D-Day + Two Years

Diagnosis day, it’s here again. Some days reach the level you don’t even have to say what it is. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. But not all of those anniversaries are good things. Some of them are reminders of the world turning upside down. Realizing that nothing would ever be the same. A total change in your perspective, in your life.

Read moreD-Day + Two Years

A Year Like No Other

This time last year, I was being admitted to ORMC and being prepped for surgery for an “abscess.” Twenty-one days later, most of which I had spent barely conscious at ORMC and then Emory Midtown, I had been diagnosed with Sweet’s Syndrome. It was yet another condition I, my family, and most of my medical team had never heard of. Thankfully, we were at a hospital where someone had seen it before (which is a huge feat given only a few hundred cases have ever been documented). Even after I made it home, I faced the worst depression I’ve ever endured, being unable to walk or care for myself, and continuing pain. Eventually I graduated from the wheelchair to a cane. I was able to drive again. And now I’m able to walk unassisted again.
 
Me with my wife and parents following dinner on the one year anniversary of my hospitalization leading to a diagnosis of Sweet’s Syndrome.
It has been an incredibly long year, but I am grateful for how it has brought me together with my caregivers (especially Nikki). I am grateful for caring nurses that went to extraordinary lengths (including learning the Charleston) to assist in my recovery. I never want to go through it again. But I am glad for the things I learned through the process.
 
Tonight, I went to dinner with Nikki, Mom, and Dad. We had fun. I drove us there. I walked in by myself. I ate something other than grits (which was basically the only thing I ate from August through October). And I am humbled by how blessed I am.

Oh, what a weekend…

To say that this past weekend was involved would be an understatement. Really, it was the entire week. It started, for me at least, on Tuesday with the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner. Wednesday, I started the Survive and Thrive program at Georgia College. Then on Friday, things really got crazy.

The day started with the Georgia College Celebration of Excellence. I hadn’t been on campus much since having to give up my job, so it was great to be able to see old friends and coworkers. But the highlight of the ceremony was getting to see my wife receive the inaugural Eve Puckett Community Service Award. Nikki worked hard to earn that honor, and it was well deserved. She’s worked with student groups, Relay for Life as a team captain, event leadership, and finally event lead, not to mention her tireless devotion to her students. But, that was just the beginning of the day.

Friday night was Relay. As soon as she smiled for the pictures following the award, Nikki had headed straight to the event site. She worked all day setting things up and making sure things went perfectly. She worked her heart out for it, and it was perfect. It was an amazing night, and she did wonderfully. It was well into Saturday morning when everything wrapped up and we made it home, but mixed with the exhaustion was a great sense of satisfaction. WordPress isn’t letting me upload photos for some reason, but I have all them posted in a Facebook album.

I am incredibly proud of Nikki. In the past year, she’s become a supervisor at work, was selected as the Relay event lead, received the award, and has been a great caretaker. She has accomplished a lot, and I look forward to what the upcoming year will bring.

Now more than ever…

When I started my journey in fresh childlike trust
I believed that the Lord’s way was best.

When my journey began, my trust was childlike, because I was a child. I asked the Lord into my heart at an alter made of the dining room chairs put in a row, in my home in the smallest of small towns (it doesn’t even have a post office). But even at a young age, I knew that I needed something that I didn’t have, and that no man could provide.

I can tell you now the time
I can take you to the place
Where the Lord saved me
by His wonderful grace

On January 5, 1991, realized that even though I was a “good kid,” I was still a sinner. I asked God to forgive me of my sins, to come into my heart, and to “cleanse me from all unrighteousness.” The journey over the last twenty-four years has not been easy. There have been times when God’s presence would have not been any stronger if I was standing in the throne room of Heaven, and there were times when the valley seemed insurmountable.

Looking back, I can see the valleys were all used to teach me more about the King I serve. I learned that just because I want something, it is not what is best for me. I learned just because someone claims to be a man of God, it does not make him infallible. I’ve learned that just because someone makes assertions based on scripture does not mean that the assertions can be accepted without verification, study, and prayer.

Oh, but now more than ever I cherish the cross.
More than ever I sit at His feet.
All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true,
And He is so precious to me.

I can honestly say I am stronger in my faith than I was at this time a year ago. The convictions I have are mine; not thrust upon me by my peers. The Christian walk really does get “sweeter as the days go by.”

One year in, a lifetime to go

Well, I recently passed the mark of one year of marriage to my lovely wife, and a bit more recently, the three year anniversary of our first date. It has been quite a ride since then. There’s nothing like coming home from the honeymoon on Wednesday and being faced with Thanksgiving and the start of the holidays the very next morning. That is a hectic reintroduction to the real world to be sure.

Our first year saw us make a trip to Tampa for the celebration of a cousin’s wedding, being able to participate in the weddings of two more dear friends, and concluded with an anniversary trip to Helen. I started a new job. We learned the intricate details of how to live life together. She ALWAYS gets the remote… It’s not me worth having to fast forward all the commercials – I do get to pick the show, if I ask nicely.

We were also able to find a place to be our church home. I started visiting on October 7, 2012. We were able to join Turner Hill Baptist Church in Lithoina on our anniversary, November 23, 2014. After 777 days of searching for where we were supposed to be, that was a welcome relief. Although, that was also tempered a bit by the fact that after we joined, they told us that they didn’t meet on the 5th Sunday of the month. Our first Sunday as members of the church we ended up visiting my parents’ church again.

So now, we look to our second year of married life. Our second holiday season. Our second Valentine’s. Our second round of birthdays. The honeymoon year may be over, but now is the excitement of life together.

Celebrating Graduation Weekend

Cross-posted from danielrsimpson.net

In the next two days, more than 1300 people will go from being Georgia College students to being Georgia College Alumni. To celebrate the occasion, I put together a collage of graduations from my past.

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Top Left:

Receiving my Associate of Science in General Studies from Georgia Military College Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Faculty Dr. John Anderson in 2006.

Top Right:

With Ms. Claire Nichols (now Sanders), Instructor of Political Science, following my Undergraduate Commencement for Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008.

Bottom Left:

Being hooded as part of the Graduate Commencement where I received my Master of Public Administration in 2010.

Middle Right:

With other members of my graduate cohort, Mike Taylor, Justin Mays, and Haly Hicks.

Bottom Right:

My first graduation as faculty (and only one I’ve participated in as faculty). With my good friend Joshua Rogers, who received Outstanding Graduate from Georgia Military College in 2011.

A Christmas Roundup

I guess this Christmas makes me officially an adult. I was way more excited about the presents I was giving than the ones I might receive. I had found several I thought were quite perfect.

Little did I know my jaw would drop when it came time to open my last gift. My girlfriend and I have been dating a little over a year. Last year was quite awkward; we had only been dating for a few weeks. It was very difficult to figure out an appropriate gift. This year, we obviously knew each other better. That let to more personalized gifts. I thought I had done pretty well with birthstone earrings. But she outdid me by a mile.

I know this sounds weird, but I am a weird individual. She took some of my favorite things, and mixed them with some things that are important to both of us.

IMAG1024-1 Les Miserables was the first musical I ever saw on stage. It was, in fact, the musical that made me start loving musicals. I first saw the 10th Anniversary concert on PBS when I was 11, and then the tickets to the show were my 13th birthday present. I took my girlfriend to see it earlier this year, and we are planning to go see the movie tomorrow.

Isaiah 40:31 has been one of my favorite verses for years. It is reassuring when the waiting becomes difficult. I also collect eagles, so it reflects that as well.

I wear bowties. I know most people consider it weird, but it is one of my quirks.

My uncle got me a Nikon D80 for my graduation from undergrad. Photography became my hobby during grad school as a much needed distraction from research and studying. Basically, it kept me from becoming overly focused on one thing.

My undergrad major was political science. Grad school led to me studying public administration and policy. Basically, I am a political nerd. Not to mention, I love my country.

Orange Colored Sky has been “our song” since we first started dating. When we met, I wasn’t thinking about a relationship, especially given the circumstances. So, the lyrics are particularly meaningful.

I was walking along minding my business
When love came and hit me in the eye
Flash, bam, alacazam,
Out of the orange colored sky

It was played at the first concert we went to together, which we (or at least I) didn’t think of as a date, and the rest is history.

It was a wonderful day. I can only hope the rest of the week follows suite. 🙂

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas. I pray that the Creator of the universe will make His power known to you. I pray the God who reigns forever as the triumphant King of Kings and Lord of Lords will make His holiness known to you. I pray that He who has conquered death and the grave will make His love real to you this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

You’ve heard Handel before. It is not quite as well known that The Messiah’s lyrics come straight from scripture. So, here are selections from Acts I and II, with along with the scripture references.

Isaiah 40:1-5

1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . .
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4.Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Malachi 3:3

1. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
2. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
3. And He shall purify the sons of Levi. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

Isaiah 7:14

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name EMMANUEL, God with us.

Isaiah 9:2

2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Isaiah 9:6

6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:8-14

8. There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
9. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger.
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Zechariah 9:9,10

9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior.
10. . . And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.

Isaiah 35:5,6

5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.

Isaiah 40:11

11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Matthew 11:28, 29

28. Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He shall] give you rest. 29. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:30

30. [His] yoke is easy, and [his]burden is light.

Revelation 19:6

6. Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Revelation 11:15

15. . . the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 19:16

16. . . . KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.

Praise God – Hallelujah

For the past few weeks, there has been a video that has gone viral. This video starts out plainly enough. A title card tells us “At noon on November 13, 2010 these unsuspecting shoppers got a surprise while enjoying their lunch…” Music is playing; people are enjoying an everyday mall food court. But, while an interesting look at human behavior, that’s not enough to gather the more than 14.5 million views it now possesses.

Soon, an organ begins playing a familiar refrain. A woman, wearing a fairly typical jacket, scarf, and seeming talking on a cell phone, stands and starts repeating one word with a volume and power seemingly unlikely from her small frame. It is just one word, over and over. Typically, this would cause raised eyebrows, and possibly even someone calling for security. In this case, however, that does not take place. Soon, her soprano is joined by a booming baritone voice continuing that same theme. I’m sure by now you’ve realized that I’m referring to the Flash Mob Hallelujah Chorus.

These results from a piece of music that was written in 1741? It boggles the mind, until you consider what a wonderful piece of music it is. It is from the oratorical The Messiah written by George Frideric Handel, a three part/act telling of the birth and life, passion, and resurrection of Christ. Most modern day performances focus on only the first act, which has made most individuals think of it as a composition for the Christmas season, instead of the Easter season as it was written. One scene from Act II has made it into modern performances, that is Act II, Scene 7: God’s Triumph, also known as the Hallelujah Chorus.

There are another few pieces which have survived the test of time and are still known among the general public. “He Shall Purify” was recently incorporated into “Turning the Tide” for the soundtrack of the film Charlie Wilson’s War. “For Unto Us” is also still quite popular. Yet, I would venture a guess that there is not any other piece which is over 270 years old which is as widely recognized as “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The common practice is to stand during a performance of the chorus. This originates from the very first performance when King George II stood during the chorus, and bound by royal obligation, everyone else in attendance also stood. Why would the monarch of one of the largest empires in the world stand for a piece of music? It was not because of the music; it was because of the truth contained in the lyrics.

As popular as the lyrics are, I seriously doubt many people could recite them. As in so many things, their true power is concealed within the repetitions and harmonies of the melody. Standing is a sign or respect. The same reason everyone stood when King George II stood was the reason King George stood for the “King of Kings, and Lord of Lord.” Most people could make their way through the first verse, but most people would not be able to make it to the heart of the chorus. The “Kingdom of this world is become THE KING DOME OF OUR LORD, AND OF HIS CHRIST!” Hallelujah. Hallelujah forever, and without ceasing.

Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)
Hallelujah!