Finding It

I am allowing myself to count, or at least I am telling you I am counting. I can see the end of this trial. I am no longer counting in weeks but I am counting in days. We have had so many countdowns going on around here with the end of EOGs, EOCs, exams, school, leaving for camp, Montreat, Justin’s 16th birthday and when Mom can drive. It has been hard to keep up with which countdown we are discussing! One thing is certain, my quiet house is suddenly full of voices and that makes me so happy.

I have had a LOT of time to digest the changes to our lives that epilepsy and brain injury brought me. Some days felt like forever. Justin had to get up at 5:25 for school. Yes, it is insane. Then round two starts at 6:45. Then it is just the dogs and me until 3pm. For several months I couldn’t work out and honestly I just slept most of the day. I was so drugged up playing with so many medications I didn’t know which end was up waiting until July felt like eternity. Mom was sick, I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t even grasp how she was because I couldn’t get to her and I was angry. I hated being dependent on people every time I needed to go anywhere. I felt so much pressure to have my act completely together anytime I asked anyone for anything because I knew I was already inconveniencing someone and I didn’t want to be any extra trouble.

You do not know what real freedom is until you don’t have it anymore. Truly, there were days, 3 or 4 in a row where I did not leave the house. Sure I walked the dogs. But days that I did not get in the car, did not have the need to, as Emmer would say “put myself together” and get out. I know how she felt those last years when she was stuck in her room in healthcare and she didn’t know what day it was. Were it not for the kids coming home at 3pm the beds wouldn’t have been made and I probably wouldn’t have showered. Everyday, by 3pm, the house was presentable and I was at least physically presentable. Some days were wonderful, some were normal, some were sad, some were dark and desperate. I had never faced the reality that I will live with epilepsy and seizures for the rest of my life. I always planned that we would control it with medicine and I wouldn’t have to worry with it. That is the most likely case, but I do need to be prepared for the possibility that may not happen. There is always the chance that I will have more seizures and be back in this same place again. Mentally I needed to swallow that big pill, along with another 5 or so. I have seen that I can do this. If I have a seizure tomorrow and the clock restarts we will all deal with what comes our way. Our Lord is ever faithful. He has shown me that, day in and day out. When I was on my knees in prayer and when I was on my knees in tears. He was, is and will be faithful.

The little things have meant so much. People have called and made time to take me to lunch. Those were days I really looked forward to. I got to put myself together! I have a couple of special friends that would drop notes in the mail every so often just to say hello and they were thinking of me. Those notes always arrived on days that I needed a little extra hug. To me, weekly rides for the kids were huge, but the people providing them say they were little so I’ll call them little. These little rides home from Chess Club, baseball practice and games, church, small group, drum lessons, play dates, sleepovers, I could go on and on. Several people have taken on my kids for this entire seven months and are transporting them where they need to be on a weekly basis. They show up without reminders and it means all the world to me. These adults willing to go out of their way mean our kids don’t have to sacrifice something they enjoy because of my health. As parents you all know what that means to us. These are the things I remember…quiet acts of kindness.

Getting moving again. This was a hard one. The doctor wouldn’t let me work out for some time after my seizures. Then she let me slowly begin walking and lifting weights on a modified routine. Anyone who has worked out on any level of intensity knows that you lose it very quickly. I had run a half marathon in mid November and my first seizure was Dec 2nd. By the time I was finally allowed to work out in March I was up more than a few pounds and down more than a few levels of strength and endurance. Frustrated to say the very least! I didn’t want to run with anyone because I was too slow. People at the gym were generous when my instructor told the class about my situation and I had many offers for rides to class. So I followed the rules with weights and began to see progress there. This running thing, this was a different beast. I had been walking so I thought I would be able to run without too much trouble. One stinking mile. Tears tears tears. I felt so pathetic. The road has been my go to for years now. It’s my zone and if ever I needed a zone it was now. If I can’t have running this is just not gonna work for me. I felt so defeated. For weeks I would try to go out and run. Sometimes I would manage a couple, maybe 3 miles, other days hardly 1. I would try consoling myself by saying at least I was doing it. I wasn’t consoled. I felt robbed. It would take me back to that angry place again, angry that this epilepsy had stolen something else from me. Then, in those moments He would speak to me, through the lyrics to music.

“I don’t know where to go from here. As long as I know that You are near. I’m done fighting. I’m finally letting go. I will trust in You. You’ve never failed before. I will trust in You. If there’s a road I should walk Help me find it. If I need to be still, Give me peace for the moment. Whatever Your will, Can you help me find it? I’m giving You fear and You give faith. I’m giving you doubt. You give me grace. For every step I’ve never been alone. Even when it hurts, You’ll have Your way. Even in the valley I will say, with every breath You’ve never let me go. I will wait for You. You’ve never failed before. I will wait for You.” By Sidewalk Prophets “Help Me Find It”

My “It”. I needed to swallow epilepsy and own it. I finally felt like I could say without so much embarrassment that I have epilepsy. I’m a Mom and I am at home with my family. And the rest is really none of your business. No I can’t really say that, but I can say it in my head until I think of something a little snazzier. I am proud of my family and I am fortunate and blessed to be with my children everyday! Now God knows I love the road and I believed He wanted me to have that freedom again.

My sweet niece in Colorado called me in early spring to tell me she wanted to run the Bolder Boulder. It’s a huge Memorial Day attraction founded by Olympian Frank Shorter in 1979. The race ends in the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field with the Finish Line on the big screen for added excitement! She told me she and her entire family were running the race together. This was my “It”! My mind was racing. I was not letting my brother and his whole family do this without me! I called my best friend, Sharon. She was the person who asked me to run a half marathon with her way back in 2005. I knew she wouldn’t turn me down. I asked her to fly to CO with me and run a 10K. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even ask me when it was before she said she would go. Next, Mom. Of course she would go. I called my brother and asked if he could make room for 3 more people that weekend. No problem! I had my goal and I had a couple of months to get ready for 6 miles. I hadn’t run more than 3 miles but I was certain I would be able to do this.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend. I had some really bad runs and one really good 4 mile getting ready for the race. I had some great workouts and one right before the race that I had to completely bail on where the people at the gym said I looked dazed and confused. That’s always reassuring. I was so anxious leading up to the race, it was ridiculous. I was afraid to be away from home. I have been home SO much that I’m actually uncomfortable leaving home now. That’s another issue I have to deal with too. Anyway, my prayer warriors were at work and I knew God is faithful. I knew He had not failed me. I knew I needed to step outside of my comfort zone in order to feel His power rain down on me.  Well, guess what? Elevation did not bother us, lack of training did not bother me. I smiled and then I cried like a baby after crossing the finish. I took it all in and looked to the heavens, feeling like I was just a little closer standing there at the base of the Flat Irons. I thanked God for His faithfulness before, during and now. I closed my eyes and the months flashed by and I felt the ground beneath me and I was so grateful for the road I had traveled to cross that finish line. I had given Him fear and doubt and He gave me faith and grace. For every step I was never alone. Indeed He helped me find It. I just needed to rekindle my love with Him.

That's me in the pink! I found my It at the Finish!

That’s me in the pink! I found my It at the Finish!

So officially it is only 34 days until I get the keys back. I feel like I need a refresher course to hit these crazy roads first. I also wonder where I will go? Isn’t that funny? All these months of being at home and learning to consolidate trips to now I wonder where I might need to go? Thank you for being part of this journey with me. For supporting me by reading my posts and giving my an outlet for the crazy thoughts that wonder around in my silly little mind. I hope I give you some laughs, some insight into life that is different from your own and maybe a little bit of something to chew on for another day.

© Gatewood Campbell, June 2014




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

Returning Thanks

I have been enjoying reading thankful posts from my friends during November. Each day I have thought of something for which I am grateful. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and our family has been busy participating and I have not slowed down enough to write down so many things for which I am thankful. So here goes…

Blessed with Much, Thankful for Much and Eternally Molded by Much.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for
The promise of eternity in heaven with my Lord and Savior;
our warm home;
food to eat;
clothing for my family;
my husband, my children and all the ways they generously love me;
my mother, my grandmother and the combination of the two that I have become;
my brother and my sister in law that love me in all the right moments;
my mother and father in law who love without ceasing, in word and in deed;
mercy and grace from God and those close to me;
friends that love me without judgement;
my Mother’s friends that love me as their own;
teachers that understand boys;
The Pines staff that loved my Emmer as their own;
Montreat, all that she was, is, will be and all those that come along with her;
the beach that teaches me to release my burdens with the tide;
driving by myself;
the ability to run and the ability to pay it forward;
the ability to understand the misunderstood;
the color purple and all who proudly wear it;
the power of fearless sharing;
kind words and smiles from strangers;
random acts of kindness;
patience from a sales clerk;
family traditions;
making new memories;
and a concussion that changed our lives forever.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, November 2013

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