What Matters Most: The Story of Jayden

Every day we have stuff to do. Things that are “on our plate”. At the time, they weigh on us, at the end of the day (or during the day) exhaust our energy, and they may or may not also leave us feeling fulfilled.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s work, it’s the kids, it’s bills, it’s errands, it’s house cleaning, home repair, auto repair, insurance squabbles, kids’ daily and weekly activities, your family’s social calendar, community and neighborhood events and/or responsibilities. Then there are all your relationships: family, close friends, neighbors, friends who need support, good friends who are far away, and so on. And don’t forget all the books you want to read, the shows you like to watch, the hobbies you don’t have time for, and plans for the next holiday’s activities and gatherings.

These things fill our days, and our weeks, and our years. And mostly they are good. They are the stuff of life.

But for the most part, they all completely fall away when death or serious illness makes its macabre appearance.

Last year seemed to be full of serious illness and death all around us. (And you can throw in divorce and other of life’s hardships, if you’d like.) And somehow, when the reality of the most certain thing in life came front and center, the rest seemed so silly. So trivial. So superfluous.

What did it matter if I was having trouble getting a certain plugin to work with a complex shopping cart installation? So what if I can’t really figure out how to get our family out of this current financial pinch? Who cares if the van has fourteen different things wrong with it at once? Why does my kids’ incessant refusal to keep their living space neat and tidy bother me so much?

None of it matters when someone we know and love is either already gone, or soon will be.

We have some friends who just recently lost their four-month-old baby boy. I wish I could tell you the full story here, but not only would it be long enough to fill a week’s worth of posts, I’m not sure I could do it justice. I do hope that someday they will be able to write it out for more people to hear and see God’s every great gift to them.

The video above is their story. Hopefully you already watched it. If not, please do. What was most inspiring and encouraging to me is that through a difficult pregnancy where they were told early on that their baby would probably have some severe problems when—if—he was born, they trusted God, and asked him for a healing miracle… and they watched him DO it! Baby Jayden was born perfectly healthy, with no sign of the expected difficulties. (And, they even got to watch them be removed through the long months of the pregnancy.)

But then, things again took a turn for the worse.

Instead of being angry with God, though, who had given them hope and then (it would seem) had taken it away again, they loved their little boy (their gift from God) and they moved forward completely trusting Father to take care of him and them, however that turned out.

Their complete trust in God’s goodness through all of the physically and emotionally tiring, exhausting, draining experiences of Jayden’s four months was what gave them a deep peace that was palpable when you were with them, and it has buoyed them still, in the few weeks after his absence from their family.

And during the time he was sick—gravely sick—other things faded away. Family became important, work less important. Daily “things” were pushed to the background, and life and relationships took their place. I know because I saw it, watched it, and I have lived it.

We have experienced loss, too. Far too many times, actually. We did not get to experience both the joy of knowing our babies for four short months, nor the pain of losing someone we knew outside the womb. But we’ve also known loss.

And every time, what the reality of that brings to the front is that nothing matters more than how you love, and being/living loved. Knowing that your Father loves you, adores you. And then loving other people because you know he adores them, too. Cherishing the other Image-Bearers that he has put in your life, and you in theirs.

That’s really it.


Thank you, Jayden, for the reminder. Thank you Jesus for giving us some time to be around him, to know him, and to be reminded of what you really made us for. What really matters.

Transformation and Process

One of the most amazing things to me in all of God’s creation is the butterfly. From gross slimy larvae, to slightly cuter (but still sort of gross) worms, to goo inside a cocoon, to a beautifully colored, light and delicate airborne display of it’s Designer’s creativity. It is truly incredible.

But this post is not about butterflies.

Another incredible process in creation is the making of us. By combining the DNA of one man and one woman, a new person is formed. It grows from one cell (is it really just one cell??) to a cluster, and then more… and somehow in that ball of “goo” is YOU, and ME. Throughout the course of the 35-40 weeks, we gain more of the parts we will need for life in this world, all developing while we live in water!? And by the end, the birth process is designed just right for the separation of mom and baby, till a new, separate, wonderful life has been added to the world.

But this post is not about babies.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

There is definitely a theme of restoration throughout the gospel. It’s what Jesus was all about. He came to “seek and save the lost”. He healed people. So many hurting people. And he loved them. He didn’t turn them away, or heal grudgingly… there are times when it says he healed everyone who came to him, of any malady that might be plaguing them. He could, and he would.

And he does. And I’ve seen it.

I have recently witnessed rebirth. Someone who has for so long been crushed by unwillingness (or inability?) to be loved (by others, and even self) finally having walls broken down, eyes renewed to see all the God is offering through this life lived in Him … years of work He’s done building trust in Him mixed with an intense, four-day weekend of revealing that life to the full that he wants for us all… culminating in a new beginning.

It was the cocoon. It was heart surgery (as well as mind/spirit/soul surgery). It was the final stages of a hard labor.

And we have a butterfly. A healthy patient. A new life.

I read a book recently that brought up the caterpillar-to-butterfly transition. Here’s what it said:

“I love how God has been changing me one small bit at a time. Sometimes I don’t even notice he’s doing that until I’m in a situation and I watch myself respond in ways I never would have before. I am enjoying immensely the [person] he is allowing to emerge.”

“Just like a butterfly taking wing from its cocoon. Isn’t it sad that we thought we could press people into spiritual change, instead of helping them grow to trust Father more and find him changing them? You can’t press a caterpillar into a butterfly mold and make it fly. It has to be transformed from the inside.”

And transform God does. Not just once, at one time, but over the course of our lifetime. That butterfly goes through many stages, and there are noticeable markers along the way, and we do too, but our transformation is a life-long process, a journey. In fact, that’s really what the Kingdom boils down to: a reality that God is inviting us to join him in. A fresh way of looking at him and the world he has made and inhabits, and also a different perspective on us and who he sees us as. We are his friends (Romans 5), his adopted children (Ephesians 1, Galatians 3-4, many more) and it “gave him great pleasure” to give his own life to set us free from sin and shame. Incredible.

When we realize that, we emerge from the cocoon. Still a bit clumsy at first, but a new creation. A completely new creation. Beautiful. Magnificent.

His amazing handiwork.

There are so many ups and downs that life brings (even many of our own doing) but he is there with us in them all, and he continues to mold and shape us from within to be the perfect masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) that he has planned for us to be.

What a process! What an amazing Father!

I love being a butterfly!

Mastering Money or Money Is Master?

Dave Ramsey - Total Money MakeoverA couple conversations of late have reminded me of a book I read a while back (at the recommendation of a friend who had really loved it) regarding the management of money.

It was (and is) particularly relevant as we are facing mountainous debt (accumulated over many years, and some the result of “questionable” business practice by others…) and God convinced us that trusting him even more—by only spending money when we actually have it—that life would go even better for us. Or perhaps better stated, that life would continue to get harder if we didn’t do that.

(If you like reading, see this post, and this one, too. Good historical accounts of God’s direction for us.)

So in recent conversations, I’ve been very encouraged that people are getting smarter about money. Maybe not everyone. And maybe the people I’ve been talking with recently have always been smart. But either way, it’s so nice to see the results of diligence and wisdom in money management.

A friend of mine told me today that their house would be completely paid off this year, and both of their cars by next year. Debt free. All by the age of 35. That’s awesome. Other friends tell similar stories, and almost always it is a result of being smart with the money you have.

Our culture has for too long thought that you could spend money you’d make later. (Just look at how our government, from federal down to local, handles money and budgets!) That just doesn’t really work. In a way, it seems there’s no other way to purchase something as large as a house, but we’ve heard stories of young adults who have saved up to purchase their first home with cash (and did!) so we’re already starting Ian (our oldest) on such a savings path. Rather than instant gratification—enjoy now, pay later—Ian is learning the value of saving, which in the end means you keep much more of your money, and usually get to enjoy the things you wanted to anyway. And more!

We are coming up on three years of not adding any debt to our existing debt. That means that the overall amount is coming down. That’s fantastic. And it’s fun to hear real-life examples along the way.

Do you have one? Feel free to share it here. Hope you, too, are your money’s master, rather than the reverse.

Unseen Help

My two boys and I have been trying to read through the book of Luke this month. At least the beginning, where we got to read again the story of Jesus’ arrival. It really is both ordinary and incredible all at once.

We read the part about the angel appearing to the guys who were taking care of sheep in the middle of the night. And then how there were lots more angels with that one angel all of a sudden, and they were singing! (Or shouting?)

Luke 2:8-15
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

After reading that, and talking about the craziness of an angel just appearing out of nowhere, and then a million more showing up and chanting in unison, kind of like a pep rally from heaven. The contrast I was pointing out was how that was shockingly weird compared to the very ordinary entry of God into his created world. Born just like the rest of us. Spent his first night in a barn (not like most of the rest of us). Fairly ordinary.

To ensure that it wasn’t only ordinary, God chose to let some (ordinary) folks in on it. In a super-incredible way.

As we were talking about those angels and the super-incredibleness, Ian said, “How far away do you think people could see that? Was it only the shepherds who saw it?”

“Good question!” I replied. It was! I wonder if God chose to reveal the news only to those men right there. You’d think that “vast hosts of … armies” and the”radiance of the Lord’s glory” might be somewhat conspicuous. But I wonder…

Ian’s question reminded me of a story from the prophet Elisha’s life. I couldn’t remember exactly, so I told them I’d look it up and we’d read it together. It was related in that an army of angels was all of a sudden revealed to one person (and in position for battle) when before they had been unseen. (Perhaps like the angels the night Jesus was born?)

The story is from 2 Kings, and is fascinating.

2 Kings 6:8-23
When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.”

But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.” So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there.

The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”

“It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”

“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”

And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.

When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please make them blind.” So the Lord struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked.

Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria.

As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the Lord opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.

When the king of Israel saw them, he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”

“Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel.

There is so much to this story! I wish that I currently had time to share my thoughts on this one, but I’ll stick to the link to the first story for now…

The armies of heaven (as they were described in Luke) were apparently poised to assist Elisha, though no one could see them. And, when Elisha prayed that the servant could see them, my guess is that only the servant could then see them (along with Elisha). The rest of the story is fascinating, too, with some Jedi mind tricks played on the army sent to capture Elisha. Who knew 2 Kings was the source of George Lucas’ inspiration?

Also, it is interesting to note the description of this unseen army. “Horses and chariots of fire” sound rather menacing! If these are the same “armies of heaven” that are in Luke’s story, no wonder people are always afraid when they see these guys!

I’m not sure if more than the sheep herders were able to see the messengers that night. Perhaps they were the only ones to see the spectacular first christmas light show. That would fit God’s apparent M.O. He slipped in, nearly unnoticed. And it continued for many years to come. Even when he was working miracles, there were times (it seems) when his students forgot who he was, and he was—in a way—God, unnoticed.

There is something so ordinary about him. It’s fun to read the Christmas story and see how he came to be one of us. He is not like us, but he chose to be. God came to live with us. The unseen became seen.


God Provided… by NOT Providing?

We had an interesting little “wrap up” time as a family tonight. After returning from dinner with friends tonight, we got jammies on and then all gathered in the family room. We were going to read a book, but I had some things on my mind that I wanted to share before we did.

See, I’ve posted here many times before how incredibly we have seen God provide for us time and time again. Whatever our financial needs, somehow God would provide for them. In a different way on nearly every occasion. Fantastic.

So this week we were waiting for God to do the same. I even knew where it was going to come from. A few outstanding invoices that had not been paid yet – and several of those that I was told were “in the mail”. Problem was… it didn’t happen.

We waited a few days… nothing. But still, we knew God would provide. There were some things we needed to buy, some things we wanted to do… God needed to give us money. We had paid our bills and funded a trip to visit family in Buffalo the weekend prior, and then on Monday, we waited for God to give us more money for the next stuff we needed.

But it didn’t come.

By Wednesday, it still didn’t come, and we were starting to wonder. Not really if it would come, but … just wonder. Will it come in time to pay the next bill we need to pay? Will it come in time for us to buy food or diapers or whatever? Just… wonderings.

Thursday, and then Friday came… no money. Only a $2 profit from the sale of one domain name. Fascinating.

BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART. (And what I passed on to the kids tonight in our family gathering.)

In the past week of God not giving us any money, I still end the week knowing, seeing, and feeling God’s provision.

This week we had all the food we needed. We had gas to get where we needed to go. We had clothes on our back, electricity in our house, even fun stuff to do here (though that’s probably not a “need”). We even used the $2.00 we got to buy a couple loaves of bread for the coming week.

We had and have everything we need. Isn’t that God providing?

It IS!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall ever hearing (or saying?) how God provided, even when some could say that he didn’t provide. But my heart is so content and peaceful tonight, knowing that he did. As he always does. Perfectly.

Oh… the book we are reading? A story of the life of George Müeller. A man who lived his entire adult life without a job, and without asking for money from anyone but God himself – and was never in want. Ever. (Look it up, it’s worth it.)

Can’t wait to keep reading his story, and in some ways… living it.

God’s Provision: Perfect.

I’ve mentioned here many times how God has arranged things for us to be able to pay our bills, feed our kids, and keep our house. It’s really astounding at times. I’m pretty sure that “on paper” … it just shouldn’t work. But it does. It always does.

I forgot to, or didn’t get to, or perhaps just chose not to … however it happened, I did not communicate last month that we had reached a milestone of sorts. On July 4th, 2009, we celebrated our independence.

No, I’m not talking about our country’s independence on Independence Day. And really, in a way, it would be more appropriately labeled Dependence Day.

Let me explain.

For many years we have lived a life of trusting God. Our “career” paths have always been determined by where we felt God was leading, not by any predetermined path or plan. Often that meant less money, or seemingly no money… but we knew that God was our Provider, and trusted him to do so.


Last year, we were really having trouble keeping up with the increasing cost of life, our regular bills, and probably especially our mounting debt. It was really crazy. We finally reached a point where we really, really needed to do something or we’d start losing the stuff that we had – which seemed bad, but, honestly, if that was where we went, we were OK with that too.

We spoke with a friend who is a financial advisor. We spoke with our family and close friends. We asked God what he wanted us to do about this debt that he seemed to never help us pay off with some giant windfall of cash. The answers we got were basically: you need more income, and…

“You need to trust me.” (That was God…)

So, if you know me (us) … well, you know that sounded a little funny. “TRUST YOU?? Um… what do you think we’ve been doing??!?!?!” 🙂 BUT, you see, we discovered (by God’s gentle revealing voice) that we were indeed not trusting him. At least, not like we really could be.

See, in the past (over the past several/many years) when we felt like God was giving us something to do (a CD, a tour, or whatever project it may have been) we would pursue it with gusto, and “know” that he would provide. That’s all well and good – he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, etc – but… the problem was, whenever stuff got tight … we’d really turn to our credit limits. (Which were gargantuan.)

Over time, when we would fund one project here, another there, this trip here, that trip there… even paying bills and buying groceries with “money” that we were confident “God would provide” (really, we were) well, the debt added up. And up. We kept paying for (taking?) things that God had not yet given us. (Even if he had “given” us the leading to do it, which I still believe he did.) If you have every toyed with credit card debt you know that “living beyond your means” for more than 5 years (let’s say closer to ten?) … well, that’s really icky.

So last year God helped us see, helped us realize that while we were completely trusting him by following his lead… we were NOT trusting him by waiting for him to provide. And is has stung us. Badly.

When he helped us see that we decided that the best (the only?) course of action we could take was to completely cease all additions to the pile of debt before us. We would lose our stuff before we would pay anything with “credit” again. (At least, until God clearly leads us otherwise.) We decided we would only spend what we had. If that meant missing a bill payment by a couple days, that’s what we’d have to do. If it meant not getting food or gas or something else we might have previously “financed” with credit… so be it.

(What if our government would come to this realization???)

And folks, for 13 months now… it has totally and completely worked!!! And it has been simply astonishing to watch God provide.

He has provided jobs. I got to work the ideal job for me at the Apple store for a time. When that time ended, I was able to work another ideal job leading music for a local church. All along he continues to bring in a steady stream of web business. (All without any advertising or looking for clients of any sort. Crazy.)

He has even met deadlines. Time and time again when we wait for him – even when it is really hard, and even seems foolish – he provides right on time with the exact amount that we need. (Now, so far it hasn’t been exact like, to the cent. I have heard stories like that, but that’s not what we’ve seen. But it usually is to the dollar. Perhaps he knows that I like stuff a bit more loose and general?) 😉

I can’t say enough how simply incredible, astounding, amazing, mind-blowing it has been. And I think the best part is, it has been life-altering. Whether it happened that day in early July of 2008 or was more of a process… we just think differently. We don’t even consider using credit now* … we’re actually happy to wait for God to provide, no matter how big or small the want or need. (Even as I type this, it’s still surprising!)

The most recent example of this has been how God arranged everything for me to take a break to take care of the kids while Jen recovers from the birth of Cameron last week. My want is to completely shut down my business(es) for a week, or hopefully two, so that I can manage the house while Jen recuperates following delivery. In our precarious financial state I wasn’t sure how that would work. I know a lot of people live “paycheck to paycheck” and well, we’re one of them. We really do. So, when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Was curious to see how God would work that out.

He has! Even so much that I can see how he has, so that I can have peace about taking this two weeks off. First the commitment to leading music came to an end on July 26th (the Sunday before our son was born!). Second, there were a few bigger jobs that I did leading up to Cameron’s birth that were recently paid (and will be paid) this week, creating a slight surplus of funds for paying bills and feeding mouths. Third, God has brought in 4-6 new jobs that are all ready to go, but can all also wait till mid-August when I plan to return!

I shouldn’t say I can’t believe it, because certainly I can. But in a way… I still can’t! Somehow the way he takes care of us still surprises me. If the circumstances worked out differently… if somehow we didn’t pay our bills, or were lacking some other thing… he’d still be a great Provider, and I’m certain we’d see that. We’d see his provision even if it was different than we thought it would be. But at the moment, it’s been very clear and easy to see how God is arranging stuff to provide for our family and we’re loving living a life of truly trusting him by being completely content with what he has given us. (Not what he will give, but what he actually has given.)

I’m sure there are many ways to live that out, but I can’t recommend enough learning to listen for, wait for, and follow our Father. It’s exciting, scary, yet peaceful and perfect. Fantastic.

I just needed to say all of that … kind of for my remembering down the road… and hopefully to encourage you along the way too. Hope you’re enjoying your journey, too!

* I don’t believe that credit or credit cards are “bad” … but for us they would currently be trusting ourselves more than trusting (or being content in) God’s provision. They can certainly be used “wisely” but more often than not, they become a trap. Still, I am in no way condemning the idea of credit.

** We watched a couple documentaries via Netflix re: credit card craziness. If such things interest you, perhaps you’d like to watch them too? They were Maxed Out, and In Debt We Trust.

Welcome, Cameron James Campbell

Cameron James Campbell

July 30th has become a meaningful day in the Campbell household. It’s the day that Cameron James was born! At 7:59am he breathed his first breath. It was slightly labored, but… I’m getting ahead of myself.

Every baby born to us so far has come before the due date. Anywhere from three days all the way to a month early. (That was a special circumstance, of course.) Since that has been the track record, we were ready for baby probably about two weeks before the due date. About once and hour I would ask Jen, “Baby coming yet?” to which she would respond, “Nope, not yet.”

And that’s how it went, until early Thursday morning.

This past week I was on even higher alert as we were only a week away from the due date. Despite the heightened alert, I did eventually get tricked. There is always work to be done for my web business, and a decent amount was building up on Monday and Tuesday. So, with no sign of baby yet on Wednesday, I decided to do some late night work, knowing that I would soon not be able to get much office work done for a while.

I worked until about 2:30am or so, and was in bed just after 3:00am. Again, figured that was alright as Jen had repeatedly told me that there were no signs of baby coming. Unfortunately… I had grown a little too confident in her repetitive responses, and decided not to ask her the all-important question as I laid down in bed for a “good night’s rest”.

Turns out, Jen had likely been having some contractions since about midnight (though they were minor enough that she wasn’t thinking they were contractions). She seemed to be sleeping peacefully when I got in bed, so I thought nothing of it when she got up to go to the bathroom.

She thought differently, however.

It was right around 3am that Jen started to realize this was probably the real deal. She knew I had just gone to bed and wanted me to get some sleep, plus, she also wanted to go through a good deal of labor at home, so she headed downstairs to do some contracting. (Is that a word?) Of course, she didn’t want to just sit there having contractions with nothing else to do, so she pulled up some episodes of the Wheel of Fortune on our Tivo!

The contractions were not that close together—though Jen did report that they were intense—so she just let it continue, asking God to let her know when it was really time to go. She noticed that they would increase in frequency and strength whenever she moved, so she tried to lay still and get as much rest as possible.

This continued for a couple hours until it finally got closer together and more frequent. Jen figured this was her sign that it was time to get going, so she came to get me.

At 5:42am I awoke to Jen leaning over the bed saying, “I’m having the baby.” I was not privy to the events of the past two and a half hours, so, her matter-of-fact statement both caught me off guard and made me chuckle! Where was the excitement? Where was the understanding, “I know you just went to bed two and a half hours ago, but…” Nope! Just, “I’m having the baby.”

I tried to get my bearings, rolled over to see the time on the clock, and then looked back at my wife’s very serious face and said, “Alright! Let’s do it!” I asked her a couple relevant questions I think, but I knew she wouldn’t joke about such a thing…

Time for a brief aside…
Speaking of joking about such things…

Earlier that day (Well, technically it was the previous day. But at that point it felt like the same day to me!) our son Alex decided to play a practical joke on me. I was working in my office around lunch time (close to 1:30pm) when I got an IM from Mom’s computer simply saying, “mom’s having contractions.”

I was slightly startled, but since I was on heightened alert it did not surprise me too much. I began to wrap up what I was doing, contacted the clients whose projects I was working on and let them know that it would be delayed. I began going through the list of people to call, things to do… and began to get a tad excited as well.

I had an online meeting scheduled for 1:30pm (a meeting that had actually be rescheduled a couple times already) so with only a few minutes to spare I sent off a communication letting him know what was going on. Finally, I wrapped everything up (including a couple messages to friends saying, “Looks like we’re headed to the hospital!”) and was downstairs just about 10 minutes later.

When I came downstairs, Mom was not on the couch—where I expected to perhaps find her—she was at the dinner table, having lunch with the kids. I was perplexed, but quickly surmised that my prankster 7-year-old had been fibbing to me.

“So, you’re not having contractions?” I asked.

“No! I just saw that he wrote that! He was just supposed to ask if you were going to have lunch with us!” Alex had a sheepish grin on his face that turned a bit more concerned as he saw my demeanor changing from slightly frustrated to visibly disturbed.

“Alex, I had a meeting that I just canceled because of your ‘joke’ … and now I have to go tell a lot of people that I was ‘just kidding’. I hope I can still do the meeting!” I was not happy, and told him so.

It turned out fine. The meeting still happened, and my other client got a chuckle out of the whole thing. Perhaps it was a tad early, but, our friends were also praying for Jen and a safe delivery. They were just 18 hours early or so.

End tangential anecdote…

Things Were Moving Fast!
I managed to get myself up and into the shower where I began going through my mental lists of all that needed to be done before we headed to the hospital. (Mind you, it’s not quite six in the morning, and I was working on, well, mostly adrenaline and under three hours of sleep.) But, adrenaline is a good thing and I got through most of the lists before I was done getting cleaned up and quickly set about them once I was dressed.

The first priority was to make sure the kids were taken care of. Our neighbors had already said to call them without hesitation any time of day or night. The bonus was, they are super morning people, so I knew even though it was just six o’clock in the morning, they’d be up.

What I did not take into account was that 6am might have been the worst time for them.

When I called, the dad of the house answered and sounded like he wasn’t quite sure how it would work out, since he had to leave for work. (I figured they would have considered the possibility of this timing…) After talking it through he said he’d have his wife call me back to figure out what to do, but he was fairly certain I’d need to get a replacement for when he had to go to work in about an hour or so. (That was about 7:15am!)

This was not good… but we did have a backup plan or two.

I called backup plan number one. Another friend had very recently said that if we needed anything, especially any help with the kids when we head the hospital, just let her know. Well… it seemed that we did! So, I found her phone number (which was strangely difficult to find) and then realized that I actually had to call her husband since her phone is currently at the bottom of a lake. (Long story…)

I found his number after more searching and dialed it… no answer. I figured they knew our circumstance and wouldn’t mind a second call at 6:00am. STILL no answer! So, I left a message, just asking her to check in and make sure everything was taken care of. But, now I was really stuck and racking my brain for the best Plan C!

The people who had offered to help with such things were far away. That was not the best option, I didn’t think, so I went next door to our neighbor’s house. (They are super morning people, too, so I knew they’d be up and at ’em. And, they were. I explained the situation to them and we settled on their 13-year-old son being a back up backup option in case our Plan A friends needed to leave when the dad went to work.


After getting a reasonable plan in place for our still-sleeping children, I called the hospital and we explained the situation to them. They responsibly made sure that we were actually needing to come in, and after verifying that we knew what we were talking about, we were set to go!

I called Jen’s parents who like to be at the hospital for the birth (but live and hour and a half away) and then I called my parents (who live 8 or 9 hours away) to get them in on the action as well. Our Plan A neighbor arrived to stay with the kids so we loaded up the suitcase and the technology—like the laptop I am typing this story on—and headed off to the hospital.

The contractions had continued through all of this, and though it was more running around that I had hoped for, we were on our way at 6:44am. As we drove I monitored the length and frequency of Jen’s contractions… they were scary on both counts. Four minutes apart, lasting a minute or more. That’s… not good.

I decided that I would push the speed limit a bit more than normal on this trip. I hadn’t done that on any previous delivery-day jaunts to the hospital, but this one seemed a tad different. The trip is most of half an hour long, so, not that close! Thankfully, traffic, traffic lights and traffic cops all played along for the speedy journey.

T-Minus 45 Minutes
We arrived at the hospital just after seven, and—following another contraction—were getting out to head in and have a baby! But again, this time was different.

Jen was in obvious pain (much more than normal arrival-time pain) so I said, “Do you want me to get a wheel chair??” She said that would be great, so I quickly hurried inside to find a wheel chair. I found them right away and brought one out to her. (I picked one with a little flag proudly flying from it. Seemed more fun.) I pulled it up next to the passenger door of our van and asked Jen if she needed help getting in. What I didn’t immediately notice was, she was still having a (pretty intense) contraction! It started when we first got there!

When it finally subsided (maybe 4 minutes long or so?) she managed to get to the wheel chair and I began quickly rolling her to the quite familiar birthing center. I knew where to go, but they had just changed a security policy so, in due diligence, I checked with an information person to see if I had “clearance” to proceed. She said I did, so off we went.

The new security process requires that all visitors obtain a pass from the front desk. The front desk was not manned (or even womanned) at the hour at which we arrived, so that would not have been possible. The reason you need a pass though is that no one can enter the birthing center wing without one. No one.

That would have been really very bad, except, as “luck” would have it, a nurse was leaving right as we were coming in, and being apparently very astute, she was able to see that we clearly needed to be beyond that door, so she let us in! 🙂

(It turns out that there is a “buzzer” button there, so we could have pushed that to get in, but we didn’t know that at the time, so… we were glad for the fortunate timing!!)

I whisked Jen back to the nurses’ station and was grateful that they were ready for us. We quickly explained all that had led up to that moment and the nurses agreed that speedy work would be our best choice.

In previous visits to the Birthing Center, we had time to sign in, leisurely get Jen into hospital patient attire, and even take a stroll or two around the hallways of the center. Not this time! Jen quickly got into her baby birthing clothes and got on the bed, still in pretty intense pain. Usually there are many tests performed, equipment attached, and all sorts of things casually leading up to the “big moment”, but at this point it seemed we may just want to skip to the end of the book!

When the doctor arrived shortly after we did, she agreed that it was most likely “time” and her examination confirmed that. So they happily told Jen, “Whenever you’re ready!”

And Jen happily complied!

After much rushing around by nurses and doctor (to get all the stuff done that they needed to do before baby came) a nurse from the blood lab showed up wanting to take Jen’s blood, which is again, normal procedure.

When I looked from the nurse who was just doing her job down to my wife who was tightly gripping the bed posts with both hands, and shaking from the hard work she was doing—and who had just finished another minute-long contraction, I assumed that the new-to-the-scene nurse would (correctly) assess that now was not the time to draw blood. Especially from Jen. She couldn’t have known that part, but Jen is perhaps the hardest patient from whom to draw blood. No one can do it right the first time. Well, except one guy ever. So it takes a good 10-15 minutes, and lots of pokes, lots of pain, and … well, THAT was NOT what she needed right then!

I asked our doctor to help me out on this one when the new nurse would not accept my assessment that blood work should not be done now, “Doctor, don’t you think now might be a bad time for this?” The doctor called off the “blood hounds” and Jen was able to proceed with her main, arduous task at hand: deliver that baby!

She was really ready, so the rest went very, very fast. She began the “pushing” stage, and we began to see signs of the baby! Amazing!!! It had never been even CLOSE to this fast! Jen was having some pretty severe pain in her back, so I applied counter pressure to her lower back, which seemed to help, and she applied pressure to the baby!

It worked! After only seven minutes of pushing, out popped a very hairy baby head! A very hairy, very LARGE baby head!!! No joke, when I first saw the complete head I was shocked, and I believe literally said, “Whoa!” My next thought almost immediately was, “Oh my… is our baby deformed? Does he have a gargantuan head on a normal to tiny body??” Our doctor also made a comment about the enormity of this child’s noggin, and we all kept encouraging Jen to get the rest of the baby out!

A few more quick pushes and he popped out! I was relieved to see his body proportions matched his giant head, but quickly turned my focus to the color of our monster baby’s skin.

Breathe Baby, Breathe!
The jubilant announcement, “It’s a boy!” definitely took a back seat to the question of whether he survived the birthing process.

I’ve seen six babies birthed now, and none of them were as purple/blue as our son Cameron. The baby had a good, steady heartbeat just before his head popped out, so I was confident all would be fine, but as the doctor rubbed his back a little and placed the floppy, seemingly lifeless purple baby on Jen’s belly I began to get concerned. “Cry, little guy… CRY!” I thought to myself. It was likely only a few seconds, but it was starting to feel way too long. They were moving his body a bit, but he was not.

To my great relief, maybe 4 or 5 seconds after they placed him on Mom’s belly, he just let out a little cry and started to act like a normal baby is supposed to. Then he really started letting it out! As I was letting out a sigh of relief, the doctor handed me a pair of scissors and I got to cut the umbilical cord of my third son. Fun!

I mentioned at the beginning of this story that his breathing was labored. It was. Even more than the purple beginning to his life. Cameron came out so quickly that he wasn’t “properly squeezed” and had a bunch of mucous still in his lungs. This caused him to breath super fast, super shallow breaths. The nurse—our friend, and assistant to perhaps four of our children’s births—worked skillfully and diligently to help our little boy breathe, which helped me to breathe a little easier, too.

What’s His Name?
Now that all was under control, the question of what our little boy would be called was of course raised. The trouble was, we really didn’t know! Jen was in no condition to discuss it on the way to the hospital, and I wasn’t sure she was afterward (though she really did get through a tough but quick labor with more energy and less tiredness than usual!) … so I confessed that we really did not know. We knew the first name, but were unsettled on the middle name.

We chose Cameron simply because we liked it. We were looking through name books a long while ago, I think before our daughter Kirstie was born, and just liked the name Cameron. We thought it was funny that Cameron means “Crooked Nose” and our surname, Campbell, means “Crooked Mouth”. We joked that perhaps he would be an NHL hockey player some day!

The middle name was more of a challenge only because the name that I liked had some “baggage” with it for Jen. We looked at four or five options, and whittled it down to two real candidates, but really couldn’t pull the trigger because Jen had a history with the name “James”.

James is the name of both of my grandpas, three of my uncles, one of my cousins. Jimmie is the name of my father-in-law and brother-in-law. (James is also the middle name of our nephew on Jen’s side of the family.) The problem is that “Jimmie” is the Walker family name, and most definitely NOT “James!” Jen grew up hearing the emphasis put on this and so has always had a slight aversion to the name James.

But as I stared at our new boy and “tried out” the possible middle names on him, not only did I like the sound of our “top choice” but it just seemed cool and appropriate to honor all of the family members who also bore it.

So was named our most recent son, Cameron James Campbell.

In case you missed it… Cameron weighed in at a stunning 9lbs 8oz! Our previous high was 8lbs 6oz!! Crazy! He is 22″ long (also kinda big) and was born at 7:59am on July 30, 2009. He’s awesome, and I hope you get to meet him some day!

I know I’m glad that I have. And can’t wait to get to know him more.

Dryer Sheets

I needed to do a couple loads of laundry tonight, so I was a little disappointed when I went downstairs and found some laundry sort of “in process”. (Note: our 7 year old does most of our laundry, and usually pretty well. But, well… he’s seven. Nuff said.) For some reason this time he had left a small load of partially dried clothes in the dryer. Very strange.

As I was inspecting the scene, I noticed that we also were out of dryer sheets. I checked with Jen and sure enough, there were no more. Not too bad… clothes just wouldn’t smell quite as nice.

I went back upstairs to do a couple more things then went down to get the now fully dried load from the dryer and move the one I just washed into the dryer when…

I saw a dryer sheet. Right there on the ground in front of the dryer!

My first thought was, “Wow! Neat. A dryer sheet!” My second thought was, “Whoa. Wonder if God put that there? It wasn’t there before…” My third thought was, “Does God give you dryer sheets?” 🙂

Those are my thoughts. Not sure if the tiny piece of scented cloth was divinely placed but… I’m grateful.

And I’ll be smelling a little better, too.

God Saved Our Bacon

It’s been a full week. Fuller than usual for some reason. (I’m not sure “fuller” is a word, but, in this case it seems to fit.)

Each day has ended very late, and been full of either lots of one thing, or many different things. But whatever the landscape of the day, each has ended with a very tired Greg’s head.

Yesterday was no exception. Perhaps only in that it was the day this week that I actually felt the most tired. (Tireder?) I got home from a long day of training people at the Apple store, tired, hungry, and ready to eat a (quiet?) dinner with my family.

Oh right… I have five kids ages ten and under… 🙂

So, it wasn’t quiet. It wasn’t even particularly pleasant. (Though the meal was fantastic. Nice job, Jen!) 🙂 I kept feeling more and more tired, more and more badder…

And that’s when God decided to save our bacon.

After finishing my dinner, and as the kids were still complaining, fighting, whining, and pretty much exhibiting every bad behavior known to mankind, a peculiar thought entered my mind: “I should make the kids some really special ice cream sundaes.” (Yep, you read that right.)

I remembered that we had a bucket of vanilla ice cream left over from Ian’s birthday party about a month ago, and even some cool toppings from that day. The kids had been horrible, Jen & I were fried – and not letting the nicest things come out of our mouths – and for some reason, the idea I had was to be ridiculously generous to our little hooligans.

Well, I acted on my strange impulse and got up and lined up four bowls on the table (for the oldest four) and began bringing out all the awesome toppings. Chocolate and strawberry syrups. Maraschino cherries, peanuts, and even coconut flakes. The kids were getting pretty excited!

Finally I grabbed the 5-quart bucket of ice cream and popped off the lid. And that’s where it got interesting.

I dipped the scoop into the bucket with a decent amount of force, as the ice cream promised to be pretty hard having just been removed from the freezer. What met my decent amount of force was a very unexpected, squishy, super-soft blob of almost completely melted ice cream!!! What??! I tested a few other areas, and indeed, the whole thing seemed like it was room temperature!

This was very disturbing, and NOT what I wanted at my then current energy level. But, with a freezer full of meats, veggies, and a few fruits (thanks to the generosity of friends and family, actually) … I knew I had to try and do something to save it.

I am no refigerator repairman, so I really had no idea where to begin. But I poked around, and did notice the fan was not blowing. That has meant in the past that it was frozen over. I pulled out all the contents of the freezer, with “Plan B” being to store them in a giant Rubbermaid container outside that night. When I got the panel off in the back of the freezer, I discovered that it had frozen over. I got out the hairdryer and melted away the ice… and the fan came back on!

After cleaning it out – what better opportunity would I have to do that?? – I put all the food back in, moved the fridge back in place, and in just a couple hours, all was back to normal. (The water dispenser had frozen up as well, but as I type this, the ice maker is back in full swing.)

That night – and again this morning – I was super thankful that God had (I believe) prompted me to first, bring peace and joy to our dinner table and our home with a special treat on an especially bad night, and as a very cool side-effect… he quite literally may have saved our bacon! Who knows when I would have checked the freezer again? Probably not till I saw a pool of water outside of it the next morning.

See, the that’s the cool part of the story. In the middle of an otherwise forgettable evening, God took a very simple (yet strangely generous) idea, and turned it into a rescue effort. And it worked. And he definitely gets the credit.

God really did save our bacon. 🙂

Who You Know

I was thinking tonight about how things have happened in my life. I got to chat briefly with a long-time, good friend – Adam – whom I do not get to really share life with any more. He and his family live in another area of the country, and aside from the occasional conversation over electronic mediums, and the even more occasional (meaning, almost never) in-person conversations, our friendship is mostly something from our past.

We can always pick it up again, whenever we strike up those conversations. But with such distance geographically, and chronologically, our friendship is definitely different than it was “back in the day”. (When I would say he was probably my closest friend.)

What is so interesting though – perhaps only because I’m thinking these things after two in the morning? – is how when you look back on life, it’s so cool to see how all things do work together for good. God crosses paths at just the right times. Somehow, reminiscing about the good ol’ days with my friend Adam reminded me that his friendship with Jen (and the words he spoke when he introduced the two of us) eventually brought five super-awesome people into the world.

Not directly, of course. Not even intentionally. But it happened. Adam knew Jen, and thought she was awesome. He said, “Jen’s the kind of girl you could marry,” meaning the general you, but … truer words he never spake. 🙂 Now eighteen and a half years later… I can’t imagine my life without Jen, and God has given us five tiny people to love and to be Dad & Mom to. Crazy.

That’s the other thing. Thanks to my friendship with Adam, I met Jen. Many years later, we married, and God added to our family… and not just “some people” but specifically, Ian, Alex, Kirsten, Julia, and Emma. Those are the specific people that God created – from me and Jen – and he wanted us to be the ones who were Mom & Dad to them. Sometimes that blows me away. Other times it just makes me smile. How cool that God set it up that way. He is the giver of life, and he has given these specific lives to our care, and us to them. So cool.

So just remember tonight (or, likely, this morning or later) that you are who you are supposed to be. All your strengths, and all your weaknesses. You are also in the right place, and in the right relationships, and perhaps you are even the Mom or Dad you are supposed to be. That doesn’t mean complacency about destructive behavior or relationships. It does mean that when you start to doubt your worth, or your impact… it’s time to remember that YOU are the perfect you.

Who knows what will be credited to you eighteen and a half years from now?