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

A Minute Equals a Lifetime

It has been more than a quick minute since I sat down to this blank screen to share. Over the last couple of months I have pondered the meaning and usefulness of this blog. If it serves nothing more than an avenue for me to throw caution to the wind and speak…as if I don’t do that on a daily basis…it is worthwhile.

Six and a half weeks ago I regained my driving privileges. Twenty two months ago I lost that. Do you know the county in which I live? New roads! New highways! Closed roads! New roundabouts! Can I tell you that the gas pumps are far more complicated now than they were 2 years ago? I wish all of you could have seen me pumping gas for the first time! It was comical in ways I can not describe! This week I refilled my tank without any issues and I was so excited I wanted to dance a jig at the gas tank. I wanted to shout to everyone that I figured it out. Alas, I realized people may think I was crazier than I really am, so I celebrated quietly…but I celebrated!

A month ago I realized my life changing accident had been more than 10 years ago. I look at my 12 year old, almost tall enough to look me eye to eye, and I recall looking at him just 16 months old and wondering how to move on. My oldest, now 17, was only 7, and in the first grade. We wrestled with how he might adjust to our changes. The morning of my accident I went and read a book to his classroom. It is engrained in my memory. I can recall all those innocent eyes looking into mine and waiting for each word. For the record, that teacher was the most incredible teacher my oldest ever had. Another sign that God’s hand was on our family. To this day when I see her, she calls my oldest by name and asks how he is doing. God’s plans, not ours.

Today I am registering that young man for housing at the college of his choice. Life has moved forward regardless of the obstacles that showed up. My son is writing his senior exit project about epilepsy, the treatment, the stigma and how life goes on. We have all grown in ways I can not describe because of this illness. I continue to see how my own health has opened the eyes of my children in ways I could not have taught them. They have learned by experience to show love, compassion and acceptance. These are traits I am glad my children exhibit.

Life goes on. In wealth, in health, in sickness and in death. Life goes on. What matters is that our foundation is firm. My foundation is in Jesus Christ. He is the creator and author of my life. Each day I must wake up and submit to His will for me. I must make the choice to trust in Him and only Him. He knows that I have a long list of reasons why I can not trust doctors! So I have to trust Him. Many days I awake forgetting to rest in Him. Those days spin right, left, up and down. I am reminded…in whom do I trust?

After nearly two years of seclusion I was not really ready to be thrust back into the world. I have had a bit of a culture shock. Over the weeks I have realized this, and begun to take things as they come, and as stupid as they come. I am not offended by those that beep their horn at me or give me the finger. “Move along” is what I say.

Before I was back on the road we had some rather large bumps that our family continues to work through each day. It serves as a blessed reminder to me to slow down and enjoy the road that I am allowed to travel. Today as I read my devotional, the first words said “Trust Me one day at a time…..Exert your will to trust Me in all circumstances. Don’t let your need to understand distract you from My presence.” I felt like a kid in the Presbyterian church and felt the need to close my book and bow my head repeating “this is the word of our Lord. Amen.” The devotion continued and reminded us that God equips us for each day, one day at a time and we will live in victory. “Trust Me one day at a time.”

This I must remind myself daily…trust in MY Lord one day at a time. I need not worry  about tomorrow because it will worry for itself. I must tell myself every day to lean on Him, share my worries with Him and He will carry me to the next day.

Thank you to those of you following my blog, praying for my family and praying for all good things to come to us. I am thankful for each of you as you are my adopted family willing to listen to my heart’s cry.

Copyright © March, 2016 Gatewood Campbell

 

 

Just Like That… It is 2016

As if in denial, today I finally flipped the calendar over to January 2016. For those expecting me to be somewhere over the last 4 days and I wasn’t there, now you know why. I never looked at the calendar. Time keeps passing, as my Grandmother used to tell me it goes faster and faster and then one day it is as slow as a turtle.

Last year was a fun year for our family. Our oldest, a senior now, has been working a part time job for over a year now. He is drumming with several bands and lives in a room busting with drums, cymbals and a small corner which some may call a bed. And yes, he is a happy 17 year old in his element. We are anxiously waiting for college letters but his first choice is already IN so the pressure is off. I’m proud of that kid. He is an adult in so many ways and takes care of far more than many other kids his own age. He manages to take care of his brother and me anytime his dad isn’t with us. He steps in and as if by nature he fills whatever role is necessary. I’m finally getting used to looking UP to him in stature and he is showing us each day other reasons to look up to him. He is an incredible example for his brother and he is all that I wished for in a son. It seems like yesterday when I heard that sweet little nurse down the hall whisper “she’s pregnant” and now he is ready to fly away from our nest.

Our youngest is in his first year of middle school. He has adjusted well, although there were minor problems when the kid with whom he shares a locker kept accidentally butterflying their locker. That means locking it with the lock facing the wrong direction. With some detailed instructions from Hunter (and I will tell you with Hunter when he wants to tell you something he doesn’t just tell you in detail, he acts it out in detail) the locker situation has been fixed and he seems to be adjusting just fine. He is still playing baseball and loves every second on the field, in the backyard or in the batting cages. Johnny finally gave in to getting grass to grow in the front yard bare spots for the pitchers mound and the bases. It was a fight we would never win anyway. It is so fun to watch kids at this age as they begin to find what they enjoy. He loves his time with his friends and he loves his down time in his room with a good book. In so many ways he is the opposite of his brother and yes also, everything I wished for in a son. I am a lucky mom with the best of all the world.

Last year, as I looked into 2015, my hope was for a cure for epilepsy and seizures. We went to great lengths to find that. According to doctors we did not get the answers for which we went searching. Here is what I do know, my entire family and fellowship of friends will surround me with every anticipated need I have when the occasion arises. My mother will put aside her life for 9 days and take on mother/father to a tween and full fledged teenager at the drop of a hat. The house will stay clean, the kids will wear clean clothes, the dogs will stay fed and walked (bribing a 12 year old is legal in NC when you promise a car ride to school) and my family will eat much better than they ever have in their lifetime when we need it. My marriage can survive being locked in a 10×12 room, eating bland hospital food, with nothing but a lame cable network to pass the time for 9 days. Oh and not one time did he tell me I smelled bad which I KNOW I did after all that time hooked up to machines 24/7. My husband willingly became an expert on “Say Yes to the Dress” and I binge watched every episode of “Big Brother” in 2 days, yay Netflix. Thanks to some very special friends we had some hand selected meals brought to us along with good visits and some special treats delivered from family and friends from the UPS dude. He became a frequent visitor to our room and brightened each day.

I was determined that 2015 would be the year of my cure. The egomaniac doc on call insinuated the 9 day stay had been a waste of time because he didn’t find anything helpful. He was wrong. My cure is life.

What I found is that I can survive anything as long as I have my friends and family surrounding me with prayers and love in action. 2016 is my year for living fully with epilepsy. In just a few weeks I can drive again. Although with all these new roads I’m likely to get lost a lot, but I will crank up my music and enjoy the scenery as I attempt to find my way. I’m looking for a job. I want to love on people the way I loved on my Grandmother and the way others have loved on me. I have learned what fills my joy tank. I’m working on gaining confidence after being out of the working world for 8 years. I’m diligently finding time to spend with my son who is ready to leave our nest. I pray he is ready, confident and will be successful. He is ready to let his wings soar and I hope the world is ready for him!

My husband, my dedicated, committed, overall-wearing, yes we did just wrap plastic around our screen porch like our grandparents did…we celebrated 20 years of marriage this year. We had a week in Florida by ourselves for the first time since we got married! We made memories to last another 20 years…so you know who, can you mark us down for another week at your house in 20 years? He has held me when I cried, he has listened to me scream, he has encouraged me when I was in the depths and he has assured me that no matter how this or anything else changes me, he will never leave me. He cured every insecurity I may have. 2015 was a year of curing.

I emotionally look to this year with my son leaving but it does not escape me that I am blessed that our son will move on to college and we are here to see it. We lost some special friends and family this year, some of whom had a huge impact on our lives. They taught us to live in the moment, live without regret and take every opportunity that comes our way. They also taught us to give of ourselves what we can and indeed that is what I intend to do. Today is January 4, I think, and though it is way too quiet in my house, and I’m sitting at the window waiting for my son’s truck to come down the driveway, my life is so full of things I could never have imagined would be so over the top fantastic. Regardless of what the doc said, I found that for which I was looking. #livelifefullyn2016

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, January 2016

Channeling Fear

Fear. We all have it. The question is how do you and I overcome fear? Some fear heights, some fear swimming, some fear tests, some fear death and some fear the unknown. There are things all around us that can, and if I’m totally honest, we should fear.

I don’t believe fear is a bad thing. As with so much in life, how we respond to it determines whether it is a bad thing or a good thing. Fear can keep us from trying new things. It can also keep us from making the same mistakes repeatedly, because we already know we should be afraid of the outcome. It is not a secret that I am afraid. I am afraid I will never be completely healthy again. I’m afraid of trying new meds because I have learned that nothing comes without a side effect I despise. I see the fear in my sons’ eyes when my husband says “watch Mom for me for a minute”. I have read of the fear my son experiences when he chose epilepsy as his graduation topic and began writing from his personal point of view about how epilepsy changes lives. I believe it is reasonable to fear there will never be a cure for this. I’m working very hard to overcome the fear that I may never drive again. That kind of independence may risk my life and others. I’m learning that fear takes us to a deeper level of understanding, trust and faith.

Last week was a hard week. I don’t know why, it just was. I was afraid and I was lonely. I called a friend and as we sobbed together about both our life situations I realized that fear led me to call her. Fear took me to a safe person, and guess what? She needed a safe person too. We talked, cried and laughed for over an hour, encouraging each other in ways that only she and I understand. I tend to channel my fears within, thinking everyone is too busy, they don’t get me, and everyone has their own issues. News flash! Everyone does have their own issues and I wonder what would happen if we were honest with the world and said it out loud. I keep looking at the advertisement of the women with the signs of how much they weigh and wonder what might happen if we each help up a sign and said THIS IS MY ISSUE.

Each of us have so much in common, but we are unwilling to share because of past hurts and hangups. Look, I am right there in the middle of it with you. I don’t share because I was betrayed, but because one or two betrayed me does not mean everyone will. Above all else He is with us. This morning I was listening to the radio and the song “He Is With Us” came on. I began to absorb the words, really ABSORB the words, into my marrow, as Beth Moore teaches us. The song reminds us “We can trust our God, He knows what He’s doing….Our faith is sealed, Our hope is real, Come what may, We’re not afraid”. Oh boy, so much easier said than done, but every opportunity of fear IS an opportunity for faith.  Faith IS real and hope IS real. My Bible says so, does yours? Does my life say it? Does yours?

I have incredible friends. They are not incredible because they have done things for me or with me. I have incredible friends because I can WATCH them practice faith everyday. They teach by example. They lead their lives by faith, trusting that, above all else, God is with them, holding on, never leaving….always with us. When I fear, I remember…my fear is nothing compared to the fear Mary felt when her son, Jesus was brought to Calvary. When I think of this I am embarrassed to have fear. Jesus died that I might not fear ANYTHING! HE did not fear! In that we can all trust! Mary did not know Jesus would come again, but she trusted. Her own fear and desperation also displayed her faith.

He Is With Us reminds us “when your hope is lost and faith is shaken, when you wonder if you’re gonna make it, There’s a hand stretched out through your deepest doubt. We can’t pretend to see the ending or what’s coming up ahead….But we can stay close to the ONE who knows”. Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I will trust you.” That is my responsibility…to trust. Every moment of fear is an opportunity to trust. Fear = Trust.

Fear will come to us, probably each day, in one way or another. Sometimes we may not recognize it as fear, but we may call it something else. Recognize this, whatever we fear, trust CAN overcome. Now I am by no means an expert in trust. I am a student, and fortunate enough to have examples from which I learn. We have to learn to trust Him everyday, every hour, every minute. We don’t know what the future holds, but He does. I am responsible for channeling fear into trust.

He Is With Us says “We believe there is purpose in everything, We surrender to His leading. He wants nothing more than to have us close”. Jesus wants us to remain close to the One who knows. He knows our fears, He knows how many hairs are on our head and He… above all else, wants us to trust Him. “It might hurt now, But He’s holding on to you and me and He’s never gonna leave”.

Copyright ©  Gatewood Campbell, June 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last Christmas I was busy making sure my house was properly festive. I was buying two of everything I was supposed to cook because I usually do a test batch of anything I make that is really important. No worries, I have growing boys so they don’t complain. I was sneaking around trying to get gifts from Emmer for the children and for Mom. I was making wine store runs because Emmer always insisted she furnish champagne on Christmas Eve when we celebrate Mom’s birthday. I had ventured away from the usual birthday cake and convinced Emmer to get hand made red velvet cake pops. They were a HUGE hit and Emmer thought it was the greatest invention since the wheel.

We were also determined to have Emmer with us on Christmas. Johnny was busy building a wheelchair ramp to make Mom’s house accessible. I worked diligently for days to convince Emmer that she could make it to Mom’s for our traditional Christmas Eve shrimp creole. She told me it was too much work for everyone. I remembering sitting beside her chair, holding her hand and explaining that it wouldn’t be Christmas knowing she was in her room alone. She came for Christmas Eve dinner. She dined on shrimp creole. She scooped up her Charlotte Rousse, made by yours truly as a bribe to get her to come to dinner. She drank, um maybe even guzzled her champagne (until the day she died she wanted a refrigerator in her room so she could have her own cold drinks). She sang Happy Birthday to my Mom when we brought out the cake pops. She delighted in the excitement on the boys’ faces when they opened the WiiU she gave them. She tried to understand what exactly she had given them and finally she just said “well cheers”! She was weak, but more than that she was determined. Determination always conquered her weakness.

As we sat around the table that night with friends we have shared Christmas Eve with for decades, I think we all knew it would be her last. I think she knew. Lord knows she had been ready years before for it to be her last, but her body just kept on ticking. She was frail, but she looked beautiful. She had on the outfit and jewelry she and I had chosen earlier that day. She wasn’t pleased with her hair because her weekly beauty parlor appointment had been 5 days before and by then it sorta showed. It had been her bath night the night before so she felt clean and smelled sweet. She was determined and I am so thankful we had that Christmas together as a family.

This year the shopping has been different. I can’t store hop for everyone so if you were lucky enough to have your gift purchased before Dec 2, you are lucky. If not, well then you are lucky to get something. I haven’t had the energy to decorate so we hung stockings and put up a 4′ artificial pre-lit tree. I put my Grandmother Payne’s angel topper on it, hung some balls on the tree and called it quits. I feel guilty letting weakness beat out determination. That is not the way I was taught. But this year I am worn down and I ache.

The shock of the last few weeks has been overwhelming. The reality of my future with epilepsy is beginning to sink in. I am just beginning to understand that I really am going to be taking medicine for the rest of my life. There is no cure. I went 8 years without a grand mal. I had learned to cope with small seizures here and there, but this caught me off guard. It took the breath out of me, in more ways than the obvious. I realize that I will always be planning for the what if. On the bright side of things I did get some new jewelry, granted it is a medical ID bracelet, but it is purple and it is jewelry so I will take it. I hope the day will come when my husband, my Mom and my brother don’t feel like they need to call me every few hours to be sure I’m ok. I want my children not to worry about their mom. I know there are a multitude of people waiting to help me at a moment’s notice. I need to know that I can figure out how to cope with the inability to drive on my own, so that I won’t live in fear of another bad seizure. I need to know that at 40 years old, I can have some form of independence. I have been shaken and I’m still stirred right now.

This has not been the most stellar of years for us, but I wouldn’t go back in time, because I really do NOT want to relive it again. I remember with bittersweet tears our last Christmas with our matriarch and I know my Mother is equipped to hold that torch now. I take tremendous joy in the 6 years I had with Emmer and her first mate. Her humor, her honesty, her debates, her tears and her bountiful love for her family are simply unmatched. Nothing can take away those memories. It was her bountiful love that gave her the strength to have one last Christmas with all of us. It is her gift that keeps on giving.

So I look back on 2013 with joy and sorrow swirled together. I also find it appropriate to quote the great philosopher Flo, and say, “2013 you can kiss my grits.” I’m pretty sure Emmer just rolled over in her grave as she quietly explains away my candidness from a brain injury. I’m stirred, I’m afraid, but I am determined this will pass. From this point of view I must believe it only gets better because in my darkest hours over the last 8 years I can look back and see the sun was always streaming through the clouds.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, December 2013