Returning Thanks

I have been enjoying reading thankful posts from my friends during November. Each day I have thought of something for which I am grateful. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and our family has been busy participating and I have not slowed down enough to write down so many things for which I am thankful. So here goes…

Blessed with Much, Thankful for Much and Eternally Molded by Much.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for
The promise of eternity in heaven with my Lord and Savior;
our warm home;
food to eat;
clothing for my family;
my husband, my children and all the ways they generously love me;
my mother, my grandmother and the combination of the two that I have become;
my brother and my sister in law that love me in all the right moments;
my mother and father in law who love without ceasing, in word and in deed;
mercy and grace from God and those close to me;
friends that love me without judgement;
my Mother’s friends that love me as their own;
teachers that understand boys;
The Pines staff that loved my Emmer as their own;
Montreat, all that she was, is, will be and all those that come along with her;
the beach that teaches me to release my burdens with the tide;
driving by myself;
the ability to run and the ability to pay it forward;
the ability to understand the misunderstood;
the color purple and all who proudly wear it;
the power of fearless sharing;
kind words and smiles from strangers;
random acts of kindness;
patience from a sales clerk;
family traditions;
making new memories;
and a concussion that changed our lives forever.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, November 2013

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Walking on Two Again

For the last 25 years I have been a three legged woman. I have walked with my Grandmother and my Mom. I resemble them, in looks, in speech and in manner. All of it makes Johnny tremble, with a bit of fear and a lot of laughter. That is the way we do it. We laugh and we press on.

Thanksgiving is a week away. The Workman clan won’t be at the corner window table devouring delectable dishes from The Pines this Thanksgiving. We are plunging into muddy waters that are unknown and feel a bit frigid. This is uncomfortable. Crazy indeed, but I miss the anxiety created by Holidays. My Grandmother always pretended the Holidays made her more nervous than joyful, but I know the truth.  She loved each Holiday and awaiting the arrival (yes I was always late and Mom was always early) of our family and watching the boys devour an embarrassing amount of food from the buffet. She loved watching the choices my children made and she encouraged them to treat themselves to two desserts on Holidays. The grits were always their favorite; I think it was the heavy cream. She ate like a bird so she could take in every moment of those memorable meals.

For so many years Mom, Emmer and I were the three legged human. Sometimes I think we were more like a kangaroo where two feet did the work while one was carried in the pouch. We took turns being the Mother of us all. Though I will say my Grandfather coined the phrase “mother of us all” when referencing me in his genealogy some 30 years ago. Brilliant man!

There is no pouch anymore. There are two legs now and we have to walk.  Emmer taught us well. She trained us well.  I trust she delights in her own humor and spirit that Mom and I display. I am not walking alone. We demonstrate the sincerity, the determination and the (sometimes brutal) honesty that my Grandmother taught us both. This Thanksgiving I will walk on two legs, sometimes one of mine and one of Mom’s and sometimes just my own. Regardless they bare the weight of life lessons that make me the person I am today.

I miss her deeply. In the end, I am grateful, for Emmer, that she has finally found her resting place. I will forever treasure my years of loving her, laughing with her, crying with her and learning from her. Enjoy your Thanksgiving at home Emmer. We love you and we miss you. Above all, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, November 2013

Chance Encounter or God Encounter?

Coincidence? Bad luck? Good luck? Chance encounter? God encounter? Let me be clear on my opinion… it is all about God encounters.

I have been studying about encounters with God. Now, if we surveyed “Family Feud” style, and asked 100 people what a God encounter was, we would likely get at least 10 answers on the board, if not more. Through personal experience and through my own understanding of the Word, I believe luck and coincidence are actually encounters with God.

These are the most precious moments when He intervenes on our behalf. We may recognize it immediately, we may recognize it later, or we may not know it this side of Heaven. Regardless, for those that love Him, He will work all things for good. I learned this the hard way. Perhaps you will believe my own first hand accounts and not have to go through the painful process to see Him at work. Perhaps He needs you to go through the pain to see Him. Those circumstances and those questions I will probably never be able to answer. I just know that I have to put my trust in Him, that whatever will be is best, as long as I love and trust Him.

Several weeks ago I volunteered for the Book Fair at Hunter’s school. We sign up weeks before the Book Fair actually happens. I signed up for one of the time slots that covers Hunter’s time in the Book Fair. Well, of course HIS time is 8 AM. Suck it up my dear. I signed up for the 8-9:30 AM time. The week of the Book Fair, I got my reminder email about my time. Yeesh, what was I thinking? I have been struggling with some new meds that make me sleep all the time, literally ALL the time. As my Mom said “I think you had a brain fart when you signed up for 8AM”. Ay ay ay! I signed up for it so of course I was going to hold true to my commitment.

I showed up a few minutes after 8, to which I will blame my slow coffee maker. Nonetheless, I was there. Was my heart in it? Not sure. The physical me was there anyway. Hunter’s class was first, and really all he wanted me for was my money. We compromised on the books within the set amount that I had given him and before I knew it his class was leaving the library. I wanted to leave with him and go home and crawl into bed, but I was committed to another session. Ay ay ay!

The next group was 5th graders. They don’t really need help. They know the drill, so essentially all I needed to do was keep the stacks neat and tidy during all the browsing. A boy walking around by himself approached me “Ma’am, do you have this series?” He pointed to a piece of paper in his hand with a title of a book series written down. I could tell from the title it was likely this was a series that targeted children a bit younger. I had not seen the books, but I asked the book fair angels (coordinators). They did not think they had seen it. I told the little boy we didn’t have any but perhaps at the next fair we would. I asked if he wanted something else. “No ma’am, I collect this series and that is really all I wanted.” He looked a bit disappointed but continued looking. Nearly 15 minutes later as I was straightening books I found the exact series AND book the boy wanted. Even the book fair angels didn’t know it was in stock! I grabbed the book and ran circles around the library looking for the cute blonde headed boy. I showed him the book and his eyes lit up like the North Star.

“How much?” I told him it was $5. He pulled a ziplock bag out of his pocket and counted out $4. The North Star dimmed as he explained to me that he didn’t have enough money for the one book he wanted. Flashback… perhaps Mom forgot it was Book Fair day and gave him the only cash she had on hand. Been there, done that. Perhaps the child forgot to tell Mom about the Book Fair and he grabbed his own money that he had been diligently saving. Been there, seen that. Perhaps Mom didn’t work and Dad was laid off and $4 was all they could spare. Been there, except when I was there, anonymous angels stepped in and blessed us. I looked into his eyes and said “What if I give you a dollar so you can buy the book?” He looked at me in astonishment, almost as if he was saying that he was looking at a crazy woman. “Would you really give me a dollar?” I shook my head yes and told him to follow me to the register. I grabbed a dollar out of my wallet (mind you I almost never have cash now that I’m not carrying Emmer’s “pot of cash” for groceries as we called it, but of course this day I had cash). He purchased his book, wrote his name in it and joined his class just as their time at the Book Fair was ending.

This little blonde whom I don’t even know and never even knew his name… Something about me drew him to me and something about his sparkling eyes and quiet demeanor kept me drawn towards him. I kept looking for that series of books long after we had all given up on it. Today I can’t even remember the name of that book, but I’m certain that little boy is holding that book as a priceless treasure.

When his starry eyes looked at me in disbelief that I would help him buy the one thing he wanted, I knew I had not had a brain fart. I knew I had not accidentally signed up for that early time. This was not coincidence. This was a series of encounters with God that led up to this blessing. Chance, luck, coincidence? Nope. It was a much-needed God encounter for me and a blessing for both of us.

Moments like these keep my eyes open for God to move me where He wants me to be. I have been the shy face in the crowd, confused and desperate for help. I saw a face I recognized when I looked at him. In those times, people took me under their care and loved me in ways I still have yet to comprehend. My love for that child cost me 100 pennies, the joy on a boy’s face in the midst of a God encounter… priceless.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, November 2013

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

One thing is guaranteed. I will never stop trying.

I found a couple of ways I thought I could help at church. It has taken me a long time to want to serve in church again, under the roof where I once worked. There is so much emotional trauma attached but I have found inner peace with the journey God took me on and the realization that His ways are always better. I finally came to a place where I was comfortable again. I’m also working hard to rebuild my confidence in a lot of the areas where I struggle. Rebuilding only comes when I try, and that usually means some trial and error. It’s risky, because an error could mean too much stress and lead to a seizure. In my mind, I have to always push my limits or I’m stuck in the same four walls that slowly creep in on me. It is worth the risk to try, because sometimes I win.

Today I ventured off to get some supplies for the youth ministry. Ok, first of all, NO, nothing about this involved a trip to Target so I felt completely safe. All I needed to do was go to B.J.’s and get some supplies off a list I had been given. Seemed pretty simple and straight forward to me and it seemed like the perfect kind of task to take off someone’s already overflowing plate. After all, today is Tuesday, and I still like to stay busy on Tuesdays. Yeah, I got this.

I only took two wrong turns getting there, and I still say the signage is awful, but I got there. I talk to myself when I drive. I told myself it was funny that all the old people can get in this parking lot but I couldn’t figure it out. I laughed, probably out loud. I pulled into a parking spot and saw the enormous buggies and the platform dollies. I started looking around at the people coming out and the bulging buggies and it hit me like a ton of bricks. What in the world was I doing? What planet was I on thinking I could manage getting around a store this size, dragging a dolly that would carry my family, my brother’s family and my mom, AND have a successful trip? Self chatter again, “you are here now so just go”.

I will admit that I couldn’t figure out where the stupid door was to get into the building. Again, signage people! I waited for someone to walk in so I could find my own way by following them. I surely didn’t want to run head on into the out door dragging 6′ long dolly do nothing behind me. Once I got in, I made small talk about the weather with the nice man checking for my membership card and I ventured into the concrete abyss.

I spotted the aisle that would likely have most of the things I needed and I headed that way. Suddenly I stopped and just started looking around. These aisles were long, really really long. The ceiling was high, unnecessarily high and yet it was stacked within inches of the ceiling with merchandise. I wondered who needed all this stuff. Christmas gifts, candy and ornaments were already out but thankfully there were no inflatable singing dancing moving things, because in that brief moment of overstimulation it is possible I would have had to puncture some cute Santa to eliminate some noise. As I stood there I was whisked back in time. I used to love this kind of shopping, a warehouse store, yummy goodies in bulk at discount prices! Who wouldn’t love that?! And I realized, today was the first day since early 2005 that I have walked through the doors of a store like this.

Fight or flight? I had two choices. One, leave dolly do nothing in the way of every customer and walk out (assuming I could FIND the exit), or two, fight to regain my confidence in an uncomfortable situation and stick it out. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my list. I looked around the store and I think I actually said out loud “I can do this”.

The first aisle was like hitting the jackpot. I checked off the majority of my list in one aisle. It took several runs up and down the same aisles and back and forth across the store (dragging the now heavier dolly do nothing) to mark off the rest of the list. I kept looking for someone to ask where I might find things, but I guess lower prices does mean fewer employees. I only ran into a few displays and I didn’t knock anything over so I totally see that as a success with a loaded dolly. My list was checked off, my merchandise was stacked neatly and I headed for the checkout. I had stopped several times, confused by the placement of items, confused by where to find prices and confused with the choices between items. I caught myself questioning the sensibility of this trip. Each time I shook it off, determined to prove I could overcome. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I had already ventured and I was determined to gain.

The lines were super short, cue the Hallelujah chorus, and I pulled up and began putting the smaller items on the conveyer belt. No problem checking out, until I pulled out the money to pay and the cashier realized I was paying for the entire order with just a couple of $5 bills and the rest $1 bills. I realized a line was beginning to form behind me and people were pushing me along. I had to stand in front of a teenager and count out the money. Ugg, counting always throws me off because I forget where I am and I had to count very high. Part of me wanted to tell the guy I wasn’t a stripper using all my tip money to pay and that really this was for my church, but as the conversation played out in my head it seemed useless, though it did provide me some humor. Since I was using $1 bills I didn’t want to embarrass myself by giving him way too much so I had stacks of $20s and then some $1s. I tried to figure out how to give him enough for the bill within a dollar. Then I realized he was in training so his supervisor said she had to count it out too! Oh mercy me. I glanced behind me and saw the 4 items the customer behind me wanted to buy and I could feel her frustration on my neck as I again tried counting, now with the cashier counting each stack that I gave him, and his supervisor counting it again too. The line kept getting longer and I kept repeating and counting “$20, $40, $60, $80, now what’s the total again?” Finally I, or we, got it right and he handed me my change, just a few coins. I had counted correctly, within a dollar of the total!

As I pulled 6′ long dolly do nothing towards the exit and the friendly weather talking man who was prepared to review my purchases, I glanced back into the store. I saw the long line that had formed behind me and I saw the insanely large store. I looked at my purchases and smiled. I had done it. The man looked at my pile and said “Wow, you sure did pack things neatly into these boxes.” I grinned and winked at the old man, grabbed dolly do nothing and said “Yes, yes sir. I found everything I needed here today.”

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Today I ventured. Today I gained.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, November 2013