Create Your Joy

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Can I just say that October has to be the worst possible month for any woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer. As we have waited for test results and as we are even now waiting on the specific action plan for my mom, we have been constantly reminded of her condition. From the pink lights in the Kroger checkout lanes to the multiple advertisements on Facebook, and even watching NFL players sporting pink from their helmets to their shoes, there has been no escape.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am abundantly glad people are raising money and that with every penny we are one step closer to a cure. However, in a time of great uncertainty it is most distressing to rarely be able to escape our current reality. My method of coping is usually to pretend the bad thing isn’t happening until I can’t ignore it any longer. This month I do not have that luxury.

So, what do you do when life is hard and scary? You think outside of the box. You stretch yourself a bit. You abandon some of the norms.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but when Jason was diagnosed with cancer we went to a local state park and had a food fight. Let me tell you, the spaghetti, strawberry syrup, oatmeal and the rest were quite the mess, but oh what a memory it made! My favorite part was walking down to the falls to rinse off with people thinking the strawberry syrup on my youngest was blood. You should have seen the stares!

So, we decided to get away with my mom for a few days before her impending surgery. We made our way down to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I think I’ve laughed more, and harder, than I have in a long time. This was my favorite moment:

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We bought my sons go-cart rides, but Austin wasn’t tall enough so he had to ride with someone. The bracelet allowed for three rides. He went with his daddy, then with me and decided that was enough for the day. Somehow, by some alignment of the planets, Jason talked my mom into riding with him the last time. I just wish you all could have seen it. Talk about joy! My mom’s hair was sticking nearly straight up when she got out of that car. I think she screamed the whole way.

Unfortunately, we can’t always go away on vacation when life gets messy. Right now I’d give anything to live in a perpetual state of vacation. We can still find opportunities for laughter and fun, though, even without any cost. I’ve found doing nice things for others makes me feel better when I’m sad. Witnessing others’ joy brings a certain satisfaction.

I find it ironic that my mom bought this shirt for my oldest just about a week before her diagnosis:

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Joshua was so excited about it, telling us all about how a donation was made to breast cancer research when you bought the shirt. Who knew how appropriate it would be? But the saying is true. Never give up on finding the joy in the mess. It’s always available, it just might take a little ingenuity.

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Don’t Just Get Angry, Do Something

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ARRRGGGH! Like Charlie Brown who repeatedly finds himself on his back as Lucy pulls away the football, I felt enormous frustration. Charlie at least has the option of not trying to kick anymore. I, however, am stuck at the mercy of the healthcare system.

I will spare you all of the details, but this week I had a heated conversation with someone in my health insurance office because I was told a completely different story than the first time I tried to solve the problem, ending in me having to pay more money for a particular service.

So, let’s look at the big picture. This wasn’t my first time down this road. When my dad was ill, my mom and I faced multiple dilemmas that left us feeling helpless and confused. One time, they rescheduled one of my dad’s surgeries without my mom’s knowledge. She showed up at the hospital to find him already being operated on. They said they tried to call her, and when they couldn’t reach her they tried to contact his brother. My dad doesn’t have a brother. I still wonder what in the world occurred that day.

My sweet mama has already faced a couple of hiccups regarding her care for her recent breast cancer diagnosis. She handled the diagnosis like a champ. It’s been the ensuing miscommunication related dilemmas that have brought her to tears. This was all fresh in my mind as I spoke to my own insurance company and only furthered my irritation.

Friends, health crises are hard enough, but then when you add in all of the extra phone calls, red tape, paperwork, lack of information, and the like, it can be downright maddening. I’m sure many of you have experienced this, too.

We must support one another, and rally around each other.

One of my co-workers, Mindy Flick, is in the throes of this exact situation. Her husband is in need of a kidney transplant. While awaiting the kidney, he was laid off from his job, and forced to go on Medicare which only covers 80% of the surgery. He is now caught in a frustrating loophole that requires him to raise $60,000 for the other 20%.

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This sweet lady shows up with a bright smile every day. I know her burdens are great, but she continues to love those around her well.

Please read more about their story on their blog here, but in the meantime here are some ways you could help right now:

  • Pampered Chef – Kassi Shelton, party open until Oct. 12. Place orders here: http://www.pamperedchef.com/pws/kassi/guest-landing/8886060170395
  • Online Auction – Melissa Bower (melissajbower@yahoo.com), collecting giftable items and services to sell in an online auction.  So far handmade baby items, a quilt, babysitting services, etc have been donated. The auction could really use more items.   Items like baked goods, handmade items, Thirty-One, Pampered Chef, babysitting services, leaf raking services, gift cards, sports/events tickets – sky is the limit!  Contact Melissa to donate by Oct. 11.  Auction will be held Oct. 18-19, just in time to get started with holiday shopping!  Check out the auction here:  https://www.facebook.com/FlickAuction
  • Bloomington – ECC trivia night – October 25, 7pm – come out for a fun family night to show off your trivia skills and knowledge!  Contact Meredith Lulich for tickets at mere.mccoy@gmail.com
  • Consider donating to their GoFund Me site: http://www.gofundme.com/flickneedsakidney

It is through the power of sharing that we can eradicate some of the trauma in the world. I am always humbled by the power of the “share” button. As a blog writer, whenever even one person shares one of my posts, my readership can double. Do not underestimate the power of your influence. Those who love you will show interest in the things you are interested in, too.

Yesterday,as I was waiting on my mom to come out of a store, I stood and watched a butterfly resting on the sidewalk. With this particular butterfly, what I noticed was that its true beauty was visible when its wings were extended. When we reach out to others for help, or reach out to those in need, that is when the beauty of humanity and the grace of God is evident.

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Please share the Flicks’ story with your friends. Let’s help this precious family, and turn our frustration with the system into something life saving!

A closing note: I truly am appreciative of those who work in the healthcare profession. I believe it is the system that is the problem, not the people. We have been rescued many times by caring professionals who have helped show us the way. We are privileged to have access to the care that we do. Let’s not forget that!

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I Want to Be Three Again

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Yesterday morning as I walked up the stairs with my preschool students to their chapel time this is what I heard:

Student 1: Miss Amy, I love you!

Student 2: Miss Amy, I love you, too!

Student 3: I love you, too!!

My heart swelled, and at that moment I wanted to be three again.

It’s funny, because of all of the ages my boys have been so far, three was definitely the hardest. I felt the terrible twos were misnamed. It was the age of three that nearly threw me over the edge as far as my parenting skills were concerned.

However, as I have spent a couple of days a week for the last several weeks with 14 of them in the same room, I’ve gained insights I didn’t stop to notice with just one at a time at home.

Here are some reasons I think three would be a great age to be:

1) I wish my worst problem could be losing my hair bow on the playground, not being able to find my show-and-tell item, or misplacing my sparkly pink bracelet. All of these have happened in my room, and are devastating for a three-year-old, but these little ones have no idea what life has in store for them later. Ignorance is bliss.

2) I’m glad I have a brain with the ability to reason, but there is such freedom in just going along with being told what to do, too. Three-year-olds experience the herd effect. They see a group of kids lining up, and it may not even be their teacher at the head of the line, but they get in line, too. We’re constantly counting and re-counting to be sure the kids we have are ours after recess. Some days it would be nice to just “do,” and not have to think about it, don’t you think?

3) How nice would it be to not give a rip what others think about you? Shoot, a lot of the kids are still not aware of the other kids around them and don’t even know their names. Life would be easier not worrying about people pleasing.

4) At three, who cares about modesty? One day one of the little girls came hopping out of the bathroom with her pants around her ankles hollering for help because she couldn’t reach the toilet paper. I think I could get used to not being concerned about my body and who saw it. But I promise I will keep my business in the bathroom, thank you very much.

5) I could get used to other people doing everything for me. From fixing my hair to tying my shoes, there is an element that sounds a bit appealing. I think I would prefer to dislike what was put in front of me for dinner over having to cook it myself.

6) Wrapping back around to my students’ gushes of affection, I would covet being able to love with the abandon of a preschooler. Oh, to so easily tell others how much I care and to feel it so intensely and easily!

If you currently have a preschooler at home, I know not all moments are roses and cherries. I also know some moments are sheer agony. The fights over the clothes to wear, food to eat, and the lack of ability to share can be exhausting. However, there is some deep beauty in these little munchkins that we often fail to see when we are in the thick of it.

Cherish the sweet vulnerability of little ones. Don’t worry so much about pleasing those around you. Consider it a sacred pleasure if you are needed by another human being today. Above all, love fiercely.

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Photo from freeimages.com.