Portfolio of Work
Past. Present. Future.
The Black Sword
Are you happy? Wait. Let me ask you again. No one is here but you and I. Are you happy? Is there something about you that you want to change. What regret plays on repeat in your mind? Do you have a dream? What is it? Dreams don’t have to be lofty-turn-the-world-inside-out dreams to be worthy of being called a dream. A simple change of behavior. A change of habit. An extra step in the direction of your goals. The courage to say YES, or the courage to say NO. What is it that you want to achieve in your life? Now what are you doing to make that dream come true?
Inspiration is a fickle thing. It can happen at the time when you are least expecting or even prepared to respond. It can appear at your lowest of lows and your highest of highs, or for no apparent reason at all. When it comes, will you have the courage to take that first, and honestly, the hardest step? I hope you will.
As you read about my story, and my journey, you’re going to see how time after time I made choices that were not the right ones. I made life choices that sent me down dark and dangerous pathways. Choices that very well could have ended my life, and on more than one occasion. But on one particular day, somehow, I decided I’d had enough and made the decision to change my life. I’d had enough of the lifestyle I was, what I assumed, stuck in, and took that terrifying step to say no more. I remember that day. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I’d been in and out of jail, stuck in an abusive, loveless, and toxic marriage, I was an alcoholic, and so morbidly obese that it’s amazing my heart hadn’t already given out. And as fate would have it, the very next week I ended up in the hospital. My “why” was my son. I knew if I didn’t change my ways - all of them - that I would leave my son to grow up without a positive male role model in his life. And that broke my heart.
So, in the trashed apartment, sitting in my well-worn recliner with the beer fridge conveniently placed within reach, and surrounded by the remains of ice cream bowls and empty snack packages, I drew a line in the sand. Well, maybe the line was in the bowl of ice cream resting on my table-top belly. Regardless, as I looked around at what my life, and my son’s environment had become, I made the decision to change right there in that very moment. The decision was easy, and I knew it was the right one. What I didn’t realize in that moment was just how difficult the path to become healthy would be. Yes, I went on to lose over 140 pounds, but healthy for me meant more than just my physical appearance. Healthy for me meant, and still means, my entire life was to become free from toxins. Toxins in my relationships, my behaviors, and my lifestyle had to be removed so that grace and personal growth could win over.
I’ll tell you now that everything I’m going to share with you is the God’s honest truth. I struggled, and still struggle today. But through courage, the support of my wife, my friends, clients, and my continued dedication to my goals have allowed me to be here today. It’s my mission, and my purpose to walk this journey with you. One day at a time, and one step at a time, I promise that if you set goals and stay on track, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Amie left Ben’s shortly after she watched Eddie walk through the café and out the front door. Holding back the big tears welling up inside of her, she managed to make it to her car before they really began to flow. Sitting there, she prayed that she had done the right thing before heading to the church for her next counseling session. If she ever needed to talk to Celia and Pastor Michael, it was today.
Her counseling sessions continued for several months, with both Celia and Pastor Michael present. While she appreciated all those earlier conversations with Celia, it was helpful to have full biblical perspective with Pastor Michael there. Each week they covered a different part of her tattered past and how she can move forward.
In time, Amie came to the realization that through her entire life she has been living for the acceptance of others. Whether the boys she wanted to like her, or her friends at school, she always seemed to do something to attract their attention, ultimately wanting their acceptance; perhaps even their approval. This pattern of behavior, whilst she did not realize she was doing it, was slowly destroying her spirit and her vision of her own self-worth.
If the counseling sessions have taught her anything, it’s that she’s a strong and independent woman, that needs Jesus in her life. In each meeting she took notes about their conversations and her revelations. Tonight, she chose to take some time to herself and read through all the notes. It was her expectation that it would be hard to relive each meeting, but that wasn’t the case at all. She felt empowered, but equally at peace. A kind of inner peace that she had never felt. She liked this feeling.
With the closed journal on top of her Bible on her nightstand, Amie turned in for the night. For the first time, in a very long time, she fell asleep without a worry on her mind. She wasn’t scared of noises outside her window. She wasn’t scared that people would find out about her not-so-secret past. Now, for once, she looked forward to her future as she drifted into her dream.
A young child, probably close to 8 years old, stood motionless. The reins to her pony in her hand. Expressionless at crossroads of two dirt country roads. What would be a typically common site in rural communities was anything but ordinary. The sun beat down upon the desolate road. No farms in sight, in any direction. No dust hanging in the air from a tractor tending their fields. Just this young child wearing a shapeless taupe dress that hung below her knees, and her pony.
Amie approached slowly. Walking down the dirt road towards the girl. Hesitant about who and what was standing in the road, but there was something else. A feeling of heaviness overcame her as she approached the young girl. A feeling of uneasiness, of the thickness of air, the tightness in her chest and the instant pounding of her heart. There was something not right about all of this, but in some way something very familiar.
As she made her way to the young girl, her heart began to beat stronger. With fear in her heart, she stepped in front of the girl. The girl’s hood still concealing her face. Amie reached to it with both hands, and as she touched the hood a peace like none she had ever experienced came over her. Remembering this encounter from a dream long ago, there was no longer any similarity to that dream, nor the heaviness of that previous encounter. The face revealed bore no resemblance to the other. There was no uneasiness or thickness of the air.
A Journey to the Light
Life. This journey we’re on. Just as no two souls are alike, no two journeys are alike. Sure, some paths may be similar, but each one of us has traveled, and is traveling a different path. Unique to each of us, whether filled with heartache, pain, and darkness, wherever you are at in your life journey, I’m here to say don’t you dare lose hope. Through the love and grace of Jesus Christ your journey through life can ultimately lead to light, to fullness, and to redemption.
Now let me say right up front, if you think this is a “do this and everything will be all sunshine and roses” kind of book you couldn’t be further from the truth. Accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior will undoubtedly change your life. It will give you a peace, and a strength that can only come from Him, but the road - your journey - will still have challenges. The difference is that now facing addictions, dealing with hardships, handling disappointments and loss, and overcoming all of life’s challenges become possible.
I’m here to tell you that I’ve been in the darkness. The darkness has relentlessly sought me out. For the majority of my life, the darkness had such a grip on my life that I felt my only choice was to remove myself from this world. I’ve experienced abuse from those who should have been protecting me, and I’ve lived with the anxiety that those types of secrets cause. I’ve had to find my way with no earthly biological father to look up to and guide my path. I’ve seen angels and demons and felt the protection of God over my life. I’ve known the crippling effects that addition causes to the mind, the body, and those who removed themselves from my life because of my addiction.
My story is not your story, and I don’t want it to be. What I do want is for my story to serve as your inspiration. Inspiration that for whatever you have been through, for whatever you are going through, and for whatever you will go through, that you will know that you can make it. Let today be the first day in the rest of your life. I promise you, my brother, and my sister, that if you vow not to give up, that you can beat whatever is beating you down. It may not be easy. The devil won’t let his stronghold go without a fight. But, with the help of God our Father, you can do this - we can do this together. Will you promise me that? Don’t you dare give up.
Salt in the air.
Eagles Nest. I remember the name like it was my own. Not many places or memories from my childhood are pleasant ones, so when a great memory pops I don’t ever want to let it go. That’s where Eagles Nest comes in. Eagles Nest is the name of the time share residence I visited a couple times with my aunt and cousin. It was located on the Florida coast and holds a very special place in my heart.
I recall at least a couple trips there for our family vacation. I remember white sand, chasing girls, and body boarding along the coast. The smell of the salt air and that glistening white sand as a backdrop. We swam and chucked marshmallows at the manatees. I know what you’re thinking, but hey, we were teenage boys, what do you expect! Those times, just hanging with my family, escaping from real life were some of the best memories of my life.
Everyone needs memories like that, whether you live a blessed life or are struggling just to get by. As my boys are growing up, I hope to someday take them back to the coast so they can experience and create their own Eagles Nest memories. I pray for them daily and I put my faith and hope in God that my boys will never experience the deep darkness I have, but if someday they find themselves searching for a happy memory, I hope that I can do that for them.
I bet that my aunt and cousin never imagined the long-lasting impact that a simple beach vacation getaway would have on my life. I hope they realize that now.
Dirt in my cleats.
Playing little league is a past time for young boys and most dream of playing in the big leagues someday. While that wasn’t a long-range dream for me, I was blessed with a love and honest talent for the game. And as I’ve done in everything in my life, I don’t believe in giving any less than 100% in anything I do. That held true for baseball as well. From the moment I remember putting on the glove and learning to swing in little league to winning the state Legion game, baseball was an integral part in shaping the man I am today. But, while there were certainly fond memories and forever bond formed, it was a time where drugs and painkillers were already part of my daily routine.
I believe in full disclosure and transparency, so here’s how the story ends. I’m still standing. Period. What you will discover is that even with my personal relationship with Jesus Christ the battles and demons didn’t stop. Sure, they let up and the Holy Spirit keeps me safe, but that doesn’t mean my battle is over. Each day is a new day, and if yesterday was especially tough, I know when I wake up tomorrow it’s a brand-new day. A day where I get a brand-new start.
In all honesty my life has been tough, as you’ll discover. And through it all I thought I’d finally found joy in the love of my life. I found my soul mate. We fell deeply in love and were connected in our spirits and our passion for Jesus Christ. It had finally happened for me. For us. Our relationship was different. We’d waited our whole lives and looked forward to living out the rest of our lives together as one happy, blended family.
But then 2020 happened. A little virus took over the world. Political unrest crippled the US. Riots. Strained race relations. Job losses. I could go on and on, but as much as I’d like to say those events brought us closer, the opposite is true. I’ll go into more detail in that chapter, but as I promised, I wanted to be transparent. I am not living a life full of sunshine, roses, and butterflies, but I’m standing tall. Because of the grace, love, and forgiveness of my Heavenly Father I rise and face each day head on knowing that with His favor I can live to see another day.
Whatever you are facing. Whether your demons have been chasing you down for decades or just a day, keep reading. Whether your heart is breaking for a close friend or family member because of demons they are trying to manage, keep reading. Whether you just want to read about someone who faced the darkest of times only to use their triumph to help others, keep reading. Most of all, if you just need to know that you are not alone, please keep reading.
Know that I love you and want to see you live the best life possible. I’d love to connect with you and pray for you, and with you if you’d like. I know my story isn’t the most uplifting for large periods of time, but it is the story of a fighter…a child of the most high God…and a story of how the darkness will fail when shining the light becomes the focus.
I love you.
Christina and I worked on a Children’s story together. From the moment of our first conversation, I knew we were going to work perfectly together. Her creativity and commitment to my project were first rate and I can’t wait to work on the next books in the series! We also have a screenplay idea in the works as well. I highly recommend her, she’s simply the best.
I teach a group of students and I wanted to teach a screenwriting class but I was lost. Somehow, I found Christina and she did a perfect job. She stepped right in, figured out what we needed, and took over the class. The students not only loved her, but learned a lot about the craft of screenwriting. We are doing a table read this summer and hope to act it out. She was very knowledgeable and a natural teacher.
I highly recommend Christina Sussmann as an editor / ghostwriter. I had a memoir I wanted to publish, but I’m not a writer. Christina is a wonderful editor and fixed my stream-of-consciousness draft to “real writing,” with better word order, section order, segues into next subjects, and descriptive visionary wording. She worked with me however I preferred – she was open to discussions by Zoom or FaceTime. She is also open to whatever timetable you have in mind. Christina is experienced, talented, friendly, and thorough – and a great bargain.