A Heart for Malawi: Jewel’s Story

It has always been a sweet sound to my ears to hear a person speak of their passions. Passions have a way of unlocking a heart, driving it to open up wide to relentlessly follow its greatest desire. As believers, we know that God does not haphazardly give us our passions but deliberately weaves them deep into every fiber of our being, for His purpose. His Word tells us in Psalm 139 that He formed our inmost being. Together, as the body of Christ, He has given us our unique passions that can act as fire. He can use them to ignite our souls to be fully devoted to His service and mission when we surrender ourselves selflessly to Him. 

Today I’m excited to share a guest post written by my sister-in-law Jewel, who has found her passion in the tiny rural villages of Malawi, Africa. God has used and will continue to use her heart’s desires to fulfill His plan for the people in this area. Please read through to the end to see how you can join in and help with her current fundraiser!

If someone would have told me a few years ago that I would one day be involved in foreign missions, I wouldn’t have believed them. That was always a good job for other people. I was too attached to my things, my home, and my people. I enjoy traveling and visiting new places but not for missions. “Missions”, means relating to strangers, facing unknowns, not having everything mapped out, experiencing new things, and overall being stretched WAY farther than what I’m comfortable with.

Have you ever experienced God’s sense of humor?! Just watch out! When I didn’t want to be pushed outside my comfort zone, I pictured God laughing and saying, “Ah but just watch me push you out.” In case you haven’t figured it out, incredible, mind-blowing things happen when you’re willing to step outside your “box”.

I remember the Sunday morning that my pastor announced about a possible mission trip beginning to be organized to go to Malawi, Africa. Granted I hadn’t even heard of Malawi before, I had to go look at a map to see where in Africa it was located. For whatever reason, Africa tickled the little “that sounds interesting” button inside of me. I’m picturing the vast safaris in Africa filled with giraffes and elephants like I had studied in school. I wanted to see this. Have you ever been interested in something and the whole time,  you just doubt that it could possibly ever work out? That’s how this was for me. I was interested but the whole time I’m thinking that there’s no way I’d really get to go to Africa. Even so, I filled out my application. I was accepted. Step #1 completed.

Plans progressed and I started realizing that this is no joke. Not only were steps being taken, but they were also falling into place. One of the big hurdles along the way was funding. A trip to Africa isn’t cheap. If our team didn’t get funded, we couldn’t go. We planned some fundraisers but we didn’t know how successful they would be. We also sent out correspondence letters asking for people to consider sponsoring us. A few days after mailing out some letters, I got a call from one of the owners of the company I work for asking if I had gotten the funds that I needed. I told him I hadn’t and he said that he was ready to fill out a check for me for whatever I needed. Boom! In one short phone call, I was completely funded.

I cried from the overwhelming emotions that enveloped me. There was nothing left to doubt that I was to be making this trip to Africa. After a very successful BBQ fundraiser, our entire team of 8 people was fully funded. There were lots of little details still needing to be sorted out but I no longer doubted that they would also be taken care of and they were.

It’s a grueling travel experience.  We traveled from Tampa to JFK in New York. From New York to Johannesburg, South Africa and from Johannesburg to Lilongwe, Malawi. The flight from New York to Johannesburg was to be a 14 hour, non-stop flight. We were about half an hour en route, about to watch a movie and settle in for the long haul. The pilot came on,  saying that we’re experiencing a technical difficulty. The flaps on the wings weren’t retracting, keeping the plane from being able to get up to the correct cruising altitude. If we flew across the ocean at a lower altitude, we wouldn’t have enough fuel to get to Johannesburg.  So we’d have to go back to JFK to get the flaps fixed.  One more problem: the flaps are also used to slow a plane down for landing so we’d be making an accelerated, emergency landing. At this point, the entire cabin was deathly silent.

 Let’s take a step back here so you can understand the scenario. Flying straight up scares me. I’ll do it but I don’t like doing it. This is the longest flight I’ve ever experienced.  This is my first mission trip as well as my first time out of the US/Canada. Okay? So I’m not feeling the most relaxed. This whole experience is a giant step outside of my “box”.  Imagine the terror coursing through my body when the pilot says we have technical difficulties. This is like my worst nightmare in an airplane coming true. Not only are there technical difficulties but we’re going to have to go back and make an accelerated, emergency landing. There were fearful and terrorizing thoughts zipping through my head. The thought of the possibility of having to make an emergency landing in the water when I don’t know how to swim or wondering if we can make a safe “accelerated landing” at the airport. Might I add, it’s not very comforting when a grown man on your team sitting next to you says that this technical issue is nothing to be alarmed about.

My thoughts turned to prayer. I couldn’t see how God would coordinate all the details for a team of eight people to carry His Gospel to Africa only to let them die just outside of New York. A peace flooded over me and I had confidence that we’d be okay. That’s what is amazing about God’s power.  He already knew we’d face this obstacle long before we did. Whatever the outcome, He had a plan and a purpose. Maybe this was only to spare us of something much more severe. 

Going back now to the pilot’s announcement; we’d be making an emergency landing back at JFK. However, we were too heavily weighted with fuel to safely make the landing. We spent 45 min to an hour circling to release enough fuel into the air to make us light enough to land. When we were light enough, we headed towards the airport. The plane had external cameras so we could watch the entire fuel dumping and landing process from the screens in front of each seat.  We landed on a remote airstrip that was lined with emergency personnel in their hazmat suits. In that moment, I had a new fearful thought. What if this plane bursts into flames? We were definitely coming in at a much higher rate of speed than normal but it was an absolutely flawless landing! We all cheered when we were safely on solid ground. We thought that we’d be transferred to another plane or at least be deplaned while ours was under repair. No, we had to sit on that plane for 4-5 hours while it was fixed! They didn’t have another South African Airline plane to put us on.  I wasn’t keen on the fact that we’d remain on the same plane. Now our14-hour flight was turning into a 19-hour flight. 

Not long after landing, we received word that one of our church’s members had suddenly passed away from a heart attack.  Here we are sitting at JKF on our way to Malawi and a very close friend to several of our team members has died unexpectedly, back at home. What was the right thing to do? Were we getting a glaring stop sign? After more prayer, we decided our answer was to still go. 

That long flight allowed us ample prayer time, lifting our sister in Christ up as she suddenly was made a widow.  Our team would end up being absent to grieve with her and our church family during this tragedy. This was especially hard for the several team members who were so close to this family. We knew that all we could do was pray and trust in our Lord’s sovereign plan for these situations He was allowing us to face.  

By His mercy, we finally arrived in Johannesburg without any more incidents. Johannesburg only has one flight a day that goes to Lilongwe and our delay made us miss that flight. They kindly put all of us up in a hotel at the airport and gave us enough meal vouchers that we could eat like kings and queens. We were able to explore the quaint airport, experienced team bonding, and had hot showers before having a long, restful night. It was much appreciated!

 The next morning we flew to Lilongwe, where the luxurious lifestyle that we had become accustomed to in the US, ceased to exist. I loved the simplicity of the lifestyle.  It felt like home.  Immediately.  That completely took me off guard. I don’t typically adapt to a new setting and especially to a new culture that quickly. It usually takes awhile before something feels familiar to me. But I immediately felt a connection there.

We started right into our weekly activities the very day we arrived. Our main goal was to repair as many bore holes as we could. Bore holes are their wells that they pump water with a hand pump as a source of clean water. Malawi has thousands of bore holes that are not working leaving entire villages without a source for clean water. Oftentimes villagers either do not have the money to purchase replacement parts, do not have access to the parts or do not have the knowledge and tools to make the repair. Therefore, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people are left to drink contaminated surface water. Water from puddles that their livestock tramples through.  This has lead to a crisis in many parts of Malawi. With their very limited medical knowledge, death statistics continue to remain high.

In certain areas, we found multiple villages relying on the same bore hole. Sometimes a working bore hole was in sight of a broken bore hole.  We didn’t understand the necessity to repair the broken bore hole until we learned that they serviced different villages.  The villages with a working bore hole often charged other villages with a broken one to come use theirs. These villages couldn’t afford to pay for water.  

We spent our days traveling from bore hole to bore hole. Sometimes it was a 10 minute stop and other times it was a couple hour stop. We never knew until the men took the pump apart. While the men worked at fixing the bore holes and showed the natives how to make repairs, we ladies would play bubbles with the children and women. We also would share the Gospel with them, the most important part of our trip. 

We left them with access to clean water but we wanted to leave them with eternal hope, even more.  We’d spend as much time with the women and children as we could. Once the men completed the repair, we’d all go join them around the bore hole. One of the men from the team would stand and share the Gospel story with everyone.  We’d then leave Bibles and two soccer balls with the village chief before moving on to the next bore hole. 

The course of the week was filled with tangible evidence of God at work, answered prayers, and a few embracing Jesus as their Savior. It’s hard to portray to you the extreme poverty that we witnessed in words.  Their entire houses were typically smaller and more shabby than most Americans’ backyard sheds.  The kids only had one set of clothes most times so on wash day, they had to just play naked until their clothes were dry.

Their work ethic was incredible to witness. They’d get up at sunrise (around 4:30 the time of year we went)  and started the day by tidying up their land parcels and starting a fire.  You’d see the people disperse, trailing across paths, headed to work in their fields. The kids would help until it was time to go to school (if they were fortunate enough to get to go to school). Then they’d return to the fields after school until late afternoon. They went to bed at sundown and started all over the next day. 

While these people live very difficult lives with little hope of the economy improving, they are some of the happiest people I have ever related to. They welcomed us with open arms and shared with us what little they had. They sang, danced and laughed as they worked.  We heard story after story from women sharing about their lives but never once did they complain. Needless to say, these people worked their way into my heart. When we left, I felt more like I was leaving home than returning home.

The verse, “Be still and know that I am God” comes to mind. We Americans have so many distractions and hectic lives that we have to be intentional about being still and listening to God. That’s one of the things I loved about Africa. It is much easier to hear God in a culture that is much more simple than the luxurious life we live. While we are concerned about when we can get the upgrade to our phone, they’re wondering how to get enough food to survive. I’m not saying our culture is wrong. It’s a matter of keeping our priorities straight and remaining unselfish.

Africa changed my heart and my faith forever. If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to thank you for reading my story and to tell you that it’s not ending here! We are going back! My friend Esmeralda and I are in the process of planning a return, extended trip!

 I’m beyond excited at the opportunity to return and see the loved ones we learned to know. We will be involved in the feeding programs, mentorships, and budding congregations that have been planted. While definite steps are being taken that I can return in February 2018, I need your help! We need workers from all over the world, but I understand this is not everyone’s call or reality. Would you consider supporting our mission? 

Right now, our largest need is prayer. We covet your prayers for safety and that all we do in this journey will glorify God as we complete His kingdom work that we have been called to. 

Our next obvious need is funding. We have set up a GoFundMe account if you’d like to donate there. Or you can join in on our first local fundraiser happening now!

We are selling homemade, made from scratch cinnamon buns as a fundraiser. (Fun side note: they freeze well!ūü§ó) We have two sizes: an 8 count pan for $10 or a 4 count pan for $5. We’re taking PRE-ORDERS from now through September 23rd, 2017 or until there are a manageable amount of orders. Our goal for this is to meet at least $500. Please EMAIL your order to 2theendsoftheearth2017@gmail.com Please specify your name, phone number, quantity, and size. Pickup will be on September 30th from 2 pm to 6 pm. If we work with you or go to church with you, we can deliver. Payment will be by cash or check at the time of pick-up.

More opportunities will be coming soon! Please RSVP for our event on Facebook for the fundraiser and stay tuned for updates.

Thank you so much for supporting our heart’s call. 

-Jewel Campbell 

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When God Gave Us Two: Birth Day & Birthday!

My mama always told me that it was going to go too fast. She told me that the day she watched me hold my girls for the first time in the hospital bed. “I swear that was me holding you just yesterday and now here you are holding your own.” 

Now here we are one whole year later. I’m starting to realize how true those words really are.

“Don’t blink.” 

First let me back up a bit. In my last post on our journey of when God Gave Us Two, I wrote about those moments right before we had the girls. I’m going to disguise my recent procrastination in writing this part of the story as a purposeful, “I was just waiting for this perfect moment”, justification and try to make up for the fact that I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to lately. 

July 18, 2016 

I woke up early that morning, well if you could even say that I was getting much sleep at all during those days. Mamas around the world know the agony of insomnia towards the end of pregnancy. If it’s not your mind wandering to a million different places, it’s your hip that’s stiffening once again, your back that needs stretched for the hundredth time or the best, your bladder that needs emptied for who knows how many times. 

This was the morning I woke up just feeling different. I had been on bed rest for a few weeks now due to preeclampsia. We were monitoring my blood pressure very closely and given thresholds to be aware of when it was an emergency trip to the hospital. My doctor warned me that if I woke up feeling off that I needed to come immediately. So a little before 5:00 am, I woke Weldon up and told him that my blood pressure had to be elevated or something else was wrong. 

I can’t remember exact numbers, but for me it was high and above our warning threshold. This had happened a few times already but only when I walked – like literally from the couch to the bathroom -my blood pressure would skyrocket.  If I never had to see another arm cuff in my life I’d be okay. I’m pretty sure constant monitoring my blood pressure gave me high blood pressure…

Our bags were all packed already so we decided to make the hour drive to the hospital to go get checked out. After running tests and labs, everything came back okay. Just as the doctor was about to send me home to play the pressure monitoring game again, she asked a few more questions which prompted her to call my maternal fetal medicine specialist for clearance to induce me.

So at 35 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it began!

I have to admit, sharing the news to your family and friends that “it’s time” was  *almost* as exciting as announcing the girls’ arrival. I was a big ball of emotional mess. Scared for whatever in the world my body was about to do but absolutely ecstatic that I’d be holding my two baby girls very soon. 

July 19, 2016

After spending an uncomfortable night with mild contractions, the doctor came in around 6 to make her rounds and check my progress.

Nothing. Not even a centimeter. 

We discussed options and ultimately decided we would choose a cesarean section to deliver. The nurses said to relax (yeah right) and hang out, they’d be back to prep me around lunch time. Even though I knew the dangers that could be involved during a c-section, in this moment I felt a bit of relief. We just felt personally with our situation with having two and the short window of time I had left to try to progress on my own, this was the best option – an answer to prayer!  

I remember the feelings I had as I kissed my family that was there goodbye when they wheeled me down to surgery. I just couldn’t believe this moment was real. The next time they saw me, I’d be able to finally show them my pride and joy! 

Once I was prepped and ready to go in the OR, Weldon came and stood by my head, held my hand and waited. We walked (well I rolled) into that room as just a husband and wife but would come out as a family. A family of four!

At 1:00 pm the doctor said, “take a breath, you’re going to feel lots of pressure.” And by pressure, I think she meant to say, “Girlfriend, we are about to push every abdominal organ you have into your throat and come back out holding a human”. Weirdest. Feeling. Ever. 

The “pressure” came and went. Out came our Baby A. The whole staff of the OR ooo’ed and awe’d. “That’s the first one, now the second!” I don’t even remember much of the next couple of seconds, but at 1:01 pm came our Baby B. We immediately heard two distinct, tiny cries from behind the curtain -a relief, a joy and a flood of tears came over us.  “they’re perfect,” said our sweet nurse anesthetist who ended up being our personal photographer in the OR. 

They laid Baby B down on my chest first. This was our Ansley Elizabeth, “Ansley Beth”. Her little but wide open eyes stared into mine. I looked down as much as I could as I was still strapped to the table, and I kissed her tiny little face. She was perfect. 

Next came our Anna Katherine, “Anna Kate”. She laid there the same as her sister, so wide-eyed and alert. Just looking straight into my eyes, studying my face and my smile. This moment literally took my breath away. How can it be? These babies were miracles – miracles of pure, sweet, innocent grace. We were in love.

They took them away so I could be moved to recovery, but before they carried them out to our room they gave us this precious look of our sweet angels side by side. I couldn’t believe it -two. So tiny, so beautiful – these two precious little angels were finally here. We just looked at each other, no words to say and cried. Time stood still. 

Anna Kate was 5 lbs, 8 oz., 19″ long. Ansley Beth was 4 lbs, 7 oz., 19.5″ long. No oxygen or NICU time was needed – a miracle. No issues with blood sugar – a miracle.  These two teeny tiny babies had come into this world strong and healthy – a miracle. 

A year ago today, this was us:

I blinked once and now today is here already. July 19th, 2017. Our sweet Anna Kate & Ansley Beth are ONE!

 

What a sweet, incredible year it’s been. I don’t think I’ve ever learned as much, grew as much and cried as much as I have in the last 365 days. Who knew that motherhood could and would ever be this grand? There’s so much more to write about our first year as parents of twins. I hope to share more of that in the coming months on the blog.

But for today, I just want to celebrate my babies and the joy they each have given us. I chose a song for each of my girls below because music just helps me find the right words to say when I can’t on my own sometimes. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ugly cry for the rest of the day now…

 

First Birthday Songs from Mama

To: Anna & Ansley2017

Ansley Beth's Song (In My Daughter's Eyes)(Martina McBride)

 

I’ll start with my Anna Kate:

With a sweet smile and soft, sensitive spirit you bring light to my world. From the very beginning, you’ve been the loudest. Taking after your mama’s own heart you surely love your groceries. You had a way of letting us all know that it was indeed Anna Kate’s time to be fed. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of feeding your sister, showering, sleeping, going to the bathroom -whatever. You knew you wanted something so you didn’t stop trying until you got it. This spirit still is with you today. You see that toy over there? You want it, now. Your sister has it but who cares. You’re going to get it -determination. Heaven help us if you can’t. You let us know immediately that you aren’t happy about it. 

You were first in doing most things this year. The first to smile, first to roll, sit up, crawl, cut a tooth, walk and now climb! You love to give kisses, open mouth -all in. You love music and dancing. Did I mention you love to eat? Some of your favorites are peas, bananas, cottage cheese and yogurt. You set the stage often for your sister. Maybe you won’t be the one who pulls the dishes out of the cabinet first, but you’ll surely open it up and invite her over to start the deconstruction process with you. You love doors -opening and closing them but hate when they are closed on you. You have a love-hate relationship with the vacuum, the mixer and other loud-noised machines. It’s getting better in time though.

You’re usually the one who knows how to entertain herself longer as you toddle about in your own little world. You’re so curious and you want to know how things work. You’d give anything to be right in the middle of whatever I’m doing, always. Being nosey  or “well informed” definitely runs in your bloodline though, you come by it honestly. 

I absolutely adore your belly laughs and breathless giggles. They light up my heart like no other. Your sweet snuggles and hugs are one of the best parts of my day. My song that comes to mind for you today is “I Hope You Dance”, by Lee Ann Womack. Just hearing it, makes me think of you as you bounce along innocently spinning around through the wonders of life you’re little eyes are seeing now. I see your soft and sensitive spirit as something familiar, because it’s identical to mine. Your tender heart will guide you towards compassion for others but don’t ever let it keep you from being bold, from going against what everyone else might be doing because you feel it’s right. You’ll be my dreamer, my idealist. When you learn of the realities and evils of the world that I wish I could forever keep you from, don’t let it discourage you. Jesus will carry you, He’ll protect you and love you when you give Him your whole heart. I love you so much my sweet Anna and I wish you a day full of happiness today as always, with lots of sweet sugar! It will always be my delight and  joy to watch you as you grow.  

And now I’ll end with my Ansley Beth:

Big things come in tiny packages and you surely hold that statement to its maximum truth. From the very beginning you’ve been our carefree, fearless and strong little peanut. You might be little but your personality and spunk is mighty. You make us laugh all the time with your timely expressions and mannerisms. You’ve always had that tiny smirk in your smile that hinted all that sass you have inside, waiting to be poured out at just the perfect moments. Your smile, let’s talk about that. You do it so proudly, it takes up your whole face -I have always been in love with those little gums! You are still are  our two-toothed wonder today, but more are coming in soon. 

You’re the first to try something new usually – like touching the dog first or testing out a new toy. In a battle of wills or disagreements with your sister, you’re usually our winner. You do have a more “personal” approach to squabbles though as you have learned to go for the hair, use your teeth or just a good ole’ body-slamming tackle. We’re working on changing that though because we know deep inside you really do love AK  so you’ll need to learn to express that love to her differently in time. 

You hate to be left behind and love to go! Even if we walk from one room to the next, you need to be with us and be going along too. With all that strength you have within you comes strong emotion and compassion too. Your broken heart seems to last a little longer and sometimes you just need to be held a little more. When you pick up on something, you are so quick to learn it and figure it out for yourself. When you learned how to walk at 11 months, it only took you about 2 days to conquer it all! Getting you to be still is a challenge at times because you love to go and be busy so much! When we can get you to sit still and eat for us your favorites are bananas, peas, hot dogs and bread. You love, love, love cuddling your soft blankets and spitting out cold water from your sippy cup as you watch it roll down your belly. 

You’re a little more stingy with those kisses but because you love to be held, I adore the feeling of those tiny hands and feet wrapped firmly around me to make sure you won’t be put down until you’re ready to.  Your sweet giggles just melt my heart over and over again. My song to you is “In my Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride. I see your strong and fearless spirit as a mark made on you from the man who has my heart, your Daddy. You are just like him and you both inspire me to be better – always. You have a heart that will go and do extraordinary things if you let it. I have a feeling that there won’t be many things or people that you’ll let stand in your way of following your dreams, reaching out and trying something new. You’ll be my doer, my realist. You’ll be our truth teller and honest friend – and probably our most favorite personal comedian (which I’d like to claim as a trait you inherited from me). Soar high my baby girl, but learn to boast of the wonderful things you’ll accomplish as evidence of God’s immeasurable grace poured over your life through Jesus. Give Him your whole heart first and with that you’ll forever fly. I love you so much my sweet Ansley and I hope today is full of lots of cake and fun! I’ll always feel  privileged to have the front row seat to your story. 

 

Happy Birthday to my Twincesses, I love you both to the moon and back! 

 

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Cookies for the Governor

In the midst of a full plate: a full cookie order schedule, full sink of dirty dishes, full hamper of dirty clothes, and living room FULL of toys for the 121,000th time in one day (how do 11 month-old’s even do that much damage?!)what should you do when you’re asked to make cookies for the Governor?

You say yes! And then do your cleaning later -maybe. 

It was a privilege to be asked to attend a private event hosted by the DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce where Florida Governor Rick Scott would be the guest of honor today. Since my husband serves as a Chamber Board Member, I was invited to come along…only with cookies of course! In addition to providing a couple of platters for guests to enjoy during the event, I was requested to make something special for the Governor and his staff to take with them.

I wanted to make something that said “welcome” and make an opportunity to brag about our community. What better way is there to show some of our Southern hospitality off with fresh home baked cookies?! You know, butter and sugar have never let me down nor has it allowed the numbers on my bathroom scale to go down either but I digress.

Along with the platter I included a note of thanks for his recent approval of House Bill No. 1233 that has raised the sales cap for cottage food businesses like mine going $15,000.00 per year to $50,000.00 per year! That’s huge for our family! It allows us to expand and continue growing our little cookie business so that we can afford the luxury of me working from home. The bill also will allow online marketing and payments that only continue to benefit my business efforts in the future. 

More important than the opportunity to say thank you was the moment that I could spend bragging to him about our community. From my note that explained what these cookies represented, here is a small snippet of what I wrote:

“These cookies represent a small part of the heritage and happenings of our community. With agriculture at our roots, we proudly support our local ranchers and farmers along with the benefits they  provide us. In March of 2017, we hosted the final Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo that will be held in our current arena, it was the 89th Annual Rodeo! We look forward to making new memories in our new arena being built. Last but not least, I wanted to celebrate the recent accomplishments of our Youth Baseball All-Star teams who are headed to State this summer! This is just a small portion of the great things happening for our youth in DeSoto County. We have our struggles and hardships like most rural areas do, but at the heart of our community passion and hope reside.  We know how to come together and work together in times of need to make a difference…”

There’s so much more I would’ve like been able to brag about, but I wouldn’t want to ruin his dieting plan with all the cookies it would take me to adequately describe the values and good things about my hometown! In a world where it’s so easy to find and pick on the things that are going wrong, it’s nice to focus on what’s going right for a change.

So here he is, Governor Rick Scott holding his very first platter of Southern Meets Mennonite Cookies! 

We appreciated your visit to Arcadia today Governor Scott and thank you for showing interest in our community. We hope this meeting you arranged to speak to our business leaders about local issues and future economic development will spark a positive action for the future of our county! 

Enjoy your cookies! 

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Enough: Lessons From A Dusty Kitchen Window

 

One of the greatest and wisest men I’ve ever known, once said to me, “I’m convinced that anyone can do anything that they want to do but they can’t do everything they want to do.” My great grandfather, Pawpaw, told me this when I was a teenager while I was working at the same assisted living facility where he and my great grandmother were living at the time. I would work my shift and then go visit with them before I went home in the evenings. He’d offer me a cold coca-cola and we’d sit down and talk. Pawpaw wasn’t the same man that he always used to be and because of the generation gap, I didn’t get the privilege of knowing him in his prime. Dementia was starting to set in fast. But he always, always still had positive words to say that fit into every conversation he would have. Despite his memory loss, his wit, wisdom and integrity never departed.

I was in my senior year of high school having a conversation with my great grandparents about my future plans for college. They were big advocates of education and encouraged all of their grandchildren to acquire some type of schooling. I remember I was telling them about my plans to go to nursing school, that I’d still work as a nursing assistant as I was taking classes and all the other many things I wanted to do once I graduated. Pawpaw probably only heard every other word of this due to his bad hearing, but he looked at me and said, “we are so proud of you, sugar”, as he often said to all of his family. He said, “if you work hard, you’ll get there but remember anyone can do anything, but they can’t do everything.”

I cherished these little moments with them as much as I could because they were so few and far in between with his dementia. Looking back now, that was probably one of the last coherent conversations I had with him. We lost our Nanu to a stroke in March 2014 at the age of 94, eight months before my wedding. My nephew Jonah was 16 months old at the time and I still remember hearing the pitter-patter of his little feet learning to walk across the wooden floors of the hospice house. Our Pawpaw lived to be a legendary 100 years old before he joined his bride in heaven in December 2015, the same morning of my cousin’s bridal shower, my nephew’s third birthday party and three days after I found out that I was pregnant.

I say all that to show you that life, whether we are ready for it or not, goes on. The clock keeps ticking, the sun keeps rising and the calendar keeps flipping. One generation leaves us as another one joins us. In all of these special moments our family has now: weddings, birthdays, graduations, new babies, and new accomplishments we can still hear the voices of our Pawpaw and Nanu saying, “you make us proud, sugar”.

Here I am now, a wife and a mother to twins. Caring for my home and nurturing my own family. I often wonder am I doing enough and being enough to the three people who need me the most. It’s no secret that I try to do too much. I say yes when I should say no. I’m starting to get the feeling though that our society is now okay with us doing exactly what’s best for number one. Sure we can be anything and do anything we want. That’s the American Dream; you work hard so you can play harder later. But while we are chasing our dreams, enjoying our hobbies and gaining recognition for ourselves, who might we be neglecting in the process? -Usually the people that need us the most.

We can be anything we want to be. America is one of the few countries of the world where someone born in one social class can move up or down into another if they so choose. Our problem is though, we are trying to do everything and be everything. What are we chasing? Why are we running so hard?

King Solomon, the richest man that ever walked this earth had attained it all; the fame, the fortune, the wealth -he had anything and everything. Yet he still came to the conclusion that it was all¬†meaningless. In respect to eternity, everything we materially strive for here on earth is¬†meaningless.¬†In Chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes, verses 10-11 he writes, “All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.¬†Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”¬†

So as I’m wondering if I’m enough or if I’m being enough, feeling overwhelmed at all there is “to do”, God reminds me through his Holy Spirit what enough really means. He gives me this picture:

It’s not a professional snap shot with perfect clarity and lighting. In fact, it’s slightly distorted because it was taken at dusk through the screen of my dirty kitchen window – I’ll add that to my to-do list.

You probably see here, a man pushing a tiller through his garden and two babies sitting in a play pen. But what¬†I see¬†is so much more…

I see a hard-working man, one who was raised up being taught the value of integrity and immersed in biblical truth. He’s out in our backyard doing something he loves, preparing our garden to be planted for the new season. He’s sweated and strained all day working hard to provide for his family and comes home to work hard to continue to provide. The crops that he’ll harvest will feed his wife, his two children, and many others. He does it for his love of nature and the outdoors, the beautiful gifts God created for us to use for living. But he also does it for the joy and satisfaction it brings when he can give to others.This man loves me with all of his being exactly for who I am and nothing else. I absolutely don’t deserve him but for some reason God thought that I did.

Below that I see two tiny babies, giggling and chattering away as they watch their Daddy till. They will grow up watching their Daddy work in that garden and one day be responsible for helping it grow too, just like he was as a child. They’ll learn the patience that it takes to grow a tiny seedling into a maturing plant. They’ll learn to be consistent as they take care to watering and weeding it. They’ll learn that food and the cost of living is not free, no matter who grows it or gives it. I’ve shared before how unworthy I feel of these two little blessings, but again God thought that I was worthy.

Then behind that picture is their Mama, me. I was working on baking another cookie order, trying to make dinner and work at putting away laundry that had been accumulating in large mountainous piles over the last two weeks. It was going to be a late night. The stress of everything that I needed, “to do” was starting to sink in deep. I was running through new time management plans in my mind. What kind of schedule could I get on to be able to fit it all in a little better? The enemy started working, reminding me of my failed attempts, exhausting task lists and unattainable goals. It seems like every week, I’m trying once again to make a system work where I can do it all.

The world would tell me here that something needs to give. If I want to have a successful blog and baking business one day, I’m going to have to devote myself one-hundred percent to it in order to make it all work. It’s going to take sacrifice and commitment. While this is all true, building a business does take hard work, letting it take¬†all¬†of my work doesn’t sit well with my soul.¬† I know that I was created to be so much more than a business owner or career holder.

Looking out of my kitchen window, God gave me a picture that was an answer to my troubled soul. I was reminded in that moment of¬†who¬†I needed to be above all things through the people He gave me. I need to be a loving and encouraging wife to my husband; and I need to be a nurturing and selfless mother to my babies. Even more important than that, I need to be devoted to following God’s will for my life as I grow in my faith in Him through Jesus Christ. This should be enough for me. This¬†is¬†enough for me!

Going back to that cold coca-cola and words of wisdom shared by my Pawpaw, I realized that it is okay that I can’t do everything. It’s actually a good thing that I can’t do everything I want to do. God has me in this moment doing exactly what he wants me to do, seeing the beauty of his plan for me through a dusty window screen: a rumbling tiller, a nursery rhyme singing toy, and a pork chop frying on the stove -a far cry from the career minded nursing school graduate that I once thought I’d be by this time. You know what though? I wouldn’t trade my diaper changing, clothes folding and supper-cooking life for the world! I wish my Pawpaw and Nanu could be here to see my girls, see their smiles and hear their giggles. Still loud and clear in my heart, I’ll always hear them saying, “We’re so proud of you, sugar”, no matter what I do.

Way beyond hearing the voices of approval from man though, the¬†real¬†longing in my soul is for the day I’ll hear the voice of my Jesus saying loudly and proudly to me, “well done my good and faithful servant, welcome home.” I am¬†certain¬†his approval won’t come from the amount of money I made, the possessions or recognition I obtained and the career I made. No. It will come from the life I spoke into others, the love I gave to my husband and the grace I gave to my children. It will only come from the faith in Him that I kept, taught and showed to others. These are the¬†only¬†things that will remain throughout eternity. So, am I doing¬†enough?

I find it no coincidence that as I was writing this post today, I learned of the passing of a fine Christian man and family friend who ended his battle with cancer early this morning. I can only imagine that he has already heard those words, “well done, welcome home.” As I scroll through all the sentiments and condolences on my news feed it is evident that his life has made an impact that has rocked our small town community for Christ.

This my friends is what is enough. This is the life we should long for and work towards. In a world that tells us we should do anything and everything, I dare you to be okay with not. Look through those windows, though they may be old and dusty, and find your moments of what is enough. Ask God to show you the eternal things that matter and give your heart the desire to build upon them instead of chasing the futile things that only keep us spinning.

If I ever needed a reminder to rethink and re prioritize, it is now. Thank you Father for this humbling moment and the mercies you give me new, each day to see your blessings in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

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When God Gave Us Two: Growing Double

“Enjoy every minute. Before you know it, they’ll be here and your life will have changed forever.”  I wasn’t enjoying these minutes though. Not even just a little. During my first trimester of my twin pregnancy, vomiting became my new way of life. One odd texture, one off smell or hard cough is all it took. Every morning and especially every night. It felt like it was taking forever to get through. I didn’t have energy for anything; my poor husband did everything. I’d get some encouragement from others when they’d tell me it only lasts through the first trimester but then you’d always have that one person that said, “oh I threw up every day until I had him/her.” No!

My loving church family had given us a meal train during this time which was a huge blessing! I still couldn’t eat most nights but at least Weldon would get something more at dinner time than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Not being able to cook was hard for me. I loved being in the kitchen. Making dinner after a long day of work was always a stress relief for me. Even scrolling through Pinterest looking at recipes would make me queasy. I had just started a new job too; teaching Culinary! We thoroughly studied kitchen safety for several weeks until I could handle the sight and smell of food again. I remember a night that I sat crying to Weldon saying, “I’m so tired of being sick and tired”. It was getting old but he was so patient and supportive. He handled my hormonal, tender emotions with so much grace.

But like many things in life: this too shall pass and it did, eventually. I was able to get some anti-nausea medicine from my doctor to help. Having somewhere to be every day helped too. It was a struggle most mornings but once I got up and going, I’d always feel better than if I would’ve stayed laying on the couch wallowing in my misery -even though that’s what I really felt like doing. By week 14, my nausea had pretty much gone away with only an occasional moment if I forgot my medicine. I was having trouble gaining weight from being so sick, which caused some concern from my doctors in the beginning. Never had this been a problem for me – no one had ever instructed me to gain more weight. One of my doctors literally told me to eat more ice cream! What?! I’m pretty sure that might have been the best day of my life.

Speaking of doctors, if you ever have a pregnancy that’s the slightest bit unusual (like having two at one time) make sure you really love them. Every other week, we were there to see them. Towards the end it was 3 times per week. They really did become our family!
 

Week 18 came and it was time for the anatomy scan ultrasound. We hadn’t had an ultrasound since the day we found out there were twins. We were so excited to see our babies and how they had grown! We decided to have a gender reveal party, so we asked the tech not to tell us the sexes at the appointment. I remember the first thing we saw on that screen were feet and hands bouncing everywhere! Twenty fingers, twenty toes; they all were there and very active. I couldn’t feel any movements still at this point, but those days would soon be coming. Baby A was the lowest positioned and seemed to be a little more reserved in utero than our wild Baby B, who was uncooperative and sitting on the other’s face. Everything checked out perfect, they were growing well and healthily. They each had a separate placenta which they told us was the best possible scenario for growing twins as it usually resulted in less complications. The tech placed the pictures in a sealed envelope that Weldon had to hold since I have zero self-restraint.

We delivered the envelope right away to my brother and sister-in-law who’d be planning our reveal. This was a Tuesday and we wouldn’t be having the reveal party until SaturdayLongest. Week. Ever. In true redneck fashion, we were going to reveal with tannerite and colored chalk for each baby. I had a strong feeling that we’d end up with one of each or two boys. I just knew it wouldn’t be two girls. Sure enough, Weldon fired the first shot and a pink cloud came up. Then the second, another cloud of pink! Two bow wearing, chicken farming beauties! I couldn’t believe it!

Now the real work and preparation could begin. Furniture shopping, nursery decorating, shower planning, baby registries -so much needed to be done before these babies came. It was around this time that my nesting energy kicked in. This was definitely the glory days of my pregnancy. Glowing skin, great energy and always wearing comfy, stretchable pants. If they could sell that all in a bottle, I’d buy stock in it! Never had my house been so organized and clean! I had lots of help from my family which was another huge blessing.

As the days progressed, my belly kept stretching and my feet kept swelling. I was determined to finish out the school year though. Middle school students have such a way with words. At about 24-25 weeks as I was starting to look pretty large they would say, “Mrs. Campbell, we heard that you were pregnant with twins.” I would answer, “Yes, I am.” “Well we thought you might be but didn’t want to say anything just in case you were getting fat.” Thanks. Or my favorite compliments to hear on a Monday morning, “Wow Mrs. Campbell, you look really big today!” Thanks again. There were also the questions: “So are they going to be born on the same day?” Or another favorite, “how big are you really going to get?” Tweenagers -gotta love them!

By the time I reached my third trimester, I could tell my body was really changing. The glory phase was quickly fizzling out. Bring on the tired, uncomfortable and ready for this all to be over already phase. Summer was here and I realized I picked a great time to be pregnant – 90 degrees and 1000% humidity, thank you Florida!

Even though it would have been easy to complain and grumble, I remember back to these days of placing my hands on my belly, just dreaming and being thankful. Every little pitter-patter and bump I felt reminded me of the crazy, abundant blessings God had gifted me with. I was ready to see them, hold them, kiss them and know them. At the end of the day, I’d sit back amazed and humbled at the fact that these two precious little souls were mine. I was excited for the bond we’d have as mother and daughters but then for the amazing bond they’d always have as two best friends for life. You experience so many emotions during pregnancy. And it’s hard to understand them all until you’re in hindsight.

A mother’s body, whether during a singleton or multiple pregnancy, goes through so much that it’s almost hard to comprehend. Ligaments start stretching and expanding; nutrients that were once all for you now are given to your baby as priority. As their little organs form and grow, so does your uterus along with them. I don’t know how anyone could endure a pregnancy without realizing that the human life is all an ordained miracle performed by God. Every life is. He knits us together in our mother’s womb, forming us into a work of His art (Psalm 139:13). He designs a female body with all the elements she needs to grow more life. When He formed me 26 years ago, He knew that these two eggs of the two million I’d be born with would become my little girls one day. He made my body so that it could support two growing humans at once. I am still absolutely awestruck.

Was I ready for this? From now until forever, I’d always be a mom. I’d always be responsible for guiding, teaching and loving them. They would depend on me for so much, everything. Inside the womb, it’d be easiest to care for them. But once outside, it all would fall on me. Dreaming, praying and hoping – I could only imagine what was on the road ahead of us. Weldon and I knew that our lives were about to change forever.

These minutes that I was told to enjoy from the very beginning were coming to an end, all too soon. I tried to soak it all up: the anticipation, the joy and the waiting as our two little girls were growing inside.

Stay tuned for more on our journey of When God Gave us Two! If you missed last week, you can catch up here.

 

 

 

 

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When God Gave Us Two

We were celebrating our first year wedding anniversary on a cruise to the Bahamas when I declared that’s it, December 1st I’m going on a diet! This was ridiculous. I had just bought size *cough cough* shorts a week before we went and I was already having trouble buttoning them. The bloating and being uncomfortable had to go; enough was enough. Then there was the fact that I stayed so nauseous and had terrible acid re flux. I figured it had to be the motion sickness from the ship. Despite my shorts not buttoning and my esophagus burning, we had a fantastic time. Little did we know, that cruise would be our last vacation as a family of two.

I’ll never forget the day, December 23, 2015. ¬†We had known we were pregnant for about three weeks since the cruise and were headed to have our first look at our sweet Baby Campbell. There’s not quite enough words to adequately express all¬†the feelings and emotions that come over you when you find out you’re going to be a mother; excitement, joy, hope, fear, anticipation, worry and so much more was floating through my thoughts. What will they look like? Who will they grow up to be? Am I really qualified and ready for this responsibility; raising up a child and teaching them how to function in our society?

Then there were the words of my maternal grandmother, Gran, that were still ringing in my head. We had just learned after doing some research that her maternal grandmother had boy/girl twins. The twin gene had completed its fabled “skipping of a generation” and landed to Gran. She had my twin uncles when my mom was two. “You never know, it could happen”, she said to me as we were sitting around in the living room of our camp house in North Florida.

“It’s not going to happen”, Weldon said as we were driving to our appointment, “I’m not worried about it and you shouldn’t either, not for our first pregnancy.” I laughed and said, “Well, when they tell us that we have one healthy baby today, then I’ll stop worrying”.

Where the thought and the ideas that twins could ever happen for me came from, I really do not know. I never gave it thought until we found out we were expecting. Does everyone toss this idea around in their mind or am I just too much of a what-if thinker?¬†There always has to be a sense of worry when you have your first ultrasound regardless of thinking that there could be twins. Will they find the heartbeat? Will everything be “normal”?

The tech started the ultrasound¬†with the screen only facing her. After a few seconds, which felt like hours from the anticipation, she said, “Well you are definitely pregnant.” Relief flooded over me in all it’s forms. It was real. My dreams of becoming a mommy were happening. I had always hoped for this type of moment. But then our world was rocked when she said with a smirk on her face, “and I have even better news, there’s two.”

Do you have a certain object or place you go that every time you see it, it brings back a vivid memory or story from your past? Like when I look at a certain oak tree in the driveway of my parents’ yard, I reminisce to my childhood on the times that my brother Bryant told me to run as he roped my feet out from under me. Sweet memories, right? December 23, 2015 the ceiling tiles of that exam room became another one of the objects for me. Laying there looking up at them with Weldon beside me I exclaimed, “we just became a family of four!”

I don’t remember much of what else was said specifically in the next few moments from all the shock but I do remember hearing the breathtaking sounds of two strong and healthy heartbeats. How could this be? The miracle of two lives were formed and now growing inside of me. ¬†The tech turned the screen around for us to see and I was in awe. When the exam was complete I remember we both grabbed each other and cried.

I didn’t think we could handle having any more emotions after this moment, until we started calling our family and friends. We cried, laughed, squealed and then cried some more. I remember having to go back to my ultrasound picture and stare, just to remind myself it was real. There were two! Two tiny hearts were beating inside, so perfectly and so miraculously. Even now over a year later since these moments, we still sit back amazed that we actually had two.

When God gives you two, it really does leave you with a lot of questions. At first it was the safety and logistics of carrying twins in the first place. You start reading of problematic pregnancies and deliveries then worry and fear fill your mind. As with any pregnancy, the beginning stages are fragile. I was so scared that I’d get my hopes up for something that may not happen.

As my pregnancy continued, we saw God’s faithfulness and protection prevail over us time and time again. Every test and ultrasound came back with positive results. Even towards the end when my preeclampsia set in, God kept us safe. He provided peace for my worries and strength for my fears.

Then I struggled with the anxiety of having two babies to care for altogether. How would feedings work? What do you do when they both are screaming? Would I be able to equally share my love and attention between two children right off the bat? To be honest, God never answered these specific questions for me. His Spirit never came and spoke to me to tell me that when both are crying put one in the rock-n-play to rock it with your foot while you hold the other. He didn’t tell me the secret to an over abundant supply of milk nor did He ever send any warnings signs that I was holding one for too long and it was time to hold the other.

But I’ll tell you what He did do. He reminded me first of His grace. I was going to do everything I could to do what was right for my girls but in the end there would probably be things I’d do in the process that weren’t right. His grace would cover me in my imperfections, not to give me the out to quit trying but the assurance that if I did fall, He’d be there to catch me. Then He reminded me of His strength. On the days when I would feel like I just could not go on any longer, He would renew me with his strength. He would give me what I needed to make it through one more crying spell, one more feeding, one more diaper change, and one more hour without sleep.

Last, ¬†He reminded me of His love. ¬†Why we were chosen to have two, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that He has a purpose in His glorious plan for all of us. He’s weaving a perfect tapestry, piece by piece using me, using you, ¬†and our ordinary lives to create an extraordinary masterpiece. All of our stories are being woven in right alongside the amazing faith stories of Moses, Daniel, Esther, Mary, and Paul. He has an extraordinary plan for the things He chooses for us to go through but it is our job to seek out what He wants to teach us through it.

I may never know why, but through the seasons of motherhood, I’ll learn the what’s. I’ll learn what kind of patience it takes, what kind of grace it takes, what kind of strength it takes and what kind of love it takes. God will grow me in ways that I never thought were possible. His love will be poured out over me to carry me through each day. He has given me two wonderful little blessings that I feel so unworthy of yet I’m so incredibly humbled that they are mine. My heart truly overflows with love for my precious babies. I know that kind of love can only come from Him.

Maybe you’re reading this today wondering how you are going to make it through. And I’m sure that it’s way more than just figuring out how you are going to raise twins. It could be the loss of loved one, a job, or good health. Or maybe it’s the chaos of a relationship that is strained or the heartache of a betrayal or disappointment. Can I tell you though that my God is faithful? He WILL provide you with His grace, His strength, His mercy, and His endless love.

When God gave us two, it left us with lots of questions that only can be answered with our faith in Jesus. If you are struggling today with whatever you are facing, let me encourage you to trust in His love right now. I’d love to pray with and talk to you about it too. Send me a message!

Stay tuned for more of our journey of When God Gave Us Two.

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