Erasing Expectations, Embracing Grace

September was a notable month for me this year. It marked my 40th birthday, which was celebrated in grand style with some wonderful friends. I felt so loved…so unbelievably surrounded by love. Late September is also the anniversary of my first grand mal seizure which eventually, and quite frankly, thankfully, led to my epilepsy diagnosis. It’s a date fixated in my memory with visions of looking across a store and looking at my 2-year-old. Everything inside me was screaming for help, for my son and for myself. I had no clue what was about to occur, I just knew something was terribly wrong and I needed someone to help us. I awoke to a sore arm where I landed on a clothes rack, another huge bump on my head and a bleeding tongue. I had the pleasure of one more escorted ride to the ER.

Eight years. It seems like an eternity and yet it seems like yesterday. I have had a hard time with this 40 thing. I’m so far from where I thought I would be at 40. Ten years ago I was pregnant, well actually about to blow a major-gasket-size pregnant, with our second child. We knew he would be our last, because hell hath no fury like a woman who has thrown up everyday for 9 consecutive months. This one was it! In my mind I was ready to settle down with our two children, adjust to a change in jobs at CAT for Johnny and find my niche in my own career at the church which was experiencing growth in monumental proportion. My plan went smoothly for a couple of years.

And then God reminded us all that He, and only He is in control of our lives. In the blessings, in the joy and in the abundance, we forget to run to Him. We forget to ask Him to guide us, to ask Him to forgive us and to ask Him everyday to be the light in our lives and let us reflect His life saving light. I had forgotten that God gave me breath, that He chose Johnny and me to raise Justin and Hunter. I had forgotten to thank Him each day for my husband, my children, my home, provisions for all of us and most importantly for sending His son Jesus for me. He knocked me off my feet so I would draw near to Him as my comfortable world around me crumbled. I guess the first time didn’t work, so He tried a second time to get my full attention.

Last week as I was running I passed a church, well actually I passed 6 churches on a one mile stretch of one road. You know you live in the heart of the south AND the Bible belt when there are 6 churches on one road within one mile. Seriously, if everyone joined forces can you imagine the power? Oh well, that is another topic for another day. Anyway, one of the churches had a marquee about the coming week’s sermon. It said “Erasing Expectations, Embracing Grace”. I ran past that marquee several times last week and each time it really struck a chord with me. My 40th birthday had me thinking about the expectations I had once had for myself. It had me thinking about my failures. My, my, my. Not once had I thought that perhaps I had accomplished the expectations God had for me. I was too fixated on what limitations I now have from my brain injury and from the epilepsy and where I might have been. I forgot that God brought me to this point in my life because He loves me. God gave me His grace to get me to this point and I had forgotten that my life is about fulfilling His plan, not my own. I have sinned in forgetting His grace surrounds me daily.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh and pleading with God to remove it. Some think Paul may have even been referencing epilepsy. I too have pleaded with God to remove my own thorn in the flesh. Just as God chose my husband for me, chose me as the Mother for Justin and Hunter, He chose me to have epilepsy. I never questioned the blessings of my husband or my children, yet I questioned epilepsy. Perhaps, God blessed me with epilepsy too? When Paul pleaded with God, God spoke to him and said in verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. Well what a fool I have been! Paul reminds us that only in our weakness, our infirmities and our distresses is the almighty power of God displayed. God makes us weak so that we will trust Him, lean on Him, thank Him for our daily bread and our daily breath.

What if I wake up tomorrow with no expectations and just embraced the grace that God gave me to allow me another day? What if I face each day erasing my expectations and asking God for encounters with Him? It’s about perspective. Is the glass half empty, or is it half full? Is God part of my life, or is He my life…the source of my life?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, October 2013


Family Knows Best

My mind has raced between grief, anger and gratitude over the last week. Much of my life is empty without Emmer. I have reached for the phone more times than I can count just to call and check in. I grieve that I can’t talk to her, I grieve that I can’t bicker with her and that she can’t argue back. I’m mad that she’s gone and that I can’t remind her that it is her shower day or her hair day. I’m angry about the lonely emptiness I feel. I’m thankful for the gracious plenty 97 years she had here and for the amazing health she experienced, almost until the very end.

In January 2007, I walked away from my 12 year career in non-profit ministry because I visited my Grandfather’s grave and I promise you, he spoke to me. In the Lord’s presence, kneeling at his grave marker (call me crazy, I don’t care) an audible voice told me to leave my job and go to my family. It didn’t make any sense to walk away from my job, but with my health failing, and a direct order from above, I obeyed. I could always argue with my Grandmother, but my Grandfather, ah, no. I walked away knowing this was right.

That was 6 years ago. That voice told me that my family needed me more than my career needed me. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I have been desperately seeking for tangible pieces of my grandparents this week, so that I can touch them, smell them, feel them and hear them. I pulled out all of my Grandfather’s Bibles and skimmed through the pages reading his notes. A piece of notebook paper fell out of one of his Bibles and on it were notes in his own handwriting where he was doing his own study in Samuel.

This caught my attention! At the top of the page my Grandfather had written The call of Samuel. Below that he wrote Samuel means “Called by God”. I continued reading through all his notes and then at the bottom in all capital letters he had written READ THE CALLS- when people need us, that can be God’s call to us. Maybe we can serve God best by meeting the needs of other people. “In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” Judging from the quality of my Grandfather’s penmanship, these notes are at least 20 years old. He knew, even then, he knew his own bride would be cared for until she was ready to meet him again in heaven. My name may not be Samuel, but I think I was indeed called by God to fulfill a purpose much bigger than I could have ever understood as I sat in that cemetery 6 years ago.

I’m reminded today of his own life verse
“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Family still knows best.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, January 2013

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught… my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear… the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares… we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far… and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me… His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be… as long as life endures.

I’m surrounded by amazing grace, reminders of God’s amazing grace everyday.

Several weeks ago I was at my Grandmother’s and I heard a familiar tune when I walked through the sitting area. There, in a reclined wheelchair, I saw lady who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 lbs. Her hair was neatly brushed and was the same beautiful powder white color of the sand I love in Rosemary Beach, FL. She had silly fluffy socks on her feet, I assumed she didn’t need shoes because she probably rarely walked without help. Her arms were folded over her body but her wrinkled hands showed her age and her fingers overlapped each other with arthritis. This little lady who sat curled up in her chair was absolutely belting out Amazing Grace! For almost a solid hour this beautiful woman sat in the sitting area and sang of grace. As I would pass people in the hallway I could see people’s faces light up as they heard her sing. I wondered about her life before she had to move into a nursing home and I thought how cool it is that God gave her the gift to recall a song about grace at that stage of her life. What fears and dangers has God’s grace brought her safely through? Her life has endured and He has been her shield and whether her mind was in the world or not she was going to sing about it.

God’s grace surrounds me. Perhaps it’s time to put on my own silly fluffy socks and belt out my own tunes. What I saw that day was an amazing picture of God’s amazing grace.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, October 2012