A Trip to the Ozarks

This past week was a very emotional week. Monday, my sister who is only three years older than I, had a double mastectomy. Her announcement that she had breast cancer was a huge shock to my family because no one in our family has had cancer…as far as we know, and the fact that it hit the only one of us (there are five of us sisters), who still has children at home seemed unfair. Not only does she have children, but she has five under the age of eighteen, and she is homeschooling all of them. Additionally, one of the kids has Chrohn’s Disease and another Celiac. (Immune system issues definitely run in our family.) Fortunately, the results from the lymph nodes that were removed came in Friday, and they were clear, so she is cancer free. I can’t even begin to express how truly thankful I am.

I took off work this week to go look after my sister and her family in northwest Arkansas. It was difficult seeing her go through this ordeal. She isn’t in much pain due to the painkillers she’s on, but they make her a bit nauseous and really tired. She has to empty fluid drains every few hours which did not look pleasant! I’ll spare you the details. While she rested, I tried to keep the kids on task with their school work which is not easy when they’re family. At the same time, however, I was blessed in that I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm at 5:00 am. I still went to bed early, so I received some great rest that I needed. Driving through the Ozarks to a place 10-15 degrees cooler than north Texas was refreshing, and I reflected a lot on my sister and our past. She was always there for me, even taking the blame when I did something wrong because I was already on my mom’s bad side at the time. She also defended me when I was unjustly accused of doing something I didn’t do. When I was cleared of wrongdoing, she demanded the person apologize to me. As a kid, she would let me sleep in her bed though she didn’t want to, and we used to love watching TV shows together like Fall Guy, Air Wolf, Moonlighting, and A-Team. We also watched Star Wars every time it came on and we played a lot of Atari as well. In the summers we were outside riding our bikes, climbing trees, or working in our parents’ garden. We’d snap beans, shuck corn, and dig up potatoes. Sometimes, we’d sneak off to the creek that ran behind our property and act like we had a castle on the bank. I’m not so sure if it was because it was Arkansas, or it was because of the time period (a time before cell phones and Netflix), but time moved more slowly then.

Right now, I really miss those times. As I drove through the hills and reflected on my childhood, I realized that I’ve sacrificed something very important by overextending myself and not saying no when asked to do things. I keep thinking that I need to say “yes” to everything that sounds like it could be beneficial to others…either at church, at school, or in my personal life. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, a friend asked if I would be willing to run the slideshow at church, and I instantly felt sick inside. How could I say no to a friend who needs help? On the other hand, how could I say yes and have something else to worry about? I couldn’t do either, so I asked him to let me think about it, and that’s what I did. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to do it…not only because I was afraid I would screw up…not only because I didn’t feel any sort of calling to do it, but because the church service is a special opportunity for me to become closer to God. I give myself over both emotionally and spiritually to worship, concentrating on the lyrics of the hymns, praising and praying to God, reflecting on the sacredness of communion, listening to the Word, and learning from my pastor’s sermon. I suddenly realized that I was not willing to sacrifice that. It was hard for me to tell my friend that I had decided not to run the slideshow, but I knew I had to do it. It helped that I was in the middle of reading a book called Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book has helped me discover why it’s so hard for me to say no and how I’ve bought into a lot of boundary myths. And you know what my friend told me when I told him no? He said, “It’s OK, there are some other people who have shown interest in doing it.” What a relief!

I’ve also come to realize that we’re making things more and more complicated these days…especially with technology. If there were no slideshow projected on the walls at church, we could still worship. If we didn’t have a new fancy (and at times, confusing) email system at work, we could still communicate. If we didn’t have to use the new CANVAS Learning Management System, we could still teach students. In fact, students might feel it’s more necessary to show up at school since they can’t get the information they missed online. If we didn’t have Facebook and other social media sites, we’d still stay in touch with loved ones. I love to see pictures of my family, but I realize I don’t talk to them on the phone very much anymore because I can see what’s happening in their lives via Facebook. I remember the times when my dad and I would be sitting out front or tinkering with the car or mower, and someone would walk or drive by, and they would stop and talk to my dad for a while. Often, I would go on walks with my dad, and we would stop and visit with others, usually men he’d grown up with. We are sacrificing so much when we sacrifice time with each other for time with our phones. I’ve just started reading some articles on Mindfulness, and I’m excited by what I’m reading. I’m also coming up with ideas on how I can personally become more mindful, which I’ll talk about in my next post.



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