Choose Wisely

When you experience a move of God all you want to do is tell people about what God has done.  Filled with such hope and confidence, all you want to do is share it.  So here I was completely intent on telling my story any and every chance I got when something unexpected happened. All of a sudden, I lost all motivation to tell my story. The bizarre confidence I had gained in telling my story was gone. I looked up and all of a sudden my story had lost its excitement. What I once felt could not be stopped had come to a screeching halt.  So hold on...what has just happened here?! I was just soaring above the trees telling my story of hope to all who might come along and then...thud.

I awoke with a mouth full of dirt, face firmly planted on the ground. I picked myself up and dusted off the soil from my clothes.  Now, I had mentioned in my prior two posts that my story was becoming increasingly more real the more that I told it. So what would happen if I stopped telling it? Would my story be any different?  If my story loses steam what happens?  Does it change my story?

A lesson I have learned in other areas of my life is that what we do not know has the potential to hurt us.  Early in the sharing of our story, we must learn to choose wisely who we share it with.  When God moves we want to shout it from the mountaintops, but what we may not realize is there is a time for everything.  Early in the process of telling your story, the response of others can play a crucial role in fueling your story.

Who we choose to share it with can have damaging consequences.  It can fan the flame or it has the power to extinguish your flame.  This is the perfect time to take it to God.  Ask Him who you should share your story with and when.  Seek His guidance before you blurt out all that God has done!  The time will come when you share your story with anyone willing to listen, but now is not the time.  Pray often and choose wisely...

A Story To Tell

So, here I stood a new person! I was so excited and so scared at the same time. Excited for what God had done, scared to go back to the Spirit of Fear I knew too well. I had yet to tell a soul. Until one morning when God told me to tell my daughter who was nine at the time. We had about twenty or thirty minutes drive to get where we were going. So how do I explain this to a nine year old? Somehow God gave me the words to say. The more I told, the more excitement and confidence I gained. I dropped her off at her grandma’s and headed to my counselor’s office. On my drive there God told me to tell my counselor. After telling my counselor, I left his office and began my way back home.

I can not remember how, but before I knew it I was telling my mom over the phone. My story was becoming real the more I told it. The next thing I remember was being at a client’s office and God telling me to tell my client. God began to use my story to speak to other people. He was saying things to people I do not remember saying. Weird, I know.

During my time with my client, she asked me to stop so she could write something down. I was baffled that God would say something to others through my story. It was clear by now that I had to continue telling my story. I remember distinctly having a conversation with God before telling my client. I say conversation, but I was largely debating with God as to why I should tell my client.

I was silly to try and debate with God, but I was being real. In this conversation/debate God revealed two things to me. One, God did not write my story so I could keep it to myself. Two, I needed to tell my story as much as other people needed to hear it. Telling it was essential to my healing.

So I had told most of the people who needed to hear it, but I shied away from telling my wife Kristi. Of anyone who needed to hear it, She did, but I was afraid. What if it did not last? How hard it would be for her to hear this and then see me backslide towards a Sprit of Fear. The time had come to tell her and I could not hide from it anymore.

Of anyone who needed this story besides myself, Kristi was on the top of my list. She had seen me at my worst and knew my anxiety might not go away. She had taken care of me when I could not take care of myself. I feel she was as hesitant to believe in this miracle as I was. Mainly because it would change everything about our lives going forward.

A Bizarre Confidence

God, I remember when you did the impossible. I was taking a basic programming class in a long line of classes working towards finishing a degree I had started years before. I knew the concepts in this class, I just was not familiar with this specific language. I was dreading going through a class as basic as this as my knowledge was more adept than this class would lead you to believe. I would not say that the class was beneath me, but I was not thrilled about having to spend my time going through it. At the same time, it was a programming class which was the focus of my degree. So I was somewhat happy to be taking a core class which would lead me to towards completing my degree. It was here, in the basic, in the mundane, where God chose to do the impossible. Finishing this whole degree was something I felt God led me to do. I was still experiencing chronic anxiety on a regular basis. My anxiety level had quickly increased while taking classes. I believe my wife Kristi was irritated with me and my insistence on finishing this degree. I was stuck trying to defend my decision while trying to gain confidence in my field of programming. I was stuck on an assignment which was taking far too long for what it was worth.

It was here in the middle of my frustration where God showed up. This assignment tripped me up and I was exhausted from trying to solve it. It was a defining moment where God said, “Craig what is the simplest, most unelegant way you could solve this problem?” In less than thirty minutes, I solved the problem I had just spent four hours trying to figure out. I was blown away!

So I approached my next problem. Within thirty minutes I had solved this one. I continued with my next one and yet again I completed it. I began to feel this bizarre confidence, not in myself, but that God had created me for this. I felt confident that with God’s help, I could solve any programming problem that was put in front of me. I did not know all of this language, but I had no doubt I could face any challenge with God’s help.

Over the next twenty-four hours I experienced something I will never forget. I awoke the next morning still bearing this bizarre confidence I had discovered the day before. There was this freedom, I was significantly lighter than before. Anxiety which had held me captive just the day before was GONE! I went through the day in disbelief. This couldn’t be right?!? I had prayed for God to help me with my anxiety before, but this time it was completely gone.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It was at this time I remembere a verse in the Bible which says that God prays on our behalf even when we do not know what to pray. Another twenty-four hours went by and I still felt this way. Could this be my new normal?

Accepting My Condition

In a previous article, I wrote about the choices I had when faced with chronic anxiety. One of the topics I touched on during this series was the idea of “Accepting My Condition.” Many times friends or family members will encourage you to “accept your condition” as a piece of advice. While I mentioned that people do not understand what they are asking when they propose this piece of advice, I failed to consider what it might have meant. My advice from Make It All Go Away was not completely off-base, but it did not consider all of the other possible implications. To be fair, my interpretation of their advice was not completely based on truth. When you are living in the midst of fear much of what you are believing is based on lies. My interpretation was focused on statements like, “you are not like you used to be”, “you are less than you once were,” or “you’ll never be what you could have been.” It was focused on telling me what I am not.

Now, accepting my condition might reveal some new challenges, but I doubt that it is all about telling me what I am not. Asking the right questions will reveal possible wisdom. Accepting my condition might mean that I realize my new-found limitations and make adjustments. Accepting who I am now is merely embracing a better understanding of who God created me to be. It is not believing that I lost something, but that I have gained understanding of who I am.

So what can come of this newfound understanding? A discovery of the environmental conditions which I can best thrive in. While it is true that finding work which meets these criteria is much more difficult than before, it means I now know what is needed for me to thrive. It means I now know what I am looking for in a career opportunity.

It is not saying everything I can not do, it is saying what conditions are needed for me to do my best. It is like discovering the recipe or formula needed for fulfilling work for Craig. Some might venture to say this new found understanding is clarity. Clarity is something people pray for, long for, and seek. I have not been given a list of limitations, I have been given a gift!

Make It All Go Away - Part 2

Many might ask me why I did not or do not just pray for God to “Make It All Go Away.” This is an completely valid question as it touches on many things besides the fact that if this prayer was answered, the fear/anxiety would all be gone. On the surface this makes complete sense. When one starts digging, there are other factors to consider besides what seems so obvious. There are two things to keep in mind with this prayer, the faith required to pray this and the potential costs of praying this prayer. When examining the faith required to pray this kind of prayer I would consider two things. The amount required means the believer actually believes God can or will do this. Quite simply, one believes God is capable of answering the prayer. The second part when examining the faith required is one is willing to voice this concern and submit this to God regardless of the outcome. No matter what the outcome, the faith of the believer is strong enough to handle God’s answer.

My personal struggle was not whether God was or is able to answer the prayer. I completely believe God is able to do abundantly more than I can ask, think, or imagine. My struggle lies within the second part of this idea. If God says No, was my faith in a place to handle His answer. At the time of this event, I was not at a place where my faith could handle His answer. My concern was that His answer would cause a crisis of belief when it comes to my faith.

The second thing to think about is the potential costs of praying this prayer. One might say, Praying is free, what cost? I would look beyond financial costs. What happens if God says No? Is the faith of the believer strong enough to handle this answer? If one values something they tend to protect it. The level of protection varies depending on the amount they value the item. In my case, my faith, was as important as the air I breath. This was all I had at the time. I could not handle a crisis of belief. Not at that time.

So why did I not pray this prayer? Quite simply... FEAR. Was this fear rational, no. But the potential cost was not something I would dare take a chance on. When fear grips you as much as it had a hold on me, you begin to accept ideas(sometimes called agreements) that develop as the line between the truth and lies gets blurry. The further inside your head you go, the harder it is to find your way out. We’ll discuss finding your way out in greater detail later.

From this, I learned to ask one question, what lies am I believing which set themselve up against the Word of God?

Make It All Go Away - Part 1

There are a few things you come to realize when you wake up knowing chronic anxiety is part of your everyday life. You soon realize that you will never be like “them” again. By them I mean people who seem “normal” who have never had it out with anxiety or fear. You will always have an intimate knowledge of what it means to live in fear. Fear means something different to you than it does to “them.” It is at this point you have a few choices to make. You can pray God will “Make It All Go Away,” You can dig into the fight against fear, or You can give in to living a life of fear. None of these choices seem like good ones. If you were to ask me which one I would choose A) Pray to God He will Make it all go away B) Dig into the fight against fear C) Give in to fear D) None of the above. I would choose D) None of the above. I believe I have thought “Make it all go away,” but this was never really a choice for me. When originally faced with the choice my faith was not in a place where I could pray this kind of prayer.

People, doctors, friends, family members will most likely be at a loss when it comes to giving you advice in this area. Unless they have personally had it out with fear or anxiety, they will be unable to understand the battle. Most likely you will be able to tell if they “get it” or not. As much as they want to help you, they will disappoint you. Perhaps the best thing they can do is with love, compassionately admit they do not understand.

If you are anything like me, you are left with choice B) Dig into the fight against fear or choice C) Give in to fear. Here is where I would choose choice D) None of the above. Many will encourage you to just accept your condition (the fear is a permanent part of your life.) They do this with a great heart, but they do not truly understand what they are asking you to do. They do not understand that for you, fear does not stand still. It only gets worse or gets better. There is no in between when it comes to fear.

So, here we are...I am not about to just “give in” or “accept my condition.” This leaves me with the choice to B) Dig into the fight against fear. What does it really mean to fight against the fear? I believe the song No Longer Slaves by I AM THEY says it best.

The Danger in What You Cannot See

In my last post, I mentioned the danger often being in things we cannot see. There is a certain level of risk in everything we do. Avoiding risk should never be our primary goal. Learning to take calculated risks and make wise choices is what life is all about. Without risk there is no reward. There are proper ways of making decisions which involve evaluating the risk involved, identifying viable alternatives to achieving the goal, and surrounding yourself with people who can speak into your life. In the process making my decision to attend university for Mobile Development, I failed to do all three of the items mentioned above. I allowed my blind ambition to justify spending an exorbitant amount of money to attend an unproven program at an online university. There is a time and a place to discuss the high costs of traditional education, but I will table this topic for another post.

What I do want to address is allowing my blind ambition to throw caution to the wind and enroll in a very costly educational institution. I did all of this without looking for viable alternatives first. Keep in mind that other educational options such as Treehouse with their TechDegree were not as widespread. My first mistake was I failed to weigh the risks involved in my online education. I did not ask the right questions. I saw an avenue to pursue my dream and I jumped on it.

I also do not want to paint the picture that this particular university program is not good for anyone. I realize it has its place and will benefit certain people better than others. I already had a traditional university education and I chose this one regardless. What I realize now is that a program such as Treehouse would have been a better fit for me personally.

I started using Treehouse after I had been in school for a year and a half. It got me through many of the courses at university which were in their infancy. These courses lacked the basic instruction which Treehouse provided.

In the end, I left university because it failed to accomplish my goals at becoming a Mobile Developer. So here I was with a base level knowledge with no portfolio to show for my work. I had some of the skills I needed to make mobile applications, but couldn’t tell you where to start. I had accrued most of the cost of the program which at the time which was about $60,000.

I was able to land a few jobs as a developer, but it had nothing to do with my investment in the university program. I now had a pile of student loan debt which I had little means to pay for. One of my positions I convinced my employer to make an app for iOS. I submitted it to the App Store and it was approved. My first app was published!

Putting it All On the Line

When making life altering decisions, the danger is often not in what you can see, it’s what you can not foresee. I so desperately wanted to make apps, I believe I was blind to any and all danger just up ahead. I thank God for protecting me and my family while I chased after a dream. My dream is still very much alive, but the challenges I can see now in looking back could have done much more damage. Apple had this great encentive program for employees which helped them pay for school and Full Sail Online (FSO) was one of their approved schools. This was one of the pillars I built my decision on when going back to school. I could work full-time at Apple while attending university online. My employee discount was a big help in paying for my computer used for school. All of my ducks were lining up perfectly, or so I thought.

I already had a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Business Management. Many of my courses from the University of Central Oklahoma transferred to FSO which helped me to jump ahead into the program. I had quite a bit of experience when it came to web development so this also helped me to skip through some of the web development basics. The other basic courses were pretty solid since they had been taught for many years at FSO. Early on, I had no doubts about the quality of my education which served to distract me when I should have been paying closer attention.

I was so entrenched into the idea of building apps, and I was getting so close to actually learning about it. The grueling schedule of an accelerated bachelors degree started to sink in. I was going to school full-time, working at Apple full-time and doing my best to be both a dad and a husband with my leftovers. My excitement and ambition had carried me this far, but I did not see many of the hurdles in front of me.

It was merely months into this new adventure and other Mobile Development students were dropping like flies. This would have been the time to stop, take note, and ask questions to faculty, but I had way too much on my plate. This and I chalked it up to their lack of programming experience. I also hated conflict and this seemed to be pretty confrontational, which I avoid as much as possible.

The more I got into the program, the more the program required from me. I countered this demand with more effort. This was not the first time my I would use my work ethic to try and solve a problem. I was a night owl so I figured I would stay up an hour extra each night. This and I would take less breaks from studying. I know what you are thinking, just bear with me.

My grades were holding very well and I was convinced my extra work was paying off. My relationships with my daughter, my wife Kristi, and God all suffered during this time. I did not want to admit it, but they were getting the short end of the stick. I justified it by saying this was for a short period of time and it would be over. This came up a few times in discussions and my solution was to quit working to focus on school. So I did. I’ll revisit this later.

Thinking my relationships were more important than my job at Apple, I had good reason to move forward. Or was I asking enough questions? Things were moving very fast and I was making tough decisions for the good of my family. I knew leaving Apple would never be fun, I just did not know it would like this.

The App Store

After roughly three years of working at Apple, I could tell this would not last forever. The grind of retail and the numerous product launches had started to take its toll. My position as Conceierge at Apple no longer existed and I had explored several other positions within the store. One of these included being a team mentor which I thoroughly loved. Another was teaching about Apple products as well as repairing iPhones, iPads, and iPods. The App Store had launched and I became enthralled in the world of apps. Working in an Apple retail store one typically becomes known for something, some specialty. I soon became known for two things. One was for helping individuals with accessibility challenges. I began having people come into the store asking for me by name. My managers were gracious enough to allow me to spend loads of time investing in this community. It was an utter joy to see the look on the faces of customers who never knew such things were possible.

It was as if I had given these individuals a new hope where they believed none existed. I was blessed to connect with so many individuals on such an increadible level. These individuals yearned to interact with others in ways people without accessibility challenges can not appreaciate.

Another thing I became known for at Apple was for my knowledge of apps in the App Store. The week of July 10, 2008 was one of the most exciting weeks I can remember while working at Apple. I was hooked on apps and I could hardly keep up with what apps had been released in the App Store. Not only that, but my church, Life.Church, had released YouVersion, the Bible app, as one of the first apps in the App Store.

The Bible was now available to download for free on my iPhone. At the time, I knew this was big, but I had no idea how big it would prove to be. As I began this journey into apps, I began to see a new path for my life. I desperately wanted in on this world Apple called the App Store, but how? What do I do to get started? Could I one day work at YouVersion?

This year would prove to be a turning point of sorts for my life. I knew the field where I wanted to work, now I just needed to gain some experience. Since I worked at Apple, I was not allowed to publish any apps in the App Store. So I knew this would involve leaving Apple or working directly for Apple making apps.

In 2011, I began pursuing my dream of building apps by attending Full Sail University Online. I started as one of the few(there were approximately 16 of us) new Mobile Development Bachelor of Science students. The program was completely new to the university and one of the few in the United States at the time. I knew the road ahead would be tough, but it is what I did not know which would proven to derail my career in Mobile Development.

My Apple Family

So, praying helped to ease my rocking, praise Jesus! But now what do I do?! How do I get back on my feet? What does it look like when I get there? Prior to this point it took all of me to make it through the day. I was not used to thinking about anything else. The highlight of my week was making it to church each Saturday. It still is, but that was all I had at the time. My wife Kristi and my Mom were taking care of me, making sure I took my meds, and trying their best to understand. I was making it out of the house, taking walks around the block, but what else should or could I do at this point? What hope did I have of leading a "normal" life? Do people recover from OCD and anxiety? I had many questions and different people had different answers to my questions. Some people would not answer my questions, no matter how subtle they were. Some were quick to tell me that I needed to accept my condition and adjust accordingly.

Adjust accordingly...I tried my best to figure out what this meant for me personally. I tried my hand in Real Estate, thinking I could set my own schedule and make a decent living. It was something I really thought I would enjoy and I did, but 2007-2008 was not the time to try to break into life as a realtor. It was one of the worst financial markets of our time. After one year of being a realtor, I broke even financially and decided to look elsewhere for a career, but where?

I was often reading job postings hoping to find something when one day I stumbled onto an ad to work for Apple retail stores. On a whim, I applied online and soon forgot about it. This wouldn't be my first time to apply online and never hear a word back from a company. It was late in the year when I received a call from Apple about a position I had applied for months ago. I was eager for anything, so I went on 3-4 interviews before landing a position with Apple. I was new to Apple products, only having a MacBook Pro for six months prior to working there.

My training class was delayed several times which got me excited and left me hanging. Would this actually happen? It was around the first of a new year when my training class finally started. We began training in the basement of the mall where the Apple store was located. I never knew this mall even had a basement. The trainers where oddly excited about Apple culture and what it meant to work for Apple retail. I spent a couple of weeks in training which oddly enough did not involve being in the retail store. What type of retail job was this?! I was no stranger to working retail. What company in their right mind invests this much in their employees?

My time at Apple was more than merely a job. It allowed me to briefly forget about the whole concept of a job. I had the amazing privilege of helping people each and every day. It was a job in the sense that I had an obligation to show up when I was scheduled to work. I got paid...check! I received a lunch break each day which I would spend escaping a bit from the busyness of the store. The escape was different at Apple though, it was merely time to rest, eat, etc. It was not time spent avoiding the work I was doing or needed to be doing. My breaks were highly valued, but my work was not detestable either. I enjoyed it plain and simple.

In my time working at Apple I do not recall a single time having issues with my anxiety. I remember hustling to get to work, ready to leave at the end of the day, but nothing which I was unable to handle. I believe this as a time when God smiled down at me. It was not perfect by any means. I had frustrations with my job and with other people, but for a brief time I did not need to look or think of looking for work. The pay was not fantastic, but it was not the lowest in my lifetime either. My benefits were solid, rock solid.

I loved my time at Apple. I knew it would not last forever, but my feet seemed to be on solid ground for once.

Not the God I Know

Looking back at my sessions with the Psychologist, I wondered about the God we discussed. We talked about God, but it was not the God I know. There was never any mention of reaching out for help. I was never encouraged to dig into the Word of God even though the pyschologist new I was a Christian and was a Christian. No mention of relating to God was ever brought up unless it was something I said in telling about what was going on in my life. Let us go back to the time I was rocking restlessly in my bed. There was this ever-present need to rock back and forth. I needed to rock like I needed oxygen. When nothing seemed to stop the rocking, I started to pray. It begin with the little things, "God help me sleep." Not being able to be in a state of rest is torture. The only time I was not rocking or anxious was when I was sleeping. This made me want to sleep all of the time.

My level of fear was at an all time high. I found it difficult to go outside. Even going into the front yard was too much. This made things difficult as I was typically the person in our house who mowed the lawn. My doctor suggested I try to take a walk around the block in one of our sessions. So this became a goal of mine.

Since I spent a great deal of my time in bed, I found myself praying more and more. What began as, “God help me sleep!” or “God help!” soon became “God, I love you. Tell me what you are thinking today.” My prayers with God became more like conversations and less about me. Now, I know you might be thinking, “Craig, I am not much of a prayer.” Then you are exactly like I was!

So what changed? Well, when you are stuck in bed not able to sit still, not able to find rest, days seem like weeks. To put it simply, I was forced to pray. Not in a manipulative or mean spirited way, but because I needed prayer to live. This dialogue with God was as important as air, food, or water. I soon found myself praying my way through the day, minute by minute, hour by hour.

Stop and think about what this is like. If it helps you, take thirty minutes or an hour and go pray. If you have ever tried this you know, you run out of things to pray for quickly. Now think about praying minute by minute and then hour by hour. What happens when you run out of things to say?

What I found as I turned to God in prayer, was that God was the only one who could bring me peace. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in prayer.

The Gold Standard

The day I left the day clinic I can distinctly remember not being able to calm myself down inside. My world was spinning out of control and there was little anyone, doctor or otherwise, could do about it. I remember countless trips made to psychologists which proved unfruitful and very expensive. I felt more like a subject being studied than someone being helped. God was mentioned in these discussions, but it was not the God I know. Self-regulation techniques were taught, but without any context as to why or when or how to use them. I remember waking each morning in my bed hoping and praying this was all some sort of bad dream. I would violently rock back and forth in my bed unable to stop this rocking feeling on the inside or on the outside. At this point nothing really helped to stop the rocking. I tried the breathing exercises, but these seemed only to frustrate me with little results. I tried going outside, but this only added to my fear.

My fear had taken over even the depths of my psyche. I had lost hope that the doctor was going to be able to do anything for me. Each day I would crawl out of bed only to watch Kristi leave for the day. Separation anxiety would dominate my mind as she was getting ready for work. My OCD was at an all time high and I would check everything you can imagine. These new habits I spoke of begin to pile up and we were ready to seek out new help.

Someone, I’m not sure exactly who, recommended I go see another psychiatrist about my meds. I remember traveling across town with Kristi to see this new doctor. Our first visit with the Doctor and my symptoms seemed to terrify her. Not because she did not know what to do, but come to find out it was because of my new habits. At this point I was very robotic in many ways. I walked stiff, rigid, and less like a human than I can ever remember. After telling my story, the Doctor gave us the lowdown on my current state.

Our first course of action was to get me off of the crazy meds I was put on by my previous doctor. This would take time, but at a certain point I would be able to start some different meds which were considered the “Gold Standard” when treating OCD, anxiety, and depression. I remember hearing this phrase thinking, why did the last guy not know about this “Gold Standard?” The Doctor gave me a sense of hope which was something we both desperately needed.

There were many visits back and forth to the doctor, but this time the weird side effects seemed to decrease for the first time. Slowly, the rigid movement I had become so accustomed to started to subside. Finally!...something seemed to go right. I was not out of the woods yet, but even the smallest glimmer of hope was just the miracle we needed.

Internal Dialogue

It was after lunch. I had made my way back to a private part of the office close to my desk. A part of me was convinced that if I could just make it through the end of the day, things would be fine. It was after noon and I was trying to power my way through the rest of the day. As I was starting to build up some momentum, a strange feeling started creeping in. Could I push my way through? Could I move forward? A distant thought or feeling started to peek ever-closer in at me. I do not remember calling out to God, but I know He was there. It is funny how you know someone is there, but you cannot remember details of how or when they came in. I do know God was there with me through it all, I was just to deep inside my own head to see Him.

A part of me was basking in the hopelessness of my job search. I had finally found a good company to work for, good people to work with and at a good rate of pay. So much of the job was great, why couldn’t I just put up with the work? I now wonder if I could have somehow negotiate different job terms. I did not want to give up on it all, but the thought of going in to work was eating at my soul.

I had desperately been longing for someone to say yes. I needed someone to recognize my value and hire me. Countless times I remember being beat down by job advertisements which seemed so promising. I would prepare my application, ready my resume, apply and not even hear a word back from the company. I would attempt to make contact with the company only to find out they would not answer questions in relation to posted positions. How weird? Certainly someone knew something, but no one seemed to have the answers to my questions. The job posting would soon disappear. I remembered going in to company after company, job after potential job, applying for positions, interviewing, hearing nothing in return. It was as though the people who posted these jobs, did not exist. It was a very bizarre dynamic.

This feeling...blurry at first, slowly started to become clearer. Strange, I do not remember thinking it out loud at lunch, but I had definitely felt it before. As I tried to fight it off, the thought came back to me...I COULD NOT DO THIS ANYMORE! I could not, but I needed to...I had to. This overwhelming sense of obligation burdened me like never before. Part of me said, hold got this. Part of me said, WHAT?!?...are you kidding me? And then somewhere in between I snapped! All I remember from this point is talking to my boss. I do not remember exactly how I made it to her office or any of the details. I remember breaking down in her office...I lost it.

I am not sure how much time passed, but that did not matter at this point. My manager called my wife Kristi and tried to explain what had happened. I remember being present, but feeling completely awkward. My manager was incredibly kind. She was only concerned with my well-being. Surprisingly, I remember nothing in the conversation about what we would do about work.

I remember being in a doctor's office explaining to the doctor what had happened and how I felt. The doctor was struggling to speak clear English, which should have been a sign. At this point, I was too far off the tracks to question others. I just needed help! I went home and returned to the doctor many times. Each time I left feeling as though the doctor did not understand my struggle. Each time I had a new set of side effects. It was not getting any better. I am not sure how long had passed.

At some point, Kristi had been speaking with my boss and my boss had suggested me going to a specific day clinic. I would not be staying overnight, it was just during the day. I went there to fill out paperwork and to see what it was like. Things were not getting better and I was desperate for something to work, so I said I would try it. At this point I did not feel safe driving so I remember my mom taking me.

I remember being a part of group there where we would share something which was going on in our lives. Everyone seemed to have a different condition and it all seemed very overwhelming to me. Hearing the problems of others only seemed to compound my anxiety. At this point the fear was eating me alive. I remember heart was pounding. Fear overtook my ability to reason. Somewhere I began doing all sorts of weird things to cope with anxiety. Making weird sounds with my mouth was one way I coped with the anxiety. I had a new set of habits. Habits I was not fond of.

A Tricky Situation

So it was about this time where things at work started to get weird. I was now fully engulfed in the training department. My local manager was no longer my boss and we were now part of a large corporation. Our fearless CEO was now part of managing what was his own company. Corporate America seemed to be unsettling for him. He did not seem to fit in all that well. His employees were still employed, but as a founder of a startup, his hands were largely tied.I received an email from one of my former managers who worked out of the Oklahoma City office. He was warning me of things He had heard being in management. The day was a complete blur, but at the end of it, I found myself without a job. The company was quickly running out of money and was laying off departments which were nonessential to business. Since I was now part of training, I was considered one of the nonessential employees. This is the point where my newly found position made me more vulnerable. I'll save you the unemployment stories for now, but I found myself at a bit of a loss. I was unemployed and unable to find work. Jobs as a web developer were few and far between in Oklahoma City so I was left wondering what to do with my career. Here I was left to figure out how to provide for my family. I was still somewhat new to the idea of being one of the two providers in our family. Kristi, my wife, had been employed full-time for just a short while. Short enough where it barely registered in my memory. I found out I would receive something called unemployment benefits, but how long would that last?

After reviewing my options, I decided to work towards completing my bachelor's degree as I was looking for work. This would help to occupy my time as I was applying at various positions hoping to get a call or email back. I would call into the unemployment office each week reporting on my job search. Eventually, the unemployment office thought I needed a bit of help, so I was required to participate in an all day seminar at the local unemployment office.

My search for employment lead me to feeling more depressed and hopeless about my future. I was completing my college courses, but it did not seem to move fast enough. I began an internship as a part of my coursework which lead me to work at an employment agency named Kelly Services. It was during my time there, I learned that my business degree was way too general to lead anywhere on its own. It certainly would not lead me to a job, so I was feeling a bit more hopeless.

My internship was almost up and I was headed toward graduation. I was still unemployed and lacking hope when the internship ended. I got a call from Kelly Services about an opportunity at a Sprint call center in the HR department. I would be screening employees for call center positions. Excited for any type of work, I took it! It was one of the most sterile, corporate jobs I can remember. It was close to a year when my temp position was almost up and I awaited a permanent offer from Sprint. I was beginning to feel like part of the team when my assignment at Sprint ended. They were not going to offer anything permanent. My job was being outsourced.

It was not long after being let go when Kelly Services called me wanting me to come back into their office. They thought they could get to know me and help me find a position. After the usual employment tests, they didn't have any opportunities for me. I found out I was close to being eligible for unemployment when they called me offering me a temporary position in their office. I worked there as a temp for a while hiring for an AT&T call center. I was getting pretty good at hiring, but I was being lead on about possible permanent employment with Kelly. Lots of empty promises from my boss lead me to give my notice. It was time to move on.

So with the support of my wife, Kristi, I left in search for something better. It felt good to stand up for myself. I was severely frustrated at looking for work. I was not interested in hanging on with little hope for future permanent employment. It took a big leap of faith to leave without any opportunities in mind, but I made it. I received a few calls over the next several months from Kelly about possible opportunities. I received one which I thought would be beneficial. I went on an interview and was offered the position. I would be interviewing candidates for warehouse work. This along with some other Human Resources work, but it looked hopeful. My time in Human Resources at AWG proved to be a pretty good fit. My boss was wonderful and the people were nice. Finally, I found solid work! Everything was great except the actual work. I found myself doing very little interviews and a lot of repetitive data entry. Slowly I found it more and more difficult to go into work. Everything was right there in front of me, I should have seen the signs. But I did not. I found myself counting minutes. In the morning I would count how long until lunch. After lunch, I would count the hours until it was time to leave. The days I was not able to go out to lunch with others, I would stay at the office and try to escape somehow. It became more and more challenging to go into work. I would sit in front of the office in my car in the morning. One morning my boss called sounding concerned. I explained my feelings to her and kept going. One day I was supposed to go to lunch with someone when it happened. My lunch plans fell through and I found myself without an escape. I went to an Arby's across the street and tried to escape some more. Instead of escaping, I found it incredibly hard to eat my sandwich. I remember reaching out to someone for help, but I was unable to eat. I drug my feet in getting back to the office. I went directly into a private office to work and closed the door.

Learning to Tell My Story

About a week ago a good friend told me I need to tell me story. So I set out to try to put it down on paper. One thing I am learning in the process of telling my story is that all stories need some sort of context. Context involves little bits of information which help readers/listeners better understand the perspective of the storyteller. The context helps shape the meaning of what a storyteller is saying. To begin my story, there are a few things you should know about me. If you knew me aside from my writing here, you would know that I am an "Apple Guy." Anything that Apple releases, I have it on my wish list. I follow Apple in the news, I research their products, I watch their press releases. Heck, I even spent 3.5 years working in one of the Apple retail stores.

After Apple retail, I started a consulting business to teach people how to get more out of Apple products. Along the way I spent two years of nonstop studying to learn how to develop apps for Apple devices. I devoted time and significant student loan debt to pursue my dream of developing apps for iOS. So when I say I am an “Apple Guy,” you will now know what I mean.

Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of Life.Church, has been my mentor for close to twenty years. I have been listening to his teaching, reading his books, and listening to his podcasts. I was first introduced to him at a Bible study for college students at a local Baptist church. This was before Craig Groeschel and Life.Church were household names in the church world.

At this time, Craig was just a young pastor who spoke the Word of God in a way I had never heard before. He was not famous, He was someone who presented following Christ in a way which was real, and applicable to my life. His stories and jokes pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in the church world at the time. This was probably one of the things which drew me to his preaching. He was real, his teaching was honest, and his jokes were icing on the cake. Needless to say, I have never been bored at church since.

Now some cultural context. If we fast forward to 2007-2008, Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone and the World would never be the same again. Life.Church is Life Covenant Church a.k.a., a locally-known church at the time. The church was experiencing some success, but nowhere near where it is today. Me and my wife, Kristi, had finally found a church which we both agreed on. We had been married for about 6-7 years attending for about 5-6 years and were somewhat acclimated to married life.

Starting out in our marriage, I was working full-time for a local startup as a web developer. Keep in mind that the term web developer did not exist at the time and this was about 2001. Everything we worked on was breaking new ground. I started working for this company which was pretty small. Maybe ten employees max at the time. It was what I refer to as my first, "real job." I had started out as part-time, but when the opportunity to go full-time presented itself, I jumped on it.

In my mind, I was getting paid good money to play, I mean work on a computer. It was just after nine-eleven and the financial markets were, pretty bad. As a small startup, we had tried and succeeded at going public, it was just a tough time to be a startup. We were out of money and needed funding to grow the business. Looking back, I believe it was more dire circumstances than what it appeared. It wasn't long before the company announced we had been purchased by a company in Sunnyvale California.

So here I was, struggling to figure out who I was and enduring the challenges of a startup. The opportunity arose to expand our production capabilities to New York and London. I was approached with the task of training and certifying two other groups of developers on developing our product, The Webcast. This sounded exciting, so I took on the role and became part of the training department in California. Little did I know, this change would later make me vulnerable. So the market was rough and we now found ourself being bought by one of our customers, Williams.

It was strange, but we moved forward nonetheless. The process was more involved than I let on, but I will save you the details. I was working full-time, my wife, Kristi was about to start full-time as a nurse after finishing nursing school. I was about a year away from finishing my bachelor's degree in Business Management. I had taken a semester off to adjust to working full-time. All-in-all things were going well.