Marriage: Great Risk, Great Reward It's not in what you get, but what you give. And give up.

Marriage is hard.

If you’re soon to be wed and you hear those words, you eschew them as the trite acrimony of bitter people. That will never be true for us, you say to yourself, sure of the truth of your conviction.

Without fail, you discover that the union of two lives into one is never smooth, easy, care-free, or any other blissful thought we hold before marriage.

I love my wife. I love her more than anyone ever. (Sorry, Mom…) She is so special to me, everything about her. It is truly difficult for me to imagine my life without her. I love her laugh, her smell, her eyes, her joy; her long, beautiful hair, her passion—be prepared for fiery discussion if you hit upon one of her passionate topics, of which there are many—and I love her gentle spirit maybe most of all.

But some days are so hard! So hard. When two people share life, it is not a 50/50 split. In marriage, the math doesn’t make sense. It’s one hundred percent, each way. Well, that’s hard to do! (It doesn’t “make sense”, remember?) But it’s the only way it works.

With that math, you are completely in the hands of another. That is the greatest risk of marriage. You are 100% vulnerable. All of you, with none in reserve. In that equation, you are giving up control. To work well, a marriage requires both spouses to contribute their all—100%—to the other.

Thus, success depends as much on your spouse as it does on you.

That is the great risk.

And, that is the great reward.

If marital success could be achieved by your own efforts (i.e. the things you have control of) then it would stand to reason that many more marriages would succeed. Why not “try” to have a great marriage, if all it takes it to “try harder”. That is obviously not the case, and most would agree, doesn’t make sense. Even if you are giving your all—and, likely, that’s an exaggeration of your own ego, more than a factual truth—your marriage could be a shambles if your spouse is not also fully in.

The risk, then, is entering into to this life-long commitment, knowing that you are actually giving up control. You can not produce a great marriage simply by your own efforts.


The reward of giving yourself fully to another, whom you are then trusting to do the same is, even in concept, astounding. The joy in that journey is incredible. To share all of life’s moments—euphoric, crushing, and in between—with another, as one…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT

That quote is so often misused. It is not to require submission, or assign dominance. In the paragraphs before that one, Paul explains how a wife respecting her husband is like the church submitting to Jesus’ lead—in essence, trusting—and how the husband’s love is to be like Christ, who died for his bride (the church).

Both husband and wife are giving up themselves for the other.

I like how Paul refers to marriage as “a great mystery”. It is mysterious. How can two individual lives become one? There are still two individuals, but there is one new creation. A mystery.

We can have a great marriage. But the greatness comes—as in all of our relationships in life—by humble submission to one another. Giving up control, placing trust in the other, and enjoying the fruits of that rich soil.

[agree] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4

The great reward of marriage comes not from what you get, but what you give. And also what you give up.

DOMA Arigato

Defense of Marriage Act, section 3 ruled unconstitutionalJust about a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was in the news for two rulings in regards to same-sex marriages. One was specific to California (Proposition 8), and I won’t address that here, but the first was regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of section three (§3) of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In a 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that §3 of DOMA was indeed unconstitutional, based on the protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. (The Full Faith and Credit clause.)

And so, what began as a not very good idea continues to crumble.


In 1996, Congress rushed through (with great approval, based on the votes) the Defense of Marriage Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton—who at that time personally, publicly opposed gay marriage, in addition to his belief that it should not be sanctioned by the Federal government—and ever since then, DOMA has been challenged by one court case after another, slowly eroding its frail constitutional structure.

And really, I agree with this ruling.

I do not agree with same-sex marriage. I think God was pretty clear (stick with me here) speaking strictly anatomically, that there is a proper “match” between a man and a woman. The physical is obvious. And then there is the story of Adam & Eve: when God made a partner for Adam, he made Eve. (Not “Steve”.. haha!! Good one!!!) 🙂

And, the other obvious reason for a marriage to be between one man and one woman for life is procreation. You can’t actually have kids without both sexes being involved. Are you with me?

Now, I know there are seemingly a billion nuances to this. There’s one side yelling, “Homosexuality is a SIN! God hates fags!!!” And then the other side—properly and rightly offended—begins to hate the God whom these “Righteous Ones” claim to represent. And the former dig deep into the scriptures to sling judgmental condemnations straight from the Mouth of God upon these forlorn, wayward, despicable sinners! (Meanwhile ignoring their own filthy rags, and/or logs in their eyes, etc.)

The debate about what is right and what is wrong will never, ever get us anywhere.

So, if we’re arguing from the Bible, let’s take a look at Jesus. He is the final, fullest revelation of the Father, right? So, Jesus must have said plenty of times that he hated homosexuality (and then, it stands to reason, he hated homosexuals too, right?)—AND he hated, opposed, campaigned against gay marriage. Of course.


But… I don’t think Jesus ever addressed homosexuality? Weird.

Does that mean it is not a “sin”? No. Does it mean it’s “right”? Still, no. (In fact, logically you can’t presume something is “right” from the absence of a declaration of it being “wrong”, can you?)

Liberty is Paramount

What I think it does show us is the first way that we can deal with this issue.

Back off. Love people. “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We are not the police of anyone. (Unless of course you are a police officer, and then, well, we thank you for your service.)

It’s not my job to tell you—or as is the pattern of some—to make you do what I think you should do. If you want to marry someone who has the same body parts as you, well, I personally can not “sanction” that, but, I do sanction your right to choose differently than me.

And I expect you to do the same for me.

This is the crux of the whole thing for me: Liberty. It’s not a moral issue, though of course underneath the minutia of all these cases, and legal and political battles it has moral implications.

It’s an issue of liberty. And not only that of the people wanting to legalize same-sex unions.

I may strongly disagree with you, but inherent in my understanding of liberty is your liberty. You are entitled to live your life however you please, so long as no one else is hurt (without their full, willing consent) in the process. We are all guaranteed these inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even if it’s “wrong”, or even if it might hurt us. (Larger portions at fast food restaurants? Smoking? Drinking? Marijuana? Driving without seat belts? Riding bikes without helmets?)

We have become a people who no longer celebrate diversity, and we are increasing the pace toward total control over everyone’s lives.

Equality? Or Victory?

The cry from those who want to legalize same-sex marriages at the Federal level—thus requiring all States to abide by this legal status, whether or not they sanction such unions—is that of “equal rights”. But what is happening is really just an attempt to gain control, and force others to do what you think they should do. One group telling another how they can and will act. Bakeries have to make wedding cakes, and churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages1.

The bottom line is: if you want freedom, then you must also give freedom.

You can have freedom, and the consequences of freedom, and you must concurrently and equally allow others to think and live differently than you. There are obviously places where these freedoms intersect, and at that point a society must decide how to resolve such disputes. That is what our Constitution (and the government it created) allow for.

I am opposed to gay marriage. But I am even more opposed to legislating any bit of this. In fact, I’m all for unlegislating marriage altogether. I love being married to Jen—it’s maybe the most important piece of who I am after being a child of God. Do I care that New York State “recognizes” my marriage? Not really at all.

Much of this fight is because of tax penalties (including the case that brought about last Wednesday’s ruling) and legalization of immigrants, and other financial/taxation concerns. So drop them, as much as possible. Don’t tax money bequeathed to a loved one. Don’t provide financial benefits to married couples.2

Just leave me be.

Legislating Morality

I agree with the Supreme Court that defining marriage is unconstitutional, but not because it violates the constitution as much as because the federal government has no place defining marriage in the first place. Traditional marriage, or same-sex marriage, or multiple concurrent marriages, or polygamy, etc, etc.

Some seem to see government as the protector of morality, but is that really our government’s role? I heard a statement in regards to this subject on a podcast just this morning:

“It’s the government’s job to treat [marriage with] equal[ity], it’s not the government’s job to make moral choices for people.”3

Spot on.

Stop thinking that you can pass laws and make people into what you want them to be.

Laws do not shape people’s minds and hearts. Education, the Holy Spirit, and in general, a caring instructor will do that. (As well as common sense and life experience; those can be the best teachers sometimes.)

You can’t say “Gay marriage is legal and approved!” and change people’s beliefs by that statement. Nor do we conform people to “right thinking” by saying, “Gay marriage is abhorrent and banned!!!”

It just doesn’t work that way. The morality of our laws and government reflect who we are, the do not make us who we are. In addition, our laws are about blind justice (not preferential prejudice) and equality, for all.

God made us free. Our Founders recognized that. We are born with the right to choose, and our government is We the People, protecting each other’s inalienable rights. I’m still going to disagree on the specifics regarding gay marriage, but that’s my inalienable right. And yours.

And that is what we most need to protect here.

It’s not “hate” to say that homosexuality is a sin. (Nor is it usually very helpful, in a public setting.) It is encroaching on freedom to say that someone can’t think that, or even express that.

(Again, it may not be helpful, but let truth be truth. If you say homosexuality is not a choice, but as natural as different skin or hair colors, then let that be true. Don’t force it on someone who strongly disagrees.)

But that’s where we fall sadly short. We are supposed to be the Land of the Free, but we really want to be free to make other people like me.

How sad. We’re meant to be more.

Love mercy, do justly, walk humbly with your God

So let’s be. Love your neighbor—whatever they believe. Find common ground, even if there’s barely any to be found. Stop trying to make other people think like you do!

And most of all, pray. Not for God to change other people, but so your eyes will be opened to what he is doing. First in you, and then around you.

I think it’s good that DOMA is being questioned. DOMA arigato, SCOTUS. Hopefully that means there is a semblance of constitutuional liberty still present in our bloated, overreaching federal government.

And now we proceed with liberty our goal. And justice for all.

True justice, not petty political victory.

May God help us as we do.


  1. Note, I realize this is in Denmark, but this mentality is being championed here in the US. When we make the gay view the “right” view, the same errors in how we treat each other will inevitably be carried out, just in the reverse.
  2. I’m sure there is much more here than I even have time to consider, but the general principle makes sense to me. Less government is better government!
  3. Wayne Jacobsen, The God Journey Podcast – Sexuality & Transformation (6/28/13)


Yesterday was not a great day. There was not any one particular reason for it being “not great”; or maybe there are too many to bother with detailed listing.

After all the children were in their beds, I grabbed a book and collapsed in my own bed, allowing the story to distract my mind and heart from all it had toiled over throughout the day.

Not too much later, Jen arrived in our room and asked how I was doing. We talked a bit (which I usually do love) and she shortly thereafter climbed into bed (clumb? clambed?) with me and just gently placed her arm on my shoulder and back, tenderly caressing while she read her own book.

In those moments, and even throughout the day as Jen expressed her concern for me, I was so well aware of how much I love her, and how much I love our life together.

I am so thankful for my Jen.


Now, please don’t get me wrong… our life is full of hurt, and disappointment, and misunderstandings, and brokenness, and even pride and selfishness and uglinesses of that sort. Jen is not perfect. Nor am I.

But in the midst of a day with six children to care for, much less of their father helping, and the rest of life to deal with, Jen repeatedly took time to care for me.

You may not realize this, but, being the home schooling mom (or, just… the mom!) to six young people is what some could rightly call and “arduous task”. Not that it’s bad, nor that she’d choose to do anything other than that. But, it’s plenty taxing.

greg-jen-thenSo many long years ago, I got to know this beautiful young woman named Jen, and I loved being with her. The sweetness and depth of her spirit, the glow of her smile, the rich sounds of her frequent laughter, and even then, feeling like she cared about me. She’s quite a good listener. Always has been.

Life has thrown its punches at us, at her. And the amazing thing is, even though we can’t even really count the number of knockdowns anymore, she just keeps getting back up; she keeps pressing on.

I love her. I just wanted to say that here, out loud.

We’ve known each other for a little over twenty years. We’ll be married for sixteen of those this coming October. Not being omniscient, I can’t know how many more we’ll get to enjoy together—maybe fifty, like my aunt and uncle are now celebrating… or sixty-seven like my grandparents celebrated in April? 100?—but however many it may be, I am so glad that God decided to bring Jen to me.

And he brought her to the man. —Genesis 2:22

I love you, Jen.

Sad Things

There are a few things in life that seem to really get to me emotionally any time I hear of them. Divorce is one, especially involving people we know. It just breaks my heart, every time. Then any injustice involving kids… that’s another. (Don’t think that’s at all unique to me, think that’s built into nearly every human being, especially we who are parents.)

The other one though is suicide. I heard this story on the top-of-the-hour radio news, and just immediately felt sad. I’m really not sure what it is, but my heart instantly breaks for the person who felt that was the only remaining course of action. I’m not sure how you get there, but as I said, it just makes me overflow with compassion for them.

I’m not sure why these three things affect me so much, but they do. Perhaps I could be a helpful, listening ear to people facing such tragedies? Perhaps.

Whoever you are reading this right now, I hope they are far away from you.

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?


GrandpaMy grandpa turned 85 years old on Sunday. I called and got to chat with him just a little. Had a fun birthday planned with his family (my mom & dad, aunt & uncle, and a couple others) and told me he doesn’t think 85 is that old.

But it is.

It’s odd, but all I’ve been thinking when I think about him, or see the photos my dad sent along from the party is that his time here with us is probably pretty short. I know, it could be 10 or 15 years, which really is a good long time to enjoy, but it’s a pretty short time, too.

Life passes too quickly.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the day that Jen and I chose to marry. Eleven years. That’s a pretty long time. Today is also the 14th wedding anniversary of some friends of ours. That’s a long time. My dad is celebrating his 40th high school reunion this year. A friend celebrated his 50th not long ago. Jen’s parents celebrated 50 years of marriage a couple weeks ago.

Time passes. It just keeps moving on. And for some reason I am noticing that right now.

I am noticing that Grandpa may not be around much longer, and that makes me want to spend more time with him. I am noticing that Ian is not a little boy anymore. He’s going to turn 10 in a few months. He’s getting older, and experiencing life as Ian Campbell, not just our child. And that makes me want to spend more time with him.

What I am noticing – and have learned in my 33 years of life – is that spending time with people is the most important thing. I have learned also that all things in life must be balanced, but when all is finished, the most important thing is to just love and be loved. (As is evidenced by my just wanting to spend time with the people who are getting older faster than I want them to.)

The hope of those of us who live with Jesus is that the “end” that we are all rushing toward is not really an end at all, but a beginning. That life only changes – and for the better – when we reach the threshold between this life and the next. Grandpa has been a rough character at many times in my life, but he’s my grandpa, and I love him, and sometimes I imagine what it will be like when we both – in our new bodies and complete selves – can, along with the other Redeemed, enjoy the eternal “now” of full life with Jesus. (Now we see darkly…)

I can’t know what happens after we die. The Bible is full of hopeful language of resurrection and paradise and life with no more badness. And life with people we love here. No more curse, no more sin, no more death. Seems a good place to be.

We’re not there yet, but the older I get, the faster it seems we’re headed there.

Who knows, maybe we’ll be there sooner than I think? 🙂

Enjoy the time you have with those who are around you. Call up your grandpa and tell him you love him. Spend time with your son, or dad, or mom, or daughter, or spouse…

Today’s as good a time to do that.


We got back late tonight from quite a party. It was a gathering of many old friends – and some new – to celebrate a milestone. Unfortunately, it’s rather rare these days, and not just due to “natural” causes.

Jen’s parents will be celebrating fifty years of marriage on June 25th of this year. Fifty. Not being alive fifty years, which is strange enough. Fifty years of being married.

In a recent conversation, it was brought up that Jen’s mom has been driving a school bus for thirty years now. That’s a real long time to do that. But, when I put to use my excellent math skills, I deduced that my mother-in-law had been NOT driving a school bus for TWENTY years prior to that 30-year feat.

My mortgage will take me 30 years to pay off. I am just slightly past 30 years on the planet. 30 years is a long time.

And then there’s 50.

Congrats to my second mother and father. Fifty years of living life together, and loving people together. They are quite good at it. The room was filled with people who have been loved by Jim & Carolyn, and the air was filled with many stories from those previous 50 years. And from all appearances, there will be many more to come.

Jen & I have only eclipsed ten years of life as one. It feels like longer – in a very good way. I can’t remember not being married to Jen. But we’re only a fifth of the way to where her mom & dad are this month. Incredible.

Life passes quickly – Tim Russert was gone this week in a heartbeat – but sometimes we get to enjoy it for a good long time. It’s good to stop and look back at all that has been and celebrate the good gifts God has given us.

Driving home tonight, I just felt like telling my family that I love them. I love who we the Campbells are, and I love being the dad of this family.

Fifty years seems far off now, but I bet these days now will seem like “just yesterday” when we get there.

On we go.

Ian Jeffrey Campbell: God’s Gracious Gift

Ian Jeffrey Campbell

A Little Background…
As we approached our first anniversary, life was a whirlwind of new things. Not only were we celebrating the first year of our marriage, we were also expecting our first baby! He was definitely planned, expected, and greatly anticipated. We were a bit surprised at how early he was coming into our family, but we grew more excited as the weeks and months went by to meet our first baby in late January of 1999.

Campus ministry was going OK. Marriage was not. How come no one told us it would be this hard? Perhaps they did, but we brushed them off as people who weren’t “really trying” or had just forgotten the love they once had for each other. Well, even with the anticipation that comes with your first child, things were still pretty rough in the early going of our life together. Trying to meld two individual lives into one took its toll on both of us, I think.

And this baby was taking its toll on Jen. Of all the pregnancies Jen has carried since, this one was by far the most draining on her. We didn’t know what to expect, since this was our first, but we learned that being pregnant makes you very tired, and a bit more emotional… and a very picky eater! Jen only wanted smashed potatoes with lots of butter and salt. 🙂 I learned very quickly to make meals for Jen to her exact specifications!

As we worked our way into the fall months, life was busy as always. I was working as a bus driver, in addition to the campus ministry, in addition to several other duties with our small church in Victor, NY. We were also attempting to raise support to work for the church who could not pay us at that time. Lots going on.

During this fall season of 1998, on one of our fall visits to Clarence, NY to spend time with family, we received some disturbing news. In fact, I think it may have been a visit to celebrate Jen’s birthday (October 28th). Jen has three (considerably) older brothers. The three of them are only three years apart in age, but they are all at least 11 years older than Jen. The middle of those three brothers is Jeff. Jeff is a different sort of fellow… kind heart, loves helping people… not able to do a lot of things that other folks his age could do. But that didn’t stop Jeff from being awesome. 🙂

That October 28th (1998), as we were wrapping up the night of fun, Jeff began telling us of his recent visits to the doctor. They were watching some strange marks on his legs. (I forget these many years later if it was both legs or just on one. The image in my mind is only on one leg.) He pulled up his pant leg to reveal some very dark, black marks – almost like bruises, but looking more like veins – creeping up his leg from his foot. It was certainly shocking, but … not an easily identifiable danger. He was scared as he showed us, and reported what the doctors were saying. But we reassured him that it would probably be OK, and that the doctors would help him figure out what was going on.

Jen & I probably chatted a bit on the ride home about what we had seen and heard from Jeff that night. It was a little scary, but we trusted that the doctors would figure something out, and that Mom & Dad would help Jeff get through whatever might be ailing his body this time. They were all pretty good at that by now, and we rested in knowing that.

A Turn For The Worse
Life continued as normal for the next week. We went about our regular business. Jen’s belly continued its slow growth. I’m sure there were good things and bad things that happened from October 28th, 1998 until the next Wednesday, November 4th, 1998, but most of them have long since faded from memory.

Not true for Wednesday, November 4th, 1998.

I remember the phone call. I can’t remember if it was from brother Jon, or Andy. (OK, the details are a bit foggy, but there are very vivid images in my memory from that day.) What I do remember are the words, “Jeff is dead.”

“WHAT? How can that BE???” Jeff was way too young for this to even be possible. I remembered the marks on his legs and the hint of fear in his voice, and everything just rushed back into my mind along with the overwhelming feelings of pure bewilderment. “How can this be?”

The tears flowed freely. We gathered at Mom & Dad’s house and just hugged, cried, sat in silence, and dealt with the details and the many visitors who came to share in the grief, or offer help where – or if – they could.

Though there was definitely a big hole in our lives left by Jeff’s sudden passing, we did manage to begin getting back to the “normal” routine over the next couple weeks. Campus ministry continued, bus driving continued, and the baby continued to grow inside Jen.

It was not too long after Jeff died that both Jen and I separately thought that we should name our baby after Jeff, if the baby was indeed a boy. Jen had an inkling that it was, and somehow, once Jeff died, we both knew “for sure” that it would be. We had the first name picked out already, but a different middle name, that we weren’t too sure of anyway. And there really was no question that if we did indeed have a boy – and it only seemed fitting that we would – we would certainly name him Ian Jeffrey.

It was already November, so the time was passing quickly. End of the semester events, holiday preparations. Life was certainly not back to normal for Jen’s mom & dad. We prayed daily for them, I think, and made sure to keep tabs on how they were doing. Jeff’s death was a horrendous experience for them. Maybe especially for Dad. He was the one that found Jeff. He was the one that felt the responsiblity – perhaps even burden? – to care for him for 36 years. They had their spats, to be sure. I was witness to a handful of them, and Jen can attest to so many more. But Jim & Carolyn loved their little boy (who was not so little!) and his sudden removal from their lives was just plain crushing.

Christmas was fast approaching, and we were just getting through all the stuff that needed to be gotten through leading up to a Christmas Eve service at our tiny little church building in Victor, NY. That would be the final event before a little Christmas break to be with family. It was the down time between semesters, Christmas and New Year’s… a great time for a break.

But we had to get through Christmas Eve first!

Christmas Eve, 1998
It was our first Christmas Eve service at the Church of Christ at Victor. I can’t recall right now if I was there in 1996 (my first year there on staff) but I do know we had not been there in 1997, as we spent that Christmas season with my parents in Ohio. So we weren’t quite sure what to expect. At least, I wasn’t. I and my ever-growing pregnant wife arrived at the little building about an hour before time to begin and the room where the service would be held was already packed!!! Ha! I couldn’t believe it! So, I scrambled around (in front of everyone) to get all of our musical equipment set up, and the night pretty much was just a blur from there on.

Christmas songs, smiles and hugs between friends, even a bit of home made egg nog if I remember correctly… it was a nice Christmas Eve service. After all had finished, and we’d done a bit of clean up, we packed up and headed out for the hour and fifteen minute drive to Jen’s parents’ house.

We arrived late, but talked till later. That’s a Walker family tradition I have learned. The best chats are usually after the day has been completely exhausted, and everyone retires to their various seats in the living room. It’s just a place no one wants to leave, no matter how tired they might be. (Or, how pregnant!) So we stayed up and chatted for a good while… probably hit the hay near midnight that night. Definitely heavier hearts than normal… mixed emotions as we headed into Christmas morning. The first one without Jeff.

Now we were completely unprepared for what was about to befall us. We were not expecting a baby until JANUARY 25TH. It was only December 25th. We had been reading some childbirth books, and certainly were eager to meet our new baby…. just… not yet.

About 2am (I think… maybe 4am?), I awake to find Jen is missing… and in the bathroom. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but she was spending a little more time in there than normal, so I was certainly curious. She finally came back to where we were sleeping and I asked, “So, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know… I think my water broke.” she said, a bit confused.

“You think?” I wasn’t sure what that meant. I hadn’t ever experienced such a thing, of course, but… wouldn’t you know??? “What do you mean, ‘I think’?” I queried.

She explained what had been going on for a while now, and it sure sounded like her water had broken to me! From what we had read in the books, I knew that was time to spring into action – even if we were a WHOLE MONTH ahead of schedule. But we talked about it, and Jen decided it was OK to wait till a more decent hour to call our midwife. She was back in Rochester, and could tell us what we should do. The contractions were not very severe, so we just decided to wait.

Everything progressed steadily through the night – Jen did not get much sleep, but then again, neither did I! – and at about 8:30 am we phoned our midwife. She was very excited for us, and said that the best thing to do would be to come to Rochester if we thought we could make it. Jen thought we could, so off we went.

A Different Sort of Christmas Morning
Now, this is one of the comical memories of the day. We all pile in my in-law’s car, Jen & I in the back, Mom in the passenger seat timing contractions, and Dad driving… fast. If you know Jim Walker, you probably know that he’s a very law-abiding citizen. He likes to do the right thing. Well in this case, his love for his daughter, or grand-baby, or perhaps his love for his car’s upholstery permitted his conscience to drive at about 90 mph on the NY State Thruway. 🙂 We’ve never made such good time to Rochester! 🙂

The contractions continued, and all seemed to be progressing just fine. Except that it was Christmas morning! Obviously plans had changed a bit for the day! Instead of waking up, sharing some food, opening presents – and missing Jeff – we were speeding down the highway, ready to have a new baby!!!

We arrived at Rochester General Hospital sometime in the 10 o’clock hour, and got checked in and did all of the preparatory stuff. Got settled in a room, and Jen got ready to have a baby! Not getting much sleep the night before, we could see she was a bit weak, so our midwife suggested lunch. And so, we ate lunch.

I actually don’t remember lunch one bit. I vaguely remember Jen trying to force down a few things, but not really wanting anything. I have no idea if I ate or not. I do remember we were all there… and looking forward to a new baby! I believe Jen’s oldest brother, Jon, and family had joined us by this point. They were going to come over to Clarence for the Christmas Day festivities, but that was preempted by this pending birth.

Oddly enough, though the labor had begun in the middle of the night (and hadn’t stopped), Jen’s body was not showing much progress. The doctors weren’t too concerned about that yet… but we were certainly getting tired. Poor Jen! She was falling asleep – sitting up – between contractions! Maria, our midwife, was calm and relaxing, carrying on a conversation with Jen & me, and anyone else in the room… offering advice at various points as to what might help Jen. She did a great job.

Well, the hours turned into even more hours, and the rest of the family decided to make the trip over from Buffalo to Rochester! Jen’s brother Andy, as well as the family who had adopted Jeff’s kids (whom we had adopted into our family) eventually joined us at Rochester General. What’s the point in spending Christmas day over there when the party was clearly here!!! From what we were told, there was quite the party in the waiting room by that Friday evening. 🙂

All this time, Jen went ahead with our desired drug-free course. Her body was growing very weary, though. This was WAY harder on her than I expected it would be. I mean, I watch the movies and stuff, but this went on a LOT longer than any TV birth I had ever seen. (I guess editing helps that a lot…) 🙂 They asked if she wanted any pain medication, but she held on and politely refused the offer.

By the evening time, more and more doctors began to visit the room. Jen was in the 35th week on the 6th day – or, one day before “full term” – so the docs were watching this particular birth a bit more than normal. Because this labor was taking so long after the water broke, some of the doctors were a bit concerned and wanted to do an internal monitor thingie. We didn’t really want that, but this was definitely not going exactly as we had planned, so… we agreed. The test revealed that all was still going just fine… just going very sloooooowly.

We were getting close though. Right around the 9pm hour, things started really crankin’. We had been having regular visitors to the room throughout the night. Jen’s mom & dad, our friend Leah wanted to be there for the actual birth, so she had been for a few hours. A niece here, a nephew there, a brother here, a sister-in-law there. But more than that, those doctors kept coming to take a peak at the not full-term lady. It was kinda crazy. But it GOT CRAZIER. As Jen went into full labor, the room FILLED with doctors. It was nuts! I just stayed up by the head of the bed on one side of Jen. Leah was on the other, and somewhere nearby was Jen’s mom and our midwife, Maria.

It was quite a party for Ian’s arrival! 🙂

God’s Gracious Gift
Ian dancing with his sister KirstenThe final stage of labor actually went pretty quickly, which I was so glad for. And at 9:19pm on Friday, December 25th, 1998, we were given our first baby… a boy. I just cried. As soon as I saw him I cried. I don’t cry much. So, I was a bit surprised at that sudden rush of emotion. But it’s all I could do. It was the culmination of 8 months of waiting for a baby with great anticipation. It was the culmination of 2 months of sorrow and sadness and loss… replaced with great joy and a healthy new baby boy! It was the culmination of a long – very different – Christmas day spent with the extended Walker clan at a hospital in Rochester.

There were probably 20 people in that room with Jen & me, and our new baby. Maybe more. A few moments – who knows how long – after the baby was born, and we were holding him, Jen’s dad asked from the back of the long room, “What’s his name, Greg? What’s his name???” I looked at Jen and offered her the chance to give her parents the gift we had somehow almost known we’d be able to give. She was just too exhausted and motioned for me to go ahead.

“His name is Ian,” and I paused, then said clearly, but emotionally, “Jeffrey… Campbell.”

I don’t remember exactly what happened, but there was a definite understanding in the room that this new baby boy was named after the family member whose absence still hurt us all. God had given us a gift – on Christmas day no less – and his name was Ian Jeffrey, after his Uncle Jeff, whom he never knew. We later learned that the name Ian means “God’s Gracious Gift”. We had simply chosen it because it was the Scottish name we liked the most.

But I think God had other plans.

I don’t remember when the party died down that night, but eventually it did. My parents also came up that weekend to meet their first grandson. That was a joy as well. They brought us pizza and wings, and we watched the Bills game in the hospital that Sunday afternoon! 🙂 All were happy to meet this new little Christmas boy, Ian Jeffrey Campbell.

Ian couldn’t have been healthier. The nurses and doctors were all thrilled at how healthy he was. He was a bit on the scrawny side (the fat comes in the final month of gestation…) but overall the thing they were most concerned about was his “slight jaundice”. (I told the nurses that wasn’t jaundice… Jen is kind of yellow too!) So, they ran lots of tests on him, just to be sure, but all checked out normal. I tried to tell everyone that he was just fine… that God had a purpose for him, and so he was just fine.

Ian was indeed God’s Gracious Gift. He was given to us on a Christmas Day. Usually a time of family togetherness and celebration that, for the Walker clan in 1998, was marred by the sudden loss of our brother Jeff. When we imagined we’d be feeling the emptiness of death, we instead spent the entire day anticipating life, and we were given another Jeffrey.

All four Campbell Kids

The Marks
One more interesting thing about Ian’s arrival here on the planet. Do you recall the strange marks on Jeff’s legs just before he died? Well God gave them to Ian. They aren’t as scary looking as Jeff’s, and sure, they’re slightly different. But, not long after he was born, we noticed some marks that go all the way down his left leg – which if my memory is correct, is the leg that Jeff showed us that night in October. They are not exactly the same, but it is just crazy that Ian even got those crazy marks that match his Uncle Jeff. Now, I do have a strange birthmark that extends over a good portion of my left arm, but these are just a bit different, and “coincidentally” just where the marks were on Jeff’s body before he died.

I don’t think any of our other children so far have fit into a bigger picture like Ian did on his birth day. Ian was born at just the right time for so many more people than just him. His story is bigger than just him. That doesn’t take anything away from any of our other children who we have seen added to our family. Each of those days is certainly memorable as well. But there’s no denying that we gave Ian Jeffrey the right name, even before we knew how any of the events would unfold.

Ian truly is God’s gracious gift.

We Have Tickets… Sort Of

Southwest AirlinesSpeaking of “kidless excursions”…

On a bit of a hunch late this afternoon, I checked out, to see if I could book our travel for Oct/Nov this year when we will spend 7-9 days away from our children – JUST ME AND JEN – celebrating our 10th year of marriage. (I CAN NOT WAIT!) Turns out, I can now book flights up till November 2nd! Sweet! Problem is… we might be coming home the 3rd or 4th. 🙂 Doh!

So, I booked the flight there! $99/each from Buffalo to San Jose, CA! Nice!! Get em while they’re hot!!! 🙂

I just had to share cause this has got to be the coolest thing Jen & I have gotten to go together since we had Ian (one year into our marriage…) BIG THANKS to BOTH of our parents for making it possible. (Mine donated the lodging, Jen’s are keeping our kids!!! ALL FOUR!!!)

So. Can’t wait.

It’s kinda funny that I only booked a one-way trip to California so far, isn’t it? 🙂