DOUBLE CHECK

bills medical

by Beth Ann Morgan

If you’ve had to deal with medical and/or pharmaceutical insurance companies during your period of crisis, my guess is that at some point, you’ve received an unanticipated bill in the mail. The emotional jolt you felt may have proven quite unwelcome, especially in the midst of all your family was facing.

After catching your breath and feeling your heartbeat return to its normal pace, I recommend picking up the phone before heading for your wallet should you find yourself in this predicament ever again.

I always double-check.

Over the years, we’ve received countless bills for which we were either not responsible or were eligible for some other type of financial assistance. Miscalculations happen all of the time. Services are double-billed, billed to the wrong insurance company, billed under the wrong plan, etc.

It’s stressful to get an $883 bill in the mail two hours before you’re told that your child needs an emergency procedure. The time it takes to straighten out billing discrepancies is precious, and unfortunately, it happens all too often. For us, problems seemed to escalate after our children were discharged to home where we had no assistance managing bills from home care, medical supply companies, pharmacies, etc.

Even as I type, we are still waiting for a $300 bill to be resolved that is over 16 months old. Abby qualified for a special vaccine to protect her from RSV last year. Our pediatrician’s office did an amazing job getting the precertification taken care of, but the insurance companies are still going around about who’s going to pay for it.

If I had taken that bill and simply paid it upon receipt, we would have been out $300 that we didn’t need to pay. All of those “odds-and-ends” bills add up. We would have lost thousands of dollars over the years had we never checked them.

Sometimes when I called to verify, we were indeed responsible for the charge, and I submitted payment immediately. We have no problem taking responsibility for what we owe. We just don’t want to pay for anything further.

Especially when the stack of bills grows tall.

When in doubt, even the slightest inkling, give a call. It never hurts to double-check.

SUGAR CUBE CASTLE

moms-castle11

by Beth Ann Morgan

Trying to find something fun to do on a cold January day? A box of sugar cubes, a little powdered sugar icing, and whatever candy you have on hand just might do the trick.

As a little girl, my family occasionally made sugar cube castles over the Christmas holidays, but I didn’t fully appreciate the experience until about three years ago when I attempted to construct a gingerbread house with my children. I should have waited until Daddy could have assisted with the assembly. We didn’t know when we would all be together next, so I’d decided to go ahead and get it done before Christmas.

Bad move.

I slathered the icing along the top of one wall. Four walls already stood ready to receive the roof pieces, but as I put them in place, it became painfully clear that something was wrong. The pieces kept sliding down, collapsing the roof and causing the icing to smear down the walls.

So, I’m not an engineer.

The next year, we found ourselves in the midst of another raging storm as the holidays approached.  I’d had roughly ten hours of sleep over the previous four nights, and my sweet children whipped open the front door with giggles, hopping up and down upon my arrival from the hospital.

“Christmas is almost here, Mommy! Can we please bake some cookies tonight?”

Bake? Tonight? There was no way.

I frantically opened my baking cupboards praying for something fun, easy, and exciting to fall out of the cupboard into my arms when my eyes honed in on a bright yellow box of sugar cubes. Sugar cubes! Memories flooded my mind as relief spread its warm snuggly blanket over my exhausted soul, allowing me to rest a minute in the eye of a raging storm.

Perfect.

No need for an engineering degree. A little powdered sugar with milk/water . . . a box of sugar cubes, candy. I covered my big wooden cutting board with foil, gave the kids a little direction, and watched them create a marvelous castle.

I had to turn away for a few minutes to take a critical phone call. When I returned, their creation took my breath away like the first glance at the world covered in white after the first snowfall of the season.

The castle was beautiful. Radiant, glistening and glimmering, as were their little faces, innocent, icing-covered, and full of joy.

We needed that.

We needed to accomplish something and see it through to the end. We needed to do something fun together, something lasting that we could see and be reminded of throughout the season. We needed something beautiful while an ugly reality threatened to undo all we held dear.

God knew what we needed, and He provided. Again. With sugar cubes.

Thank You, Lord!

 

photo courtesy of idratherbewriting.com

 

PAPER AND PLASTIC

Plastic Utensils in Cup

by Beth Ann Morgan

Sometimes crisis situations cause a rethinking through every process involved in daily living. When you’re down to your last fork and dinner plate, it’s time to consider making a temporary switch to an immediate time and clutter saver: disposables.

I initially recoiled at the idea of using all paper plates and plastic utensils. Eating like this reminded me of the hospital cafeteria, and during the few nights a month when I actually got to sit at my kitchen table, I wanted to use real plates and silverware. But the pileup in the sink waiting for me in the morning prodded me to reconsider.

The following weekend, I arrived home to find packages of paper bowls, plates, and cups with an enormous box of plastic ware on the counter along with a note from my husband.

Please don’t use anything that needs to be washed!

It made sense, and he was right. While I hated pouring money down the drain, the time disposables saved us was invaluable. We had no room for dirty dishes as our counter space was already filled with multiple lists and instruction sheets, pumping supplies, NG tube placement supply and diaper baskets, medication bins, etc. Clutter threatened to consume us. We fought upstream to manage it all to the best of our ability with lots and lots of help.

Abby has only been stable for one year . . . December to be exact. We were all teary-eyed as we prepared to celebrate the holidays, remembering what it had been like in years past, both the good and the bad, and then we shared our joy about being home and healthy together this year. We’re so grateful. Intent on enjoying today, taking time to heal together.

The whole experience changed me forever. While I still appreciate a pretty place setting, the moment is fleeting in the face of what matters most.

On Christmas Eve this year, I didn’t flinch when I picked up our Boston Market rotisserie chicken meal (I can’t handle cooking big holiday meals yet – ordering out helps me relax while feeling like everyone can enjoy a special meal together – I highly recommend it).

“Ma’am, would you like disposable plates, utensils, and cups?”

“Yes, please!”

 

CAPTAIN GRUMPY SHEEP

PR_SoundOfMusic2

by Beth Ann Morgan

My children and I are watching The Sound of Music. Again. We must have watched this movie at least a dozen timesover the holidays to the point where I’ve dreamt that I’m wearing a dress made from olive green curtains and singing in a canoe.

It dawned on me only today why my children like it so much. Beyond the obvious beauty of the music and heartwarming story, I believe it’s the remarkable transformation of the Von Trapp Family that has captivated my own.

A devastated widower and father of seven attempts to carry on with life as usual, a man whose powerful position allows no room for grief of his severe loss or compassion for his children’s. Their prolonged pain and obvious dysfunction moved John and Hannah as question after question poured out.

“Mommy, why did their mommy die?”

“Why doesn’t anyone smile at their house?”

“Why is the daddy a Captain grumpy sheep when he’s got so many children to love?”

Over the past several weeks, the sheer emotion of the story served has served as a powerful springboard for much conversation here on Cherry Lane. We talked through the family having to quickly leave their home without warning and how scary that must have been.

We could relate.

We talked about how the children’s hearts hurt terribly, but even though the daddy probably wanted to, he couldn’t help them with their hurts because his heart hurt, too.

We could relate.

We also shared about how confining the convent must have felt to Maria’s spirit, one that simply wanted to run free and sing at the top of her lungs all of the songs she was created to sing. My sweethearts hopped off the sofa and ran around the coffee table, letting loose in a way that restrictive hospital settings do not allow.

So many opportunities to delve into the deeper issues of the heart. Relatable, enjoyable, family-oriented. An all-around winner for any family that needs something fun to do together.

We highly recommend this wonderful classic.

 

Photo courtesy of Profiles in History

THE BEST CALL

clarita

by Beth Ann Morgan

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to be falling apart, and then, you get “the call”, the one your heart has been waiting for, the one that helps you carry on in spite of the ordeal ahead of you?

As I held my little girl in my arms one terrible spring afternoon, I knew she would not survive until morning. The doctors had run all the tests, knew what was wrong, and needed time to figure out the best way to fix it.

Time was a luxury sweet Abby Mae could not afford.

Tears muddled my window view of the brilliant reds and yellows lining the pavement below. Abby’s breathing sputtered and spattered, her body fidgeting and wrenching on my lap. For the millionth time, I checked my phone.

To my surprise it rang, startling both Abby and I. It was my dear friend, Helen. I answered, relieved to hear her voice. I gave her the quick update and then waited to hear her response. She’s a doctor, so I guess I thought she would say something profound or have a question or suggestion. What she said comforted me more than anything I have ever known.

I don’t know what to say, my friend.” Pause. “I just had to call.

We cried together. Neither of us said anything for a long time. The “being together”, experiencing the painful shared burden, no matter how far the distance between us, was powerful. No fancy words, no needless sentiments.

I don’t know what to say.” She said it again. “I just had to call you – I love you and Miss Abigail so much! We are praying.

I thanked her as my husband entered the room.

After an emergency surgery at 11 pm, Abigail survived, thank God. The call of my friend was pivotal to my being able to get through the entire situation. Simple love extended when it mattered most.

May God help me be such a friend to others in their times of need.

 

photo courtesy of clarita

HOW TO GOAL PLAN DURING EXTENDED CRISIS

bosela

by Beth Ann Morgan

How does a goal-oriented person face the New Year with hope of accomplishing anything in the midst of an indefinite season of crisis? The answer I found for myself during our most trying seasons wasn’t necessarily the one I wanted, but it was the one I needed.

A doable list.

I started my New Year with my annual list-making ritual. I’d always loved to set goals and looked forward to it, the creation of my personal road map for the coming year full of exciting adventure and activity.   I would spend all morning propped up in bed, praying and writing, remembering and learning, hoping and dreaming. By the end of it all, I would have a neat, one-page vision to help set my course and motivate every step.

It was never a question of if but rather when all of the items would get done. With joy.

However, this year proved different, as had the last.   Nearly every goal had gone right out the window, and as I sat with my yellow legal pad and G-2 pen, I struggled to find something attainable to record.

What was the point of making goals if I couldn’t achieve them?

Many of my previous goals had revolved around writing, things to accomplish around the home and in my family/ministry/relational life. After living out of suitcases in the midst of complete upheaval for years, I had to accept that none of last year’s goals had been met and would not be met . . . for a long time.

We no longer participated in ministry outside of our immediate family. We couldn’t keep up with all of the relationships we had enjoyed prior to crisis. We weren’t often home, and I wasn’t writing anything except our hospital blog, struggling to get even a few hours with my children, let alone meet my fancy pre-planned relational goals.

I wept.

I realized I needed to make a choice before the voracious monster of frustration latched its ugly talons on my withering spirit. I could either keep writing lists of unattainable goals, or I could prayerfully jot down a couple of somewhat attainable goals pertinent to my current season of life.

I chose the latter. And it set me free.

Free to focus on the here—and-now. Free to live fully today instead of pushing toward the fantasy of tomorrow. Free to love without distraction.

I kept my list simple.

1) Love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

2) Love my neighbor as myself.

Both kept me plenty busy but deeply satisfied. I’ll never fully master either on this earth, but the very pursuit of them wrought new and beautiful meaning to my goal-keeping. Not that I wasn’t already trying in my own way to love God and others, but my overall focus shifted from accomplishing tasks to loving well.

I’m forever grateful for the change. Even though I’m at a place today where I can add more tasks to my list this year, I’ll always keep these two goals at the top.

Everything else is secondary.

 

Photo credit courtesy of Bosela

ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

by bmcmath_spainfield

by Beth Ann Morgan

I forget at what point during our years of crisis that I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, but I do remember the enormous impact its message had on my life.

My good friend, Michele Cervone Scott, had posted about New York Times’ Bestselling Author, Ann Voskamp, on her blog, www.mommyforwardllc.blogspot.com, some time ago. I had a little time at Abby’s bedside one day, so I checked it out.

Visiting www.aholyexperience.com quickly became number one on my personal gift list.

As a cancer survivor, Ann shared with amazing transparency the value of gratitude during the many years of her family’s struggle with devastating disease. Her inspiring story has blessed millions by giving new meaning to the concept of finding something for which to be thankful, no matter what the circumstances.

Early in our years of trying times, a friend had challenged me to constantly look for things to be thankful for, no matter how long the journey may be. I saw the value and pounced on it, making it a habitual priority in my daily life. One Thousand Gifts enabled me to continue the pursuit during one of the darkest periods, giving me things to look forward to and hope for, simple and easy-to-find things that I so often took for granted but could now appreciate through new eyes.

It gets hard to remain thankful in the thick of it. When you sit next to a loved one lying in a hospital bed, when chronic injury or illness leaves you operating at less than full capacity – indefinitely, when your spouse sleeps somewhere else at night.

Whatever the case may be, one thing I highly recommend is finding something to be thankful for, something to keep you inching forward and remembering the good in this life. Pony tails and snow cones. The postman who makes my little boy feel like a man by loading him up with three envelopes and a package. The color of wheat fields in the sunshine. The bubbly sound of a baby belly laughing. The neighbor who brought over a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies just because.

I don’t hide from the hurt of reality. I take time to feel my feelings, but I don’t stay there. After I pour out my heart like water before the Lord, I make bold requests birthed out of gratitude for the gifts He’s already given. The discipline of giving thanks keeps His power and love on the forefront of my mind, deepening my trust in Him and reminding me that He has set my feet upon a Rock in the midst of the chaos of my life.

Thank You, God.

photo credit: bmcmath