
I put up barriers to keep him away.
I need to suppress this subconscious feeling until it disappears.

Soon after that I told my wife everything.  I told her about my atheistic belief.  I turned from God 100%.  I stopped going to church even when I had the free time because I couldn't stand to hear his name.

The words God and Jesus set me off.  They made me so angry.
When someone said that they needed God to help them I viewed them as pitiful and weak. 
When someone said they would pray for me I would thank them but I would secretly be so disgusted and feel so dirty that I had to get my mind off of it.  It typically ended in my drinking or playing video games.  Whenever my daughter became more involved in the church I got sick to my stomach that I was lying to her.  I didn't want her world to crumble the way that mine did.  

I lived like this for 2 years of my life. 
Angry all of the time.

Then one day I saw my friend Kayla post on Facebook about how strange it was to be in a church without knowing anyone.  

A few days later I got a strange feeling.
I called Kayla.  I asked her to take me to church with her.  I didn't want to.  I know that she could feel that.  She kind of pressured me and made me commit to be there.  I wanted to stay home, but I didn't want to let her down...  I didn't believe that anything would change.  I simply thought that I HAD to go to make sure.

From the moment that I walked into that church I could feel it. 

True, Forgiving, Constant, Unconditional,


Even after I turned my back on him so many times.  He was there Waiting for me to turn back around.  He was waiting, and loving me the whole time that I was away.

I promise to continue this soon.