Inner Reflections of Peace
First American Serial Rights
Global Leadership Chapter
January 15, 2013
By Carolana Callaway, PhD
IBWOE International Ambassador
For Global Unity
When I first began work with Virginia Swain’s. Institute for Global Leadership, I had no idea that my part in global peace would be come so personal. My first global peace assignment was ME.
I came to the Institute as a die-hard academic filled with intellectual arrogance. After all, I had PhD in International Human Rights Law! But I still did not have inner-peace—the most important foundation to contribute to unity with our global sojourners. As I journeyed with Virginia’s vision, I found my inner-peace resided in me from the day I heard my first lullaby. My first model of global unity was my precious grandmother. She sang my first lessons in inner-peace. I would have to return to those wise, simple words to find my own contribution to global unity. But first, I would need to remember the words to my heart’s original song. That would be a journey that would demand my complete surrender to my soul and my God. Here is how that journey begain:
…I’m a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior,
I’m a child of the King….
(Buell & Sumner 1877)
ME—A Child of the King? Maybe if I ever acquired the gold grail called success. However, the search for that golden grail would prove to be the greatest tragedy of my life. My life’s calamity began shortly after my arrival to a flawed definition of success. That success would be my grand contribution to world unity. Although my error in definition gave me a false feeling of being like a princess, I did not feel like a daughter of the Heavenly Father.
My former definition of being a princess included: earning a PhD in International Human Rights Law (with honors): global project assignments from the United Nations, and shinny, black Mercedes. My profoundest passion was, and remains to be, working with global educational projects. Also, since my earthly (biological) father had been a decorated Ambassador for the United Nations, I wanted to be just like my Daddy. Following his assassination in 1992, the consuming desire to complete his work only made my passion for international relations burn more intensively. I attempted to heal my grief for him, by working 12-16 hour days in my assignments for the United Nations. Within a few years, I had designed, written and implemented several major educational projects throughout South America and Africa. Finally—I thought–I was truly the princess reflection of my earthly father.
Had I arrived, or had the journey to become my Heavenly Father’s Ambassador just begun? God was about to take me on a journey that would only begin with my becoming a respected Human Rights Academic? I still was not ready to use that education for helping others toward global peace. While on a UN assignment, I arrived in Accra, Ghana late one sultry-hot, West African evening. Once in my hotel room, I collapsed into my bed exhausted from both the heat and the 16-hour trip. When I pulled the bed sheet up, I realized that I had no feeling in the toes of my left foot. Having arrived with elephant weight suitcases, I assumed that I had pinched a nerve in my back. The next day brought a six-hour “Tro-Tro” (public shuttle bus) ride into the bush of the Volta Region (state) of Eastern Ghana. That resulted in another layer of fatigue over my already state of exhaustion. Once I arrived in the village of Apesokubi, I noticed what appeared to be an insect bite on the already numbed, left foot. The tiny, insect bite refused to heal. I applied medication after medication yet nothing helped it to heal. It only grew more red and inflamed. I took little regard of it. Simultaneously, I developed afternoon fevers of only one or two degrees accompanied by extreme fatigue. “I must have a jungle bug,” I thought. And I continued down my insane work path of 12-hour workdays—even in peaceful Africa.
I returned to the States to resume my insane teaching schedule, in addition to my global education projects. I was driven to be the very best! At that time my motto was: “Only the best, and nothing less.” I continued this relentless path of a “work-alcoholic” over the next several years. My agenda driven madness drowned the silent voice of the progression of physical numbness. What had started in my left foot, had now started an ascending up my left leg and finally to my spinal cord and brain! Yet my need for approval, via my accomplishments, was greater than my need to listen to my body signals.
The day came that my body demanded to be heard. In the spring of 2005, I sat in my final faculty meeting—disoriented! I could hear the voice of my director, yet I had no idea what the words meant. I tried to take notes, and could not remember how to write. Suddenly, I felt as though I was drifting away from the group. A drowning sensation came over me like a stage curtain being lowered at the end of a performance. When I tried to stand I was too dizzy and numb to feel my feet. “STROKE,” I yelled to myself! All of my half-siblings had strokes before the age of forty, so it must be my turn. Ignoring caution, I drove myself to my dear friend, Dr. Sharon Jones’ office. I am not sure how I drove those few blocks, other than to know that God had His angels all around me that day. When I arrived at Dr. Jones’ office, her staff rushed me to the treatment room. I knew I was sinking into unknown waters, when the nurse asked for my mother-in-law’s telephone number, and I had no idea what she meant. Nor did I know my mother-in-law’s name! My doctor grabbed my arm and rushed me to her car. As she assured me that the hospital was only a couple of minutes away, I tried to ask; “What is a Hospital.” But my lips refused to form the words. My words were trapped inside my throat. My lips and tongue moved as though in a slow motion movie. Yet everything around me was moving faster than I could comprehend. My admission to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CICU) was immediate. Unable to sign documents or speak, I lie totally dependent on those around me. My left side felt as if it were packed in ice. Cold as steel and numb as a powder puff—I had no way to communicate my needs to the caregivers around me. Then I heard my Mama Blanca’s angelic voice sing to me: “Oh yes, Oh yes, I am a child of the king.” In spite of the coldness in my left side, I felt warmth in my heart as she sang to me in my spiritual memory. I not only had angels around me, I had my own special angel—Mama Blanca– watching over me. Whatever was happening, I knew God had sent her as a heart message that I was safe within His care. During that time of assurance, I heard the words: “BE STILL.”
About an hour later, I awoke to the feel a familiar touch wrapping me in a warm blanket. My mother-in-law—Jean—had finally arrived. As though she could read my confused face, she comforted me with news from my husband Brian. She said: “We have finally reached Brian at the Pentagon; he’ll be here in Atlanta before dawn.” The only language I could speak at that moment was tears. But love will always comnicate, regardless of the language.
By the next morning, my ability to speak had returned to some degree. My speech skill levels fluctuated and remain very unpredictable. Yet, I still could not speak with my previous verbal skills. Often, I would elect to remain silent rather than sound like a child trying to utter their first words. My pride urged me to make the decision to remain silent rather than speak with less than a PhD’s ability.
Later that week, my doctor announced that I had not suffered a stroke. No evidence of stroke activity had been found in any of the tests. What then had happened? The decision was made to run more tests: MRI’s, CRT’s, etc. to search for the neurological culprit. During this time, I began to feel faint spasms in my back muscles. These were dismissed as soreness from being in the hospital bed for several weeks. I was sent home while more tests were ordered. Eventually a working diagnosis of a rare form of Autoimmune Multiple Sclerosis was determined. The prognosis was foggy. I was told that I could be bed-ridden in three years. Dr. Jones ordered weekly (six-hour duration) treatment of IViG’s (donor white blood cells that are administered via IV fluids). I was slowly beginning to show marginal improvement. However, as a safety precaution, I had to take a medical leave from my jobs in the Atlanta Area. I was moved back to the Washington, DC Area, with Brian, who could care for me at night. Once again, I was reminded of my total dependence on others to be my caretakers. Were more lessons in humility just beginning?
Over the next three years, I was evaluated by all forms of medical specialist at Walter Reid Military Hospital. The neurologists there negated the diagnosis made by Dr. Jones. Yet they failed to offer a cause for my muscle spasms that by now involve my entire body. Regardless, the head of neurology was outraged that I had been administered IViG’s, and refused to allow me more IViG’s treatment. My spasms continued to progress until I suffered tiny, hairline fractures in several of my spinal disks from the severe arching of the back muscles. The neurologist insisted that I was having seizures and continued to increase my anti-seizure medication as the severity of the spasms increased. With little to no relief from the spasms, I found myself being prescribed three times the recommended dosage of anti-seizure medication. A few months later, it was increased to four times the recommended dosage. My life gradually became a blur of pain, weeks spent in the Intensive Care Units of various hospitals, and a gradual decline in my ability to walk and talk. However, my final blow of humiliation came when this same doctor, (who was prescribing this cocktail of anti-seizure medications): declared that since the medicine wasn’t working I obviously wasn’t taking it. Therefore, all my “seizures” must be in my head! I was sent for a psychiatric evaluation. I assumed it would be a one on one session. I did not realize that a “teaching hospital” meant that over 50 medical students would be in the room for the evaluation. Every word I uttered was met with doubt. I would even be forced to prove that Spanish was my native language and not something I made up in my mind. My humiliation at that point would be equal to having a pelvic exam on a public square! I was so traumatized by that session that I had real nightmares about it for months afterwards. As traumatic as that session was, my lowest point had not yet come. With all the medication I was taking, once again, I was more of a zombie than a person. I was ashamed to be seen by anyone. My speech was worse than before, and again, I could barely walk. Due to the numbness in my hands, make-up and hair-care had become nearly impossible. Even worse, I could no longer hold a pen or pencil to write—my highest calling. My life had taken such a downward spiral that I made a point of not looking in the mirror. I no longer knew the person starring back at me! What purpose could God have left for me like this? How was this person going to work toward global unity??
The next Christmas came. Brian and I made the twelve hour trip from DC to Atlanta to visit family. Brian’s family was shocked to see the deterioration in my condition. Everyone assumed that I would get better medical care in the capital region, but that was not the case. Without the IViG’s, I had quickly worsen. On the return trip home to DC, my lowest moment came. Just a few miles from his parent’s house, Brian popped in one of our favorite Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming CD’s. My dear friend, and baritone, vocalist Mike Allen was singing “A Child of the King.” I open my mouth to sing, and suddenly I realized—I could no longer sing!! My soul burst open with a waterfall of tears from almost five years of frustration. I cried the entire twelve-hour drive back to DC. I cried until my soul lay dry without another tear. “Take anything from me, but do not take my ability to sing!” my heart repeatedly shouted to God: “First you take my words. Now you take my song? What kind of God are you?” I rebelled; “I have worked so hard to overcome a childhood scarred by severe abuse, and this is how you reward me?” “If this is how you care, then stop caring about me!” The only answer I got was: “Be still!”
Did I have choice? God’s wisdom had placed me where being still was the only ability that remained of my former strength. Those twelve hours of tears somehow healed my heart that night.
When we arrived home in DC, I sat in silence until dawn the next morning. In total silence—I was still. I had finally learned how to—“Be Still.” In that stillness, I found my own inner peace that I could now contribute to the global community. In that night of being still, I had no other option but to listen. As dawn broke, I realized that I had imposed my stubborn will on God by insisting to always do things my way. My abusive childhood had left me with a stubborn will to survive and an inability to trust others. But now, I would have to trust God. Only He knew His plans for the rest of my life. In the stillness of that moment, I felt His reflection in my own reflection each time I sought my Heavenly Father’s face. Each time that I searched for Him, a potential reflection of me—as His child—gradually begin to appear. I was becoming His child: therefore, I sought to become a reflection of my Heavenly Father. I no longer had to be a fragile, disease-ridden reflection of former self.
In that stillness I would also gain the strength to recover and discover my Heavenly Father intimately. Learning of Him in this new way, transformed the very foundation of my world. He was no longer the occasional God I took off the shelf during a crisis. That was the way in which I had previously perceived Him. Now He was increasingly becoming my only source of strength, and I needed Him to even help me breath. In the midst of an acute and chronic illness, I was finding a new strength. With this newfound strength, I no longer had to take the word of medical doctors as the indisputable gospel for my healing. I was learning to look at them as advisors who would follow beneath the dictates of the Great Physician—My Heavenly Father. I now I began to seek the Father’s solution to my healing each day.
Under His direction, the first thing I had to do was to gradually wean off the mood altering, anti-seizures medications. I felt fearful of this because these meds did help lessen the severity of the painful night-spasms. The night-spasms would often cause the muscles in my neck to tighten, and I would often choke or lose my breath. I prayed through my fears. I constantly craved the beauty I felt during those “be still” moments with my Heavily Father. My passion to feel those moments far out-weighed my fear of the night-spasms. Each night, with the accuracy of an alarm clock, my night spasms awoke me at three a.m. I was determined not to go back on the medications. I could find marginal relief my sitting in an old, swivel rocking chair. The rocking chair gave me a repetitive motion that soon brought out an instinctive need to remember the lullaby-hymns that Mama Blanca had sung to me as a young child. I could only hear them in my mind’s ear. But those memories soothe my aching body. For months, I would get up and rock to the rhythm of the hymns in my memories. One constant favorite was: “Oh yes, Oh yes, I am a CHILD OF THE KING!”
I was faithful to praise God in my pain, and He was faithful in healing me soul and body. Unexpectedly, the day came when during my silent singing, I felt myself humming. Not on pitch or in tune, but in a new form of a joyful noise. The sound was primitive yet filled with praise. What mattered was that I could sing! A musical sound had made its way from heart, up pass my vocal chords, and out of my mouth! All the education that I had achieved was no competition for the accomplishment I felt in that pre-dawn morning! After so many years of seeking and serving my mind, I had finally found my heart! Those primordial mutters of song made me feel more complete than earning a doctorate had provided. My professional endeavors had been good. I am very fortunate to have had those blessing. But being able to sing again was great! Praising my Heavenly Father brought me a peace beyond human vocabulary. What I thought I wanted in my life, and what God planned for my life collided at the apex of my illness. Once again God reminded me that He had to get me still to hear Him. My previous insanity left no room in my heart for His voice. I had to lose my voice to hear His voice.
Being able to mimic a song again gave me the courage to try writing again. My handwriting looked as though a preschooler wrote it. But I was determined. Before my illness, I had written big words in tiny letters. Now I had to write tiny words in big letters. I had to begin writing on three-lined, primary paper. Sometimes I would begin to hum a familiar tune, and it would evolve into my adding an occasional new note. Then I would add new words to the new notes. I hungered to write the words I heard when I hummed the new tunes. To my great surprise, those words would form themselves into a poetic rhythm. Then I realized they came with a melody in my head. I sketched the notes onto elementary, lined score-paper. Wow—God was sending me a song! HE knew the lyrics to my heart’s peace song. I had not been still long enough to hear them!
What amazement I felt! Once again, the more I listened: the more He spoke. The words I wrote during my prolific, academic career were very insignificant compared to my clumsy scratching of God’s lyrics. Through His lyrics, He was revealing to me the heart that I had smothered in my need to be an overachiever in my life.
As I continued to meet with the Lord in the pre-dawn hours, the withdrawal symptoms from the toxic level, anit-seizure medications ended. I felt reborn! Now I was becoming who God intended me to be. I was being made new, and whole, by simply being still—the place of my inner peace.
I was becoming stronger, while the Lord began to open avenues for my music, which now had become the center focus of my life. Within a few months of the recovery process, I was accepted into The Ben Speer-Stamps Baxter School of Music (commonly referred to as Stamps-Baxter School) near Nashville, Tennesse. Although still very weak, God gave me strength to begin studying and working with such Christian music greats as: Bill and Gloria Gaither; members of The Ben Speer Family; Sue C. and John Smith; Reba Rambo McGuire; etc. While at Stamps-Baxter School, I occasionally missed a class to rest from the fatigue of my illness. But God multiplied my willingness. On the last day of Stamps Baxter School, I received notification that I had been accepted into the more advanced Elijah School of Performing Arts to do intensive, performance training. Imagine my delight when I was invited to become an official apprentice! Everyday, as I continued to write and perform, God continues to multiply my efforts.
True to the Heavenly Father’s blessings, even my dreaded IViG’s treatments brought a song. During one of these treatment sessions, God sent me the lyrics to the song “Tiny Can Be Mighty.” He would later send Nashville’s recording musician Gary McEwen to compose and arrange the music. Gary and I were elated when our song took third place in the national Write About Jesus Awards. What a miracle! My first lyric to be arranged to professional music placed in a major contest. God had made those tiny words on big paper important. In them, I have found my personal value in writing down His dictations.
But God was not finished yet. Presently, God has sent a new earthly-angel in my life. Nashville based professional singer-songwriter, Mark Cawley (idocoach.com), agreed to work with me to develop my songs into professional form and to be recorded! He became my mentor, coach and friend. Mark and his wife, Kathy, held my hands strong through their prayers for me. During time of remission, they are always there with their encouragement.
In our first year together, we have seen three of my songs go to recording! Mark’s former partner also opened the doors to their family guest home for me to live. What a wonderful new door God had opened! His plans are perfect. I am now within minutes to Nashville. Yet, at home I am surrounded by mountain and pastoral views. Best of all there is a reflection pond—just outside of my office window!
Through this pilgrimage, I realized that my childhood abuse had left me with the need to prove my worth to others. Therefore, I allowed my perceived need to prove my value to rule my life. However, once I learned to BE STILL, I could say with the Prophet Jeremiah: “As I seek God with my whole heart, I will surely find Him.” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV). To seek Him “with my whole heart” meant that I would have be still and let him reveals to me the “whole heart” that He had created in me. I kept that whole heart hidden by constantly stirring the waters of my life-pool with relentless activity to prove myself to others. I had kept those life-pool waters so stirred-up that I was unable to see my own reflection. God put me in a place where all that I had was His ordained stillness. Then, and only then, was I able to see the reflection in my life-pool. What did I see? I saw HIS CHILD. I saw the daughter of the King of Kings—a princess.
The Reverend Gary McSpadden, (formerly of the Bill Gaither Trio), recently said: “The CROSS must always come before the CROWN.” My cross, my illness, had come. And just as Rev. McSpadden teaches, God sent me a crown—both literally and spiritually. The most recent door He has directed me to is the wonderful program of Integrity Beauty Women of Excellence (IBWOE). Being a part of this Christian sisterhood has taken me full circle back to being an ambassador again. When I was asked to be their first International Ambassador for IBWOE, I felt renewed in my ambassadorial call. Just like accepting the change from big words to tiny words, I have had to change my definition of being an ambassador. My new revelation is that I am not only an ambassador like my earthly father: but most importantly, I am an ambassador for my heavenly father—the place where my peace resides. Since I am His child—I am a princess indeed! “Oh yes! Oh yes! I am a child of the King!!