Gripped by God, not Epilepsy

When a storm comes our first response is fear and panic. Over time we can digest the situation. No, it may not change the situation but it may change our ability to deal with it effectively.

Today I was reminded that the only thing that has the power to grip me is God. Epilepsy will not grip me. Epilepsy will not hold me in a corner surrounded by fear. I will not let epilepsy win. God was, is and will always be in control as He grips me and points me in the direction He has chosen.

The sun came out this morning and I decided it was time to lace up my running shoes and prove to myself that God will protect me. I ran. It wasn’t my fastest but it wasn’t my slowest. I didn’t care. I just needed the reminder that my hope is in God and He will carry me.

I am who I am because of the I AM. Nuff said.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, January 2014

Running This Race of Faith

I’m on the countdown now. Two weeks until my next race, just a half marathon. Would I have ever thought I would put the word just in front of the words half marathon? Nope. Frankly those words were never even in my vocabulary. So…two weeks. My long runs are done and now it’s about nutrition, resting my body and a lot of thinking.

Unlike most races I have done in the past, I have done a lot of solo long training runs to prepare for this race. It has given me a lot of quiet time to think. Running gives me time to zone out of this busy world and spend time in my think tank, to reboot and refuel myself. I have been overwhelmed by the parallels I see in being prepared for an event of endurance and being prepared for the journey of life by training and exercising my faith.

Let’s divide a half marathon into four parts, essentially four 5ks. Our spiritual life can be divided into four parts as well. When we first come to Christ and put our faith in Him, it’s exhilarating. It becomes a mark on the timeline of our life and a starting point of an adventure of many unknowns. The only known is that there is a finish line marked by the death of our earthly body and eternity in heaven with Christ. Everything between this new birth and the earthly death is unknown. A new Christian is full of excitement about the faith they feel, their eyes sparkle in a new way and their smile may be a bit wider just begging everyone to smile back and share their excitement. It is a starting line of a whole new life in Christ. A new Christian basks in the glory they have come to know and time passes quickly as they seek to take in all that God has given them. New Christians may have some preconceived notions about what life may be like, but much remains a mystery.

The starting line of a race is thrilling. Energy, anxiety and apprehension are everywhere. My favorite part of a race is standing in the starting corrals and people watching. You see anything and everything…and it all makes me wonder how the world actually functions with the chaos known as humans running, pun intended, all over it. (Insert faith). Some people are jumping up and down, trying to get a glimpse of the start line chute and watching the ginormous race clock tick down. Some people are scared and it shows! I love listening to people blame each other for convincing them a race was a good idea. I quietly think to myself it is a good idea and they will be glad when they look back at the choice they made to go the distance. When the horn sounds and we cross the start line, the simultaneous chirping of people hitting start on their watches and the timing chips registering on the mat sends the masses off. We run, because that’s what our bodies have been trained to do. We dodge in and around people who clearly don’t understand how to correctly predict their finish time. Everyone keeps moving forward putting one foot in front of the other as our bodies have become accustomed. However, whether it is race day or a long training run, there is still an unknown factor. So we anxiously, and excitedly wonder what surprises this run holds for us.

After we come to know Christ intimately, we start experiencing life differently. Like a child in a sandbox full of hidden toys, we dig for what God has for us. As if looking at a picture of what we may find when we dig in the sand, we dig through His word desperately seeking that which other Christians have told us about. We ask questions, we take studies, we join small groups, we tell others about this amazing new life we have discovered. We want everyone to know how great the hidden treasure is and how it has transformed our life. We re-prioritize and eventually we kind of hit a groove. This new settled pace feels good. We relish in God’s multiple blessings and acknowledge Him as the creator of all that surrounds us.

In the second 5k of a race, we have made our way around the slower runners, figured out which side of the road we prefer and made it through a few water stops (realized if an unplanned pit stop is necessary from poorly planned hydration). We have adjusted our fuel belts, iPods and probably dropped a layer of clothing or wrapped it around our waist. The chatter is a bit quieter, but there is still great awareness of the surroundings. People are taking in the sights of the city, views of the lakes or ocean, waving to the crowds and even stopping to take pictures. In this part of the race we are settling into our pace, feeling good, feeling proud of the road that brought us to this point and unaware of challenges that might be ahead.

After we have publicly professed our faith and diligently followed Christ, there will come a time in every Christian’s life that we are challenged. Our groove and our plan is shaken, perhaps mildly, or perhaps to the core. It is the moment when we think life was supposed to be better with Christ. It is then that we realize these challenges are the same that are faced by everyone, Christian or not. The difference is that we are equipped with the whole armor of God. We cry out to God in despair and confusion. He reminds us, sometimes delicately and sometimes like thunder, that He has given us a shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) , a helmet of salvation (Yes, God does have a sense of humor too) and a sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Because we have been digging in the sandbox for His hidden treasures we remind ourselves to trust those treasures He gave us. We remind ourselves what He has taught us, to call upon His name, to cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). And guess what? Yep, He does exactly as He told us and Has written and He carries us through the storm. The time we spent in His word and in His presence has prepared us for the storm that He allowed to come our way. It is a test so that we have a testimony of faith to share. With Christ we will triumph, in the ways in which He has planned (Romans 5:1-5).

Once we cross the half way point in a half marathon, we start the third 5k and the countdown to the finish begins. These are dangerous miles. We know we can do it, because we have in the past and our well-trained body is familiar with the journey. Our heart is in it for the long haul and we want more than anything to finish what we started but the head games begin. The course begins taking on hills we did not plan for and some unknown spice from dinner last night is wreaking havoc on our stomach. The nagging hip or knee injury reappears. The crowds thin as people head for the finish line to save a coveted spot for the best photo-op. (It is perhaps at this point that some in my family might decide they need a skinny caramel macchiato, hold the whip, add cinnamon and miss the photo-op. Hope is was good, no grudges of course). This is when we face the dreaded wall and we dig deep, very very deep, as if there were Hershey’s toffee almond chocolate nuggets hidden among the toys in the sandbox. We know we have to dig deep within our soul and call on our hearts to overcome the mental and physical struggles of the moment. We concentrate on our breathing, we concentrate on lightening our steps, shortening our stride, shortening the swing in our arms and conserving energy. This is also when the number games start but our head has entered delirium and we are unable to accurately calculate. We start wondering when we ate our last energy shot, when we should eat the next one, what is our pace, what do we need our pace to be and most of all how am I going to get through this thing that some so-called friend convinced us was a good idea!? Then there is a switch that flips and we recall the training, we focus on the beat of the live bands, the beat of the music on our iPods or even the pattern of footprints ahead of us. We zone back in with only one focus; to finish. The finish may be glorious or it may be gory but we know we will finish.

After a Christian has known Christ intimately, trusted Him through heartache or tragedy and overcome because of His love, His promises and our faith, we know He will walk with us no matter the circumstances. We know that His love will overcome and that His ways are greater than our ways (Isaiah 55:8), we know that God works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We have also read the end of the book and we know that He is coming, His promises are true and those that keep His words are blessed (Revelation 22:7). We know that ultimately we win. We know that in all things, with Christ we are strong when we are full and when we are hungry. With Christ we are strong in abundance and in suffering. We know that with the strength of Christ, we can do all things (Philippians 4:12-13). We know, because He has shown us in the lives of others, and more personally in our own lives, that Christ will carry us through and we will be better because we trusted Him. We are able to wake up each day in the knowledge that God shares our burdens because we willingly surrender to His will. With Him, we win.

Once we cross the 10 mile mark and begin the last 5k of the half marathon it all feels do-able again. We are three-quarters of the way through, we bargain with our bodies to run mailbox to mailbox, block to block and water break to water break. Eventually we remember where we started, some time ago, eagerly crossing the starting line and anxious to conquer the course. We begin remembering that the faster we crawl, walk or run, the sooner it is all over and we can call ourselves finishers. And so we run, because that is what we have trained ourselves to do. We use the energy drawn up from digging deep and running smart  and it’s time to give it all that is left and leave it all on the road. Head high, chest out, run tall and do what only a small percentage of people will do and become a race finisher. Time doesn’t matter, photo ops don’t matter and we gain momentum, pushing harder, stronger and faster. We pass that runner that we have watched from behind for far too long. We can’t hear the cheers, we can’t hear the music, we can’t see anything except the finish line clock digits when we make the final turn. This is the moment we spent months working for. No one will feel exactly the same, no emotion is exactly the same and no matter how many runners have crossed before, will cross with us or will cross after us, this is our moment to own. We are race finishers and we will never be quite the same.

Life is full of different races. Some we volunteer for, some we are convinced to do, some we are destined to do and some we crawl to in despair. The race begins with energy on a new-found path, anxious for good things, anxious for what people have told us is good and excited for the experience. Along the way we stumble over obstacles that make us stronger because we trust in knowledge we gained to get to this point. The roadblock itself is a journey and a lesson. When we turn back and look at the roadblock from the other side, we know why we stumbled before we got there. We know what gave us strength, we know Who to trust, we know where to cast our cares and we know the end of the story. We know the various journeys were all training sessions for this race and that if we trust what we have in the past, if we call on what we have been taught and if we call on our God who has brought us here, we will win. Sometimes the race is longer, sometimes it just feels longer. Sometimes the race is harder than we expected. Sometimes the lessons are smaller and those lessons prepare us for a greater test that makes our testimony greater and thus brings more to starting line.

The good news is that we all are offered this race of faith. All is takes is acceptance. It is worth repeating, I have read the end of the book, and this race of faith is much better than any other option, because I’m on the winning team. I know myself well enough to know that whatever I start, I like to finish well. I’m sticking with Whom I know while running this race of faith.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, October 2013

Cruising Through Challenges

For the last nine years the endless blacktop has been both my friend and my enemy.

The road has welcomed me on good days and accepted me on bad days. It has challenged me to conquer distance, hills and speed. It has challenged me to channel my energies, both good and bad, into one funnel of focus. The road pushed against me when I needed it to and accepted my pounding when I needed it to. I have celebrated personal victories that I never dreamed I could achieve (or for that matter would ever dream I would want to achieve) and it never fails to summon me back. The road has wiped tears that needed to fall from the depths of my soul. The road has never judged me; there is no right or wrong as long as I offer myself. It accepts heartache and happiness. For heartache, it heals and for happiness, it celebrates. It has always returned far more than I could offer. Today was my longest run since the Philadelphia Half Marathon last November. This year there have been times I wasn’t sure I wanted the road nor was I sure the road wanted me. I wondered if it would call me back, to both love on me and to challenge me. Like all genuine friends, it was there waiting for me when I was ready.

Today I felt like I was on cruise control. Not every run feels that way, but WOW, when you are in the midst of your element and recognize it…it leaves you speechless. The weather was a runner’s dream. Apparently taco salad is pretty good fuel and the blacktop was my friend today. It was a solo run but with about ten other runners on the same course I crossed paths with friends along the way. My goal was 10 miles, but somewhere along the way I felt like Forrest Gump and I just wanted to run and run. When I got back to my car I had run 11.5 miles and I felt freedom I hadn’t felt in months. The distance and the hills are always enemies. When we conquer them, it’s okay to look back and smile at your enemy that became your friend and challenged you to do more than you thought you could. We are all objects in fast motion. Too often we are forced to focus on the busy motions of daily life that sometimes blind us to our success.

Today I am so thankful for my dear friend Sharon, who asked me nine years ago to run a half marathon. She believed in me when I thought the challenge was too big. She introduced me to a world I did not know existed and did not know I would need. For friends who push us to conquer more, for roads that call us to conquer more and for life’s tests that challenge us to trust more, I’m thankful.

There are no regrets in trying, whatever the challenge. There is always victory in trying, no matter the challenge. The challenge will never define us; how we choose to tackle the challenge is what molds and shapes us into the person God wants us to be. At the end of the day, what matters most is that we stood up and faced the challenge. That, my friends, is when the enemy becomes our friend and the victory is ours to claim.

© Gatewood Campbell, September 2013

Changing Seasons

Here I sit, the last weekend of summer (before school starts). It marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Part of me is beyond ready for some routine in our life, can I get an Amen from any other moms out there? Yet part of me remains anxious about the silence that will fall on my house at 7:30 on Monday morning and the demands that will arrive at 3pm Monday afternoon. 4th grade and 10th grade… more changes are coming, that’s for sure!

We have been incredibly blessed with an amazing summer. We had the chance to spend invaluable time with each other and relax in the places I love best. We started the summer with a Braves game on our way to a week of glorious weather at Rosemary Beach, FL. We came home just long enough to get the clothes clean and head to Montreat with my Mom and my brother’s family for a week. Ahhhh. Then home for long enough to get the clothes clean, ship Justin off to youth camp with church and then welcome our family from Germany for three weeks. Justin spent two weeks in Drivers Ed and in a couple of weeks will be ready to test for his permit. It’s been a busy summer but somehow restful.

And here we are. Justin spent this evening doing what he loves most; drumming in his room with his favorite tunes in his ears. Hunter is at church at a back to school lock-in and Johnny and I are watching the Braves battle the Cardinals. The kids are each finding their niche in life and watching them blossom makes a mama glow.

I’m still working to embrace the changes of 2013. It seems like forever and yet it seems like yesterday when this year began. I took a long break from running during the winter and spring. The road wasn’t calling my name as it had in the past. Thanks to some faithful, supportive and determined friends, I’m registered to run a half marathon in Savannah this fall. That is keeping me on a modified workout schedule at the gym and logging minimal mileage each week. It’s all good though. Savannah gives me a goal and something to keep me somewhat focused. If there is one thing I can count on, I will find my way to the finish line in Savannah, with my Mom (my faithful race cheerleader) waiting for me.

I’m learning to say “no” to the things that aren’t good for me and I’m finding people more receptive to my response. I’m learning to accept where I am, but I just haven’t figured out where I am going…yet. It will come, in time, I just have to be patient. Patience with myself, patience with medicine, patience with my future; it is all a frustrating process, but necessary for the payoff.

God is in the details. If there is one resounding theme I have seen this year, it is that God is in all the details. My children are finding their small niche in a big world, deer season is coming and Johnny is hopeful some large rubs will prove profitable and I’m trusting that if God has all that covered He has something waiting for me too. I am about to be 40. I am so far from where I once thought I would be at this stage in my life. I won’t lie, I am struggling with this but reminding myself daily that God’s plans are greater than mine.

Life will continue to bring changes, challenges and opportunities for victories. Seasons will continue to change and I will continue to age (some years better than others). My prayer is that with each changing season, with each challenge, I will recognize the opportunity to seize the victory.

I love Mandisa’s song “Overcomer”. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z29olPjFbqg&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dz29olPjFbqg . Looking back on a season invested in family, looking back on a season of accepting many changes and looking forward to an unknown season, I want to overcome.

© Gatewood Campbell, August 2013

About Me

It has taken me a long time to find the strength to update my bio without including my role as a granddaughter. I grasp the concept that my Grandmother no longer answers the phone when I call, but her voice, her wit, her style and her legacy are with me each day. My days with her changed my life forever and she would want me to use that for good, for myself and for others. So, here it is….the updated bio about me…

Call me a wife, call me a mom, call me a daughter and call me a friend. I’m closing in on 40 and have reached that point in life where we look back at where we thought life would take us, compare that to where we are and focus our sights on what is next. My future holds the fast paced life with a high schooler and a high energy elementary student. Our boys keep us expecting the unexpected with their love of life and desire to divert from the crowd and be themselves. I am one proud mama!

I’m self-sufficient, independent and I don’t like change. I prefer the organized to the unorganized and I like to have a plan. Ten years ago, with 2 beautiful boys, our family was complete. I was ready to take on the next chapter in my life. I made my health a priority and rid my body of an unnecessary 75 lbs. I had a goal, I had a plan and I lost the weight…and I have kept it off for 9 years. After that, I decided to run a half marathon. I had a goal, I had a plan, and I ran 13.1 miles. Ready for more of a challenge, I decided to run a full marathon. Goal, plan, 26.2 miles; done. Clearly there was a consistency in my approach to life. I moved on in my career too. I was finally developing and running my own programs. I felt like I was on the verge of really blossoming in every area of my life. And then…I had to run an errand for a project at work. I walked into Target, and was later taken out on a gurney. I slipped and fell in the store. My head suffered the impact of my fall. I woke up in the hospital. That was the first of several ambulance rides that year. That fall was over 8 years ago. The results of my errand to Target will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and eventually developed Post Traumatic Epilepsy, both due to a simple fall in the trashcan aisle.

Since then I have learned to live without a plan. I have learned to live with the unexpected. I have learned there is power in asking for help and there is power in accepting help. There is a greater power in taking the difficult experiences, turning them right side up and paying it forward in a positive way. I’ve learned that adjustment is a necessity. Since that day in Target, I walked away from my career and embraced a life that is full of all that matters most. I flow freely between wife, mom and daughter. I have completed 9 half marathons and 4 full marathons. Through many of those races I raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Epilepsy Therapy Project. I’m evolving into an advocate for epilepsy awareness by sharing my own experiences and learning from those who have been where I am.

I have a brain injury and I have epilepsy but they will never define me and they will not limit me from setting big goals. I have learned to adjust and I have learned to change. Change can be eternalIy powerful if we use it correctly. I have learned the positive value of embracing change and remind myself to be thankful everyday for the gift of seeing the sun in the sky and walking (even running) on my own two feet.

20130717-090007.jpg

© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013