Free to be Me?

True confessions now. I struggle with identity issues.

When I first married 20 years ago I told my husband I wanted to do something that mattered. He giggled and pointed out that everyone wants that. But I had a deep sense that I needed to do something that would personally touch people right where they needed it. I worked in non profit for 12 years and found great pleasure in my daytime routine. While working we had two children. I took, and still do, immense pleasure in being a wife and a mom to my family.

And then…well you know the rest of the story. I worked through several stints of rehab to regain the mental capacities that I once had. Much of my brain and personality remained intact, for better or for worse. But there were marked deficiencies, which over time became more prevalent. I am still one smart cookie, and am pretty sharp, but not as sharp as a tack. I find myself getting on a roll with a task or thought and then my brain screams “WHOA! STOP” and I’m back to square one. I could no longer work effectively and I focused my time on my family. Wife and mom first. I had a new identity and with a preschooler and an elementary aged child, they absolutely needed me.

As the children got older and were both in school, it was clear that my grandmother needed me. For eight years I cared for anything and everything that made her quality of life the best we could given that her quantity was just about forever (as she would say). I hardly had the time to adjust to life without her when my seizures showed their ugly side. I found myself the epileptic, at home. I struggled with how to effectively be a mom and a wife when I was house bound.

While at home I struggled enough with my own health, keeping up with the children’s schedules, arranging rides and transportation for all of us. I never stopped to realize that my role was shifting. I think my desire to work in non profit lingered but those doors were closed. I still yearned to make a difference outside my own walls but I was hindered by my health and by the personality changes that occurred from my brain injury.

When I started driving a few months ago, I hit the ground running. My husband warned me to slow down, but I’m very stubborn. I tried to tackle 2 years of errands and activities into two weeks. Bad plan. The proverbial wall? Yes, I met it head on. Yes, he was right, it was time to slow down and pace myself.

After all these years I am just beginning to come to terms with who I have become and who I will continue to grow into. I have mourned the loss of who I once was and worked to try to be that person again. I have felt broken. But that is not to be. That is not what God intended. There are certain situations in which I will never, ever be comfortable. I force myself to stretch because I believe I should not give up, but I am learning that I should not pretend.

This afternoon I was listening to the radio and the words “I want you as you are, not as you ought to be. Won’t you lay down your guard and come to me? … It breaks my heart to see you suffering… I am for you, I’m not against you… Don’t think you need to settle for a substitute when I’m the only love that changes you… Open your heart, It’s time that we start again.” BAM! I saw myself in those lyrics. I have worked so hard to be something I am not, and to figure out what my place is. I have never really fit any mold (shocker), yet I tried to make myself fit. God’s love is large enough to love me where I am and just as I am. He has never asked me to be something I can not be. His plan for my life is His, and He will give me the abilities that I need to accomplish what He desires. It probably should not have taken me nearly 11 years to learn this, and maybe I knew it deep down but it finally surfaced.

I don’t know where you may be. I don’t know the struggles and immense heartache you have faced. But this I know, God’s hand has never stopped being on my life. Often it takes me years to understand, and some things I may never fully understand. God will protect me as long as I keep focusing on Him and trusting Him. God is for me. He is not against me. My identity is in Christ. He wants me to be me, whether I am comfortable with that each day, He is. At the end of the day, if I can stand tall and be confident as the person God created, a label of identity is simply not important. God has already given me His stamp of approval allowing me the freedom to be me.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, April 2016

 

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A Messy World

I am a self-confessed news junkie. I read the news multiple times during the day. I can not explain the obsession, especially these days when almost everything we read is negative. Our community, our country and our world have become angry and messy. How did we get here?

My mother was recently traveling internationally and just missed the attack in Brussels. When she had made this trip previously, she made connections in Brussels. By the grace of God, that was not the case this time. When I read the news that morning I did not know where she was on her route and messages started pouring in from her friends asking where she was. Why is it that attacks or bombings are nearly expected now? How did we get here? Where do we turn?

Yesterday, tragedy struck my hometown. A pedestrian was crossing the street and was fatally wounded by a truck. Guess how I found out? People were complaining on social media that traffic was at a stand still. Really? Really?? I am so stinking sorry your day was slowed. This victim’s family is also at a complete stand still and I would assume the same for the driver. I will not cast judgment on how the accident occurred nor where the blame may rest. What I saw were a lot of people commenting about how their day was interrupted when a horrific tragedy occurred. How did we get here? Where do we turn?

Many of my readers are aware that my father in law had a major health set back 3 months ago. He went in for routine elective knee replacement surgery (I will never use the word routine and surgery in the same sentence again, alas this is what the doctors called it). Minutes into the surgery his heart stopped. This was anything but routine and you bet your bottom dollar we would not have elected this! God showed His grace and we have our father in law with us today. It took weeks of rehabilitation and a second surgery weeks later to complete the knee replacement. This never should have happened, but it did. How did we get here? Where do we turn?

A month ago, my Uncle suffered a paralyzing stroke. He lives in Germany so communication can be difficult given the time differences and language barriers with doctors. Thanks to FaceTime and texting we have been able to keep up with his progress through his children. He is weak, but more determined than ever to get well. He is even walking with some assistance and a crutch for balance. How did we get here? Where do we turn?

When confronted with difficulty, confusion, tragedy and just plain messiness what are we to do? How can we find the sense to move forward, inhale another breath, or choose to find something to focus on that makes this world better for someone else? I could not have faced my own life’s tests without a loving God who begs me to focus on him. How did we get here? Well, sometimes it is free will. Sometimes it is dumb luck. Sometimes it is completely by accident and sometimes it is just the perfect storm. Regardless, we can not control the situations that come our way. We can control how we respond. I believe we must turn our focus on Christ. No, He will not offer answers to every situation. He will not tell us why tragedy strikes and why accidents happen, but He will love us through it when we ask Him to. Over the years I have become a worrier and a fearful person. I know fear is not from God and I have to ask each day that He give me courage. When nothing in this world makes sense and we begin to walk in the “world of me” our eyes are blinded and we have lost our focus on the One that matters. When I keep my eyes on the One,  I don’t need to worry about me, my husband, my children, my family or my friends. When I remain resolved to give it all to God then He knows my heart.

I can not fix the tragedies that keep happening in this messy world. I also can not keep up with the bad news, regardless of how many times a day I open the news apps. I do know that last week we celebrated Easter, and that is where I turn, and that is where I will keep turning. Jesus rose and left an empty tomb so that we might have hope. Was I there? Nope. Did I see the empty tomb? Nope. Have I seen His miracles in situations and people I know because they trust in Jesus? Oh you better believe it! I have no bone in my body that wants to see any more of this messy world. I wish our world was not where it seems to be these days. I do, however,  know to Whom I turn and His love will cover me, guide me and protect me.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, April 2016