Wounds

We all have wounds. Some are visible, while others run so long and so deep we think we have dealt with them. Then, the unexpected pops up and all the hurt runs hot and red all over again. In these moments I begin to understand wounds in a different way.

Coming off of Easter we remembered the brutal wounds and torture Jesus endured. As death was overcoming “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'” (Luke 23:34). Jesus had wounds I can not fathom. He endured suffering that I can not imagine, no matter how many times I read about the crucifixion. I will not know the suffering Jesus took on as “He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit'” (Luke 24:46). Jesus took wounds and scars for me. This makes my head spin. More importantly, this was for all of us. There is so much to take away from the crucifixion.

If you don’t have some wounds, please call me, because I want to know your secret. I have yet to meet anyone without a deep wound, born by our own freewill, born by someone we trusted, born by someone we least expected, born by someone who didn’t intend hurt but scratched the scab we thought was heeled or someone who is still walking in sin. Truth is, each one of us has the potential to hurt others because we are human. We will fall back into sinful ways, no matter our faith, because we are human. If we are seeking Christ in our daily walk, then we may catch it through His guidance and walk back looking to Christ. Sometimes the hurt is unintentional. I believe that everyone walks around with a history of hurts. The change happens when we deal with those hurts. I am a work in progress. I remember the cross. Jesus forgave those who hurt Him. He wants me to forgive those who do not know (perhaps because they do not know they have scraped the scab).

I have wounds and try as I may, I am human. In my human sinful body, it is impossible to overcome my pains without asking Jesus every single day to help me. Like a strike of lightning, in a flash, things happen that take me back to my wounds. In that moment, I realize, though I may have mentally decided that book is closed, it is reopened and the emotions and hurt rise to my surface. I can sense moving to unhealthy thoughts and decisions. Warped as my brain is, these moments bring me back to the cross, learning daily how Jesus forgave, what we think as unforgivable and He loved.

I am no expert on walking with Christ. I am still a student. Sure, I worked with the local church for over a decade, but in many ways I was too secure. My security in Christ and my need for Him to be part of me each and every day was not tested as it is now as I adventure into the world. I need Him more each day and I must ask Him each day to forgive me of my sin of holding on to hurts.

I am a visual learner.  We have friends in our church who use sign language as they sing. When they sign “Jesus” they take their middle fingers to the palm of each hand. It strikes me every single time. Jesus Christ took wounds which run from the palm of His hands to his heart. He died on the cross without anger. He asked us to forgive.

I’m working on complete forgiveness, but I think it means that I make the scab visible so that I am reminded that I must actively forgive every single day. In that, I believe my wounds begin to heal. This is the hope to which I cling as I seek him. Every. Single. Day.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, April 2017

 

 

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Changing Clothes

Yep, it is that time of the year! Graduation! My son said recently he thought the year would go by very slowly and he could not believe how fast it went! I have held my emotions in check pretty well, remaining so thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate this occasion. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude that Justin has the chance to get a first class education, close to home and complete high school. We are thrilled that he will start college this fall. We are incredibly fortunate to have a son who has worked hard to get to this point.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove past the high school and many kids had dismissed after exams. Hundreds of kids flooded the sidewalks. As I looked at them chatting, texting, checking their phones for goodness knows what… the floodgates opened. I realized my son would not be on the sidewalk next year because the time has come for him to move on. Holy moly! Where have I been the last 13 years? I thought back to his “Star Student” day in Kindergarten when he wrote a book about himself and I got to come share class time with him. I remembered his beloved first grade teacher, Ms. Loeffler, and going to read a book he had chosen for his class. It was a Tuesday morning. That afternoon I fell in Target. After that our family reevaluated what was important in life and soon after I became a stay at home mom. I will never forget the complete joy Justin had the first day he got off the bus at home and not at after school care. This, yes this, these times helped to mold and shape him into the young man he is today.

I remember so well finding out I was pregnant with Justin. Like all new parents, we set up the nursery with carefully chosen furniture, colors and bedding. We had waited so so long for this beautiful child. I lost a baby before Justin and we prayed for a very long time that God would give us another. We did not find out whether I was having a boy or girl and we kept our name selections a secret too. I will never regret the joy my husband experienced surprising everyone in the waiting room after 11pm with news that our boy had been born. We passed him off to my grandmother as the first to hold him. She deserved it having blown off a bridge game to be at the hospital when her first great grandchild arrived. We announced his name, Justin, because we liked it and middle name Willis after his paternal great grandfather. I could not wait to put this precious soul into his carefully selected going home outfit, with cap and socks of course. Someone probably should have told me a mid July baby won’t have issues retaining body temp, but the outfit had to be complete, right? You must have a cap and socks to match! The clothes mattered so much!

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I don’t want to belabor the point that this chapter has come to a close. I want to celebrate this victory and the next chapter that he begins. Like so many of you, we are remembering with joyful tears the years that have passed and are ready (not ready) to move on to the next chapter. I am in my living room now listening to my son drum. In a few months his room  will not be so loud and we will miss that. We are also incredibly thankful that a plan is unfolding for his next steps. In the meantime, his drums, oh how his drums beginning in the 6th grade emerged as his passion. Blame it on me I reckon. I insisted he take band to learn to read music. Now he is writing music and playing in two bands and touring to different venues in NC to play. He was the baby for which we prayed, the child for which we prayed and now the young man for which we prayed. Last fall he sweated bullets as he diligently worked on college applications. Apply early folks! It will save you so much agony during Christmas and keep you out of the general application pool! We anxiously awaited letters in February. Mom brag moment…he was 3 for 3 on college apps! He was thrilled to accept the invite from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte as his first choice. Dorm life awaits, and mom made scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast do not. (Giggle giggle)

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We traded in the carefully chosen baby clothes for an equally prayed over and carefully selected cap and gown (not really… Herff Jones still owns the rights to all graduation gear. That is the only thing the same since I graduated back in the ice age.) My tears flow because I am thankful that my son is experiencing this precious step in his life. I am proud of him. I am proud that he loves his brother unconditionally and his mom and dad unconditionally. I am proud that he took care of me so many times when I could not. I am proud that he took care of his brother when I could not. I am proud that he has successfully held down a job to pay for his own expenses from the time he could drive. I am proud he has kept school as a priority and maintained good grades. I am proud because he just knows what he needs to do and will step in and do it. As life took detours, I am proud that he used his life experiences and dedicated his senior exit project to the need for more epilepsy awareness and government funding. I am proud that he has discovered his passion through music and has found a way to share himself with the world! Above all else, I am proud that he has Jesus front and center in his life and is not ashamed to share his faith in Jesus Christ.

We will miss him next year in ways I can not begin to fathom. Support meetings may be necessary. I am as proud as the day he was born. God gave us this child and this child has given us so much more than we ever could have imagined.

To my son…You were so little when you were born and your sweet yellow outfit was way too big for you. Your clothes have changed since the day you were born and we are just as thankful today to see you in your cap and gown that you earned. Yes, the cap does indeed matter, even if in the heat of mid June, you need the cap! Your cap and very long gown await your 6’3″ body. My heart is so full because I am so excited for the world to get to meet the person we know as our son. The time has come to open the doors to your world and share you. This isn’t closing a chapter. It is just the beginning and I am honored that you call me Mom…

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2016

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

 

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

Yep, This is the Freak-Out Zone!

Welcome to the crazy train! Sometime yesterday I officially hit the freak zone.

In my reckless attempts to clean house, make schedules for the kids, wash clothes, write thank you notes, make lists of things I need for Duke…and breathe…I hit the freak zone. Reality struck. I just tried to breathe.

This morning I woke up thinking wash sheets, wash towels, mop floors, clean baseball uniforms, remember to check on this and that so it can be added to the schedule. My brain was mush. I double checked to be sure I had taken my brain meds…check..so I should be able to think more clearly than I was. I was running in circles and getting nothing much accomplished. I felt like the list was just growing….out of eggs, out of bread, out of turkey, need stamps, need TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE! I need to have some control! And that is where I stopped. So here is the truth, I talk out loud to myself. I stopped spinning and said “in my weakness, He is strong”. Then I pictured the Incredible Hulk in all his green glory busting out of his clothes and roaring to my rescue. Yes…I did just make an analogy of the Incredible Hulk to God, but forgive me, I am a visual learner. I needed to SEE God rescuing me.

I realized I needed to sit down and stop and find His presence. I opened my devotional and…YES…I did laugh out loud! No joking! First words…“Living in dependence on Me is a glorious adventure” and then it continued “You accept weakness as a gift from Me, knowing that My Power plugs in most readily to consecrated weakness. You keep your plans tentative, knowing that My plans are far superior.” I actually looked back at the date on the page and then went straight to the calendar to be sure this really was the devotion for this day because this puzzle just fit together too neatly. Yep, September 2nd. I sat back down and reread several times, scrutinizing each sentence, each phrase and the scriptures.  This was just all too freaky! At the same time this is my God. He meets me where I am and brings to me all that I need each day to get through.

Control has always been hard for me. Losing it has felt like a death of part of myself. I have lost the ability to make so many choices for myself. Sometimes it is little things like wanting to listen to my own music in the car, wanting to select the air temperature in the car or just wanting to open the car door from the driver’s side instead of the passenger side. Here is the deal, control was never mine to begin with. Control of my life is in God’s hands. Yes, I am weak. That is ok, and apparently I am supposed to be weak! God is stronger, He is stronger than the Incredible Hulk and He will continue coming to my rescue. He will calm me and bring me to dependence on Him instead of trying to depend on myself.

I reminded myself that this freak show crazy train that I’m riding right now as I prepare for Duke is because I have the opportunity to get better. I have to focus on the end, not the process. We have prayed for me to be better and this is the beginning of that process. I don’t know how long this part of the process will take, I don’t know how hard it will be both physically or emotionally, and I don’t know if it will give us the answers we need. What I have to focus on is that God is calling me to depend on Him, for all the little things and for all the big things.

Yesterday I had lunch with some good friends from my gym. They gave me a beautiful necklace with a purple stone, which they remembered is the color for Epilepsy Awareness and a charm with the word “strength” inscribed. They said when I feel weak, touch your hand to your neck and remember you are strong and remember the many people who are praying for me when I am weak. They told me I was strong and I am not alone and to focus on the strength that is given to me.

Nope, I indeed am not alone. I am surrounded by more people than I can count and they are pouring out their love and their prayers on behalf of your family. This fulfills my need for a visual picture of where I am right now. Most importantly I have to rest in God’s hands and know that I must start each day anxiously waiting to see what God will do and where He will move today.

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Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, September 2015

What if _______?

What if __________? How many times have we said this to ourselves or asked someone else this same question and filled in the blank with an unthinkable fear or event? As I look around the news today it seems this blank is being filled in by horrific and tragic events every single day. Some of it is avoidable by choice and some of it, I believe is unavoidable. But when these things happen, how do we respond so that when the blank is filled in by something else, our response is better?

It is no secret that fear permeates every area of my life and I work each day to remove it. Fear is not from God. When I fear then I’m displaying a lack of trust in God. Each time fear enters my mind, I must remind myself that my faith is in Jesus Christ and He will protect me from that which can harm me. My fear of seizures, my fear of living the rest of my life dependent on others, my fear of never being able to work again, my fear of the stigmas that surround epilepsy…these are reasonable. Oh, and my fear of Target…totally reasonable. But, when I look at these things that I fear, and I look BACK on them, I see how these things that I fear “drove me” to the places I have been over the last 8+ years. All those years, God was protecting me and seeing me through life.

My life circumstances took me to a cross roads many years ago. I had to decide whether to continue working in full time ministry or walk away. In some ways I felt I was giving into the seizures, but most of all I heard God telling me it was time…time to go onto something better, in a supportive environment of love and understanding. Leaving full time work for no job may seem insane, but when I heard God tell me it was time for my family and for me, I knew He would protect me from harm. In the years that followed my Mom successfully battled cancer. She needed me, and God had seen to it that I would be there. I spent 6 years caring for my Grandmother, an experience that changed my life forever. Had I not known, had I not seen, had I not experienced the dependence that she would feel and need, I never would have been able to care for her the way I did. Those 6 years with her brought many tears of pain, but more tears of joy and laughter as we both accepted each other just the way we were. We never wasted time putting on a fake face and it was common for both of us to lower our glasses and see eye to eye in any given discussion or decision. She was from a different generation where the words epilepsy and seizures were never said. Strange how all those years she referred to “that thing you have” because she just couldn’t say it. Maybe she never accepted it, but we both knew that “it” gave me time for her. God had allowed me to go to dark places so that I could shine His light where she was.

I will NEVER forget the sheer joy my oldest had on his face, as a 3rd grader, when I told him there would be no more after school care for him because Mom would be at home. He stood in disbelief, making sure it was not a cruel joke and then he erupted in bliss. This would be good. Seizures brought me home, God protects us from harm and gives us better, WHEN we put Him first.

Now, this life change has been no bed of roses. Don’t misunderstand me. My point is that I can not fear. Notice I put this in present terms, and not past terms. For me, this is a daily practice that I must do in present terms! BUT, my past experiences have proven time and time again that I should not fear. God will protect me from harm, BUT I must trust Him first. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I must work and learn and devote time to increasing Him in my life and decreasing myself. This, I have learned is the key to overcoming the fears that surround us.

There are valid things around us to fear. The unthinkable and the unspeakable and the unreasonable happens around us everyday. As believers, we are called to center our focus on God. He will help us through. I have witnessed this and I have no doubt that only God protected. HE must increase, but I must increase. I must make God my target; yes I realize what I just wrote. When He is my focus, then He gives strength. No, He will not tell us why, and no he can not take away the pain. With God as our focus He will protect us and see us through the challenges of life.

What if …I increase Him, and decrease me? What if you increase Him, and decrease you? What if we challenge those around us to do the same? I wonder what news we might hear…?

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2015

He Loves Me This Much

The days seem to be getting longer and the walls around me are a bit smaller. This year has been long. It’s not over yet.

Every morning I kiss my three man boys good bye and I turn and look at my dogs. We sort have this stand off and I have this looming lump in my throat hoping the hours while the kids are at school will pass quickly. The house will be too quiet and I will be alone again. This has been my routine for nearly a year now. Laundry, cleaning, dishes…pretty boring. I almost put up the Christmas tree last week. I thought that was pushing it. A year… I have learned so much about myself and my God in this last year.

As God as become my constant listener and best friend, I have heard Him too. He loves me this much that He allowed epilepsy to rest on me. There is no answer to why. There is no answer to what will happen next. There is no real reason to fear, because God is always in control, and God always loves me. He will never, ever leave me. Don’t get me wrong, this disorder hurts, the isolation, fear of the next seizure, or straying too far from home all scare me, but with God’s help I try to overcome these things as much as possible. God is sovereign.

Our whole family must rest in His sovereignty or we wouldn’t survive. How would my husband get through a workday without trusting God to care for me? How do either of us get through any day at all with our son on the road now without trusting God to watch over him? I venture out alone because I have to feel some independence. Is there some danger? Sure. Is God in control? Absolutely. Ultimately, in my deepest being I believe God is a kind and loving God and He wants me to depend on Him with all that I am. I think epilepsy is the only way I can do this…grrrr… So he loves me this much. He chose this for me. So my choice is to love Him back, trust Him, and depend on Him for whatever comes next.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Honestly this last year has beat me down that I’m too exhausted to creatively and energetically spread the word. That frustrates me too. Johnny tells me I’m too hard on myself, but 1 in 26 have this and 60,000 in the US will die from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, so this still needs a voice. Locally, Mayor Swain signed a Proclamation declaring November as Epilepsy Awareness Month in the Town of Huntersville. My son is having the annual Purple Day at Huntersville Elementary on Nov 14 and Mayor Swain is even stopping by to visit the classrooms and help spread awareness that day. Would you wear purple on Nov 14 to support Hunter’s Purple Day too? Our family is in purple everyday this month, but for one day, that would be pretty cool. Johnny and I were in Charlotte Sunday night to see the Duke Energy building shining purple over Charlotte. More people are talking, less people are whispering, more research is being done, and maybe one day we will have a cure.

Until then, I rest in the peaceful knowledge that God loves me this much, He didn’t give me this and then forget me.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, November 2014

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